My father died at the end of November, just after my eighteenth birthday. I was devastated. My dad was the centre of my universe. I felt lost and didn’t know how to cope with the overwhelming grief and sorrow that engulfed me. There was a void in my life that couldn’t be filled.
That New Year’s Eve, I drank to honour his memory … or so I told myself. In reality, I was drinking to numb the pain, to chase away the sadness and lose myself in a chasm of alcohol induced oblivion. I thought alcohol was an escape, a portal to freedom from pain and sorrow – instead it proved to be a gateway to hell. 40 years on, the glamourisation and romanticism of alcohol hasn’t changed. It IS still the only drug we have to justify NOT using.
Alcohol and drinking are interwoven in so many of life’s rituals: we toast the bride and groom; say cheers to milestone birthdays; raise a glass in honour of the deceased. For those of us working to maintain our sobriety, events such as these present significant challenges. If, in addition, we’re struggling to cope with the loss of a loved one, the event becomes a minefield through which we have to try and navigate. Friends and family, well-meaning though they may be, add another layer on top: “go ahead, just one”, “it won’t hurt”, “it’ll make you feel better” ….
But it won’t. Denying or numbing grief isn’t dealing with grief. Drinking will not honour our loved ones. We cannot honour others without honouring and loving ourselves. And to do so, we can’t give up our power to a toxic substance. We can’t choose oblivion over awareness. We must choose to stay present, acknowledge our emotions and cherish each moment with understanding, compassion and love. We honour those we’ve lost, not by forgetting but by remembering, and by staying true to our sobriety and to ourselves.
Alcohol robs us of our spirit and it’s this spirit, our life force, that we need to stay connected to the spirits and souls of our loved ones.
But we must also acknowledge our weaknesses. If you’ve lost someone and are struggling to cope, if you’re worried about attending their funeral or wake, fearful of losing your sobriety, please reach out for help.
In sports it’s often said that the best offence is a good defence. Now is the time to plan ahead: talk to some you trust, someone who knows your situation and can help; ask them to go with you or to be available for a phone call or be on standby for a text message should you falter; online meetings (www.12step-online.com) are also available for support and connection.
Don’t allow others to persuade you to drink, or cajole you into falling off the wagon. Stay strong and walk away if you must. You’ve already shown you have the strength and resolve to get sober, so don’t allow any person or any circumstance to break your spirit.
Dealing with grief and loss is difficult enough – during this pandemic we also have to cope with self-isolation, loneliness and the absence of physical contact. But a drink can never replace a hug. It will never cure loneliness. Alcohol is as deadly as any virus and, while this period of social distancing to protect ourselves from Covid may be temporary, we must social distance ourselves permanently from alcohol in order to stay alive.
I am now approaching seven years of sobriety and I know how amazing and empowering it feels to be able to celebrate the high days and holidays without a drink. I know my father would be proud, and every day sober is a day in honour of his memory. This is why I dedicate my life to helping and supporting others – I want everyone to experience the joy that comes with sobriety and the happiness that comes with living life fully expressed and completely, sober and present.
I would like to invite you to book a call with me if you would like any support around staying sober at this difficult time.