‘ … but there are still the hours aren’t there? One and then another and you get through that one and then, my god, there’s another …’
Perhaps a strange film choice as balm for my sorrows but whilst there comes a time to emerge like a phoenix from the ashes, sometimes you just need to lie down with the wolves and seek solace in those who understand.
Many years ago when I watched this film, the words resonated so strongly with me, encapsulating the hopelessness of being trapped in a life interminable. Never mind getting through each day … what about the hours, the minutes the seconds. When time stretches before you and there’s nothing to fill it outside the darkness of your mental landscape, you look for ways to speed things up.
And when you find them, the world becomes a veritable playground with a plethora of options. I started early with all encompassing emotional attachments to people. But humans are slippery buggers and their desires have a habit of not coinciding with our perceived needs. I needed a back up plan – something I could pin down when the object of my affection evaded me. And it came in the form of one of the most pervasive and socially acceptable substances available – alcohol.
My elixir of choice has varied over time but in adulthood I discovered a dependancy that was both functional and aspirational – I’d affectionately dub the last two decades as my chardonnay years, except I’m starting to look back through a different filter. The intoxicating promise of that first glass – stalling the restlessness of the overthinking mind in the warmth of temporary relief. Sharp corners soften, time accelerates and social interactions are heightened in a fallacy of intimate connection.
This is my second dry January – last year I celebrated the achievement on February 1st, by buying the finest bottle of wine I could afford. I’m now thinking that perhaps I missed the point. Seeing the challenge as a hiatus in normal functioning – a race to the end with the promise of double points next month. This year, I asked my pals on Instagram for some tips on living more soberly. One thing I know is that deprivation and denial will never work for me as motivating forces. Whenever I make a positive change, I need to feel I’m moving towards rather than away from something.
One suggestion was to ask the question ‘How does this serve me?’ and reading those words was a lightbulb moment for me.
I’ve held so tightly on to my freedom as a self determining individual. To be able to say one thing and later do another according to my changing will, embrace spontaneity and eschew reason when faced with the lure of a chaotic diversion. Having spent years on a path of self discovery – and only from wisdom afforded by retrospect – I can honestly say this ideal has been a major cause of unhappiness. I’ve learnt that I function the best when I’m grounded by routine, stability, stillness, creativity and considered consumption.
And yet, despite all my focus on development, I’ve kept one small area off limits. Except it isn’t small – it’s an entrenched pandemic. And whilst I’m not outing myself as an alcoholic, I do think I have all the building blocks -genetic predisposition, life history, obsessive patterns of behaviour – to become addicted to a whole smorgasbord of substances. And whilst I’ve not yet fallen down into the abyss with a single ticket to oblivion, I do wonder what vice I would turn to if the shit really did hit the fan. And as the nature of life is to love and then systematically lose all the things you love, there’s no escaping that shit will come.
Which got me thinking, why not stop before it starts. I’ve been drip feeding myself health giving habits since my 30’s, easing myself in with bite sized chunks. And my 40’s heralded the arrival of new drugs of choice with gifts of unprecedented influence. Time thieves which swallow every second available – the hours which in earlier years stretched endlessly ahead, now dance before me like a prized possession. My waking hours are now delineated – time spent making and writing and time not spent making and writing. And all my energies focused on making more time for the former.
I started out this month focusing on my relationship with alcohol and asking whether it was going to be a dry month/year/life. Abstinence is not a word I’m drawn to but finding things that bring me joy are. And making the choice to do them for the long term gain is. So what next … I honestly don’t know. I’m trying to live life more in the day and less in my head and I’ve embraced this opportunity to really examine my habits of old and new and question the value they bring to my life.
Special thanks to @wholelifewithamy @hipsobriety @laura_mckowen and the Home podcast which inspired this post and has given me so much food for thought this month.