There are a series of milestones we pass when quit drinking.
The first is just getting through a day without drinking. Sometime later, much later, we manage to get through a day without thinking about drinking.
Then there are all the firsts: first sober party, first sober holiday, sober Christmas, sober birthday etcetera.
Eventually, after much bitching and moaning, and some experimentation, we come to terms with the fact that we're never going to be able to moderate - to be a 'normal' drinker.
The biggie, the giant enchilada of milestones, is the one chiselled with the words 'FOREVER.'
(Can you chisel an enchilada? Sounds messy. You'd need to wear an apron. Note to self: try not to mix metaphors).
It took me at least six months to even think about forever.
But now, I don't find the idea of forever scary at all. Instead, I find the idea of going back to the dark days totally terrifying.
So, I was thinking, have I reached the Final Milestone? Is that it?
And it was playing a game of Monopoly that made me realise it's not.
(Monopoly is a serious business in the SM household. It involves lots of extra rules around passing Go, landing on Free Parking and going to jail. Plus, often the players use more than one piece simultaneously. And #2 cheats).
I realised that you haven't reached the Final Milestone until you've ditched the Get Out Of Jail Free card. The card that allows you an immediate exit in an emergency - without payment or guilt.
When I quit smoking, it didn't take me long to know that I didn't want to be a thirty a day smoker for the rest of my life. It took me a good while longer to reconcile myself to the fact that I couldn't just be a 'social smoker,' but - after a few tumbles from the smoke free waggon - I got there.
However, for many years I clung onto my Get Out of Jail Free Card.
I knew that I would never smoke again unless I had to attend the funeral of a very close friend or relative. I just could not imagine that scenario without me having a cigarette in my hand.
Likewise, I decided that I could, and would have to, play the card if I was diagnosed with a terminal illness. If you're going to die anyway, then why the hell not? And how could anyone get through that kind of situation without a lorry load of fags?
(1980s English slang alert! Fag = cigarette, not a derogatory term for a gay guy. Having said that, a lorry load of fit gay guys is probably just the thing in those circumstances).
But, at some point over the years that followed, I ditched the Get Out of Jail Free Card. The annoying thing is I can't remember when, as the whole point is that by then I'd stopped thinking about cigarettes at all. Ever.
Now, if I was diagnosed with a terminal illness, the last thing on earth I'd want to do is to start smoking! Yeuck! Why in the world would I tarnish my last days with noxious, smelly, stupidly expensive smoke? Madness!
BUT, when it comes to alcohol, I'm still clutching onto my Get Out of Jail Free card. I'm still thinking if my cancer came back (terminal), or if one of the children was seriously ill, or Mr SM died, then I'd have to drink. Not my fault. Just life.
I have no idea whether I'd ever actually play the card. I like to think that I'd have the courage to just leave it face down on the table. But I'd know it was there.
I also know that one day it won't be.
One day I'll realise that even if I only had twenty four hours before a meteor struck and obliterated the planet I would not drink. Not because I couldn't, but because I genuinely wouldn't see the point.
And that is, I believe, the Final Milestone.
But the bizarre thing is, once I've made it there, I won't be able to celebrate, because, like smoking, I just won't be thinking about it any longer.
Until some time in the distant future, maybe over a game of Monopoly with the future grandchildren, I'll pick up a Get Out of Jail Free card, and I'll remember, and smile a little (toothless) smile to myself, as I sip on my camomile tea.
Are any of you there yet?
Love SM x