I’m in a bit of a reflective mood currently. No doubt because in less than a week I’ll pass my 10th sober anniversary.
I was reading someone else’s blog the other day and saw something that I thought to myself – I’ve changed in a bunch of ways over the years.
First and foremost – I don’t drink any more. That seems obvious but I have to state it – it is simply the fundamental defining feature of an alcoholic in recovery. I don’t drink on a daily basis, when I started on this journey I doubted 10 days, 10 months seemed some bizarre other planet like Mars or something, I constantly thought of the fact that I was going to have a “slip” (relapse) obviously, I mean I couldn’t possibly not have one could I? 10 years! I’d have laughed in your face. Today … 20 years probably doesn’t feel as daunting or unachievable (assuming I live that long) but frankly if I were a betting man I’d probably keep my money in my pocket. Day at a time maybe I’ll get there, we’ll see.
What I have is who I am. When drinking I used to constantly be comparing myself to others, largely by what I had or didn’t have etc. In those days I could have told you what car every house in our street had. Not only that I’d tell you age, particularly relative to what I had and also how I viewed that car, age, model combination in respect to what I was driving. It was important you see that you too would look at the car on my drive and know something important about me regarding my place against others around me. Now my wife points out a new car on a neighbours drive with a comment like “I see 53 has a new car – what is that?” I’ll say “Oh haven’t noticed – I think it is a … whatever”. See I don’t even keep up with models and the like now – it isn’t important. I have a nice car, it is a large estate car which I’ve always favoured. I can get all my music gear in it and the shopping easily fits in the boot on my weekly trip to Tesco. When we go on holiday there is plenty of space. It does great mileage – I struggle to get less than 50mph out of it, regularly getting 54/55 and up to 60 on long cruising runs. That is just one example – what your job/salary etc. is doesn’t play in my head in a comparator as to whether you may consider me better or not than you.
I cook without a screaming match. Cooking was such a bloody drama. Every now and then I’d suggest I cook a Chinese to spare my wife – she must have dreaded it. I’d leave the kitchen looking like somewhere needing a UN relief mission and the screaming and shouting and angst would mean by the time we all sat down to eat no-one would really want to be in the same county let alone same table with me. Today we split cooking about 50/50 in the house. I often do Chinese, Indian, the odd roast, chilli etc. All done in a relatively calm environment – sometimes I screw up the timing of something and get a bit anxious about it but normally now it just happens and whilst I’m no foody genius some of my stuff is quite good… I think!
I garden. You what?! Yes I used to hate the garden – it was a physical manifestation that was proof of universe’s sole reason for being which was simply to royally piss me off at any opportunity presented to it. So I’d cut the lawn – bastard stuff would grow back in a week! I’d weed some area and the bloody things would sprout back as soon as my back was turned. Flowers would bloom and then you had cut the heads off them in days as they died off. Don’t mention the woodlice, snails, slugs etc. Oh yes and endless flipping watering in the summer! Now I “potter” about in the garden. Again I’ll never be a gardening genius but I weed, mow, plant, prune, water and feed and realise that the point is that you have to continually nurture these things for them to continue to thrive and to look good. My wife commented the other week how the garden was “looking lovely”. I felt a swell of pride, over the last couple of years I’ve tackled cutting back old overgrown and diseased shrubs, selecting new plants to suit the beds, planting them and nurturing them, moving things that have then suffered from larger neighbours etc. and I have to say I’m mildly pleased with it. Trust me, it wouldn’t even get on a list of “reasonable gardens to look at” but it is all mine and it is a success by my definition. And the gardening thing is a great analogy for my sobriety – it is ok, it is reasonable, I’m not drinking so it must be. However I need to plan, plant, weed, feed, water, prune, nurture, etc. for it to continue to be so.
In 10 years I’ve not moved house, my family is still together, my car is a newer model but essentially 10 years ago I had a large family estate car, etc. To those casually walking past my house who might nod to me as I wash the car if you asked them they’d discern little if no change. However… on the inside there are significant changes. I wonder what I might write about in a similarly reflective post in another 5 or 10 years time?