Hola Sober OCTOBER


This being with growing things, planting them, nurturing them, watching them grow gives me such a deep sense of joy, satisfaction and pleasure. I forget myself entirely when I am out there, I can be in the garden for hours and completely lose track of time. As you can see, we are lucky to live right next to a wood so I listen to the birds and the wind, and in the summer evenings I watch the bats wobbling about against the twilight sky. A woodland garden isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it’s mine. My garden teaches me so much about life: how it’s trial and error, how some plants grow beautifully and others wither and die…and the answer is to plant more plants, keep trying until I get it right; slow progress is still progress – it’s one day at a time. All the time. Without my sobriety there would be no garden. I am about to write a thesis for a Master’s Degree in Psychology, yesterday I went axe throwing, on Saturdays I swim in the sea, I started a craft group in my village, in August I made my entire outfit for a wedding, next weekend I am going to a gig in Glasgow. None of these things would be happening if I was drinking. Recently life has been stressful-in-technicolour – hence I missed the last issue. I was dealing with…well, stuff. And I am still dealing, struggling, working through. But sobriety has taught me to speak up, shout if I have to. I am not alone. I reach out now, whereas before alcohol would have kept me silent. I reach out and every time, someone puts their hand out of the lifeboat and pulls me back in. Sometimes that hand belongs to me, sometimes to my husband, sometimes my long-time friends, sometimes my sober crew, and sometimes that hand belongs to a complete stranger on the internet who drops in to say “hey, I get how this feels, it’s hard, but you can do hard things”. And I grasp that hand, I do. So now, being in a pub can be triggering but doesn’t make me want to drink, watching other people getting smashed makes me feel a bit sorry for them to be honest: who would ever want to be hungover again? Certainly not me. But I also feel a bit sorry for them because I feel like they aren’t genuinely connecting with other people, they aren’t genuinely having a good time – maybe they are, maybe it’s a right laugh…but what is the cost? Will they remember the night they have had? The experiences and conversations? What does alcohol add to anything? It doesn’t grow, it doesn’t sing you a song, it doesn’t love you back. So, would I trade what I have for that. No.

The numbers can be a real encouragement and they can stop us from reaching for that bottle – how many times have you thought “I am not resetting that clock”? For me, there have been many times. I often frame it as “I haven’t come this far to only come this far” but today’s milestone has made me wonder what it would mean to undo that thousand days and go back to day one. It’s hard to think what event would make me do that, now I am at this point. But the truth is also that I have re-engineered my life to make sure that doesn’t happen. I have cultivated friendships online and in real life with other sober people and I am open about being sober. I am not ashamed of having survived an addiction which had the potential to ruin my life. I didn’t go to AA, or take up yoga or meditation, I didn’t find religion or become a vegan, I don’t have a Higher Power™. There is no right way to get sober – we all have to do it our own way, because we are the ones looking back at ourselves in the mirror. So here I am, one thousand days later: how did I get here? Initially, I cried and slept a lot and struggled without the oblivion alcohol provided. I felt everything and got overwhelmed. I ate LOTS of chocolate. I walked miles and miles. Then I left a job which was crucifying me mentally. I gradually stopped hating and blaming myself and started to genuinely assess where I was in my life. I gave myself time. I started saying no. I had therapy (I am lucky that my new workplace has that facility). I began to trust that I could nurture and settle myself when I was struggling. I started to allow myself the time to just be – for me, this happens when I am in my garden. For others it might be yoga or meditation or religion, for me it’s plants and being outside. Reflections on 1000 days sober On 26th September I reached the milestone of 1000 days of no alcohol. It’s not often in our lives that we count days the way we do when we are committed to staying sober.

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