Today is the Monday after a fabulous weekend with 23 members of our tribe from the Living Sober website gathering together here in my home for a whole day and evening of eating, drinking, laughing, talking and getting to know each other. It was a whole three day weekend for me as the first two guests arrived Friday and the last one left this morning. Most stayed elsewhere, I only had four to stay. They have come from as far South as Southland and The Catlins and as far North as Auckland and Hamilton. It has been an amazing privilege to have the opportunity to meet these women, some of whom I've met before at the Wellington gathering last year, and some for the first time. The beauty of these new friendships is that there is already an inherent trust in each other via the website, where we all do share our innermost feelings and fears and failures and triumphs. These people know more about me and what I am about than my own family do I think sometimes, and it is likewise with them. They will share things on LS that they would not bother to tell their husband or best friend or sister or brother because they simply don't "get it" like we do. I think that was the feeling all of us experienced this weekend, a feeling of relief to be with like minded people who understand the struggle that it is to live our lives always in the raw, never anything to dull down strong emotions like anger, hurt, or disappointment, or fear and anxiety, never an altered state to help cope with the daily ups and downs. We are all extremely pleased that we've taken alcohol out of our lives, and are no longer sucked in to the belief that is pushed upon us daily by all forms of media/social media and by the heavy NZ drinking culture we grew up in. The belief that to have a good time one must drink alcohol. A party, a BBQ with the neighbours, a wedding, a picnic in the park, a meal in a nice restaurant, a visit to a girlfriend, and on it goes, end of the day, end of the week......well I know myself I found any occasion at all a good occasion to drink alcohol, that is what we did, that was normal. While it is great to be on the other side now of that illusory trap, it is also fair to say that giving up alcohol does not instantly make for a glorious fulfilled life. Giving it up is where the work begins. And it is work, and it’s tough. It is hard doing the inner work required to really know one's self, to be completely real and honest with yourself at all times. It is hard (for me) changing from being a very social person to one who spends tremendous amounts of time alone. It is hard accepting that some of the people you considered friends were really drinking buddies and do not have much interest in who or how you are, now that you don't drink alchohol. They are just busy on their own endelss cycles of what we used to do ourselves. It is sometimes relentless and daunting facing the life you have now and the empty or lost parts of it that booze used to fill. Without ever really realising it or thinking about it, drinking used up so much time, filled so many spaces, glossed over so many anxieties, hurts and problems. It allowed us to believe that everything was okay in our world, and it soothed and smoothed the rough edges in the relationships we have. It allowed us to bury some of that which troubled us, for a while. It let us forget those slippery feelings of guilt and self loathing, and let us rest and breathe easy and push those uncomfortable feelings down, for a while. It had such a powerful hold for so much of our lives.
Not any more, that's for sure, and it has been amazing to communicate all weekend with like minded women who actually understand all of that, the joy and the pride and the heartache as well, and so much more. There has been much laughter, some very real and honest tears, a shared warmth and depth of feeling that is so natural, so real and trusting, and yet so rare.
I seem to have swayed towards the gritty raw and difficult stuff here, it is very real for all of us, and we spoke of this. We all agree we have gained an enormous amount more than we have lost, with the changes we have made, but it was good to acknowledge that it has not been, and is not a walk in the park.
I miss the laughter the most I think, I really did love being a silly drunk idiot sometimes.