Sometimes it’s funny how an event will happen or a moment will pass & you suddenly feel that you’ve come full circle. This can take place even without you knowing that you’re moving in a particular direction – just a sudden realisation that you’re back where you started. This realisation has dawned on me over the last few days, with a big decision on my part & a memory that I had forgotten about…
On Friday, I decided that I’m not going to drink alcohol anymore. As I’ve posted before, I have long had an uneasy relationship with drink & swing between drinking nothing for ages then drinking too much. I’m tired of this pattern & prefer the inner calm that I feel when I don’t drink. One of the factors that has really prompted me to address my patterns of drinking is my involvement in a Quaker meeting. Although Quakerism in no way demands abstinence, it promotes moderation & its philosophies on life encourage you to think about substance use. Over recent months it has become increasingly clear to me that these two elements of my life (my relationship with alcohol; Quakerism) were inconsistent. It has slowly become apparent that I need to consider which I value more strongly. Although it may not be the easiest decision to implement, the choice itself has been easy: there is no way that I value drinking over my faith.
My faith: those words are extremely difficult to write. I am aware that admitting to having a faith makes me seem like a nutcase to many people. I struggle myself with all the prejudices, stereotypes & assumptions that come with labels like ‘religious’. Hence I’ve included a link to the British Quakers website. If you, dear reader, aren’t familiar with Quakerism then I would say please take a look. It isn’t like any other faith group I’ve ever come across. It’s about a way of life rather than a dogma or creed, & there is enormous variety between the beliefs held by Quakers – what unites are a core of basic philosophies, known as testimonies, about peace, simplicity & integrity.
Throughout my childhood, I went to a Quaker meeting. I continued even when I moved away to university. Over the years, though, I drifted away from it. It got to the stage where I refused to even go to events when I visited my parents’ – entering the building made me physically uncomfortable. Although I couldn’t see it at the time, I think my discomfort (& my abandonment of the whole thing) was the result of the glaring disjunction between how I was living my life & the values that I held dear inside. They simply did not fit together. But I refused to acknowledge this, let alone do anything about it. My journey from that position to the place I’m at now has been both fraught & calming. It is too complex to contain in one post; it must suffice to say that it has been like shedding layers & layers of outer clothing to expose the person hidden within – frail & vulnerable, but strong enough to survive the years in the wilderness.
Before my self-imposed exile, I was really ‘into’ Quakerism. During the turbulent years of my early to mid-teens, it was my absolute rock & comforter. I couldn’t imagine living life without it as a guide, therefore how I got from there to abandoning it all is a bit of a mystery – & one shrouded in alcohol.
When I was 15, I was powerfully moved by a Quaker meeting held just before an anti-poverty demonstration in Birmingham. Something inside just clicked & I decided that I wasn’t going to drink alcohol. For a long time I stuck to that, even when I started going out to pubs & clubs with friends. I still went out & danced & had fun; I just wasn’t a drinker. And then I started drinking. I don’t know why. But I did. Around the same time, my involvement in Quakerism waned.
This memory of a period of not drinking had slipped from my mind until a couple of days ago. Maybe I somehow, mysteriously, knew then that it was better for me to not drink. Maybe it’s just a coincidence. Either way, I now find myself back in the same position & determined to make different choices this time. Life has turned a full circle.