It’s been a while since I’ve read an alcohol-recovery memoir (by “a while” I mean like 2 months or so), but I picked up The Sober Diaries the other day – maybe because of the reference to The Archers in the sample, but also because I generally get something out of reading these stories, something that just course-adjusts me, even though things are going well enough on their own. Also, I can’t deny it’s “an interest” of mine at this stage.
I’ve started to notice some common themes in the stories I read, some of which are common to me: wine being the tipple of choice, drinking to cope with the mundanity of parenthood, but not just that, drinking to help the switch to the second shift , the increase in sugar intake, the lack of immediate weight-loss, etc. etc.
But there are a few common themes that don’t match my lived experience and it’s silly to feel this maybe, but I kind of feel like I’m a bit on the outside again, even of this club to which I never wanted to belong in the first place. For instance, most people seem to experience a period of emotional lability, with bouts of uncontrollable crying or feeling like an exposed nerve. I guess I just felt like that already, and I found it was all lessened quite a bit when I stopped drinking. Although … just yesterday I was thinking to myself that in the last few months the way I interact with people is a little like I’m drunk all the time; I keep nothing in anymore.
The other main one that keeps cropping up is in relation to cleaning. Claire Pooley had a sparkling house and mountains of ironing done by the end of her first week of sobriety; my house has actually devolved even further into disarray and dust in the last 8 and a half months. You see I used to use temptation bundling when it came to house-work. I would regularly binge both on cleaning and beer on a Saturday afternoon. I’d take three days of cleaning and drinking during mid-term breaks where I’d catch up on tv shows, dust out the most hidden of crannies and stay up ’til 2am purging the hot-press.
It’s all slid into the most basic of maintenance in the last while – we’re all lucky to have not pricked our heels on a filthy lego brick and fallen into slumber for 100 years.
But I have a ritual for New Year’s Eve that involves cleaning my domicile from top to bottom. I guess it began in Japan where NYE is a family affair and there isn’t really anyone goes out or meeting up. Everything is quiet and still and refined. You can visit a Shinto shrine at midnight if you’re so inclined and share a solemn drop of hot sake. It’s quite beautiful.
So I developed a personal habit of purging old clothes and belongings, cleaning and rearranging my room, and taking a long soak in the bath. All accompanied by lashings and lashings of alcohol. Fall asleep in a stupor, but in clean pyjamas and clean bed-linens to wake in the New Year, perhaps with a hangover (but oddly usually not a particularly bad one – or maybe I was just so used to them at that point), take a refreshing walk and ponder my New Year’s resolutions.
I also like to play this song every New Year’s eve. Coz no matter what has happened, I tend to feel kind of optimistic when looking back on the year. No matter how hard it’s been, no matter what set-backs or heart-aches I might have experienced.
This will be my first sober New Year in a really really long time. I guess since I was 18? So 22 years, 21 one of them alcoholic. I have an age of majority of drunken New Years under my belt. Last New Year I had beer and a bottle of champagne all to myself as I scrubbed and rearranged our bedroom. I moved bookshelves and beds, I climbed and cleaned the top unseen parts of our bedroom window as fireworks burst across the city. And I honestly felt happy doing so.
It’s a hard one to give up.
I’m going to keep my cleaning tradition – I’ve already made some headway on a couple of the rooms yesterday. I’ve moved all the kids’ toys out of the living room, which is about to become our bedroom, with our bedroom turning into storage space. Because we’re packing up our house, because we’re moving out in 2018.
I’m not yet certain of the form that our move will take yet – we’re still waiting to hear back from developers and architects on that front. But it is happening. It will happen.
It’s been a Pretty Good Year.