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Some mantras and thoughts from Day 355 AF
I do not owe anyone a tidy ‘after’ picture.
I am still a work in progress.
I have always been a work in progress.
Every day is an “after” of the day before, and a “before” of the day to come.
I am doing the very best I can with the tools, energy, and availabilities I have at any moment.
I spent all my adult life building my social circles around who would encourage / tolerate / join in with me drinking and smoking far too much. I can hold my relationships, past and present, with grace through the inevitable changes that come through my changes and theirs. A changing relationship can be sad, it can be hard, it can have a dramatic moment or ending or turn out to be a fizzlepopleurgh, but it isn’t, in itself, bad.
Taking the gin goggles off meant I could see myself and my world, and the me and world I wanted to see, so much more clearly. Knowing who and where I want to be is one thing – getting there takes small, intentional, committed, regular steps. Sometimes ahead of others, sometimes alongside them, sometimes behind them, sometimes in a different direction to them.
I am allowed to say no. I am allowed to say please. I am allowed to say stop and say more and say yes. I am allowed to want. I am allowed to dream. I am allowed to be who I want to be, no matter what you thought I should be. I am allowed.
“No” was my go-to answer when I was living 2/3 of my life with a hangover. I’m learning to say “yes” to the right questions, and to bring in the people who ask them.
Sobriety, or an AF life, doesn’t have one single face, it looks different for each person. For some it might be a break, an opportunity for rest (the liver appreciates it – the skin and the eyes, too). For others it can be a boost of firepower (the brain loves it - levels of focus and creativity can rocket). Some are drawn to sport, to “eating clean” and running marathons. Some are drawn to eating sweets and finding other ways to increase their comfort levels. Your body is changing, and your brain is, too. Allow that to happen. For those who have had babies, who have healed from traumatic diseases, accidents, treatments – you know what it can take to pursue healing. Some will go kill it at the gym, and if that’s right for you then that’s just great. Some others will need to work on getting their head around a softer body, if things slow down. My only advice for you, whichever camp you fall in (or if you straddle both), is: go gently. Be gentle with yourself. Be gentle with your past self. Be gentle with your loved ones and the world.
I do not owe anyone a tidy ‘after’ picture. I am repeating this to remind myself, sometimes many times a day, as I approach my first Day 365. I know it’s significant. I know it’s a huge achievement. I know it needs to be marked in some way. I also know that the more pressure I put on myself around that day, the less I will enjoy the run-up, and the day itself. Which is why, a couple of months ago, I committed to doing at least 500 days AF. I am not done learning from this. My ‘after’ will never be permanent, it will always be in progress. I am perfectly imperfect, as are you.
I feel like my angry self, the one who was constantly exasperated (a wonderful combination of exhausted and constipated, there), that self is slipping away. It takes time and it takes effort. I’m still holding onto some righteous anger – for the injustices in the world, for inequality and meanness, and for my upstairs neighbours who will not shut up – but I’m also letting go of a lot. I don’t need it any more. I can feel sad and tired and scared and overwhelmed and intimidated, and they don’t have to be filtered through anger to be expressed. I can feel happy and giddy and joyful and content and proud, and they don’t have to be poured through a coffee filter (how many times have YOU drunk filtered wine after ruining the cork in the bottle?!). There is a weird peace that comes only after walking (running, cleaning, zooming) through the hyper moments of AF LIFE GIVING YOU ENERGY AND LIFE AAAAAARGHYAYYAY? And those moments still come, those giggles, those roars. They’re felt differently, and they’re remembered better, but they’re still there.
Beware of the binaries and the absolutes! Don’t give into the pressure to constantly be at the pub proving how good you are at AF socialising / feel like you have to stay at home and never see anyone again (COVID restrictions permitting, of course). Don’t force yourself into pilates or Zumba or C210K / think you can only eat M&Ms and haribo from now on. Don’t assume you need to learn 12 languages and set up a coaching business / imagine you must move to the countryside and raise chickens. All of those things are amazing, if they’re right for you. And there are so many other things that will be right for you and wrong for me, and vice versa. Whatever you want – FOR YOU – is amazing, too. You get to choose. For so many of us who started drinking in our teens and never really stopped – we haven’t had the opportunity, as adults, to take a step back (sober!) and think about how we really want our lives to look. So give yourself that opportunity. If you don’t feel that famous clarity after a month? Give it two months! If you’re still learning things about yourself / the world / alcohol / society / tapeworms on the approach to a year? Carry on going! If something's not working out - try something different. Breathe through it. Reach out, see if you're alone in your experience (you're not!). Literally nobody else but you can decide where you draw the line. I’m happy to be on this wobbly line with you, wherever you're at on your journey/s. <3