15. You won’t find me sober in a sailor’s hat.

I am officially on the mend, and for the first time in seven months I find myself stepping into life as it was, except the landscape has changed and the terrain is trickier. As I joyfully attempt to navigate myself back to normality, I’m surprised by the greatest hurdle I’ve had to cross – a raging torrent of booze.

Once upon a time I heroically struggled to find two days in the week that I wasn’t drinking, with a diary precariously packed to the rafters. I’d be at your birthday, bar mitzvah or bun-fight with bells on, always with a drink in hand. And why? Simply because I just love a Really Good Time. For me, alcohol has never been medicinal; it’s not a crutch to lean upon or a faithful friend. I’ve never been one to drown any sorrows and I’m certainly not an introvert looking for truth serum to coax me from my shell. The simple truth is that I enjoy the heightened emotions that come with a tipple or two, which is nothing but a good thing when you’re in an excellent mood 98% of time.

White wine gives my wild side a wild side. Life is louder, the crowd congenial, everything is funnier and I can dance like Britney. No really. Just. Like. Britney. And I never knew my legs could bend like this, and listen to my hilarious story and have I ever told you that I love you? Because I really really do, and let’s start a limbo! I LOVE this song. Everyone come back to mine for a party!

The following morning hits, and I awake in a sailor’s hat but can’t entirely remember how I came to be wearing it. Like a pro, I equip myself with an emergency lifejacket of carbs to keep me afloat. By midday my heavy head begins to clear. By 7pm post-work whistles are wet to toast the day that’s done, and conversation free falls from discussions to debates, to heartfelt outpourings with strangers who feel like your very best friend. Life is louder, the crowd congenial, everything is funnier and I can dance like Britney. No really! Let’s start a limbo! I LOVE this song. Everyone come back to mine for a party! Etc Etc.

Not for a moment do I regret my collection of anecdotes and hangovers, surprise receipts and monotonous repeats. I drink with a reckless abandon because I’m FUN, and FUN people are never the responsible driver. FUN people are never clock watching in the corner. FUN people never call time at the bar. FUN people never say never. GOONIES NEVER SAY DIE! Until now…

The cocktail of drugs I’m on leave little room for cocktails with umbrellas and cherries. For seven months the safety of my sofa has shielded me from the social grenade that is abstinence, but with my health restoring it’s time to step back into the throng, and step back sober. I’m treading nervously into unchartered territories of Sunday pub lunches without red wine; dinners with friends and mocktails; boozy client lunches with no booze?!?! Having annually failed Dry Jan, I’ve been shocked by the ease of my ride on the wagon. Restraint is painless when you’ve no choice in the matter. But I’m also astounded at how incredibly different dry-life feels. Immeasurably different. Unrecognisable in fact.

Life is calmer. The pace is slower and somehow more considered. I’m sharper at work, brighter even. I lose fewer weekends to hangovers, phones to taxis and secrets to strangers. I’m storm free and I’m in control. The peaks and troughs are less extreme. The ride is mild; it doesn’t make me whoop with joy, or throw up. I leave before conversations get loud and make less sense. I wake up fog-free. Dialogue is more sincere, and insincere chat less bearable. I’ve learnt to listen, really listen and I no longer forget.

But I’m acutely aware of the piety that is projected onto people that exhibit such self-control; I’m aware because I don’t get invited to as many lunches. I’m self conscious of the label that’s attached to restraint, and find myself proclaiming how much I miss the good stuff, and that I can’t wait to get stuck in as soon as I’m able. But that’s a lie – I just don’t want people to think I’m boring. And here’s the secret – perhaps I am a little less fun and a little more boring, and I really don’t mind.

Since Lucian Lupus knocked on my door, my priorities have changed. I’m no longer seeking out the next deliciously debauched adventure; I’m simply happy to feel well and able to enjoy life again. I’m fulfilled without dancing a limbo. I’m satisfied without hangover carbs. I’m content just being me. I’m still fun loving, I just won’t be waking up in a daze and a sailors hat, not for a while.

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Behind a bar I wasn’t supposed to be behind.

14. I’m storing up the good stuff…

This past week has been a most excellent week. For the first time in a very long time I feel like I belong to the body I’m in. I don’t hear myself groan as I walk up stairs or wince as I sit. Tiredness doesn’t creep up and knock me out unreasonably at reasonable hours. My counterfeit smile has been replaced with the real deal because at long last, I can see my reflection and recognise it as my own. I’m back.

Lucian Lupus has taken leave. Perhaps he’ll return with a vengeance just to spite my mood, but when he does, if he does… I’ll be ready for him. I’m going to bottle this favourable feeling and use it as a tonic to fight his mighty malaise. I’m bottling this feeling for some rainy day PMA.

The words below are a potent rescue remedy, to be used in cases of emergency. (Penalties for improper use apply.)

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Look lively Lush, and don’t for a moment dwell on what’s wrong with the world. What possible good can come of focusing on your own ill-feeling and all the answers you don’t have. Look past the time you got ripped off, left out, or made to feel small; that time you were called up first or not recalled at all. Don’t eat food that isn’t completely delicious, just because someone somewhere told you that it’s good for your third intestine. Forget about the texts you shouldn’t have seen, that email you wish you’d sent and the time your heart was shattered into a thousand tiny pieces. Listen to your gut before you listen to advice from strangers, because your gut knows you better than they do. Call mum because she probably knows more than your gut. Don’t lust after snazzy expensive things you can’t afford– they won’t make your cheeks hurt from smiling, no matter how snazzy. Stop wishing it hadn’t happened to you, or could happen for you, or wondering why it happened for them instead. Don’t long to turn back a clock that’s impossible to turn because your life didn’t quite go as your sixteen-year-old self had planned. Your sixteen year old self wasn’t as wise as you are now. Enjoy the plot twists. Eat donuts even though they probably want to kill you, because there’s no joy quite like jam dripping from your chin. Eat fruit too. Don’t turn a blind eye to sights you’d rather not see; be mindful of the bigger picture you’re in. Be kind. Wear comfortable shoes and red lipstick. Be thankful for the friends that love you even when you’ve got nothing funny to say, and forget about the ones who have so easily forgotten you. Listen to Taylor Swift and shake it out. Worship at the alter of Saint Luke who is the slowest cook in London, but will always deliver a wonderful meal in two to three hours (AND wash up.) Laugh at the impeccable timing of a punctured tyre in the rain. Laugh a lot. Smile at people because more often than not, they will smile back and it feels good when they do. Enjoy the warmth of your electric blanket, that’s warmer still because it was an unexpected gift. Steer clear of strangers on Instagram who only ever look tanned, ironed and dead behind the eyes; they may have a beach house in Miami but they have no idea how good the view of London is from the 88 bus. Relish in the bits of your body that are behaving as they should and use them wisely. Use your brain most of all; challenge yourself to use it some more (and when you’re tired, watch videos of the Honey Badger on You Tube). Read words that inspire you and watch Ted Talks about things you don’t understand. Understand that life can be cruel, but no amount of melancholic musings can stop that, or help at all. When your mood turns sour, it’s time to count your blessings and make sure you count them twice. You are responsible for your own happiness and you are capable of finding it, even in uncomfortable shoes and situations. You really don’t have far to look.

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I’m off to see The Super Doc next week – if he doesn’t tell me that my medication is working, I’ll eat my hat, and his.

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The bright side.