It takes everything in the end

The other night was TV night.  TV night is Thursday nights, a tradition that started some years back when Lovely Husband started going to an evening class once a week and leaving me in control of the remote.  Since it is only once a week, it’s a night I look forward to.  No idle channel surfing for me; TV night involves a DVD set or something highly recommended from Netflix.  It involves an indulgent meal, eaten solo after the children are in bed – recently I’m favouring spicy buffalo wings and fries, but it can be a smoked salmon and Brie affair or a huge bowl of lentil soup, as the mood takes.

And back in the day, it also involved a lot of wine.  A lot of wine: TV night was my free-pass night, because I was drinking sight unseen and I knew LH was nearby in case of emergencies.  I just added that last bit in case I sounded irresponsible; let’s be frank, here.  I was just drinking a lot because nobody was watching.

When I gave up drinking, one of the things I mourned was the end of my Thursday nights.  Because, you see, I can’t watch television sober.  That’s why I only do it at all once a week.  I needed the wine to make the television fun, without seeing through the tiresome cliches and the telegraphed plot points.  It was worth it, of course, but it was a loss.  And I stopped Thursday TV nights for a little while.

And then I started them again, and I found other ways to keep occupied.  Once I learned to knit, it helped a lot: I can’t knit without doing something else and I can’t watch TV without doing something else but the two things go together like the newly sober and oversharing.  TV night was back.

TV night.jpg

Anyway.  Last Thursday, I started the next episode of my current series (which is Nashville.  How good is Nashville?  LH hates it.  I’m particularly a fan of the fact that nobody kills one another and so far zero women have been raped) and I realised that I’d somehow skipped ahead.  I couldn’t remember which episode I was up to, and the blurbs weren’t helping, so I spent a few minutes cueing up past episodes and watching the opening to see if I’d seen it.  It took me four episodes to find the one I was actually up to, and all the time that I was doing this I was feeling The Oh.  The Oh is when I see a previous memory in a different light and – Oh.  Oh, that’s what was going on.  How did it seem like it was fine?  Oh.

I thought that wine helped me watch TV!  For maybe a YEAR after I stopped drinking, I still thought that!  (And not without a soupçon of smuggery, either: you guys, you normal people with your normal intellect, you might be able to enjoy the entertainment of the masses.  Some of us can’t descend to popular culture without a deliberate deadening of our insight.  Jesus.  How anyone ever stands me in real life, I don’t even know.)  And yet, here I was, mimicking a time when I used to have to re-watch episodes of my given show because by the end of the previous TV night, I was too drunk to remember them clearly.

The difference was that this time, it took me less than a minute to check each episode, because I remembered seeing it within that time.  Before, it would take me longer.  I might have seen this one?  I remember this bit, I think, where the guy comes in and shouts, but that whole sequence before it is new or is it?  I wasn’t enjoying TV.  I was barely registering it!  I had to give up on Sherlock because I couldn’t follow the plot!

cropped-antique_books1

Here’s another example: books.  I’ve written before about my love of reading with wine (and TV, in fact – here I am, at six days sober, two years ago, talking about exactly the same thing I’m talking about now).  Reading + wine.  Heavenly.  But again, by the end.  Not so much.  It became normal to pick up a book where I’d left off and then flick back until I reached a page that I remembered reading.  Sometimes that would be a page or two.  Sometimes closer to a chapter.  What was the point?

It takes everything.  It takes EVERYTHING.  Back when I drank, my only hobbies were reading, drinking, and occasionally watching TV.  And arguing on the internet, I guess, but I was trying to quit that one well before I got sober.  Forget the me that I now am, with a birthday list stuffed full of gorgeous hand dyed yarns, running gear, and courses I want to do on power tools and window glazing.  Reading and watching TV.  It’s not a big demand on the universe, to have those things to enjoy.  But I didn’t.  I no longer had even those.

In an abusive relationship, the abused partner adapts to the demands of the abuser.  She tries to become better at acquiescence, hoping that if she can show him enough love and understanding, he will return the favour in increased trust and openness.  Instead the demands grow, and grow, until the victim is backed into a corner and she has nothing left, and if she is lucky she will realise that nothing she can give will ever be enough and if she is really, really lucky she will be able to get out of that corner and away.

When we say the words ‘alcohol abuse’ we tend to mean that we abuse alcohol.  But alcohol abuses us.  It takes and it takes, and it lies and it lies, and we give up everything rather than lose it.   There is nothing we need it for, and there is nothing it won’t take.

It takes everything.

2015: In Which I Was Tired

It’s the end of the year, and I’m tired.

kitten tired

It’s been a good year, in a lot of ways.  I started my own business and made many discoveries about myself, several of them good, some of them far reaching.  I did not starve my family to death in the meantime, so that’s always a bonus.

My mother had a major accident.  She may end up with serious permanent disabilities, on top of her current chronic condition.  I’m, realistically, the only person in her life in a position to support her financially or emotionally.  I feel stretched very thin, and I feel very anxious about how this might play out.

kitten tired two

It’s hot at the moment.  It’s very hot: global warming plus El Nino plus I already live in one of the hottest places in which people live on Earth (probably.  You look it up.  I’m too tired).  It causes me a lot of anxiety.  I’m only this year realising how much anxiety, and how maybe that’s not entirely normal.  It occupies a lot of my mind, when it’s this hot: I spend my time talking myself down off a ledge, reminding myself that there’s no reason to panic, and I’ll get through it, and autumn will eventually come.  I have to do this over and over again, because the fear part of my brain doesn’t really listen, and it gibbers at me, rattling the bars of its cage so loudly that it can’t hear.

That’s quite tiring, as well.

I hurt someone the other day with a careless tweet, without meaning to or thinking much about it at the time, and she lambasted me pretty savagely for it.  And I have a lot to say about that, some of it sad, some of it defensive, some of it angry.  But I don’t really want to.  I just want to move on and forget about it and process it later maybe, when I’m not so tired.

tired sign

And I’m fat, and my trich is a constant struggle, and I don’t want to fight with my own body.  Can’t we all just get along?

Most of what I’m tired of is thinking and feeling.  Who knew it could be so exhausting, living life as a sentient being?  Do I really get no respite from it, because I have addictive tendencies?  That seems unfair.  I don’t drink, I don’t smoke pot, and let’s face it I need to move away from using food as a palliative.  I read a lot of books, I go for walks, I sit with my feelings.  I mean, I know what to do.

But it’s tiring.

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.