When I “came out” on Facebook about living AF I was 100 days sober. I had a comment from a man I used to work with who said “when you stop drinking you stop waiting” (Caroline Knapp, Drinking: A Love Story). I’ve come across this saying a few times and it took me until about 12 months sober to really feel it, I was not waiting any more.
Waiting: for the sun to be over the yardarm when it’s acceptable for me to pour the wine. Waiting: for my friend to turn up to “get this party started” (and oftentimes not waiting!), for my husband to get home with the necessary supplies. Visiting friends and waiting: to be offered a glass of wine, for the host to pour another glass, for another bottle to be opened. Out and about and waiting: for someone to go to the bar and get another bottle, waiting: to see what everyone else is drinking. Back in the privacy of my own home and waiting: for the hangover to abate, for the visitors to leave so I can open another bottle, for my husband to go to bed so I can carry on drinking. Waiting for the working day to end, for the weekend to arrive, for the holiday abroad when I can drink in the middle of the day, waiting for Christmas, birthdays, parties, crises. Oh yes, if there’s one good thing about crises it’s that they will definitely happen when I least expect them and the only thing I can do in a crisis is to drink copious amounts of alcohol until it passes. No suitable event to get smashed out of my head? This calls for a crisis.
In all seriousness though, in the latter days of my drinking I was waiting to stop drinking or for my drinking to stop me. Waiting for my real life to begin, for a diagnosis of something life threatening, or sometimes simply waiting to die. For a while I was waiting for the cavalry, for a knight in shining armour to sweep in and take me away from all this and later I was waiting to be rescued by a terminal diagnosis, early death, and all the time I was holding out for some magical intervention by the universe. Waiting for it to be over and then, as if by magic, it was. Over.
Waiting was like being on hold, in suspended animation, frozen in time. The past was too painful to dwell in, the future consisted of more of the same and the present moment was something to be endured, got through, numbed out. I thank the universe that one day I woke up from the stupor of addiction. There was nothing spectacular about that day, I poured my first g&t at about 2pm as had become my habit, and there was (plenty of) wine chilling in the fridge to follow it. We had visitors staying, which was always stressful for me, and more so this time as two of them did not drink alcohol! I had to brazen it out and pretend not to notice their reactions to my drinking, or wait until a bit later to start and hide glasses in the kitchen so they wouldn’t witness my excess. I would learn in time that this was all in my head, the fact of the matter was that it was me who was so deeply ashamed of my drinking and the extent of it that I was embarrassed for it to be witnessed, especially by sober people. That day I heard myself telling my husband (my knight in shining armour) that I was going to stop drinking after the visitors had left. He nodded, said he could do with having a break too and that he would stop with me. The spectacular thing about it was that I knew it was true, I was actually going to stop at the weekend, and it was going to be forever, and even more spectacularly I did as I said, I stopped drinking and didn’t look back.
For the first year I visited Soberistas every day, several times a day. I spent hours reading and sharing and learning but never waiting. Even when I was working my way towards that magical 100 days AF there was no sense of “I can’t wait until …”. That was gone, I found myself looking forward to things and making plans, but I wasn’t in any rush, there was no sense of urgency about it. There emerged an awareness of the life to be lived in the meantime, in the present moment, a life full of wonder and learning that had been there all along, waiting for me to dive in and take part.
If any of this resonates with you then take your life off hold, stop waiting and start living, and don’t look back.
Nana Treen x