Today I woke up tired. I’m a middle aged father of three teenage kids. It’s what I do.
Today I woke up sore. I’m training for a marathon next year. My tenth no less. At the minutes this necessitate 30 mile weeks. My knee hurts. My back hurts. I’m sore.
Today I woke up without a hangover.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. I’ve been waking up without a hangover for over seven years now. Yet today it hit me, amidst the yawning and aches and pains. I wasn’t hungover. There was no nausea, no fatigue, no headache. Best of all, there was no fear. The dread of ‘what did I do or say last night.’ The shame, the guilt, the worry that I had messed up again and hurt loved ones.
The one day hangovers became two, then three. My body couldn’t cope with the weekly poisoning I was inflicting it with. My already fragile mental health couldn’t cope with the damage I was inflicting on myself and, more importantly, others. My father was dead and no matter how many tins of beer I consumed that wasn’t changing. He wasn’t coming back. It was time to sober up, man up and front up.
I stopped hiding. Behind the hangovers. For all the big promises and false starts, it was actually quite easy in the end. I just stopped. No big announcements, no magic pill, no dramatic intervention or twelve week counselling session. I just stopped. I remember the last night I went out drinking a work colleague I was with had a stroke. Maybe that was a contributing factor, I don’t know.
I stopped lying. That was more difficult. Lying is a habit and it came easily to me. It was much simpler to lurk in the shadows, to evade reality than step out into the glaring light and expose my vulnerabilities and weakness. It’s still a work in process and there’s always the temptation to take the easy option when the going gets tough. I’m a recovering liar, I always will be and that’s the truth.
I’m not perfect, far from it. I’m no superhero or knight in shining armour. I still drive Fionnuala nuts on a daily basis. But I’m making progress, despite all the slips and stumbles along the way. And I will never grow tired of waking up on a Sunday morning without a hangover. What’s more it’s absolutely free, in fact I’m saving money. I awake now with dignity, pride and purpose. I have wrestled my life back.
I turn my back on what has passed and focus instead on what could be, what will be. It’s amazing how far you can get on a bucketful of determination with a sprinkling of ability. You can only truly appreciate the freshness of the morning breeze when you have tasted the dank, foul air at the bottom of the abyss. To quote the band James, ‘If I hadn’t seen such riches, I could live with being poor.’
Are you waking up hungover today? Alcohol? Prescription drugs? Or has your mental health taken such a battering in recent days that you feel broken, bereft, on the point of giving up? I can’t wave a magic wand and make that disappear but I can offer you my story; one of hope and possibility. I can tell it again and again for whoever wants to hear it, whoever needs to hear it. Today we live.