Thanks for all your comments on my last post. That’s one thing I love about the sober blogosphere – you ask one question … you get 40 answers.
I got rid of the wine. As many of you pointed out, the fact that I’d written an entire post about it was proof that it was bothering me in some way. Your responses made me think about the importance of boundaries and how they vary from person to person. What feels right to me might feel wrong to you. And if – like me – you cleared the house of alcohol before you stopped drinking then you’re bound to feel differently to someone who happily left half a bottle of wine in the fridge.
In a way, I felt annoyed that I was letting this one, pathetic bottle of wine play on my mind so much. I feel so happy and confident in my sobriety that I had no intention of drinking it. And yet … it was kind of troubling me. It didn’t feel right having it in the house. In the end I took it with me to a party and it got drunk pretty quickly.
I haven’t got much other news, but life feels really hectic at the moment, almost uncomfortably so. I’m working lots, drinking too much coffee and not getting enough sleep or exercise. I’ve been away the past couple of weekends. There’s very little food in the fridge, my flat is a tip and there are piles of stuff everywhere. I don’t feel on top of things. Written down it doesn’t sound like very much, but this kind of life-craziness led to me black out drinking in the past. That was my response to stress. When the going got tough, I pulled the shutters down and mentally checked out for a while.
When I first stopped drinking I wondered how I’d manage without that escape; that ability to completely leave your conscious self and the rest of the world for a while. One of the biggest surprises about sobriety is that I actually like having to be more present. A weekend spent tidying up, cooking and paying bills might not sound crazy and fun, but at least I’m getting things done. The reality of my drinking was hardly glitz and glamour; more often than not it involved waking up at 3am on the sofa, face down in a glass of wine. And when I think of the hours spent hungover, wasted in front of daytime TV … well, I wonder how I ever got anything done back then.
So that’s why I’m quite looking forward to a ‘boring’ weekend at home. Sure, there’ll still be a bit of escapism, but it’ll come in the form of catching up on The Great British Bake Off, going for a run and getting my nails done. And that’s fine by me.
This morning I was on a packed train to work when a very large man squeezed into the seat next to me. Straight away I could smell it: the booze on his breath. It was horrible. It was worse when he looked or breathed in my direction, but I could actually smell it whichever way he faced. I think it was coming out of his pores.
Things got considerably worse when he opened his bag and pulled out a hot McDonald’s breakfast. I don’t want to sound like a food snob here, but there’s something about the smell of McDonald’s food that really turns my stomach, especially at 8.30am. The seats on the tram were so small he was practically eating the food in my lap.
I spent most of the journey staring furiously out the window, before remembering that less than a year ago this could have been me (albeit without the Maccy D’s). I thought back on all those times that I’d finished work late, maybe not getting home until 10.30pm. Despite knowing that I had to be up early in the morning I would stop by the off licence for beer and a bottle of wine, planning just to have a few glasses. Just enough to relax. That was always the plan. But hey presto, all of a sudden it’d be 3am and I’d wake up and realise that a) the bottle was empty and b) I’d been sleeping on the sofa again.
The man on the train looked so tired. I remember feeling like that, like I could sleep for a week. Going to work with a secret hangover is tough. At best you are a 50% version of yourself. And you can’t tell anyone about your hangover because that would be weird, right? So it becomes this silent thing that you have to just get through, whilst appearing to be fine. It’s hard work. It amazes me how often drinkers are painted as weak-willed, because actually you have to be quite a strong person to cope with the hangovers, turn up to work on time and then repeat the process.
When you stop drinking you notice so many benefits. For starters you sleep better. You also look better, feel better and you save money. But above all, sobriety makes life so much easier. It really does. It brings an end to the lies you tell yourself and others. You stop having to keep so many secrets. You stop feeling guilty about failing to stop. This morning, I looked at this man on the train and thought: yes, life is so much simpler now.
A simpler life doesn’t have to be a boring one either. On a slightly different note, I wanted to share this article about Davina McCall. I’ve always been a fan of hers but I became an even bigger one during her recent Sport Relief Challenge (running, cycling and swimming from Edinburgh to London). Talk about determination! She has been very open about her drink/drug problems in the past and I particularly like what she says in the interview about being “hedonistic whilst completely sober”. I like the sound of her parties…
The other night I went to a lecture hosted by a writer I particularly admire. I was there with a friend and we were offered free drinks as we waited for it to start. There were bottles of red and white wine near the entrance, plus a pretty good collection of soft drinks. I’m sure that when I was still drinking – and therefore looking for an excuse to drink at every opportunity – events like that never seemed to offer alcohol. On the rare occasions they did, most people had just a teeny, tiny glass of wine. I, on the other hand, would try not to look greedy as I poured myself as much as I thought I could get away with.
Of course now that I’ve stopped drinking it feels exactly the opposite – everyone is knocking back loads of wine! But I know that really, the only thing that’s changed is me. Maybe one day I’ll get to a point where I don’t even notice what other people are drinking. It hasn’t happened yet. I am great at making idle chit-chat whilst keeping an eye on who’s had what.
Anyway, I digress. The talk began and as is always the way with these things I managed to sit behind two really tall people. So I had to lean slightly to see through the gap between them. As I was doing this I realised I’d accidentally moved my head very close to my friend’s glass of white wine. I could smell it really strongly and for the first time in ages I thought “Hmmm. That smells great” followed by “a glass of white wine would very nice right now….”
That’s what I really wanted to write about today because feeling like that pissed me off. I did always love white wine, but I haven’t craved it for ages. In fact nowadays I usually recoil slightly at the smell. It seems a bit sour and vinegary, especially when someone is breathing wine fumes on to me (yuck). But there was something about that cheap glass of wine that smelt so nice. And for a little while I felt really sorry for myself, unable to drink with the grownups, surrounded by people looking elegant and cool and intelligent as they sipped their wine slowwwly.
I tuned out for some of the talk because I was busy thinking about the wine and whether it meant anything that I thought it smelt nice. I spent a bit of time wondering why that Wolfie voice comes back just as you think it’s given up. Why – when everything seems to be going so well, at last – am I suddenly wishing I could drink like a ‘normal’ person again? Blah blah blah. So many annoying and boring thoughts.
Fortunately the feeling didn’t last long. I was distracted by the man on the other side of me who laughed really loudly and then started to cough over me. I could smell his bad breath. (Seriously, I think I have a heightened sense of smell these days, because I notice everything. Bad breath, BO, wine … an open bar of chocolate 100 metres away? I’m on it).
I’m feeling much better now and I’ve had a great weekend. Another busy one, with late nights and lots to do, so I am tired and in need of an early night. But as always, tired and sober is much better than feeling tired, hungover, depressed, miserable, guilty…. you know the rest!