The picture below will forever have a place on a wall in The Sober Garden. For those of you who like to know titles and the like, it’s called ‘The Arrival of the Jarrow Marchers in London, Viewed From an Interior’ by Thomas Cantrell Dugdale (1880-1952).
Here’s the story. A week or two ago, I resurfaced from a gruelling and stressful time at work. Late nights and early starts meant that I met the deadline. Phew. I lived to tell the tale, worn out but sober.
What followed though was a bout of post-show-blues. I felt undervalued in my workplace. More horribly, I felt disconnected to my family and home because of the extra hours I’d put in away from them. Resentment bubbled up from my stomach and into my mouth, leaving a bitter, acrid taste: what exactly was the point of working hard when all I’d achieved was lining someone else’s pocket? I was coming down with a cold. I looked like shit and felt heavy and jaded, not having had even stretched my limbs for a couple of weeks. At this point, the desire to Zone Out was strong. I had managed a heavy workload without reaching for the bottle. But now, surely I deserved it? The end of a difficult time needed to be marked, didn’t it? I wanted to sit, and stare, and not…be here.
Dangerous times for someone recently living alchohol free.
And then the memory of a painting I once saw at the Geffrye Museum in London came to mind. I remember when I saw this painting in the flesh, it held me spell-bound. Its luminescence took my breath away, it’s story-telling held me utterly captivated and I gauped at it on the museum wall for ages. Why it came to mind when I hadn’t thought about it for years and while I was busy fantasising about stopping off at the shops on my way home for a bottle of red, I don’t know. But it did and it wouldn’t go away. So at my desk, I googled the image and stared at it – for ages. I found myself immersed in imagining back-stories for the characters in the painting. I wondered what their relationship was like – with each other and with the world around them; I thought about what it must have been like to be living in 1930s England, the contrast in lifestyle between the privileged and the impoverished; I thought about what drove the marchers to make their political demonstration; and all that besides, I marvelled at the skill of the artist.
The idea that I needed a bottle (or more) of wine to Zone Out and forget about my job for a while passed. Not only that, but I realised what a lie that ‘need’ is. I don’t need booze to zone out. You don’t need it. Whether it’s looking at a fantastic painting, listening to music, writing or reading, or creating something with your hands, cooking a meal, or laughing with friends, or sitting quietly with yourself and/or a loved one or watching your children play – or just stopping, taking five to be quiet and still and at peace – you don’t need alcohol or anything else to do it. All that we need is within is. What an utter blessing sobriety is.
Our society labels drinking as pleasurable. But drinking too much and too often denies pleasure. If you’re drunk how you can you possibly properly, wholly engage with pleasure? You can’t. Whether it’s the pleasure to be gained from physical love, or from reading a good book, from taking a walk in the park, from dancing your pants off, or relaxing in the bath – you’re not going to appreciate any of it pissed.
Alcohol abuse puts a lid on the highs of life. Our time on this planet is so short and so precious and I’m in the mood to fill every moment. I’m in the mood to not abuse alcohol. For me, that means not drinking at all (I can’t moderate) but if that’s what it takes to taste life’s highs, that’s what it takes.
Love from The Sober Garden x.