One thing the pandemic has given me is the time to discover new things. Recently, having watched everything I wanted to on Netflix I started searching for something different. I love sci-fi so I started there and discovered a Korean drama, kdrama for short, called Alice. It was about time travel and I thought I would give it a try.
I absolutely loved it and it led me on to check out more and more kdramas. I’m hooked. I love the fact that the each episode is a chunky one hour long and that one story can be 16 or 20 episodes. I love the fact that I have no choice but to watch the screen to read the subtitles instead of what I usually do – part watch and part scroll on my phone.
I love it that for one hour I am totally immersed in only one thing and the relaxation that brings is wonderful. Plus, I’ve uncovered a whole world of stories that will keep me occupied for a very long time.
Last night I watched the first episode of a new one called ‘It’s okay not to be okay‘. It handles themes of mental illness and childhood trauma and has had rave reviews around the world. One of the story’s main characters is a successful author who writes fairytales for children with a dark twist.
One of her books is called The Boy Who Fed on Nightmares and the story within the book is read out by one of the characters. The story centres around a boy who relives bad memories from the past in his dreams and became terrified of falling asleep. He offers his soul to a witch in return for getting rid of is bad memories so that he could sleep.
He lived his life without nightmares but he wasn’t happy. When the time came, the witch came to claim his soul and he angrily asked her why he hadn’t lived a happy life. She answered:
“Hurtful, painful memories, memories of deep regrets, memories of hurting others and being hurt, memories of being abandoned – only those with such memories in their hearts can become stronger, more passionate and emotionally flexible. And only those can attain happiness. ”
The story ends with:
So don’t forget any of it. Remember it all and overcome it. If you don’t overcome it then you’ll always be a kid whose soul never grows.
As I was watching I was really struck by how this relates to our relationship with alcohol. The witch in this story for Sobersistas is alcohol.
We hand over our soul to alcohol so that we don’t have to experience our fears and nightmares. The blotting out of the difficult things in our lives saves us from having to feel what it feels like to have been rejected, abandoned, being hurt and hurting others.
We need these difficulties
But we need these feelings to grow stronger.
We need to experience the full awfulness of abandonment so that we can learn to be independent and never to abandon others.
We need to experience the deep hurt that others inflict on us so that we can learn that these feelings will pass and never to inflict them on others.
We need to experience the full horror of hurting others so that we can learn how to apologise and how to be truly kind and compassionate.
We need to experience deep regret so that we can learn to be brave and inspire others to too.
Drinking alcohol will never enable you to fully grow and discover the true depths of just how strong, capable and compassionate you really are. It stunts your growth and keeps you stuck.
One of the things I still find amazing, almost 4 years into my sobriety, is that I have come to like and love myself. I see myself with kind eyes and praise myself when I do well and feel happy every day. After 40 years of drinking it’s a miracle to me that this is real.
If your drinking is driven by numbing those regrets, that shame, then this is how it will always be.
Feeling stressed is a signal that something needs to be attended to.
A little stress in life can be helpful in enabling you to accomplish things. It provides the necessary focus you need to get things done but when it gets out of hand you experience high blood pressure, irritability and a host of other negative physical and mental effects.
That’s when a glass of something feels like the right answer. That first glass is the drink of expectation – it hasn’t worked yet but you know it will. The second glassful is the one you’re searching for – that feeling of warm bones, shoulders dropping and the elimination of that buzzy stress that has had you strung out all day. The third, fourth and fifth glasses are the drinks of oblivion.
Reaching oblivion can feel like a release, a calming of the soul, but in reality it is stealing your opportunity to look at what is going on in your life and do something about it.
Think about the things that currently stress you out and lead you to drink. How long have you been dealing with this stress? Is it getting worse or better? My guess would be that it is at least staying the same, if not getting worse because it isn’t being attended to.
The clarity of sobriety enables you to tackle these stresses head on and find good solutions that work for you and those you love.
Regrets come from things not done, things not taken action on and we torture ourselves with What ifs. What if I had said yes to him, or said no, or moved house when I wanted to, or applied for that job? Our imaginations are superb at offering us a million possible scenarios to those questions but none of it is real.
Knowledge is power and taking action on anything means that, even if it doesn’t work out, you will have learned that this thing isn’t for you or that you need to take another action to move forward. Every action you take builds resilience and that makes you braver and more willing to keep taking action to get things right in your life.
I saw a question posed somewhere that said – what if all the stresses in your life come from unmade decisions? It’s so true. Today I make decisions and take action with abandon knowing that everything I do is for my highest good and that if it doesn’t work out I can do something else.
Sobriety has given me the gift of resiliency and courage so I never have to experience regret.
When someone hurts you it’s all about them but we rarely see it that way. We absorb every word and action as if we are a human sized sponge. We believe their cruel and untrue words and turn them into our story.
When we hurt others it’s all about you and what you’re feeling and because you are human, despite whatever justification you gave yourself, you feel the shame and pain of having hurt someone.
I’ve often felt that sobriety has somehow slowed down my thinking in a really good way. I am so much more thoughtful now which means I act with integrity as much as I can. I take great pride in too. Not a vain pride but a pride that I am finally living my life authentically. Of course, still being human means I don’t always get it right but I have the clarity of mind to make amends whenever necessary and I see that as a point of personal growth.
Being abandoned by someone is a horrible rejection to have to live with but is rarely about you. When I look back through my sober eyes to the people who I had considered had abandoned or rejected me I can see now that they were suffering their own pain and couldn’t see beyond that. They couldn’t see how their actions would effect me. Or I had pushed them so far with my own insecurities that I wore them down to the point where they just didn’t care if they hurt me or not.
Being abandoned as a child is a trauma that deserves the support of a professional so that you can come to a place of peace with it. It’s such an unbelievable waste, investing your time and money to have a professional therapist support you through this while you’re drinking. How could anyone fully get to the bottom of their issues if what’s at that bottom is wine? How could anyone not blame the therapist for being bad at their job if each session was attended with a hangover?
Your distracted, fuzzed up, alcohol soaked brain can’t make truthful judgements about who you are. Until your mind is clear of alcohol you will never see yourself in your spectacular perfection and never understand that being abandoned was never about you in the first place.
It has to be time
I often think I’m a bit like the Dad from my Big Fat Greek Wedding who says that Windex can fix everything. I know that sobriety pretty much fixes everything you want to fix in your life. Not because it will make anyone else behave differently (although sometimes it does) or make life’s difficulties go away but because you will be who you were always supposed to be.
Sobriety will give you the chance to be brave enough to start tackling those old, long held hurts, those endless daily stresses and regrets.
It’s okay not to be okay
Yes, you may need to start the process of sitting with discomfort until you learn new skills, while you have difficult conversations and start tackling those long overdue things in your life that are what is making you drink.
But there is a real gift in this discomfort. Firstly, as with everything else in life, you will learn that it’s temporary and will pass. Secondly, you will experience the joy of dealing with everything in your life that needs to be dealt with and you will see how quickly you improve in how you deal with each new thing that crosses your path.
Troubles and difficulties have to be a part of the human experience because, without them, experiencing joy and happiness would be our daily state and we could never be grateful for it without the contrast of negative things.
It’s okay not to be okay but it’s not okay to do nothing about it.
Sobriety will give you the courage and clarity to take action.
A sobriety tool
As a last note I highly recommend you try out a kdrama or something with subtitles as it forces you to concentrate and you can’t possibly follow the story if you’re drinking.