Vulnerable

Sometimes, I feel really vulnerable. Like the world is too much for my emotions to cope with. I often wonder how some people can be so blasé, going about their business mindlessly as we all occupy this sphere spinning relentlessly through a vast expanse of time and space. This was one of the motivators for my alcohol consumption – the desire to quash it all, silence myself, level my feelings off and just stop the urrgghhh that so often blundered around my head.

Then there was the love of euphoria and letting go that made me turn to the bottle. I loved parties, dancing, showing off a bit I suppose. And these are activities that I have found not so easy to engage in as a non-drinker. Which in many ways is a good thing – I am no longer the ‘twat’ that my ex boyfriend decreed me after I’d had too much to drink (“When you drink, it’s as though you’ve swallowed a twat pill”).

I’ve noticed over the sober years that this business of not drinking is a matter of balance, of weighing up the overall good of sobriety versus the occasional letting rip that being pissed affords us. And the thing is, you can’t have both – or at least, I can’t. I can’t have the good without the very bad. There is no middle ground, just chaos and self-destruction.

I occasionally read about people who begin to dabble with having ‘the odd glass’ after years of being sober (Phil Collins being the latest to reveal his abstinence has gradually morphed into ‘controlled’ drinking), and I know that I will never be one of these people – but nor do I want to be.

For me to love being alcohol-free, it is essential that I love not drinking. That I engage with that notion as fully and with as much fervour as I once did alcohol. That I thank my lucky stars every day I scared myself witless one morning after drinking too much and I made a promise to myself that I’d never touch the stuff again; that I get to remember the rest of my life. That I get to make wise decisions and know who I am without the on going fog of too much alcohol confusing my thinking. That, no matter what, I’ll never walk backwards and attempt to revisit the boozing chapter of my life, because for me, this sober reality is the only one that makes sense now.

Last week I got in touch with a woman who lost her best friend to alcohol earlier this year. I studied years-old photos of the two of them in which they are slim, smiling, vibrant, and then I looked at the recent one of the woman’s friend where she is all bloated and puffy, taken just before she died as a direct result of her alcohol consumption.

My past is littered with stories of people who died from their addictions, who lost the most important people in their lives because they couldn’t stop drinking, of broken friendships and damaged souls and sad memories. It’s littered with my own regrets about the things I did because of alcohol, and because of the person I was when I drank.

Sometimes, I do wonder what it would be like to inhabit a drinking world again, one where alcohol is as innocuous as a light, spring breeze. But I know I crossed a line years ago, which means that for me, alcohol will always be my enemy. And I accept that fact with good grace and gratitude because, when all is said and done, it’s not worth it.

I get my kicks elsewhere these days, like this morning when I ran seven miles through the countryside with my dog who is ten years old but still throws herself into our runs with admirable zest. I get a buzz from knowing that I could be dead and for all intents and purposes I probably should be, given the way I used to spend my time, but I am not. I’m fit and healthy and I still feel young. I feel alive when I listen to my favourite music, and when I’m laughing with my close family and friends. I get a rush from the beauty of the world and thinking of all the people I’ve ever known and the amazing things we’ve experienced together, how miraculous it is that any of us get to lead this life with all the opportunities that are presented to each and every one of us. And I’m excited for the present and the future, for what incredible moments are waiting around the corner, none of us can ever know.

geese-flying-freedom

Sometimes I do feel vulnerable and emotionally raw, and I wish so much that I could temporarily escape my head. But what I have – what we all have – is a life, and the years pass by in such a blur that they’re gone before we’ve even registered what happened. Those stupid little things we stress over: our child’s tantrum in the supermarket or feeling down because we can’t afford something we really want, or losing the car keys or just wanting to stay in bed all day because it’s raining and cold outside, and everything seems rubbish and twisted against us; these things are nothing, they matter not one jot.

Connecting with other human beings and loving them, and being loved by them, and loving and valuing yourself for your uniqueness, and witnessing a glorious sunset and hearing the wind roaring in your ears at the top of a mountain; looking into your child’s eyes and knowing that you’re doing your best and they’re doing OK, listening to someone who needs you, knowing that you’re making a difference. Lying on your back daydreaming and listening to your favourite music very loud. Waking up and not needing to patch together last night’s mistakes beneath the weighty dread of a hangover.

I truly believe that you cannot exist as you deserve to, fully and with real love in your heart, when you are drinking too much, too often. I think when you’re addicted to a substance it occupies too much of your soul, it blocks all the important emotions. It prevents you from seeing and connecting.

You need to love yourself before you can live a full life, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who loves themselves when in the throes of alcohol dependency.

It isn’t always easy, being completely free from mind-altering devices, whatever form they may take. There are days when your inner voice is screaming for a brief respite. But there are other coping strategies, there are other means of achieving that escape – and when you quit drinking, you enable yourself to discover them.

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11 thoughts on “Vulnerable

  1. Just read this post in a frenzy of yes, yes, me too! Me too! I’m just short of 22 months sober and I have so many of the same wranglings, particularly the desire for relief sometimes – the desire to escape from myself for a moment. But still I know the sober path is right for me.

  2. Meirion Wynn Jones says:

    Inspiring words, as always, Lucy – thank you. I celebrated one year of sobriety on Monday. Onwards and upwards! Meirion

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  3. Sue Sanford says:

    This is beautiful Lucy and I couldn’t agree more. I love not drinking , I love the way I’ve become more fully myself since I stopped drinking and the idea of “controlled drinking” to me makes about as much sense as playing solo Russian Roulette with a loaded gun ! Thanks for the reminder that being alcohol free is a gift and opportunity to experience life to the full rather than an exercise in resisting something desirable .

  4. Thank you for a beautifully written post. The thought of going back to trying to moderate fills me with dread. I’ve made peace with the fact that my brain had been altered by years of drinking and I can never go back to ‘normal’ drinking. Not that I ever really did drink ‘normally’ to begin with. I love that quote from Annie Grace

    “I drink as much as I want whenever I want. The truth is I no longer have any desire to drink.”
    ― Annie Grace

  5. Paul parsons says:

    It sounds like you have cracked it,your story could almost be mine I did dry January and never touched a drop since I enjoyed the past but the present is much better in every way social occasions are great you can communicate with all present life is great without any hang ups

  6. Lucy, you are truly brilliant and have inspired me since day one, when I opened your book “the First Six Weeks” and began my journey nearly 20 months ago. Grateful beyond words.

  7. A very honest and true account of life without alcohol. I can totally relate to everything you have written… Including the ‘twat pill’, unfortunately :-/ 105 days later and I’m embracing life that is now mine for the taking and it’s better than I ever imagined.

  8. Incredible thoughts. I particularly liked the line about if you are going to sober, you better live not drinking. It’s so true. Got to get out there and live a little, do it sober, to realize you aren’t missing anything at all!

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