Red Ends and Good Weeks

Can’t say I lived by that meme yesterday, i.e. the one that says “in a year from now you’ll wish you’d started today”. Got home and quickly abandoned our low carb plan by pushing two doughnuts into my face, but then headed out on my usual walk in the park. OK, it’ll sound a bit daft now, after my doughnut confession, but WHY am I just getting fatter? Alright, not fat, I’m not obese, but I am definitely on the squidgy side of medium and steadily growing it would seem. I calculated when I quit drinking that based on conservative estimations I had cut out 8,000 calories per week. Probably more, but I based this on what I’d drink on a Good Week. For anyone who is here for the first time, I should probably point out that 13 bottles of Sauvignon (at 600 calories a pop) in one week wasn’t unusual for this particular drunk, nor was it as bad as it ever got. A Bad Week would be every single night and not remembering the last evening I’d been sober. Those happened too, although for the sake of being fair to myself, I’d say five nights per week was probably an accurate average.

You know those tests you can do with a bunch of questions to see if your drinking is a problem or damaging your health? When I drank I avoided those partly because I didn’t like the answer and partly because I knew that answer already. Now, however, when I’m approaching five months sober, I completed one via a Swedish news site and I went with absolute honesty and accuracy based on my drinking habits before I quit.

al

I’ll assist with the translation. It says “here is your alcohol profile” with a cheerful little exclamation mark at the end and then a little sub caption that reads “you drink a lot and often, so your alcohol consumption is dangerous for you“. Then we obviously have that lovely colour coded scale. Unsurprisingly I am right at the red end, the black arrow box with “du” (‘you‘) as far into the red as you can go and “farligt” means dangerous. Not that I need an online test to tell me that I was killing myself – I know that now and I knew it then. I do wonder how many alcoholics who haven’t yet reached the stage I did, do these tests, end up somewhere around the middle which says “warning” and take it as reassurance? I reckon an addict will only take comfort in not being at the Really Bad End. I definitely behaved in that way and I had people I’d point to as a way of illustrating that THEY had problems and were worse than I was so that must mean I was Just Fine. Elaine* both drank and smoked more than I did, which was reassuring and allowed me to stay in deep denial. Linda* was also someone who was much further down into the bottle than I was, usually drinking a bottle of whisky before she even got to lunchtime – Linda was a full-on alcoholic, in the stages where you just kind of expect the worst. And sure enough, on her 48th birthday Linda drank herself to death. The urn containing her ashes was buried in water, in a little cove off the coast of Florida, where she lived. And Elaine? Well, I discovered I actually drank more, so really, I ran out of People Worse Than I Am to point out. In the end I could only point at myself. That’s a scary place to be, when you no longer know anyone who drinks more than you do.

Needless to say there are countless wonderful byproducts of sobriety and the universe delivers almost instantly with the amazing feeling of waking up without a hangover. I swear, quitting drinking is well worth it for that alone. I can – and often do – wax lyrical about how fantastic it is so be sober, but I do also try to always remind myself what drinking was like. I never want to allow myself to forget how awful it truly was so nestling here among my odes to sobriety those awful snap shots will always be found. Another anchor to hold me in place I suppose.

But back to the endless joys of being sober! When I first quit drinking I discovered I had a sweet tooth, and since I bid adieu to the Sauvignon Blanc you can often find me ordering dessert as well as eating chocolate, which I didn’t even realise I like! And cookies too. What the hell! Still, I figured with all the wine calories absent, I’d still slim down without lifting a finger. Not so. Instead I got fat. For fuck’s sake, what’s up with THAT? Luckily I love walking, ideally with either music in my ears or an audio book, plus we live 200 yards from a massive park, so I set as a goal to go for a brisk walk most days of the week for a minimum of one hour. Said and done, although most of my walks are around the inner perimeter of the whole park which is a total of 10k and takes one hour and forty minutes. A Good Week is, as with the drinking, if I do it five of the seven days every week and I do AT LEAST THAT. Just like with the drinking, it’s at least five evenings per week. OK, so I’ve not made any effort to cut down on sweets, but shouldn’t all that walking have paid off by now? Clearly not, and my backside probably affects the tide by now. But hey, my eyes are brighter and my skin has a glow again, so I’d rather be a little cuddlier than remain a haggard looking drunk. You are what you drink.

Perhaps I should get going on the running again. It’s just such a drag to get started and especially when you’re carrying a bit of extra ‘bendy flesh’ as I like to call it. As much as I know all the walking does me a world of good – endorphins ROCK! – I now have about 20 pairs of eyewateringly expensive  pairs of jeans in my wardrobe that I can’t get into. I don’t consider myself fat, but I’m starting to feel uncomfortable so want to do something about it and running used to be one of my favourite things during those months here and there when I got really into it. Those tended to be periods when I hardly ever drank because obviously you can’t (not me, anyway) do exercise at that rate and drink the way I did. I shouldn’t actually say it’s a ‘drag’ to get started – it really isn’t. When I start, it only takes three-ish weeks before I can hobble around a decent 5k-loop, and three-ish weeks isn’t exactly a long time now is it? All goes back to how I am an absolute quitter and put my nose up at anything I’m not a total wizard at from the word go. But as with the jewellery, here’s another thing to keep me more centered than my natural balance allows, and I’ll build up slowly. There should be a goal. 10k?

Today I’m not going to drink.

* Linda and Elaine are not their real names – I never name anyone here, everyone I write about gets a nickname and I avoid any detail that would make them identifiable in the EXTREMELY unlikely event that someone they know reads this blog. 

Huge Oceans of Kindness

No more hesitating. I’m going to do it! The story about Alice is still one I want to tell, but the story I have to tell first is the one about Sophie. A true story before a fictional one. And I don’t want to do it anonymously – how can I talk about removing the stigma and shame attached to alcohol abuse when I myself hide behind an alias and am still so preoccupied with what people might think that I don’t want to stand by my own freaking truth? So when I tell Sophie’s story I have to start by killing her off because this story is my own, it’s my truth and it’s my voice I want you to hear. After all, how could I ever expect to encourage others to talk openly about alcoholism and trust in me to be in their corner when I show up to the party wearing a Halloween mask? It doesn’t seem right and it’s about time I pull my own pants down.

Why don’t you?” hubby asked.

Not just about pulling my pants down, which he always approves of the dirty git, but why I don’t just slap my real name on here along with a photo where you can see more than my woolly hat and behave according to how I hand on heart feel – i.e. how I absolutely, 100% embrace the fact that I’m an alcoholic and if anyone’s got a problem with that I know with conviction that it says more about them than it does about me. After all, I’ve been open with both my family and my friends when the subject of drinking has come up – told them truthfully that I have quit drinking alcohol for the simple reason that I can’t stop when I start. So why hide here, of all places? It’s a bit ridiculous really if you think about it, not least because this is a tiny little blog in a huge ocean of others with a small handful of readers and the chances of this landing in front of my family are minuscule. I.e. a family I’m not trying to hide anything from in the first place so using an alias is actually quite ridiculous.

But! (There’s always a ‘but’, isn’t there?) How would my parents and siblings feel about having an alcoholic in the family, something so closely associated with shame and embarrassment? “Yes, this is my youngest daughter who is about to get her Phd, and this is my eldest – she’s an alcoholic.” As open minded, supportive and kind as my mother is, I just can’t exactly see her saying that with pride. Hubby himself is a good example, actually. It’s his surname I bear. An unusual one at that. And hubby happens to be on the board of a global company. Call me crazy, it won’t be the first time, but I do feel that for this reason alone I’d be best advised to be discreet about what a big, fat drunky-drunk I am. Can you see what I mean? That’s what has made me weary more than anything else, because I genuinely don’t have a problem with it for my own sake.

What if it affected you negatively?” I asked, “would you not worry about it reflecting badly on you to have people know your wife is a drunk? Wouldn’t you be embarrassed?

No,” he said without missing a beat.

Huh. Am I desperately prejudiced myself, or shockingly backwards in my thinking, in saying that if it were me I’d probably be a little concerned in that respect? Even though I personally would like to think I’d never judge, I’d be painfully aware that many others would. Hubby seemed completely unconcerned by any of that. Weirdo! Or is it because I’m so preoccupied with this that I have completely misjudged all of it? After all, every single person I have told about quitting drinking and my reasons why, has responded with nothing but kindness. And not the sort of kindness you’d expect if you were diagnosed with cancer “oh my God, you poor thing, we’re here for you and we’ll do all we can” but a more relaxed sort of kindness “oh OK, well, good for you“. An it’s-no-big-deal sort of kindness. I fully expected my father to go to town with a long lecture followed by scolding me for having sunk so low, yet instead he praised me for making such a great decision and told me he had huge respect for me. Huh. Or perhaps it’s just I’m discovering that the world – amazingly – does not revolve around me and that’s what’s actually shocking me. That friends, family and people in general, including business associates of hubby’s, don’t actually need to give it further thought than “oh“. That they don’t, in fact, gather around to discuss my many shortcomings at length. Huh.

More than anything, I need to stop worrying what people may think. This is me, this is my truth and I own it. And if those close to me feel shame for any reason, the question should be whether I want to have them near me anyway.

My name is Anna and I’m an alcoholic.

Hahaha, it’s not the most heroic outing the world has ever seen, is it? And after all that build-up it’s a bit of an anti-climax, don’t you think? Oh well, there we are. But just like the 23rd of January, it’s a START, because this is when I stop thinking about putting my little journey to good use and begin to actually DO IT. I’m not a fan of clichés or those “words of wisdom” on cheesy memes or whatever else, but there’s one I once saw in my Facebook newsfeed that I downloaded with the intention of having it printed and framed. And I think I now will, along with living according to exactly what it says:

year

Today is all I have and today I’m not going to drink.

Sunshine Sunday

143 days. Here’s a hint – if I start a blog post with the number of days I’ve been sober, it means I am on here wanting to write but not having all that much to say. It’s Friday, weather’s good, I’m sober and I’ve been busy making little silver boobies. My son and hubby are both good, one has a stinking attitude and the other does not, but together they form the sun around which I revolve. The older boys, who are also part of that sun at the centre of my universe, are coming over on Sunday to celebrate Father’s Day. Life is good. I honestly have nothing else to add today but I’m going to take that as a win – sobriety has become my new normal.

Today I’m not going to drink.

silver bs

 

 

That Other Chick

What is an alcoholic? What makes me an alcoholic?

I’m no doctor, nor do I have extensive knowledge or experience of alcohol abuse in the theoretical sense. I just used to be a practicing alcoholic for many, many years and now that I’m sober I only really have my own “research” to go on. However, from this I can conclude that the following is true for me:

  1. Inability to stop.
  2. I can’t control how much I drink.
  3. Alcohol changes me. 
  4. Compulsion to drink. 
  5. Alcohol the first priority.

Let’s look in detail, shall we?

1. Inability to stop.

It’s quite simple: if I start, I can’t stop. I know it sounds like absolute madness and that’s precisely what it is. AA states that alcoholism is “a physical allergy, a mental obsession and a spiritual malady”. For me that’s yep, yep and not sure. All I know is that when I take that first drink, I am a goner. The tragedy ends when I either pass out or run out of wine. I have taken that first drink and with it already feel genuine and deep fear at what might happen, what I might do in black-out and where it’ll take me. I’ve taken that first drink sometimes with a silent wish that if my heart were to give up this time, it wouldn’t be my son who’d find me and please God make me look peaceful, don’t let my loved ones find me sprawled naked on the floor having suffocated on my own vomit. I’d think those things and I still drank. Crazy? Yes – very. Alcoholism is a terrifying monster, a merciless beast and it’s much stronger than any of us. Yes, I knew for the longest time I’m an alcoholic, I just had to grow a spine before I was brave enough to face that awful, sad, heartbreaking truth. Never mind the shame. Oh, the shame.

2. I can’t control how much I drink.

Here’s a novel concept for you, that you may find hard to believe, but I have never in my life EVER taken that first drink with the intention of blacking out. Not a lil’ ol’ once. It’s not just that I can’t stop as per #1, it’s how I start necking the drinks back at a pace that is frightening too. Oh my word, I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve even set myself limits – “I’m going to stop at four”, “I’ll have max three at the pub and two at home”, “no drinking on school nights”… My tipple used to be Sauvignon Blanc with soda water, the soda being something I added as it bulked out the volume and I think I initially thought it’d mean it’d take me longer to get through a glass. Fuck, I can’t even type that without laughing – it’s THAT ridiculous. On a few occasions I switched to beer for the same reason but reverted to the spritzers because beer makes you fat. Again, I’m sitting here laughing at the stupidity of the pathetic drunk I used to be. I’m still a drunk, of course, but would like to think I’m less pathetic now that I’m sober. Point is though, I can’t control it. I lose control the moment I put that first drink to my lips and it doesn’t matter one tiny bit what’s in the glass if it contains alcohol, the result is always the same be it wine with soda, beer, gin and tonic or cocktails. It’s full throttle until – sing along, now – I either pass out or run out of alcohol.

3. Alcohol changes me.

Drunk Me and Sober Me are two entirely different people. Crazy, isn’t it? Well, it’s true. Drunk Me is restless, grouchy, depressed, anxious, insecure nervous, scared, tired, lethargic, lazy – you get the gist. Drunk Me is a miserable cow. And no wonder. Have you tried to have a life when you put away nearly three bottles of wine every evening? Tried work? Tried exercise? Tried to be a good parent, partner, friend? Tried to be good at ANYTHING? It’s hard work and whilst I managed reasonably well at holding everything together, I wasn’t great at any of those things. How could I be? I was always battling crippling hangovers, could barely function. I had to control every aspect of my life because otherwise it would have been unbearable. As for holding it together, alcoholism is a one way track and had I continued I would soon have lost everything anyway. It’s how the story goes and it has no exceptions. Sober Me is full of energy, happy as Santa on Prozac by default, a morning person, loves exercise, is reliable, happy in my own skin, hopeful, calm and able to cope with anything life might throw at me. Sober Me is also a fun and loving partner, a good friend and the sort of mother my son wants and needs: predictable and present, a great one even. Sober Me is flexible and easy going, feels no need to be in control whatsoever and why would I? I’m a brave, strong and spontaneous person at heart. It’s great to be Sober Me. I like that chick a lot.

But there’s more to #3. My personality changes in other ways too when I drink. Suddenly there can be a bout of sudden sadness or anger. Mad arguments that come from nowhere. Behaviour that Sober Me couldn’t even imagine. Things told back to me when I’ve sobered up that I don’t understand, can’t work out where they’ve come from or why in God’s name I have behaved in such a way. I’ve woken up after a session knowing I’ve cried but not knowing why or having any reasons for feeling sad. Same with arguments. I’ve woken up and known that hubby and I have argued about something, the atmosphere still tense and yet have no idea why or what about. I don’t miss those times, let me tell ya. It’s scary though how booze, when you react badly to it like I do, can change you into a fucking monster and not only that, it’s a monster you don’t even know. It makes me feel sick.

4. Compulsion to drink.

This used to be the case even when I didn’t actually want to. This is when the insanity of alcoholism must seem particularly, well, INSANE to non-alcoholics. Yes, I have gone and bought the wine, poured the first glass and put it to my lips despite not wanting to. I’ve been crying and screaming inside, yet I’ve still gone ahead. Put that glass to my lips and breaking my own heart in the process. Most of the time I willingly drank of course, and my trigger has always been a good mood more than anything else. As miserable as life as an alcoholic can be, I was still pretty happy – my life was full of happiness and everything I could ever wish for, just with a heavy, wet blanket on top is the best way I can describe it. My life is awesome but I was ruled by alcohol and that distraction meant I couldn’t fully enjoy living it. Now it’s just awesome. Anyway, as I mentioned, I knew I’m an alcoholic and knew I had a huge problem years and years ago, and THAT made me feel sad. Yet I’d get that damn wine and I’d fucking drink it. And of course once I’d had the first….. I don’t know what to say, it’s just fucking nuts, all of it. Can you even imagine REALLY NOT WANTING TO DO SOMETHING YET YOUR FEET WILL WALK RIGHT INTO IT AND YOU CAN’T EVEN UNDERSTAND IT AS IT’S HAPPENING. Quite literally, I’d find myself buying that wine despite the fact that I on occasion really, REALLY didn’t want to drink anymore.

5. Alcohol the first priority.

As with any of these points, I could give endless examples, but let’s go with a scenario that I thankfully won’t find myself in when hubby and I head off on holiday to Lipari in just over a month’s time – WEEHOOOOO I JUST REALISED IT’S JUST ONE MONTH AWAY!!!!! – and what going away would entail when I was practicing the Religion of Alcoholism. Let’s take Sweden, where we head twice a year, just to keep it nice and simple. It starts the moment we land and before we’ve even got to baggage reclaim, I’ve done a loop through the arrivals taxfree booze area to buy TWO boxes of wine. This is to make sure I don’t have to stress about getting wine when we get to my home town and only alcoholics would head to Systembolaget (the only place you can buy alcohol) before seeing their family, right? Drunk Me got the booze before I even left the airport!! Sweet Lord, once again I’m laughing at Drunk Me as I’m writing this. We see my family and then head to the place we always stay at quite early under the illusion that we’ve been travelling and are going to have an early night. Not true. I want to get away and get on with drinking, sit with hubby outside and enjoy the evening. Only not the evening (or even hubby) – it’s all about the wine. The rest of our stay is spent managing whatever holiday’ing I can muster given I’m drinking heavily (as usual) every single day and I rotate between the Systembolaget stores in two towns in an attempt to disguise how much booze I’m getting through. All activities are planned with my eye on when, what and how I can drink. Everything except drinking with hubby away from everyone is rushed – everything else is stuff I need to get out of the way and tick off the list so I can get on with the drinking. Life happens around alcohol. It’s stressful in the extreme. I crush up empty wine boxes that I throw away in different places, only throwing in the existing bins an amount that would suggest normal holiday consumption in case my father might notice when he comes to take out the trash. It’s a military operation, let me tell you. Any holidays other than Sweden were even more stressful as I would then – on top of all this planning – also have to work out where to get the wine from and ensure I wouldn’t run out.

And life in general was very much like that, holiday or otherwise, given I didn’t drink any more or less. Spend the day with the thought in my head and even before getting in the car to head home after work, I’d have my little drink plan perfectly laid out step by step. Drive home via the supermarket closest to the river where it’s easy to park, pick up a box and a bottle of soda, get home and before I’d even removed my shoes I’d open it and pour a glass. Everything else I fitted in around my drinking. And alcoholism is like that – you quite literally give up your life for the booze. Nothing and no one can make you stop, and nothing or no one can get between you and that glass of wine, ever.

NOW THEN!

Have a look through that list and tell me if it looks good to be Drunk Me. It doesn’t seem fantastic, does it? Being Sober Me, however? Now THAT kicks ass! Life was already pretty glorious despite my heavy drinking, only now I get to really live it – calm, present and able to experience every moment. And for those moments that aren’t quite so glorious, I am a million miles better off and able to cope. I could quite easily sit here and let the happiness I feel at getting ME back wash over me and ask in disbelief why in God’s name I ever wasted so much time drinking, but I know the answer: I’m an alcoholic and when an alcoholic drinks alcohol, it only ever ends up one way. Please God, help me stay on this path of sobriety and never forget how precious my life is. Please never let me fool myself like that again. Please allow me to remain present in this beautiful life I’ve been given.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Career Criminals and Pumas

One of my favourite bloggers – Katie over at How I Killed Betty (go read, she’s AWESOME) – is going on a big cycling adventure later in the summer and I suggested audiobooks. Quite possibly stupid as well as dangerous advice as you probably need both ears in traffic, but it brings me on to my next audiobook that I downloaded ahead of driving to work this morning. I love biographies and recently listened to Mikael Persbrandt’s (Swedish actor), Sanna Bråding’s (another Swedish actor) and Camilla Kuylenstierna’s (just Swedish) books – all three largely around the selection of addictions their authors have battled and overcome so therefore of huge interest to this little drunk. I very rarely read Swedish books beyond the one or two I end up picking up any time we go to Sweden, and as an old school book worm I’ve never really considered audiobooks but LOVE listening in the car so this has gradually become a morning ritual. Biographies that catch my attention tend to be those that chronicle difficult journeys. Anything around alcoholism obviously interests me massively too, given I’m an alcoholic myself. The most recent book and the one I listened to the end of yesterday was ‘The Gangster Princess’ about a woman growing up with drug abuse and violence, then became a career criminal herself (drug dealing, gangs, trafficking, the lot) before spending many years in prison before starting over under witness protection and a new identity. I find all of that stuff fascinating and the most broken and fucked up people with the most difficult and complex journeys seem to me to be the smartest, warmest and honest of all of us.

Anyway. I needed my next fix and in the list of Swedish audiobooks under the biography tab, I found my next indulgence: ‘Puma Swede – My Life As a Porn Star’. I’ve got Ron Jeremy’s biography ‘The Hardest Man in Porn’ on my bookshelves, which is a fun and fascinating account of a life spent screwing on camera as well as a refreshingly intelligent and insightful take on life in general, so I was up for listening to this hardcore minx telling me about her wild life. Perhaps I should outline my view on porn here, by the way? OK, here it is: anything that involves consenting adults where nobody gets hurt against their wishes and all activity falls within legal limits is cool bananas as far as I’m concerned. Think that sums it up. My view on those who participate in porn on or off camera is pretty much in line with that statement too: so long as it’s grown-ups making their own decisions and who take part in everything with their eyes open, then party on I say. So I started listening to Puma Swede expecting a lighter story than the last one of hard drugs and having your children taken away. So far, just a couple of chapters into it, it’s told by a woman who is hilariously witty and who with an keen eye for the absurd invites by leading us into the film set of ‘The Rocky Whore Show’ (yes, really) where she has a starring role and is instructed to do a countdown for Ron Jeremy’s money shot. It’s ridiculous and, as you’d expect, a little outrageous and she talks about quite daring sex acts as if she were noting the weather but she comes across as a woman who knows full well what she’s doing and owns it. Each to her own.

Well. Didn’t mean for this to turn into a book review – sorry!

I don’t know what I want to say about drinking today though. Still sober. Still enjoying sobriety and have no plans or desire to drink. I didn’t go to the AA meeting yesterday, Ivy wasn’t going and as I told you I would I found lots of other stuff to do. I reined myself in on the Lucky Boobies manufacturing line and went back to basics. Only I could be new to metalsmithing, try to set a stone in a complicated setting and expect it to be perfect on the first attempt. I realised how stupid that was and therefore created a little gang of plain little silver pendant boobies, instead of gems for nipples I hammered out little points and they look quite cute. Will finish the shapes later and sand and polish, then I could always put them on here and you can tell me if you know anyone who would consider wearing a little boobie pendant in public. Perhaps I should send one to Puma Swede? L’s husband actually suggested a smart way of getting noticed would be to send something to someone famous anonymously – the more I think of it, the more I like the idea. That might become my mission. See if I can get a boobie necklace to Puma Swede and see if she wears it. Watch this space.

Hold up, hold up…… DRINKING!! This blog is about drinking! Or not, as it were. But I really don’t have anything to say about it today. It’d seem life is pretty awesome and when I don’t spill my thoughts around alcoholism and sobriety out on this blog, life is lived quite happily without booze.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Barbie’s Botched Boobs

How freaking frustrating. I had such a great idea for silver jewellery that I’ve decided to call Lucky Boobies. Metalsmithing really is a test for me because it requires me to be all the things I am not: patient, precise, gentle and conscientious. My default setting is fast and furious (surprised, much?), but working with metal and setting stones forces out The Really Good Me – I have no choice but to pay painful amounts of attention to every last little detail and there is no point skipping over a grade of sandpaper because unless you go through all the grains you can’t get the scratches out from the one before. The fingertips on my thumbs and index fingers are really sore today, and it turns out yesterday’s hours of work on one itty-bitty-titty can just be written off as PRACTICE.

I do everything by hand and from scratch, using freaking ancient techniques and there I was – carefully measuring out a circle on a sheet of silver that I then cut out using a hand saw. File, file and file some more to get rid of the rough edges and when I was satisfied it was reasonably round, I hammered it into a perfect little dome that if it were a boob would not be the remit of Mother Nature but the work of the fine people along Harley Street and look awesome on Barbie. Next, I drilled a hole – again, Harley Street style, high and proud – for a gemstone nipple, after which I set about creating a hoop for a neck chain and soldered this on to it. This took three attempts before the little fucker was straight. I spent the best part of an hour filing and sanding the piece until it was smooth and shiny, and here I went against all better judgement and went for a shortcut – instead of the swivel pin and creating the little angled seat for the stone, I shoved the burr into the dremel and went a little Highway to Hell as opposed to Requiem Mass in D minor. And a little too much heavy handedness and I’ve drilled right through.

Here I had an opportunity to abandon my AD/DC approach and revert to Mozart but hell no, I just selected the next stone up and changed the drill bit to a larger burr. Madness = doing the same thing yet expecting a different result. I’ve done plenty of that, so I should know. Mad as a hatter, that’s me. And yes, through I went and it just wasn’t possible to set the 4mm stone, a sparkly, bright pink Swarovski crystal this time. In my burring frenzy I’d also managed to squeeze the little dome into an oval shape so it was now what you might find in a gallery showing botched plastic surgery for metal boobs. Poor Barbie. She’ll need corrective surgery on that one. So today when I get home, my last attempt will be to set an even bigger stone, 5mm wide this time, using the swivelpin and NOTHING ELSE. If it were a real boob it’d have a nipple the size of a frisbee based on those proportions. But hey, I love the idea and this little exercise just shows how ridiculous I really am: I’m new to metalsmithing, yet I totally believed I would create this perfect, tit pendant at the very first attempt. It’s a real flaw of mine, this stupid thinking that I’ll always get it perfectly right straight away. And here I am trying to educate my son that practice makes perfect when I’ve expected to be the best at absolutely everything without any practice whatsoever since as far back as I can remember.

I will absolutely get those Lucky Boobies right and as much as it pisses me off I might have to fuck up a whole bunch of them before they’ll get good. I think once I’ve figured out how to do it, they’ll be super cute.

I completely fucked up E’s opal, which cracked due to aforementioned heavy hand when I was trying to set it but pushed it too hard, but by mustering patience I do not have and perseverance that stands in direct conflict with everything I am, I ended up setting the irregularly shaped glass bead that is testament to how I do actually have it in me. A critical eye would be able to see the seam I nearly melted open again when I soldered on the hoop for the umpteenth time and overheated the piece, but after painstaking filing, sanding, pushing and bending, it’s looking pretty good.

esvb

As I said – it’s good for me. It really forces me to be The Very Good Me.

But back to why we are here. Or why I am, rather – it’s my blog after all: drinking. Nice, even number today with my app telling me I have been sober for 140 days. Aw, ain’t that nice? I quite fancy heading to the Tuesday meeting on the green this evening. It’s a little earlier than a lot of other meetings that start at 8pm and thereby fuck your whole evening. This one’s at 6pm, which means I can still have a life. I know, I know – without my sobriety there IS no life so this whingeing about late meetings is pretty pathetic, but there we are. I like afternoon ones that mean you have the rest of the evening free. Just texted Ivy to see if she’s going. Hah! I kind of know how that’ll turn out – I’ll get home, will want to unwind, then correct the silver boob with the now huge gem nipple and head out for a long walk before hubby gets home. But perhaps it’d be a wise investment to head off to sit in that church hall with my homies? Although I’m not a flock animal it’s sometimes nice to be with your own kind and there’s always something someone says that I take away with me. Something new to ponder.

Well. Whether I decide to go or not (oh, you can tell by the tone, can’t you, that I don’t even believe myself that I will), one thing is for certain: today I won’t drink.

Take Me To the River

Hmm… I wonder if this would be how a non-alcoholic feels when they are having a drink? As per previous posts, I discovered non-alcoholic beer, but although I did expect to be able to get it in the UK, I wasn’t expecting pubs to serve them – I just didn’t think it’d be a thing here. Turns out not only do they actually have my favourite non-alco beer but they serve it at our favourite pub – Heineken, and with a reassuring “max 0.05% alcohol” at that.

Yesterday was precisely the sort of Sunday afternoon that seems to be tailor made for sitting on the wall by the river having a drink. We have done this before since I quit drinking and I usually get a pint of soda water with fresh lime and this has been absolutely fine of course, but it’s really nice to have an alternative given how it turns out I actually really like beer. It’s funny – the idea of alcohol free wine makes me feel a bit sick, yet wine was what I always drank. Very rarely would I order a pint of lager when I was in full-on active alkie mode, yet suddenly now as a sober alcoholic I’m finding that it’s my favourite drink. If it turned out I reacted badly to caffeine, presumably I’d want to drink decaf coffee, right? It’d seem strange in the same way to go from a coffee drinker to decaf tea or quit tea and start drinking decaf coffee as an alternative?! This switch to beer amuses me a little. But hey, as Willow put it, ANYTHING alcohol free is great, so who cares if I drink beer or unicorn tears so long as I remain sober.

You might all think I’m really foolish for having something that tastes like the real thing, that it might be really risky for a drunk like me to drink non-alcoholic beer, that it’s too close a shave. And who knows. I can tell you that it’s not in any way triggered any desire in me to drink alcohol, but hey, I’ve made a vow of honesty on this blog though so you’ll be the first to know if anything changes on that score. Besides, I have felt the urge on a handful of occasions and it’s not something I’m ashamed to admit, so there we are.

Whilst it hasn’t made me want to drink, something interesting does happen when I have non-alcoholic beer, and it sort of cements for me that AA’s take on what alcoholism is for me: a physical allergy and a mental obsession. If you at any point end up thinking ‘oh, hell no, girl!‘ reading this, feel free to point it out. I have experienced this a few times now – each time I’ve had the non-alco golden nectar that is – and it’s made me feel happy and free each time. It’s sort of proved that part of the problem is definitely physical, that there is indeed something to do with how I’m wired and what happens when the booze hits my blood stream. I’ve observed it keenly each time this has happened and I take it as evidence that I am indeed an alcoholic. Well – if hardcore alcohol abuse stretching over a decade wasn’t enough to show I’m a fully fledged drunky-drunk-drunk.

So there we are, in the afternoon sunshine, sitting on the wall by the river outside the pub where we met just over five years ago and where we celebrated getting hitched last year. We must have sat in this spot hundreds of times over these five years, drinking and chatting, gazing out over the river and generally appreciating being alive. Being sober, this has not changed and to be honest, the absence of booze has only made it all better. Anyway, there we are – hubby with a pint of cider and me with a bottle of Heineken non-alcoholic beer, and this is where my addiction makes itself known. We had two drinks. I find myself taking several big gulps and the taste is gorgeous – I’m diving into a fizzy wave of lager. A few puffs on my e-cigarette and then I lift the bottle to my lips again, greedily drinking more beer down and really enjoying it but I also notice that once I’m no longer thirsty, that the old craving that comes to life when I take a drink.. …doesn’t. And with it, there is no violent force that has me lifting the bottle again and again. When we leave, hubby has finished his two pints and I have left the second bottle with a third left in it.

With the first, there was the definite pang of joy at having a drink – something making itself known in me that is entirely separate from other feelings and specific to the drink, and the old beast is growling contentedly. The mental obsession comes alive immediately, it’s insane how it’s absolutely instantaneous. But there’s no alcohol, so there is nothing to grab on to. Nothing ignites. Nothing awakens. I’m still me. Just me. And I notice the shift in my mind there too. It sounds mad, I know, but I could quite literally feel myself go from a slight sense of euphoria – lift the bottle, lift it again – to a MEH that despite being a ‘meh‘ doesn’t feel deflated or sad, just neutral. And whereas alcohol would trigger the rest of the mayhem that’d usually follow, my mind and body chained together in a death dance, now that the very substance I seem to react so badly to isn’t in my system so it’d appear the gig is cancelled. Nothing in my blood stream, nothing to tickle the receptors in my brain. I’m still here, right here. I imagine it’s my brain making the connection like a heroin addict’s mind might react to the sensation of a needle, but without the physical reaction in hot pursuit, what is there? Nothing. A big, fat nothing. Just me, my life, my mind – the present moment. The lack of a physical reaction – despite me describing it as ‘meh‘ – isn’t a disappointment, it’s a relief. It’s really nice to just sit there on the wall in the evening sunshine and enjoy a beer. Absolutely lovely.

And given how hubby doesn’t turn into a restless ghoul when he drinks stuff that does contain alcohol, I wonder if how I feel when I drink non-alcoholic beer (or anything non-alcoholic for that matter) is how someone who isn’t a drunk feels when they have a drink. I have some, and then it’s enough. I have no compulsion whatsoever to guzzle the rest of it and rush off to get another. I’m done now, that’ll be all, thanks. Do I sit there when that ‘meh‘ happens, wishing the physical reaction would follow? No. Do I wish there was real alcohol in my glass or bottle? No. All I feel is relief that I don’t have to be pulled into that terrifying carousel again, that spins me into a place I don’t want to be and where I have no control over what happens next. It’s complete and blissful relief. This must be it – I have watched others with such fascination in the past, how they could just stop drinking when I found I couldn’t. I just tried to imagine what that would feel like but couldn’t.

It wasn’t even towards the end of my drinking that I’d have that first drink and amongst the euphoria there’d also be a vague but distinct sense of overwhelming sadness. A sense of defeat, knowing when I put the wine glass to my lips I’d set it all in motion again and be unable to stop. That’s fucking terrifying. And I think it is the absence of that defeat that fills me with such joy. I suppose it’s called freedom. Freedom to choose, freedom to feel, freedom to be present and freedom to live. And that’s what I want. It’s how I always want to feel – free to walk away when I’ve had enough, not be slave to something dark and sinister that I can’t control and that will slowly kill me. I close my eyes and smile, saying a silent prayer of gratitude for this life I was once given but now fully can receive. I realise also that it isn’t alcohol that’s the ‘real thing‘ – it’s anything but.

For that, and countless other reasons, I’m not going to drink today.