Not drinking is just the beginning. I hope over the past 90 days I’ve illustrated some of the ways sobriety has enriched my relationships, my creativity, and my peace.
I love the image of peeling an onion – even if it means that saying it in my Scottish accent usually means someone will usually make a joke about Shrek, you know the bit about Ogres being like onions (they have layers!). I don’t think the onion ever has a centre. I don’t think we ever arrive, for me the discoveries just keep coming. There has been a million first times, and a million first tries. Whilst that used to be an enormous source of fear, it is now an enormous source of fun.
I get to decide how I go forward, without drink stifling me. I get to decide who I am, rather than smothering it with what I think people I want me to be. I get to feel optimism and hope without feeling like it’s something fake and untrustworthy.
It takes time, and some layers are harder to peel, but this is worth it, and you are safe.
Work diligently and truthfully, and go easy on yourself. Thank you for coming on this path with me, and please tell anyone you think might enjoy it. I love you, Loz xo
Who else had that old thought of “earning” a drink? If I navigated something hard, I had earned a drink. If I achieved something I had been working for, it meant I had earned an opportunity to celebrate with a binge. Some days I just thought to myself, fuck it, I’ve had a hard life, I sure as hell as earned the right to be drunk.
Loving myself, and accepting my worth outside of what other people thought of me, made me realise that I had earned the chance to have joy, and sobriety was actually the prize. It’s not only the prize, it’s just the beginning.
Drinking was my self-sabotage of true joy. I always wanted to believe there was lasting happiness outside it, but it seemed like too scary a prospect. Talking to other sober people made me believe I could do it, and seeing myself as just another human being and not a hopeless cause made me realise that if they could do it, I could too.
You don’t need to earn happiness; you don’t need to earn love – but through the work we are earning a better life where all those things are abundantly possible.
Let’s take a moment just to consider how far you’ve come. We can look at this in so many different ways. Look at how far we’ve come since yesterday morning. Since the start of thing year. You can see how far you’ve come from the moment you decided you wanted to make the change of trying life sober. Look at how far you’ve come from the darkest parts of your drinking.
I oftentimes compare how far I’ve come based on the material. I can belittle my growth based on what I own then, based on what I own now. I am not rich, I do not have the fanciest of everything, so that can signal to me that my growth hasn’t worked. When I make my job the sole reason I exist on planet earth I can destabilise myself by comparing myself to other people in my field, and say I haven’t reached my professional goals so all of this must be for nothing. But then I can remind myself, those things are incredible and I am grateful for them every day, but they aren’t the gifts, the peace of mind is.
With greater peace of mind, I can more effectively attribute to those goals. Then I can try and look deeper, and truly look back at my past and see the behaviours I don’t engage with anymore, all of the things that I wouldn’t have been able to handle before, and all of the mending of the past I’ve been able to do.
Remember always, this is not linear. Whatever your day count, however you feel right now, it’s all part of the pattern – and steps backwards doesn’t mean you’re doing badly. Temporary pain doesn’t mean it’s not working. It’s all part of the path.
And what’s more, the more I do this work, the more I know it never has to get that bad again.
I thought I could control my drinking, until it started to control me. So I tried controlling literally every single thing in my life. When I couldn’t control everything in my life I decided that all the dark, broken things about me and my life were that way just because they were, and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. That helped me regain this imaginary sense of control.
Trying to control everything led me to the corner, where I felt hopeless and in need of a strong drink, because there will always be things I can’t control. There will be always things that I have to take my hands off and just let be. It isn’t a question of how strong I am. I can be as strong as I’ll ever be and still not be able to control the uncontrollable. However, there will be small significant changes over the things I can control, which is usually my actions and reactions. Doom-scrolling will not mean I am controlling the global situation of pain and suffering, but I can connect to other people and potentially share a burden, which will help manage my reactions and open pathways to the things I can control.
I thought worrying about things was me controlling the situation. I thought the more I obsessed, the greater control I had. This is reality let my emotions run wild, becoming more and more uncontainable.
I thought I had to be “in control” of every situation to remain stable and secure, but the true strength has eventually been accepting what I can’t control, and usually that leaves space for me to address the dark and broken things within myself, that I actually do have the strength to deal with.
I still make mistakes in recovery, and that’s ok. After a particular blow up in a romantic relationship, where I made a hasty decision that resulted in the opposite outcome I called a friend who had significantly more time than me, to lament over the fact that I’ve been doing all this work and I still don’t have it all worked out.
He said to me, with laughter: “When did you think you’d start making good decisions?”
It brought some much-needed levity to the situation, and got me thinking that whilst a lot of my choices were better, they weren’t always right. And that’s ok. We are imperfect humans, albeit with tools and awareness now.
Just because we don’t use alcohol as a fix-all for our problems doesn’t mean we won’t come across problems, and doesn’t mean we’re always going to know exactly what to do. It doesn’t mean we won’t face consequences. The consequences are very different from my consequences of drinking. Sometimes they are more frustrating, because I get annoyed that here I am doing my best and it doesn’t always go the way I wanted it to, or I make a mistake I have to apologise for.
But I handle it all better than I did when I was caught in my drinking loop, and I have the forgiveness for myself and others that means I can move forward.
Honesty means that I have to see myself exactly as I am. As it happens I’m not a cute, quirky, tortured artist. My favourite line in the British sitcom Black Books is when the misanthropic Book Shop owner gets caught in a lie and says: “I have to go along with all this "reclusive genius" stuff... she's going to be very upset when she finds out I'm a reclusive wanker.” The mythology I held about myself wasn’t in line with the facts.
While I wouldn’t go as hard as the character in Black Books and call myself a wanker, I still wasn’t the greatest rock star of my generation waiting to be discovered. Nor was I a renegade poet pushing back against the norms of society, I was using that as a smoke screen to hide, well, everything I’ve talked about in the past 84 days.
This was one of the final things I had to realise when I completely divorced my identity from that of someone who had consuming alcohol as a non-negotiable fact about themselves. I was left with me, the person I had been all along and lost along the way. There were some surprises, I was surprised at my strength, my commitment to my ideals, and what I was actually capable of. There were some not-so-pleasant discoveries as well, like the realisation I actually did feel anger, but I get to work on them too. It’s all you, and it’s all loveable.
I thought dishonesty was protecting me. Protecting people from getting too close to me, protecting the image I wanted to portray, and protecting the only way of life I thought would work.
I spent so long in therapy desperate to do literally anything to not feel awful about my life, but only as far as it involved still doing the thing that made me feel awful about my life. That fear of living outside of my world was so powerful.
Honesty’s linguistic roots come from the word “whole.” Honesty means to not fracture ourselves into pieces. It makes us our entire self. Living sober for me means I need to live honestly, because they both are things that make me whole.
I thought I had things to lose by living honestly, but it transpired that I gained more stability and peace. I didn’t have to keep tabs on my lies, keeping a graph of all the versions I was portraying to all the different people, and the little lies I was telling along the way. I didn’t have to exaggerate to keep people interested, I could offer exactly what I had and discover that that was actually enough. It took way less energy, and it loosened that fear that I was going to get found out and exposed as a fraud. That feeling took longer to leave, but it is lasting and the longer I am honest the more comfortable it becomes.
When we talked about forgiveness before we discussed how we can let go of our shame and embarrassment by forgiving ourselves by accepting, apologising, and changing our behaviour.
Another way forgiveness makes sense to me is by moving away from the idea that forgiveness means you are approving of the behaviour. Forgiving others, and yourself, doesn’t mean you’re co-signing the behaviour as something acceptable; you are simply letting go of the power it holds over you by living in the shame and anger.
This is an ongoing process, and one that has taken years for me, but knowing I can still disprove of treatment I had endured and things I had done whilst moving past it, was so freeing. It let go of the chatter that was endlessly taking up space in my brain.
The pain that lived inside me over the mistreatment is still there in some ways, but it resides in there alongside all the things that make it bearable. I can engineer my life so the people who caused me the greatest harm are not in it, and I can use my experience of recovery from their actions to help other people who are in the middle of the pain, because as I have reiterated, we are not alone.
I also have a great example of forgiveness from all the people that forgave me. I got caught up in the people that held my actions against me, and looked past my Champions and my friends who saw the good inside me past the things I did when I was in pain. I put the microscope on their love and forgiveness, and it helps me move forward knowing I’m a loveable human who made human mistakes.