On Wednesday afternoon, I was at my desk as usual, preparing an agenda for a meeting I was due to chair the following day, and my boss asked to see me.
Fifteen minutes later, I was walking out of the office, lugging three bags full of possessions.
To say I was blindsided would be an understatement: I literally had no idea at all that a redundancy was on the cards. It was, at least, a genuine redundancy, complete with severance pay and a good reference. But it was a complete shock, and I didn’t get chance to say goodbye to people with whom I had worked for four years. There was no farewell card.
Lovely Husband is away on business, in an area so remote that he can only ring me by satellite phone. He didn’t have a chance to ring me that first night. So that left me, my grief, and two small children in a house full of alcohol, alone.
It’s difficult not to feel self-pitying rage in those circumstances. The whole point of alcohol, after all, is to be there when you are sad and hurt and there is too much emotion to deal with right that moment. It is there to take the edge off: that is what it is for.
But I’m sober. The grief keeps hitting me on and off, interspersed with anger, fear and not an insignificant amount of excitement for whatever the next thing is. But I’m dealing with it so sensibly that it is sickening: I borrowed some comfort reading from the library, and I have been in bed by 9.30pm every night with a mug of chamomile tea.
Last night, Friday, Little Girl came down with a sudden violent stomach bug. Vomit covered the walls and the floor of our little bathroom, and she cried at the mess, and I wished fiercely that I had a second parent to help me out while I wrung out cloths and stuck her in the shower. It seems awfully unfair that I am barely standing straight again after the redundancy dealt me such a crippling blow, and now I am ankle-deep in regurgitated sausage, I thought.
Imagine if I’d been drunk, though. Imagine dealing with all that effluvia, and all that impotent rage, and all those feelings of unfairness and self pity, drunk. Imagine getting out of bed every hour on the hour to position a toddler over a bucket yet again, while dealing with the first toxic pulses of a hangover.
If I hadn’t been sober when I was made redundant, I would have gone home and drunk without limits. It’s the sort of life event that feels like you can break every drinking rule you have, after all, and I would have polished off a couple of bottles of wine without feeling guilty about it for once. Part of me would have enjoyed having the excuse.
And then, when Little Girl vomited everywhere and then burst into terrified wails, I would have been trying to deal with it dizzy and sick and slow on my feet. I wouldn’t have been able to lie down with her and cuddle her safely; I certainly wouldn’t be able to take care of two children today, on two hours sleep, not with a hangover.
Sobriety delivers all the things that alcohol promises, they say, and in a crisis that is certainly true. I am getting through it sober. I am getting through it because I am sober.