Just not drinking is good enough.
Today I went swimming with my son, we played football, we ate ice cream. We had a lovely weekend together. And tonight he goes back to his Mums, and I go home, alone. To a different country, a different life and a different world.
It’s hard, it’s great, and it’s possible because I don’t drink, and it’s why I won’t drink tonight.
Today marks around four years since I last had a drink. I’m reluctant to use the word “celebrate” because not drinking should be a normal life choice, a standard way of life, and not something where I continually tick off the days. So I have actually stopped counting the days since I last had a drink because I don’t think it helps.
What does it matter if I get to 5 or if I get to 50 or if I get to 500. Will one number mean “I’m cured” or I have reached a goal and now everything’s all right?
No. It does mark an achievement, a journey that has good days and bad but I doubt day 1,460 will be markedly different from day 1,500. No point in time will mean I’m past the point of having to be aware of my triggers, or a time when I don’t need my coping mechanisms.
It really did help at the beginning but there comes a point when not drinking should be part of normal life and should be unconscious. And most days I’m there. Most days I don’t think about drinking. But some days I do; some dark days are difficult and some days I just want to curl up under the duvet and not have to fight and not have to face the world. On those days I think about drinking but I don’t. But I do compensate in other ways, some good, some bad.
The good ways, well I run and I run and I run and I run. I run a long long way. It really helps me and helps my mind to escape from itself. It’s like meditating while moving.
I can’t think about life or what’s going on in the world because I just have to focus on putting one foot forward in front of the other. And if I’m running hard that’s all I can think of and I push my body as hard as I can, and those moments of pain and pleasure take away the cravings to drink. Temporarily.
But that’s not the approach I take every time. I have without doubt even after all this time not drinking replaced one addictive behavior with another albeit less damaging. Sugar.
I eat a lot of chocolate. I eat a lot of ice cream. And I eat a lot of biscuits. But that’s ok and even if I binge out and finish the tub or finish the packet I’ll feel bad but at least I haven’t had a drink. And also in balance with the running I’m not in a bad place physically. My weight is pretty steady at around 67 kg which for my height is fine. But I am at least conscious that when things get tough the sugar comes out.
While I push my body harder than is probably good in the long term, I don’t drink and that is the one thing I should be proud of myself.
So I no longer drink and if you no longer drink and it’s been one day, one week, one month; then brilliant. Count days and focus on just getting to a point where you don’t think about drinking all the time. And when you get to that point then don’t beat yourself up if you have a few extra biscuits or a bar of chocolate or whatever it takes to just not drink. Because all the matters at the end of the day is just not drinking.
Your life will be better for it, your life matters.