I’ve written about comparing myself to others when I was drinking and then vehemently denying that I had a severe drinking problem. No, I didn’t stash vodka bottles around the house or drink alone, but my drinking habits certainly had an adverse effect on my health, my work and my relationships. We do ridiculously stupid things when we drink to excess, and most of them are just hazy memories shrouded in the mists of hangovers. For me there was always a feeling that something had gone awry on a night of heavy partying. It wasn’t because something necessarily had, I just had this awful hollow feeling of doom that would be in residency when I woke up after a night out and it was a sense that was almost impossible to shake for a day or two. On some occasions there was not any reason for that sentiment to be creeping around inside me like an unwelcome visitor late on a Sunday afternoon, but there it was. Gnawing at my insides and adding to the physical side effects of too many tequilas.
I can almost recall the sensation… I’d wake up worrying that I’d had an argument with someone or that my behaviour had been unseemly. Normally I’d be able to piece together most of the evening, but there’d be those worrying gaps that I couldn’t fill in no matter how hard I tried. Was it my mind’s way of trying to protect me from abject humiliation? Was the phone going to ring and I was going to have to listen to a blow-by-blow account of the previous evening’s events? I have never enjoyed the party postmortems that take place over meals and strong cups of coffee. Often I would have been perfectly well behaved and really had nothing to be embarrassed about. But when I had been unplayable then I’d sit and cringe, mortified as my actions were recounted to me in minute detail. A lot of it was just fun taken to the extreme. I never undressed in public, but I’ve been known to “fall asleep” in public, slumped forward on a table. I’ve also been found passed out in public bathrooms at closing time, fallen on more than one dance floor and just generally been hazardous in a crowded pub or night club. It doesn’t sound too bad, but this was a 180-degree change from how I would act when sober. I could never understand how people could find it funny when they’d done it themselves, proudly recounting their mishaps to anyone who would listen.
It’s traumatising to recall how I acted sometimes even though there is nothing I can do to erase the past and no point in dwelling on what cannot be changed. I did spend a fair amount of time apologising for how I believed I’d wronged people. Long, heartfelt emails were sent to my nearest and dearest in my first year of sobriety. However, I have since tried to show my sincerity in my actions rather more than in words. Sorries can be very hollow if not backed up and I tried in ways that I believe showed the depth of my remorse to make amends. This didn’t happen as soon as I stopped drinking, because for the first few months I was simply trying to get physically well again. But over the coming months and years, I have tried to demonstrate to my friends and family with love, affection and care that I am someone who they can count on, believe in and trust. And that takes time…lots of time.
Living in the past is not how I have learned to cope with my alcoholism, bit rather I keep moving forward and embracing the incredible gifts that come into my life now that I have a clear head and an open heart. But I never ever become complacent. I respect what the past has taught but I choose not to dwell in its sadness and the misery. Yes, I reflect now and then as I have done this morning, but I don’t want my history and my disease to define who I am today. It is part of who I am, but there is so much more to me than my alcoholism. My life is a rich and rewarding patchwork of challenges, experiences, relationships and dreams and those are the elements that I am grateful for every morning. Of course I am also grateful for my sobriety, but it is only part of the whole.
‘Til next time
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” (George Bernard Shaw)