For the last 6 weeks I’ve been feeling very low in every sense of the word. Low on energy, low on motivation and low in mood. It’s almost 3 months since I had a drink, and I’m very aware that it was at this point last year that I decided I would try moderation again. This year I’m not taken in by the idea that drinking will improve things but I am feeling the loss. Not of alcohol per se but of who I was. I started drinking regularly in my late teens like most people. I remember being very uncomfortable around alcohol and drunk people. Growing up with an alcoholic mum meant my radar for the transition between tipsy and drunk in others was extremely sensitive, and it signalled danger. My then boyfriend suggested I’d better find a way to get used to it as everyone at Uni got drunk. I took his advice. I soon learnt that being drunk myself dealt with that nicely. I duly went off to Uni and started to have fun, seemingly freed up from that anxious attention to others that I’d needed growing up. I wasn’t like my mum; I drank to enjoy myself, to have fun. I partied long and hard and I liked it. I met the friends that I still have today – we’ve been there for each other through all life’s ups and downs. Every occasion oiled with alcohol. Motherhood didn’t stop me, nor did my career. In my mind I was functional, sociable and having a good time.
Now over 35 years later I’m seeing the past a little differently as well as feeling a lot less sure of myself in the present. I don’t want to go out and when I do I feel anxious and awkward like my teenage self before alcohol. I’m ok on a 1:1 – it’s groups – particularly my good friends that’s hardest. My drunk spotting radar is turned on full, and when things start to get loud or messy I don’t want to be there. Then I get to thinking about all the times I’ve been that person and how others most likely saw me. Having a good time or being loud and obnoxious? Coupled with this intense judgement of people I actually really love, as well as myself; is the feeling of missing out, not being in the gang, being boring. ‘You’ll never have fun again’ whispers the wine witch as I’m checking my watch to see if I can leave yet.
So I’ve been pretty unsociable and pretty miserable. I keep thinking about mistakes I’ve made; impulsive decisions where the consequences only now seem important. The money I’ve wasted. The flaky parenting. Recognising that all along alcohol has been the real centre of attention and how much it got in the way of everything else. The what ifs and the could have beens. I’m not usually one for regrets, so I’m in unfamiliar territory. The loss is both what I could have been without alcohol and who I was with alcohol.
I don’t want to be the drinking me again but I’m not sure of sober me yet either. I know sober me is enjoying work more without the hangovers. Sober me is getting on better with my daughters. Sober me loves Scrabble. Sober me is smoking a lot and eating tons of chocolate.
This week I’m on holiday in Cornwall – just me, my husband and the dogs. I don’t have to socialise or see anyone. I can just be and allow the grief. Like a caterpillar in it’s cocoon I’m waiting to emerge anew.