Uncomfortable Truths (…or are they?)

When it comes to AA this week has been a bit of a downer for me. I’m still very much taking care to hear and absorb the similarities, but I’m finding that there are things that really don’t sit right with me. I have a questioning nature but it sometimes takes a while to catch up with me as I’m also extremely trusting. This tendency to trust with abandon often means I am easily sucked in and carried away but my curiosity and inner rebel always catch up eventually and this week that seems to be the case. With AA, I have thrown myself right into it and sworn allegiance to the program without questioning even the bits I don’t particularly feel right about. Well, until now that my thoughts and questioning side are finally getting up to speed, that is. I touched upon a couple of things in my previous post that I find hard to accept, namely: 1) that alcoholism is an incurable disease, and 2) that to stay sober I will always have to stay in AA and practice the 12 steps and 12 traditions.

I’ve thought some more. Plenty more.

It’s with an open mind and heart I have thrown myself into this. If I didn’t think my drinking was out of control I would never have found myself seeking out the rooms – I just want to be very clear on this point. Honesty doesn’t scare me and I’ve never been scared to FEEL. Hell, I feel everything so fucking strongly it’s quite exhausting sometimes but that’s always been me, sober or otherwise (and ‘otherwise’ has mostly been the case over the past decade when I was busy drinking myself to pieces), but I’ve always accepted that to be who I am and I’ve never attempted to feel less or more or in a way that isn’t what makes me ME. I don’t mean to be obnoxious but taking a good look at myself isn’t something I’m scared of. Sure, I have battled with alcoholism for many, many years but it wasn’t down to reluctance to admit I had a problem because I knew that for a long time. The issue for me was that life appeared a little dull if I were to remove the booze – dumb as hell, yes, but that’s all it was when I peel away the layers, fear of removing something I have for a large part actually enjoyed. With that said, no, I didn’t hit rock bottom but I got a good look at what rock bottom looked like and decided that I didn’t much fancy ending up there. I got to a point where plunging towards that dark place and fear of inevitably ending up there overtook the enjoyment, it’s no more complicated than that.

When I reached the decision and knew in my heart I needed and wanted to do something about my drinking and found the rooms, it was with such relief. I’ve felt amazing for almost a month now and it’s all because I’m sober. As I have a tendency to do initially – and of course I was also full of gratitude and joy so probably even more likely to just get gobbled up by the philosophy of AA – I took everything I heard and read as gospel and made a promise to myself that I would follow the program to the letter. And I have. I’m doing the praying, calling others in the fellowship, reading and all the things I’m meant to do. I am doing it with a sense of trust and confidence. Still, I’m coming across things that are in direct conflict with my most fundamental values and beliefs.

Because I dove in and got myself a sponsor – Sparks – I suppose she’ll eventually start to take me through the 12 steps. For those who aren’t familiar with AA and its program, these steps are basically a mish-mash of something along the lines that you admit you’re an alcoholic and powerless, then hand yourself over to a Higher Power that’ll remove your flaws, admit your wrongs and then put them right, then “do service”. Something like that. The last part I think is basically passing on the gift – sobriety – that you have been given to other alcoholics by helping out with anything from serving the coffee at meetings to sharing, chairing, sponsoring and so on. I know I’m sounding incredibly negative at the moment and it really isn’t my intention, I’m just being me: honest. I’m genuinely seeking answers, not attempting to hinder my own recovery even though it might look that way. I mean, stop asking questions – just trust the program because it works! Sorry, it’s just how I am – I’m quite happy to give of myself and trust in stuff, but I do also have a genuine desire to understand the whats, hows, wheres and whys. Throw in a few ifs and buts too and we’re good. Bit of a control freak, you see.

So in these 12 steps there is one about asking God (or, as it goes, “as you understand Him”) to remove the defects in you. This is where I want to scream! I’m human – am I not MEANT to have defects? Isn’t that one of the very fundamental freaking cornerstones of what makes me human in the first place? I have grown up believing what I was raised to believe, namely that all our qualities – good and bad – are part of who we are and what makes us US and therefore by definition if you start removing parts we’re no longer who we were meant to be. I was raised to always look for truths in any criticism and see if I could see any, and if so raise my hands and admit I’ve been a twat if I have been and do my best to do or be better. But never to think of even wrong doing or less than good qualities as “defects” that need exorcising somehow.

Even marriage vows tell us “for better for worse” so to me it would be a bit like removing how freaking nosy my husband is – he just can’t help himself, goes through everything, has to know everything and I’ve had to change passwords, create secret folders in my e-mail and create a digital Fort Knox in order to keep where I’m taking him on his birthday a secret. Annoying as HELL. But it’s cute and endearing and I don’t want to change a THING about this beautiful person I am fortunate enough to call my husband. OK, so being a little nosy doesn’t exactly compare with Raging Alcoholic which is what “for worse” means in my case and what he has to contend with, the poor soul! To be fair, however, it’s part of who I am – or at least it’s been part of my journey – so I am willing to hazard a guess that if you asked hubby he might actually say that EVEN THAT he would not change. I know, right? He’s unbearably wonderful. A unicorn.

Point is though that I wouldn’t be Sophie with parts removed, be it my drinking or that I have a huge arse. With that said, I believe it’s the right thing to do to try to improve things that are bad for you or others. I just don’t believe in or understand what could possibly be gained by removing “defects”. They are part of who I am and I am a fallible human being! Improve, grow, learn and develop – yes. Erase, deny, forget, remove – no.

Also, as willing as I am to hold my hands up and make honest admissions (saying I’m an alcoholic isn’t a defeat to me, it’s a victory so here’s my battle cry once again: I’M A BIG, FAT ALKIEEEEEEEE!!!), I don’t like labels. I really don’t. In fact I despise labels. Labels are for jars, not people surely? Hm, no, that doesn’t work for me. That contradicts my beliefs MASSIVELY. Almost to a point that I just won’t accept it because then by default that would mean that my one criminal act – stealing a chocolate bar at the age of 10 – would irreversibly define me forever. But it doesn’t. It was an act of defective BEHAVIOUR. Not an inherent defect in me as a being. I am a human being who has got faults and shortcomings like any other – no more, no less. My drinking is a BIG problem, but I struggle to label myself any more than I would label any other person and I believe in our own power to make changes and do better when we’ve fucked up. It all comes back to ownership and responsibility that I prefer to place at my own door, not in a mysterious disease (that’s incurable at that!) or some elusive Higher Power.

But I’ll go with it for now because I’ve not found any other solution to a problem that will kill me unless I keep on the straight and narrow – clear? Good. Just want to underline that I’m going with this until proven wrong but that doesn’t mean I can’t question its logic where it doesn’t agree with me. That’s all.

I’ve exchanged texts with Sparks this morning and I’ve told her I’m full of thoughts. Immediately she told me to “use” her, that she’s here for me and that I can call her anytime with any thoughts, any doubts or anything else I need to get off my chest. I think all of this would be really good to bounce around with her. Help me make sense of it, really. Well. After all, she’s been exactly where I am now, experienced the drink monster just like I have and therefore likely to have battled with these exact thoughts too and look at her now: happily sober for years and her joie de vivre is utterly contagious. I’ll have what she’s having, please. 

And once again – for all my thoughts and even doubts – all I know is this: I woke up this morning feeling grateful that yesterday was another sober day and I will strive to make today another one just like it.

Praying to the Neighbour’s Cat

A flat tyre and you didn’t drink, that’s a great result!” read the text from Red this morning. Well, she’d returned mine telling her of our misfortunes ahead of our Valentine’s dinner last night but I’m engulfed in yet another extreme tiredness tsunami so I was fast asleep when her text arrived.

I’m racking up a solid ten hours of sleep each night and still I’m so ridiculously TIRED. Hubby and I had a lovely date last night – despite the half hour in the cold and the rain changing a flat tyre on his car – and once again I’m thanking my lucky stars for this amazing human being I get to spend my life with, he’s truly amazing and he showed it once again by ordering me to a hot shower to defrost when we got home after which I just passed out. Not drunk. I passed out sober. It was like someone turned the light off and I struggled to even get myself into bed, so tired that even putting my phone on charge seemed like a huge effort. I’m booking an appointment to have bloods done as this is starting to feel suspiciously like anemia. I’ve been anemic in the past so if it’s that it should be easily corrected by a short course of iron tablets. Or, it’s what I also suspect it could be and just a simple case of my poor body recovering from over a decade of heavy drinking. Or alcohol abuse. Don’t mind which term you want to use, both are true.

But back to the flat tyre and not drinking. I think it’s probably true for a lot of alcoholics that the urge to drink might be triggered by mishaps or stressful situations. Although as a drunk I will drink regardless and use whatever is easiest to point to as my excuse for doing so, those situations are actually when I want to drink the least. Stress or negative events or emotions seem to have the opposite effect and had I still been drinking the whole tyre affair would probably have lessened my desire to get stuck into the vino. I would have been much more likely to crave a drink if everything had gone perfectly right and we’d had some excellent and unexpected news – like winning the lottery – en route. But I get her point and I do know that were my circumstances and disposition different I’d have other triggers – the triggers are secondary anyway as us drunks drink because we’re drunks and not because we’re happy or stressed or excited or angry….. ..or whatever we happen to be in that specific moment. For me it’s almost always been an enhancer but I suspect that’s circumstantial more than anything else.

Meeting with another AA friend – let’s call her Ivy because that’s what I can see out of the window in this precise moment – ahead of another meeting this afternoon even though I’d most of all prefer to go straight home for a nap, then stay awake long enough to have dinner before hitting the sack. Honestly, I’ve never felt this tired in my life! I have a “Super Green” smoothie next to me that I am going to pour down my neck in the hope it’ll charge my system a little and I’ve got my thick notebook with me to do some work on my novel before Ivy turns up. I tried to explain the feeling to hubby this morning (after telling him that if he wants to have sex at the moment he will have to assume I’m willing if I have a pulse and just hop on as I’m too tired to be much more than a sack of potatoes – poor guy), that my mind feels sharp and focused but my body is exhausted. So I do feel perfectly wired right now for creativity. Let’s just hope my hand has enough life in it to create notes.

Still figuring out if AA agrees with me as some of the spiritual aspects don’t quite resonate but it’s certainly (and somewhat ironically) been a godsend this far. The bits that make me hesitate are in essence two things:

1. The notion that alcoholism is a disease, described as “an allergy of the body and obsession of the mind“. The general consensus is that there is no cure.

This scares me for two reasons. Firstly, if it’s a disease that would mean that I am a victim in this and choice doesn’t come into it. That doesn’t quite sit right with me because I am such a believer in us all shaping our own destiny. Addiction is very real of course and I will concede that someone in its grip may not be able to help themselves, but I have never experienced physical withdrawal (unless that’s what this tiredness is of course) or found it hard not to pick up that first drink so for me it doesn’t apply in my case in the same way. It also passes the buck a little, like I had no choice or doing whatsoever in the matter. It kinda frees me of responsibility and I don’t like that. I got myself here, period. Secondly, it’s such a bleak diagnosis. AA offers the suggestion that to be successful in recovery and your sobriety you need to continue with meetings and all the (lovely) things AA entails. This is terrifying because that would mean that if AA ceased to exist tomorrow I would be truly and royally FUCKED and sideways too. So that’s hard for me to swallow, unlike Sauvignon Blanc.

2. Recovery and sobriety depend on us surrendering to a Higher Power. 

Again, this scares me for the same reason because it basically means I cannot possibly get myself through this. And for me, who still grapples with what this Higher Power might mean for me personally, this is therefore reduced to place some hope in how I pray – something that is still something I do because I’m willing to give this my best shot and trusting in the process rather than something I do because I feel connected to God or any other entity bigger than us. It worries me a little. Of course, it’s “God as you understand Him” and therefore could be anything at all that feels right, presumably even if it’s the neighbour’s cat you decide to pray to, but at the core it’s for me still putting the responsibility for my drinking someplace other than myself – along with the way out of it!! -and I just don’t know if that feels right.

***

But I will continue and keep an open mind. So for that reason I will head off to have coffee with Ivy, attend the meeting and follow Sparks’ suggestions as best I can. There’s nothing to say that my AA experience or journey of recovery has to follow an exact mould, is there? There’s a lot of talk of yoga and meditation and to be honest I can’t think of a bigger waste of my time than spending an hour in the lotus position and going ohhmmmmmmmmm. But perhaps I can find a way that works for me? Like sitting quietly on the sofa with my eyes closed and count my breaths? Like praying, I doubt it’s only heard and/or answered because you are on your knees and clasping your hands. Who’s to say that a prayer can’t be something you sing when you’re driving? Or a thought that passes through your mind when you press the snooze button in the morning? Well – you can probably tell that I’m not a great believer in rules and my natural instinct has always been to break them, which I realise makes me a pain in the arse but there we are. For the moment, however, I do kneel and I do clasp my hands and it’s “God” I address rather than the neighbour’s cat. It’ll either eventually click or it will turn out my path is a different one. All in good time.

For today though, I will strive to give myself the same gift again: I won’t pick up a drink.

Not Going to Worry About Forever

Well, fuck me, look at that – I didn’t quite believe it would happen when I prayed for a sober day but here I am sans hangover on Valentine’s Day, the day after my birthday. I just turned 42 and I don’t think Valentine’s has been a hangover free day since perhaps my mid-teens. If I’d discovered a million in my bank account it wouldn’t have made me feel better than I do right now. That’s right – if someone offered me a million to have a drink, I’d choose this and remain well into my overdraft, ta very much, and I guess that goes some way to show that money can’t buy you happiness. Plus if I had that million sitting there in my bank account I’d be too zonked to enjoy it anyway. But this is what I’m feeling Right Now and I’m not so cocky I believe for a second that I’ll feel this way forever. I never drank in the morning anyway so although I would have agreed to do so in exchange for a million, this isn’t a critical time of the day for me. It’s the afternoons that are dangerous territory for me. That and a good mood. But I’m not going to worry about forever. With God’s help (despite still undecided on what ‘God’ means for me – a Santa like man on a cloud? The universe? The feeling I get when I look at my son? God – hahr hahr – knows), today I will not drink and to be honest I deserve to feel a little extra brave after not getting drunk on my birthday – it truly is quite monumental for me. Then again, I’m an alcoholic so really ANY day I spend sober is a bit of a momentous event and I say that with zero irony or need to be dramatic.

Today seems a whole lot less scary after conquering my birthday evening without getting sloshed. Taking the husband out for a fancy dinner and Right Now there is no part of me that dreads not getting to drink. Hmm…. Funny choice of words there – “not GETTING to drink“… My alkie brain at work, folks. It’s still telling me I’m going without, when the fact is that the more accurate way to put it would be “not HAVING to drink“. Because that’s what it is: I don’t have to drink tonight, thank God! That’s just so beautiful. I don’t have to guzzle wine, plunge into black-out after ceasing to be present and enjoying the moment after two or three drinks, then wake tomorrow morning feeling like death and with crippling anxiety try to puzzle the evening together. Perhaps spend a few moments trying to work out where various bruises stem from. Delete a few Facebook posts or cringe at some mortifyingly gushing e-mail I might have sent yet not remember typing a single line of it? Well, my dear alkie brain, isn’t it a shame I won’t GET to do all of that? Poor, poor me.

In my phone there are some new numbers and I’m learning to pick up the phone even though it’s something I really prefer not to do. However, I made up my mind to trust in this program and give myself to it when all of my own attempts and methods for breaking free from drinking failed, and I can only report that it works. It doesn’t just work, it works beautifully.

To be honest, I sat through some meetings slightly skeptical, listening to fellow alcoholics wax lyrical about all the amazing things sobriety has brought them. I mean, beyond “not GETTING to”  wreck their lives anymore. People talked of incredible opportunities pretty much landing in their laps, their lives now so fantastic it’s something of a dream. One lady even said how if she saw her own job advertised she’d dismiss it as too brilliant to even apply for yet somehow she is the one who not only does that job but who does it really well. It was all a bit new age mumbo-jumbo to me, this stuff about the universe (or God or whatever) delivering once you took this path. Yet I already see it in my own life. No, I’m still into my overdraft and I’m yet to publish a book, but I am writing! I’m writing every day and I have so much to say – in no small part attributed to how without a hangover I am full of energy, have a clear mind and LOTS to say. Research for the novel I was writing – two books that have sat in my book shelves for over five years – is now underway because I have a mind that is alert and keen enough to absorb it.

For the non-alcoholic it might be amusing to know that my Baby G watch that I love I only wear during the lighter half of the year because before I became sober it was too complicated to read the manual and work out the sequence in which I’d have to press two buttons in order to change it from BST to GMT. I’m not kidding. That’s too much for me to handle when I’m drinking and I’m not referring to when I’m actually mid-binge or shitfaced. You might wonder how I ever managed to stay upright after pouring three bottles of wine down my neck but the actual mystery is how I could function AT ALL with those hangovers. Truth is though that I barely did. I wasn’t there in spirit.

I’m here now though! REALLY here. I am present, I am engaged, I am keen to learn and grow, I feel healthy and strong, I am inspired, I feel motivation and determination, I am so excited about the future, I am grateful and most of all I am full of joy. And all of this because I am sober.

Today I won’t take a drink. Today 12 hours don’t seem so hard. Today even the idea of forever isn’t all that terrifying but I’m not going to worry about that because today is NOW and the rest I will let unfold in its own time.

All In My Head

Happy Birthday to me! Fuuuuuuuuuck I forgot to pray. In the office it is… here goes… …done! Felt less of a twat this time but full of giggles, almost like it was as naughty as it would have been to take a swig of whisky. Which I never have by the way: drunk at work or swigged whisky, just not my thing. So anyway, my little prayer just now was what I’ve been asking for every day lately – another sober day. They are mounting up, by the way, and I’m just crossing the three week mark of being sober.

Yesterday was an odd day and it was the first time I sensed some of the little drink devil. It didn’t perch on my shoulder but it was definitely lurking in the wings, my fear in its nostrils and ready to pounce the evil little thing. But here I am, clear headed, happy and full of energy and once again so incredibly grateful that I once again woke up without a hangover because it could quite easily have been a very different story. Even as I headed for a meeting last night, there was a thought – fleeting, but still a thought – of not bothering and images of large glasses of Sauvignon Blanc topped with soda water, one after the other. As I read a few pages of the Big Book before falling asleep last night, the story I had got to contained exactly the lines I needed to read: it was about each time you romanticise what drinking would be like and instead remind yourself of what it was like towards the end. Very useful and something I will hold on to.

When I’d thought some more about the frustration I felt having to justify or make excuses for my sobriety I also realised it was all ME. No one so far has questioned my decision, not that I’ve really been in any situation yet where I’ll be saying “no thanks” to a drink. It’s in my head and because it’s such a huge deal for ME it seems I have this panic inside and freaking out about it. The reality is that the only thing that’ll happen is that whoever offers me a drink and has me responding with the dreaded “no thanks” won’t bat an eyelid. And why would they? All in my head, folks. But yes, yesterday was definitely quite a strange day and looking back on it now with my analytical hat on I can see that what was underneath it all was a bit of anger and a whole lot of fear.

And so here we are and perhaps, even though I’m really only focusing on one day at a time, tomorrow will be the first time since I was, what, 15 maybe, that I’ll wake up the day after my birthday without a hangover. Wouldn’t that be an amazing way to begin my 43rd year on this planet?

I’ve been given so many lovely gifts this morning. A cute necklace from my son that he picked out himself and surprisingly – ‘surprisingly’ because he is a 13-yearold boy – something I would actually pick out myself. Then again, perhaps no one knows me better than my child and he therefore knew instinctively what mum would love. Hubby was his usual amazing self and put out a pink helium balloon with ‘Happy Birthday’ on it and scattered my presents along with confetti on the bed whilst I was showering. He got me a DREMEL, yippie! OK, so it might seem odd for a wife to get excited about power tools, but I’m really into making silver and gold jewellery and this little baby will come in enormously handy for drilling, sanding, polishing and whatever else it does. He’s also taking me to a famous music bar at the weekend and gave me a book on European weekend breaks, like a promise that our life will remain just as much fun even though I’m off the Sauv. And my employers gave me a beautiful bracelet that I absolutely love. Yes, I’m getting spoilt rotten today.

The best thing of all might just be the present I gave myself three weeks ago – sobriety – and perhaps that’ll be how I’ll always remember my 42nd birthday in years to come. 2018, the year my life truly took off and everything went from awesome to beyond my wildest dreams. Because now that I’m not drinking, there’s nothing stopping me.

So with that said, all that remains is my commitment to myself: today I will not drink.

By a Thin Thread

Not all mornings will be cloud free even though the sun was shining from a clear blue sky today when I got up. I’ve felt so strong, so at peace with this journey and it’s not even hurt that much to repeat those words – ‘I’m an alcoholic’ – since I got to that awful point where I truly felt I was done with the drinking. If anything, I’ve embraced it, so relieved am I not to have to drink anymore. I’ve sat in meetings and listened to people talk about wanting to numb feelings and I’ve been unable to relate because I couldn’t identify with that part. It was always an enhancer, right? That’s what I thought. Turns out that the lust for alcohol also very much comes alive when I feel vulnerable and and insecure. And I know in this moment that this thing, this beast I’m up against, is so much stronger than I am. The moment I lose my humility in the face of its strength and hold over me is the moment I lose a battle I’m fighting with pretty damn awful odds as it is. Bit like a three-legged donkey in a race of thoroughbreds – it was never going to be anything but a disaster and I’ll probably get mangled but I have to keep faith and hold on to that thin thread by which my sobriety hangs and somehow hobble along.

It’s a bit of a revelation, actually. The funny thing is that I may have felt this lots of times but was too busy drinking and batting it away that it’s only now I’m sober that I can truly feel it. I’m terrified. No non-alcoholic will ever be able to grasp what it truly means to be a drunk, and that means that I’m ultimately alone in this. Well, I’m not alone in the rooms but once I walk out, no matter how much strength a meeting has given me, no one in the actual world I inhabit outside of the rooms will ever know what this means or how it feels. My son must wonder where on earth I sneak off to, and my husband, well, I suppose as much as he wants to support me all he can do is sit there and twiddle his thumbs when I go get my “kicks” in this new found community I’m now part of. I’m suddenly so aware that here I can never win any more than that three-legged donkey. I’m forever on eggshells and ironically I feel much more of a need to explain and justify my sobriety than I ever did my drinking. Never once did I feel I needed anyone’s permission or approval to guzzle wine like a sailor on leave, yet here I am clinging on to my sobriety for dear life and feel I need to apologise to everyone around me.

Take a minute, here: I feel like I need to apologise for any real or imagined negative impact it may have on other people’s lives that I no longer wish to drink myself to death. This morning, the day before my 42nd birthday I found myself yielding to my alkie brain which was suggesting I pack this sobriety thing right in and go back to winging it in some liver cirrhosis Russian roulette. Hey, let’s go for a few drinks – what’s the harm? I seriously, for a little while there, considered just taking the easy route. Not because I want to give up on sobriety but because I don’t want anyone around me to be inconvenienced by it. If that’s not fucking insane I don’t know what is. Here I am, knowing that if I continue on that wretched path I was on, I’ll hit rock bottom in a spectacular manner and let my life go to waste. Yet I’m so fucking preoccupied with what other people may think of it – what if it’s more fun for them if I stay drunk! – that I’m allowing thoughts of my own destruction for everyone else’s pleasure to take priority over saving my own life at what might turn out to be my last chance to do so. They may have to bury me much too soon, but at least I wasn’t boring. FUCK THAT. That donkey isn’t just three-legged, it’s brain damaged too.

So it’s not with quite as much joy, hope, faith and gratitude that I am about to pass the three week line of sobriety, it’s with an added dose of doubt, fear and despair. What I won’t do though, no matter how much me being sober and the things I need to do to keep it that way dampens anyone else’s day, is pick up a drink.

Not today. Today I will not drink.

To Share or Not to Share

So here’s something that’s sometimes played on my mind: why is it so hard for other people to accept that you might be different?

Let me explain.

From as far back as I can remember, I’ve always preferred solitude. Whilst some people might think of that as being a loner, for me it’s just who I am – I’m just not a flock animal and it’s nothing to do with how I feel inside, which happens to be (and mostly has been throughout my life) really good. OK, I happen to be an alcoholic, but it’s not rooted in low self esteem, self loathing or pain of any kind. Even now, that I’m getting sober, it would seem that this is sometimes tricky for others to accept and in particular when someone’s getting to know me. I might see if I can get Sparks’ perspective on this next time we catch up. I don’t like being the centre of attention and I’d rather eat my own head than speak in front of people, but that’s just me and once we peel away the drinking, ME is someone I genuinely like and am happy being. Never in my life have I looked at those who do enjoy the limelight take centre stage and wished it was me, not once. There isn’t the tiniest part of me who secretly wishes I’d have the “confidence” or whatever you want to call it to get up and hold court.

I’m not shy – in fact I’m more open, honest and unfiltered than most people I know. There is nothing about myself I’m uncomfortable with. OK, I could lose a bit of weight, have my teeth whitened, not lose my temper so quickly and do more good deeds but I mean overall. I’m secure in who I am. Except of course that I’m an alcoholic but I don’t necessarily consider that to be a symptom of who I am. Where the drinking monster came from I couldn’t tell you beyond that it wasn’t from a place of pain or little self worth. I’ve never wanted to destroy myself or scupper my own chances of happiness and success. I just happen to be one of those people who cannot have a drink without a raging desire and obsession to drink to oblivion come alive. End of. The way I’m wired just happens to be that I cannot stop if I have a drink. And the only times I don’t like myself is when I wake up the next day, muddled and beaten by a horrific hangover – THAT is something I don’t just dislike, I hate it. I want to stress though that it’s my alcoholism and its consequences I hate – not myself. I truly believe that my alcoholism is a matter of wiring because I don’t think I’ve ever got into the bottle to numb anything – for me it’s almost always been an enhancer, an additional layer of shimmery buzz.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying in any way to distance myself from the fact that I’m a drunk, I am completely at peace with that and would even go as far as to say I embrace it. How could I not? Now that I do, I am free! I don’t have to drink! If I were to deny it, I’d still be on that runaway train with destination Waste of Life. I’m truly grateful to be at this point where I want to be sober and strive for a sober life at any cost. I just think it’s important to understand, and to be mindful of, that as with everything else we are all different and that comes to us alkies too. My belief, which I base on own experience and what others have shared with me via AA, is that some people just happen to get this reaction from alcohol and what made you reach for the bottle in the first place may just be secondary. Not unimportant – I want to be clear here – but whether you reached for it because you felt sad or because you felt happy is not the reason why you couldn’t stop once you started. Do you get me? I’m an alcoholic and it means I cannot stop drinking if I have the first drink, happy or sad.

Otherwise it would surely be the case that only those with little self regard, a destructive nature and depressed mind would end up here, right? And it’s not – I only have to look around me in the rooms to see that. No two people share the same story, yet we all have this one thing in common and it’s when it comes to how we drink that all our stories in essence are the same. It’s the stories before we raise that first glass to our lips that can differ wildly. In my case, it wasn’t an attempt to numb my feelings, it was almost always to enhance how good I already felt. That’s part of why this stage of my sobriety feels extremely risky – feeling clear headed and free of a hangover, I feel fucking awesome and that’s when I feel like drinking. So needless to say I probably need to be more vigilant now to what my alkie brain might try to make me do than further down the line when I’ve hopefully further cemented and secured my sobriety.

The thoughts around this – how we’re all different and how what’s right for one person might not sit well with the next – started to form the other day when Sparks encouraged me to share in meetings – even when I might not feel like it and let’s face it, I never do because it’s just not who I am. You know, the whole flock thing – I’m just not that way inclined, arguably I’m no more likely to enjoy public speaking than I’m capable of drinking in moderation. It’s how I’m wired. However, what I need to focus on is that sharing isn’t necessarily all for my own benefit. There could be another person JUST LIKE ME in a meeting, who feels JUST LIKE I DO and who might in that precise moment greatly benefit from hearing about my experiences of drinking, just like I have already – just a couple of weeks in – greatly benefited from listening to others share and in particular many of the women. I’ve truly rejoiced and felt oh my God, that’s just like me and it’s made a huge difference.

So for me it’s a tricky situation. I don’t want the meetings to be something I dread because that would be dangerous in itself, and unfortunately that’s what happens any time I feel under pressure to speak in front of people or hold a presentation or similar. Indeed that’s stopped me from going into situations in the past. OK, it’s not like you’re graded on your performance or there’s a vote on how well you said what you said, but it still isn’t something I’m comfortable with and certainly not when it’s “for the sake of it”. I did share last week – albeit spluttering and stuttering – but it was because I really had something to say. I suppose what I am learning is that it’s to help others as much as myself, that there will be other Sophies in those rooms and it might just be that something I say about my experiences could be the reason they come back again the next day. Just like me.

Yep, definitely one to pick Sparks’ brains on.

Meanwhile, I continue to be sober. I feel good and my mind is sharp and focused. My body is still tired, but as someone said the other day – when your body’s been battered in a bad accident, doctors sometimes put you in an induced coma because that’s how the body heals. I can only assume my body is now trying to heal after being ravaged by alcohol for so long and I will be kind to it – I’m indulging my chocolate cravings and I am taking it easy. I owe that to myself.

Eat, Pray, Love… ..and Work?

I remembered this morning, and dutifully knelt by the bed and prayed for a sober day, and last night I remembered to do the same to say thanks for the one I had. As before, despite feeling a little silly, I’m taking this very seriously and put all my emotions into really believing in, or at least trusting, the Higher Power I was praying to. Perhaps one day it’ll just click and I’ll know what my Higher Power is given I’m not sure it’s “God” or any of the Amen stuff.

I want to talk about the day job…. When you spend the majority of days hungover, even the simplest tasks can seem insurmountable. This would be hard to explain to a non-drunk. Hangovers that are almost at a chronic level, where your body and mind are so ravaged by alcohol that even making a phone call is complicated. Coherent thoughts require enormous effort, like two threads floating around in water, you need the ends to meet but the connection doesn’t happen in the waves so the two are incomplete trains of thought and you will always remain a little lost so long as the two don’t connect. Hm, not sure that made any sense whatsoever. But perhaps that’s the best illustration of all.

My job is not complicated and even with a severe hangover (not that I seem to ever have non-severe hangovers – certainly not over the past decade anyway) there’s nothing that challenges or stretches me. It just takes a lot longer and keeps me busy due to my mushy alkie-brain trying to connect the dots. Actually! Did you know there’s such a thing as “wet brain”? It’s booze related. And it makes perfect sense. Not that I need any scientific evidence to have me realise my lack of brain power was down to drinking, I didn’t need anyone to tell me that but thought the “wet brain” thing was quite interesting as well as scary. More on it here: HAMS: What is wet brain?

So anyway, I thought now that I’m sober I’d perk up and do a really great job. Not so much. Turns out I’m now completely bored. When I’ve done in a couple of hours what hungover me would have needed two days for, there’s more stuff to do of course, but none of it is difficult and I swear the most complicated thing I’ve done in the past couple of weeks is trying to work out what was said on the tape I happened to be transcribing.

It was only ever meant to be a back-up and an income stream whilst I pursued my creative passions, so it’s not as if I got it because I thought it’d push me in any way. Of course it turned out it was the perfect job for an alcoholic, so time I could have spent writing or on other creative pursuits I spent drinking. It was never the intention, but then for this alcoholic it never IS the intention. Just like it’s never my intention to have more than a couple of drinks. When you’re an alcoholic intention means shit. It’s a choice that isn’t yours, yet we all seem to think despite never succeeding that THIS time it’ll work out that way.

But I digress. Back to the job.

The eternal optimist in me does see all the good things about this gig: I work for wonderful people, it’s at the right end of town meaning I can either drive for 15 minutes to get there or take a lovely walk along the river THE WHOLE WAY (come on – how many people can boast such an amazing commute?!), I never have to dread going in because it’s lovely to be there and it brings in enough cash to wear the jeans I want and stock up on silver, gold and stones to turn into jewellery. And most of all the time to write. So why complain? I’m trying not to, but it’s just not for me. I do have a little stash of ready-to-wear metal and glitter, so now’s the time to get going. That’s my medium term plan. Create a side stream and when that approaches my current salary that’s when I pack this in and pursue the things that fulfil me and those things ONLY. That’s something sobriety has already brought my way, only two weeks in: my drive, passion and motivation to grab life with both hands and go for it. Isn’t that amazing? For me it really is, because the drinking has meant I’ve had the get-up-and-go of a slug on morphine for all these years, and now I’m finally starting to be… …….me!

Just the feeling itself, this joy and excitement bubbling in me that feels like something is about to explode (in a GOOD way!), is nothing short of mind blowing. You know, I sat there in the first few meetings and listened to people say how all these amazing things had come their way with sobriety – it’s true! It’s just like that! Nothing can stop me now, there’s nothing holding me back! Already the universe is delivering.

As long as I don’t pick up a drink, this is the life I will now have and it’s so full of possibilities. That’s why today, I will not have a drink.