Alcohol, my old friend...
This blog is a little different to the last two: this time it's really personal. Today I am celebrating 6 months sober from alcohol. Last night I worked out that I have not had 6 months without alcohol in my system since I was 14 years old. That's almost half my life. I knew towards the end of my drinking, and I see clearly now, that that's half my life spent not being able to deal with the emotions and feelings in my body. As Russell Brand puts it, when discussing his stay in rehab, in his documentary 'From Addiction to Recovery':
'It’s weird 'cos you know they only wanna help you, but you still sort of see them as adversaries, because all you really wanna do is drink and take drugs. The last thing you wanna do is go ‘I feel lonely and sad and I don’t know how to talk to people, and I’m angry and hurt’, and all they wanna do is talk about that stuff. The whole time. They’re bringing that up consistently. So it’s like someone prodding you in the most painful place, because you have to learn to deal with that stuff. Because if you don’t learn how to deal with that stuff the only other solution is to drink and take drugs. The only solution.'
So, nowadays I feel a lot. I cry when I'm sad. I get really angry. I laugh like a hyena. I am frustrated, scared, elated and overwhelmed with love. I'm trying not to hide from any of the feelings that bubble up and show me that I am human, that I fluctuate, that I am in constant movement, and I acknowledge that I don't need to subdue anything with alcohol anymore. I also have a better handle on how to process these emotions. They don't sneak up on me like mosquitoes in a darkened bedroom, triggering that panicked limb-flailing reaction. No, I see them rolling in, I feel their progress in my body, in the fluttering of my stomach, the prickle of sensation through my throat and the heaviness in my core. And I can welcome them and I am reminded of a poem by Rumi:
I have become friends again with my body over the last few years, through a combination of therapy, tantra, self exploration and bodywork. I have unwound some of the tightly knotted threads of conditioning and ingrained beliefs. Getting clean from alcohol has been a big step on that journey, and has enabled me to really deepen my connection to my own body, my own behaviours, my own patterns. The beer/red wine goggles have been removed! Whether it's 'real' or not, I 'feel' other people a lot more clearly too. I am more open, more receptive, more absorbent and more accepting. This article cites some fascinating research on the link between addiction and lack of connection on a human level. I see the impact in the work I do in giving my clients an imprint of loving connection, physical intimacy and the safety to be emotionally vulnerable. Being able to feel myself, my own emotions and therefore hold the emotions of others is a powerful tool.
My alcohol addiction may not have been 'extreme' or even considered abnormal, or even 'addiction', by societal standards and the cultures I exist in but the journey away from alcohol has still been challenging and has caused me deep pain and sadness. I have been surprised that the symptoms of withdrawal, or the temptation to drink in familiar social settings, have not been the root of this pain. In fact the pain has been in the realisation of how unconsciously determined I was to self destruct, to keep myself numbed, sedated, and separate.
I am fortunate and so very, very grateful to have beautiful and loving connection in my life from family and friends. As the article cites: 'When people are there to provide loving support for an addict wishing to face the emotional pain they carry, they are loving them and caring for them until they can learn to love themselves. With this in mind, perhaps the neural-wiring of emotional resilience developed through the loving reflection of another, once fully developed, could simply be called self-love.'
For all those who are struggling with addiction of any kind, wherever you may be on your journey, I send you love.
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