07:10 I can love this moment if I choose to. Instead of hating myself because I didn’t get up and do my exercises like I wished I would; instead of hating myself because I didn’t write the writings that were in my mind when they were fresh; instead of being annoyed that I haven’t done enough, haven’t done enough, haven’t done enough… I can be happy. I can be thrilled that I come here to WP and instead of writing like I should have, I saw notifications from my online friends (that’s you!) and felt loved and supported and *together* with like-minded folks. I can be thrilled for the sunshine glinting off the fresh green budding leaves on our great linden tree, against leftover-from-last-night’s stormy grey sky. Instead of feeling so very sad that I lost my spiritual connection with my tree soon after I named this blog after it, I can be happy that the tree, and now even the blog, simply exists, with or without me, or my connection to it.
I feel like that is sobriety, too. Sobriety exists with or without me. If I left it one day, for what ever reason, I could always come back to it. It’s always still there!
I had such a bunch of tiny fears last night. Fears that I was remembering my drinking life, not with regret, but with love and satisfaction.
Honestly I was a lucky part-time drunk from a lucky part-time drunk’s loving home. I have to come to terms with the fact that I don’t regret my drinking nor even my smoking days. At the time I was drinking and smoking, I loved every gosh-darned minute of it. I felt connected to the world at large! I actually first got a connection to our linden tree while smoking outside one evening. Probably with wine glass in hand. Those were the times when I stepped away from “perfect mommy me” to become this other part of an older me — “party me,” which ultimately was social me, intellectual me, philosophical me, and I had no one around to socialize with, philosophize with, intellectualize with. So I went outside and tried to connect through those old drugs, wine and cigarettes.
They served me beautifully for some time.
But one day, or on many days actually, something changed… there were one too many times when even after just a few smokes, my throat ached the next day. After just a few drinks, I regretted the goofy way I’d acted at a friend’s dinner party (yes, even if they were acting goofy too! this is just the way my neurotic brain works!), or on social media, which is where I’d often inevitably go, if there was no dinner party. And I also couldn’t stand the fact that more and more often, I found myself longing for a glass of wine… at breakfast time.
These were signs, to me, earmarked by folks who’d been further down the path and were out there, saving my ass, by writing stories, telling stories, sharing stories with others, about where that path led. Even if I didn’t act on that longing right now, the longing was there, insidious, tiny, a little seed of something poisonous that may grow. Also, there had been the living stories around me, told by actions, instead of words. Yes, there was my mother-in-law who’d drunk wine out of a mug in the morning, before she died of throat cancer, bless her beautiful and abused and bitter and lonely and strong-willed-in-other-things-also-important soul. Who’d openly carried with her a small plastic water bottle filled with wine, whenever she’d left the house.
I remember one family vacation, my husband was driving, as usual (if we are together, he has to drive. Otherwise we both go crazy — him, being irritated with my driving, and me, thinking of him being irritated with my driving, and my driving getting progressively worse and worse because of it). I had been packing and cleaning the house for hours as usual — up late the night before, and up early, the day of.
We get in the van with the six of us and I am so relieved it’s done. Before leaving the house, I’d seen some wine left in an open bottle from the night before, standing in the fridge. No sense wasting it! I found myself pouring it into a small plastic water bottle. Fine enough, if I’d stuck it deep in the bottom of the cooler, along with the other refrigerated goods that we wouldn’t use until after the long journey. But instead, I found myself tucking it beside me in the van, alongside a plastic cup. And drinking it, in the passenger seat of the van, on the start of the journey. At around nine in the morning. Just to “take the edge off” the stress.
I remember thinking, as I was drinking, “holy shit.” This is insane. This is how it begins.
And the problem wasn’t so much that I was even drinking wine in the morning. I mean, I remember sometimes drinking mimosas at brunch, or even joyfully cracking a beer at breakfast while camping, as a twenty-something on holiday and thinking nothing of it, because it was a rare thing, BK (before kids), with a huge group of friends doing the same; we thought it was funny and hilarious and the main thing was, I wasn’t THINKING ABOUT IT before-hand. The problem was that now, I was thinking about it, and worrying about it, a lot. Wine had become an obsession.
I haven’t read that book by Gabor Maté about hungry ghosts, mainly due to my reading-ADD and the endless, growing pile of books that keeps getting added to my Kindle and my bedside table. But though I still want to read it, I think I partly “get” it just by “hearing” that part of the title.
I had a hungry ghost that had begun to inhabit my mind and my body. That ghost wanted more and more wine.
I am a lucky one. I can read, and I can listen, even if that’s all I can do. Even if I don’t do the things I’m “supposed” to do, nor feel the way I’m “supposed” to feel, at all times.
I can also just sit, and write, through whatever I’m not supposed to feel, or do.
Love to you, from me,
sitting just a few metres under
that sobriety tree.
About Gabor Maté
About hungry ghosts
p.p.s. Thanks so much for all your support. You’re the tree
(photo by me)