Sobriety & Ducks: Becoming A Proper Human

The office where I work, tucked away on a pleasant little industrial estate in Northampton, is surrounded by natural beauty. The area itself is called ‘The Lakes’, which gives you an idea of what to expect, and one amazing side effect of it’s location is that we get an abundance of wildlife – more than you would ever expect to see so close to busy roads and office buildings.

In recent weeks, alongside the families of moorhens that I see running around, with their big stupid flappy clown-feet and ‘Ministry Of Silly Walks’ style ambling, I’ve noticed the arrival of two ducks – which most mornings are sat together on a grass verge watching me drive into work. Male ducks (the drake) are identifiable by their bright green colours – which they use to attract the females, and the females (the hen) are usually a dull brown colour – which offers camouflage and helps to protect their young from predators, such as foxes and rats and Jimmy Savile.

My wife is a HUGE fan of wildlife, and of the many, many interesting facts about birds that she’s thrown at me over the years, one thing that’s stuck is the fact that duck couples usually form strong bonds, and often mate for life – which is why you so often see them in pairs, following each other around. It’s a lovely, romantic thing to behold. They become like those old, doddery, inseparable couples that you see shuffling around Morrisons on a Tuesday morning, complaining about the price of ketchup these days, and getting in my way whilst I’m trying to grab my sad looking cheese sandwich and get out of the place (Beep beep!).

Stay with me, there is a point to my wittering-on about ducks…

I think I’ve mentioned before, in previous blogs, how massively my perspective on life has shifted since becoming sober. The lifting-of-the-fog has allowed me to view things with full HD clarity, and whilst this can be a blessing in most cases – for example when making important decisions about money – it has also brought along with it an absolute rawness of emotion, in that I no longer have a shield of drunken ‘whatevs’ sat between me and the events of the real world. In other words – I no longer move through life in a bubble, shrugging off the things that don’t directly affect me. I’ve entirely lost my ability to shove things out of my mind – instead having to deal with everything in a sober, fully present, fully engaged sense. There’s no dodging things – good or bad. it makes the good things so much better (just days in the sun can improve your world man – I always hated hot weather when I was a drinker), but on the flippity-flip it also makes bad things so much harder. An extreme example of this is dealing with the death of a friend or family member. You have no magic elixir with which to dampen the pain. You have to face it head-on, and work through it. It’s the healthier route, as it ensures everything is fully dealt with and closed off in your mind, but it can be painful – and can also be quite a shock in the early days of sobriety.

I’ve written before about one huge change that took place in me when I became sober – the move to vegetarianism. This wasn’t ‘another new wanky healthier lifestyle fad’ but rather a very conscious thing, borne of the fact that I could no longer ignore the source of the food I was putting in my mouth. When I was drunk (or hungover) all the time it was easy not to think about my ham sandwich as a slice of pig, or my fillet steak as a chunk of cow that was dug from it’s own body not long after it was slaughtered for my benefit. This is exactly the rawness of clarity that I’m talking about: the ability to make a full and proper evaluation of your life choices, and act accordingly. It’s a blessing, but it can also be harsh.

At almost four years sober, I’ve become accustomed to this ‘cold-reality-of-life’ view of the world – and for the most part it’s been a huge benefit. I’m constantly on high-alert, better at making plans, quicker at turning things around, more creative, and less likely to fall foul of a scammer or a bad deal. Overall, it’s an amazing thing to be so ‘in the moment’. Today, however, I was presented with a harsh reminder of just how cruel life can be, and what an absolute fucker your unfogged mind can be when confronted with an unhappy situation, and with no beer-shield behind which to hide.

Driving to work this morning, under grey skies and in the pouring rain, I spotted something sat in the middle of the road just around the corner from my office. I slowed right down, and recognised it as the local female duck that likes to sit and watch me. She was just sat there, legs tucked under, doing nothing. Then, about five metres further down the road, and to my absolute horror, I spotted the squished and bloody body of her partner – the brightly coloured drake that I’d seen doting on her over the last few weeks. Evidently, he’d been hit by a vehicle, and was most definitely dead. The female looked like she was sitting there just waiting for another car to come along and take her out too, like a sort of duck-suicide-pact (?). My brain took a couple of seconds to make sense of the scene before me, and then – completely and entirely out of character, I welled up – absolutely consumed by this horrible feeling of sadness, and just… impending doom.

On reflection, whilst sat at my desk mulling over the distressing scene that I’d left behind in the torrential rain, I had a couple of questions for myself…

  1. Why did it bother me so much? I’ve seen hundreds of dead birds, hedgehogs, and badgers. They practically litter the country roads that run between my home in MK, and my work in Northampton.
  2. Would the scene have hit me so hard back in the drinking days?

The first point is an interesting one – I definitely have seen a lot of roadkill, so why was this so different? Well, my theory is this: It wasn’t the dead duck that upset me – rather, it was the loss and hopelessness which the other duck was likely suffering, sat waiting by the body of her mate, possibly with no idea of what else to do. It brought home the fragility of life, and the undeniable fact that loss and subsequent loneliness is written somewhere in the stars for most of us, if not all of us. It made me think about how I’d cope if I suddenly lost my wife, and honestly I think I’d react much the same as that poor lady-duck, sat in the middle of the road waiting for a Tesco lorry to karate-kick me into orbit. Possibly more metaphorically than literally though – unless I was back on the old drink, in which case there’s every chance you would actually find me sat on a motorway slip-road somewhere off the M1, sipping cheap wine and shouting at lorries, in just my fancy Bananaman underpants.

And the second question? Well, honestly, I don’t think the old me would have given the scene a second thought. I moved constantly between being too drunk to care about anything (every single weekend), to being too hungover to care about anything (every single weekday). Woe is me, and my insufferable life (*cue sarcastic crying*). I have more to care about than ducks. Fuck ducks (BOOM).

Now, I’m fully aware that this blog isn’t quite to my usual cheery standards, but there is an underlying positive message here. You see, when you’re sober, and these bad things occasionally come along, then what you’ll find is that you start to take note, like I did with the ducks, and you start to care. Yes this can be painful, and it can be emotionally (and sometimes physically) draining, but just bear in mind the image that this ‘new you’ is outwardly projecting. How proud will your friends and family feel, watching someone grow before their eyes from a person that dodges responsibility, and drowns any real emotion under waves of booze, into a person that isn’t afraid to stand up and say I CARE! I WANT TO MAKE A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE!

It’s a process that is sometimes painful, but on the flipside can reveal some amazing rewards – it can give you the ability to enjoy life for what it really is. How can you enjoy the good stuff, if you’ve never tasted the bad stuff? The lows might feel lower, but – trust me on this – the highs are so much higher. The bandwidth of emotion available to you is blown wide open. You’re unplugged from the Matrix, and everything you feel is real, rather than a simulated approximation – filtered through fermented hops and grapes.

In short, what this means is that you are finally becoming A REEL HOOMAN BEAN.

It’s an amazing thing. It’s just a pity that a duck had to die for me to see it.

duckhunt

Sorry guys. It’s for the greater good.

Just before I fire this slightly depressing blog off into cyberspace, I just wanted to share with you some of the alternative titles I could have chosen for this blog post, but luckily thought better of…

  • I’m quacking up
  • Sobriety is hard as duck
  • Crispy fuck pancake (no idea where I was going with this one)
  • Waddle we do?
  • Addicted to booze and quack
  • Dr Dra(ke) will fix you
  • Booze is expensive, put it on the bill (groan)

You guys just don’t know how lucky you are that I never took up comedy.

OH HANG ON! ONE LAST THING BEFORE I SIGN OFF! I always said, when I first set SoberPunks up back in 2016, that I wanted it to develop into a bit of a community, where like-minded people with common booze-issues could openly chat about stuff. I’ve now set up a Facebook group for just that very thing! Join us! —–> SoberPunks Gang

Hooonk!

Jonathan x

(Edit: the other duck was successful in her suicide 😦 )

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