My Time In Captivity

Here’s the deal: I don’t want to drink. Not “I know I shouldn’t” or “I know I can’t” – I don’t WANT to. I genuinely believe this is the only reason I am sober today because if my brain told me otherwise, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’d be pouring that huge glass of wine, soda water and ice right this minute. In fact, I might already be on my second. Well, I hadn’t quite sunk to morning drinking when I stopped drinking 511 days ago, but it was heading that way so although I don’t know where I’d be had I not stopped I can only really say this with certainty: right now I’d either be drinking or I’d have made plans for drinking later on. Fact remains though, that the reason I’m not drinking this morning or planning to guzzle Sauvignon Blanc later is solely because I have no desire to. I don’t want to drink.

Since February, I work at a rehab as those of you who know me will know. This springs purely from a desire to help others find this amazing gift I was given and get a shot at reclaiming their lives, but more importantly, themselves. Even 511 days later, on this five hundred and eleventh morning later I still wake up and feel tearful of joy and gratitude that I once again begin a new day without a hangover and the crippling hell of active addiction. On my five hundred and eleventh morning sober my morning coffee tastes epic. On my five hundred and eleventh morning I am steady on my feet and my mind is clear.

I imagine this gratitude comes from my time in captivity. Would I feel this grateful and amazed at just waking up in the morning if I hadn’t been trapped for so long? Would standing up in the shower strike me as so wondrous if I’d been able to do it all along? Call me crazy, but I doubt it. And so I consider myself very, very lucky. Lucky to be an addict, lucky to be an alkie. Perhaps my appreciation for those small, simple things in life – even the fact that I’m breathing – and the joy I feel is this strong and overwhelming because I so very nearly threw it all away. It makes sense, no? If you’ve been confined to a wheelchair for years and years, of course having the use of your legs again will seem more of a miracle and something to be thankful for than it would if you’d always been able to. When we overcome something terrible, I believe it’s a human reaction to want to pass on the gift and help others. I know what that captivity feels like, I know how it feels to be stuck in the hell of addiction and not seeing the way out. But I found a way out and so when I see someone else who is suffering, all I want to do is let them know that no matter how impossible and unlikely it may seem, they can find their way out too. Take any charity, any foundation – almost always founded and run by those who have themselves been through it, no matter what it is. I only have to look around me at my colleagues – the few who aren’t themselves in recovery were lashed by addiction having either grown up with parents who were addicts or had to stand by as a partner or sibling went through it. Every single one of us, regardless of how addiction affected us – directly or indirectly – is at the rehab for one reason only: because we so desperately want to help illuminate that elusive pathway out of hell and reassure those who suffer that it IS there and can be found.

At the rehab, we work with the 12-step program. I attended AA meetings during my first two, three months of recovery but it hasn’t quite been my path. As I mentioned, I am sober today because it’s what I want more than anything else. Or rather, I’m sober today because I don’t want to drink. To my mind, why would I need to go to meetings to stop me doing something I don’t want to do in the first place? But here’s the scary bit: almost every time someone relapses the immediate response is “they stopped working the program“. The philosophy goes that you have to attend meetings and practice the 12 steps in all your affairs and it’s what keeps you sober. I want to be clear though – nowhere does it state in AA literature (as far as I’m aware anyway) that it is the only way to get sober and you’re encourage to “take what works, leave the rest“. Healthy approach, if you ask me. And I guess that’s what I’ve done. And to be even clearer, I absolutely love AA – if it saves just one poor soul from the deep abyss of alcoholism and addiction, then it’s thumbs up from me. AA, CA, NA and all the other As do save hundreds of thousands of us. Millions. As far as I’m concerned, if you keep sober by running naked around your house at dawn each day – keep doing that.

Through my recovery, I’ve sometimes felt prickly at those words. “They stopped working the program“. It gets me prickly because I don’t seem to be “doing it” in the straight-up AA way. But when I put my toys back into my pram and quieten my obstinate inner child, I realised that I’m absolutely working a program. Or THE program, even:

  1. I admitted defeat and accepted I was powerless in the face of addiction.
  2. I wanted to find a different way of life.
  3. I asked for help.
  4. I looked inward and took stock of my life and what’s fucked me up.
  5. I honestly and sincerely laid those things that fucked me up bare.
  6. I resolved to face them all and work through them.
  7. I set out to turn resentment to forgiveness, anger to love, and fear to faith.
  8. I felt a desire to put right the harm I’d done.
  9. I acknowledged, took responsibility and asked forgiveness.
  10. I keep a close eye on myself and correct myself when resentment, anger and fear threaten to engulf me.
  11. I practice mindfulness.
  12. I put my heart and soul into helping other addicts find their way to recovery.

Bill W would be pleased, I reckon, and you don’t need to attend meetings to live your life according to these principles. It makes me chuckle, because it’s almost like I’ve gone and 12-stepped in spite of myself. Nice work, Bill W – you got me! I’m glad though, I just needed to see it for myself and reframe how I think around what it means to work a/the program. It kinda happened organically. I’m not saying I’m a genius but then neither was good ol’ Bill W. Bill W was simply just like me – a drunk, who practiced a new way of life that kept him in balance. And sober. And that’s really what I’ve come to believe recovery is all about: balance. It goes without saying that we’re much more vulnerable to harm, be it addiction or any destructive behaviour at all, if we are broken or carry resentments. Sometimes we just have a deadness inside, a void, a hole in our heart or whatever other way you want to use to describe it. Sometimes there’s just this restlessness and discontent that can only be stilled with drugs – until we find a better way of keeping ourselves balanced.

No, I don’t want to drink on this fine day. Call me cocky, but I wouldn’t drink if you offered me £1,000,000 to do so. Well. I wouldn’t agree to kill myself for £1,000,000 either and that’s what drinking would mean for me because I’m an alcoholic and I can’t drink the way you can. You get my drift though. I don’t want to drink and at this moment in time there is nothing, NOTHING, that could make me. But don’t be fooled, I am always vigilant – that’s where the mindfulness comes in, see – as I still have the brain that threw me into captivity to start with.

What I wanted to get at, although it seems it took me a while to get to the point, is that I do work a program. No, I don’t go to AA meetings very often but I spend a huge part of my waking hours focused on recovery – both my own and that of others around me. I share – here, at home, with friends, at work – and stay open and honest. And I try my damned hardest to pass on this beautiful, magical gift. Some of us get put off by AA and I have to admit this has at times been me too, but then I remind myself that we’re all just doing the same thing – trying to find that balance and work on our recovery. If we do it in a certain order of steps or affirmations or rituals is irrelevant. The 12 steps I believe is something that almost comes naturally when we get sober – when we remove the anaesthesia all our emotions come flooding back and we have no choice but to learn how to deal with them. And I reckon that’s what Bill W did. And how helpful of him to cobble together a guide to give us a nudge in the right direction in case we’re a little lost initially. Personally, I think everyone – addict or otherwise – would be better off going about our lives that way.

It’s all about balance.

Today I’m not going to drink.

13 Minutes Past Midnight

Burning the midnight oil here… Worked the late shift at the rehab and have to get up at 5am to do the early one tomorrow. My sister and her boyfriend are on their way here, having landed with a late flight in from Gothenburg – I guess they can now officially be called The Two Doctors given they both now have their PhDs. Fuck me, imagine their future children! Those will be some seriously cute braniacs. They’re staying for a couple of nights before relocating to a hotel more centrally, so I’m bunking up with Bambino who under duress agreed to house me on the sofa bed in his room. It’s uncomfortable as hell so God knows if I’ll get any sleep at all of the, at a guess, maximum of three I might get. Then a full-on shift tomorrow with three discharges and the usual madness!

I suppose the normal expectation in this scenario would be to complain?

HELL NO!

See, this is freaking awesome! OK, so having The Two Doctors over is obviously awesome, but I don’t even mean that! I am referring to how I can do all this because I’m sober! I’m not passed out, black-out drunk. I can get in the car and safely collect them from the station. I’ll no doubt be super tired tomorrow but my head will be clear, my body will feel steady and I’ll be able to function to full capacity albeit probably a little wired and spent. Whoop-dee-do! And I continue to be reliable, steady Anna when I’m sober, which is fucking amazing. I can be the person to say “I’ll come get you” and deliver. I can do all this around an exhausting and demanding job, having also cleaned the apartment and before today’s shift having made a yummy quiche they can have tomorrow when I’m at work. From scratch, I hasten to add, seeing as I’m in full swing bragging mode. Yep, the pastry and everything. Given I’m not busy spinning around the Drinking Hell Trifecta (i.e. in a loop of 1. battling a vicious hangover, 2. planning my drinking, or 3. being black-out drunk), I’ve organised everything properly so that everything will run smoothly.

Well. Thought it was well worth pointing out once again how amazing it is to be sober and the countless gifts that sobriety brings me.

Please God, never let me fall back. Please help me remain on this path.

…I suppose it’s a little early to say this at 13 minutes past midnight but there we are:

Today I’m not going to drink.

 

Here On This Bed

Resentments – wow, do I have them! Whilst I mostly feel at peace these days and much more able to accept and let things go, there is one big hurdle I have yet to overcome. Because I feel it’s right to tell only my own story, it’s hard to process my number one resentment on this blog as any detail would mean I expose other people’s stories and those are not for me to tell. I suppose the details aren’t that important as far as a blog about recovery goes – it’s how I deal with it that’s important, and talking about this needs no intricate detail.

Most of the time, I don’t think of it and I can’t say it affects my life on a day to day basis. My resentment lives in the place where I still find myself this morning: in Sweden. Not exactly in this very spot – I’m propped up against pillows on the bed in our top floor hotel room in the capital and gazing out across the roof tops of Stockholm. My Big Resentment lives approximately 300 miles from here, deep in the forests near Sweden’s western border to Norway, so I’m still quite some distance away. Still, it cuts so deep that only the mention of a name and a comment one person made nearly two years ago (!!) has me thrown right into irritability, restlessness and discontentment. Sound familiar?

So, I have two choices:

  1. Push it back down and numb myself.
  2. Lift it up, pull it out with all its roots and inspect it closely.

Well. As dictated by law here on the Pink Cloud, it is against the rules to sweep things under the rug. In Sweden we sometimes say “don’t wake a hibernating bear” but on the Pink Cloud that’s exactly what we do. In fact, I’m going to rock up at the cave and poke that damn grizzly with a big stick and see what happens.

As big resentments often do, my Big Resentment dates back many, many years. I wasn’t the only casualty, in fact someone dear suffered much more. I think all of us in that particular constellation suffered greatly, and perhaps most of all the person who still has the ability spring up from the past and knock me sideways by the mere mention of their name. It has doubtlessly shaped who I am and my behaviour as I’ve gone through life. In many ways I present the behaviour of codependence in how I have always been a yes-sayer and bent over backwards to keep the peace no matter how much it has cost me emotionally. Smooth over, forgive when I actually cannot, smile when I want to cry and forever an attitude of “if you’re fine, I’m fine“. Except I never was. It was never, ever FINE.

On the subject of codependency, when it comes to this I’m that Adult Child. My emotional growth in this aspect was stunted and I’m still that eight-yearold girl who just desperately wants to be loved and for you to see how good and kind she is. It’s no exaggeration to say I’m still her and if you weren’t able to grow from that place, it sends after shocks across the surface like rings on the water throughout your life. I have a steadfast belief that love will be taken away from me. You may love me right now, but actually you just think you do and once you realise I’m not worthy – as you eventually will – you’ll walk away and I’ll be all alone. I still have to really fight to make myself believe that e.g. Hubby actually DOES love me as deeply as he says he does and isn’t planning on divorcing me. My immediate thought when he was super tired last night was that he is going off me, that he’s finally discovered I’m not very sexy or beautiful or attractive at all. Impending doom at every turn. A text message an hour after he left for work this morning saying he misses me doesn’t have the same impact at all – I’m simply not wired to believe someone could love me enough (or that I’m lovable enough, rather) to miss me after just an hour. When he tells me he thinks I’m pretty I am convinced there’s something wrong with him, that he’s deluded somehow but will soon realise I’m Shrek. When Hubby says something nice about me, the eight-yearold girl I still am inside nods knowingly because she knows it isn’t true. It’s crazy shit.

So how do I get past this? My Big Resentment is in the past but also lives on. It’s insane that 35 years later, I can sit here on this bed in this hotel room and feel prickly and full of anger. BECAUSE OF THE MENTION OF HER NAME AND A COMMENT SHE MADE TWO YEARS AGO. I feel wronged. I want vengeance! Justice! But what would change? What would it change if that person knocked on the door here and now? If she walked in, sat down and told me she’s sorry. If she told me she had me wrong all along and has now put everything right so the rest of the world knows it too? What would that change? Would I be able to let it go then? This is what we want, isn’t it? When we feel wronged we want vindication somehow, no? That angry, bitter, resentful part of me wants her sucker punched into submission – humiliated, shamed, reduced to rubble and exposed.

Uhm… Whoops! …I see it now that I actually typed it out that in my moments of resentment I want her to feel the way she always made me feel. Wow, Anna. Time for a change perhaps? The saying goes that resentment is like drinking poison hoping the other person will die. That’s precisely what this is. Oh, and what I indeed did for all those years – drank poison and only hurting myself as a result.

Why is approval so crucial for me? Why do I fall apart like I do when someone doesn’t think I’m the best thing since they discovered how to make coffee? I’d use the sliced bread metaphor but I’m watching my carbs at the moment and I love coffee so much more. Something broke in me all those years ago and there is still a gaping hole in my heart that I never managed to fill, despite many valiant attempts. My modus operandi all this time has been to laugh it off, pretend I don’t care and that it doesn’t bother me. If you’re fine, I’m fine. It seems I need to accept that this hole in my heart is there and instead of living like it isn’t I have to learn to find a new way. It’s nuts to allow this to consume me like it has over these past three days when in fact NOTHING HAPPENED. Just the mention of a name and a comment. Stuff I knew anyway, yet it brought it all back.

Maybe my Big Resentment needs a new home. It’s better to have that little hole in my heart than fill it with stuff that doesn’t belong there, right?

Perhaps my Big Resentment can live right here? In room 1025 at Clarion Hotel Sign in Stockholm. I’m sitting here with it right now, feeling it all and trying to see it clearly. Perhaps I’ll even visit. But it can’t keep living in me like it has. Yes, this can be its new home and I’m going to try to walk out in an hour and say my goodbyes. I absolutely HAVE TO let this go. I don’t need to forget and I don’t have to forgive either, but I can decide who and what I allow into my life and to what degree. Feeling consumed by resentment for three days just because I was reminded of her is fucking nuts.

We stayed with one of my best childhood friends on their beautiful island in the archipelago and I need to remember what she said instead, even though my brain is wired to only absorb only the things that confirm I’m unlovable: “Imagine how she must feel inside, she’s broken“. M said it and squeezed my hand. Wise words. And I know they’re true. Happy, content people don’t behave like this person does. And I guess most of all I pity my Big Resentment, because when I detangle it all I see a very small person who is scared. Perhaps she’s the biggest victim of us all. So I can in a way choose, I suppose – do I go through life broken too, or do I try to heal?

It’s there, it all happened. But it’s not happening anymore. I’m not brainy like Einstein, talented like Toni Morrison or beautiful like Cameron Diaz, but I’m absolutely, 100% good enough, and worthy and deserving of love as much as the next person. I have lots to offer and at the age of 43 and sober it’s time to let go. Yes, there’s a hole in my heart but it’ll only stay that way if I insist on forcing shit into it that doesn’t belong there.

So long, Big Resentment. I’m sorry for my part. Enjoy the room upgrade. I’ll see you when I see you and do stay in touch because you’re part of me after all, but let’s enjoy a healthier relationship from now on. You can’t live in my heart rent free anymore, go find yourself a job. Arrivederci.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Pocahontas Book At The Ready

There she was, my little sister. We’d congregated outside – Mum, Stepdad, two brothers, a sister-in-law, Hubby and me. Sis emerged from the building in front of us, boyfriend in tow. This is their stomping ground and inside those walls they’ve spent countless hours in the laboratories studying plant DNA. Or something called polyploids, in Sis’s case, and this day was her day – as more and more people gathered outside, I could just about see how her nerves were beginning to set in. Sis was about to go into the auditorium and defend her PhD thesis and all these people, us included, were going to see her do it.

The opponent isn’t here yet, I hope his flight was cancelled,” Sis giggled and rolled her eyes.

The process strikes me as brutal. Some terribly clever and eminent professor was flying in from the States, his role for the day to challenge Sis’s thesis. First she’d present for roughly 20 minutes. Then the opponent would give a presentation too. Then Sis would get grilled for “as long as it takes”, a process that, we were told, could take hours. This, in front of three other professors who’d then decide Sis’s fate, plus her supervisors, other PhD students, friends and of course her whole family.

So who is the opponent?” Mum asked and put her arm around Sis, “someone you know?

Sis rolled her eyes and laughed as you do when someone says something outrageous.

Well,” Sis’s boyfriend smiled, “if you imagine the professors on the examination board are in the treetops, this dude is on the moon. He is THE guy.

Time to go in!” a woman shouted from the entrance and the small crowd started to move.

Welcome Professor!” someone else then exclaimed excitedly.

Yep, there he was. THE guy. A man of slight build, sharply dressed and with a happy smile on his face and laptop bag swinging by his side as he hurriedly made his way in. I glanced at Sis and caught her eye. She turned her head away and shrank a little, tears welling up. Every big sister instinct kicked in. I wanted to scoop her up, make everything difficult go away and threaten anyone making her feel anything other than amazing with violence. I inched over to where she stood. No hug, just slipped my hand into hers and held it tightly.

Breathe. You’ve got this. You know this.

I know,” she whispered as she blinked a tear away, “it’s just a lot of emotion.

I could see Mum hovering nearby, probably cursing me – the thunderous, messy one – and willing me to leave Sis – the gentle, steady one – alone and not get her emotional. Uhm, not get her emotional like ME. I’m better at being calm and steady now that I’m sober, but I guess my family might still be getting used to this. Sis took a deep breath, smiled her chipper here-goes smile, shrugged her shoulders and off we went.

Everyone took their seats, at a guess around 60 people in total, and after a brief explanation of the order of events, Sis did her thing. To me, she is still five years old and tip-toeing into my room in the morning and crawling into bed with me, Pocahontas book at the ready for me to read to her. To me, she is a delicate butterfly. To me, she is a vulnerable and fragile little pixie I need to protect and defend. Hell, I felt ill and unsettled when she moved in with her boyfriend because I didn’t feel she is ready to have her heart broken and only relaxed when I realised he worships the ground she walks on. When we took a walk around the area where they live, I felt the need to say she mustn’t go running those trails on her own late in the evening. I want to wrap her in cotton wool and make everything easy for her, never let her feel hurt and never let her worry.

However. She isn’t five years old. She’s 30.

There in front of us was an accomplished woman, who presented her PhD thesis with confidence, charm and enthusiasm. She moved calmly between changing slides on the laptop projector and then to stand in the middle again as she spoke about the gobbledygook on the screen. The red dot thingymabob she pointed at the big screen was steady – had she even trembled a little, it would have gone all over the place. Nope. Not a twitch.

Of course she passed. She got grilled for three hours and she said afterwards that it was the worst thing she’s had to do, but she got her PhD to loud cheers and applause and is now DOCTOR Sis. We, her family, were congratulated too and THE guy, the king of polyploids or whatever he is, shook our hands. He smiled warmly at me when it was my turn and told me that my sister is a great scientist and he’s looking forward to see what she’ll do next.

We’re ready to go to the Nobel dinner so we hope she goes for a Nobel prize,” I told him, thinking I was being ever so clever and amusing.

Yes, we will start dieting soon!” Mum chimed in, thinking she was being ever so clever and amusing too.

Oh?” THE guy went, eyebrow raised, “they will have to create one for biology, there isn’t one.

Well, screw you too, smarty-pants. Doh.

What Sis showed me, or emphasised rather, was how to live life on life’s terms. She believed in this. Sis felt passionate about polyploids, whatever those are. She had something to say about it, and she was going to say it, damn it! She felt a thousand jitters and years of hard work and lots of hurdles had her on the verge of breaking down in tears. The opponent probably felt to her as I imagine I’d feel if Toni Morrison were to appraise my writing. But she didn’t run or hide, she got on with it. She felt the fear and did it anyway. And that’s just it. Sis didn’t try to soften the blow or numb herself. She had to do this and she did it. Oh, and the Toni Morrison of the world of polyploids said she’s great. Great things rarely happen in the comfort zone, right? Time to take a leaf out of Sis’s book, me thinks.

I was also reminded of something I already knew – I have to bloody stop feeling everyone else’s feelings! I reckon most of the time it’s not even how they feel anyway, just how I imagine they do. Oh fuck it, she’s my little butterfly and I would absolutely thump anyone who crosses her.

And now, with Swedish countryside swishing past as we’re on the fast train from Gothenburg to Stockholm, I’m once again a little confused as to why I moved away. Every so often, when I go to Sweden, I have a little moment of bewilderment. It’s so lovely here! It’s clean, everything works and absolutely everything is of a much higher standard than in the UK. And then some stupid Swede will just barge into me and say “oops!” instead of “sorry”, jump the queue (what the fuck is the problem, blondies?), push on to the train before people have managed to get off (this warrants a prison term as far as I’m concerned) or generally drive me insane (WOULD IT HURT TO USE A BIT OF COMMON SENSE AND MANNERS YOU BLUE-EYED FREAKS?). I’m a total schizophrenic when it comes to my patriotism, you see. When I’m in the UK – which, by any measure is “home” – I’ll happily preach about how Sweden is the crown of creation. Then when I’m in Sweden I immediately see all the things that are so much better about the UK. Perhaps I’m a fairly even blend by now?

Today I’m not going to drink.

50-Odd Yards Behind Her

Yesterday, I saw someone demonstrate what a really fucking awesome friend is. Right there in front of me.

Little Miss was being dropped off at the rehab by aforementioned friend and wasn’t happy about it. Drunk and unhappy, actually, alternating between savage anger and drink-fuelled poor-little-me sadness. Excuse after excuse after excuse. Little Miss was adamant that she didn’t need to be there, that she has her life together and everything going for her. Sadly, I’d hazard a guess and say I don’t believe she was being dropped at rehab by mistake. A guy who recently left said in the morning meditation group on his last day:

When I came here I didn’t have a drinking problem, it was just my family who had issues. Now that I’m leaving, I know I have a drinking problem and my family’s fine.

Wise words indeed. For some people, it clicks. And heartbreakingly, for many, many more it doesn’t. It takes time and the sad truth is that no matter what our loved ones say or do – even if we end up losing them altogether – we won’t accept help until we accept we have a problem. As much as I do believe this, I am coming to believe that although no one can get you sober but YOU, there is a way to be a great friend and that’s to be honest. Little Miss has a great friend and I have to say I was pretty impressed, because it takes balls to do what she did.

I’m not staying,” Little Miss whined and struggled to light another cigarette, her hand holding the lighter swaying too much and missing the tip of the cigarette.

You have to get well. You are ill!” Good Friend told her firmly.

No I’m not, you bitch, I’m fine,” Little Miss snapped and knocked the cigarette out of her own mouth as she made wild gestures.

How can you say that? You’re not fine at all. If you don’t stay, you’ll go back to an empty house!

I have too much work, I don’t have time to stay here,” Little Miss insisted and pouted defiantly.

What work? When did you last work? Stop bullshitting. Look at you! You’re not fucking fine!

You’re jealous because I have everything I want.

Good Friend at this point glanced at me and shot me a resigned look. I did my best to reassure and persuade Little Miss that coming here was a good thing and we’d help her get well. But how do you convince someone who doesn’t believe they need help that they do? Best part of my shift yesterday was spent doing Little Miss’s admission in small instalments, reassuring her that it’s not a prison and we don’t hold anyone against their will, but let’s just do this one step at a time. At every turn, she wanted to leave, then reluctantly agreed to give it a chance only to change her mind again moments later. In the end, late in the evening, after lots of paperwork and going through the whole process including a full examination by the doctor, she was off. You can’t force recovery on anyone, it never works. Only you can get yourself there.

What Little Miss has however, is a great advantage. She has her Good Friend who clearly loves her enough to make her seek help, but most importantly, sets boundaries and tells her straight. Do you know what, I don’t know if I’d have the balls to do that. Actually, yes. If it were someone I love, yes I would. But it would be fucking horrible, is what I mean. That’s NOT an easy thing to do, and of course Good Friend did end up on the receiving end of a barrage of abuse from Little Miss who was having none of it. Especially not a problem!

I know my friends would have done that for me if they’d realised how fast I was slipping. That’s the shitter with alcohol though, you can sink almost the whole way down to rock bottom without it being too obvious. Little Miss, appears to have sunk a little further than I did. Oh, it wasn’t far off – of that I’m certain, because that slope was beginning to get very steep – but I didn’t quite reach those consequences. Little Miss, as spelled out to her by Good Friend out there on those steps, now had a choice between accepting the help or losing her family as well as her friends, relatives already taking care of her children and a partner who’s moved out. Addiction does that – it strips you bare, because that’s all it wants: you, all on your own, so it can go ahead and kill you.

So to those of you who love an addict – be it your partner, sister, father, friend – I have this to say: it’s OK to set boundaries so lay those down. You can still love us and be there for us at the same time as you tell us straight that we need help. You can’t force us to get clean, we have to do that for ourselves or it won’t work, but you can state your case without compromising your love and even if we lash out you may just have planted a seed. Please be patient with us. I know we hurt and abuse you. That’s not OK, but please do remember we are held hostages by our addiction and this person you love is still here underneath.

Perhaps Good Friend’s words did register somewhere and Little Miss comes back. I do hope so. Perhaps she did come back to an empty house. Hopefully Good Friend along with Little Miss’s other dear ones hold the boundary they set: get yourself help or we walk away. It’s a tough one, very tough. But maybe, just maybe the coin will drop. I couldn’t help but think, as Little Miss stood there waiting for the Uber to take her back home, that I wished she’d just see that just 50-odd yards behind her across the parking lot, a totally new and better life could be started if only she made the decision to come back through those doors. Well. Yesterday wasn’t her day. Let’s hope her day comes soon though.

And, just to be crystal here, OK…. It took me almost 11 years to work up the cojones to ask for help, so I’m not bloody sitting here saying Little Miss is silly. She isn’t. She’s an addict. And like the rest of us, it’ll only happen when it happens. I just hope she’s one of those of us who it happens for before it’s too late. What I say above is said off the back of my own addiction and how I struggled with it, plus an enormous amount of hindsight. Hell, 11 years! I first realised I had a huge problem with drink and sought help in May 2007. It happened for me in January 2018. So don’t for a moment think I’m trying to say I’m some kind of sobriety straight A student. Flippin’eck no. I may work at a rehab now and yes it’s frustrating to know this amazing life awaits and is available yet people continue to throw it all away so needlessly, but I also know how hard it is to see that light when you’re trapped in darkness.

Sometimes we need a lot of nudging. Sometimes we need a Good Friend.

Today I’m not going to drink.

I Am Your Disease

I don’t know who the author of this poem is, but whoever wrote it knows the Beast very, very well. It seems so bleak – it is. It seems so frightening – it is. But this is what I always have to remember. When I focus on my recovery and staying sober, the Beast is right outside doing press-ups.

 

I AM YOUR DISEASE

You know who I am, you’ve called me your friend,

Wishes of misery and heartache I send,

I want only to see that you’re brought to your knees,

I’m the devil inside you, I am your disease.

I’ll invade all your thoughts, I’ll take hostage your soul,

I’ll become your new master, in total control,

I’ll maim your emotions, I’ll run the whole game,

Till your entire existence is crippled with shame.

When you call me I come, sometimes in disguise,

Quite often I’ll take you by total surprise.

But take you I will, and just as you’ve feared,

I’ll only want to hurt you, with no mercy spared.

If you have your own family, I will see it destroyed,

I’ll steal every pleasure in life you’ve enjoyed.

I’ll not only hurt you, I’ll kill if I please,

I’m your worst living nightmare, I am your disease.

I bring self destruction, but still you can’t tell,

I’ll sweep you through heaven, then drop you in hell,

I’ll chase you forever, wherever you go,

And then when I catch you, you won’t even know.

I’ll sometimes lay silent, just waiting to strike,

What’s yours becomes mine, cuz I take what I like,

I’ll take all you own and I won’t care who sees,

I’m your constant companion… I am your disease.

If you have any honour, I’ll strip it away,

You’ll lose all your hope and forget how to pray,

I’ll leave you in darkness, while blindly you stare,

I’ll reduce you to nothing, and won’t even care.

So, don’t take for granted my powers sublime,

I’ll bend and I’ll break you, time after time,

I’ll crumble your world with the greatest of ease,

I’m that madman inside you… I am your disease.

But today I’m real angry… you want to know why?

I let this treatment centre full of Addicts entirely slip by,

How did I lose you? Where did I go wrong?

One minute I had you… the next you were gone.

You can’t just dismiss all the good times we’ve shared,

When you were alone… wasn’t it I who appeared?

When you sold those possessions you knew you would need,

Wasn’t I the first one who stepped in and agreed.

Now look at you bastards, you’re all thinking clear,

You escaped with your lives when you found your way here,

Only fools think they’re winners when admitting defeat,

It’s what you must say when you’re claiming that seat.

Go ahead and surrender, if that’s what you choose,

But, I’m not giving up cuz I can’t stand to lose,

So stand in your groups and support hand in hand,

Better choices will save you… leaving me to be damned.

Well, be damned all you people seeking treatment each week,

Be damned inner strength, however unique,

Be damned all your sayings, be damned your cliches,

Be damned every Addict, who back to me strays.

For I know it will happen, I’ve seen it before,

Those who love misery will crawl back for more,

So take comfort in knowing, I’m waiting right here,

But next time around, you’d just better beware.

You think that you’re stronger or smarter this time,

There isn’t a mountain or hill you can’t climb,

Well if that’s what you’re thinking, you ain’t learned a thing,

I’ll still knock you silly if you step back in my ring.

But you say you’ve surrendered, so what can I do?

It’s so sad in a way, I had big plans for you,

Creating your nightmare for me was a dream,

I’m sure gonna miss you… we made quite a team.

So please don’t forget me, I won’t forget you,

I’ll stand by your side watching all that you do,

I’m ready and waiting, so call if you please,

I won’t let you forget me… I am your disease. 

– Unknown

Today I’m not going to drink.

Night, Night Darling

Something I think we – we, the addicts – sometimes forget, is how we’re not the only ones who are in recovery. Addiction is like a bomb, and although it’s us addicts who are hit with the explosion, our loved ones are hit too with the shrapnel and total devastation of our demise. Yes, it takes courage and strength to battle our way through recovery, but our loved ones also have to recover if we’re lucky enough to still have them stand by us. They have to learn to trust us again. Or our ability to stay sober/clean, rather. They may – quite rightly – be filled with anger, resentment, sadness and bitterness and the road back can be a long and arduous one for them too.

Only a few weeks back, Hubby had a wobble. There I was, 15-odd months sober and not a care in the world, bobbing along nicely on my Pink Cloud and filled with gratitude. It didn’t even occur to me until he told me days later how it had looked to him.

Here’s what happened in my world:

Sunday. Hubby gets on flight to Dubai for work, leaving mid-morning. I go for a long walk around the park. Back home and much of the day still ahead of me. Baked some cinnamon rolls. Blogged. Spent some time reading. Cleaned the apartment. Time dragged and I was bored silly. Quite randomly decided that I’d hit up an AA meeting – there’s one a few hundred yards down the road on Sunday evenings that I used to go to early on in recovery. So off I go. Realised half way down I had no cash and in meetings you usually put a few coins in a cup that’s passed around. Went to the cash point. Withdrew £100 as I needed cash for the cleaner too – two birds, one stone. Went into the kebab shop, which was the only place open on Sunday evening, and bought a bottle of water in order to get some change. Went to the meeting, then home. Had some missed calls from Hubby, three in fact, and he’d texted several times too asking if I’m OK. Of course I am! Gosh, what a Mother Hen he can be! Cute, really. Speak with him as I crawl into bed with a book. I do notice that he sounds a bit worried but he can be like that, bless him – he always wants to look after me so I put it down to him just being this glorious, loving husband that he is. Night, night darling.

Here’s what happened in Hubby’s world:

Off to Dubai. Text Wifey to let her know landed safely. Text her again in taxi to let her know en route to hotel. Call her to let her know at hotel safely. Twice, no reply. Another text to check she’s OK. Try calling again an hour later. Goes to answer machine again. She is home alone, Bambino at his dad’s. Uhm, what’s this? She’s taken cash out. And cannot be reached. Now, this used to mean one thing only – when I was home alone I’d usually take the opportunity to drink myself to pieces. Hated my wine purchases showing up on the statement so would always get cash out. And of course I knew I’d be slurring so I’d switch my phone off, normally text Hubby to say I’m having an early night so he wouldn’t worry.

Of course I was fine and still very much sober. But this illustrates how Hubby still worries. I can’t forget that, WE – we, the addicts – can’t forget that. We have to be mindful of those poor souls whose hearts we inhabit and how they need time too. I had to remind myself of this as my immediate reaction when Hubby days later told me he’d thought I’d fallen off the wagon was annoyance – just because drinking at this point in time couldn’t be further from my mind, Hubby still has to learn to trust this new existence too. In a way, he is still held hostage by my addiction. I kissed him a million times over, thanked him for loving me so much and swore to be careful with his heart. And next time, hopefully I’ll be more aware of how it might look in his world and ping him a text before I fall off the radar for a while!

There is also Bambino. Don’t get me wrong, I know in my heart that he is thrilled to bits that Mum is sober and I’ll never underestimate how much my sobriety and fight to remain in recovery means in his world. That does make me a hero and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for my child. However! Never EVER can I lose sight of what that little heart of his might feel every day before he comes home. Perhaps that stone of dread and anxiety still hangs there until the very moment he walks through the door and can see Mum is still sober? Perhaps he still worries and dreads what sort of state I might be in? I may be sober and currently confident in terms of my recovery, but I’ve done so much damage and Bambino might always have that worry as a result. Who knows? Maybe one day he’ll tell me and do you know what? If he one day has some choice words for me, no matter how much they’ll hurt I’ll give him my full attention. Period.

Yes, recovery is a scary and difficult battle. Yes, we are absolutely heroes for battling the Beast. But we also HAVE TO remember we aren’t the only victims. Our loved ones are also on this journey with us and they may very well have every bit as much of a fight on their hands, and of this we must be mindful and respectful.

So today, what I’m the most grateful for are my two boys – Hubby and Bambino – who still somehow deem me worthy of their love despite the devastation I’ve caused through my addiction. Thank God. May they learn to trust my strength as I continue on my journey and one day feel at peace. It’s my responsibility to fight with all my might to show them this. I know they trust in me, but some wounds take a while to heal and until they do I’ll be the best nurse I know how. One day at a time.

Today I’m not going to drink.