On this first day of 2015, if I ask myself “what do I cherish?” there are two answers that might not have occurred to me in 2005. These are my mother, Muriel, and my sister, Rachel. (Yes, since you ask, we do all have Jewish names. It’s a coincidence. I think they suit us, actually.) It isn’t that we were estranged or even remote ten years ago, but the intervening decade has granted me the clarity to value these two women, my closest living blood relatives, more than ever before.
Three events have bound us during that time. Rachel became a mum, turning our own mum into a gran and me into an uncle. My father died five years ago, after a long struggle with Motor Neuron Disease, releasing mum from her hellish task of full-time carer. And I stopped drinking.
As a result of all three, lots of the tension and distance that had been between us became history. Without my father around, I was at last able to comfortably spend time with my remaining family without the inevitable explosion between we two wounded males. With children of her own, Rachel and I finally had an agenda; as displaced adult siblings we had little in common and our contrived attempts to stay in touch had foundered badly. But around her daughters, it seems we need no more than simply be in one another’s company without having to do, or even really say anything. And that’s calm and nourishing. Without alcohol in my life, I can enjoy the peace and calm of my mother’s presence, and let conversation and silence come and go as they will, without ever wishing for one or the other.
My mum still lives in the house in which I spent my entire childhood. I seem far more comfortable being there now than I did when I drank. I believe that is because I’ve reconnected with the person I used to be before I started to drink. I have become more the person he wanted to be as an adult. When I was drinking I think I felt bad at returning to where I was before things got contaminated and complicated. Now I can look the memory of young me in the eye and say “It’s OK. You’re going to be OK. Eventually.” I feel I have regained my entitlement to think of that house in south Liverpool as my home.
I cherish Mum and Rachel because I no longer have to hide anything from them. They know the whole story. It is valuable beyond price to have people in your life you accept you for who and what you are and don’t want you to be anything else.
That is an unexpected and wholly welcome bonus to sobriety.