Sobriety, Cultural Divorce, and Freedom
Fall has been good to me.
The weather was so gorgeous yesterday that I was of the mind to go on an epic photo walk after breakfast out with the Palinode and our friend Danny, but then I remembered that we have just moved, dag nabbit, and I had an entire kitchen to put together before my parents' visit, so I settled for taking five pictures of half of one city block on the way home.
We've moved all of our stuff into the new apartment, which graduated us from about 700 square feet of space to about 1200 square feet. It's so much larger that things even sound different in the new apartment. The cats keep jumping at the echoes.
One thing that worried me about the move with regard to my new life of sobriety in conjunction with moving into a new apartment was that people would suggest a housewarming party (they have) or old pub friends would suddenly realize that they hadn't seen me in a while and ask me out for drinks (they have) or someone would bring wine over as a housewarming gift (they have).
The whole world doesn't read this weblog (SURPRISE!), and short of wearing a t-shirt that reads Don't Feed the Alcoholic and taking out a full-page ad in the newspaper and a short interview spot on local television, there is no way for me to let every person with whom I have an offline relationship of some sort that I am now working at remaining 100% sober, aside from the gallons of coffee I've taken to consuming, and will no longer be dealing with any behaviour of the alcohol- or drug-imbibing kind.
An old pub friend called me up yesterday, wondering when he was going to see me again. I could hear the beer-fuelled chaos rallying for his attention in the background.
"You don't smoke. You don't drink," he said. "We don't even know who you are anymore."
That was at once nostalgically sad and such a relief.
I'm not sure who I am anymore, either, but I do know that I am not at the pub with my hand glued to a pint of shitty draught beer. This is by no means meant to be a judgement passed on the friend who called. It is a judgement of my own particular relationship to that place and that alcohol. Before I moved to this city, I had a particular relationship with other establishments and their shitty draught. It's what I did for many years. I found the seeming safety of a local pub and pretty much rented out a table for years with the price of hundreds and thousands of pints of beer.
There were a lot of days when I cheerfully declared "It's beer for supper!"
I can't ever do that again. It would break my heart.
I have had to divorce myself from that pub and the culture there in which I partook for nearly a decade. Individually and away from that place, I can have coffee and go for supper with the people I knew there, but I can no longer slide through that place's doors. Its sights and smells and general air of familiarity would soothe me again, pull me back to a place in which I would readjust my narrative again, bend it to fit around one pint and then another until I woke up forgetting how I had gotten home the night before. Again.
Better to divorce an establishment from my life change than divorce myself from my life through an ongoing series of blackout drunks.
If a person can be partially defined by their actions, then it is true: I am no longer quite who I was six weeks and one day ago.
I am barely circling the edges of all that it means for me to be freed by my daily sobriety, and yet it is already, bit-by-bit, revealing itself to be one of the best gifts I have ever given myself. My heart and my mind are being freed.
I remember names. I remember conversations. I remember my dreams. I have a growing array of emotions that range from delightfully surprising to surprisingly devastating. It's fascinating to watch where these things wander when I don't stop them short with a few pints of beer.
Talk of hearts and minds and spirits and whatnot – all the hoodoo guru entrapments of spiritualistic fluff that sell scented candles and polished rocks – isn't usually my style, but I'm feeling a little too hopeful to give a crap these days.
I can feel a spirited hope in my chest, and it feels fine.
I still cry, though, because change hurts. I sat in the bathroom and wept into my fists last night after the Palinode and I gave away the bottle of wine my parents had unwittingly chosen for us as a housewarming gift. It scared me how much I wanted to find myself at the end of that bottle of merlot, how my mind ran so quickly to find ways that might possibly convince the Palinode to allow me to have some. All the hope in the world doesn't take away the hard parts.
But still, fall has been good to me. I feel younger now than I have since I was a child.
Freedom hard won by cultural divorce and sobriety is still freedom, and I am finding more and more of it both within and without, inch by inch and day by day.