Yesterday was a tough sort of a day. Hot, muggy, at home with Toddler. Offered to take a friend’s child for the afternoon and evening so that her single-parent mother could spend the day in bed getting over a bad cold – child is lovely, but three children instead of two exponentially ramps up the time spend mediating fights, fetching drinks, preparing snacks, keeping an ear out for potentially-fatal games: (“Toddler, just lie down on the floor. We’re going to pretend that you’re having a nap! Okay, good Toddler. Now Visiting Child and I are going to practise our long jumps over you, won’t that be fun?” “NO STOP DO NOT DO THAT THAT IS NOT A GOOD GAME”)
Finally, having cajoled Visiting Child out from under Elder’s bed, back into own clothes, and delivered her home, I was driving back home through the sunset. Hungry, tired, very aware of the bomb site of a kitchen and Everest of laundry awaiting me.
Passed a shop. Should I? Just a treat. I deserved it. Just a little treat, to enjoy when I finally get to sit down to my lovely new book. I know, I know what I said, but surely…
I drove past the shop and back home. And this is the incredible bit; what I was craving, was chocolate. And only after I congratulated myself on resisting (I’m big on self-congratulations. Someone has to) did my brain think “Oh, right, and also this is where I used to think about having a glass of wine”. Literally it wasn’t the first go-to, but merely the end of a train of thought.
A friend of mine, sober five years, was reassuring me that sobriety gets easier and easier, and this is what she said (paraphrased for privacy):
When you’re still building your toolbox, if you have a hard day or something goes wrong, you call the helpline in your head, and you’re like ‘I need help, can I speak to Alcohol please’? And the helpline is all ‘Sorry, Alcohol doesn’t work here any more, can Chocolate help? Or Romantic Films can be with you in twenty minutes?’. And after a while you stop even asking for Alcohol. You know Alcohol doesn’t work there any more.
I love that. We talk about a ‘sober tool kit’ around here, in the context of tools to fight cravings and resist drinking. But there’s another tool kit we need as well; the tools to just get through life, to react to circumstances where we used to use alcohol. That’s what she’s talking about.
Admittedly, chocolate isn’t the sharpest tool in the box; next time I need help I’ll ask for Quilting. But not Alcohol.
Alcohol doesn’t work here any more.