It’s a cold winter’s morning before the sun comes up. The gas heater is on to take the chill off the lounge. I’m behind my computer, an early start as is typical.
Our mixed breed small dog is in her basket in front of the gas heater, snuggled up in her jersey and her blanket. The mischief maker cat is lounging on the couch, while the statelier old girl is eyeing her warily from the arm rest.
I am content. I am at peace with the world, and it is well with my soul.
It wasn’t always like this. For a decade I was miserable. Restless, irritable, and discontent. Nothing in my life went right. So I drank. I drank to drown out emotions. I drank to celebrate. I drank at any excuse at all.
I drank to avoid life. I drank to avoid those little upsets in life that happened. And then, when they were still there the next day, I drank some more.
I drank because I couldn’t deal. I drank until I was a shell of a person
Somehow making it through each day despite being dead inside. Long after the alcohol had stopped working, I drank because I couldn’t not drink. It was the only solution I had.
And it was a costly solution. Not just because the sheer volume of booze I was going through added up; not just because I wrecked tyres and mag wheels and broke windows and dropped cups and plates.
Mostly because the drink and the way I drank, because I couldn’t not drink that way, cost me valuable relationships.
I lost friends and loved ones. And I almost lost my daughter.
My little person, who is not so little anymore, lost her mom
I wasn’t present in her life. I didn’t arrive for school functions all too often and, when I did bother, I was trashed. I forgot her at school one day because I was drunk and had taken pain killers and fallen asleep.
I was an angry mom who shouted at her for no apparent reason. I wasn’t sober enough to cook dinner, or make her school lunch, or wash her school clothes. Or do anything of the things that make a mom a mom.
She learnt to grow up quickly. Too quickly. Her dad and I divorced when she was four (no prizes for guessing what accelerated that inevitable decision) and she learned to look after me because I couldn’t look after myself.
I did her untold damage
I’ve been sober for just more than two years now. Not just sober, but also in recovery. I cannot undo the past, but I can do my absolute best to make up for it.
I’ve learnt how to fix the wreckage of the past and how to deal with life on life’s terms. I’ve learnt how to love – and not just others, but myself too.
Perhaps the most amazing gift of living this God-directed life is that I have a relationship with my Baby Bear now. We can talk about stuff, all sorts of stuff. From why the world is the way it is to what colour curtains are best.
She’s also come a long way
I’ve seen her become more confident, less retiring. I’ve seen her embrace life, and become comfortable with who she is as a person.
Gifts of recovery, we call it. And these gifts are so precious. Even being able to pack lunch for her is a gift, because there’s so much love that goes into that. Pizza picnics on the bed are a gift. Walking our dog is a gift. Life is a gift.
It’s not all hundreds and thousands and rainbow sprinkles. There are tough days. We each have difficult days and sometimes those boil over. But life is better now.
We’ve both made new friends, and rekindled old ones. All because I reached out and asked for help when I was at my lowest, and help was there. Not just for me, but for Baby Bear too.
To those dealing with the disease of alcoholism and how it affects their family, Al-Anon offers hope, strength and support. More information is available at www.alanon.org.za and a 24-hr Help Line 0861 252 666. Someone else’s drinking can affect your life – be it a relative or friend, male or female.