This is a guest post from the wonderful @SueK.
When I first stopped drinking, it was painfully obvious that I’d lost my ability to care for myself properly. I was dealing with every single thing – physical, emotional, happy, sad – with alcohol.
I celebrated with alcohol. I commiserated with alcohol. I drank when I was sad to cheer myself up. I drank when I was happy because I was happy. I drank to relax after work. I drank because I was relaxed on holiday. I drank because I was cooking. I drank because I was eating what I’d cooked. I drank to take the edge off being uncomfortable in social situations. I drank an extra glass to help me get to sleep. I drank because I was with certain people and that’s what we did together. I drank when I was out because large groups freaked me out. I drank when I was home alone because I freaked myself out.
Drinking alcohol was how I habitually coped with everything in my life.
Take alcohol away and that’s a shit load of coping to learn to handle. Giving up drinking is massive, people. Massive, huge, colossal, monumental -- for the body and the mind. It’s brave, courageous, character-building. It’s Very Hard Work.
There is quite a lot of talk about ‘self care’ and sobriety, but for some of us, that’s a meaningless concept. What does it really mean to take care of yourself? Be kind to yourself? Look after yourself?
Self-care can seem foreign and impossible after years of self-neglect and self-abuse. I really struggled with this when I first stopped drinking. I was great at caring for other people, and shite at caring for myself. But one day that started changing.
One day, not long after I stopped drinking, I was off work, at home alone. Mid morning I was moping around, fidgety, bored, distracted, anxious. I had nothing to do, nowhere to go, nobody to talk to, nothing to cheer me up – not even wine o’clock on the horizon. It was painful, and I was thinking how horrible life was going to be if this was what being sober was all about – with no relief in sight from any of this crap.
And then out of nowhere, came these thoughts... wouldn’t it be great if I had a sober best friend who was coming to spend the day with me today? What would I be doing right now? What would the day be like? And I wrote down what I’d do if this was indeed happening:
I’d take a shower and get dressed, and make an effort to look half decent for her. Probably even put on some earrings and lipstick. I’d pick up the crap lying around the house and vacuum up the dog fur, so the place was clean and inviting for her. I’d pick some flowers and put them in a vase on the table. I’d make sure there was some of her favourite deli food for lunch, and some mineral water chilling in the fridge.
In short, I’d make an effort. I wouldn’t be sitting around in my crumpled pyjamas, looking and feeling like crap. I’d give her some consideration and care, and make the place and myself nice for her arrival. So why not do the same just for me? Seriously, why not? So I did. I got ready for a day with myself.
I felt about 300% better. It was the same day, totally transformed by a simple idea – I’m worth spending some time and consideration on. I’ve tried to make a habit of this now – keeping myself and my environment nice, just for myself. It’s a far better way to live.
Here are some other ways to play this game: What if your sober best friend was coming to stay for the weekend? What would you do for her to make her welcome and comfortable?
Make up the bed with clean sheets and pillow cases. And put some lavender drops on the pillows. Fluff up the best towels and set them nicely on the end of the bed. Scrub the bathroom, and put out nice soap and toiletries, and some scented candles. Put a sprig of Daphne or jasmine on the bedside table. Buy her a magazine and slip it under the pillow as a surprise. Get some lovely nibbles and non-alcoholic drinks to share when she arrives. Plan some relaxing activities you know she’ll enjoy (a walk, a yoga class, a movie, some op shopping) and plenty of down time just to chill. Invite some mutual friends around for brunch or an afternoon tea. Cook a lovely meal, or go and try a new restaurant – make dinner an occasion.
Why not do the same for yourself on the weekends?
What if your sober best friend is feeling upset and irrational and emotional, vulnerable and insecure because she just quit drinking, and the adjustment is overwhelming?
I bet you’d be kind and supportive, listen to her blubbering, help as much as you could, tell her how proud you are of her, and how happy you are that she’s taken this massive brave step. You wouldn’t yell at her to pull herself together and get over it. You wouldn’t drag her along to happy hour at the pub, or make her walk down the wine aisle at the supermarket, or tell her she’s a looser who’s going to fail. You’d tell you believe in her. You’d tell her to take it easy on herself.
You’d be patient, compassionate.
That’s the way we are with friends. And that’s the way we can be with ourselves too.
What could you do to be your own best sober friend right now?