Wednesday 11th November will mark my 70 days of abstinence from the booze… I’m not counting days, but I am, it helps to quite literally track how time rumbles on, doesn’t end, doesn’t stand still, but I don’t wake up and think ‘right, day 59, here we go.’ I’m more likely to think ‘fuck, 6am, are you shitting in my mouth?’ before rolling over, and holding out for 2 more minutes.
My first six weeks not drinking flew by – I remember thinking that it hadn’t been this easy during Dry January, maybe I was just getting better at it? Maybe I had developed other interests over the last 9 months besides what I could find in a pint glass that made it easier to not focus on what hijinks would be due at the weekend, or on a Tuesday night even. I went out on saturday nights, clubbing or pubbing until 4am, then home and up in time for classes at the gym at 10. I made the bed, I cooked meals at home, did my ironing.
This all sounds pretty hum-drum, but when you haven’t consistently done these things by themselves, let alone together, for years, or, ever, you will know what it feels like to be confused by your own efficiency, your complicity in a sense of progression. A carousel of self-congratulations and eyes-wide-open-thanks.
I’ve read on other blogs, forums, in books, about the idea of the ‘pink cloud’ – the rather grandiose sense of magnified happiness at the ‘novel experience’ that faces people in their early sobriety from alcohol, drugs, both. A honeymoon period if you will, or the excitement you feel on arriving in a new city with all new things to do, see, and people to meet.
For me, it was like going for a long run with an empowering play list, air drumming with ‘fuck you’s and fist pumps. A cathartic cleanse, stripping down to basics, that left me simultaneously wanting to find a storm cloud to go and cry under, and also find a mountain to run to the top of, plant a flag, and proclaim myself king.
The last four weeks have been hard. I’ve never felt so stable, and yet so unpredictable, so unsure of what I am going to do next, how I will feel in 5 minutes time. I can already see that a structure has evolved, between work, home, the gym, my social life, making time for personal projects, that I didn’t have before, and not to sound preachy or self indulgent, but this in part is due to not having the exhaustion of half my week taken over by drinking, or hangovers. However, and it is perhaps due to the existence of this structure, that I am all too aware of when my feet aren’t touching the ground.
Up, down and around – like a tumble dryer.
I knew it would come, the ‘dealing with all that I drank to forget’ and sometimes it leaves me wanting to sit down, on the floor, just so I feel connected to something otherwise I may wash away.
I want it all, and I want it all now, all the things that I have been denying myself over the years. I want the body, I want the job, I want the money, I want the relationship, I want the fastest time, I want the envy of everyone around me. I want you to want to be me, because all I’ve ever wanted was to want to be me.
Is that so much to ask?
For those who are new to reading this blog, or who have been out of the loop for a while etc, I do realise how ridiculous the above is – think of this as a stream of consciousness that is allowed to go anywhere, to explore those insecurities, the irrational, to lash out when violated or uncomfortable, to relegate the idea of the ‘other’ to be secondary to the idea of ‘me.’
Yesterday I went to a meeting with Rough As (check them out here) in Brick Lane – coffee, chats, drawing on walls (#crayonninjas) , and as per previous times the conversation raised some really interesting points for me to consider afterwards.
I have never had a relationship, I’ve only ever really had one night stands. That’s right, I’m 25, and I’ve never had a relationship. Good, glad that’s out there. I’ve always said that I’ve never really been interested in the idea of one, and this is true, but what I would have meant to have said would have been this…
“I don’t have time for a relationship – I couldn’t fit one in around my commitments to work, and my drinking to have fun, I have enough to worry about with myself, without having to consider someone else. I would not want to feel bad about wanting to be selfish, and I would not apologise for it, and it would be unfair to expect anyone to put up with such ‘selfishness’ so probably best we don’t even consider it. I am exhausted all the time, I don’t have the capacity to include this.”
I have actually, for the first time ever, been on dates this year. This is a huge personal step for me, breaking down the barriers, no man is an island blah blah blah, but I’ve realised that I need to spend some time by myself. I want a relationship – the now, now, now – to provide me what alcohol provided me, a blanket, an energy, a glow, the confidence to make demands from the world. That’s a lot to put on one person, (“Hello?! It’s me, Crazy! Yes, from Tinder!”) and at the same time, I don’t feel sufficiently formed within myself to be at a point where this would be progress.
And so, in the words of one of the gang at Rough As, I’m now dating myself. This sounds like its written on a mocking fridge magnet in Scribbler, a homage to Bridget Jones printed on a novelty corkscrew, and like it has may in fact be the title to a self-help book, but I’m on board, because it makes complete sense to me.
I’ve found myself going to AA meetings on a Friday or Saturday night out of loneliness – I’m not ready to go home yet, and propping up the bar solo with a soda and fresh lime doesn’t have quite the same appeal as it once did with cider and tequila. Where do people go when they feel lonely if not to the bar, if not to a stranger’s bed? To a multi-use church building apparently. I’ll sit on the bus hoping that when I get there, I’ll see the young people who I can relate to and vice-versa, maybe we can be friends, maybe something further will come out of it.
Yep that’s me, the guy who looks to pick-up in AA meetings. It’s not top of my list of reasons for wanting to go, but I know on some level that it is there.
You may think I should be really embarrassed to admit this, but after writing on topics including bed wetting, casual sex I can’t remember, waking up on pavements, and many other things, and more importantly having lived all those experiences, I think my threshold for embarrassment and shame is pretty high.
I know I am expecting too much, too soon from myself, and in the past, the pressure I have put on myself, has fed into the cycle of which I am now trying to get out of (recap here) but the process of restructuring, resocialising, re-educating, re-everything has left me unstuck, spinning without knowing where to select which exit route to make a start on. I feel myself kicking out at people to get a reaction – I think and therefore I am, you react and therefore we are, etc… – which is by no means healthy, rational or productive, not to mention fair on those around.
Like I said- “hello! It’s Crazy! Can I come in?”
My 67 days on the wagon have forced me (I use ‘forced’ as it is not willing, at least not at first) to look back at some of my behaviour for the first time, some of the things that I have done whilst drinking, that I brushed under the carpet before getting up and going again. These are things I can barely admit to myself, let alone put down in words, and as much as I said in my last blog here that I was heart broken looking back at my 19 year old self who wanted help, I am struggling to forgive myself for the actions that I have taken over the last six years, over the last ten, that leave me here now, that have set me back to where I am now.
It is all too easy for myself, for any of us, to speak the language of ‘me, me, me’ and I have found this more so for myself in the last few weeks. Part of why I went to those meetings was to give me an alternative to subjecting the same people to the same chat, again, and I’m mindful that the response to ‘how are you’ should include, at some point, the reciprocal.
This is my next stage, to reconcile myself with myself, strangely enough, and see this is a bridge to reconciling with others. If it was a rom-com, it would have all the marks of a classic screw-ball comedy but don’t worry, it is unlikely you’ll find me making out with a mirror any time soon, although let’s face it, stranger things have happened.
The next Rough As will be on a saturday (exact date tbc) in December, and if you feel it may be for you, pop along. Its very informal, and worst comes to worst, there is some excellent coffee and cake. For anyone wanting to carry on the conversation, any conversation, drop me an email at [email protected] or leave a comment below