Builder's tricksI don't know how common this saying is, but in my little world we sometimes talk about walking away from a bad situation as being like no longer hitting your thumb with a hammer.
I'm a builder's daughter, and correct hammering and sawing were some of the few useful things my father ever taught me (most of my paternal lessons were observational and involved learning how not to be a functional adult, but more on that another day).
So if you aren't familiar with the hammering scene, the saying conjures the need to keep doing something even though it hurts. You can't leave a nail half-hammered and you can't let pain get in the way. You are totally focused on the job in front of you and you come to associate the job with the pain as a necessary thing.
It's only when you either become really good at hammering or you stop hammering that you might recall, with a flood of relief, how good it is to not be hitting your thumb with that bloody hammer any more.
Don't examine the analogy too closely, it has all sorts of holes (boom tish), but trust me: there are times in your life when you only know how great something is because you stopped doing the awful thing that had become your very focused normal.
The path to peace, and unbruised thumbs
And here I am, two weeks' done, and the bruises are fading from my metaphorical thumb.
Yesterday, for the first time in a fortnight (let alone pre-sober) I woke up without a dull headache. It took me an hour or so to realise what was different. This morning I was a bit headachey again but I had a late (dry) night and sleep was a bit broken so I was not on top of my game anyway.
BUT, here are some things I'm noticing about not hitting my body, brain and spirit with alcoholic hammers every day:
- hints of inner peace. I would think it's anything like the vaunted 'pink cloud' but of course it's very early days for me yet. There most obvious thing is a slight slowing of my Popcorn Brain. Ideas stick with me a bit longer and don't bounce away before I really grasp them.
- my skin feels about a hundred times softer. Maybe that's about hydration, as I'm drinking about four litres of extra water and tea every night.
- flavours. I'm enjoying flavours more and using less salt on my food. To be fair, this is partly because a month of sub-tropical downpours and humidity have rendered every salt source in the house unusable, but without the grog I find I mind much less!
- reading non-fiction. I have been reading pretty much constantly since I was three years old (47 years ago) and apart from text books I reckon I've read perhaps six books of non-fiction, total, including biography and autobiography. At first it was falling headfirst into The Sober Diaries and Mrs D Is Going Without, then trying (and rejecting) similar stories but of car-crash style alcoholics who I can't relate to, like the journo in High Sobriety and others. But now I'm into a looong book called Lost Connections about the nine major non-chemical causes of depression and anxiety (not as grim as it sounds) and absolutely relishing every page. I can only reason that this is connected to the aforementioned inner peace and being willing to delve into my own thinking without having to hide from myself.
- self care not self denial. Friend J called back after the disrupted puppy call and we talked at length about the why of not drinking. This handy phrase was how we decided to describe the difference between past attempts and my current mindset. In some ways I'm still a long way from traditional self-care (you DO NOT want to imagine the stains on the toenails of a 50 year old woman who can go barefoot most days but is suddenly surrounded by mud), but by not drinking any more, I'm also fully and permanently immersed in caring for myself. And it feels good.
- time to do things. For a long while now I've been (blearily) wondering how I ever found the time to do more than work and slump. How did I ever have enough hours in the day to bake cakes, sketch and paint, crochet, read magazines, clean things, garden, visit people and places? Turns out that needing to ensure you get and wallow in your daily alcohol fix takes a lot of time and mental energy. I'm no DIY dynamo yet, but there's a gleam in my eye and a vision of a gorgeous acre of garden that will outlive me and bring joy.
If you've made it this far, you deserve a treat xx
(Also you've seen too much of the clean, cute and fluffy side of Ms Maggie, here's her inner grot shining through.)