Thank you so much for your comments on my horribly self indulgent post yesterday (see Feeling Down. Fighting the Witch).
I'm a little embarrassed about the fact that many of you are dealing with bereavement, divorce, redundancy and other proper problems, and I'm getting my knickers in a twist about not being invited to a party!
I received a hugely kind and perceptive e-mail from a reader who pointed out that whilst we gear ourselves up for the trials and tribulations we are expecting (like drinks parties), it's the unexpected small things that can catch us unawares.
So, yesterday, instead of just pouring a few drinks and forgetting about my trivial upset, I dealt with it in a proper, grown up way (once I'd finished sulking, throwing my toys out of the metaphorical pram and blogging petulantly). I thought about it long and hard. And I came to the conclusion that....
.....I'm bloody lucky I get invited to anything, all things considered.
You see, drinking makes us (or me, at least) horribly self centred. After a few drinks I only ever wanted to talk about myself. I had to be the centre of attention. If I didn't already know someone, or think they looked particularly interesting, I wouldn't bother talking to them.
I think I got away with this horrible behaviour for years by being the proverbial 'life and soul of the party', but as my alcohol tolerance grew I'd morph very quickly from 'life and soul' to 'boorish drunk'.
I never got overtly drunk (which is how I was able to get away with it for so long). I never fell over, vomited or caused arguments. But I would tell the same (dull) story several times. Forget people's names. Fail to introduce people to each other. Neglect to ask people anything about their own lives.
I confess that, more than once, at a dinner party I would totally ignore the person on one side because I found the man on the other more interesting and couldn't be bothered.
I have not been a very nice person. At all.
I was thinking about what people would say about me if I was knocked over by a bus tomorrow. They might talk about my past career success. About the fact that I sang in ABBA's backing group as a child (yes, really). That, despite myself, I managed to raise 3 extraordinary children.
What they wouldn't say is that I was the first person they'd turn to for help. They wouldn't talk about how I made them feel like the most important person in the room. Or that I'd made a huge difference to anyone's life. They might say that I was a great laugh - until suddenly I wasn't any more.
Frankly, I was far too busy thinking about myself and staring into the bottom of a glass of Chablis.
In yesterday's Times, Alistair Campbell wrote that he was fed up with hearing that Charles Kennedy 'could have been a truly great politician' but for his drinking. Campbell (also an alcoholic) argued that Charles's battles with drink, his frailties, foibles and vulnerability, were what gave him the humanity and compassion for which he was so well loved.
Anne posted something similar in a comment on this blog. She wrote 'those of us who are able to break the chains - however rusted or gilded they may be - are some of the strongest, most inspiring people in the world'.
I have realised that now is the time for me to make sure that people can talk about me in that way. About my humanity, compassion, strength and inspiration, not just my ability to tell a (bad) joke at a party.
I am going to focus on being a really good person. Kind. Thoughtful. Selfless. It's time to grow up, SoberMummy.
(And perhaps I'll start being invited to parties again).
Love to you all,