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[ Personal Narratives ]

475 Reasons

I have started typing at least 12 blog posts this year (I know because they are saved in my ‘drafts’… where they shall remain… you are welcome aha) and then stopped x amount of words in, for a number of reasons. Mainly, I stopped as I have felt that I couldn’t speak about what was on my mind, and how this was effecting my relationship with drinking – a sensitive work issue that I didn’t want to put out into the world, or a relationship quandary (I do those now – I just need ‘food’ and then I’m the complete blogger I feel?) that I didn’t wish to go into. Shocking, I know, that this blog is still vaguely some ‘holds barred.’

I can’t quite get my head around 2016. On one hand – fantastic year, done so much, progress, growth, blah blah. On the other, monumental head fuck. Mentally, I feel like the last 12 months has had more spikes in it than the Rio Olympics stadium (…. did that work?… did it?) and even when matters have calmed it has been with a stench of instability.

A while ago, I wrote that I wanted to ‘feel what I feel, even if it isn’t happiness’ (thanks Toni Morrison – kudos to you for such word magic sorcery). By this, I meant that I wanted to remove the anaesthetising blanket that binge-drinking and blackouts had given me, to uncover what was really going on inside my head because quite frankly, beyond knowing the best pavements in Central London to have a nap on (*takes bow*), I didn’t know much. Johann Hari argues in his book Chasing the Scream (a great read, whatever your views) that essentially addiction doesn’t stem primarily from the drug, or alcohol, that you take, but from emotional trauma/distress.

I wanted to explore my ’emotional trauma’ head on, no medication, so I could start to untangle whatever I was drinking to forget. Move over Sarah Hepola with your ‘CSI: Hangover’ – I’m here to crack the case!

I am 475 days sober today – I know this because for the first time in 110 days, I bothered to work it out (…. not manually.. I actually have got other shit to do, and you can find a terrific date calculator online). In those 475 days, I’ve run 2 ultra-marathons (6 marathons in 2 x 3 day blocks), raced 8 half marathons, changed jobs, been in a relationship for nearly a year (ongoing… with a real life human being) had a couple of family bereavements, nights out, nights in, gym sessions, takeaways (…. maybe more than gym?)

… Life, in short, has gone on, and all without touching alcohol. Not only has life ‘gone on’ but there has been incredible progress. I have achieved things I would not have achieved if I was still drinking, I have relationships now that I would not have if I was still drinking, I have a career that I would not have if I was still drinking.

So why, with all these statements that I do not for one second question, is a drink all that I want? Why do I see a pint, or a bottle, or even just a little shot (… or a million) as an answer to the way I am feeling now? Why, 475 days on, do I still have ‘blackout dreams’ and wake up, heart in my mouth, unable to remember what I did the night before and having to ‘talk myself down’ – “You finished work, went to the gym, ate a baked potato on your bed, and went to sleep without showering. You did, however, not drink.”

… What happens if I can do it better now?

… What happens if I can’t?

I was lucky enough to see two different friends during my working day today, with each having a profound impact on my current mindset. The first, gave me as a Christmas present a copy of ’50 Races to Run Before You Die’ cataloguing a bucket list of the toughest endurance challenges around the world.

I think my friend thought I may like the book given my activities over the last year, but really for me it was so much more. It was a much needed reminder of what it felt like to achieve something incredible, without drinking. The ‘this is what you can do when you don’t drink, these are the natural highs you can create’ – knowing what it is like to push your mind and body beyond what they should be capable of. Sometimes, you get given something which is exactly what you need, and this book was one of those things.

My second friend, whom I saw almost immediately after, and I discussed problems in each of our lives. For me, I found myself slightly shamed humbled – having yakked on (… uninterrupted..) for 15 minutes about my current difficulties, I found myself genuinely shocked and saddened to learn of theirs. What this conversation, between two 26 year olds (oh yes… I have unfortunately aged since we last spoke) brought up was that, to really break this shit down – life is tough, you have to work hard at it, it is what we make it, we pick ourselves up and go again because we have to and no-one will do it for us.

I wanted to write this post because today I was reminded to be empowered by what I have achieved, and how far I have come in the last 2 years. 475 days gives me 475 reasons to go forwards and not back. I wanted to write this post because I wanted others to be empowered by what they achieved, and by the aims that can be reached. We all start somewhere – I started 2 years ago today (literally) and wouldn’t change a second of it, even the parts that still hurt, or cringe (oh god the cringe hurts so bad) to think about.

Finally, I was driven to write this to help continue and develop this conversation about youth, addiction, alcohol for those who feel a part of it, and for those who feel that they have no understanding of it.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and all the best for 2017 – look forward to seeing you then. In the meantime – catch up with my full blog Speaking Easy here.

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