Guest Post by Bren MurphySilent, they were spread out, their legs splayed across the seats, eyes closed and the sunlight flashing across their faces as the train bore through the countryside. The two older ladies across the aisle smiled and kept an eye on them as I let my ear on my shoulder and closed my eyes. Lunchtime. Asleep on the train.
We have just spent the morning in Sydney, visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art and trying to make sense of the installations and being told not to stand too close or touch the artworks. And then being reminded again. And even followed by the staff for a while to make sure we got the message. But it's like that when you're 6 and 8 and in the big city with your dad. You just want to reach out and touch.
Sober me can take my daughters to the museum for the day on the train. We visit a different museum during school break - we've done it four times now. That's four big, cold museums with velvet ropes and staff with their hands behind their backs. Four early mornings on the train and long, dozy rides back home in the afternoon.
Before I got sober, afternoons were for drinking. Quell the anxiety and hangover of the morning as soon as the clock got to double figures - and then try and slide into evening without tipping past the "completely smashed" point. But, hey, sometimes it was before and once it's done, there's no use trying to uncrack an egg. " Just have to tolerate it, it's not that bad all the time." I would lie.
We walked through the city and I didn't once point and tell them "wait over there and don't talk to anyone" whilst I had a cigarette. Because I don't smoke anymore either. Or to think of ways to have them distracted and pre-occupied with something whilst I snuck inside bar and downed a beer and vodka shot. "It's a beer garden - isn't it nice - see? You two wait here for your sandwich, when it's ready the lady will call out."
Now we eat on the grass and I'm not scanning the horizon for another bar or a liquor store or a spot to stop and smoke. I just lie there in the sun and they do handstands and cartwheels.
We walked and walked and walked until the six year old looked at me and frowned that her legs were hurting. And, since I wasn't in a hurry to be anywhere, or rushing to get myself a drink or something, we actually stopped. And we sat down. Just watched people as they flowed past us, and weaved in and out of each other's way. I wasn't sweating or anxious or distracted or eager for more. I was patient and calm and sober. Just content to be there whilst my daughters did their thing.
That is the most satisfying and profound experience for me now that I am sober. Just being in the moment and escaping my own endless monkey-mind chit-chat about drinking and smoking and chasing. And to be able to see the world with fresh innocent child eyes. Unhurried, without judgement or comparison; that's sober meaning.
As an alcoholic, Bren Murphy stumbled from one disaster to the next – as a writer – he urges you to join him on a journey of re-discovering resilience to face what can be many people’s hardest battle – overcoming alcoholism.