As it's half term I've escaped to my parent's house in the country with #1, #2, #3 and the dog.
By now I'm feeling relatively comfortable with evenings at home sober. I've realised that it's a bit like retraining muscle memory - like learning to drive instinctively on the right hand side of the road when you've always driven on the left. You just need to do it enough times for your new associations to be plentiful enough to battle with the old ones.
That's, at least in part, why they say that you can't rush recovery.
I've done a minimum of 60 evenings at home sober. 60 sober memories to fight with all the drinking ones. But this is only my third stay with the parents since I quit, and I'm noticeably more uncomfortable.
'Firsts' are the worst. Your first sober dinner party. First sober drinks party. First girl's night out. But you have to persevere and dive in, because every subsequent time gets easier, and if you hibernate too much you don't start to build those new sober associations.
I remember when I quit smoking. I thought that I would never feel completely comfortable at a party without smoking. And I'd always had a cigarette after sex. Yet now, not only is the idea of the post coital smoke not at all appealing, but I can't even picture it.
If I force myself to imagine lighting up in bed it looks like a terrible 1970s porn movie. My non smoking associations have completely obliterated the smoking ones to the point that they feel like they belong to somebody else.
One day, I trust, the same will be true of drinking. But for now I'm slightly itchy about the third stay at the parents.
Then I force myself to remember the old days.
I'd always thought that booze was rather plentiful at the parents house. My folks, particularly my Dad, are enthusiastic drinkers. I'd never thought twice about it.
Then, about two or three years ago, that changed. Suddenly it felt like there wasn't quite enough to go round.
It's fairly easy to ignore the wine witch when you can, literally, drown her out whenever she pipes up. But she gets really tough to ignore when you're forced to cut down her regular supply. It was, in part, my visits down here that made me begin to acknowledge that I had 'a problem'.
From about 5pm onwards I'd start looking at my watch surreptitiously, waiting for the hands to reach the magic time of 6pm. I'd then wait impatiently for my Dad to utter those precious words "anyone for a drink?" I'd conciously attempt to reply nonchalantly. To not sound overly enthusiastic.
If the clock ticked much beyond 6pm I'd get increasingly tetchy. I'd wrestle with myself over whether I should wait, or if I should suggest a drink myself. If it got as late as 7pm I'd have to intervene. "Mind if I pour a drink?" I'd ask in strangulated tones.
Then dinner. One bottle of wine sitting on the table between my mother, my father and myself. Small and insignificant you might think, but, in my head, it was a giant elephant, squatting there between us.
My father and I would both look askance at the bottle wondering how we could ensure that we got more than our third share. My mother was also terribly aware of it. Checking that neither of us were drinking too fast (she's been concerned for years about my father's drinking, and for a while about mine).
"Please can you pass the salt?" we'd ask, or "anyone seen the weather forecast for tomorrow?" Totally ignoring the giant mammal belching and farting in front of us.
I remember the empathy I felt with Caroline a Knapp when I read in her memoir (Drinking. A love Story) that she had started packing a bottle of whisky in her bag when she went to stay with her parents so that she could surreptitiously top up. Thank God I never let myself go there.
So even though I'm a bit scratchy, things are way better than they used to be. Someone's tranquilised the elephant and transported him, safely and humanely, back to the wild. No more wild animals on the dinner table.
And that, fellow travellers, is more progress.
Have a great weekend!
Love SM x