I still have the feeling that I’m experiencing life as if through an amplifier turned up to 11. What is strange is that I think it’s starting to become normalised. Humans do have an uncanny ability to normalise the most remarkable things which is both good and bad. On the negative side we can convert excessive drinking (and the resulting suffering) into our social normal. On a more positive note we can also begin to normalise our experiences of living sober. It doesn’t just apply to substance abuse problems either. When I look back at what I managed to normalise during various jobs, living arrangements and relationships I can’t believe I ever tolerated some of it. I’m sure most of you also have those sorts of memories that you look back on in disbelief with a small shake of your head. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I find it comforting to know that no matter how scared and avoidant of change we are when it does inevitably happen we have far more capacity to adapt and roll with it than many of us give ourselves credit for.
It’s been a strange week in my world. I went to my Auntie’s funeral on Wednesday. I wasn’t close to her, having only seen her maybe twice in the last two decades but I was sad for my uncle and that side of the family. I saw one cousin who I hadn’t seen for probably three decades and probably won’t for the next three, or the next funeral maybe. Another cousin was pleasant and polite but there is no connection whatsoever. The third cousin is the only one I really like and it was nice to see him, the last time being at my mum’s funeral over a decade ago. It made me a bit sad about the distance between us all. As you can tell, we’re not a close family, never have been really. I’ve always really envied warm and close families that love spending time together.
Spending time with family in this way has often been a huge trigger making me want to douse down the awkwardness, sadness and confusion that it brings. As that is not an option now I was left to see and feel it all rather than get that squirrelly, squirmy feeling of ‘OMG! Let me out!! Let the drinking begin…’ In a way this is the easier option. Instead of running in psychological circles until the discomfort headlights well and truly stop me in my tracks I was observing the situation for what it was, right from the beginning.
I also realised this week that my thinking when facing difficult situations has become brutally pragmatic in some ways. I don’t know if I was always like this or if this is a new development within sobriety. When we filed into the chapel for the funeral I couldn’t help wondering about what my dad was thinking. He’s in his 80s now and has openly talked with me about his uncertainty about how many years he has left. His funeral will take place in the same chapel when the time comes. That must have been an odd thought for him. I didn’t say anything though, some things are best left unsaid.
I also realised that sayings such as ‘blood is thicker than water’ are a load of balls. Just because I may have more DNA in common with one person than another it doesn’t mean there will automatically be any sort of bond. I think it’s up to us to choose the people we consider to be our family, or maybe tribe is a more appropriate word? I envy people that can honestly say their family is their true family, that seems like a beautiful thing looking in from the outside. I am also realising that it’s not a disaster or a failure on my part that my family doesn’t work like that. I’m respectfully detaching from the sadness and guilt this has caused me over the years. There’s no way I would have found that perspective with the wine countdown echoing through my skull or once the numbness sloshed its way through my veins.
The funeral was packed and we ended up having to stand at the back of the chapel. My auntie was a retired teacher and was always active socially in the local community. From overheard conversations I realised that some of the mourners were her former pupils. I can’t imagine making that much of a contribution and impression on life that so many people would turn up to my funeral. I realised that if I died I doubt my mourners wouldn’t even fill the front pews. This was also food for many challenging thoughts as you can probably imagine. I think my perspective on mourners for my death will be consistent with my thoughts on friends and ‘family’ during my life – quality not quantity.
Reading this back it does seem like a fairly dark post on the surface but it doesn’t feel that way. Some of these realisations have provided a sort of relief and freedom. What could have been a situation that weighed me down ended up providing an unexpectedly light and positive shift in my perspective. Seeing true reality rather than a distorted and numbed version of it is infinitely better, even though it can be tough in the moment.
Wishing you all a good ending to your week. Best wishes and hugs x