What Sparks a Light

Holy moly, that was LONG. But oh so worth it! A stretch of eight days at the rehab and my first terrifyingly tiring taste of a 12-hour shift, but strangely I walked away motivated and energised. Poor Hubby may disagree as I was starting to fade by 8.30pm Saturday evening, but even so. Turns out I’m quite the grafter when I’m not busy drinking myself into an early grave. Or, the following is true:

“You often feel tired, not because you’ve done too much, but because you’ve done too little of what sparks a light in you.”

No idea who said it but I suppose that sums it all up – I so genuinely and oh so deeply CARE about this! Even when I am absolutely spent I could go further and faster. OK, so working out what these last three weeks’ 100 hours amounted to in cold, hard cash made me choke on my coffee, but that was never my motivation anyway. BANG ON! Maybe this will wear me out. Maybe I’ll lose interest tomorrow. Who the fuck cares! Right now it’s where I want to be and precisely what I want to be doing. I’m learning so much and beyond that I’m also growing – both in confidence and as a person. I’ve run the morning relaxation group a whole bunch of times and although it still gives me palpitations and makes me so nervous my hands tremble, I’m getting there and I no longer dread it like I did those first few times.

How do you feel about driving the van, Anna?” Beethoven asked.

You fucking kidding me? That thing?! In actual TRAFFIC? With seven or eight people or whatever it seats? How do I feel about that? Oh, lemme think…

No. Sorry, no chance, absolutely not,” I replied despite feeling quite bad I was blatantly saying no to a boss I’m desperate to impress.

I saw no point in giving half baked excuses, I ain’t driving that thing. I’m a terrible driver, not at all confident in city traffic and I wouldn’t be able to park even if I had an entire, totally clear runway at Heathrow at my disposal to park aforementioned thing. Sometimes you just have to be realistic and I just can’t see myself doing that. I’m sure I would get used to driving it, but I don’t think anyone would much appreciate an “outing” being driven around a loop and just back to rehab without stopping anywhere, given I can’t park to save my life. And don’t get me started on LANES and ROUNDABOUTS and other things that are to do with traffic rules and regulations. Unlike the relaxation sessions, this is where actual people could actually die. Whilst I can appreciate the clever psychological device of having a group of people in treatment return to the rehab with a renewed sense of THANK GOD I’M ALIVE, I find that slightly cruel.

What if we do some driving lessons?” Beethoven suggested and smiled.

Fine,” I sighed wearily, “but I’m not taking anyone out in it until I feel confident.

Good girl,” Beethoven boomed, “there you go!

Oh fuckety-fuck-fuck. Clearly I still have some way to go with the boundaries and standing firm. See how my resolute no turned to defeat? Bollocks. Well. If you spot an eight-seater van the colour of cafe latte full of terrified passengers who appear to be alternating between hysterical crying and being deep in prayer, giz a wave. Or honk if you’re happy and you know it. Or something. Perhaps make room the way you do for blue lights, I dunno.

Well. Time to catch my breath now – no work tomorrow! A few hours on Thursday and then three whole days off before I’m back on Easter Monday. I’m absolutely loving it, and the people I get to spend my days with make me happy and I actually refer to the clients as much as my colleagues, if not more.

I didn’t go to treatment myself, but I can tell you that there are no people I admire more than those absolute superheroes who somehow find the herculean strength to walk through those doors. There are moments when someone’s just come through them and they seem so beaten, so broken and so low – every goddamn time I want to just shout LOOK WHAT YOU JUST DID YOU ABSOLUTE CHAMPION!! Perhaps in that moment someone will feel utter defeat, yet they’ve just done something that makes me want to worship right there at their feet. It makes my heart soar every time. Hand on heart, I don’t know that I’d been able to do it. I don’t know that I would have had the strength to walk through those mirrored doors, much less last even 24 hours inside them. I’m not sure they realise just how much they inspire me, move me and fill me with such hope I could just weep of gratitude. Sometimes the human spirit just blows my mind. There really are so many truly beautiful moments. And let me tell you this – I spend time with these superheroes (colleagues and clients) who go into battle with the Beast with nothing but a fucking toothpick to defend themselves with, and I’m so immensely proud that I’m one of them even though I didn’t walk through those doors in the way some of them did. I never thought I’d say it, but being a recovering addict makes me feel proud because we are fucking AWESOME. These people know how to swing a sword, lemme tell ya.

Uhm, feeling borderline religious here… I really am turning into a smug hippie. Yuk.

Time to switch off now. Time for me. Time for family. Time to smile about all these things I have to be grateful for. Most of all I am grateful that:

Today I’m not going to drink.

A Glass or Two Behind

He needs no introduction, beyond saying – once again – he is the most wonderful man in the world, my best friend and the most decent human being I’ve ever met. My favourite human, in fact, alongside Bambino and my two bonus sons. Hubby, the great love of my life. We have talked so much and so often about my addiction and descent into the dark pit of alcoholism, and ages ago I asked him to give his perspective of what it was like to live with Drunk Me. Last night, after we spoke on the phone – me at home, him just having checked into his hotel in Dubai – it landed in my inbox. I asked Hubby’s permission to re-post it here and I’ve done so in its entirety, only removing Bambino’s real name and the area where we used to live, but those things are irrelevant here anyway. Some stuff is painful, some stuff very personal and embarrassing, but this isn’t a space where I gloss things over and nor do I hide anything. Not even the stuff that makes me blush or cringe (or both).

Proceed with caution!

So, with no further ado, Hubby’s frank account of life with Drunk Me – answering my question “What was it like living with Drunk Me?” warts and all, full disclosure:

Hi baby,

Thought I’d give this a go while on the flight to Dubai, so here I go.

Maybe just to start off with – you are the same wonderful person today as the first day I met you. It’s just that today, you are a better version of you. I loved you then and I love you now – even more so now if that is possible. There maybe some things in here that you’ll want to talk about further, and that’s great, happy to.

Drunk you was often a lot of fun. When I look back on the first few years of our relationship, we had many great times and may laughs along the way. We did some crazy shit too – [area where we used to live] orientation day where I think I piggy-backed you home for part of the way, making the taxi wait while we went into the sex shop, dancing the Swedish bygg, sushi making…………Getting to know you was arguably easier (or perhaps happened more quickly) fuelled with several sauv blancs. So for the first few years, living with drunk you was fun and a respite from the life I’d been trapped in while married. And of course the sex was awesome and at times risky, with inhibition levels lowered by higher amounts of alcohol.

But of course there were signals along the way that flashed amber, and perhaps red at times. I mean this relative to your drinking, not our relationship.

What first struck me was that you drank a lot, and quickly – no handbrake. I’ve always liked a glass or two of wine and would happily do this 2-3 nights a week, sometimes more. But I’d always buy wine I liked, and drank partly to savour the taste. When we drank together it was more about getting something nice down the neck in the shortest time possible. Most of the time I couldn’t keep pace with you, so I’d be a glass or two behind. Sometimes I’d try to slow you down to my pace, but I know that irritated you.

As time went on, I think I felt I needed to maintain in control by drinking less, as one of us needed to. In a way I felt I had to be the “sensible” one, and needed to look after you a bit in case anything got really out of hand. Thank god nothing ever did, but many nights I had to wake you on the couch and make sure you got to bed.

Of course I was worried about the health impact – for both of us – particularly when we were smoking too. More days than others it would be a hangover in the morning and feeling lousy for most of the day. I think I always saw it as a fun period that would end soon, or at least slow down a lot – but of course I didn’t really understand for you that was not possible. I knew that drinking that often and in that quantity must have been damaging for your health (and mine), but I always thought that when it slowed down to a “normal” level, it would all be OK.

One thing I observed was that you had (have) big dreams but it seemed booze was the thing holding you back. You are an incredibly talented writer with plenty of ideas – so the question was – why didn’t you get on and finish your book? I put it down to the drinking, and not having the wherewithal to follow through. Similar story for your running – something you always talked about as enjoyable times when you were at your best. And again for your work – where you’d seemed to have settled for something well below your capability, that didn’t really challenge you, but that you could do easily while at 50% power level. As a partner, you always want the best for the other and for them to reach their potential, so this was a little always something I used to think about. Now that you are on your sober journey, it seems like you’ve taken massive strides forward and becoming the person you are destined to be.

There was the impact on [Bambino] too. I worried for him, but I guess I thought that was what he knew of his Mum. Remember, I’m his responsible adult too so it’s as much about me as it is you. There were times when I was away that I’d text him and ask if you were OK, as I couldn’t reach you – that’s probably unfair of me to put him in that situation but I felt I needed to know you were OK.

Over the final year of the drinking, I think we began to argue more and more – and with more anger. That was a worry for both of us I think – when we woke we knew we’d argued but neither of had all the details – just that yucky feeling. I doubut that it was anything serious, but clearly it was not going to be sustainable at that level.

I think that’s about it for now. You’re a million times a better version of you now and I’m so proud of you for taking the step(s) that you have. It will only continue to get better from here.

Love you xxxxxxxxxxxx

Had Me Rolling

All in good time. That’s something that’s very good for my Schumacher brain to get used to and I’m doing my best by being as honest and authentic as I can be. A full time role has already materialised at the rehab but I have made it clear I won’t take it. Whoa, back up, back up…. Nah, you read that correctly. Yes, it is indeed what I want to do for a living but – and this is a huge but – it cannot be at a cost I can’t afford. It is. It’d mean I have one weekend in six off, and the working week is between 50 and 60 hours long. There is a 25-hour shift every week – work the evening shift, sleep at the rehab with the possibility you might be woken by the waking night person to deal with emergencies (and these do happen, as I’ve already seen) and then do the morning shift. On occasion this would be fine, but on a weekly basis and along with effectively sacrificing the quality time I have at weekends with Hubby it’s just not realistic.

This is more than I’m prepared to give. They are pressing on, Rio even offered to do the sleep-over part of MY shifts if it meant I’d accept, but for now I’ve said I’ll continue to take shifts on an ad-hoc basis – so far I’ve said yes to everything, so it’s not like I’m being a princess about it – and see where it goes. I cannot compromise my family life and balance in this way. A standard 40-hour week spread over painfully exhausting shifts, no problem, but that’s not what this is.

And that’s cool. Worst thing I can imagine when it comes to this would be to promise something that I’ll find too challenging to deliver. I think Rio was a little disappointed and God knows he pushed, pushed and pushed some more, but I also know both he and Beethoven appreciated my honesty. Besides, if I agree to more than I feel I can handle and sacrifice too much to do it, I won’t be any good for them anyway. Win-win. Rio did mention he’ll see if they can find a way to pin me down permanently for what I can do and get someone new to cover the shifts I can’t commit to. It’s mainly the 25-hour one because even if I wanted to, Hubby travels a lot and at 14 Bambino is too young to be completely solo like that.

So life will continue this way for a while and that’s awesome. I’m getting shifts at a steady rate with three or four every week and trust me, that’s brilliant. It does take it out of me and often I get home wired as well as absolutely spent, but with this arrangement (that of course also does allow me to say no, should I need to) I still have the balance I need. And oh, I still get quality time, albeit even this way much less, with Hubby and Bambino.

I took the relaxation group again yesterday and I didn’t die. I felt the fear and did it anyway (good book, by the way – “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” – look it up). Good, eh? And next time I might even go into it without my heart beating so hard I’m breathless! Because I’m still learning and finding my feet, I want to check off with either Beethoven or Rio or one of the therapists before I take a reading, poem or video clip to the group. Cherokee sent me the below clip recently. She said once, since I got sober, that she’s glad to have me back. I took this to mean she always loved me for who I actually am, and that perhaps my descent into alcoholism stole me away from her there for a while. If you can call best part of two decades “a while”, that is.

Anyway. Cherokee loves this series called Vikings, and this dude is an actor and plays one of the main parts. I watched it and loved it. The things he is grateful for I can sign my name to, I can totally relate to the fear of saying goodbye to “that life” and more than anything I can only echo his words: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. We need to talk about these things – addiction, mental health, etc – and there is light at the end of the tunnel. I’m with him, and although I’m not a successful actor in my 20s I can still relate to every single thing he said. Er, I don’t have “hanger-on’s” but apart from that bit, I suppose. Let me assure you that there is a way out of the living hell that is addiction. It gets brighter, it gets better and one day you’ll sit there and look back and not believe, uhm, what you USED to believe.

It’s about 15 minutes long. WATCH IT. The guy talks a lot of sense.

As for me, today I’m most grateful for these things, in no particular order:

  1. I woke up without a crippling hangover.
  2. I don’t have to drink today.
  3. Bambino’s sense of humour – he had me rolling this morning, he’s just too funny.
  4. I’m a good wife and finally a present mother.
  5. I get to do something I’m passionate about for a living. Well, ad-hoc anyway!
  6. My new foundation from Bobbi Brown – I look all dewy! (Superficial, I know – sorry, not sorry).
  7. Feeling so enthusiastic and energised.
  8. Hubby’s delectable bottom. Oh, and his grrrrr-wanna-bite-them-they’re-so-good legs.
  9. Being alive.
  10. Cherokee – this amazing, kick-ass woman who is MY friend. She’s with ME! Smug as fuck.
  11. That I can now face my fears and do even the things that terrify me.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Stark Naked, I Swear

I crashed. I hit one of those bumps in the road that I – when I was in active addiction – avoided like the plague. I.e. the sort of bump that I’ve been avoiding my entire adult life, running away and hiding from any potential friction long before it could even form aforementioned bump. When we get sober, I think some of us have this little disillusion that our lives will just magically transform and be perfect – I hear it all the time in various recovery groups: “why am I still not sleeping well? I’ve been sober for weeks!” or that we are pissed off that even though we did that horrendously scary thing and got sober, we’re still in pain! That’s so unfair! Me, me, me!!

Don’t get me wrong – sobriety DOES transform our lives, of course it does. What I’m saying is that it doesn’t make us bullet proof. We still lose our jobs. Our partners still leave us. People we love still get ill. People we love even die. Whilst this may make us bitter as we may feel we deserved better for cleverly and bravely fighting our demons, I think it’s so important to remember that what sobriety actually means is that we get a shot at being the best we can be and be best placed to not just enjoy the happy times but best placed to deal with the shitters too. And that’s where I found myself this Saturday just gone.

I ran the relaxation group again that morning. For those of you who are used to talking in front of people and/or don’t get consumed by anxiety of doing so, it really is no big deal: sit in a circle with 20 people, let everyone know what we’re doing (ten minutes of being silent, then a reading and then we share our thoughts and experiences) and just lead and moderate the discussion. For ME, this used to be unthinkable. Saturday was the second time I did this and it all unravelled. The worst thing that could happen, DID happen. I lost control of the group, couldn’t bring it back in when the discussion turned chaotic and some of the clients ceased the opportunity to wreak havoc. No, it’s not my responsibility to recover for them – my responsibility in this instance is to facilitate a relaxation group. They’re adults, for God’s sake! It’s their responsibility to take the session (and their own recovery) seriously. They didn’t and it was a disaster. Any time I opened my mouth, to steer the conversation back to what it should have been or to ask people to speak one at a time, I got sniggered at, laughed at and it just escalated. I would have felt more comfortable if I’d walked into that room stark naked, I swear.

So here I am, pulling on my big girl pants and making myself do something that actually terrifies me. And it ends up exactly in that place that has had me running from this all my life: I failed. My inner voice had a field day, lemme tell ya. Oh you useless piece of shit, look how pathetic you are! You can’t do this – what a joke! Run away and hide so no one has to be around you, you ridiculous, embarrassing and utterly despicable little bitch. Go hide. Go scratch. Pathetic! Have a drink, obliterate yourself because that’s all you deserve, you fucking failure and ridiculous excuse for a human being.

That’s right. I am actually a very kind and caring person but to myself I am often the meanest piece of shit you could possibly imagine.

I walked away from it angry. I hated each and every one of those clients in that moment. I don’t fucking go to an AA meeting and begin sniggering and being disruptive if someone shares something I personally may think is a load of shit. I respect other people and I am there to recover. By the time I left, my anger had dissolved into that old, familiar feeling – the deepest sadness and the firm belief that I’m good for absolutely fuck-all. Got home, told hubby I’d hit the wall and needed a moment all alone and in silence to just land. I sat on our bed and cried my eyes out. I allowed myself to feel all the things the situation triggered in me. It was shitty and I felt utterly destroyed. Who was I to think I’d be any good at this? Just look at it!

Well. I’m done crying about it now. I think I can now see it for what it was. I did my best with the tools I had. I learned some very useful lessons. Rio, Beethoven and the therapists all hugged me and regaled me with stories of their own, reassuring me they’d all been there and that I’d indeed been good enough. Because what this was, was a bump in the road and one of those I can’t avoid. This is part and parcel of learning and growing. Yesterday when I walked back in through those doors, I ensured my back was a little straighter and I also put a new little strategy in place: I didn’t apologise to anyone for doing my job. Or for using up oxygen by breathing. I didn’t say “excuse me, sorry to interrupt your lunch, you’re next for meds, I’m so sorry to be a pain“. I said “right, you’re next, now please“. Progress, not perfection.

I needed to hit that bump. Be in a situation I find so uncomfortable I want to crawl out of my own skin or stick my fingers into my eyeballs and swirl them around just for the fucking distraction from the pain I feel. What this showed me was this: the worst thing I thought could happen DID happen, but actually….. ….the worst that could, and did, happen was nothing. No one died. I doubt they sat around afterwards having a good old laugh at how they shot me down. Or maybe they did! So what! I’m there to support them in their recovery but I’m not fucking there to recover FOR them. So yesterday I faced them all and I don’t know if it was my straighter back or lack of needless apologies, but dare I say it – I was in charge. And part of the reason why is because I hit a bump, crashed hard but instead of running and hiding, I picked myself up and got back in the saddle. Bring it, biatches. I’m done running and hiding.

Weirdly, I’m looking forward to Wednesday morning when I’ll take that group once again. Yep. Life is life and sometimes everything will fall into our laps and sometimes life will kick our asses. But sobriety does transform us and I’m quite happy – excited, even – to walk back into a situation that last time felt like that nightmare where you’re naked and on stage and everyone points and laughs. I kid you not. Sure, it does also make me feel a little sick but this is what I want to do, it’s what I believe in and what I’m passionate about and if it’s not worth fighting for, then why bother?

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Today I’m not going to drink.

Milk Or Sugar With That?

Beyond tired. But it’s a good tired. What an awesome week! I’m sober, Bambino’s been a superstar, Hubby is on his way home this evening from another work trip and I can’t wait to pinch his bottom kiss him stupid, and I am a paid member of staff at the rehab and all signed off to fly solo with the medication. Rio’s verbal machine gun instruction style has paid off and I feel quite confident. Except one pill flew out of the stubborn blister pack and landed on the client’s head and then I had to chase after another as I missed the detox meds. Still. I could just picture Rio staring at the screen in the staff room at the CCTV with these mishaps and throwing his hands in the air and shouting oh come on, Anna, what are you doing girl? Look at this, what’s wrong with this woman?!” in his usual manner. It’s endearing though and today he’s been mostly smiling. Actually, that’s not quite truthful. He’s mostly been laughing at me, starting with bursting out into a loud cackle the moment I walked in at 6.45am.

I’d say I’m reasonably bright but I’m just so bloody ditzy with it. Sometimes my brain just locks up completely and things that are really obvious become incomprehensible. When I’m tired I can barely work a zip. It’s a good tired, but it’s a full on tired. These shifts would be exhausting if I worked 9-5. That doesn’t exist at the rehab. It’s 7am-3pm or 2pm-10pm. After a bunch of those and often the early one straight after the late one, meaning I’ve not had more than five hours’ sleep, and things can quickly start to spin.

Last night I was going to take my maiden voyage admission. It wasn’t to be. The client was in a state so serious that the doctor asked me to get an ambulance. Fair dos. I reminded myself I’m Calm Anna with ice in her stomach and dialled 999.

Are they unconscious?” the dispatcher asked.

Not quite, but dangerously intoxicated and the doctor who’s with them says they needs to get to A&E,” I responded, already impatient and stressed as I realised I was in for a questionnaire.

How’s their breathing?” the dispatcher lady continued, “is it normal or are they having trouble breathing?

I am not with them,” I told her as firmly as I could without snapping having already explained the situation, “I am in a staff office and they’re in a different room but it’s serious enough that the DOCTOR who is with them and who has examined them has instructed me to call for an ambulance.

The doctor popped his head in at this stage, just for a second to check the ambulance is on the way and to tell me to inform the dispatcher that the person is vomiting blood.

They are vomiting blood,” I parrot and drum my fingernails against the desk, “can you confirm the ambulance on the way?

Rio dashes in to fetch something as I’m confirming some other details and then the doctor is back in, again to check for reassurance the “blue light” (as he calls it rather than ‘ambulance’) is indeed coming. I’m at this point fielding a few more vomit questions.

Yes, he’s vomiting blood,” I repeat.

Ground coffee!” the doctor adds hurriedly, before disappearing off again.

Huh? I freeze for a moment. They’re puking coffee? But I’ve told them they’re puking blood! Holy shitballs.

Uh, they’ve vomited coffee,” I say and scrunch up my nose as I don’t get why the doctor is so keen to specify this.

Whether he’s vomiting coffee or orange juice doesn’t matter, right? Blood I understand wouldn’t be great, but why is he so specific about this? Coffee? Do I actually need to do closer inspections of vom in the future? Oh please God no, I’m just too squeamish. No vom for me. Eurgh. But how did I misunderstand this? I was so sure the doctor had said they were vomiting blood, surely? Oh well, now it’s coffee and I repeat this on the phone. Several times. Who knows, perhaps coffee clings harder to your stomach or something and if THAT comes up it’s serious or something?

The poor client is picked up and they take him in. It turns out “ground coffee” is code for blood from the sacro-something or other. Rio has a laughing fit when I tell him the latest tale illustrating my utter stupidity and having asked for an ambulance for someone who’s vomiting coffee. But at least it arrived, eh, and quickly too. The doctor makes a noise as you would at a daft little puppy that’s just chased a ball and too late realised it’s clumsily charging straight into the wall. Still. All’s well that ends well. The client is where they need to be and will be back with us as soon as they’re well enough to begin detox and their recovery journey.

So my maiden voyage admission was instead a lovely lady who checked in this morning and a very pleasant flight I have to say, in the great scheme of things and compared with many I’ve sat in on. And it was right after my maiden voyage running relaxation group. Spoke and didn’t fall apart. Can’t say I was overly assertive but Rome wasn’t built in one day. Neither was Stockholm. I did OK with both, I think. Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but good enough for my first solo flights. I fucking love this. It’s tough and it’s heartbreaking and it’s exhausting, but even now that I’m so tired I doubt I’ll last beyond 8pm, it makes me smile and feel really fortunate that I get to hop out of bed tomorrow morning at 5am to head off to rehab on a Saturday morning. My ex-bosses gave me a lovely card when I left that reads “do what you love and love what you do” – I think this might just be it.

Counting my blessings would take forever, but the fact that I’m sitting here 430 days sober is the greatest gift I’ve ever been given alongside Bambino and Hubby. Oh, and my bonus sons. Sobriety and my boys and loving what I get to do for a living – life’s pretty damn awesome on Planet Anna.

Today I’m not going to drink.

A Few Minutes of Plinky-Plonky Music

Here’s Little Anna kissing Mum. It was in June 1979 in hospital and she’d just given me a little brother. She deserved a kiss, definitely.

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We’re all addicts, aren’t we?” my mother mused when I spoke to her on the phone last night. She said it in that gentle, sweet way she does when she mulls things over and wants to show she relates. “We all have those things we think of as rewards.

Mum, however, was talking about chocolate. She giggled knowingly and told me in that let-me-tell-you-a-secret kind of way that she has on occasion hidden chocolate bars. The way she told me and the way she said it was how you might expect someone to confess to something really quite naughty or controversial. Like my old systems for hiding wine and then disposing of the empties. Bless my beautiful and utterly lovely mother. She was, of course, making perfect sense.

Thank God it’s just chocolate! What if I’d discovered drinking or smoking?” she added, still with that smile in her voice that I could hear all the way from Sweden.

Somehow I can’t quite picture my mother drinking or smoking. She’ll cautiously take a small sip at an infuriatingly small glass of wine at, say, Christmas, but never have I ever known her to DRINK drink. And trying to picture her smoking a cigarette makes me laugh because it’s more unlikely than if she were to moonlight as a stripper. Point is, though, that she did what we do when we really listen to someone talk about something that’s difficult and we want to show we have taken it onboard, wanting to illustrate that we can relate in some way. I believe it comes down to wanting to be kind. Discussing my addiction and recovery with one of my bestest, oldest friends went down in a similar manner – my friend brought up her own view on drinking and I know it was a genuine way of reassuring me that hey, buddy, I hear you. I’ve said it before – I’m very lucky.

We all want and need to be heard, and when you talk openly about what used to be a dirty, shameful secret it’s uplifting to be met with this sort of kindness where your loved ones want to show they really thought about what you said and searched for ways to relate.

Life is manic now. Manic in a good way, but I do have to take care not to allow my full throttle brain to take over. I finally have that coveted employment contract and have been given the first bunch of course work to solidify all these new things I am learning. Today is a day for Anna. Monday I got home closer to 11pm following an evening shift and got up at 5am Tuesday to start another at 7am. Working at the rehab isn’t like an office job with breaks. Kiss 9-5 goodbye. Nevermind the leisurely 9-2 I cruised along at. I’m served lunch by the chef like everyone else, but I have yet to spend longer than ten minutes eating in peace before rushing off to the next thing. I’m yet to complete a task with no interruption. This is where I have to make a conscious effort to breathe and slow myself down because my brain works in PRECISELY in this way – this is the speed setting my brain naturally likes. And it’s PRECISELY the speed setting that had me plunge head first into severe alcoholism. So whilst I’m now feeling restless at this self imposed Day of Chillax and itching to complete all course work I’m able to access, I’m pushing myself back. Jeez, slow down, gal.

Beethoven actually pointed out how Rio has used his addict’s mind to get as good as he is at his job – this top speed, almost frantic approach. So yes, being wired in this way isn’t necessarily a bad thing and my addiction super powers can indeed be strengths, but what I’m saying is I have to be mindful of how I’m feeling. Feeling energised and motivated is one thing, compulsion is quite another and I do 100% feel rattled by a pile of course work I want to churn through. So I’m deliberately leaving it sitting there. Today is Anna’s Day of Chillax. Blog, go for a walk, perhaps bake something. Tomorrow it’s another late shift, followed by a 7am start both Friday and Saturday. Today is self care and deep breaths. Clear my mind and just BE.

This is something Beethoven is always very clear on. Well, the man has worked with addicts for years and at the rehab he also employs a bunch of us. When Rio was throwing shifts into my greedy little hands, Beethoven emphasised I should only do what feels right and not say yes because I feel I have to.

Your husband might come down here and shout at us!” Beethoven joked and Rio laughed out loud and gave a high five, “[Rio] and I might end up in big trouble.

I doubt it. Now he has a wife who comes home from work and is excited and wants to tell him all about her day,” I told them and immediately cringed at how fucking cheesy it sounded.

Aw, that’s really nice,” Beethoven said and smiled, “that’s how it should be, I’m glad you said that.

Drunk Me would have gone bright red for even being in a conversation and the discomfort this always used to entail. Drunk Me would blush furiously if even spoken to. Sober Me smiled and just got on with it. Some days I don’t even recognise myself, so long had I been buried, but I’m slowly learning to be me again. Rio informed me that I’ll run the relaxation group occasionally. This involves talking to a group of roughly 20 people, lead the discussion and moderate following a few minutes of plinky-plonky music and meditation. Had you asked me to do this just 14-or-so months ago I would have refused and run a mile. Even for a handful of people – no fucking way. Never mind a group of 20-odd that on top of things may occasionally include a well known face. Not a problem. The thought doesn’t make me anxious or nervous. Why? Coz I’m sober. Turns out these things don’t actually scare me. It’s just another thing to do, something I’m learning but happy to attempt even if I don’t know it all. Even the idea of getting something wrong doesn’t terrify me. It doesn’t even bother me. What a lovely surprise, Sobriety! I sure as hell didn’t expect THAT. Whatever next?

Well. 428 days sober. That’s a miracle. I well up just typing it because I can’t quite believe it’s real. What a gift. And I’m so grateful I got to wake up again with a clear mind and free from all that heavy shame and regret. For the first time in 15 years, I come home from work knowing I gave it my all and that I did well. For the first time in 15 years, I know me being there made a difference. I haven’t felt this way in so long. And I remember her now, the girl I used to be. I lost her there for a while.

Today I’m not going to drink.