I didn’t write for years after I got sober; in fact, I actively steered away from any desire I had to write about my drinking days (and the urge was strong). Whenever I had the desire to do anything creative with my experiences, I quickly talked myself down. I worried it would be a slippery slope towards drinking again, as if by vicariously reliving some of the more exciting and troublesome times in my life, I might accidentally (or not so accidentally) fall off the wagon. It took a long time in sobriety to even entertain the idea of writing down those stories from my drunken past.
Ironically, when I really started listening properly to that voice inside that was getting louder and louder, I discovered to my shame that I couldn’t write. There was something physically stopping me from putting pen to paper.
It was fear. Fear of rejection, fear of being laughed at, fear that nobody would want to hear my story. Fear in all its glory, but mostly fear of being me.
Part of the problem was that I had too much time on my hands. I was working part-time and studying part-time, but this was pre-kids so I still had time to read and watch TV, and drive into York on my days off to wander through the snickleways, stopping off occasionally for a cup of tea somewhere, and a browse in the book shops and make-up departments, on my endless search for the perfect shade of red lipstick that I never found, and classic literature I’d probably never read. All of this meant that I could put off writing until tomorrow.
Tomorrow, I decided. Tomorrow would be the day that something big would happen that would give me the push to start writing again. I was always waiting for that one big message from the universe to give me the go-ahead to write the story of my drinking. The message never arrived.
Life carried on. I finished my degree, I took on another job to earn some extra money so that we could save for a bigger deposit on our first house, so that we could afford to start a family. A short time later, I was pregnant, and we were house-hunting. We finally moved into our first owned house when our baby boy was about eight weeks old.
Then suddenly, life became real. I looked around me – this was the life I’d always dreamed of when I was younger. Yet something was missing.
It was me.
It’s hard enough for most women to rediscover themselves after having children, but for me it was more than that. It wasn’t so much that I’d lost the person I’d been just weeks and months previously – I knew I’d find her again, albeit in a slightly different guise. What I’d lost was that sense of who I’d been when I was younger – that flighty, messed-up, overly-dramatic drunk girl. I didn’t want to be her again, I knew that. But suddenly, I was protective of her, a little bit proud even, because despite everything that had happened since I’d got sober, she was always there inside me, waiting for the older me to dust her down and write her story.
And now that I had increasingly little time to write, it also became vitally important that I start. So that’s what I did. There was no big sign from the universe, no big fanfare, no other person who knew or loved the old me enough to keep egging me on. I was on my own, just me and a laptop during nap-times, frantically piecing together scenes of the story of my youth.
The moral of the story: Don’t wait for big signs from the universe. Just write.