As a family we decided to celebrate one year of me being clean and sober as a kind of birthday. I believe it was the 3rd of October – safe to say the day my life began again. It may sound a tad dramatic to some but at my lowest points I honestly believed I was weeks away from dying unless something drastically changed. I celebrated that day with the people that had helped me throughout that year. I was given two presents, one from my wife and one from my parents. I opened my Wife’s card and she had written the most beautiful words about how nice it was to have the old Graham back and how much she trusted me again. Inside the card was also a silver chain, she’d written “if you’re ever struggling, give this chain a wee rub and remember how far you’ve come” – that chain has been kept busy over the years.
My parents also gave me a card and had written some nice words about love and trust which was very humbling given that I’d stolen everything from them. I lived in my family’s head almost 24/7 when I was out drinking, my parents even made the decision to ask me to leave the house and had taken my house keys from me. This decision no doubt would have broken them, I was an only child and they felt like they were losing their only son, but this didn’t stop me and I continued to drink.
When I opened that card on October 3rd, however, on one side were those lovely words and on the other side, was my house key – it took my breathe away. As an only child I had been regularly spoilt with gifts over the years but this was the best present I could ever have asked for, such was its meaningfulness. I had finally earnt their trust again but I really struggled to accept their praise, all I kept thinking about was how much I had broken these people for so many years and yet here they were heaping praise on me. To be praised because you are no longer making someone’s life a misery is something I still struggle with to this day.
There was a lot of celebrating for about a week before everything calmed down. At that point I asked a friend, “what now?” His reply was straight to the point – “same again.” I struggled a bit for a month or so because after such an incredible high it felt like things could only go one way and that was down, but the difference this time was the control I now had over my life. My only issue was that I had focused so intensely on not drinking that I was letting other aspects of my life slip. This was when I began piling on weight, food was becoming a form of emotional support but it also made me constantly tired and endlessly sluggish.
As I mentioned in previous blogs, I began to play football with a recovery team which was incredibly beneficial. I got to speak with people who were in the same boat as myself and who shared a lot of the same emotions. After playing for the team for a short while I unfortunately broke my elbow, this sidelined me for eighteen weeks and I also couldn’t drive for four. I thought this would be detrimental to my recovery, however it proved to be quite the opposite for one simple reason – I learned to ask for help. Asking for help always feels like a sign of weakness in any walk of life, but it’s absolutely essential to the recovery process. It also made me realise that you don’t have to do everything on your own and that it is ok to say: “I am not ok.”
In the first year of recovery I began to like myself again, which was very much a shock to the system. In times gone by just looking myself in the mirror would send a shiver down my spine, but over time my thoughts changed from “look at the state of you” to “you’re doing just fine G.”
It still baffles me how momentous the simplest things in life can be. On one particular day something changed in me forever. I was walking our dog Ben up the moors in my hometown. I had my headphones in and as I was walking along everything seemed slightly more colourful, I was noticing smells and sights that I had never really seen before. I felt overwhelmed with love, so much so in fact that I just wanted to hug the entire world, I realise how crazy that sounds but it’s just how I felt. I had started to walk with my head held high again instead of looking at the ground, feeling ashamed.
The people walking past that day must’ve thought I’d lost the plot with my beaming smile, emphatically wishing them all a good morning, but the ironic thing was I’d never felt saner. I found it difficult to deal with such happy emotions, it wasn’t something I was used to but my Wife quickly assured me that I wasn’t off my head, it was simply progress.
A friend of mine taught me to always smile and say hello to people, as you never know how much they might need it. I also had a friend who would kiss both cheeks and tell me to “give one away”.
Isn’t it amazing just how beautiful life can be?