the hours

‘ … 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.

13 thoughts on “the hours

  1. You write so beautifully, dry January for me has been harder this year than last but having reached a stage when I could easily down a bottle of red a night something needed to change! It’s a habit I have formed, starting with a glass whilst making tea, eating tea and …It is relaxing and I’m struggling to find an alternative. X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your thoughts and your honesty. Habits are so powerful aren’t they which is why I’ve been trying to shift the focus and concentrate on those habits that serve me well. Instead of worrying about my addictive tendencies I’m ploughing them into behaviours that bear fruit – running, sewing, writing and yoga. Wishing you well on your journey 🙂

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  2. We waste so much time not being present, not giving the life we actually have a chance to grow and develop. Alcohol was never my drug of choice, I had other options that allowed me to ‘escape’, drift off and not face the life around me. It took getting very sick to realize that this is it. You don’t need to abstain, you need to live. Give the wonderful being that you are a chance to find your life the one meant exclusively for you. If your social life needs liquid lubrication then perhaps it’s not the social life for you. Trust yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I totally agree on focusing on living the life I want to rather than on giving things up. I hardly drink in social situations – it’s often a solo treat – a hangover habit from the days my social life did need lubrication. I’m glad to say that’s no longer the case and my socialising is a positive conscious choice. Drinking is just a habit but it’s a powerful one so this month I’ve been focusing on the habits that enrich my life and questioning whether alcohol really is a ‘treat’ for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The hours was myself and james first ‘date’ movie and he still talks about it (in that he hated the film!), I never really drank a lot, and also never liked the foggy head the next day (I fell rather robbed of a day by it), when we lived out the country I was often the driver (so obviously no drinking there) and I used find it amusing as how decisive I was for me and on behalf of any passengers, when it was time to go home, and yet if I am drinking a few pints, goodbyes and finishing up can take an hour or three.

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    1. It’s not an easy watch that film but I enjoyed it for many reasons. I am getting to appreciate how alcohol robs time and now I have so many things I want to do and so little time to do them in, it seems like an increasingly big price to pay. I don’t like absolutes but I do like how my mind is shifting. I know what you mean about being decisive – it’s soo easy to walk away from things sober! Blog about sewing tomorrow – normal business resumes!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Louise. Exactly… These habits do creep up on you don’t they. But it’s reassuring that anything can be made part of your life by starting new habits. I’m giving some healthier ones a spin. Hope you are well… The nights are slowly getting brighter 🙂 X

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  4. That’s a strip yourself bare approach to self awareness. I came to realize how energy depleting a large glass of wine after a long day at work had become. It was my cancer scare that made me take stock and now drink alcohol on the rare social occasions where a small glass of wine goes down nicely with a meal. Dancing, sewing, scrabble, swimming and theatre are the gems I’ve found to be habbits which feel like nurture for me. I used to delight in saying that I won’t even let myself tell myself what to do, identifying ‘myself’ as the negative racing thoughts in my head. It took a course of CBT and an new interest in philosophy to get my head around that one.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think your approach to alcohol consumption is very measured… I’ve been much more all or nothing and right now nothing is serving me well but there are no absolutes. I like reflecting on and writing about these things. It helps give me the clarity to move forward and forge a different path, whilst being aware of the trajectory that brought me here. I watched the new trainspotting film recently and there was a bit where renton talks to spud about addiction. Instead of trying to detoxify, he says the key is to move your passion to towards something that’s good for you. Looks like we’ve both managed to find our passions! X

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hello,

    I have been meaning to write to you for a while now.
    Just to say that I was deeply impressed by your very moving post ‘The Hours’

    I have been following you on an off as I started I blog a while back and you were one of the people that I noticed in the blogosphere! It wasn’t just your quirky sewing outfits that impressed me but more your writing which I thought and still do think is fantastic! You have a wonderful skill.

    I could really relate to your post The Hours’ in fact, I have re-read it over and over because it really struck a chord with me. I also like a drink but wouldn’t say I was dependent. Fortunately I am out a few nights a week so that has broken the cycle. However on the nights I am at home I really enjoy a glass or two of wine….

    I am always down on myself for not seeming to get very far with my projects and my writing. My blog is a few years old and really hasn’t progressed. I started to design a beautiful website and really haven’t got much further. I am (even though I say so myself) a pretty good sewer but I have a number of unfinished projects waiting to be aired.

    Having read ‘The Hours’, I particularly loved the paragraph about The Chardonnay years and further down the words that really resonated with me were ‘Time Thieves’.

    You have shown me the light bulb moment helped me gain some clarity! How could I have been so blinkered?! No wonder I seem not to get a lot done…alcohol has robbed me of some of the most valuable hours in my day!

    I thank you for your plain speaking and honesty and helping me to see the light! I wish you all the very best on your journey and please please – don’t ever stop your amazing writing. You are an inspiration!

    Kind regards

    Instagram: sewing.mistress

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you so much for taking the time to write to me Alison – I fully appreciate the extra effort that takes in our busy lives. It’s strange how things come at just the right time and your comment definitely has. I’ve been wondering if there is any merit in some of my writing and whether I should just stick to documenting my makes. But part of me still feels compelled to unpick the more gnarly aspects of my life through words – it seems to help me process things, make sense of them and move forward. And then there’s the outside chance I might connect with others through my experiences and a comfort from that sense of kinship.

    So the fact that you have found some benefit in reading has been such a lovely and affirming thing for me to read. You have really encouraged me to continue with my writing for which I am very grateful. I’m still not sure where I’m going with my relationship with alcohol but so far this year has been a dry one and I’ve got so much done. There literally seems to be about double the hours in the day – especially at the weekend when I wake up at 6am wondering which project to start first! And please believe me this is not usual.

    Thanks again Alison – you’ve made my day 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

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