Ah, the City of Lights, my old home. I landed yesterday and spent most of the day sleeping after a 15 hour flight (I took 3 different planes!).
After years of living abroad and going back and forth across the globe I don’t know where my home is anymore. I have grown used to saying that “my home is wherever I go”, but sometimes I miss the feeling of “belonging”, of having roots, of feeling grounded.
Last time I was here I was drinking every day. This week things already feel different, for starters because Paris is paralyzed by strikes and protests against the government’s plan to reform the French retirement system. It feels almost like we are living in a time of war: teachers are on strike, the trains and metros aren’t running, people have to be resourceful and ride bikes, scooters, skateboards, unicycles, their own two legs, etc. to get around. The whole city looks like it has been frozen in time and everyone is moving about on foot. I like it!
Being here definitely represents a new scary challenge for me, 3 months into sober-living. I used to really enjoy getting a beer (more like 10) with people, catching up, connecting over drinks, etc. Now, the prospect of spending two weeks alcohol-free in my homeland –with friends and family who for the most part all drink and have never spent much time with me sober– feels a little bit scary. Very, very unfamiliar. Tonight is step one in this two-week long challenge to “export” my new lifestyle to the European continent. It’s my little brother’s 25th birthday, which we are celebrating at a restaurant, with my three siblings (who live here) and parents (who flew in from the South of France just for the occasion). In the past I would have been drinking all evening (even before the gathering proper)
a) because I love(d) drinking. And let’s face it… I was often the one pressuring my siblings to get drinks before whatever else we were doing.
b) because it was the “only” thing to do to fit in with the drinking ethos of the family
c) to survive the unhealthy undertones and difficult emotions that inevitably arise with each and every one of our family gatherings (99% of the time because of my mother’s drunken behavior).
Tonight I must therefore
a) resist temptation – my parents will no doubt arrive smelling of alcohol (my mom carries the smell around her 24/7, and knowing them, they will have stopped somewhere to drink as soon as they get off the plane). Then, they will kick things off my ordering champagne for everyone as soon as we get to the restaurant.
b) announce to them that I won’t be drinking — not tonight, not next week when I stay with them for X-mas, not for a long time. Possibly not ever. And
c) get through the evening sober, while they all get more and more drunk, and potentially more and more difficult to handle / be around.
I feel like I’m finally jumping into the deep end of the pool. Like things are getting real, “at last”. Like I’ve merely been practicing for these last 3 months, nice and safe in the sheltered little cocoon of my everyday life in the U.S.A. Far, faraway from these people and their mad habits, which they pass off as normal to themselves, but which anyone with a decent sense of observation can see for what they are: un-fucking-healthy-as-fuck.
And at age 31, I am only just beginning to question and break away from this messed-up sense of what is “normal” and what isn’t. It literally feels like a paradigm-shift, or an un-brainwashing.
Maybe I am exaggerating because I am nervous.
But I know why I am so nervous.
I feel like tonight is the night that … TWO BECOME OOOONE, no just kidding!
I feel like tonight is the night that I fully, 100% own my shit and affirm my identity in the face of my family. This might sound silly but it feels almost like a test, to see whether I have finally grown up and become an adult who is capable of making her own decisions and choices, and whether she is capable of sticking to them or not.
Wish me luck …
Hang in there 🙂