I wrote my number yesterday. 110 days without booze. Go me a quiet celebration here, no one really still understands why I've stopped for a while, no one saw my drinking as a problem. I did. Yesterday, I'd left early for a meeting in a local garden. Greeted by the lady of these lands and a very boisterous Border Terrier, I found my handshake to be good and strong and my mind to be focused. Is this the 'clear head' that they talk about in these here sober lands? It was an interesting meeting and for me, in search of some consultancy work, or lets face it just some 'work', I found my nerves around my appearance, my usual hungover self, my self flagellation at drinking the night before something big like this were all gone. Because, now, I don't drink. No hangover, no guilt. The lack of paranoia in my life is a positive forwards step. I strode into my life for once, instead of sort of sidling in wishing I fitted in. Paranoia is crippling. If Wolfie had a friend he would be called Paranoia.
Its funny how paranoia debilitates our very core isn't it? If the only thing I can currently take from not drinking is the lack of paranoia, I'll have a gallon of it, a gallon of sober please, no paranoia required. How many wasted days, hours, weeks, months, years I've lost to paranoia and its bedfellow self-loathing. Well no more. No more I tell you.
So an interesting start to my day. Instead of doing my normal rush home and get myself back into my life, I took time to walk the dogs, write my number, wrap it in a scarf (why not) and then, quite uncharacteristically go for a coffee and have a wee bite to eat by myself. A sober treat I told myself. So off I trotted to the local cafe in our university town, I paid my parking for an hour and I took time for myself to reflect on the meeting and reflect about where I am. A couple with their daughter at school here sat in the next booth. Their family camaraderie clear to see. I do miss my family. Whilst an empty nest is the sign of a productive parenting adventure, the loss still stings. I reflected on my time with my daughter this week, the same age as this girl.
I did catch up with my daughter this week after my SMART meeting. Since leaving home our relationship has been a little strained. I can see she's creating her new self, new boundaries are erected. Initially my paranoia led me to thinking, I'm a bad parent, she doesn't want to spend time with me because I drink/drank. So I drank more and more, until I needed to really think and stop my spiral of despair. I found sober. I found you all. The joy that's given me. The longer I got sober, the more reflective of our family relationship I become. It also helps to have a therapist who's happy to talk things through with. So whilst these new boundaries are erected with my daughter, many of which I grudgingly agree with communication between us has been sparse and often difficult. Its perplexed and upset me.
My paranoid drinking self has told me, my wolfie has told me I'm a bad parent. I drank, what did I expect when she left? She's finally free of me. Her drunken mother. That stings. My paranoid self has told me lots of bullshit to be fair. But the new sober head is slightly less critical and more analytical, if of course you can apply analytical thinking to teenage girls newly embarked at university. But, I have. I get the new boundaries, they feel new right now but I know they will become familiar. Whilst I moved 300 miles to be nearer my children at university and to join my husband finally, that was my choice. I might tell myself the key part of this is 'move nearer the children and also be near my husband', my children probably see this more as 'Mum's finally settled in with her husband, we're off the clock, woo hoo!'.
Now, after much snot and tears and tantrums on my own part, I know I'm a good parent. I've had my moments but overall I'm a good parent. I worked hard at it. Snivelling into my hankie at my last session I talked about the pain I'd experienced during the last few years of my daughters time at home. How my drinking became more secret and my mood, difficult. It was a hard time for me and the family as we adjusted to life and sometimes the changes it can throw at you. I've always blamed my drinking for her distance during this last time at home. Maybe it was, something I'll never know. The paranoia runs deep here. And, it crippled me to stop me asking for help. What if they take my kids, no help for you Daisy. You're alone.
Fast forward to sitting having tea in a student flat in the city. My daughter jovially unpacking the groceries I've brought along. She's still oohing and ahhing at the large jar of chocolate spread in the bag. She's still half way between childhood and woman hood. Its a curiously nice thing to witness. We chat about nonsense mainly. Flatmates come in and out as we talk. Stories of silliness and boozy student capers buzz about in the air. We're alone again for a while. I notice the Vodka and the Rum on the windowsill. Half empty. Giggles of UV paint clubs and drinking spill out of her wee lips. I worry, does she have my addictive pattern inside of her? My paranoia regarding my own drinking is high in my throat.
'You're careful aren't you, with this stuff? You look after each other? You know I worry?' the words are out before I have time to stop my 'mothering'. Rolling eyes and smiling greets me. 'God Mum, we're hardly a hard core flat on the drinking front, but yes we look after each other'. The conversation drifts off into clubs and silliness. Its interesting as a parent seeing this new version of my own flesh and blood. Confident, sassy, bold and yet as she packs her 'tea' up for evening lectures, she's clearly looking after herself. It makes me smile. She turns and says 'I can't imagine you at university, out and being silly, you're so serious and as for the drinking.'
My heart stops, as it always does, when any mention of my name and drinking is aired. What do you mean, I sat and think when she leaves that statement there.
For once, being 110 days sober I'm not sitting thinking, can she smell the wine on me? Did I message her something stupid last night? Am I OK? For once I'm totally in the moment armed with a clear brain and no paranoia. What did she mean? Maybe its time to tell her I'm sober now. Maybe I'm strong enough to share this with her. That the past, is exactly it, in the past.
I begin to think of the things to speak, words forming in my mouth. She finishes her sentence 'as for the drinking, you'd never cope.'. Excuse me? I'd never cope? The conversation takes a different turn to the one I thought it would. My paranoia sits expressionless, beside me as my daughter regales to me how rubbish a family we were at drinking. 'I mean, I've never even seen you drunk, well maybe a glass of wine now and then. But I've never seen you drunk, not even at your wedding and plenty other people were'. The words she leaves off here is 'you're such a square'. Its true I didn't drink at my wedding, I mean in public, drinking, erm no thank you. I never drank in public after I really got into my drinking. But I'd never thought that really, they hadn't noticed my drinking. I'd hoped for sure that they didn't know, but I thought they must know.
Never seen me drunk. Never seen me drinking but a glass of wine, now and then. Surely this can't be true. But, I know that my son says the same. When I told him I'd given up wine for a bit he 'Pfft'.
In my face, he 'PFFT' me. 'Its hardly like you drink, now, is it?' So they both know I'm off the wine for a bit.
Out of the mouths of babes. My paranoia still lurks inside me, I knew how much I was drinking. I hid it from most of my life, but it was there. My constant.
What I know I need to do is forgive myself for the deceit and the self-loathing and start afresh. Somehow, a silly conversation about not very much, at a time when I was ready to open up and say sorry for it all, sorry for all the deceit, I'm faced with a different reality. A nicer one. Maybe its no ones business that I use to drink. But, I've been so paranoid that my drinking has deeply affected my children and our relationship that it stifles me and blurs my thoughts constantly. Its been a constant, alcohol in my parenting life, but I hope its effects have been limited. I truly do.
I know its affected the way I act around people so to say its had no impact on their lives would be a lie. But, sitting in the student flat, I'm calmer now, I'm sober now. She didn't see my drinking and I don't do that any more, so maybe I do need to take heed and move on myself. Paranoia created by alcohol consumption, is not kind. It affects your self-worth and reactions in relationships. I see that so clearly now. And, I'm grateful that (whilst its deceitful), my family really didn't notice my drinking. I know I shouldn't be as grateful as I am, but I am truly grateful.
I look at this beautiful 18 year old in front of me, blossoming. And, thoughts of her 'square mother', lol, I can deal with being a square, for sure. But when I was young, I'll tell you........I did my share of partying. I had fun young lady. No really I did. For a while, so be careful.
It only got no fun when the drinking turned all consuming, when it turned inwardly and became secretive. And, when wolfie arrived with his veracious appetite and his paranoid pills.
We hug, she goes to class, tea in one hand, packed meal in another. Speak soon, the words are off my lips a bit lighter. I'm beginning to see the changes in both of us. They're not as bad as feared. I'm calmer, more whole-hearted, she's blossoming. Its amazing what happens when you take Wolfie and paranoia out of the equation.
Today's motto is to be kind to myself. What's yours?