One of the things I have had to face up to over the months of sobriety is how much crap I am carrying around in my head. I suspect a large amount of the alcohol consumed pre-party was to drown out the voices telling me
- You are too fat for this outfit
- You’re not funny and have nothing interesting to say
- You will say and/or do something irredeemably stupid and everyone will laugh at you
Much of the alcohol consumed at a party would then be used to cover up any stupid things I might be saying or doing.
- Fell on my face? OMG I AM SO DRUNK.
- Interpretative dance to ridiculous song, HAH MY GOD I WAS SO WASTED.
- Got two people I know perfectly well mixed up or forget their names? FUCK DUDE I AM SO HAMMERED I CAN’T EVEN
When you haven’t got those I AM SO… excuses to fall back on, you have to learn to accept that the person who falls on their face, engages in interpretative dance with a pinecone to Total Eclipse of The Heart, mixes up the names of people you’ve known for years and makes an accent mimicry faux pas is JUST YOU. Not drunk you, not someone so wasted they can’t Do Normal, but you. You are that scatty clumsy nerdy person on the dancefloor. Alcohol never made you do any of those things, alcohol merely gave you an excuse to absolve yourself of accepting responsibility to the daft/stupid/borderline potentially offensive things you’ve done or said.
All of the above examples happened yesterday. Blindsided by the lack of an excuse I had to just accept that I’d made a prat of myself. Standing there and taking that and going god, I am sorry, I am such a dork (mixing up of names) or I don’t care this is hilarious I am having a great time (pine cone interpretive dance) is actually incredibly difficult.You have to accept that you are at best an extemely silly person, at worst thoughtless and not being mindful enough of the people around you. I am not surprised that more than half of my life I have found it easier to blame the booze. How many times in my past have I pleaded the percentage proof when actually I haven’t really been that drunk at all? When did it get to the point that I would start drinking in advance, before I’d even done anything ridiculous, just so that if/when I did do something ridiculous I would have an excuse?
I also start to wonder – how many other things in my life do I avoid because tackling them head on is just too hard? Things that getting drunk can’t ‘resolve’ or excuse? As discussed last week I am a terribly avoidant person who will go to extraordinary lengths to Not Do things I need to do. Even things I actually WANT to do get put off for all sorts of reasons. For all of the things that couldn’t be resolved by getting really drunk and doing them, well I just didn’t do them at all, and occasionally came up with vague excuses as to why. Wanted to learn BSL for years? Mumble mumble can’t afford it mumble. Want to learn to sew? Mumble mumble what if the needle goes through my thumb mumble. Want to get back into singing? Mumble not really that good at singing can’t read music mumble.
For years I have avoided swimming – not because I can’t swim, but because I have long term insecurities over my body and being seen in public in a swimming costume. Instead of, you know, just getting the hell over this and going swimming, I mumble mumble don’t have a swimming costume mumble. And never bought one on purpose so I could keep using this excuse. And yet – almost entirely down to a growing awareness that most of the things holding me back are my own excuses in case I make a pillock of myself – I found myself earlier this week standing on the edge of a pond, in public, in a brand new swimming costume, preparing to jump into water of an unspecified depth containing god knows what, in order to Do Swimming.
It doesn’t sound like a huge achievement: “This week I went swimming”. But for someone who found regular school swimming lessons like some sort of teacher sanctioned water torture and who only ever felt comfortable doing doggy paddle; who has such a curvy figure that a swimming costume which fits at the top cuts off all circulation below the waist (and conversely if it fits below the waist is dangerously indecently impractical at the top) and who tends to spend beach holidays almost entirely covered up sitting under an umbrella with a book, who until recently has refused to wear shorts because her legs ‘aren’t good enough’? This was HUGE.
My swimming strokes were tentative at first, but the water was temperate, the surroundings beautiful and serene, the other swimmers considerate and friendly. There was no sense of voyeurism or body shaming. There were birds drifting around peacefully, unconcerned by my damp flailing, and there were even flocks of parakeets swooping around the trees thar bordered the pond. I didn’t swim a huge distance – around 400 meters – but for someone who hasn’t swum for quite possibly longer than they’ve been getting drunk (and let’s face it, in the Definitive List Of Things You Can Do While Drunk Because Alcohol Gives You Confidence,”swimming in a pond” didn’t even make the shortlist for very good reasons) it felt like an enormous achievement. No one laughed at my body or was offended by the sight of if. I was in public, in a swimming costume, and nothing bad happened. I didn’t fail at anything. No excuses even needed to be made. And it was fun.
Until the start of this year when this big booze and blog experiment began much of my life was a list of “I want to X but I can’t because Y” where Y wasn’t so much a reason not to do X as a way to absolve myself of responsibility for doing X because I was just too scared of failing, or of not having an excuse for failing. I don’t know what I was expecting at the start of this journey in January, but I wasn’t expecting to be confronting so many aspects of my life – including my own issues with my body.
I am not sure if I would have been able to get into a swimming costume and into that pond were it not for my growing ability to just be me, in the present, in the moment, without a shield of false confidence, an alcoholic aura or handy excuse ready – and that has all come from my (so far) 7 months of sobriety and weekly blog based soul baring. The feeling of walking out of a changing room into a public space wearing just a swimming costume, baring myself and my flaws was terrifying; but wasn’t actually any worse than bearing my innermost thoughts on a weekly basis to the entire internet, or standing completely sober in a room with people crying with laughter at my name-confusion faux pas and having no excuse for it other than my own ridiculousness. And just as I am starting to be OK with my body, I am starting to be ok with my own ridicousness.