Slaying demons

I told my Mum I didn’t drink yesterday. There’ve been a number of times in the past that I could have told her, and bottled it. It’s hardest with the ones we love the most, I think, because what they might say has so much more impact on us. My Mum is lovely, and we get along very well, but a gentle criticism from her pains me far more than the foulest insult lobbed at me in the street ever would. As it happens, she rarely drinks and so there’s only been one occasion in the past ten months where I would have been drinking around her anyway, back in April.

In the end, it was fine. She mentioned bringing champagne to Christmas lunch, I told her that was a great idea because I don’t drink anymore and so LH has no opportunity to drink bubbly, which goes flat too quickly for a single person to drink.

(A pause here while we all agree that this observation belongs firmly to the normal drinker, because I don’t know about you but I have certainly opened, and finished, a bottle of champagne before it went flat before)

She asked why, I said because I was drinking too much, she said good for you. That was it. Done.


I am also teaching myself to sew. You may go ahead and laugh at the idea of this being something to blog about, let alone something I can count as ‘slaying a demon’. Really? You are thinking. Sewing? What’s the big deal?

I don’t know. But I’ve had my machine for fourteen years and never once sewn something on it. My mother, an excellent seamstress, comes around and tries to teach me from time to time, but it never goes anywhere: the temptation to ask her to do ‘the hard bits’ is too tempting. Poor Big Girl has had unhemmed curtains hanging at her window for months now, and they’re only hanging at all because my Mum did the rest of it. It’s not disinterest: I have bought fabric, and patterns, and made plans and designs over and over again in that time. Crotchet leaves me cold, scrapbooking is stupefying, but sewing has always been something I’ve wanted to do. And yet I haven’t. It’s been too scary.


So this time, I decided I was just going to do it, and see the whole process through, and not worry about the finished result ahead of time.

I took Little Girl to a shop and told her to choose fabric for a dress. I asked the lady at the counter to sell me an easy pattern and whatever else I needed. I explained that I knew nothing about sewing at all. “Oh!” she chirped, “it’s easy, just follow the instructions!”.

The thing about sewing instructions, though, is that they assume you already know some things about sewing. It’s rather like handing someone a recipe book and expecting dinner. It might only be a simple dinner you’re expecting, but if the would-be cook doesn’t know the word ‘saute’, or how to tell if water is boiling, or what a ‘slow oven’ is, then you’re destined for takeout food.


So there I was, poring over some tissue paper and wondering what the hell ‘match notches’ meant, and do I fold the fabric before pinning the tissue, and why do they call it a selvedge? What’s wrong with the word ‘edge’? At one point my six year old wandered in and asked what I was doing.
“Well”, I started, “I’m cutting out strips of fabric to be shoulder straps. Here are two, and I’m going to pin this piece of paper to this fabric and make two more.”
She considered this.
“Why don’t you move the paper into this corner, and then you only have to cut two sides and not four?” she asked.
“Like this”
“…Yes. Yes that would work”

However humiliating it was, being schooled by a six year old wasn’t going to stop me, and I ploughed on. I ploughed on when I realised I didn’t have tailor’s chalk, or the right thread, or the faintest idea how to transfer markings anyway. I ploughed on although the description ‘with nap’ was starting to sound more attractive than ‘without nap’, I ploughed on despite having to stop and ask what a seam allowance was and how to find views.

It does sound trivial, but I have written before about my hatred of being mediocre at things – the curse of the prematurely gifted child – and my tendency to give up. It’s another unexpected thing that sobriety has given me: whether because my self esteem can now withstand the possibility of failure, or just because I’m less likely to pour myself a glass of something while I plan my next step and end up sozzled on the couch, I don’t know.

But it’s another thing that I have always wanted to do, and another thing which I suddenly see no reason not to do. I’m going to make this dress, I thought, and when I’ve made it, I’ll make another one, and that one will be better.

Here is where I would like to end with a photograph of the completed dress in all its glory. But it’s not finished, which I realise is narratively unsatisfying.

It will be, though. This is sober me, and sober me does things, and sees them through. It’s a wonderful cycle: self-confidence, achievement, pride, self-confidence. And it’s going to be a cute dress.


6 thoughts on “Slaying demons

  1. That chart made me dizzy.

    I can identify with the whole “have to get it perfect first time” syndrome. I too was in the “gifted” program in school and while that doesn’t mean much (I mention it because you had), I too suffered with wanting to get it bang on on the first attempt. If I couldn’t nail something on the first stab, I’d give up. If I couldn’t be on the tallest podium in the standings, there was no point. Self-esteem was rocky at best. So it’s been humbling to do things (and continue to do them) in which I am mediocre or just okay. Like my running. I am the slowest of the bunch, and while I compare and despair at times, I keep at it. First time I have ever done that. So we make progress, yeah? Like that dress you are making – one stitch at a time, one motion at a time, we forge on and learn that gratification is no longer instant (like our drinking)

    Thanks for sharing this – can’t wait to see the final product!


  2. I admire your tenacity. I once thought I was going to sew also, a year later I sold the machine. We all have our limits.
    I can’t wait to see the finished product. I am sure it will be beautiful.

  3. I can’t wait to see it. I understand the perfect comment. My sister mentioned that i slways do thinks full out. In retrospect that was, like you, i would quit projects that were outside my comfort zone.
    So in some ways i hope the dress doesnt turn out and yet you show us your “creation” with pride in accomplient. (Sorry-projecting my own needs onto you).

    Side advice. Quilting. Its mostly straight lines. I hate patterns. Your picture scared me!!!!


  4. I can definitely relate to feeling much more sensitive to even a gentle criticism from a parent (in my case my Dad who is a beautiful man) than from anyone else. So glad the conversation with your Mum was such a non-event!

    Your post made me think of a great book called ‘The gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown.

    Looking forward to seeing the dress 🙂

  5. Greetings and congrats on your sobriety. Like you, I used/am using sewing to get/keep me sober. I hadn’t sewn for about 20 years, so in some ways it was like starting over. The damn thread breaking, the instructions, the space needed to cut.
    Still, it occupies your head. And you’re doing something constructive.
    Merry Christmas! Happy Sobriety!

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