All That Jazz

I just hopped over to one of my favourite blogs – LoveOverWine – and her last post really jumped out at me. What I love about this blog is the honesty, which is actually a basic requirement for holding my attention to be fair, be it here in the blogosphere or in that crazy world called reality. This particular post was about how perhaps sometimes we feel we need to portray something other than the true picture but how she was always determined to tell it like it is. This we definitely have in common, because for me too, this is the place where I’ve sworn I’ll never try to sugar coat anything. She describes how, when she first got sober, needed to hear that others had struggled too, really see how gritty and awful recovery can be and understand she wasn’t alone. I can completely relate because I regularly read from a bunch of other writers about their journeys. For me, it’s like a virtual AA meeting, really – here we are, a bunch of drunks, sharing our experiences and hopes and fears.

And I will never lie here. If I relapse and wake up in the morning to discover I’ve done a whole bunch of fucked up shit in black-out, I’ll be sure to tell you every last little shameful details. Deal? Good. Glad we cleared that up. My honesty is as important to me as my sobriety – the two go hand in hand because they HAVE TO.

As such, this blog was an anchor I put down solely for the intention of holding myself accountable. I figured it would be difficult and I never once expected anything other than documenting a long series of relapses and starting over. Every goddamn time I’ve written the number of days, then weeks and now months I’ve been sober, I’ve been painfully aware that I may end up saying those things again. Like Blue, who picked up her two-month sobriety chip the evening I got one for one month, only to collect the chip for 24 hours when I’d got to two months. I one hundred gazillion billion percent expected this to be the case for me, and hand on heart could I tell you now that I believe that today will be the one and only time I say I’ve been sober 136 days? No. Hell no. And that scares the living crap out of me. Don’t get me wrong – apart from my son and husband always being happy and healthy, my highest wish is to remain this way, but I also know that the odds are stacked against me and you only have to briefly scan statistics to realise that. OK, that does seem really depressing, doesn’t it? It’s not. It just means I will never take my sobriety for granted or become complacent. I may not have to live my life with my sword drawn, but you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll always keep it nearby.

And as for now? I’m happy. I’m sober. For 136 days I’ve not had a drink. 136 mornings I’ve woken up with a clear mind and a body that feels healthy and strong. 136 days of feeling grateful for the life I have and am no longer destroying. So it’s very far from doom and gloom, actually. It’s a sense of joy and freedom so intense I get tearful just thinking about it. I’m fucking lucky, that’s for certain. Whatever happens, the only day I have any power over is today. One day at a time.

How much did they know? Family, friends, colleagues – the people in my life who don’t actually live with me. How much did they see? How much did they notice? The pain and hurt I have caused my child can never be forgiven and my husband’s heart must have ached too, but I will go back to the two that I love the most another time. What about the people in my life who might see me occasionally but not every day? Who did I fool and who saw right through me?

I’m a bloodhound when it comes to sniffing out my own kind – I swear I can spot another alcoholic a mile off. It takes one to know one. But how far can you pull the wool over a non-alcoholic’s eyes, I wonder? I honestly couldn’t tell you. I do know that my family noticed I drank too much – little comments here and there, a little look in someone’s eye that could have been concern or a product of my paranoia altogether. We went to Edinburgh for my 39th birthday and I spoke with one of my brothers who’d called to say happy birthday. He rounded off with “go easy with the booze“. Fuck, that pissed me off! HOW DARE HE! That’s the reaction of a drunk who knows she’s a drunk because if I hadn’t known I had a drinking problem I wouldn’t have reacted and instead just laughed and told him to piss off. And I also followed the Drunkard’s Text Book after this: I either made jokes about drinking or I went to great lengths to “prove” he was wrong. I know several people right now who still do this, who are still at the “laughing it off” stage or so deep in denial they can’t see the bar for the bottles (see what I did there?).

Hand on heart, if I were to ask the same brother now that I no longer drink he could say one of two things and I’d be equally surprised:

  1. Yes, Sophie, we all know and we’ve all been worried to death about you. We know you’ve nearly gone under with your drinking and we had talked about doing an intervention.
  2. No, we just thought you over indulged on holiday maybe. We thought you just had a few too many occasionally but we never imagined you could be an alcoholic.

I honestly have no idea how much they figured out. I suspect it might be more along the lines of #2, simply because if I knew one of them drank between two and three bottles of wine most days of the week I would be dragging them kicking and screaming to the nearest rehab – no way would I allow them to kill themselves the way I was killing myself and I would do everything in my power no matter how uncomfortable to help. No way would I, if I thought or knew someone in my family or one of my friends drank the way I did, just cautiously tell them to “go easy”. So from that I think it’s probably quite clear that they had no idea I was in such trouble. Hell, even my husband would probably have said at the time that yes, I drank too much but I wasn’t an alcoholic. But even from him – as much as I hate to admit it – I managed to hide, anything from claiming to be on my second drink when it was actually my fourth to in other ways try to minimise any concern he expressed. However, my guess is everyone else just thought I liked my drink a bit too much but never JUST how much. So perhaps I had them fooled. Well done, me.

It’s not that hard though, right? When we’re in Sweden, I can cling on to that it’s HOLIDAY and therefore completely normal to drink every day. Or someone comes to visit, then it’s also HOLIDAY and of course we drink every day. Or have a drink with mates on a Tuesday. They don’t know that when I’m with them I drink both fewer drinks and more slowly than all other days because I know I can’t lose control, but all I want is to get away so I can drink PROPERLY. I wonder how this looks and sounds to non-drunks but I can tell you that I can’t remember if I ever went to the pub with friends without drinking more – a LOT more – once I got home. ALONE. I think I even tried to make people think I was a bit of a lightweight. If I’d been out with a colleague for drinks, for example. I’d stay for maybe three glasses of wine, but then drink up to two bottles more when I got home. Of course the next day the colleague in question would feel OK but I would be a hungover wreck. “Oh yeah, I get really bad hangovers,” would be my standard reply when in fact the amount I had drunk would be enough to drown a horse. And how could anyone I see on holiday ever have reason to believe that I’d drink just as much any day during the year?

And then the shakes. I had an explanation for that too, which is PARTLY true. I do have a condition called Essential Tremor, inherited from my father and paternal grandmother. Completely harmless (grandma is 90 and fit as a fiddle, albeit a very shaky fiddle) but it means you tremble, most noticeably your hands. Add severe alcohol abuse a la Sophie and I’d sometimes be so bad I could barely walk and even have jerky head movements. Jesus, there were times I couldn’t trust my legs and so didn’t leave the house. ALL because of the condition, you understand, nothing at all to do with me drinking wine like it was some sort of competition.

I was also a master at planning my drinking. You have to be when you’re an alcoholic because your greatest fear is running out of booze – the thought is enormously stressful – so I always ensured I had a plan. This got a little trickier any time we were in Sweden, where you can’t buy alcohol in the supermarket or any corner shop – it is state controlled and there’s only one place to buy it. I’m from a small town, so of course there is only the one branch. So Drunk Me was faced with potential small town gossip because everyone knows everyone and you really couldn’t go in every day and buy boxes of wine without setting the jungle drums off (or rather, warning bells – quite rightly). So I’d rotate between my home town and a couple others to make my insane consumption seem less outrageous. Being a drunk is really like a military operation that you have to execute in minute detail and I had it down to a T. At least I thought I was being very clever at the time but as I said, I wonder now if anyone ever bought my bullshit or if I was the only person I managed to fool.

It also, I believe, comes down to what we think an alcoholic is. I suppose all I can say is that the only thing that stands between myself and that poor soul on the park bench who has lost everything is ONE DRINK. I am only ever one drink away. Perhaps I should make it my life’s mission to educate people on alcohol abuse. I think because of all the misconceptions we have and because alcohol actually is something MOST people can handle without problems, us alcoholics sink much further before we get help. It is seen as shameful and dirty, and so it follows that it’s something that’s fucking shit to cop to. And it does break my heart a little. All the things I wanted to do and to be, including an awesome mother to my son. Wasted. Literally, WASTED.

Gosh, this turned fucking glum, didn’t it? Sorry’bout that. Allow me to clarify.

I am very lucky, I know this. I can look my son in the eye and do my best to show him I am trying – he may tell you in the future that mum was drunk a lot but perhaps he’ll also say he is proud of her for fighting her way out of this. Oh fuck it, I can’t write anything that makes that part OK because it never will be, but perhaps you know what I mean. Late shall the sinners awaken, and all that jazz. Still lucky. I got out before I’d fucked my health. I quit before my husband’s life got unbearable. And I am strong. I will never for a moment think I’m stronger than the beast, but I have to believe I can do this. There has to be a part of me that is allowed to hope I will only say I’m 136 days sober this once and that the number will only ever grow.

What gives me hope and fills me with joy is how good it feels to be sober. I couldn’t tell you even one aspect of my life that hasn’t got even better without alcohol. Not a one. I can’t say I’m struggling and I can’t say I’ve overcome huge obstacles. Not yet, anyway.

Today I’m not going to drink.

2 thoughts on “All That Jazz

  1. Hello Anna. I was browsing through several posts here on WordPress when I came across your post. I decided to give it a read. I like that you are honest about your progress so far, and I like that your family is a motivating factor in your decision to quit. My sincere wish is for you to overcome the problem once and for all.

    If I may ask Anna, do you believe in God? I saw that you mentioned words like “Jesus” and “Sinners” in your post. However, I am not too sure whether those are phrases made in passing or phrases reflective of your actual religious beliefs. God is an ever present help in times of need. If you take your issues to God in prayer, I am certain that he would be happy to help you.

    God has the power to redirect your focus from the things of the world and focus your mind on him. God has the power to renew our minds and fill us with the holy spirit. However, we need to build a relationship with him first. Would your journey to recovery suddenly become easy if you pursue a relationship with God? Not exactly. However, God would be there with you every step of the way. As you read the word of God and obey it, you would begin to die to the old self and be reborn as a new creature in Jesus. It might seem a bit difficult initially, but it would become second nature before you realize it. God would transform your situation and make beautiful things emerge from your experience, however you need to build a relationship with him first.

    Say this prayer with me: Father God, I thank you. I praise your holy name for you are mighty and your works are splendid. I thank you for everything that you have done for me, those things that I am aware of and those things that I am not aware of. Father Lord, I pray for the strength to overcome my addiction to alcohol totally. I want to be a better person Lord, I pray that you give me the strength to overcome. I rebuke every agents of evil in spiritual high places that seek to rob me of the blessings that I know that you will send to me in Jesus name. I wrap this prayer in the blood of the lamb. In Jesus name I pray, Amen”

    If you wish to start a relationship with God (if you do not already have one), here are the steps that I usually recommend:

    1) find a quiet space free from distractions, a place where you can pray.

    2) imagine that Jesus is in front of you, talk to him the way you will with a close friend. Tell him that you are ready to accept him, invite him to come into your life and become your lord and personal savior. Ask for forgiveness of past sins. Tell Jesus that you want to die to your old self and be reborn as a new creation in him. Pray that you inherit eternal life and the kingdom of God. Beware of sudden distractions when you pray, this is a trick the devil uses to stop us from having focused prayers. You might also get the feeling that God is not there or that you are simply wasting your time, this is another trick that the devil uses to discourage us from prayers.

    3) If you have any specific prayers, or something specific that you need, you can ask it in Jesus name, and God would attend to the prayers. God usually has three answers to prayers: Yes, Yes but wait, and No. God has a reason for every answer, and his answers are usually what is best for you. When you pray, you need to have faith that you will receive. God does not like it when we pray but doubt his ability to provide what we want for us. Lastly, prayers and faith without works wont bring results. E.g. If all a person does is prays and has faith that they would get a job, without actually applying to jobs, they WOULD NOT get a job. God does not work that way, God loves hard-working people, and God rewards hard-work. If all Christians had to do is pray, have faith, and stay home all day awaiting a blessing, Christians would be the laziest people on earth. LOL. Your part is to pray that God should fast-track your success, so that you recieve your blessings quicker than people who are relying on their own strength. Your blessings might also come in a bigger way. Remember to thank God when you get the answers to your prayers.

    4) Read the bible and obey it. You can find free bibles online. You can also find free bible apps on google play. Keep praying all the time and maintain a connection with God.

    5) Trials and tribulations may come your way, sometimes these are designed to test your faith, and sometimes they are simply tricks from the devil to get you to denounce the religion. At times like this, you pray to God, you fast, and you maintain consistency in the faith, this way, God would lift you above all trials and afflictions.

    6) You can join a community of bible believing Christians. Having friends who are believers would keep you on track, and the conversations about the religion would be beneficial to your faith.

    7) Get a water baptism, and pray to God so that you can receive a baptism in the holy spirit.

    8) Begin to educate yourself on the things of the lord. Read books from ministers who have practised deliverance, healing, seeing in the spirit, and other gifts. Read about how they got these anoiting and learn more about the workings of the spiritual realm through Christian books.

    (The things written in this list are not to be followed in any particular order. The most important thing is to begin by asking for a forgiveness of sins, confess Jesus as your personal lord and saviour, and pray for eternal life. You can mix up the order of the rest. However, I strongly suggest you do them all simultaneously).

    If you have any questions, feel free to ask me. I would answer accordingly. I pray that God shines his light on you. God bless you sister. Have a great day 🙂 xoxo

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    • Thank you for taking the time to write – it is much appreciated. Whilst I do believe in a Higher Power (or even the “traditional” God of Christianity) I don’t think a full on approach like this to any religion is right for me. I hugely appreciate the advice however and thanks again for taking the time. Best, Anna

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