Things I don’t know about myself, yet

It’s been almost a month since I started my version of a serious dose of healthy living. It hasn’t involved planning to run a marathon or becoming a life member of a tennis club, or taking up jelly-wrestling or even joining a gym… but it has involved being more thoughtful about food and alcohol, consuming less caffeine than before, and certainly less alcohol than previously. I’ve been trying to take vitamins and minerals that will aid me in my quest to treat menopausal symptoms. I’ve eaten small handfuls of almonds, lots of apples and bananas, salmon, hummus, sparkling water, green tea, licorice tea, pine nuts, grapes and mandarins. I’ve eaten other things too -but I’m trying to be mindful of what I’m putting into my body and attempting to maximise the good stuff while minimising the bad stuff (caffeine, alcohol, cakes, chocolate, and soft creamy cheeses and glasses of port…)

As I’ve said, some of this is about trying to mimimise the symptoms of menopause and some of it is about trying to be sensible when it comes to food and alcohol. So for most of the past month I’ve had very little to drink – and part of that is to see what changes when I make a change; but some of this is about the whole self discovery thing – will not drinking mean that the little ups and downs of life are more obvious because they’re not being numbed by a glass of wine to ‘take the edge off”.

I really enjoy coming home after work and sitting on the back deck talking with my husband about the day while he has a cigar and I have a glass of wine. So for the past 3 or 4 weeks I haven’t been doing that. I’ve been sitting there with a cup of tea or a cold drink – but not my usual glass of wine. Or winding down on a Thursday evening when I have the house to myself – just me & the dog, sitting on the couch watching all my previously recorded programmes with a quiet glass of pinot noir. Or on a Friday night, having take-aways and a quiet glass of wine while watching Super 15 Rugby.

And let’s face it, it hasn’t been that much of a big deal going without. I know I can have a glass of wine whenever I choose to, but I’ve made a conscious effort to not drink, just to see what happens, to see what impact it has, to see what I might learn from this experience. And right now, it’s hard to tell exactly what I’ve learnt.

I’ve learnt things by reading about alcohol and sobriety – that it’s easy to look at other people and say “I don’t drink like they do” – “I don’t drink that much or do some of those things” but what concerns me are the similarities I have found. The drinking to dull the pain a little, to make the world go away just a little bit, as a way of taking ‘time out’. I’ve learnt that if you use alcohol to dull the pain, when you take the alcohol away, the pain/issues/discomfort is still there and then needs to be addressed – either with alcohol (as a band aid – to make it go away in the short term) or by coming to terms with the issues that cause us to drink in the first place. That’s where the self-discovery comes in. But I feel like a bit of a cheat – because I’ve been able to learn from the learning of others (who have written about their experiences with alcohol) rather than having had to learn those lessons directly. Or maybe I just haven’t had to face any real issues (of any depth) as yet. I don’t feel about alcohol like I’ve just lost the love of my life, or that I’m facing a relationship break-up or anything of any emotional significance. Which is a good thing (obviously) but that another difference I’m observing about my relationship with alcohol compared to the women who I’ve read about – who felt that in giving up alcohol they were losing their greatest love. I understand that (I think) but have’t experienced that for myself. …..

I feel like I should be overjoyed by this. Like I should celebrate this realisation and how lucky I am (lucky?). Is that what this is all about – Luck? Really? Doesn’t seem right to me. Maybe it’s time to acknowledge all of the counselling I went through in my thirties. Coming to some understanding regarding childhood sexual abuse,  realising that I was angry with my father for his anger, and his lack of meaningful relationship with me (his lack of relationship-awareness on any level) and for a time I was angry with my mum for not protecting me from my dad. Angry with mum for putting up with her relationship with dad. Then later, after my mother’s health deteriorated, realising I was angry with my brothers for their lack of focus on mum, their lack of ongoing meaningful relationship with her. And all of this I initially experienced as depression (anger turned inwards) and later had a learn to be angry, learn to deal with the anger and then learn to grieve what I perceived I’d lost.

That was a bit serious, that last paragraph. But what I was trying to get to was – am I lucky that alcohol isn’t the love of my life (as it may well have become) or is it not luck, but the hard work of previous decades that has lead me to where I am today – facing alcohol, or a lack of alcohol, without the heartache that some experience. In order to put my current alcohol ‘stuff’ into some perspective means acknowledging also the historical aspects of my life that one tends to downplay: depression, sexual abuse, strained relationships with family members, a sense of abandonment from age 5 (that I didn’t understand until I was over 40), issues with fidelity and/or a lack of fidelity (and therefore trust) in previous relationships.

Ok, I think that’s more than enough self-disclosure for one day. And you (my lovely blog) are a medium I’ve chosen to help me reveal myself to me – so hopefully I’ll be able to read back and see ‘oh, that’s why I always struggled with that’ and make connections between points in my life that are very probably related (like a track on a map) but I haven’t yet made the connection between those points. I hope that’s what I’ll find. And this is my next step, and I’ve made a start. And I feel good about that 🙂

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