Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Round 3, Day 90: Joy. (And a great book!)

I'm no humbug, but I have not generally loved the festive season the way some seem to do. My family is very far away, and when I've visited at Christmas it's always been a fraught sort of affair. I stopped trying to make that work a long time ago. I've attended my fair share of orphan Christmas events, and I've been invited to join many people's family festivities over the years, but I find myself filled with sadness at many such events. For a number of years, I worked in a community centre and I usually took many of the holiday shifts, which was a good way to escape a certain part of the festive season, and at the same time a sway to participate in something that was usually mostly fun. Along with this, I've been with my husband for the past five Christmases, and we have developed our own very quiet Christmas tradition, which usually means a good meal by ourselves and a long walk or bike ride. A few days after Christmas we visit his parents, and that's always lovely.

I know that might sound sad, but the fact is, I have managed to find a peaceful enough way to get through Christmas, ducking a lot of obligatory cheer that would otherwise have rendered me feeling lonely and blue. And I have liked the pause that happens, when a lot of the world stops doing the usual thing, and there is actually time to slow down and enjoy the company of people I love.

So the other evening, we went to an early solstice concert. The music was beautiful: contemporary arrangements of viola, harp, piano, and vocals, and short pieces were interspersed with poetry readings, all somehow celebrating the sadness and beauty of this dark time of year. Such a wonderful, beautiful show! The last piece was a solstice carol performed by the whole ensemble (which included the composer) and the audience was invited to join in on the chorus, which we sang in a round. By the end, my face was streaming with tears and I felt filled with love for the composers, performers, poets, readers, and everyone in the room who had come together for what seemed to me a perfect way to acknowledge the season. At the end of the show, the organizer came across the room to give me a great large hug. He said part way through the show, he saw me wiping my eyes, and he was wiping his eyes, and seeing me weep made him weep even harder, and as the show ended and we all sang together and my face streamed with tears, his did too, and he told me he sang that carol directly to me. And then we hugged and cried about how beautiful it all was.

Throughout all this, I was sober. This event is part of a music series at which wine is served, and it has been one of the hardest places for me to resist drinking. Everyone always looks elegant and relaxed, and the music is always wonderful, and joining in on all this seemed always to involve joining the drinking. The fact that afterward I would go home and drink too much wine was always invisible in the moment. The past few years I have attended many of these events, and I have learned to sip a Perrier and enjoy the music and accept feeling a little teeny bit left out by not being able to drink. So the other evening, when I felt overcome with the beauty of the evening and my own joy in being fully part of it, it was only later that I realized that wine (or lack of wine) had nothing to do with the experience for me. I had only briefly missed having some, and once the show started I was absolutely swept away into the experience, and no drink would have made that any better. And though I was weeping publicly, I wasn't worried about being drunk and embarrassed! I was just happy to be part of it all. Sober.

Other than that, this past week I have attended several holiday functions, and I have enjoyed myself. I get the occasional pang, but I don't feel a steady longing to drink, and I'm greatly relieved about that. When I get these pangs though, I'm pretty honest about them. I don't pretend that booze is nothing, or that there's no pleasure in drinking, or that there is no camaraderie that's brought about by drinking with people, because I think I would be lying to myself to say any of these things. Instead I sometimes wail or cry and I acknowledge that I may be missing out somewhat. But I also remember the darkness that comes over me when I drink too much, and how hard it has been to shake that darkness yet again. And I think about how happy I have been these days--a little too busy and in uncomfortable flux in part of my life and insanely stressed in some ways, yes. Still, I'm happy. And I don't think I have ever felt this kind of happiness when I've been drinking. I've certainly never been able to live in feeling something like this, something that I think is probably what people talk about when they use the word "joy."

So that's where I am on day 90 of my third serious go at not drinking. In many ways the actual not drinking is mostly easy now, as it's been a habit most for the past 2 1/2 years. But I'm still trying to find my way with how I keep on with it. Despite my recent post about struggling at meetings sometimes, I have been attending once a week, and I get something there. I started reading a great book, Sobering Wisdom: Philosophical Explorations of Twelve Step Spirituality, an edited volume of philosophy essays on aspects of the twelve steps, compiled by philosophers Jerome A. Miller and Nicholas Plants. I know many people find a great deal of solace in the twelve steps, and in the AA program. I know that I need a spiritual way ahead if I am going to keep on this sober path, and I know that this is the right path for me, though I can so easily lose my way here. But I'm kind of an egghead, and I like to think about things, and sometimes in the AA and twelve step world (in person and online) intellectual curiosity about how the whole thing works isn't welcomed. I get that for some people thinking can stand in for doing, and coming up with reasons why something is wrong can prevent one from trying something. You've probably seen me do that, and maybe you do it too. So I figured the book would be a fine companion to my own explorations. And as it's written by a bunch or philosophers, it's not going to tell me that my problem is I think too much! I'm going to read it slowly and give it a proper review in January, but I thought I'd mention it now in case any other sober egghead types want to get themselves a thoughtful take on thinking through these ideas. (Maybe as an early sober Christmas gift for yourself? That's what I did.)

That's about all I have for now. Thanks for walking along with me here as we live through these long dark nights and wait for the light to come round again. Wishing you all peace and joy.

12 comments:

  1. Hi Thirsty!
    I'm an egg head!
    Well, that is if a retired kindergarten teacher can be.
    Your concert experience is one that filled heart and soul. You are right, drinking never can do this.
    Out Christmas is very much like yours. Family lives in another state, and we usually spend a quiet night walking, or going ice skating.
    We only see a few family members as we have to drive.
    We love the quiet of Christmas Eve, and the hush of the night.
    xo
    Wendy
    PS - The book sounds good!

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    1. Hi Wendy. Yes, you can be an egghead, too! No problem! Your Christmas sounds lovely to me, so I guess I'm just accepting what I like to do. I love the hush, too. That's such a lovely way to put it. The book really is great, I think. I'll report back when I'm all the way through it. Thanks for visiting me! xo

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  2. Our Christmas is usually very quite. It is just two of us and a lot of food. Christmas Eve is not so much. I am determined to go through holidays sober. It should be such a different experience. Just like your concert. Or sipping Perrier. And being present and sober.

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    1. Hi T&B. Quiet can be lovely, right? I will be cheering you on in your determination to get through sober. It can be done, and it can be great! Thanks for visiting xo

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  3. I love books, and I always want to know why. Like a true engineer,

    What you wrote about the solstice concert was beautiful.

    I'm waiting for the light to return. It is very dark here in northern Canada!

    Have a great Christmas. Ours will be quiet too. I like that.

    Anne

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    1. Yikes, Blogger has bene eating my replies to comments here. This is my fourth try! So I'll just say thanks for reading. I always love to see your smiling face online! Hope you have a peaceful and joyous Christmas xo

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  4. The solstice concert sounds beautiful. How wonderful to experience it sober! To truly be present in the moment. I'm beginning to really look forward to a sober Christmas and not as though I'm going to be missing out on something. A x

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    1. Thanks, Angie. Yes, it was lovely. What you say about being present s so true. I'm so pleased to see you embracing all the good that comes with being sober, too. Hope you have a great Christmas xo

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  5. so much to think about here as ever, thank you! I very much enjoyed reading about your experience of the concert. music can be such a powerful force in stimulating our emotions and uniting us with others... I wonder what the world would be like if music rather than alcohol had become our primary social lubricant? 'Won't be long, darling - said I'd join Tony for a spot of plainchant...' better, perhaps?!

    we were talking to the children recently about the rituals that have developed over millennia around the time of the winter solstice. do you know of the tradition of the Mourning Moon? I heard it for the first time this year... have been unable to find what I consider to be reputable references for this so please read all this with an ironically lifted eyebrow ;)... but in Celtic society the last full moon before the winter solstice was called the Mourning Moon, and was an opportunity to recognise, mourn and let go those things which no longer serve us, so that we can meet the New Year unencumbered by negativity or grief.
    I am not one AT ALL for astrology or whatnot so do not place any significance other than symbolic upon the moon itself! but I appreciate the ebb and flow of times of year, and the chance as you say to pause and be with those we love. perhaps more so now that I am not dulling myself from those rhythms with alcohol? we can better hear the beat of our lives, yes?
    always great to read your posts and to hear how you are getting on. wishing you a peaceful and joyous Christmas! oh and by the way there will be a full moon on Christmas Day, too - for the first time in 38 years! Prim xxx

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    1. Oh yes, Prim, wouldn't it be marvellous to connect over music rather than alcohol? What a lovely thought. A spot of plainchant would be a right treat, too!

      Interesting what you say about the solstice and the Mourning Moon. I like it! I do often feel that the sadness this time of year is a useful part of the season, and I'm glad (if one can be glad to be sad?) to be making better space for it these past few years. I think I'm going to set aside some time one evening this week to look at the big moon and mourn all that needs mourning, and then embrace the hope that the new year brings. Thanks so much for telling me about that. There's been a fair amount of difficulty and sadness this year. But even in the midst of all that life really is great.

      This will be my second sober Christmas, and I am so utterly pleased and relieved to be heading into the season knowing I have set aside the dulling and miserable effect of alcohol. Though I'm not given to this way of speaking, the only way to say it is that I feel blessed.

      Thanks for being here. Hope you have a peaceful and joyous Christmas and a hope-filled new year, too! xo

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  6. Merry Christmas! I get so much from your posts. Thank you for your honesty with all of it.

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    1. Thanks for reading, and thanks for your kind words.merry Christmas to you, too! xo

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