Not this year. I managed to avoid drinking last Christmas during my first festive period in recovery and I intend to do it again. It hasn’t been an easy 2022 and along with the current family problems with my poorly daughter (who has spent a lot of time in hospital) I’ve also relapsed in 2022 albeit it was only two days of drinking back in May and I managed to pull myself back out of it.
Sitting in the relative darkness of our living room (the Christmas tree lights provide what we need) I talk to my seven year old daughter on our 10 year old couch for the first time in what feels like forever about how she is and what she foresees her short term future as.
This in itself will raise concerns with many of you reading this. Why is there such a deep conversation unfolding with a child so young? What will be gained from this?
She’s been through so much in the last few months and it has been so scary and confusing for her. It still is. All she really understands is that her brain is poorly and that means she is struggling to do things she used to do like eating, drinking, managing her emotions and not obsessing over basic day to day tasks that we don’t give a second thought to.
I suppose last Christmas was easier. I was still on an upward curve after navigating myself out of issues which nearly wrecked my life. By the time Christmas came around I was loving this new feeling of long term sobriety (albeit white knuckling it) and I finally felt like my marriage and relationship with my little girls was in an honest and happy place. Significantly my oldest daughter didn’t have the health issues either.
I used to love a drink over the Christmas Bank holiday. Wine and Baileys on Xmas Eve with the wife as we wrapped presents. Prosecco on the morning of the big day followed by lager, ale, wine and cava throughout the day. Boxing Day was a ‘lad day’ at the football or pub so you can imagine how messy that got.
Getting sober is easily the best thing I’ve done for myself in my 36 years on this planet. I used alcohol for 17 years and in the main it had a negative impact on me both physically and mentally so I will always shout loudly about how great it is being sober. Christmas as an adult was always about boozing so to return to a kind of pure innocence around this time of year is so enjoyable and fulfilling.
It would be far too easy to use the current family landscape as an excuse to drink and I doubt many people would blame me but I own my sobriety and I need to protect it at all costs. I know first hand the cycle alcohol creates. It’s an enabler for mental health deterioration and irrational decision making and thinking. I can’t and won’t allow myself to return to that king of behaviour especially when my family need me so much.
Day 283: Fridays used to bring out the worst anxiety in me for some reason. I was never sure why because for many of us Fridays are the end of the working week and the chance to enjoy ourselves and relax on the weekend. I would start to feel anxious on a Friday morning and have no doubt my Thursday wine or beers contributed to that edginess but I think overall my issue was the unstructured way a weekend could unravel.
I’ve been a very structured and time disciplined person since my youth and thrive in environments where there are boundaries and rules. I did well at school, I’ve always did well in employment (maybe Christmas job at Argos aside!) and I have a lot of self-starting motivation to get things done.
During the week when I’m working my day is largely dominated by the 8 hours I spend at my desk and before I started working from home during the pandemic I’d also have the guaranteed commutes wrapped around my job which gave me a chance to switch between parent and worker whilst listening to some music, a podcast or if I was hungover, just hanging my chin out of the window.
The issue with weekends (especially since marrying and having children) is that despite the best will in the world your Saturday and Sunday becomes a free for all at times and it is pretty much none stop. It is difficult to stick to timings with small kids and difficult to step back and take a break from the non-stop joys of our little bambinos whilst at the same time trying to get chores done, fit in some exercise, eat, shit and god forbid in my case – try and put a few bets on the horses!
I would therefore feed my anxiety on a Friday morning by cracking open the booze straight after work on a Friday teatime and that would be me until Sunday night. Anxieties reduced or ‘gone’ until the awful return of them again on a Sunday after dark. It is no surprise I went down the path I did. A combination of my personality, my coping mechanism being alcohol and mild obsessive compulsive disorder regarding order, task completion and things needing to be in place NOW not later.
I’m not for one minute saying I’m cured of my Friday anxieties but when i was recently talking to a Therapist I did acknowledge that I no longer allow myself to be dominated by a ‘To Do’ list on a weekend. I have my parental responsibilities which may include taking my eldest to dancing or collecting the groceries and I have my own ‘hobbies’ like attending a football match every fortnight but beyond those fixed elements of the weekly calendar I try to go with the flow. I prioritise my ‘self-care’ over ‘chores’ and generally find that if I do acknowledge and complete things that help me mentally (run, walk, read, write, yoga, etc) I inadvertently become more productive over the weekend anyways so overall that ‘list’ gets shorter than if I tried to plough on through the list with the wrong mindset. I used to do that and you can guarantee I’d be drinking by lunchtime on a Saturday with a ‘fuck it’ attitude.
So Friday anxieties don’t dominate my Fridays anymore. Fridays remind me that I should pat myself on the back for my efforts as an employee, husband and father so far this week and to enjoy the weekend with my family.