Nine Tuesdays

Hello Tuesday, how ya been? By my calculations you and I are now spending time for the 9th time since I quit drinking and hopefully you like it as much as I do. Unlike Wednesday, which has always been the crappiest day for me for reasons I’m not sure of, you’ve never been a problem for me and you’re possibly the day that almost always just slinks by fairly unnoticed. Bit like me, really, so perhaps that’s why we get along as well as we do.

Work is still super boring but I know I’m being a spoilt brat about it so am still focusing on all the really great things about it (it’s easy, relatively pleasant, the people are nice and I get paid) and know it’s just a matter of directing my creativity and any hunger to learn new stuff and be challenged in a direction that feeds my soul where this gig doesn’t. I’m sure the future will unfold in a beautiful way and I’ll soon know where I’m headed so I’m not going to waste time on trying to figure out things that’ll be revealed to me soon anyway. I think when I was still drinking it was a relief not to have to go to a job where my whole brain was ever required so of course now that my whole brain is suddenly available it’s just a tad dull to sit here and do something I really don’t feel passionate about or need to focus to do. Oh well. Perhaps I just have it too easy, there’s probably more truth in that than I want to really recognise. I suppose there’s a part of me that feels a little embarrassed about that – don’t we all want to feel that there was real purpose in our day? Knowing we really did something that mattered. So I guess I find it frustrating sometimes on what seems like stuff that really doesn’t. Not much anyway.

As with anything however, I know it has to come from me. I can’t just sit here and wait for fate to drop a challenge into my lap any more than I expect fate or a Higher Power to keep me sober. And there is where I got to with AA for now I think. As much as I believe in a grand design, energy and intelligence, I also believe we all have a hand in our own fates and although we are sometimes guided and given signs I reckon we also have to find the strength within ourselves to get to where we want to be. What would be the point otherwise?

It’s funny, I was trying to fast forward in time last night when I was out for my hour long walk, if they’re right. That I am what the literature refers to as ‘rebellious’ and that I will at some stage – due to going it on my own – relapse and get myself to an even worse place than the one my drinking already got me to, come back to the rooms with my tail between my legs ready to follow the doctrine to the letter. I wondered and tried to figure out if the fact that I feel good and strong is what they say it is – the disease talking – and that I’ll suddenly both want a drink and also think I’ve solved the problem. I’m not so cocky I believe I’m “better than” anyone or that I have somehow solved the riddle of alcohol abuse so I am absolutely open to the possibility that they’re bang on the money. Maybe in a month or a year or a decade from now, I’ll have learnt that I got it all wrong and that I need AA not just as a tool to focus but as my be all and end all. I’m only doubtful because I don’t want to drink and how I – foolishly perhaps – can’t see how sobriety will be ardous or require effort now or ever.

Case in point: smoking. Or vaping, rather, given I’m these days “only” inhaling some vegetable based nicotine vapour as opposed to your normal mixture of tar, toxins and carcinogens. Anyway, nicotine – also an addictive substance, no? It’s one which has always had much more pronounced abstinence discomfort for me than alcohol ever did. In fact, I don’t know how I can describe the way I craved alcohol beyond a ping! in my head and a thought saying I fancy a drink. Nicotine is stronger in that sense as I get not just pings but actual pangs. Again, this for ME. I only speak for myself here so please don’t – not that I think anyone would be daft enough in the first place! – take this to be How It Is For Everyone or some addiction gospel. The nicotine cravings are similar to hunger pangs actually: a slightly empty, restless feeling which is very much like feeling peckish – you kind of want something so you go to the cupboards or the fridge in search of a snack. Physically I’ve never craved alcohol in that sense but then again that very nightmarish place cannot have been far off so I think we’re just dealing with the mother of all lucky escapes here. Very lucky indeed because for me the psychological pull of alcohol was so powerful it still scares me when I remember how I slayed dragons just to get myself home one evening not too long ago.

But the pings or pangs or pingelifuckingpongs aren’t the problem here. I think for me it’s pretty obvious from the description above that I don’t exactly suffer horrific withdrawal symptoms from my homies Nicy and Alcy. Right? I quit one and I still do the other. Why? Because I still am under the illusion that I enjoy nicotine somehow and yes, I do know how ridiculous that is as it’s an addictive poison like any other: what I enjoy is the relief taking the drug gives me, i.e. the dose that relieves the discomfort caused by the previous one. Nothing else. As with alcohol I know nicotine does absolutely nothing for me and that I still vape for one reason only: because I am addicted to a drug. Nicotine doesn’t relax me, nor does it get me focused. It doesn’t elevate my mood and it doesn’t subdue it. It doesn’t get me high or low or anything at all other than ease the crap I feel when the previous puffs on my e-cigarette tail off. That’s it and that’s what I believe addiction to be. If you wear a pair of shoes that pinch and hurt your feet, it’ll be a relief to take them off. It’s not quite reason enough to buy shoes that don’t fit just for the relief of taking them off though, is it?

Anyway! I am still wanting to vape. So I do. I no longer want to drink. So I don’t. Sometimes I feel ridiculous even writing these things over and over because it’s like I’m making this so much more complicated than it needs to be. Part of that is that I think I expected this to be so much more complicated and that I’d feel a bunch of things I just don’t even when I try. Maybe it’s very, very simple? It appears that way. It walks like a duck and it sounds like a duck, so why am I trying so hard to see if it might – despite every sign to say it isn’t – be something other than a plain, old duck?!

With J, it was no big deal. It was a conversation because I used to drink a LOT and now I don’t. His stance was simply why anyone would bother, EVER. Him not ordering a beer was no big deal and he isn’t giving any thought or analysing things the way I am to what not drinking will mean in the future. Just like there’s no need to sit and analyse to death what it will be like to go through life not eating dog shit. It seems to me I need to find a better use of my time and put this little brain of mine to work analysing stuff that will have at least SOME purpose.

Still not drinking. Still don’t want to. Still can’t tell you a single good thing a glass of wine (or nine) would do for me, I can only tell you about an endless list of horrible shite it’d result in. What’s tempting about that? May as well bang my head against the wall over and over just so I’ll feel how good it is when I stop – getting addicted to that is about as tempting as slowly drowning in Sauvignon Blanc again.

So on balance I’d say we’re all good here, Tuesday. Happy 9th anniversary, my love!

The Stars at Whangapoua Beach

I’m still waiting. I’m four days shy of it being two months since I quit drinking and I’m STILL freakin’ waiting. Where is it? It’s getting a bit tedious now, to be fair. I sat once again at the women’s meeting last Thursday and once again it was announced that no matter how long we’ve been sober we have to keep coming back to “stay safe“. Someone also said, with everyone around me nodding affirmatively, that you can’t just “pick and choose” – you have to follow the program, you have to do the steps and you have to do all this in a way that I suppose your sponsor (although I’m not sure who decides or how this is measured) deems correct, otherwise you won’t make it. The statement of how you can’t – CAN’T – take what works for you and leave the rest made me shrink a little in my chair, because it’s exactly what I’m doing and so I felt I shouldn’t be there. You’ll end up worse and those who are stupid enough [insert knowing chuckles here] to go it on their own will relapse and, well, die. I hate to say it but I couldn’t wait to get out of there. Yes, I needed to get home to my son and yes, hubby was collecting me so was parked nearby but I made a swift exit mostly because I felt my life elixir slowly draining out of my body.

I don’t like that – I want to like that meeting and want to come away thinking YAY and feel part of it! I just haven’t over these past few weeks. The result is that I come away feeling guilty that I can’t return the sentiment “sobriety is hard“, that I can’t join in those chats in those little cliques that form following a meeting, much less share when all I have to say is that the only thing that pisses me off (if I make a concerted effort to feel bad about something related to alcohol) is that it took me so long to see it for what it is and stop. It’s really difficult! It would be so much easier if I could say I’m dreading hubby’s birthday weekend, or that I find it hard to cope without wine or that I am fearful in every which way. I think, anyway. As it is, any conversation that starts quickly fades the moment I’m asked how long I’ve been sober and how I’m finding it. The moment I say it’s been wonderful I’m told that THIS is precisely when I need meetings (and probably an exorcism too) and the moment I truthfully account for the on average two per week I end up going to, the exchange invariably comes to a complete halt and whoever did speak to me for a brief while quickly finds someone else to chat to. Stood there for a little while after the meeting as I would have loved to have talked to someone too but nope, cliques nicely formed, my inability to push in and be part of one non-existent so I just left.

For a while I wondered if I should just pretend I find this super hard, that I’m struggling and that I’m fearful of the future, simply because when I once told Sparks I felt great and didn’t want to drink she questioned whether I was honest with myself. And I feel like that in the meetings. There are times when I really do want to share but it just feels wrong – like the time someone was dreading going to Paris and I wanted to say how I’m off somewhere for a romantic weekend and I just cannot WAIT to be able to do that without all the crap that comes with drinking wine. Or when someone shared about going to an amazing country but needing “all [their] literature” and I wanted to say how I’ve never felt more free, how I now can’t wait to explore all these amazing parts of the world because it’s only now that I’ve kicked the booze that it’d be worth it! Why go on safari and miss out if you’re so hungover you can’t take it in? Or be too hungover to enjoy the carnival in Rio and the colours and drums giving you a headache instead of a dizzying high that comes from being present in the moment?

I once missed out on all the beauty of the night time sky at Whangapoua Beach because I was fucking plastered. I remember they moved (because I was too drunk to focus my eyes) but imagine if I’d been sober – not only could I have fully taken in the moment and appreciated that magical night but I would have at the same time been able to take in the trembling roar of the waves. I don’t feel I can share any of that. It just seems wrong, even though my problem is in essence the same as everyone else’s: I’m an alcoholic and if I have one drink I can’t stop. But how can I share that I find being sober as easy and natural as breathing (because, let’s face it – it is!) and that I feel calm, happy and more content than ever, when several people have just shared how death once seemed a better alternative to sobriety?

My drinking would have killed me had I not stopped. I’m pretty sure my body could have packed in with Very Short Notice – you just can’t drink the amounts I did as often as I did and keep going. In fact, I’m surprised I’m still here given I kept it up for over a decade. It is also true that I’m an alcoholic if the definition of one is the inability to stop if you have that first drink – I’m not ashamed to call myself an alcoholic but in all honesty I don’t care about the label no matter what it says because all I know is I can’t drink and what that makes me is much less important. I’m also a human being and I have flaws and shortcomings like everyone else but just like most people I try to be the best I can be. Lastly, I wake up each morning and feel happy. Well, I almost always did but since I quit drinking it’s with almost overwhelming joy and gratitude. These things I know to be true.

What I know right now is that I’m happy and feel right in my mind and body – this is a direct result of laying off the booze. I don’t find it hard, I find it a relief. Right now there isn’t a part of me that wants to pick up a drink – even that sea view balcony in Lipari now lacks the wine bottle in the ice bucket I would in a past life have had trouble picturing it without. Well – if it’s there or not doesn’t bother me, I’d be quite happy to pour hubby a glass of something bubbly and cold if he wanted to. It just doesn’t worry me.

Why do I feel the need to analyse this at all? Because I feel like I should. Do I go to any more AA meetings? Over the past two or three weeks I’ve kept thinking oh, I’ll give it a few more shots. I’m just beginning to think that it’s the kind of thing you have to do fully as opposed to pick’n’mix like I have. I really don’t know. Perhaps tomorrow. I feel so good today and the idea fills me with dread a little, don’t want to come back home deflated and low.

Fate is always reliable however, and at the weekend it served up exactly what I needed at the exact time I needed it. Never fails, trusty ol’ fate!

Friends over from Sweden and I brought up that I’ve stopped drinking – it’s quite a big change and I’m happy to embrace it, even the A-word should there be a need for me to do so in order to make people understand. I just don’t feel the need to hide it, despite the fact that I initially freaked out a little over what I might say in situations when I’d normally be the first to suggest a drink. Turns out L’s husband doesn’t drink either, pretty much for the same reasons as me (= didn’t like where it was taking him) but don’t think he ever drank anywhere near as much as I did. AA never came up in the conversations (and we did talk about it for a good hour when we were sitting around on the Friday after I collected them from the airport), it was just about drinking and how we didn’t like what it does to us.

I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t just stop drinking“, J mused.

Precisely! He summed up exactly how I feel and so finally there was that sense of identification and being able to relate that I’ve been searching for – because I can no longer see any point in drinking and have no desire to do it, coupled with how wonderful I feel now that I don’t, I wonder why anyone ever drank in the first place. What a relief that was! There was no mention of AA, no sense of lurking danger or impending doom, just freedom and genuine joy over being free from something negative that brought nothing positive with it. It was a breath of fresh air and just what I needed – hear someone talk like that, feel like that and come away from the conversation and moment feeling strong and uplifted. Perhaps that sums it up.

Perhaps the answer is to once again give AA meetings a few more shots – head to the Tuesday meeting and one more during the week – and if I once again end up feeling bad about something I’m happy about (i.e. the non-drinking) perhaps I’ll just have to accept that AA will only ever be for those who work the program. Hey, the pick’n’mix section was always my favourite so maybe that makes perfect sense.

Well. Happy Monday and hopefully yours is as good as mine! (Oh, and obviously I’m not going to drink today – why would I?)

 

Eat Your Heart Out

Rain, rain, rain. At least there is sunshine in my heart. And now that I’m sober I can truly savour that feeling in full without having to be distracted by alcohol induced anxiety and a body that is quite literally screaming out as I’m poisoning myself. But yes, the weather is really shite right now, which doesn’t help when I need those long walks every day to try to shift some of this additional fatness I seem to have acquired by cutting out the wine and discovering sweets. Ho-hum. Weirdly, I think I’ve improved if we just stick with the superficial aspect – looks – since I quit drinking. My skin has been transformed and has a healthy glow and my eyes are brighter. And inside I finally feel like myself again. Alcohol robbed me of me, you see.

And so now I’m back, I have discovered I really missed me over this last decade when I was trapped in countless wine bottles, then graduated to boxes. There is a peace and calm within me again that only returned when I showed Sauvignon Blanc the door, a distinct sense that I can only describe as finding my way back home. I will in all likelihood always be a person who feels everything strongly but that doesn’t need to be negative. It’s negative when you add a depressant like alcohol though and how could it not be? Makes perfect sense.

When I was drinking I’d wake up at 4am, heart pounding and terrible, compulsive thoughts taking over my mind with horrendous images and anxiety I just couldn’t escape from. That’s what alcohol does to me. I’m not saying I never feel anxious when I’m sober – hey, I’m an emotional hurricane – but it’s rare and when I do it’s almost without exception linked to a specific cause. I am probably quite nervous by nature, I do fret about stuff and I’m sometimes a bit nutty when yanked out of my own habitat and routines, but I can’t for the life of me say I think that’s a problem. I’m just a bit stressy sometimes. Wouldn’t it be great if we were all totally serene creatures and never got riled about anything? Would it? No, don’t think so. It might be easier to never feel stress but it’s part of life, no? Is it so unnatural to feel a bit stressed at plunging into something unknown, like a new destination, a new group of people or a situation we are not used to? OK, if it’s stress that becomes overwhelming and brings us down, obviously that’s not a GOOD thing, but a certain level of jitters at heading into something new can’t be anything but perfectly, beautifully and quite simply normal? But hey, perhaps that’s just me. I do think there is positive stress, not just negative.

Last night was different from my sober nights thus far actually. I’ve had the occasional unsettling dream since I quit drinking (but nothing like the mad, dark, awful nightmares I’d often have when I was boozing) and each time it’s been about drinking, that I’d started again and I’d just somehow gone and done this thing I no longer want to do and am so grateful I don’t have to do anymore: drunk. Those dreams are shitty, have on the couple of occasions I’ve had them given me a real sinking feeling, a feeling of defeat and disappointment. But once I’ve woken up and discovered that they were just dreams and I’m gloriously sober and hangover free I’ve taken it to be my Higher Power’s way of reminding me of the horror of drinking and what a gift I’m giving myself by turning my back on it.

Anyway, last night I had a different dream. I can’t quite explain it but it left a horrible aftertaste that I still cannot shake. Do you ever get that? Dreams that you can’t explain where the weirdest shit goes down and the dream is really graphic, full of details and endless story lines and you remember it really clearly afterwards? Well, it was one of those. I was tucking into a heart. Not a cute chocolate heart or heart shaped biscuit or anything – an actual HEART. As in the organ. Raw. Bloody. And it was my own. I was in some fancy setting with a perfectly laid table but all the tables around me and the entire room empty, just me sitting there slicing this heart and eating it. Fucking disgusting. Then suddenly my dad is standing by the table and I burst into tears. And then I’m sentenced to prison. And it’s my own heart I’ve eaten some of. The prison term was going to be four years and I was feeling really sad over how I would make this work for my son and husband, how they might cope and how we’d get through it. And how I’d miss out on four years with them. It was so sad. You know, if you fancy a shot at analysing my fucked up brain for coming up with this sort of madness and suggest what diagnosis this might be, feel free. Honestly, I’d be really interested to hear any views on what this might all have been about!

We have recently run out of Nordic Noir series to binge watch and finally decided to give in to Game of Thrones because everyone keeps going on about how amazing it is. We’re just a handful of episodes in and I am yet undecided as this isn’t really my thing but I’m starting to quite enjoy it actually. In the episode we watched last night the blond chick with the sexy savage husband had to eat a heart in some sort of ceremonial setting to prove she’s a worthy queen or something, and she did this in all its gory glory at the same time as she managed to pout sexily and not get her perfectly applied eye make-up smudged. The sexy savage was very pleased with brave wifey’s blood soaked pouting and proudly carried her around afterwards. So that may well be where the heart munching shenanigans originated. And the dwarf dude spent a bit of time locked in a cell. Oh, I don’t know. But weird shit took place in my little head last night and God knows why. Still, I slept well, another solid – if fucked up – block of sleep. Yay sobriety!

Going to see if Ivy and Willow are heading to the women’s meeting tonight. Sparks is and it’ll be good to see her, I enjoy her sparkiness. Hopefully it’ll be one of those meetings where I have a little revelation or someone shares something that really makes me think. That stuff is awesome. And if it isn’t, it’ll still be great to be part of that group of women with whom I share this crazy thing: the inability to stop if I have one drink and if I hear nothing else that is true for me we will always have that one thing to bind us. As always, I’ll try to listen out for the similarities.

I ain’t gonna lie – today I’m not going to drink and I’m very sorry but there is nothing difficult about that. Not a thing. Not today!

Glittery Will Power

My biggest bug bear with AA has been how I perceived it to be that I was presented with two, and only two, options: follow the program to the letter or try relying on will power (the latter always spoken with a raised eyebrow, a knowing look “get it” and followed by a chuckle). I have tried so hard to “get it” and I’m still waiting. I am fully open to the possibility that I’m just too dumb to understand it, or not open to understanding it. I think I am. I try to be. I am not to my knowledge hiding anything, nor do I tell lies. Perhaps it just takes time before the penny drops. So I’ll be patient. I’m not ready for a new sponsor yet – actually, I’m not sure that’s true as I am one hundred gazillion million percent ready to commit to sobriety and live happy ever after, but was so put off that I’m leaving it for a while. The right time and the right sponsor will come along, I’m sure. I like fate, it’s been pretty good to me so I’m sure it’ll once again deliver, I have trust.

What just popped into my head was a bit from the Big Book that I was reading this morning. I woke up really early so grabbed the Big Book and my morning coffee (which, by the way, continues to be my absolute favourite thing) and sat reading on the sofa in hubby’s dressing gown as the world outside slowly woke up. I just love mornings and in particular that time of day. I sat there like that yesterday too as I got up with hubby who had an early flight to catch. But anyway, what came up (as it often does) was how we all tried will power and failed. We = us alcoholics. I think though that when it’s talked about in the Big Book it refers to how we fail at controlling our alcohol intake most of all, i.e. we intend to just have the one drink but end up in black-out over and over again, but it does also talk about how to stay sober you stay in AA. It does have a slightly ominous ring to it I find. Do this or you shall be massively, thoroughly, spectacularly fucked with bells and whistles.

So. As I tend to do, I thought about it. Of course, I was advised by my ex-sponser to NOT think and maybe one day I’ll learn to think less but that day is not today. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing I don’t know. Actually I don’t care, because I’m sober and I’m happy about that.

Here is a definition of what using will power means in terms of stopping yourself from doing something: 

“To exercise will-power is to actively try not to do the thing that you really want to do.”

And therein lies the answer to sobriety for me: I’m sober but I’m not using any will power whatsoever because I don’t want to drink anymore. I’ve said it before, but I imagine if I felt deprived somehow I’d still crave a drink and find being sober a real shitter. But I don’t. I have yet to find one single draw back to not drinking apart from discovering my day job is a slight waste of time when I’m forgetting to focus on its advantages. It was never about the reasons why I shouldn’t drink, I’ve not needed to give much thought to how bad it was getting, how it’d eventually kill me and how shitty I used to feel (mornings were nowhere NEAR as wonderful with hangovers). Those are of course all very good reasons not to drink, I’m not saying otherwise, but I’ve never drunk because of the reasons I shouldn’t. Hey, this thing will kill me, how splendid, pour me another please, butler! 

I drank because I thought it would give me something: add glitter to a good mood mostly. Up until quite recently (obviously – I’ve only been sober seven weeks) I still thought that those first few drinks were glittery. But they’re not and they never were. They added absolutely ZERO. Nor did any drink ever ACTUALLY relax me after a stressful day. Those were all illusions. Heck, I always wanted to drink dirty martinis because of James Bond alone – never mind that it tastes like shit. Anyway, alcohol is packaged and sold to us with imagery of sophistication, success and sexiness. It’s everywhere. You’d be fucking weird if you grew up in the parts of the world where alcohol isn’t banned e.g. because of religion and didn’t think it came with benefits.

So I think that’s starting to untangle the frustration I’ve felt each time I’ve felt like the AA mantras seem to suggest working the program as the only option next to will power, which of course doesn’t work. It’s made me feel quite confused because why in God’s name would I need will power to not do something I don’t actually want to do? Oh look, a freshly shat pile of dog shit, mm… yummy… maybe just a tiny bit… NO! NO! Don’t do it! Must be strong! I often have little monologues – OK sometimes they’re dialogues too – in my head but that’s one I’m yet to have. I think that’s part of addiction, although I can only really refer to nicotine and alcohol given my knowledge of other addictions is slim to none. How it will be incredibly difficult to give up something you perceive as beneficial. And bloody hell, imagine alcohol (or another addictive drug) providing some relief you desperately need somehow. I can live without a bit of illusionary glitter but suspect that if it was something I felt I relied on to get me through the day then I’m sure it’s a whole different ball game.

Anyway. I don’t want to drink so I’m not drinking. I have zero self discipline by the way, and I’m also really stubborn so a ‘no’ usually means I want something more. All things taboo become desirable almost by default. Actually, that’s not entirely true – if someone told me I can’t have any dog shit I still wouldn’t want to anyway, but you know what I mean. And it’s proven too, did you know that? I can’t now remember the source as it’s over 20 years ago, but they’d done research on the link between the availability of porn and sex crime and found that in countries where porn is freely available (hurrah Scandinavia, I salute you!) there were generally lower rates of sex crime. Of course there are lots of other factors and I don’t think you can prove that the chilled attitude to a bit of bangin’ is why we seem to have fewer sexual offenders (I moved, obviously, so that’s one less) in Sweden but it was an interesting study nevertheless. Part of it was to show how where porn was banned or very restricted, it became more desirable. Something like that.

What I was getting at is that I have no self control if I want something and telling me I can’t have the thing I want only serves to make me want it more. If you’d known me when I was still drinking and had tried to slow my pace you’d know immediately what I’m saying.

So it’s lucky really, that I no longer feel there are reasons to drink. Even if I still believed the glitter illusion to be true I don’t think it’d be enough because these mornings and feeling the way I do is FUCKING HEAVEN and I wouldn’t give that up for anything.

Today I’m not going to drink because I can’t see any reason to.

Any Problem Anonymous

Something has to give. I’m loving sobriety and it’s bringing me lots and lots of good things but it’s also presented me with a somewhat unexpected little gift: my job doesn’t motivate me. It wasn’t a hard job to do when I was drinking, so with my mind fuzz-free and physically full of energy it’s become really obvious that it bores me silly. It’s actually getting me in a bit of a bad mood, some tasks I think of as a waste of time and I don’t like this new, bad attitude of mine – where did that come from? Just do it Sophie, it’s up to your bosses what you’re spending the time they’re paying you for on and so why does it even matter!! And I never took this job because it was a passion of mine, I took it as a side line to writing and making jewellery, so I can’t say I ever thought of it as OH YEAH! But I always appreciated for what it was – I work for nice people, in a nice place and not once have I dreaded coming to work. Yes, there are things I enjoy less, but overall it’s a pretty easy ride with just enough to keep me occupied. Never have I had to think about work after I’ve driven out of the gates. My response to hubby when he asks how my day was is always “fine”. It’s always been fine. Fine, fine, fine. I honestly don’t have anything to complain about because there is nothing wrong with it per se. Well, other than the fact that I’m totally bored.

I didn’t start writing to find answers but weirdly one was given to me anyway. It’s right there in the last sentence – “I’m totally bored“.

I’m very bad at patience and planning so my natural instinct would be to chuck it in and worry later. I’ve done that several times in the past, even when I was a single mother and didn’t have as much as a bean in my bank account. It always worked out though, like I knew it would. I do also recognise how risky that strategy was. I’m just so bad at sticking with something that just doesn’t provide even the tiniest sliver of satisfaction. And it really doesn’t. Or maybe I’m just a grouch bag today, I don’t know. No, that’s not it, because I woke up sober, which equals super happy – no hangover, yay! – and with the added excitement that hubby is coming back tonight after a work trip. Only a short one again, but still. Anyway, it’s not my mood. My mood started when I got here, it’s being here and feeling it’s a waste of good energy that has me feeling ratty.

So I need to get my arse in gear because at the moment there’s a lot of talk and very little icehockey, as we say in Sweden. I can’t just sit here and drone on about what I want and just expect it to fall into my lap with me not lifting a finger. If I don’t want to keep doing a job that I find dull, then what do I want? I’ve tried the give-up-work-and-pursue-a-dream thing – sure, I did get a lot of writing done, but nowhere near as much as I should have and I just discovered that lots of time on my hands did NOT bring out the fire in me. Hmm…. Willow said something about routine and how she needs it. Sounds about right. I’m not so good at being a free agent I don’t think. And anyway, the writing is the dream to be pursued and I still hold hope that I’ll pull it off one day but in the meantime I want to have an income. Need to have an income, given I don’t feel I have a valid argument to illustrate to hubby why I should be a housewife. And having to ask for money is also a huge putter-offer for me, because even though I know I always can and hubby would never make me feel bad about it I bloody HATE it.

It’s staring me in the face, really. It’s time to get a little web shop set up on Etsy and chuck things on there. I have six pendants to finish off at home. No, seven. Actually, it’s eight but I’m not sure I can make the silver blob one pretty. Nah, that one will have to meet its maker the blow torch again. Anyway. Jeez, Soph, shut the fuck up. And get a bunch to the boutique on the high street that said they’d be happy to put some necklaces on display. JUST DO IT, SOPHIE! I finished off a little experimental necklace yesterday, a small silver ring with a gold hoop and a gold tube that holds a green topaz. Because it’s unevenly filed, it’s heaviest point when it’s worn isn’t where the stone is so he stone ends up to the side which came from imperfection but what I love about it the most. I actually want to keep it but I already gave in to keeping the earrings so need to stop being silly. Oh, and I’ve kept one necklace too.

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Ah, how nice, a little plan coming together! I need a name though. I kind of want something to do with sobriety. Hah! I suppose it’s no coincidence that I blog I had for a while had wine in the title. See how grown up and sensible I’m being! Anyway, I’m going to park that for a moment because I’m doing it again – I’m losing the thread! I set this blog up to write about sobriety, not precious metals. Do I combine the two? Drinking and blow torches don’t tend to go well together as you can imagine, but perhaps I can make jewellery to reflect being sober? I did come up with another accidental design, a ring with a tube setting that went completely wrong and in it’s place holding the ring together I soldered a gold ‘stitch’. Maybe that’s it? I have made a few rings with the same idea, i.e. a small gold stitch incorporated. And the necklaces I’m finishing off today all have the gold loops. What do I call it? Stitches? In Stitches? No, that’s a bit naff. Something, in any case, about how a little stitch holds everything together. OK, I’m going to get back to that later because even when I’m trying to steer back to the very purpose of this blog – sobriety – I end up even further away from it.

So yes, I’m sober and it’s been just over seven weeks. I don’t know what to say except I feel so good! It’s like waking up from a long sleep and discover everything is back to normal again. I feel like myself again and yet it’s strangely new, this waking up and feeling so amazing EVERY SINGLE DAY! Had a long chat with Willow which was really good as I was dying to pick her brain about all things AA that I’ve been thinking about. I felt with my sponsor it was not acceptable to question anything so I was full of things I wanted to ask. Is everything clearer? Yes, actually, a lot of things are. And I definitely feel AA is a very good thing – over all and for me. I think a lot of people would benefit massively from AA meetings. I’d just rename it to APA, which means monkey in Swedish but is short for Any Problem Anonymous. It’s such a healthy set up that I’m actually amazed no one has yet copied it for the well being of the wider masses!

What better way if you ever feel out of sorts than be amongst people who are ready to smile at you, welcome you, hug you and offer their time to you should you ever need to talk! And if you need to get something off your chest you are allowed the floor so long as you want it with no one interrupting. If people comment on what you say once you have finished, it’s the positives they point out, the things that they particularly liked or related to. So it’s a fool proof little happiness injection right there! I don’t think it’s possible to go to an AA meeting and walk away feeling sad. Well, maybe it is but you can be sure people will immediately be there for you and you tell me if that’d happen to you if you burst out in tears on the tube! At best, some kind individual might offer you a tissue. Really.

For me right now, AA is an invaluable tool to keep me sober. I still, stubbornly perhaps, believe that come hell or Higher Powers (see what I did there?) my wish to stay sober and any strength to do so has to come from ME. Of course, I don’t believe strength is needed to be sober any more than I needed it to drink, but that’s neither here nor there. The meetings are good because it keeps me focused on this thing and regardless of whether I sometimes walk away from a meeting wondering how some people survive at ALL when everything is so goddamn bleak, most of the time I walk away with things to think about and perhaps even the occasional revelation. ‘Tis good.

As for the things that don’t yet work for me, perhaps it’s just a case of not getting it yet? Perhaps one day a light bulb will appear but until then I will focus on what does work for me and not focus on the bits that don’t.

Excuses, excuses…

…….only they’re not, but I’ll leave the title like that because it highlights what I want to say. Yes, I’ve been giving AA a lot more thought. How could I not? It’s a huge change to switch from abusing alcohol for over a decade to never touching a drink at all, and of course I turned to AA right from the start so it’s been a big part of it. I immediately got a copy of the Big Book, then a copy of Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions and even a sponsor within the first couple of weeks. What can I say, I’m a put-your-foot-on-it kinda gal. But as it eventually almost always does, common sense does catch up with me and so I did a bit of a u-turn. Well, not from sobriety – exactly seven weeks today that I decided I was done drinking! – but from AA and certainly from the sponsor thing, which I now look back on with a wry smile on my face. Good times.

It was over the weekend that I started to think about my now ex-sponsor, when I in fact was deciding whether I wanted to go to the Saturday meeting I’ve attended a few times or go for a long walk in the park. I decided on the latter and for one reason only: I felt like I SHOULD go to the AA meeting. Not because I’m struggling with sobriety or gagging for a drink, but because I felt guilty at the idea of not going. Now that’s just plain crazy, isn’t it? How many times did I call Ivy and others in AA because I truly wanted to as opposed to feeling like that’s what I should be doing? Pulling out of the sponsor thing was an absolute relief and the first time I actually called Ivy just because I really wanted to speak to HER and hear HER voice at that particular moment. And I’ve applied the same thought process to AA meetings too now: when I go, it’s because I want to go, not because I feel I should or end up feeling guilty if I don’t.

I think that’s why my ex-sponsor popped into my head. It was just as the weather started to turn horrible and I was going to her place. I cannot park to save my life so I texted to check if there’s off street parking – aka non-parallel parking options – where she lives. It was cold so I didn’t fancy getting on buses, or rather wait in the cold and the rain for buses to arrive, so I was checking my options for taking the car. Her response? “Nice try!” It was her assumption that I was trying to find, as the title here suggests, excuses not to go. It was a bit of a revelation but even then I knew it wasn’t really about me so I ignored it. But it just goes to show how people judge based on themselves and their own perspectives. I could have told her that the only alternative in my mind had been to get Ubers as not going hadn’t even entered my mind but I realised trying to argue would have been as useful as a cat flap in the Hoover Dam. She’d decided I wanted an out and there were lots of little digs throughout. And ironically, that’s what resulted in my “out”. Well, not out of sobriety and not out of AA but out of the sponsoring thing. I quickly got fed up with being made to feel rubbish.

Sure, if I’d collected the 24-hour sobriety chip every week for a month, you know, then I’d see how I might have given her a reason to keep on like that, but there I was – and still am – utterly overjoyed at having stopped drinking and loving the fact that I finally feel like myself again! And there are ways of sharing your experiences and perspective without knocking other people down. Perhaps she really struggled when she was where I am now. Perhaps she didn’t at ALL feel happy and calm and grateful? Perhaps sobriety at the time seemed to her like, well, she told me herself how she saw it so it’s not ‘perhaps’ at all, she very much saw it as “life was over“.  So she treated me in a way that she knew worked for her when “life was over“. What I think she failed to see (and hear!) was that my life is anything BUT over and in fact I feel like I’m in the best place I could be now that I stopped drinking and when she accused me of slipping (!!) and of finding excuses you can probably imagine how that ended up grating on me quite a bit. I still feel a bit pissed off thinking about it – I’m allergic to being accused of stuff I’m not guilty of, it’s one of the things that make me see red actually – but try to recognise it for what it is. She has struggled with and fought hard for her sobriety so I should be respectful of that fact and just allow it to wash over me like water off a duck’s back.

Either way, I parked the sponsor thing for the time being, so that’s all done with for now anyway. I’m slowly but surely reading my way through 12 Steps & 12 Traditions and I also have a few chapters of the Big Book left, both books quite interesting so long as I ignore the things that don’t resonate and focus on the things that do. Some things just don’t make any sense, or rather, some things aren’t true for ME, but at the end of the day it’s a valuable resource and I’m making a point of reading a bit here and there each day, along with the app Sparks suggested called Each Day which has daily little snippets of wisdom. It’s a good way of staying focused, although I feel like drinking about as much as I feel like tucking into a bowl of fresh dog poo. This week I’m not sure about yet but contrary to what my ex-sponsor might suggest it’s simply down to allowing life to unfold whatever which way it likes and I just don’t know what my plans are yet. I’d like to go to the Tuesday meeting, it’s my favourite. Possibly the women’s meeting on Thursday, partly because the location is spectacularly lovely and there’s a step meeting in that same place today actually so perhaps I’ll make it part of my new daily routine of an hour long walk.

Yes, sobriety has strangely enough made me FAT!! I’m way too chubby now to run because things wobble that never wobbled before and I’ve always been wobbly in plenty of places but this I cannot handle so it’s hour-long brisk walks now for Chubby Chubbyson here for the foreseeable future.

You’d think that the removal of.. …let’s see… …in round numbers say 13 bottles of wine per week… HOLY SHIT IS THAT HOW MUCH I USED TO DRINK????? Well. I’ve calculated on five out of seven days. Usually it might have been four but there have been periods when it’s been more as well, so it’s a pretty fair calculation on balance I’d say. Two and a half bottles a pop. Sometimes closer to three. Yep, that’d make five evenings possibly a little bit more than 13 bottles but let’s stick with that, shall we? Anyway, this post is about my growing arse that now not only has its own postcode but its own time zone too, not about finances (but yes, let’s talk about the financial impact of drinking sometime!). A quick check on Google tells me that a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc contains just over 600 calories. So that’s 7,800 calories per week that I’ve said adieu to. I should be skinny by now! Instead, I’ve just purchased another pair of outrageously expensive jeans in the next size up. Even hubby had to admit I’ve put on a “little bit” of weight and he is deluded and thinks I’m magnificent even when I have morning breath so for him to be forced to notice probably means I am morbidly obese.

Not going to stand on the scales because I weighed a little more than I expected to after Christmas – 72 kilos! Impressive, eh! – so I am actually quite confident that I’ve smashed the 75 kilo barrier. I just don’t need to see it confirmed on the scales that’s all. Well, rather fat than dead, but perhaps I can be alive, sober AND in good shape? Going to give that a shot, so long walks it is until I get my breath back enough to start running. Good thing about exercise is you build up your stamina quite quickly. It’s actually a bit mad how you can go from a wheezing wreck to bouncing around a 5k loop within the space of just weeks. Given how out of shape I am though, not to mention FAT, it might take a couple of months this time, but hey it’ll be worth it.

So there we are. Monday and it’s raining. But I’m sober. I’m a bit fat but I’m sober CAN YOU BELIEVE IT! I remain on the pink cloud – fuck me, I love it here! – and I feel like myself again, it’s been so long I almost thought that chick who just went like a pendulum between being wasted and horribly hungover was my normal. It wasn’t. It was me under the destruction of alcohol. THIS is me! Calm(ish), happy, hopeful, excited, free and so full of love I almost don’t know what to do with it all. Please God, never allow me to be tricked by the illusion of alcohol again and let me always remember what I know now to be true: it does nothing for me whatsoever. Like eating dog shit. Never let me forget.

Today I won’t drink!

They Are Talking About LIFE

A funny little realisation hit me when I sat in the last AA meeting. Once again, the general consensus seemed to be – and indeed what the chair underlined several times, gesturing each time to emphasise this point – that “sobriety is hard“. This lady’s husband had been an alcoholic and died because of it. Other people shared stories about stressful jobs and other difficult situations. SOBRIETY IS HARD. Even Red, five years sober, told me this over and over, how she will never be safe and going to AA meetings is what keeps her from drinking. And the poor lady whose husband had died from alcohol? How in God’s name had she landed at “sobriety is hard“? Wasn’t it alcoholism that was so freaking hard it took his life? Surely? It was heartbreaking to listen to, like many AA stories are.

But what they are talking about isn’t sobriety at all. They are talking about LIFE.

What goes amiss is the fact that alcohol has done nothing for any of us, in fact when it comes to us lucky sods who finally got to a point where we wanted to stop drinking, we want to stop because for the most part we have realised that booze will only destroy us. Of course you’re going to be forever fearful if you stop drinking but still believe it will bring some kind of benefit. No wonder you’d have to go to meetings for the rest of your life then!

Imagine you have a bit of an ear ache. I give you some ear drops with the promise it’ll make the pain go away. You use the drops and lo and behold, the ache subsides! Only a couple of days later, however, the ache comes back and now it’s worse than before. The drops made the pain stop last time so you use the drops again on the sore ear. Once again, the ache goes away. You can begin to see where I’m going with this, right? That’s right, a couple of days later the ear ache comes back and now it is becoming unbearable and it’s spreading to your other ear too. Then you are told that it’s the drops that are causing the problem. Well, you had a slight ear ache to begin with but the drops have magnified a problem and now turned it into a much bigger mess. No doubt you feel relieved that you now know the reason why it started to get so much worse! Would you keep on using the drops? And can you hand on heart tell me that you would – now that you know that the ear drops were what made the problem so much worse – feel deprived at not taking those drops anymore? Of course you wouldn’t.

Obviously the ear drops represent booze. The ear ache represents life and as beautiful as this life is, sometimes it throws shit our way. Thing is though, drinking poison isn’t going to solve any of that shit when it hits the fan. In fact, it’ll just make it seem much worse than it is and it’s going to take us much longer to clean it up.

Luckily I never poured alcohol on problems and thank God for that, because I imagine if you use alcohol as a crutch (well – it isn’t a crutch, remember the ear drops?) it’ll be harder to let go of it. I was always terrified of alcohol in that scenario because it’s always strengthened how I already feel: if I felt happier, alcohol just seemed to enhance my good mood. Again, that’s an illusion and quite possibly the maddest one of all because alcohol is a DEPRESSANT so how in God’s name can a depressant make me happier than I already was?! It falls on its own illogic. It is simply not possible for a depressant to create feelings of happiness. So those feelings were there anyway and if anything they remained strong IN SPITE OF me drinking, and in any case certainly not because I drank!! Fact. And so it also follows that no social gathering, event or other situation where we might think drinking will help us celebrate is made better because we’re drinking alcohol. I for one have never come away from a great party thinking it was great because the wine tasted good.

But I get it – if you perceive alcohol to be the thing that helps you cope with life, it’s going to be harder to walk away. And ONLY THEN will you forever be fearful! Only when you still believe somehow that alcohol will bring something good with it will you feel deprived.

So, I quit drinking almost seven weeks ago. Have I felt deprived? No!!!!!!! No, no, noooooooo! I feel fanfuckingtastic! I feel strong, full of joy and I can’t point to a single occasion that was less enjoyable because I didn’t drink. Quite the opposite – the evening at the jazz bar hubby took me to for my birthday I enjoyed so much and that was only because I wasn’t drinking! If I’d been drinking the obsession to guzzle wine would have taken over and I wouldn’t have been present. I can guarantee you that if I’d been drinking I’d been itching to leave half way through. I cannot WAIT to go away for hubby’s birthday and see an amazing city I can’t wait to explore with him. If I was drinking it simply wouldn’t be that way. I’d wake up with hangovers for starters that’d make me too sluggish to want to head out and see the sights, and I’d be too busy working out which bars to hit and then how to make sure we’d have enough wine back at the hotel to enjoy any of it. So no, I don’t feel deprived and I certainly don’t feel I need to be fearful for the rest of my life. I’m not going to pour ear drops into my aching ear once I know those drops are only going to aggravate the pain I’m already in, am I?

What I listen to in AA meetings are people talking about life. And almost always the stories show how we’re all much better placed to deal with any problems without alcohol as well as how much more enjoyable life is without alcohol. Why in God’s name would you feel you need support networks to help you keep in mind something you already know? If you truly knew and believed it that wouldn’t be the case – it just doesn’t make any sense! I don’t want to eat dog shit and I don’t need to join Dog Shit Eaters Anonymous to help me remember that or to help me avoid eating dog shit. You will only need that if you still don’t quite believe it and you’re holding on to the belief that eating dog shit will improve your life somehow. It’s only when you truly see and believe that it doesn’t that you’ll be free for real. When I listened to Sparks, I ended up feeling dread – I just didn’t get it. If anything, I felt quite sorry for her, it seemed to me so tragic somehow. Here we are and what more proof do we need that life is infinitely better without alcohol? It’s only if we still hold on to the illusions around booze and believe it’ll add some benefit that we’re going to be trapped in its grip. Drinking alcohol will bring me as many benefits as I would get from eating dog shit. That’s correct: not a single one! NOT A ONE! And no, it doesn’t taste much better either.

Once again though, I do know that I react badly to alcohol and more severely than whatever a “non-alcoholic” does. For that reason, AA meetings are wonderful because it’s quite liberating and lovely to be around people who feel exactly the way you do. I won’t agree that sobriety is hard though. Drinking, on the other hand, that’s what’s hard. It does nothing for me except hold me back and push me down. To make it all worse something ignites in me when I drink that awful poison that means I cannot stop. Talk about a perfect storm! I am so, so grateful that I finally woke up. SO grateful.

So no. It’s not something I try to get through one day at a time. It’s something I say easily and without dread: today I won’t drink!