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.
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.
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.