Sing It Away

I’m full of questions this week…. Here’s one I’ve pondered from time to time: what is alcoholism?

Let’s start with me stating my position in terms of the wow-look-how-green-the-grass-is patch of sobriety where I stand.

I know one thing for certain, an irrefutable fact. If I take one drink – a tiny sip is enough – I cannot stop drinking. In this day and age where we all get to decide what and who we are on any given morning we wake up including gender (a grande, skinny mocca with almond milk and non-binary, please), I consider myself to be a straight (ish) woman in her best years and an alcoholic (no ish about it). To me it is an irreversible truth that I will never, ever, EVER be able to drink like a normal person. That’s cool with me. I’m a drunk and that’s just how it is.

But what is it? What is this thing that rages in me when the vino hits my blood stream and starts fucking with the receptors in my brain? AA states that it is a disease. A physical allergy, a mental obsession and a spiritual malady. Something like that. The AA teachings are very clear though, even if I don’t know if I’ve quoted the exact wording correctly, it’s a disease. A medically recognised disease. So here’s my question: why, if this is the case, would you treat it with prayer? You don’t chase away cancer with a course of serenity therapy, do you? Or any other “disease” for that matter. Still, I am on board with mental obsession and I’d probably agree with an allergic reaction too because it does feel like a combination of all of that. Spiritual malady? Sure, it is a somewhat accepted theory that amongst addicts you generally find a higher presence of mental illness, but this approaches a chicken and egg debate I couldn’t possibly begin to untangle.

Do I drink the way I do because of some predetermined disposition? Am I wired differently on a biological level or did a short circuit occur for some reason that could have been prevented? Some people get ill due to bad genes, others because of hard living and I’m sure sometimes a mixture of the two. It just seems odd to me, illogical even, to treat something that is at least in part physical (if you stick with AA’s definition) by only focusing on the psychological.

To be honest, I get the allergy concept because it’s precisely how I look on it – alcohol doesn’t work for me because I have this utterly shitty reaction to it. I also think, if I speak for myself, that there’s plenty of merit in saying it’s a mental obsession because the force with which it grabs hold of me just psychologically speaking is terrifying. But on that score, I also think it’s a little dangerous to keep repeating various ominous mantras about powerlessness because that reinforces exactly that. Think about it – if you’re told over and over that something is impossible, it becomes true. Right? I for one hold it to be true that if I have as much as a sip of wine I’m doomed. That in itself probably ensures that I’ll be doomed. Eek, now it’s beginning to sound like I’m questioning whether I’m doomed by that first little sip – I’m not. Questioning it, that is. Doomed by the first sip – yes I am, ALWAYS and without exception. I can’t question that because there’s never been a different outcome, but can you see where I’m coming from? I just like to talk about it, to ask questions and analyse it – sometimes perhaps too much, but what can I say, it interests me massively. Either way, as I mentioned, I fully accept that alcohol and I can’t be friends, not now and not ever. But it’s interesting.

In a way it makes sense to say a disease may only have one effective treatment so I can also see how AA can confidently put forward that their 12-step model is the only way to get sober. Cancer is generally treated with chemo therapy, radio therapy and/or surgery to remove cancerous growths. You wouldn’t treat it with paracetamol or antibiotics at any rate. And, again, nor would you sing or pray it away. My slight reluctance to buy into AA’s way is that their success rate is depressingly low even judging by the most encouraging statistics (and I get that not many are all that reliable, given AA’s very philosophy means no records are held). Yet they claim it is guaranteed to work if you do it right. Well, hello? The idea that it works if you work it, and if it doesn’t work for you then it’s you and not the program that’s at fault, that does not sit right with me at all. Come on, you hear of people who are in and out of rehab multiple times. To me it seems like madness to say there’s nothing wrong with the treatment and instead blame the patient. Would you prescribe antibiotics to treat the same infection several times over, still have the problem yet claim the medication works? “It works for everyone who stays in AA and does the steps” – well, no shit Sherlock.

Maybe it’ll all click for me one day and I’ll see the light, become yet another alcoholic who will tell you that I am sober because of AA. Right now that’s not the case because right now I’m sober because I don’t want to drink. For me the key has been that I finally realised the reasons I thought I had to drink were nothing but an illusion. Why would I want to pour that glass when I know it’ll do nothing for me? Maybe this is the wrong way, but how happy and healthy I feel suggests to me I’m doing something right. Maybe I’ll relapse back into the hottest part of hell, who knows, but for now I’m just going to remain grateful that some shift took place in my mind. As much as I agree with how my reaction to alcohol can be likened to an allergic reaction, I am of the opinion that most of my own problem – what makes ME an alcoholic – is in my head and things I have been brain washed to believe. I’ve just had to learn that the world isn’t quite as round as I was taught to believe, that’s all. And that’s OK.

It’ll be four months next week! On Wednesday 23rd of May 2018 I will have been sober for four glorious months and that feels amazing. It fills me with joy because at some point all of that seemed so unlikely. I am an alcoholic and although intrigued by what it is that makes it so, I suppose it really doesn’t matter. The sun rises in the east. I can begin to understand it’s connected with the Earth’s trajectory but I really cannot grasp what makes it all happen the way it does. It’s irrelevant, really. I can’t say I’ve found sobriety difficult because not drinking immediately felt so incredibly good and I got wise to the illusions that had kept me in the alcohol trap. I don’t feel deprived because I have no reasons left to drink. I don’t feel inexplicable anxiety or suffer low moods for no apparent reason because I’m no longer putting poison into my body that brings that out. The restlessness and discomfort of being slave to booze is also gone and I feel calm and peaceful. I feel like ME again and that feels fucking awesome.

As always – please do feel free to give your view, opinions, experience or perspective or whatever in response to any of my musings. I don’t claim I have all the answers, only lots of questions and things I wonder about. Sometimes the discussion itself is much more interesting than the actual answers and I am more than willing to listen – we learn new things every day and I’m not so conceited I believe I have it all figured out. If you think I’ve got the wrong end of the stick, feel free to point it out – it won’t be the first time.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Chocolate and Gold

Now here’s a question I’d love to know the answer to – what can you do as a friend when you realise someone you care about is drinking too much?

This was a conversation I had with one of my best friends over the past couple of days. I’ve been pretty open about why I’ve quit drinking and for this friend – let’s call her Cherokee, because her hair is dark chocolate and gold, her spirit is free and she’s simply the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen – this should have meant she’d have the super advantage of insider information now that she is witnessing another friend teetering on the edge of a growing drinking problem. Straight from the horse’s mouth, right? And all I could tell her was that there is fuck all she can do. Isn’t that just so depressing? I kept going back to myself, how I felt any time someone said anything about the amount of Sauvignon Blanc I was pouring down my neck and I do remember it very clearly: I got massively offended and angry, then made a mental note to avoid that person from thereon out.

What CAN you do? I am genuinely asking! What do you think? If like me you are an alcoholic, is there anything anyone could have said or done that would have made you listen or stop?

For me I think the answer is no, partly because I’m too fucking stubborn for my own good but mostly because I remember exactly what I felt anytime my husband tried to slow me down – it got me in a really bad mood and it was torture sitting there with the beast clawing at my throat and wait for him to take his merry time finishing his goddamn beer. I remember it so well it gets me irritated just thinking about it! Or any time he’d say we should try to drink less often. I knew he was right but I just pushed it out of my mind. I honestly cannot think of something that would have worked. If anything, I think hubby’s way actually got to me more than if he’d tried to place demands on me or tried to stop me from drinking – it got to me WAY more to hear this person who loves me say he thought I drank too much but I’m an adult so it’s my choice. Ouch. Much more effective in my case. Hubby magically let me know he’d always support and help me, yet never judge or tell me what to do. Cherokee also always put things to me in a way that didn’t get me defensive, simply told me it was awesome that I was doing something about my drinking if I felt it had become a problem. No pointing fingers. Having said that, Cherokee and I only see each other a few times in the summer and around Christmas so she only knows about my drinking because I’ve been open with her. It would have been pretty easy to disguise it otherwise – hey, I’m on holiday, carte blanche to drink every day!

I suggested to Cherokee that with quite a risk of this potential problem drinker getting really angry and distancing herself, perhaps just sit her down and tell her something along the lines of I love you and don’t want to see you in harm’s way, your drinking really worries me and here’s why. Would that have ever worked for you? I keep thinking stuff would have registered for me, but until I truly wanted to quit drinking there was nothing that could get between me and that bottle. From what Cherokee told me it doesn’t sound like this chick has got herself into a habit as bad as the one I eventually had, but the warning signs are all there including how she always chooses party and drink over any other activity. Cherokee says she is different. Either way, it’s sad to hear of a smart, kind, witty and vibrant woman slipping further into the pitcher plant. The slope gets steeper very suddenly unfortunately.

Apart from being a Class A Drunk myself, I’ve also been on the other side of the fence with another friend of mine, Poppy. A mutual friend contacted me to say she and another person were both extremely worried about her drinking. Poppy was of course one of my favourite drinking buddies because she was limitless like me although I always thought she was worse – crap I made myself believe so I could in my own mind point at her as proof that I was JUST FINE. Anyway, that’s a different conversation and what that other blog post is about. This person who contacted me told me about the stuff I didn’t know about – how Poppy was drinking in the morning and used a tea mug in an attempt to conceal it (been there!), how she’d throw up several times per day and how she had the shakes so badly she was pretty much housebound. It was a bit of a shock because although I knew she drank too much I just thought she was a bit like me and of course at this point I was still in la-la-denial-land. Actually, even then I knew I was the MUCH heavier drinker but Poppy was still more hardcore than most of my other friends so for me it was reassuring.

Anyway, our mutual friend confronted Poppy and Poppy got really, really mad. At all of us. We’d talked shite and gone behind her back. I calmly explained our mutual friends had come to me, for one, and secondly I was the one who’d been faced with new information here. I had said nothing to them that they didn’t know. But that was probably something Poppy couldn’t deal with hearing or taking in, so I just let her be angry with me for a while. But I think her reaction is one that’s typical for someone who has a problem but not yet ready to deal with it – bat it away, refuse to acknowledge or even sniff at the possibility that there is something to it. I mean, that’s what would have been behind MY reaction had I been confronted about my drinking before I was ready to deal with it. But it could also be that Poppy doesn’t at all have a problem and us friends just got it really, really wrong. And of course me, the drunk, probably put two and two together and got 1,435.

Either way, whether Poppy drinks in a dangerous manner or otherwise – and I accept that all is probably well and to stay out of it – that’s for Poppy herself to determine. If there isn’t a problem, there isn’t a problem. Point is though, that each person has to reach that realisation themselves. If there is anything TO realise, that is. With Poppy, maybe not. With Cherokee’s friend, again, maybe not! And if there is, they just have to figure it out themselves. I suppose all we can do as friends is to always approach things with love and respect and show we’re there.

So my experience tells me that there’s very little Cherokee can do but wanted to throw this out there in case someone has something less depressing to offer. Interventions, has anyone tried? Either been part of one or the person it was intended to help?

Today I’m not going to drink. Oh, and my app tells me 114 days!

Planet Moody

Major bad mood on planet Sophie this morning after scanning through my payslip. Whilst I can see that my employers don’t want to pay for nothing I still think it’s a bit rank to deduct salary for sick days. OK, so we are lucky in that this doesn’t put us in a stressful financial pickle, but what if it did? I remember all too well my years as a single mother when every last penny was accounted for and the loss of pay or holiday entitlement caused enormous stress – it just doesn’t sit right with me. Perhaps I’m excessively moody because hubby is away and it was rubbish to wake up this morning without him lying there next to me, so I’ll concede that I’m possibly a little less tolerant than I’d otherwise be but I think it’s unfair and wrong. It made me think of the film we watched Sunday night, “I, Daniel Blake”. It’s about a man who has suffered a heart attack and gets signed off work, has to rely on benefits and ends up in a really awful situation when money is withheld due to him failing to meet certain criteria. I don’t know how the benefits system works, what I’m getting at is how falling short of even a relatively small amount of money could mean catastrophic consequences in some situations.

Well, I shouldn’t bitch about it – the people I work for are lovely and this isn’t Scandinavia where it’s fashionable to look after your employees so I will focus on my blessings instead of letting this get to me. Still – grr.

One night down, four to go without hubby – for someone who always preferred her own company and solitude I am surprisingly lost without my bestie, don’t at all enjoy being without that big kiwi. But hey, the weather’s great and I’m looking forward to my walk today. And that’s all I have to say today, a bit flat really… Annoyed with my payslip, missing hubby and appreciating the nice weather. Plenty to be grateful for though and being sober is high up on that list.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Conversations in the Car

Here we go again… Hubby is away for a week but life has been so busy lately so just like with his trip to Dubai recently, I haven’t had time to dread him being away like I usually do leading up to his trips. He worries about me and who can blame him – leaving a drunk behind, a drunk you love at that, and the fear of what I might do in his absence. When I was still drinking I think he felt better about my guzzling if he was at least around to keep an eye on me and he has rescued me after I’ve walked out the front door naked (part sleep walking, part black-out psychosis) more than once. Despite approaching four months without a drink, I’m sure there is still part of him that aches with anxiety at the thought of me getting out of control. Unsurprising I suppose and in all honesty it makes me a little fearful too, fearful of what the monster might do when I don’t have my best friend by my side and it can get me alone. I am fearful the monster knows that the best time to get me would be now.

The first time hubby went on a work trip after I’d quit drinking I was absolutely terrified. It’s strange really, because since I quit drinking I have genuinely not wanted to drink except two brief moments when the illusion appeared like a mirage but then evaporated as quickly as it had formed. It’s almost as though being accountable to only myself isn’t enough, and this is when I wonder if I would perhaps be best advised to head to AA meetings. I’m trying to make sense of it and all I can come up with is that alone is when I could just go for it, not care and just knock back the wine without feeling self conscious or embarrassed. That’s all I can think of, how it used to be the time I could just drink my head to bits without all the tension of having to try to control the uncontrollable or manage the unmanageable.

Isn’t it crazy how doing something so destructive could ever feel like a good thing? What in God’s name ever created that in me? This chick who has no dark clouds on her horizon and wakes up most mornings with a smile on her face, which was the case even when those mornings were tarnished by intense hangovers. What reason did I ever have? There was never any sadness I needed to escape, nor anger or anxiety. Looking back on it now, I just can’t make sense of it. I know what my thought process was – I drank to further enhance the joy I felt in celebration – but how did my brain maintain this illusion after what must be thousands of evenings in black-out and as many mornings feeling like the living dead? The madness of addiction – steadfastly clinging on to wine as some sort of confetti thrown over life when it has in fact only ever made you ill. It’s so frightening when you dismantle its myth that I want to hide under my bed.

Honesty is all I have here, although you could argue that I’m being a total coward given I’m not even using my real name and have cropped my picture so you can’t see my face. Still. Sometimes the best conversations – I find – are those you have in the car. Some things are easier to say when you don’t have to look the person in the eye. And maybe this blog is like that. It’s just us and the road and we’re having a heart to heart.

So anyway. When hubby went to Dubai a couple of weeks ago I was worried. It seemed so easy to just go and do it, just let go and not care. The illusion of wine was suddenly there, but then it’s always there only it can’t quite take over because I know it’s not real. Even so, there were a couple of afternoons when I went for my walks when the thought popped into my head. Especially the evening when my son met up with his uncle – a family tie severed by his father yet now my boy was bursting with joy and his eyes sparkled as he spent some time with this uncle he adores and hadn’t seen for years. And seeing my son like that, with that additional layer of happiness and excitement created the same thing in me – I was overjoyed and what do I feel like doing when things are extra great? Yep, that’s right – I felt like a drink.

But bear with me – it’s different now, I discovered. The thought may very well take root for a moment but it can’t fool me anymore. Well, or hasn’t yet anyway.

I find now that I allow the thought in when it comes. I don’t push it out or start mumbling sobriety mantras, I just let it in, I let it settle and take hold. As we drove home through west London that evening, I knew that I could quite easily get some wine on the way home and drink to my heart’s discontent. It was almost amusing to let the monster do its death dance but with one massive difference: it was no longer toying with me, I was toying with IT. Almost like a cat will play with a mouse for a while. I allowed my mind to wander to a glass of wine by the river with hubby, a glass of wine at home with hubby, a glass of wine anywhere with hubby – every scenario I used to love I conjured up as I watched the monster dance, wilder and wilder and its eyes gleamed hungrily when it thought it had me.

And I just drove home. And I didn’t drink because I didn’t actually want to.

I knew it’d take me somewhere I don’t want to go and see tomorrow completely ruined and perhaps that’s why it wasn’t tempting in the end. It was so much nicer to get home, watch a bit of TV, eat dinner and then read a book in bed until I was sleepy. And the best thing of all: another morning when the coffee tasted great and I felt alive. But sure, I’d been terrified when hubby left for that trip and was genuinely worried I’d have a slip – it was almost like I prepared myself for it, almost like I’d resigned myself to it. Luckily it seems the illusion of booze has a much harder time fooling me these days, even when I let the monster in and watch it dance in a perverse attempt to see if I can torture myself. A bit like the clip of a tarantula taking a jump that came up in my Facebook newsfeed. I made myself watch it even though I knew it’d freak me out. Perhaps I’m a bit of a masochist, but isn’t victory all the sweeter when you’ve really stared your enemies down? Brings me back to the dragons on the high street one winter evening – I felt like fucking Xena the warrior princess then.

This time, with hubby gone for a week again, I don’t feel worried. The temptation isn’t there and perhaps it’s the result of his Dubai trip when I thought I might give in but found that a shift has taken place in my mind. I just know I’ll feel so much better going for my walks, go to sleep after feeding my brain with literature and waking up in the mornings alert and present. I can’t think of anything worse than waking up with a hangover and there is nothing about the drinking preceding it I want to go near either. It’s almost like it’s lost its appeal because I can no longer cite a single benefit that Sauvignon Blanc would entail – not a one! Truly. Isn’t that awesome? So this time I’m not worried.

For me, that’s the key to my sobriety. MY sobriety. I only speak for myself, just so we’re clear on that. For ME, abstaining is not something I can do for the reasons why I shouldn’t drink. Every goddamn drinker in the world is to a greater or lesser degree aware of the health risks associated with excessive drinking and if the reasons why you shouldn’t drink were enough to stop anyone there’d never be a problem, right? But that’s not how it works, is it? For me it was all about getting to grips with the reasons I thought I had TO drink. When I discovered I’d been caught in a trap of illusions, it suddenly changed everything. Why would I drink when I was suddenly freed of any possible reason I thought I had to pour that glass? That’s right – there was no longer any point because every single situation and state of mind is better without booze be it boundless joy or bottomless sadness. Well, there never was any point but now I know it. Oh, the sense of freedom when you finally see clearly. I know I wax lyrical but it’s so incredible to me, so beautiful and so liberating. I don’t have to put up lots of defences or seek support or engage in any ritual other than reminding myself once in a while that drinking will not bring a single positive thing to my life, only the opposite. When you truly know that in your heart, I’d say you’re half way there. The rest of the way just be grateful but also mindful that your mind once turned on you so you would probably do well being at least a LITTLE vigilant. You know, just in case.

I look back on these 111 days of sobriety (thank you, my snazzy little sober days counter app!) and discover that I’ve both felt so incredibly strong and secure in my sobriety as I have fragile and unsure. I know the power of the beast and although I know I can overcome its pull on me, I also know how quickly everything can change and how rapid a descent back into drinking could be. Yet, I continue to feel good and life keeps on being beautiful because I’m here to enjoy it. It seems crazy now to ruin that by drinking but I know this monster makes that dragon in the last episode of Game of Thrones that I watched seem like a banana fly and that’s what I can’t lose sight of. As long as I keep an eye on that little fucker I reckon I’ll be just fine, I just can’t forget it’s there.

Anyone else who like me feels so secure and confident about their sobriety but also frightened by just how powerful the lure of booze can still be?

Today I’m not going to drink. I’m going to head to the doctor’s after work for a blood test just to check all is in order and how this tired old body is doing now that I’ve stopped torturing it, then home for an appointment with a company quoting for a new boiler and then out for a walk around the park. Hubby and I did a double loop yesterday which in distance is just shy of a half marathon and I was WAY more exhausted than I thought I’d be, mostly it was the soles of my feet that ached and my shoulders, strangely. Hey ho, clearly not as fit as I thought I was. And that doesn’t bode well for the marathon length hike we’ve signed up for across the seven sisters on the south coast. Holy fuck, I’m starting to realise that might be a motherfucker. Oh fuck it, it’ll be fine. I was just having an off day yesterday and before you know it I’ll be flying around that loop several times without feeling the slightest bit tired. Hrrm….. It’s a beautiful day too and even less reason to ruin it by drinking but as I mentioned, I actually feel nothing but confident this week which is almost a first with hubby away.

I’m not going to pick up a drink today.

Turning Myself Inside Out

There is always a bit of worry when a fellow drunk doesn’t pick up the phone. Blue went off radar and it did turn out she was back on the juice, although last I heard she had it under control and was only drinking socially and during the weekend. I genuinely hope she is someone who can do that because God knows I tried that strategy over and over and over again and it did NOT work out that way for me. For a while perhaps, yes, but it never took long for the Sauvignon Blanc to spill over into school nights. I will ping Blue a text, if nothing else to say I hope she’s OK and if she isn’t I’ll always be here and will never judge.

Because AA never clicked for me, I stopped going. First it trailed off and I’d just end up going to my favourite meeting once a week but then that tapered off too. It felt like going to a meeting to get support in abstaining from something I didn’t want to do in the first place and therefore a little pointless. Amongst other things that didn’t sit right with me for various reasons. But anyway, during the time I did go regularly I did make a few AA friends that I’d regularly be in touch with. One of those friends is Ivy. We’d text and call each other several times a week and occasionally meet up for a coffee before a meeting. We’re totally different and our boozing careers are like night and day too, but I truly really adore her and sometimes you’re just drawn to people. Ivy is a lovely, lovely lady. Last I heard from her was a couple of weeks ago, just checking in with each other and she was “fine but busy”. All good. Then I texted her a couple of days ago and haven’t heard back. That’s very unlike her and so there’s a distant but persistent warning bell ringing at the back of my mind.

Part of me wonders if she is just focusing on AA and doing the steps and doesn’t want to tarnish her existence with someone like me who hasn’t followed the same path, drinking or not drinking. Perhaps it is frowned upon to stay in touch with those who don’t go all in for the program? That part of me feels I should just leave it there – I’ve reached out and if she replies I’ll be happy to hear from her, but if not that’s cool too and her choice. Then there’s that little part of me that wonders if she’s OK. Do I text her again? Say something along the lines of we don’t have to be in touch but can she just let me know she’s fine? I don’t know.

Actually, I do know. I will text her. Now. ………..done. Just a short line – “Hi sweetie, just wanted to check you’re OK? Xx” Short and sweet.

This I did find about AA, with the exception of Willow who I consider an Actual Friend, that it’s all under veils of AA-yness. Almost like some things are OK to say and some not, parroting scripture and adhering to one way of viewing things. Willow was the first and only person I felt broke through that stuff, and whilst AA has really worked for her (as it does for so, so many people) she never made me feel I had to defend myself for not quite getting it or agreeing with everything. It’s much easier to open up and have a frank conversation with someone on those terms, when both parties are genuinely keen to hear and understand the other view point and then discuss it all. I love that! What I don’t love is saying how I genuinely feel and wearing my heart on my sleeve only to be chuckled at and minimised. I am not a good actress so didn’t see any point in mimicking a love for a Higher Power and praise this for my sobriety where I failed myself. Cannot do it. Don’t get me wrong – I believe in a Higher Power. I also consider myself an alcoholic and believe this to be an irrefutable fact that will never change in my lifetime. But that’s as far as it goes because I believe any changes have to come from within ourselves and anything else is in direct conflict with what I believe.

There is a lot in AA and its teachings that I agree with and believe is both sound and logical, it’s just that there’s stuff that I find hard to accept and/or truly see as true for me. Doesn’t matter though. I will repeat for the umpteenth time – I think AA is a wonderful and massively important organisation that is a life saver for many alcoholics. I just don’t believe it’s for everyone and don’t like the AA stance that where someone can’t get sober through AA it’s because there’s something wrong with them. That’s all.

One of the most uplifting and hopeful things you hear in AA are told by those who were in some cases quite literally at death’s door – I’ve heard AA members talk of extended hospital stays, liver transplants, almost successful suicide attempts and the like – who find their way into the rooms and get sober. Through AA they finally find the way to get their lives back and remain sober when everything else has failed. These are stories sometimes told by people who recall how at one point it has seemed easier to kill themselves than stop drinking. And AA has saved their lives. In the truest sense, AA is the reason they now have meaningful, joyful lives that when they first came into the rooms they did not think possible. Those are powerful stories and testament to how magnificent AA is as an organisation. I cannot stress this enough – AA is in many cases the difference between a wasted life and one fulfilled beyond someone’s dreams.

Then there is the stuff I find so depressing I want to turn myself inside out.

One such story I listened to at the Thursday women’s meeting. This chick shared how wonderful sobriety is. She had been on a trip to India and had been terrified of going, scared to death she’d relapse. She’d taken all her AA literature, organised to dial in to online meetings and looked up local meetings in the places she was going to visit and so on. That’s not freedom as far as I’m concerned – that’s a prison. How can you claim to be free and sober when you’ve really just replaced one dependency with another, even if it IS the lovely AA you’ve put in its place? I can’t think of anything WORSE than feeling petrified at going on a trip, lugging literature with me to read in order to chase bad thoughts away and plan various meetings. Fuck that. I’m sorry, I’m not a strong enough person to live that way – if I had to you’d see me reaching for the bottle quicker than you can say “grant me the serenity”.

And so where does this leave me? Well. Perhaps I am dumber than what should be humanly possible and perhaps the way that I feel is precisely what’ll see me relapse and drink myself to death – I couldn’t tell you what tomorrow will bring, but then nor can you. All I know is that for me, what worked was to unpack what alcohol is for me, what I thought it was and did and really work out the sum total. And I discovered that for ME, alcohol was all an illusion and in fact did none of the things I thought or felt it did. I discovered it had added nothing good, and once that became clear I was suddenly out of reasons to pour that glass of wine. It’s that simple.

There is lots of merit in attempting to be a better person, to be true to yourself and honest at all times, put effort in to doing good and approaching everything with love and light. The 12-step program is probably a hugely positive thing and at a guess something we’d all – alkies and non-alkies – benefit from completing and practising. Again another thing I think AA has got SO right. Absolutely bang on the money. I just don’t believe I’m an alcoholic because there is something inherently wrong with ME as a person. Don’t get me wrong, I have more shortcomings than you can shake a cocktail mixer at, but I just don’t buy that alcoholism affects “a certain type”. I don’t consider the fact that I’m an alcoholic to be a defect in ME but in my BEHAVIOUR – I don’t consider an alcoholic a defective person but a person whose behaviour is. Just my view. And behaviour can only be changed by unpacking what reasons we had to engage in it in the first place, and for me personally it was my skewed view of what alcohol was and did for me. I’m not saying it’s like that for everyone, I can only ever speak for myself and I’m not so foolish as to believe that my way is going to be everyone’s way. Thank God we’re all different! I should also point out I don’t consider myself “above” AA or better (or worse for that matter!) than anyone who prefers and thrives on following AA’s program.

Gosh, I’m clearly really anxious to give a lengthy defense speech on why AA doesn’t click for me. I suppose it goes back to how my ex-sponsor reacted to how I felt and left me feeling minimised, belittled and shut down. I suppose I’m also very keen to not offend anyone and therefore really eager to emphasise that this is just my own view and how I feel. From one drunk to whoever reads this. Something like that. So apologies if I’ve said something that either pisses you off or even gets your back up – I don’t claim any of this to be universal truths, only my own. And I’m always more than willing to hear yours.

Anyway. Happy Friday everyone and have a lovely weekend.

….Ivy hasn’t responded yet. It’s only been a short while but she’s usually quite quick and that little tinge of worry is right there in my chest. I hope she is OK. Either way I’d much rather she won’t be my friend than eventually find out she lost grip of her sobriety so I hope with every fibre of my being that she’s just busy soul searching and putting her all into whatever step she is working on….

Today I’m not going to drink.

Bulls and Kiwi Fruit

Did I run yesterday? Yes.

See, I could leave it there and have you believe I went for a “proper” run and that I am oh so goody-good-good, running with the wind in my hair at an impressive pace through the park without breaking a sweat. But I was always going to be honest on this blog, plus I can’t stand that shit where people try to present perfect Instalives – it’s not for me. So did I race around the park like the wind? Not so much. I didn’t run like the wind but I ran a LITTLE. Half a kilometre. I know – not much, is it? Three minutes of running. It was at the end of my long walk and I decided I’d run the rest of the way (roughly three kilometres) home. Well. I ran half a kilometre and it was only three minutes but I still RAN, albeit not far or fast. So what. It was so tempting to just keep walking, listening to yet another audiobook – I absolutely adore my walks, they’re my meditation, absolute sunshine for my soul – but I switched to music and RAN. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it’d be so it didn’t turn out to be the rest of the way home, just a measly 500 metres before I decided to go back to walking and switched back to the book and Michael Persbrandt recounting his early days of his acting career in his deep, gravelly voice.

Here he is, by the way – his most famous role is Gunvald in the crime drama Beck, he does “bad cop” to perfection: growly, unreasonable, brutish, very un-PC and a bit of a bull in a china shop – reminds me of my dad, even looks like him (obviously minus the tattoos – Pa Dear does not care for tattoos):

mp

I keep going off on non-drinking topics on this blog, but Persbrandt is actually relevant in that he has a bit of a checkered history with booze (and other substances too) from what I can gather from the book so far. Actually, the part I’ve just recently listened to is where Persbrandt accounts for how the role of Gunvald is basically acting the way he might when he’s drunk – all burly and aggressive and staring anyone and anything down – and quite the opposite to what and who he is sober. He also touches upon how this famous (famous in Sweden anyway) role has completely shaped people’s perception of him, that people think he’s this super masculine alpha male when he is in fact a bit of a softie when it comes down to it and quite the opposite. To be fair, I think if I ever met him in real life I’d be really confused if he wasn’t just like Gunvald, his language peppered with swear words and politically incorrect comments. But all of that aside, it’s interesting for me to read – or listen to, as it were – as it shows yet another side of the story and I don’t specifically mean Persbrandt’s but the story of alcohol. I nearly wrote ‘alcoholism’ but I’ve not so far in the book heard him refer to himself as an alcoholic or addict so I’m not going to label him. Anyway, a very good actor and if he has his shit together these days, all the better.

I don’t have anything interesting to say today so I won’t ramble on. I’m not drinking and I’m happy. I still don’t WANT to drink. Any time drinking does pop into my head I know so well that the image isn’t real – I will never be able to drink like a normal person, I will never be able to have that situation where booze is a bit of glitter you sprinkle on top because I guzzle my way to black-out and it’ll never be any other way. And I’m fine with that. ‘Tis cool. Sure, I wish sometimes I could – of course that’d be nice – but that’s like hubby pining for a kiwi fruit smoothie. He’s allergic to kiwi fruit so it’d make his throat swell up and land him in A&E, so it’s pointless. Same thing for me with alcohol. I react badly to it and it’ll never be different. And that’s OK. It’s more than OK. It’s absolutely fantastic – it’s not like I’m allergic to something that, like fruit for example, is good for me. I’ll take this seemingly unfortunate disposition as a win, come to think of it.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Powerful Strides and Huge Grins

I really like those blogs that have the number of days in the title. 10 Days. 34 Days. 88 Days. 201 Days. And so on. Sometimes starting again and the day after 28 Days comes 1 Day. It still shows determination and anyhow I don’t think someone’s sobriety should be judged on how many attempts it took to stick at it. Occasionally I’ll refer to the number of days I’ve been sober in the title but it’s rare. As I’ve mentioned before I both do and don’t like counting – I think every goddamn second of being present is worth celebrating but I also think counting potentially sets you up for a fall should you slip up. It makes me think of Blue. She collected her two-month chip when I collected my one-month chip. When it was me getting the two-month chip she cried in the meeting as she relayed how she’d spent three days drinking herself to oblivion and looked broken when she collected the one with 24 hours printed on it. She got applause of course, like everyone else getting a chip that day, but her eyes were sorrowful and her shoulders slumped as though she had the whole world weighing on them. I suppose it must have felt that way.

I wonder how Blue is, actually. We made half baked plans to meet up weeks back and the last I heard she was drinking but managing it. I hope that means something entirely different to when I “managed” it.

So I’m in two minds about counting. I feel amazing right now to look at my unbroken stretch of 106 days, a string of beautiful pearls that I’m proudly wearing. How would I feel if I in a moment of madness ripped them off and then stood here defeated tomorrow having picked one up again from the floor? I wonder if the next number one or ten or 106 would feel so wonderful to add when they’d be something I once had but lost as opposed to proudly wearing for the first time? Maybe I’ll find out and maybe I won’t, I couldn’t tell you for sure but one thing is certain – if I do find out, it won’t be today. Today is a glorious day. Another morning that I woke up without a hangover and another day I get to spend feeling alive, present and grateful.

Except I’m on. Thanks to a lovely little case of fibroids I now have periods that are like giving birth without the reward at the end and bleed so much I teeter dangerously close to anemia on a monthly basis. You’re very welcome – I’m sure you’re all grateful for this information. Sorry, I have no filters or boundaries. Anyway, the Feminax and iron supplements have me feeling fairly human and the sun is shining so despite my cramping uterus I am pondering a run this afternoon to replace my long walk. I’ve had dreams recently about running and how good that feels. I do still occasionally have dreams about drinking but they are increasingly being pushed out by other, healthier stuff. So anyway, in the dream I was feeling strong and supple, bounding forward on the gravel path in the park and with each powerful stride feeling as springy as Mo Farah with the wind in my hair. The overwhelming sense of the dream was feeling physically fit and strong and it was wonderful. I did think actually, how when I started doing these long walks a couple of months ago, I could really feel it when I got back home. After the walk with hubby yesterday, our now “normal” route along the inside perimeter of the park just shy of 10k, it was nothing like that – I felt great yes, and virtuous too with that sense of having done something good, but no feeling of having done lots of exercise or sore muscles. Fucking awesome.

I haven’t been into running for over a year and a half. When you’re a drunk who’s still drinking it’s quite tricky to keep stuff like that up, but back in August and September of 2016 I was doing good, running almost everyday between five and seven kilometres. I think I must have been having one of those stretches where I managed to adhere to the weekends only drinking rule. Like many other alcoholics, I’d manage to stick to it for sometimes quite long periods of time – just enough to keep me thinking I was in charge. Anyway, the running disappeared and I’m guessing it must have coincided with when my drinking flowed out into the rest of the week again. It always did. The good thing about running is that it’s the sort of exercise that you can build up quite quickly. It’s fresh produce though as fitness tends to be so disappears as quickly, but I’ve always found it takes me no more than two or three weeks of regular runs to build up to wobbling my way through five kilometres without having to stop and walk (and I am by no means an athletic or slender little thing – I have plenty of junk in the trunk to carry with me when I hobble along at snail pace, but so what). Yep, I think it’s time now.

Hubby comes with me two or three times per week and the other days he’s either at the gym or goes for a run, so the perfect pattern would be to run every other day. Our around the park loop can serve as my 10k goal. It’s a beautiful running route and of course almost entirely free of traffic, only crossing the avenue that runs through the park and being mindful of the wild fallow deer. If I can get around that without stopping to walk by the time we go on holiday half way through July I’ll be very, very happy. I’m gagging to feel like I felt in the dream!

Why am I waxing lyrical about running in a blog about alcoholism? Well, it’s quite simple really – running has always been something I loved and drinking stole it from me, it was one of the countless things I couldn’t do when I was trapped in the bottle. With the hangovers I had I could barely stay upright so my running fell away. I’d get back to it during periods when my drinking subsided a little, a lot or even completely, but I always fell off the wagon and when I fell off so did the running.

Running feels amazing. One year I ended up with an inflamed muscle in my hip – it was horrible and for over two months I walked with a limp and couldn’t run at all. This was actually the year I hardly ever drank – 2010 – as the running and how good it made me feel made me naturally and instinctively less interested in alcohol. I can’t remember if the running ban due to the injury made me drink more but probably – I’m sure I did. Anyway, I missed it MASSIVELY and would enviously glance at people out running wishing I could get back out. After three months or so, I pulled on my running shoes. Heck, I even remember what I wore, just like you tend to remember a lot of details around a significant event. Fearing that the muscle would suddenly give in again, I started walking at a brisk pace in direction of the bridge, first a little cautiously but soon taking out my strides. On the other side I went down the steps to the river path, and as I approached the tennis courts next to the playground I started jogging. My hip didn’t hurt. My legs carried me. It felt natural. I remember how I just broke into a huge grin as I ran those first few hundred metres and began the loop around the bridges.

As it always did my drinking took hold of me again at some point although I don’t remember how or when exactly, but I do know that soon enough I was on the other side of the bridge again sitting outside the pub on the river and looking across at the path on the other side where people were running when I was drinking.

I wonder if it’ll feel like that when I head out this evening, if the feeling will have me grinning like a fool and I’ll feel almost as strong and bouncy as I did in the dream or if it’ll just be tough and I won’t even be able to keep running for a mile. Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter one bit. I’m looking forward to it and the thought of it makes me smile. All these things that I get to have again. Sure, I could have had all this all along, but sometimes I wonder if I’d appreciate everything as much as I do now if I’d never drunk at all. I’d like to think so but I do wonder.

Today I’m not going to drink.