This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while. Much like my post where I “came out” about my alcoholism, it’s one that has been drafted and re-drafted several times, never quite hitting the publish button. While I was reluctant to post that because of the fear of being judged, of being seen as less than, of being forever tarred as a drunk although I am now sober, I have put off this one for fear of being seen as smug, up myself, holier than thou. I’m not sure which is worse. 21 months of sobriety and hard work on myself and I still fear judgement, I still do other people’s thinking for them.
When the end of the year approaches, it always proves to be a time of contemplation for me. I tend to reflect and think a lot as it is but towards the end of the year, it steps up a notch or two. While hindsight can sometimes be a bitch (Why did I DO that?! said in a horrified tone inside my head) it can, at other times, be hugely beneficial and we can learn from it. Last night, while laying in bed with the husband, it hit me. This year has actually been our best year yet.
The husband and I have been a couple now for 11.5 years. We were never meant to even date exclusively, much less get married and have a child together. He was meant to distract me from the grief of losing my mum and be someone who could keep me safe on my drunken, blackout nights out. Sure, we had an almost tangible chemistry from the moment we set eyes on each other but I told myself he was serving a purpose, that falling in love didn’t happen to people like me, girls like me didn’t deserve to be loved, not in that way.
It may have taken over ten years to get there but we truly have had the best year yet. We haven’t had an exotic holiday, we’ve not been away for longer than a weekend in fact. When the husband had a week off work for the October half-term, he spent half of it tiling the bathroom, the other half we did a few things locally together. We haven’t won the lottery or had a big anniversary or ticked anything off our bucket list. What makes this year so special?
It was around March, approaching my first soberversary (is that a word? It should be) and a friend asked me how I was feeling. Trying to be honest, I responded that I felt weird. Sure, I was happy, everything was going well, my relationships were getting stronger by the day but I felt like I was just waiting for a drama or crisis to hit. My friend told me that strange feeling was peace. That is what it feels like to feel content. She asked me if I thought that by not being “in the moment” fully, did I think I was preparing myself, just in case? That was exactly it. I was so fearful of losing what I had worked so hard for, that I couldn’t actually enjoy it properly when the truth is, it doesn’t matter how much I try to prepare myself for the worst, if it is going to happen it will still happen. In holding myself back, I was missing out, it wouldn’t make any crisis any easier to deal to with and that crisis might not even happen!
It was like a light bulb went off in my head. So I started to live. I started to appreciate the small moments and what I have. I gave myself permission to love until my heart feels like it is going to burst. I allowed myself to feel joy in watching Cheeky Chap play at the park. I let myself feel secure in my marriage and in my home.
That’s not to say there haven’t been tough times. Old thinking patterns seem to take longer to change than old habits. I had major surgery in June and was re-admitted to hospital in July. My recovery was slow and frustrating and put untold pressure on the husband, which naturally affected our home life for a short period. Things were said by both of us that shouldn’t have been said and my head catastrophizes things so at that time I truly thought we wouldn’t get through it, that he really would leave, that I would end up picking up a bottle of wine and then lose my son too, then my extended family would never forgive so I would have no-one and my life was now over. I go through that thought process in a matter of seconds. Each time we argue, even when it is a minor thing. It is happening less now but it’s exhausting nonetheless.
When I am ill or in pain, I worry that people think I’ve gone back to my old ways or that they think I am lying. When Cheeky Chap tells me he has fallen out with a friend I somehow think it’s my fault. When he acts up in public, as all children do at some point, I automatically blame myself and my drinking history.
This is the year I learned to set boundaries, I learned to say no, I accepted that I cannot change other people, I became more patient and more calm. I began to be vulnerable and open. Yes it has been scary but now I feel things I never thought I would, things that I didn’t think I was worthy of feeling. Things like contentment, peace, happiness and joy. At the grand old age of 32, I think it’s about time.