I, like many of you, was a 'high functioning' alcohol addict. I never (well, hardly ever) dropped a ball, my guard or (God forbid) my knickers. I kept the ship afloat pretty well on a bottle of wine a day.
I now realise this was only possible because my life was blessed. I have a great marriage, happy, healthy children and active parents. We're solvent (most of the time), and relatively secure.
But sometimes life throws you lemons. Divorce, bereavement, a sick child, a major illness. Suddenly, out of the blue, your life can shift on its axis and never be the same again.
And, however easy it was to stay on track in the good times, that's when the wheels start to come off and everything falls apart. That's when 'high functioning' quickly morphs into 'low bottom',
I was thinking about this the other night. I woke up to find little fingers around my neck. #3 had had a nightmare, and had crept into our room and snuggled into bed between us.
I remembered being that age (very nearly seven), and the feeling that if you were with both your parents then absolutely nothing can harm you. It's like being enclosed in an impenetrable magic circle of safety.
It reminded me that I am the leader of this pack. That utter certainty, that innocence of my children, is totally in my hands. If I fall apart then everyone falls apart, and, like Humpty Dumpty, no-one will be able to fix them without the cracks showing.
If I had had to deal with cancer when I was drinking I know for sure that this is how it would have been different:
When I found the lump, instead of getting it checked immediately, I would - with the help of a few glasses of wine - have pushed it to the back of my mind for at least a few weeks. Alcohol, as you know, gives us false confidence. And those few weeks could have made all the difference.
When I got the diagnosis I would have gone on a bender. And being drunk (or hungover) makes us self centred and unaware of those around us, doesn't it? I would have cried (a lot) in front of the kids. I would have ranted and raged. Then I would have disappeared into my room and not emerged for some time.
In one fell swoop I would have destroyed the confidence and security of my family. I'd have pushed Humpty Dumpty off the wall and mocked all the kings horses and all the kings men as they tried to put them together again.
Instead everything carries on as normal, around all the endless hospital visits - and it's that normality that's keeping me sane, as well as them.
I hold everything in my hands, and I'm keeping it safe.
You, too, are pack leaders. You are responsible for your cubs, your partners, your aged parents.
One day life will throw you lemons, and it's down to you to be strong enough to greet them with a sharp knife and a grater, not a large gin and tonic.
Make sure you're ready. For them, as well as for you.
Here endeth the lesson!
P.S. Mr SM has just called me from work where, it appears, he has been reading my blog. He is outraged. He wishes it to be known that he is, in fact, Pack Leader. My response? "Yes, dear."