What a Difference a Year Makes – Part I

This time last year I made a connection with a New Zealand woman through #RecoveryPosse on Twitter. We had both received the same book for Christmas, a series of letters from celebrities written to their 16-year-old selves. Inspired by this we decided to do the same and posted our respective letters on our blogs. From that encounter a wonderful friendship was formed and to celebrate that we have decided to write a new letter this year, to ourselves this time last year……. I am so pleased that Chris has agreed to be my first guest blogger to start the new year off with a bang.

Part I features my letter back to Matt of January 2020…….

Dear Matt

I just thought I would write you a quick letter to fill you in on a few things vis-a-vis 2020. You might want to be sitting down for this.

For you it is New Years Eve 2019 and 2020 is a new opportunity full of hope and potential. You’re currently in Ireland with your folks, all cosy and safe. You’ve had your first sober Christmas since childhood and you are feeling pretty good and rightly so, but there is still more to come – you are going to keep changing and developing and learning about yourself and others in ways you can’t yet imagine. One thing is certain, this year will be a great test of your new-found sobriety, but it will also act as an opportunity – if you embrace it.

Look, I’m not going to walk you through every inch of the year and its events, that would be to take all the fun out of it, instead I’m going to give you some things to think about which might come in handy as you face each interesting twist and turn (and there are plenty of those). So as to save time I am going to write them in list form – feel free to print this out and stick it on the fridge, but be sure to remember to remove and re-attach onto the new fridge when you buy it (oh, order a bit earlier, there’s a delay in manufacture because of the factories being closed down. Ooops, “spoiler”).

Okay, here goes. “Things to think about for 2020”:

  1. Work hard at your programme: meditate, “hand it the fuck over” and keep talking to other alcoholics and addicts. This stuff will be more important than ever during the next 12 months. Stop trying to work out how you’re supposed to have a Higher Power when you don’t believe in God and just cling hold tight to the fact that YOU are not God! The most important thing to do is realise that you can be impulsive and this is one of the things that constantly gets you in trouble and makes you want to go back to your old thinking and old behaviours. Things will be happening this year that require considered and composed thinking and you will need to talk stuff through with those around you and constantly re-evaluate the situation. If there is one thing that is true of 2020 it is that things don’t stand still for long – events are moving at an extraordinary pace and decisions will need to be made after clear forethought. 
  2. Make sure you have plenty of toilet roll in before March. Don’t ask, you’ll thank me later.
  3. Be generous this year, not necessarily financially, although that wouldn’t hurt either, but more importantly be generous with your reactions to others. People respond to difficult situations in many ways, some step up and want to lead, others panic and fall to pieces, some face their fear with anger or outrageous humour – and others do a mixture of some or all those things! You will recognise that in yourself, right? Well, if you don’t you will have plenty of evidence of it this year. When someone presents you with one of these characteristics, don’t do your normal thing of overreacting right away, instead try sitting on your hands and THINK. Sleep on it, talk to people and then talk to some more people. Then and only then talk to the person involved with sincere open-mindedness and empathy. 
  4. You’re about to make some serious friendships this year, not least the New Zealand lass* who you’ve just started chatting to. There are others too, all over the world and they will become true friends and even cynical old you won’t be able to deny it. Cherish that and nurture it. This Irish lady you follow** will suggest to you that you join her for an informal recovery catch up type thing in March, you’ll have reservations because it involves meeting people, but it’s going to be really beneficial and lead to all these fantastic friendships, so DO IT!
  5. Keep writing; you enjoy it and you’re finding a voice you didn’t know you had. Embrace that and run with it, but don’t take it too seriously or do it too intensely, you’ll only burn yourself out and destroy all interest in it. Let it happen when it wants to happen.
  6. Be prepared for change – and lots of it, stay calm and just talk everything through with R*** and your friends in recovery, you’ll find it exhilarating and scary, but that’s okay. There is nothing that you can’t handle with the support of those around you. 
  7. Recognise that your alcoholic thinking and behaviours can present themselves in many ways and this year they will. Try not to leave it too long before you call on your friends for support – you’re so used to wallowing and moaning that you forget that there is another way – advice and action. Towards the end of the year a big issue rears its head for you, something that if I asked you about right now you’d probably say didn’t exist, but this chap will come along one day and say something in a meeting that brings this niggling trifle out into the light. You’ll find it a relief to air it and, if you remain open-minded your HP (whatever the fuck that is) will throw something in your path that will help you explore and resolve it (hopefully, it’s still a work in progress as I write). 
  8. I would like to write a sub-list of words, phrases and people that will be unfamiliar to you now that by the end of the year you’ll be rather tired of:
  1. Hands, Face, Space
  2. Baked Potato Song
  3. Face Covering
  4. Joe Wicks
  5. Matt Hancock
  6. Tiers
  7. Zoom (it’s not the sound of a passing car)
  8. Bubbles (not the type kids like)
  9. Covid-19 (you’re not going to believe this one, so I won’t try and explain).

And there you have it, you can take nothing for granted during 2020 and that is a valuable lesson for us all. Your programme has taught you the value of “keeping it in the day” and that will prove very useful over the next 12 months and probably beyond. Keep ploughing on and remember, if you want to ever “get out of your head”, help someone else – you’ll soon forget your own worries.

Good luck, you’ll need it.

Matt

*@ChrisBzchris

** @RecoveryHour

*** Long-suffering husband

©@SobrietyMatt 2021

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