Monday 19 December 2016

Round 3, Day 461: Sober solstice

I haven't been paying much attention to the fact that it's almost Christmas and, to the extent that I do holiday stuff, I will once again be doing it sober. That's a huge change from a few years back! Christmas 2012 I was drinking and worrying about it. (I recall a tearful long distance conversation about our family and alcohol with my then-sober brother on Christmas day, and I was drinking wine all during the call). In the year leading up to Christmas 2013 I'd been sober a few months and then waffled between drinking and not drinking for a few, so by the actual holiday I was drinking joylessly and talking about quitting. One of those years I blacked out and forgot the details of the romantic gift exchange I'd done with my husband, and having to admit to that the next day was a new low for me. By now I have no more illusions about alcohol being synonymous with joy or celebration. For me, it often brought misery. I have now been sober for 35 of the past 41 months. Most recently I've been sober 15 months and a few days. And this will be my third Christmas in a row sober. I'm not always joyous over the holidays now, but when I am, it's for real.

All of those numbers matter to me. I like counting it all up, acknowledging how far I've come. But as I thought about writing today, and then thought about the fact that I am sober for another Christmas season, I realized it's kind of a non-issue these days. I've only been to one pre-Christmas party, where I showed up rushed and tired and without something special to drink, and I still managed to make do with some sparkling water I found there without too much fuss. My husband rarely drinks anymore either, so finding something non-alcoholic (and without scads of sugar) to drink is something we'll both do when we are out. We cheerfully turned down the shots of tequila that were going around without feeling we were giving up on the party joy! The first year I was sober, I planned out every event, and I was glad to do that, but I'm more resilient in being sober these days, and it's way less work than it was. This year we will go to my in-laws for Christmas, and I will stock up on some cordial and some good juices and sparkling water to make good drinks, and by now I know many of the people on hand will eschew the wine and beer to have what I'm having because it looks so good. I don't want to drink. No one else especially wants me to drink. I've started to say, "I don't drink anymore," so often, and it barely registers for me or for those who know me.

I have not been writing much about being sober these days. It's still important, but it doesn't need a lot of work right now. Most of my mental effort has been invested my recent dawning realization that I am on the autism spectrum. While I wrote about that in my last post, the ongoing details don't feel right to discuss here on my sober blog, so I'm writing quietly to myself instead most of the time. But being sober has been critical for me in realizing these deep truths about the way I am in the world, and in seeing the violence I have done to myself by all the drinking over all the years. Getting sober, and getting used to being sober, has been like a set of training wheels for me to learn to accept myself the way I am. I'm in the middle of a kind of rough patch, but I'm getting through it, and I'm getting through by facing things and figuring them out rather than by ignoring it all and hoping it goes away. Being sober is central to all this. It is the single best thing I've ever done to take care of myself. I heartily recommend it!

One cold, clear evening last week my husband and I walked down the street, all wrapped up in wool coats and scarves, and listened to the solstice concert that has become our favourite way to celebrate the season. The music was beautiful, and we both felt filled with the sadness and joy of this dark time of year. I always cry at the concert, and I'm always happy to be part of it all. Afterward we went for hot chocolate at a local dessert place. I take my celebrations this way these days -- they are small, but they mean a lot to me, and they contain absolutely no false cheer or obligatory happiness. This week we will drive to see his parents, where I expect we will enjoy some good eating, some walks in the woods, and plenty of hot tea and good conversation. I'm looking forward to the visit.

If you're still reading, thanks as always for walking along here with me and keeping me company on the sober path. Wishing you all peace and joy in the dark winter, and hope for the return of the light.