It’s very easy to hate Valentine’s Day when you’re single, like me. The sheer volume of saccharine, romantic propaganda can be a little overwhelming. Yesterday, my other single friends were keen to remind anyone who’d listen that the 14th February is nothing but a greeting card holiday; a money spinning con involving cheap roses and tacky, heart-shaped chocolates.
But here’s the thing: I kind of like it. Yesterday my Facebook feed was filled with other people celebrating Valentine’s Day in all kinds of lovely ways: lie-ins, breakfast in bed, fun days out, surprises, treats, candlelit dinners and cosy nights in. It all seemed heartfelt and very sweet. It was… strangely reassuring. It’s nice to be nice, isn’t it?
There is this assumption that when you’re single, your life is empty and you begrudge other people’s happiness. But I didn’t spend yesterday cry-singing to Adele or eating my body weight in ice cream. And I haven’t got any plans to buy a cat. At this moment in time, I feel pretty happy with my lot. Life feels good; excellent even. And – in case you’re wondering where I’m going with this – that’s a rather important part of sobriety.
Valentine’s Day puts the emphasis on doing lovely things for the special person in your life. And it seems to me that most of us are very good at doing that – loving other people, caring for them, putting them first. But let me ask you this: how often do you stop to take care of yourself? How often do you pause to check that you’re really ok?
So many of us wake up in the morning and go from 0 to 60 in about ten seconds. We’re checking our phones, mainlining coffee, rushing out the door to work. We’re busy all day, we don’t take a proper break and we skip lunch. Instead we power through on a mix of coffee, sugar and adrenalin. We push ourselves to the max until we literally can’t take it any more. And when wine o’clock rolls around, guess what happens?
When you think about it, the urge to drink comes from a simple desire to change the way you feel. You want to squash down unpleasant emotions; the goal is to numb, distract and ignore. Is this healthy? I don’t think so. It cannot be right that so many people have to consume a mind-altering substance in order to cope with day to day living.
Yet somewhere along the line, it has become socially acceptable to live this way. We’re in a society that chases quick fixes. We don’t really ‘do’ feelings and emotions. (Maybe that’s why we need Valentine’s Day – a set time where we can tick off all the touchy-feely stuff and then it’s out of the way until next year.)
I think that the key to successful sobriety is not working out how to resist temptation; rather, it’s working out how to improve the bits of your life that aren’t working. It’s about finding other, healthy coping mechanisms. The thing I often notice with problem drinkers is that the only thing they regularly do for themselves is pour a glass of wine. If drinking is your only pleasure – and your only ‘me time’ – then you need to find something else to fill the gap.
Seen as Valentine’s Day is all about cliches, I thought I’d end this post with one. You’ll have heard it before as it’s in Chapter 1 of every self-help book ever published. It goes like this: “Love yourself first, and everything else falls into place.”
If yesterday was all about showing someone else you love them, then I reckon today should be about looking after yourself. So, have a night off from all the things you think you should be doing. If you want flowers, go out and buy them yourself. Learn to say no. Do more of what makes you happy. ‘Self-love’ might not look like the love on the Valentine’s Day cards – but it’s just as important, if not more.
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