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…then congratulations. you are exactly where you need to be, right now.

and I desperately hope that this doesn’t sound smug, or self-satisfied. I’ve been looking back over my 2013 and 2014 December posts, and my 2013 paper diary, to see how I handled my first two sober Christmases. so the memories of what the early days were like are very close and real to me right now, and I am not belittling them in any way.

I was 50 days sober on Christmas Eve, 2013. I was incredibly proud of myself and felt I had come a really long way in that time. (I had.) I planned in great detail what I would drink on Christmas Day itself, and was hugely relieved to find that a sober Christmas day was better than fine.

around that time in my paper diary I have copied out a quote from Carrie which says:

getting through this holiday season will take me to whole new levels in my recovery, and therefore contentment, and it will never be this hard ever again.’ 

it is the actual getting through which takes us up to that new level. so if we are finding it hard, that’s where the work is, that’s what we have to do to move ourselves onwards. it’s not finding some inner strength we didn’t know we possessed, and using that like a lever – it is doing the actions, however difficult and awkward they may seem – like training a muscle to become strong. and I am writing this much because I need to remind myself of this at the moment in other, non-sobriety changes I am trying to make to my behaviour.

by December 2014 I had moved on from worrying about whether I was going to miss drinking, to worrying about how I was going to deal with other’s reactions to my not drinking. my circle of influence was moving outwards, if you like, since I had less control over others’ reactions than I did over my own actions. and my post on Christmas Eve 2014 describes my newest discovery of the difference between reacting and responding – something that has become an entirely integral part now of how I deal with others. in fact I’ve mentioned it so much so that more than one other member of the family not only uses the concept but mentions it in conversation. recovery is catching!

I am sure I have a lifetime ahead of me of learning to be more kind and empathetic and less judgemental and controlling in my interactions with others. I feel I have learnt so much in the past year about putting in place healthy boundaries with other people, to both my advantage and to theirs. my closest relationships are more loving, honest and realistic, and I am hugely grateful for that.

the supportive role that those around us can play in our sobriety, whether in the early days or later on, can be immense. but it is hugely important to remember that others’ negative actions can only affect us as much as we permit them to do so. I/we can take a raised eyebrow, or a pointed remark, and internalise them to our own detriment, letting them fester like an arrowhead embedded in a wound…

may I share with you a couple of quotes from Viktor E. Frankl?

there’s a good article about him here. he was an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Auschwitz survivor.  in his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, he described the life of a concentration camp inmate from the perspective of a psychiatrist. he says:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” 

and:

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” 

I have been reading Earnie Larsen’s excellent book ‘Stage II Recovery’ in which he asks the reader to define what recovery means to them.

at this point ‘growth and freedom‘ is a good working definition of recovery for me.

so, how am I doing in the run-up to Christmas 2015? well, I am expanding my circle once more and over the last year I have deliberately doing a fair bit more socialising than I previously was. this is not because it was necessarily triggery for me – most of my drinking was done at home – but more because I found it tricky to handle others’ reactions to my not drinking.

so, last night I had a very pleasant meal with friends – in our local pub. it was packed and very merry. and I felt pretty much relaxed as I could possibly wish about the fact that I was not drinking in a boozy environment. I didn’t want any myself, but I didn’t mind anyone else having it, and I couldn’t have cared less really about what anyone else thought of me not drinking.

I have read that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. I don’t think I could ever truly be indifferent to alcohol because of the harm I know it can do to people’s lives. but indifferent to it as far as I am personally concerned? perhaps I am getting there?

the picture of Sean Connery at the top of this post is of him in an outfit he wore for the film Zardoz. if it tickles you, you might also like the outfit he is almost sporting in my December 2014 post, ‘What Your Husband Should Be Wearing This Christmas.’ enjoy! Prim xx

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