Seven years ago today I was burying my daughter. The weather today is not dissimilar: a warm breeze carrying blossom petals through the village, patches of sun as the clouds scud quickly across the sky, the smell of oil seed rape. I rarely think about the funeral. I do think about it when I’m up at the grave, I think about the procession to the grave, carrying her coffin to the hole in the ground. I think about the sudden and unexpected humour of my heels sinking into the soft ground and almost going over backwards. I think about the way I kissed a pink rose bud and threw it onto the white coffin lid, and how the ground closed over her and she was gone. Afterwards I went back to my mum’s with the small gaggle of funeral guests and we had tea and cake. Well, they all had tea and cake, I hit the wine like a train and then went to the pub with my dad and brother and husband and got wrecked. I was already wrecked.
Today I’ve woken up horrendously hungover, again, after an evening in which I drank far too much, far too quickly, before I’d had my tea. I’d wanted to watch the Eurovision song contest, but this morning it’s all a bit hazy and I have a bruise on my elbow that I have no idea how I got, and am staggering about in my dressing gown with the curtains closed, avoiding the neighbours because my lovely husband and I had a blazing row about something really silly, and the whole street must have heard. They’re out there now, like normal people, washing their cars and walking their dogs. And I’m here feeling rough as a badger’s arse and wondering why I do this to myself.
Since we gave up trying to have a baby, since we accepted childlessness my outlook has changed. I have worked hard to embrace a new life. I am really proud that I have found ways of completing myself, that I can look at my life and be extremely joyful. I’ve worked my way through my problems and have eventually found a way of liking myself, of loving myself. I have found a way to lift the weight of never having children, of the events of my child’s death. I will never not feel grief, but I can accept it as part of myself and feel happy again. I can let go of the longing for a family that has kept me trapped in a cycle of being triggered and trying to fight it. All brilliant. But there is one area of my life that I have not managed to address. And that’s booze. I CAN drink responsibly, I don’t drink every day. But always, always and without exception, once I have one drink, I want more. It’s like one drink is an invitation to a party, and if I can’t go to the party and I have to limit myself to just imagining the revelries from the other side of the door, then I become frustrated. This is something that nothing seems to change. Partly I think that it’s just the nature of booze, alcohol changes the way your brain works, so in a bit of a catch 22 the changes reduce your willpower and your ability to see that actually you enjoy being sober, or you enjoy being tipsy but you don’t enjoy making a tit of yourself and feeling utterly awful the next day. You remember all the good things, boozy lunches with friends, a cold, cold beer on holiday, a glass of clear, crisp Suav Blanc whilst cooking. But those nights when you were mean, or emotional or sweary or…insert awful booze memory here… get wiped out with that first drink.
I don’t remember the first drink I ever had. I remember tasting the foam on my dad’s pint. And I know it was awful. But I don’t remember my first drink. I remember drinking with my brother and sister, I remember going to a nightclub with them once, aged fourteen and getting stoned and/or drunk. I remember being drunk on a family holiday when I was maybe sixteen. I was so sick. I was so hungover. But while I was drunk, I felt attractive. While I was not drunk I was consumed by anxiety. I couldn’t open my mouth because I was so anxious, I was a girl with hunched shoulders, not speaking to anyone, being so acutely aware of what other people might think of me, being so very anxious I couldn’t go into shops etc. When I was drunk I saw myself differently. It gave me confidence. It changed me into someone else. By the time I was seventeen I was drinking drinking. I could go on and one recounting awful substance abuse stories, booze stories but what would be the point?
These days, booze, on the whole, is not the big issue it was. But I do spend an awful lot of time planning booze drinking, waiting for my first drink, imagining drinks. Most things I do have a booze element attached and I have to say the majority of photos I have of myself include a drink of some sort. I think probably it’s not the issue it used to be, or rather I use it less as a tool to make myself feel better/different because, as I said earlier, I worked through my problems, I had a tonne of therapy, I came out the other side of my daughter’s death, having rebuilt myself and my life almost entirely. Her loss exploded through me. But now I am happy, on the whole. And then and then and then, this happens.
I think it’s time I addressed my ‘friend’ alcohol and really dealt with it. I’m going to start by seeing what life is actually like without it, setting my mini target as four weeks. Then I’m going on holiday, and I’ll see how I feel then.
I’ve done this before, it’s not solved anything, but perhaps this is the turning point. I gave up smoking about six months ago, and haven’t looked back. I no longer crave them. They served a purpose for a long time but now they don’t. perhaps booze is a similar thing. Perhaps it’s served it’s purpose. We’ll see.