10 years ago today, I probably woke with a hangover. I usually did on my birthday. Boxing Day always meant drinking. My son would go to his Dad’s, and I’d head to the bottle. Sometimes to my family’s boxing day party. But in the later years of my drinking career, it was with friends.
I’d drink, as I tended to, to the point of black out and pass out. Maybe I’d stagger home. But most likely, I’d pass out on the sofa, and stay there till morning.
Drinking on Boxing Day always seemed to be a good idea. Waking up on my birthday with a hangover not so much.
I can’t remember the Boxing Day drinking, or the birthday hangover from 10 years ago. I didn’t know it would be my last. I had no idea that day, when I woke up bleary eyed and groggy, that by my next birthday, hangovers would be a relic from my past. I do remember that I had vodka with gold bits in it FOR my birthday, which I drunk dry on the night of my birthday, earning me another hangover the next day.
I would have hated the idea if you had told me that this would be my last drunken birthday celebration. And I almost certainly would have resisted anything that would make that happen.
But if I was truly honest with myself that hungover 41st birthday morning, I knew I needed to do it. That year more than most, I knew I was in trouble. That my mental health was collapsing. Had collapsed. I was falling apart.
And while I had started the journey that would ultimately lead to my healing, having put my name down for the Yoga teacher training course that would eventually lead me to sobriety, I was still in freefall.
But as I look back to the woman I was then, I can see the strength and resilience I had even when I felt at my weakest.
I couldn’t see it then of course. We never do at the time, do we? But it was there.
I might have been acting irrationally at times, and making my problems unintentionally bigger, but I was doing it with strength and determination. And it was all from a desire to make life better for me and my children.
And ultimately, that’s what I did. That last birthday hangover might have hurt, and made me feel shitty, but it was the last one. The wheels were already in motion to ensure that. I was building my cocoon around me, ready to evolve into the sober butterfly I was to become. It was painful and messy in the process, but I’m so grateful to 41 year old me, and all the younger versions of me, for the lessons I have learned as I sit here, now 51 years old.
I know a lot of people fear getting old. And there is much to fear in many ways. Things don’t work as well as they used to. Other things are a lot less perky, and more saggy than they were when I was in my 20s. I seem to have reached that age when women become pretty invisible to many, not just men, but definitely to men.
But I’m ok with that. I don’t mind if men don’t notice me. Life’s a lot easier in many ways that way.
I’m a lot more comfortable with my body, and my face, than I ever was when it was perky and youthful. There’s a savage irony in that isn’t there? When I had the benefits of youth, I didn’t value myself enough. Now I do value myself, the world doesn’t notice. But I notice. And that’s all that counts.
I spent much of the last year of my 40s muttering about how being almost 50 was ‘ridiculous’. I couldn’t get my head round the idea that I was THAT age. 50 seemed ancient.
And yet… I learned the hard way at 32 about the preciousness of life when we said goodbye to my 30 year old brother. While it took me a long time to truly start to value my life, it taught me to value getting older. He never got the chance, so to rage at my advancing years feels ungrateful to say the least.
So I don’t say it’s ridiculous now that I sit here being newly 51. It’s fucking incredible, and I am profoundly grateful for it. I am 100% certain that I wouldn’t have reached this age if I hadn’t embraced sobriety before my 42nd birthday. And that’s reason enough to be grateful to still be here!
I don’t know how many more birthdays I have left in this one wild and precious life, but I am determined that I will live the days in between them with joy, gratitude and love. In a society that prizes youth, and tries to make us want to stay forever young, I am basking in the gifts that aging is bringing me. Hell, I might even stop dying my hair and let the silver shine through!
What is the best thing about getting older for you?