It is an absolutely beautiful day today, and I am happy. This is something I wrote on the Tube, feeling thoughtful.
1) a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.
2) the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.
Days are lighter now. It’s the only way I can describe it. I’ve lost the weight that kept me anchored, all the things that stopped me dreaming. That may not sound like a bad thing, starting to dream, but as I sip my lime-and-soda, I wonder if the nightmares mightn’t come back…
I don’t go to meetings any more. Each meeting is a promise I can’t keep, or a lie that I tell. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. It’s a desire I no longer possess. For a while I had that drive, I held on to that hope, because drinking was wrecking my life. Moments after I “fell” from that window, I wondered, briefly, if I might not survive the impact. I felt the back of my head and, in my heightened state of drama, I felt blood on my fingers. There was no blood, no life-threatening damage ensued. The ankle snapped. I didn’t hear it. I was too busy listening to the rush of the breeze in my ears as I sailed- yes, I sailed- to the ground. (To anyone else’s eyes, it must have looked like a plummet). Through the haze of medication and alcohol, through the whispers and the shadows, I could feel only the darkness of unreality, closing me in yet leaving me lighter: falling, flying.
A week and a half later, after sliding up to my bedroom on my bum (crutches in one hand), I found the wine gone mouldy on my desk. I felt intense desire; I felt intense hatred. I felt, finally, that plummet, the plunge, that others had heard and seen but I not experienced.
I felt depth.
I hobbled in to my first meeting filled with doubt and despair and hope, and found hope there. In the dim candle-lit church hall, I found what they call identification. Recognition of oneself in another, their stories all partially mine. Heart at the base of my throat, I spoke, choked, imagining my tears lit up poetic by the tiny flames, yet hoping that that wasn’t the case.
Weeks later, in the same place, I met my future sponsor. And over the course if the months that followed, I found humour, and friendship, and a lightness I hadn’t experienced in years. Sometimes exhilarating, sometimes frightening. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, I found my way.
Well, I moved back to London. I found similar support there and embraced it with what strength I could. Tried hard to stay afloat where I felt myself sinking, to stay dedicated where I felt myself falter… but slowly, quickly, I lost my drive. Circumstances got in the way; life got in the way. And I experienced what “they” would call relapse and I? Simply a change, not a darkness or a brightness but a subtle move from one form of living to another.
For months, I assumed I’d go back.
But as months passed, I began to re-learn myself. I lacked one type of strength- the strength that allows others to stay stopped. Yet I possessed another: that which allowed me to move through my life liberated from the vice-like (pun intended) grip that alcohol once held over my life. I don’t believe anyone can call themselves “recovered”. But I cope, and somehow, somewhere along the line, alcohol has lost its power to destroy, and I have developed the ability to enjoy.
It isn’t easy. Isn’t. Easy. There are moments and will always be, where I feel I have made a wrong move, that it will hold me in checkmate (chess not my strong point) until I surrender to the madness or return to meetings through those ever-open swinging doors. I would not be ashamed to turn back the way I came, if consequences became too dangerous, too dark. But for now I’m not unhappy, not unsafe.
So why this fear, when I think about stopping- just for a month? I’m in training for a half marathon. It’s something- if alcohol is no longer a problem for me- that I should be able to do. But I doubt, and I fear, and I waver. I dread the lightness I referred to at the start, leaving the hope of dreams and the terror of nightmares wide open. I fear for the strength that I lacked. I fear the revelation that I can’t, I can’t, I can’t- and what that would mean.
But what can I do but try? “Where can we live but days?” (Philip Larkin). A month is made up of weeks, are made up of days, are made up of hours and the challenge, such as it is, is a minute-by-minute thing. I learned that in meetings. I learned that as part of a new way to live.
I hope so.