*Spoiler Alert* : This post is sickeningly upbeat.
In my early days of not drinking I would trawl the web for other people's experiences. What I wanted was to find people struggling, like me. I didn't want a Pollyanna tale of love and joy, because it felt too far removed for me to grasp.
If that's you, then read these posts instead: Weeping, Losses and Gains, The Sobercoaster, Wavering.
How true is that saying "Smile, and the world smiles with you; cry and you cry alone"?
We alcohol addicts do a lot of crying alone.
We gradually become more and more isolated. We don't trust ourselves when we go out. We like drinking alone because there's no-one to judge us. It's comfortable.
We get fewer invitations, because even if we don't get inappropriately drunk, we tend to be a bit boring and self obsessed (we don't realise this at the time, obviously!). We repeat ourselves. We don't listen.
Back in the early nineties I read a much talked about book: The Celestine Prophecy. I don't remember a huge amount about it now, but I vividly remember the author talking about two types of people: radiators and drains.
She (or was it he?) said that 'radiators' are people who radiate positive energy. They attract other people like bees to a honeypot. When you leave their company you feel much more upbeat and energetic that you did when you arrived.
At the time I knew that I was a radiator. A happy, positive, glowing love bunny who everyone wanted to know.
'Drains' are the opposite. They are energy suckers. You spend time with them and you leave feeling exhausted. Much as you may love them and care about them, you just have to protect yourself and try not to spend too much time with them.
That's what alcohol does to us. It turns us into drains. Little self obsessed bundles of misery.
Do you remember Snoopy cartoons? Whenever a character was miserable Schulz would draw them with a little black cloud above their heads? That was me. I just didn't see it.
You don't get to that point overnight. It creeps up on you so slowly that you don't realise it's happened.
So it shouldn't surprise us that things don't change straight away when we quit. Sometimes the changes are so gradual that you only see them when you look back and realise how far you've come.
But slowly, slowly the clouds dissipate. Gradually, you stop sucking all the energy down the plughole and start doling it out again.
Yesterday I was in Marks and Spencers buying a new, fluffy bath towel (cost: two bottles of vino). (see post on The Concept of Self Care!). I hadn't bought a new bath towel for TWELVE YEARS!
I chatted away to the cheerful cashier about the ups and downs of the school holidays. As I left she said "it's been a real pleasure serving you today." And, you know what? She wasn't just reading from the manual, she really meant it!
Then I took the dog for a walk. I passed a traffic warden writing out a ticket for some poor sod. Traffic wardens are not known for their geniality. But this one looked up at me, grinned and said "have a great afternoon!"
Same day, I got an e-mail from a lady who I'd employed to do a small job for me. She wrote "I believe in angels, and I think you are one of them."
I have a relatively new friend (she's known me for longer sober than drinking) who's been having a terrible time. She told me last week that I'd made more difference to her life in recent weeks than anyone else.
The combination of these big and little things made me realise, suddenly, that I'm back to being a radiator! I'm smiling, and the world is smiling with me.
This time last year, seven weeks into the school holidays, I was going loopy. I was desperate for some time to myself. I was grumpy with the kids and doing a lot of yelling.
Getting three children under the age of 11 out of the door on time is hard work. I would ask, plead, then shout (a lot) until they were all dressed and ready to go. I'd then be all stressed out and cross in the car, silently counting the days until school started.
Not now. I'm chilled. I'm in the zone. Yesterday I said to the kids "if anyone wants to go trampolining they have to be dressed and ready by the door in fifteen minutes. Or we can just stay home. I'm easy."
I sat back with a copy of Grazia. Ten minutes later and they're all standing in a line, ready to go. We got in the car and sang to cheesy tunes all the way. I'm going to miss them so much when term starts. (Still a little bit relived though ;-))
Why on earth didn't I think of that strategy before?
Well, we know the answer to that one, don't we?
Love and positive vibes to you all!