Hopping into the unknown

Making sweet music

A couple of months into sobriety I was reading my son a bedtime story. It was Aesop’s fable about the grasshopper and the ant. The grasshopper plays music and prances around all summer, whilst the ant diligently collects food for the coming winter. The grasshopper can’t understand why the ant doesn’t find the time for play. 

Then winter comes along and the grasshopper finds itself cold and lonely and without food and shelter. Through the snow it wades to the ant’s house. The ant reminds the grasshopper of all the times it frolicked around without a care in the world. Then it opens the door to let the grasshopper in, very gallantly also sharing its food reserves with him. The next summer the grasshopper has learned its lesson. It knows that in order to survive it must take time to work as well as play. My son (who loves nothing more than to play and loves to treat me like his private concierge service) loves this story and can recite it word for word. 

For many years I’ve held a small grasshopper statue on my desk. I bought it from a market in Bilbao, an hour after a real life encounter with a grasshopper. At the time I was going through some difficulties and needed the strength to make some big changes to my life. When the grasshopper appeared under rather odd circumstances and the statue found me right after, I couldn’t help but find out more about grasshoppers and their symbolism. I found out the following: 

Grasshoppers are thought to appear when you need to take a leap of faith. They are the symbol for your inner voice, telling you to trust it. Normally they appear during a huge transformational process. 

And so it proved to be on that occasion too.

Despite realising that this will come across as spiritual mumbo jumbo to many, it was then that I chose the grasshopper to be my spirit animal. Or, more likely, the grasshopper chose me. 

And it is thus that my blog proudly carries the grasshopper as its figurehead. 

At the time of publishing I have reached 138 days of freedom from alcohol. It all started one Sunday morning at the end of September 2018, when at 9 am I found myself listening to the birds and staring at the debris of the night before. A recently refilled glass of vodka lime and soda was challenging me to take a sip when a clarity of biblical proportions (sans locusts) came over me. In that moment I knew I would never drink again. I wasn’t in prison. I hadn’t totalled my car. In fact the worst thing that had happened that night was that we had dropped by a club where the oldest person apart from my friend and I was barely half our age. On hindsight perhaps this coming face to face with ones mortality DID have more to do with it than my id would like to admit. 

True to my style I kamikaze’d in to my new AF life, sharing my life changing news with everybody and their dog. What I didn’t expect was that this decision to go sober would be met with a cavalcade of responses ranging from disbelief (“You’ll be back on the sauce in no time!”) to discouragement (“It’s just too extreme!”) to detachment (“Well, I’m not seeing you until you’re drinking again!”) to the, frankly, rare offers of support. In response I wanted to stand on the rooftops and shout out: “Did you know that there is an option to getting drunk all the time? Have you heard about this thing called sobriety? It’s freakin’ awesome!”

And that brings me to the name of my blog: Recklessly Sober. 

After decades of living recklessly it felt apt to approach sobriety in the same instinctive manner: that is, as the name suggests, without giving much thought to how my sobriety may affect the bystander. And by that I mean that I refuse to tone down just how much my life has changed for the positive, how much better I feel in myself, just because the person I am with still likes a tipple or nine. That rather than giving up something I have gained a world full of real emotions and experiences. That although I in no way regret the times that I have had, knee deep in those booze soaked fields, I am never going to deny that I now prefer watching my friends from the duckboards where my clothes stay dry and I can’t get sucked in to quicksand. Whether you wish to join me on dry land is your choice, but I can tell you things look a lot clearer from here. 

Has it come easily? 

Gosh, no. 

As a taster consider this little snippet: sixteen days in to sobriety I stood in the middle of a restaurant, sobbing. It was a Tuesday and I was on a date. Only a second date at that. 

I knew I would never drink again, and I sobbed for the loss. It was like the burial of a good friend, right there in the middle of that restaurant. 

I had to leave. And although I saw the chap again, the experience was forever tainted with those tears.

But more about dating when sober in future posts. 

For now know this: the grasshopper still knows how to play sweet music, even when it knows that it has to do some work.