Imagine a chessboard, checkers, draughts depending on where you live. Now imagine in each one of the squares has an element of your life that makes you a well rounded, balanced person - friends, socialising, horse riding, books, swimming, travel, exercise, healthy food, early nights, building sand castles with you kids, learning a new language, falling in love, dating, shopping, dancing, shaving your legs (bear with me people) polishing your shoes- you get the idea. Some of those will be relateable other will not but we can all add our own elements to make it fit.
When you drink a little then a lot, we cannot maintain all of those squares and the squares start to change. Slowly at first the elements fade as there isn't enough time or enjoyment for that particular square. Horse riding gets dropped as it is too early and costs £25, that's 4-5 bottles of wine. Learning a new language is next as you can't really spare the time for classes and all the homework and for some strange reason, you can't think why, you just can't seem to remember and retain the words. Besides you will probably never really need it. Next goes dating as you haven't met the one yet and it is tiring always trying to get to know someone and make a good impression, not to mention expensive, why you'd be much better off buying some wine to have at home than pay £5 a glass! Erase from your memory the fact you aren't getting many call backs or second dates, far too painful to think about, just move on and put that behind you. Along with dating, out goes falling in love, after all you need someone to fall in love with right and whilst we are ditching those squares, let go of shaving your legs as no-one is going to see them any time soon. Swiftly moving along we now let go of building sand castles with our kids because we got up late on a bright sunny day and excitedly thought the kids would love a day at the beach. But, you can't find the beach bags and the buckets and spades, you haven't done a proper shop so a fun picnic is out the window but you'll make the best of the situation. Getting almost out the door with the clouds drawing in, you suddenly realise you haven't shaved your legs and try and persuade the kids ice cream would be more fun than the beach. Squares are going blank dotted all over the board but you don't pay too much attention. You are getting a little older and life changes and things do get dropped, right? Books and reading decrease but don't disappear, shopping is reserved only for essential like food and wine, clothes shopping consists of - does it fit and do they have it in 2 colours, done. Cinema, theatre, friends, socialising, these are are all dependant on timing and mood and you may make 1 in 6 invites maybe 1 in 8 or after a long while, none.
What you may not have noticed as the squares are going blank across your board is that they are being populated with new elements, exhaustion, apathy, laziness, paranoia, lack of confidence, worry, anxiety, loss of interest in pleasure, anti-depressants, inability to concentrate, little or no exercise, bitterness, junk food, ignoring the phone, debt, depression, unhappy kids/spouse, lack of selfcare, decline in housework and home DIY abandoned. Again these may not be your squares but fill in what works.
This pattern continues with gains and losses for a period of time, sometimes years, it is still recognise able as a chessboard after all as long as no-one studies the squares too closely. You too are trying to see what everyone else has on their board by comparison, sizing up the balance of positive negative on their board. Many are way better than yours with diversity and the majority of positives and you are jealous. Others are equal to or worse than yours and you take cold comfort from that. However, one day you do take a good look about your board, a really deep and searching look and you are standing on one square in the middle and all around you are reminders of what you have lost and all the negatives that have replaced it. Your square in the middle is alcohol, and so are all the immediate squares around you. You can see some positive squares, your kids, your spouse, your friends (not all have gone) but alcohol is on the immediate squares around you and you soooo want to get to those positive squares and really engage with them delighted they are still holding on and just visible but you are bereft and lost and so caught up in how badly you have managed your board and how you have let things slip so far. Sad to see so much opportunity lost and happiness squandered, sad that this was all your own doing, so sad and despairing that you curl up on you one square and cry and scream, and beat the ground and get so angry with yourself that you cry yourself to sleep rather than drink yourself into denial. And when you wake up in the morning and look around and with sober eyes survey your chess board once more, you notice that one square in between you and your family and friends has changed and it now says HOPE and without too much thought you step on that square and claim it.