So here is the post I should have written: Happy Soberversary to me!

A few weeks ago, I bought myself a present, and I saved it up in its little parcel until last weekend, and then I finally opened it today.  It was my gift to myself, because I am one year sober.

Why didn’t I open it earlier?  Because, oh, it’s not such a big deal, and oh, well, no need to make a fuss, and oh, look how cool and insouciant I am, I don’t need gifts or rewards or treats.  I’m happy here with my herbal tea (stupid Whole30) and my crafting and my virtue.

I’ve written before about my tendency to try and do everything better than anyone else, yes?

But I got here because I gave myself the licence to be kind to myself, and have treats here and there, and believe that I was worth the fuss and the trouble that getting sober can be.  So I took the present out of the cupboard.

My presentThe woman from whom I bought this is a friend, and I told her that it was a present to celebrate a year of sobriety, and so she said that she’d wrap it up for me.  Isn’t it pretty?

This was supposed to be a victorious post, full of the fact that sobriety has transformed my life.  It has done, beyond anything I could have imagined.  I said, a year ago, that I decided to get up drinking because otherwise, nothing would change in my life.  I would plod along, raising my children with less joy than I wanted to feel, hating my job but without the courage to try something new, narrowing my horizons more and more so that the only pleasure I had left was the same bottle of wine that was trapping me.

And then I stopped drinking, thinking well, if nothing else I’ll lose some weight.  In fact, I didn’t, but every single other thing got better instead.

At Easter last year, I moved house.  That doesn’t sound like much, perhaps, but I moved to the village I have been dreaming of for eleven years, to a dream home within that dream area, with enough shabby quirk that we could afford it, and which makes it far more lovable than a highly renovated version.  And in retrospect, we could have moved here years earlier, so why didn’t we?  Inertia, fear of debt, a lack of willingness to grasp the possibility?  In the end, I just opened myself up to the fact that I wanted to move, and a friend of mine sold me her family home.  Really.

I started running.

I ate food, without guilt or fear, and I learned to go to bed early with a good book, and I started taking long baths, and my skin shone and my hair shone and – without weight loss – the contours of my face returned.

My parenting experience transformed.  I have so much more love.  So much more joy, so much more gratitude.  And so much more faith in myself, so that even when I get exasperated and yell, I forgive myself because I love them and they love me and it’s alright.  It’s better than alright.  Children need to be allowed to love their parents, and I can accept that love now, in all its sticky physical glory.

I started writing.  And then I started getting published.  And then I was laid off, and with the financial cushion that gave me, I decided to do it for a living.  One year ago, I hadn’t written anything except Facebook comments since leaving university.  And now I make my living as a writer, and I do so successfully.

If, a year ago, you had asked me what my dream life looked like, it would look like this.  I’d like to live in a huge rambling house in Village, I’d have said, with a big garden that the girls can play in, and I’d work from home as a writer, and get up early to exercise, and I’d read more and take up a craft.  And then I’d laugh because it seemed so impossible.

Sobriety made it possible.

My whole life is a gift now, but I deserve one nonetheless, and so I opened my parcel.

towel

This is a Turkish towel, hand-loomed and fair trade.  The weave is beautiful and light as a feather.  I wanted something that would last, something lovely, something that would bring me comfort and pleasure in the everyday.  It’s no use buying myself lovely jewellery that I’ll save for a special occasion that never comes, or stationery too pretty to use.  Remember my scented candle?  I have never set it alight.  In eleven months.  So, something that I need every day, something to add luxury and comfort to a necessary ritual.   Something that would be mine, my special thing, that nobody else is allowed to use because it is Mum’s special thing.

But as I unwrapped it, this symbol of triumph that I so carefully thought through, I felt sad.  And lonely.  Because I wanted people to say well done, and to have noticed, and to share my pride in me, and it felt so anti-climactic, this present that I bought myself and unwrapped myself and hung in the shower.

And then I saw the card that my lovely friend had tucked in there.

cardHappy one year, from me to me.  Well done, me.

This is how I am feeling about this stupid Whole30 thing so far

Grumpy, mostly.  

That’s not true.  I am having all sorts of thoughts about self care and reward and food and emotion, some of which I am going to try and distil into more than an incoherent rambling. Aided only by black coffee because STUPID DIET.

Ahem.

Oh, also I hit a year sober a week or so ago, keep meaning to write a post about that.  It’s kind of so much not a big deal anymore that I haven’t done anything about it.  I have a little present waiting for myself that I will unwrap and show you all soon, but, you know.  I’ve been busy.

So, this diet.  I’m 21 days in.  Specific cravings have gone.  I am drinking black coffee without wincing, and the idea of a muffin seems impossibly luxurious.  I am rarely hungry and I have lost three kilos.  My mid day energy diphas  gone, I sleep well and as long as I have a coffee in the mornings I am in an excellent mood.  A resounding success, right?

Except that it’s brought up a lot of things about whether it is truly bad to retain some of one’s crutches.

I don’t miss any particular food.  I miss the oblivion.

The Whole30 people refer to certain foods as ‘food with no brakes’ – those foods which don’t send a proper satiety signal to the brain, and instead allow you to eat and eat and eat.  I miss those.  I miss the oblivion that they provide.  It could be salted pistachios or burnt fig ice cream or vinegar-drenched crisps; the texture and the flavour are less important than the mindlessness of it.   This, of course, is also how I used to drink.  Not for me the fast road to wipeout of hard liquor.  Doing shots always seemed singularly pointless, because I never wanted to get to drunk, I just wanted the journey.  What I craved is the mindless, repetitive sipping of wine.  Sip, down, sip, down, sip, down, refill.  Make sure there’s enough of a supply that you don’t have to think about quantities, and the thing about alcoholic liquid is that you can drink a lot of it because it doesn’t fill you up like ice cream, or quench your thirst like water, so you are only limited by your tolerance for intoxication.

So it was a red flag that I was eating the way I drank, and getting through the days waiting for that oblivion.

And this diet is designed to address that particular eating pattern:  It is all about eating three big meals with no snacking in between, paying attention to full signals, sitting down at the table and enjoying the food properly.  If you find yourself hungry, eat more at the next meal.

I said in the comments to my last post that the reason I wanted to address the snacking/reward cycle is that it was obliviating the real needs underneath it.  And not being able to snack has, in fact, meant that I am addressing those more.  I switch off the screens and read in bed.  I have started quilting.  I drink a lot of herbal tea because sometimes I want the warmth and comfort more than the calories.

Those are good things.  But none of them hit the right spot, not really.  That craving is still there.  There has been nothing transformative.

And you know what?  I’m starting to think that maybe that is okay, actually.  That sometimes, oblivion in the form of a bag of crisps and an excellent novel is just fine.  Maybe I don’t have to face my feelings all the time, or channel my energies into constructive things, or be responsible.  

I am so boring, you guys.  I am so respectable.  I send my children off with healthy packed lunches and clean uniforms and I pay my bills and I garden and quilt and read improving literature, and once in a while I go to a book group or have coffee with a friend, and I try and exercise and I budget carefully so my daughter can go to ballet and I have been with the same Lovely, Lovely Husband since I was twenty years old, and we forego overseas holidays in order to pay the mortgage and make sure there’s something left over for our eventual retirement.  

Maybe there’s nothing particularly transgressive about eating an entire pint of ice cream – indeed, Caitlin Moran talks about overeating being the addiction you have when you don’t want to inconvenience anyone with a more dramatic one.  But do I want to be as clean and virtuous an eater as I am in, let’s face it, pretty much every other area of my life?  I don’t know that I do.  I don’t know that this is a bargain I want to make.

I’m going to see this diet out, because I’m stubborn like that.  But I already know that I have willpower, and that I can conquer cravings, and that eating one way is better for me than eating another.  What I don’t know, and have failed to be convinced of so far, is whether I want to live without the messy, chaotic failings, and the temptations, and even the next-morning regrets.  

I have been doing this with a friend, and we keep joking ‘who even ARE we’ about asking for special meals in cafes and buying chia seed in bulk.  Who even are we.

But I think, actually, that I like my usual self, muffin top and all.

A quick question: 101 addiction resources for families?

I have a friend whose brother is quite a serious alcoholic.  She asked me if I could recommend any books or other resources which would help her parents understand that alcoholism isn’t a matter of willpower or choice, per se – they are scientists, and respond well to authoritative sources.  Any ideas?

(I have obviously also suggested Al-anon and gone into the fact that addiction is complex and multidisciplinary and she may never be able to make her parents understand)