11th April 2018
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Last night my dad and his twin brother, who was visiting him, came over to my house for dinner. Before they came, Dad calls me and awkwardly says, “Your uncle wasn’t sure if it is ok to bring some wine over this evening, so I said I’d check?”.
I laughed and said, “It’s fine, of course I don’t mind him bringing wine to drink!”
“We just wanted to check, I didn’t want to make anything hard for you.”
This is from father who has said several times these past 12 sober months, “So, are you still not drinking? We have wine if you want any”. The dad who gave me a birthday card when I was 6 months sober, that had a picture of a beautiful woman clutching champagne with the caption, “Gluten free, dairy free, I love the champagne diet!”.
It felt kind of weird that he was asking whether they could bring booze- like, did they fear I was going to start foaming at the mouth at the sight of a glass of Merlot? Come on, I have made it through nearly a year, which has included numerous booze-centric black-tie events, my first sober holiday (at 100 days sober…. that was TOUGH), first sober birthday (easy), first sober Christmas (a bit harder), New Year (easy), first sober evenings after the stress of children’s birthday parties (OMG don’t even ask how hard that was). But it was sweet that he’s catching on to the fact that sobriety is important to me.
It’s funny, we spoke about my sobriety quite a bit last night. I offered them some AF beers which my husband had in the larder. When they asked if he’s cut down “in sympathy”, I said, not really, I think he chooses AF beer 90% of time to be healthier too, but that he is a “successful moderator”, unlike me. “What do you mean?”, they asked. I explained that if I were to start attempting to drink just a couple of glasses of wine a week, I would be in constant inner turmoil, arguing with myself about wanting more wine, and probably ultimately slipping back to my old ways. So, I explained, I’m much happier and healthier teetotal. My dad said, “That’s exactly what smoking was like for me”.
That is the frankest talk I’ve had about my drinking with Dad, or Mum. I wrote my first, very honest, blog post in December at 8 months sober (The Silence of the Drinkers, see below), and posted it on Facebook for all to see when my best friends told me my honesty might help others. I’m British, so, you know, I’ll happily write a dead honest blog post about my alcohol problem, then give a radio interview in which I freely discuss how drinking whilst on antidepressants led to me unraveling, oh- and I gave a national magazine interview. But ….. a face-to-face conversation with my parents about addiction recovery? Dude. That would just be TOO AWKWARD!
So anyway, Dad caught up, perhaps a little too late, with the fact that the whole ‘giving up wine’ thing was actually quite a big deal for me. He’s realised (hopefully) that it’s not appropriate to give weird not even funny wine-joke birthday cards or keep offering me wine at dinner. Because it’s about me saving my life. About me saving ACTUAL years of my life (I read recently that people with alcohol abuse disorder die on average 20 years sooner). But possibly more importantly, it’s saving today. Tomorrow. Next week. I’m really living, not sleepwalking. I’m making the most of the time with my children while they are little. I’ll remember it. I’m daring to make plans and dream of a more exciting career.
Wine was in the way of everything I wanted. I built a pillow fort around my life with it. Every evening I disappeared into the fort. No pain or problems were permitted in my perfect pillow fort, no fucking way! Gradually the fort stopped working: pain was leaking in through gaps, and the failing fort was slowly generating its own bouquet of dull red pain. Then one day I woke and looked at my fort.
It was a cage. I’d built a cage, not a fort.