100 Days Without Booze: Patience Is A Virtue
“Patience is not about waiting, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.”
I have been thinking a lot lately about patience, and how it is something that many people, myself included, struggle with. The ability to deal with the unknown, the lack of certainty, being powerless to determine your own fate. How do people find the reserve to keep the faith and stay resilient when constantly disappointed, rejected and let down?
We have been watching the Netflix series, Making A Murder, which is a two series documentary program depicting the cursed life of a very ordinary provincial man, viewed by the community as ‘white trash’, who is jailed twice for crimes he didn’t commit, the second time for life. As we get further into the series, his hot-shot acquittal lawyer uncovers startling evidence that his DNA has been planted at the scene of crime and that Steven Avery has been framed. What we see subsequently are heartbreaking shots of his elderly parents, travelling to visit him in prison, worrying they will die before he gets out. If the sight of a shuffling 83 year old man crying for his son doesn’t make your face wince and your eyes flood, then you are not human. But what is more heart wrenching is hearing Steven Avery’s voice, underlined with a persistent hope that clings on for dear life, a certainty that his day will come, despite his appeal case being rejected again and again. Now that is patience. That is resilience.
Being patient ‘aint easy
I try to be a patient person. I have to be patient in my job, working with children. I believe I am patient with my family and friends. But in my personal life, I get so frustrated with let downs, and with waiting for certain aspects of my life to get better. This can affect my daily mentality, causing negative thoughts, jealousy of others, and a lack of appreciation for the aspects of my life that are fruitful. It means that I am constantly living in an imagined future rather than living in the present. Catherine Gray writes so well about this way of thinking in her book, calling it ‘disenchantment’.
‘Gratitude isn’t about giving up on the attempt to better your life. It’s about stopping to smell the roses you already have gathered around you. Making a note of how enchanting they are. Whilst also continuing to plant and tend new ones.’
Catherine Gray, The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober
Success requires both patience and perseverance
I now know, as a nearly 35 year old woman, that only hard work, perseverance and patience can lead to success. The internet is littered with admirable success stories of celebrities who went from poverty and failure to raging success, such as JK Rowling, Oprah Winfrey and Steve Jobs. But looking back, I don’t think I realised this as a child. I feel I may have had a slightly entitled attitude, expecting the world to give me respect and success rather than earning it.
When I was younger, I desperately wanted to be an actress. There was nothing I wanted more. But after I trained, the reality of rejection and disappointments, the inability to plan anything in my life due to uncertainty and lack of money, caused me to balk. My friends were all going from strength to strength, working as lawyers or doctors or teachers. They could afford holidays and festivals. I wanted quick success without the hard work and graft. At school, all I had to do was click my fingers and I got all the best parts and applause. In the professional acting industry however, it was a fight just to get an audition. It left me feeling invisible, unrecognised, unloved; like a failure. So I drank, a lot and often.
Why alcohol is like acting
With the first glass or two of booze, you get that buzz and adrenaline rush akin to waiting in the wings to go on stage. With alcohol, you can say and do things you wouldn’t do in your regular life, just like playing a great part, like Blanche DuBois or Lady Macbeth. With alcohol, you reach a point where you are not thinking about tomorrow or yesterday, but existing only in the present moment, just like you do when performing on stage. So just like the actress Emma in Duncan Macmillan’s brilliant play, People Places Things, I used alcohol as a substitute for feeling alive; ‘Acting gives me the same thing I get from drugs and alcohol. Good parts are just harder to come by.’
Pondering missed opportunities
Now, with my sobriety trial, I have discovered a clearer sense of perspective, a stronger awareness of my abilities, more energy and motivation, and an emboldened bravery. I have recently been wondering, if I had better mental health in my 20s and had discovered sobriety, would I have found the courage, resilience and patience to pursue my childhood dream?
I think perhaps I would have. I think I would have perhaps been able to listen to my own voice, rather than the voices and expectations of others. I would have learned to enjoy the struggle, to embrace the unknown, and I would have had the self esteem and energy to push myself up the ladder. I feel that, the days I spent hungover in my twenties could have been better put to use, preparing for auditions and going to the theatre for inspiration.
However, I am not going to beat myself up too much, as I literally knew not a single contemporary in my twenties who didn’t drink and drink to excess. It was practically tied up with being a luvvie, reinforced with endless Withnail and I quotes; “I demand to have some booze!” and hilarious anecdotes of Oliver Reed and his drunken escapades. My mother used to say to me, “Darling, anything is better than being boring.” I took this as carte blanche for being a total bonne viveur, and at times a total outrage, rather than focusing on building a life-long and fulfilling career for myself.
Looking to a more patient and fulfilling future
But this particular lesson is not about looking back but looking inward...
What do I want now? And how can I sow the seeds to make that happen? How can I graft, and have the patience to wait? And how can I find contentment in the present moment?
I always find that it is in the last two miles of a race that energy and motivation really starts to dip, that it is in the last 30 minutes of a long distance car journey I get most cranky, impatient and rash, and in period 6 of a Friday that I cease to care about being a good teacher! So too in life. In many ways, I feel like I am approaching the final hurdle of a long race, and somehow I need to find the reserve of energy to keep going and believe that I am capable of crossing the finish line. Because it will feel so bloody good when I do...but I won’t know if I fall at the last hurdle.