A couple of weeks ago we went to a family wedding on the other side of the country. It took us all day to get there which, as I love being on the road, was time happily spent. Our children love long journeys too. In my daughter’s case, I wonder whether this is learned behaviour. She’s happy travelling because we are. But in my son, I recognise his inherent wanderlust. When he was still at primary school he once asked, “When you go to university, you don’t have to go near to where you live, do you?”
“Oh no”, I replied. “You can go as far away as you like. I did.”
Coincidentally, the family wedding that we travelled to was just a few miles from where I went to university. Leaning out of our hotel bedroom on that first evening, and twenty-five years since I was last there, I looked at the familiar hills, breathed in the scent of the place and remembered it.
The view of the sunset from our hotel bedroom window
Weddings can be a fraught affair; a hotbed for nerves and for simmering family tensions. This wedding was no different with clashes of personal truths and the potential for family histrionics but at its heart was the union of two young people who very clearly love each other completely. After the meal we went and sat for a while in the bar area. I laughed and commented on the fact that if my husband and I were drinking there would not be so many half-finished bottles of wine lying about. He shot me a look that at once said, ‘Don’t talk like that in front of the kids’ and ‘Yes, you’re absolutely right, we wouldn’t leave a drop’. We didn’t drink at the wedding. My husband hasn’t had a drink for over a month now. Sobriety is not a subject we talk about in depth. We were firm stay-at-home-drinking-partners so the ground beneath our married sober feet is still unfamiliar.
I think of the girl I was back then, twenty-five years ago, in that place where the hills are green and the landscape so different to where I live now. That girl had already learned to bury feelings way, way down, well out of reach. The art of self-deception was already mastered. She deserved better, that girl. Twenty-five years later, I’m learning that I can make it up to her, make it up to me. It’s never too late. This is the moment that counts. Love it and live it.
Who remembers Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the fabulous 1971 film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book Charlie and The Chocolate Factory? Just in case you’ve forgotton, here are her finest few mintues:
I have been reminded of Veruca this past week or two as I’ve had a touch of the Veruca Salt’s myself. I haven’t been demanding a golden egg, or a pony or some such – owning stuff has honestly never done it for me – but I have been hearing “I want” voices in my head.
This is new territory for me.
Previously any “I want voices” were drowned out. Literally. By me, accidentally on purpose, for years. They were drowned out, or stuffed down and I zoned out with fingers in my ears. But with sobriety, my head is clearing and the load I carry is getting lighter. It feels like I have the physical space and time to notice that I want things. I’m not talking about wanting material things (that’s you out of this conversation Veruca) but rather I want to implement changes in my life. There are things I want to do, become, achieve. Eric from From Struggle To Strength wrote this the other day in his post The World Owes Me Nothing, “I have been blessed to find a new way. A way that works as long as I get involved and not sit back and act like I am owed something. It works when I am an active participant in my own life. When I strive to make a difference and take part in the active change of my own situations and circumstances and see the difference in the outcomes.”
Acknowledging that I want to make a difference and be actively involved in life has the potential to overwhelm me. I can sense The Fear, waiting in the wings, listening out for its cue to march on stage, grab the spotlight and root me frozen to the spot. The only way I can think of to combat The Fear and move forward positively through my life, is to apply what I have learned so far from living soberly. And that’s this: all we have is the here and now. This is the moment that counts. This is our world and the actions we take and choices we make right now lead to and shape the future. If we want change, or to make a difference, or achieve, then action – a first step – is needed. You can’t magic “I wants” into real-life accomplishments suddenly and without commitment, effort and moment by moment involvement. This is what sobriety is teaching me. And for this lesson I am truly grateful.