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New Beginnings

I've been thinking a lot about new beginnings lately, especially since my soberversary is on the horizon. New beginnings come in so many forms, and often they mean starting internally and shifting that perspective first. Like most people, beginning my sober journey meant A LOT of changes, especially with regards to how i viewed myself, and re-learning to love and respect myself. All the changes and new starts over the past year have all led me here - thankfully i have an awful lot of positives in my life at the moment. I still have a lot of scary changes happening, but the contrast of sober me dealing with it, as opposed to drinking me barely keeping my head above water is astounding.

It’s interesting also that, if you follow me on insta you may have noticed that lately I’ve become a little obsessed with seeing the sunrise (and also to a lesser degree, chasing sunsets). I think this is because predominantly, I was never EVER able to get up and do that with a fresh head before – sure there were those times when after an all-nighter, watching the sunrise seemed a fitting end to a raucous night out. But my first ever memory of watching the sunrise was with my lovely Dad, when I was about 5. (Interesting to note at this stage, he was awake probably because HE had just finished an all-nighter). He bundled little me up in his arms to watch the sunrise from the window, whispering to me to listen to the dawn chorus. It’s one of my very treasured memories, and is why sunrises are so special to me. But they’re bloody special anyway, aren’t they?! The gorgeous colours washing slowly across the horizon. The blessed gap of absence of humanity, silent for a change, instead filled with the sweetness of birdsong in dilirious abandon. And that feeling that you’re the absolutely only one on earth witnessing it, the luckiest person drinking it in, having it all to yourself. It’s a signifier of a new, untainted day, the promise of endless possibilities on the clean fresh air.

Other new starts in my life lately haven’t felt as optimistic as watching a sunrise does, and maybe that adds to it’s appeal – the beginning of sobriety, almost a year ago now, felt more like dragging myself, gasping for breath, out of a pounding ocean, up against the slippery rocks and desperate for the tiniest handhold to pull myself up, as each wave of self defeat crashed into me, threatening to make that breath my last. The first days of sobriety are rarely a fucking ball - you know this if you’ve done it – I just recall knowing it had to be done, a conviction deep down in my stomach, also knowing that if I didn’t do it this time, I may not get another shot; I was in danger of getting smashed into the rocks if I didn’t drag my sorry ass out of there. And it was painful – it was hard. For a long time it was purely surviving, one foot in front of the other to get to the next day. One day further away from destruction, and one day inching imperceptibly closer to peace. I’ll say again as I’ve said before, I know my rock bottom wasn’t an out-and-out low one. I could have carried on drinking for a few more years before it reached the cornflakes stage – although I think high functioning drinkers (which I was) are capable of carrying on, day to day, looking normal, feeling atrocious, but managing to keep their shit together on that hamster wheel. Let’s face it, we can keep that up indefinitely and fool everyone if it means we get a drink as a reward.

Anyway, so new beginnings are often hard. Sometimes they are joyous, but rarely does one come into our orbit without an end of something else, which in itself brings sadness, or grief, or the daunting prospect of having to leave our comfort zone. I have had some pretty seismic shifts in the past couple of years, and currently several are happening at once. Life is like that - I wish that it was an orderly queue, like when baddies politely wait to take it in turns to fight the good guy in a movie. I think I could embrace the hero role then, if each problem waited it’s turn to confront me. But instead I’m dealing with an imminent divorce and the sadness that brings, coupled with the scariness of a proper new beginning; while also facing a career change, after following my creativity and doing what I love for the last 10 years. As a knock on, this means I not only lose a job I dearly love, but the sanctuary that my artist studio gives me too. Although I know I will enjoy having a reliably steady income and jumpstarting my professional career, the thought of my lovely artist life ending is a grief all of it’s own.

Aside from my own personal issues, I stand alongside fellow soberites collectively as we face the re-opening of our communities again (hurray!), which inevitably means the opening of bars and pubs, and putting socialising back to the top of the summer agenda. This in itself if a huge new beginning to face, given that we’ve all been cocooned for so long in our own sober bubbles. When lockdown ended a few weeks ago, I visited the village shop to be met by most customers buying drinks – and chatting merrily about drinking at friends’ BBQs, drinks to have in the park, drinks drinks drinks. The village green was peopled with happy little groups, drinking from cans and bottles. And my first thought wasn’t a nice one – it was bloody grumpy, which when I grasped it and dug deeper, I realised it was born of two things: of major resentment, and envy that I could no longer do this (I’ve only ruined it for myself) and actually also the presence of a deeper fear. Almost a year in, I like to think that I no longer stress as much about other people drinking around me, as I now know that my conviction has grown stronger, the temptation lessened, and my resolve is mostly rock solid; not something I could have claimed 10 months ago, or maybe even 6. But in actuality, although the time has passed and sober days counted, I haven’t been tested as such; no where near as much as if things had been normal, pre-covid. And so, my fear was that I would be tempted, not by myself, but by other people, a fear that I would be caught up and swept along by the celebratory current that was running through everyone basking in the sunshine. Unless I become an actual nun, and quickly, I am now going to have to embrace the lost art of socialising once again, but this time without the universal social lubricant that alcohol has to offer. Hmm, this new beginning isn’t so appealing. Throughout my sobriety, socialising has been more or less removed thanks to lockdown. Now I have to face it once again, and the temptations it brings.

I am also aware that I was mourning something, and for me, this is now dangerous territory – to believe that I’m missing out on not only the socialising, but the actual drinking, is a dangerous line to cross mentally. Because there is no way on God’s green earth that I am going to spend my life thinking I’m missing out and being all bloody snipey about it – what kind of a crap half life is that? I know and celebrate every day that my life is infinitely better for not drinking, the facts are there in black and white; no way am I going to be sad because I’ve robbed myself of bloody awful hangovers, bad breath, terrible skin; not to mention scary blackout situations, and the small matter of becoming the biggest asshole on the planet once a few drinks are inside of me.

It’s taken me a while, but I realise now it’s the loss of the shared communion. Most of the time, yes, I was drinking alone. But there were some times, on a warm summer’s evening, hanging out with a great group of friends, that it all came together to make the perfect social storm. And that is what I miss. Those times right there. It’s just being able to weigh up exactly whether it’s worth missing out on that once in a blue moon, in order to ensure all the other shit doesn’t go down, every night. And that is definitely worth while. Because I will give up the odd great evening a million times over instead of being a permanent anxious mess who feels like an abject failure of a human being. And breathe. Because while I am breathing and am sober, I can literally face anything.

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