I can’t remember a Christmas over the past decade or so that hasn’t ended in tears. The overwhelming sense of life passing me by, people who once were so important gone forever, family members who were the life of the party silenced.
The tears well as the silly season begins and Christmas Eve is spent in a flood of them. A flood of regrets leaking down my face and onto my t-shirt. Sadness has become synonymous with the most joyful time of the year. At least it has in my world.
This year something changed. There were no tears. Not on Christmas Eve nor Christmas Day. The missing of people was still evident. The lost laughter, the memories I wish they were a part of. All the ingredients were still there but this year I was happy(ish) at the same time.
I decided last night that Christmas is never going to be want it used to be but that doesn’t mean I can’t make new memories, new friends, and a family of my choice to make experiences with. I’ve been alone so long I tend to forget that humans, as a species, are pack animals.
The difference between this year and the years before? I was sober. I did manage half a glass of wine yesterday but it made me sleepy. That isn’t my usual M.O. at Christmas. My usual M.O. is to stay as drunk as humanly possibly, without killing my liver, from the beginning of December to the end of it.
And that, if I’m bluntly honest, is the worst thing I could do.
I have always hesitated to say my drinking is a problem. But to be honest there are definitely times when it has gotten out of control. I binge. I have done since I was 18. It seems to be part of the culture in Australia to drink until you pass out. I’ve done it. I’ve done it a lot.
Drinking is my way to cope with the loneliness, the sense of isolation, of being alone in a world full of groups. I drink to forget and I drink to remember. It’s not an issue unless I’m going through a depressive episode. If I’m balanced I may have one or two glasses of wine here or there. If the black dog is chewing on my brain, it’s a bottle or three and I’m a bloody wreck by the end of it.
This Christmas, being sober wasn’t a conscious thought. It just was. Two days before I’d been wipe out drunk, yet neither Christmas Eve or Christmas Day contained the thought of having a drink.
Whether I call myself an alcoholic or a binge drinker, drinking has taken a toll on my life. I’ve lost friends, created dramas, blacked out, woke up in some very strange places, and been more than a pain in the arse.
Breaking my holiday tradition yesterday has left me feeling happy today. I know I shouldn’t drink, especially considering the anti-depressants, because I know how it leaves me feeling. Not physically, I can drink like a sailor these days, but mentally it wipes me out. Kills off my reserves of strength to squish down the blue moods. It leaves me fragile and exposed.
I’m already fragile enough these days. Unemployment is doing a number on me. Being at home 24/7 without seeing faces is reinforcing the sense life somehow passed by me without me noticing. I’m a wonderful collection baggage. But the point to this post isn’t to whinge without relief, it is to address one particular piece of my 24 piece Louis Vuitton travel set.
Recently I’ve been looking for a challenge. A hard one. One that if I achieve it I will know that nothing is impossible. One challenge to bring about one simple change in my life and see what it unleashes. Sort of like poking a bear with a stick. Or licking the inside of the freezer (sidenote: Don’t do that. I did it after seeing Dumb and Dumber. Your tongue sticks. Yes, I am the person for which “Don’t try this at home” labels were created).
I settled on a challenge which, if I’m totally honest, scared the shit out of me. I instantly dismissed it as impossible. Which I would assume is the point of wanting a hard challenge. Right? What’s the point of an easy one?
I’ve decided to challenge myself to a living 2017 without alcohol. I can’t remember the last time I went more than a couple of months without a drink. So 2017 is my dry year. The very thought of it leaves me wanting to reach for a bottle of wine but that’s okay. I want to challenge myself and lets face it if I can do this, I can do anything at all.
2017 is the year I’m going to start unpacking my baggage. I’ve carried too much of this crap around with for too many years. I’ve lived with my face firmly planted facing backwards. It’s impossible to believe you have a future when all you do is look back at what you’ve lost.
I’ve already committed to writing my first novel in 2017. That is a firm commitment and one I will work towards. This is my second commitment; to live 2017 without my favourite excuse and escape clause.
The only way I’ll know if I can, is to do it. I’m not going to run around pouring out wine and being all dramatic. But, you guys know me. I’ll be blogging about it over 2017. My plan is to wake up on January 1st as I mean to end the year. Writing and sober.
Challenges should scare you. The past shouldn’t be all you see when you look up. Moving from being a ‘talker’ to an ‘achiever’ in relation to the writing already puts shivers up my spine. Doing it all sober scares the hell out of me. And that is perfectly okay.
And if like me, you find the holidays a time of sadness, rather than joy, do yourself a favour. Have a glass of juice or a coffee rather than a bottle of wine or two. You can’t be yourself when you’re destroying your balance and alcohol will do that to you if you don’t manage it correctly.
This challenge of mine may not be everyone’s tumbler of Scotch and I understand that. I’m not doing it for anyone other than myself. I want to see if I can do it. I want to know what I’m made of. I’ve spent the past decade living with depression – longer if I’m honest but it all hit the fan a decade ago – and I’ve spent the past two decades, at least, self medicating with booze.
It’s time to face this brain of mine without a cloak or shield. And as I said, if I can pull it off, I can do anything.