On the Other Side of the River

I’ve got this feeling, inside my bones…. Timberlake has put it very well and the song may as well be the soundtrack. Kind of in the background a little initially but it’s right there even from early in the day, and when I give the feeling a bit of attention it intensifies and makes me happy. Work is frustrating because I just want it out of the way. I know the exact route and the journey itself is almost half the excitement. Just thinking about the journey is exciting and fills me with impatience – come on, TODAY, pass! When I can finally leave work I am in a goddamn excellent mood and hop into my little car. I tootle down along the fields, the scenic route with protected views of the river – yes, it’s so beautiful it’s a protected area, this little patch of London – then a left across the bridge. By now I’m humming along, because I’ve REALLY got this feeling. Yes, inside my bones. Oh, it’s is all encompassing and all consuming. There is nothing else. I have no time or energy for anything else.

On the other side of the river now, approaching the traffic lights where I turn right into the High Street. I’ve got that sunshine in my pocket…. This feeling is not even worth trying to fight and by now I am no longer in charge of my limbs as I just dance, dance, dance… I grab a coconut water as I walk past the chilled section because I have it in my head that this contains potassium, which is good to have when you poison yourself. If it happens to be somewhere on my route where I immediately can see and grab it without stopping (let alone having to look for it) I grab a box of Dioralyte too for rehydration. Nowhere to hide when I’m getting you close and I round the corner to the left and grab a bottle of soda water from the shelves on the right without stopping – I’m on autopilot and I could find my way around this store blindfolded. My movements are fluid and I don’t skip a beat, I’d probably look quite good in some sort of musical just about now. And then another left and I almost skip around that corner. Chilled booze to my right but I don’t like having three glass bottles that clink together and betray my mission to the world, and I glance lovingly down to my left. “Sainsbury’s Own” – which means the supermarket chain’s own, shitty brand – Soave. A neat little box that holds three bottles without any of the annoying, treacherous fucking clinking! Cheap, dry, white plonk. Fairly pleasant and even more so when diluted with a bit of fizz from the soda when we move, well, you already know

My shame alarm centre registers a signal as I’m in the queue as well as when I hand my basked to the cashier but I push it back and disable it and it disappears anyway when the contents of my basket – a box of wine, a bottle of soda water and a small coconut water container – are placed in the bag. I don’t use the self check-out because when you buy booze you have to get the cashier over anyway to approve the purchase so this is quicker. Out! I’m nearly there!

The five minute drive up the High Street and home consists of me visualising the step process. I tap my fingers on the steering wheel impatiently as I have to stop by the traffic lights. Finally home it’s much like my Sound of Music dance through the supermarket aisles, I don’t even remove my shoes or put down my handbag because there is nothing I can see but you when you dance, dance, dance. Wine box and soda out of the bag, break in to it and fill a regular drinking glass with two thirds wine and a bit of soda and then ice cubes to make it palatable – who wants warm wine? A couple of greedy gulps and I note I’ve swigged a third (was it really a COUPLE of gulps?) so top it up straight away. Phew! NOW I can remove my shoes and with less hurry I put the box and soda and the coconut water in the fridge. Shoes off, bag down, change into trackie bottoms and put my hair up, as if it’d get in the way but heck, I’m not chancing it.

Just us now. Sofa. My phone. Sometimes laptop. And my usual reminder to myself: DON’T PUT ANY SHIT ON FACEBOOK. I sometimes mean to write this on a sheet of paper to put up somewhere I can see and hopefully register it even once I’m in black-out. See, when I go into no man’s land and lose time, I’m no longer me and I don’t even know that person so God knows what they might do. My only way of reaching that chick is by putting up a note. Sometimes she goes and posts stuff on Facebook, other times she’s written toe curlingly embarrassing e-mails and other times I see from the call lists on my phone that she’s had phone conversations too. All a blank to me. Seeing the evidence of the call with name and duration is ALL that I’ll know of it. It could be half an hour of conversation that is a mystery to me. Oh, the amount of times I’ve pretended to remember a conversation, taking cues from whoever and nodding and trying to appear all “oh yes, of course“. But at this stage, I’m still here. The first glass isn’t – except of course those first gulps I take before I do anything else – all that fast. The familiar taste with bubbles fills me with peace. Mm….

My shame alarm centre does send off a signal right around here but I switch it off. Put it away quickly, away with it! Why in God’s name be so negative and pay attention to how sad it is that I’m sitting here with my wine? Alone. On the sofa. With my phone. No, no, no! Best get on with it! I take a good swig and feel the bubbles wash down my throat as I dive into the wine wave, I feel that hot blood in my body when it drops oohhh… Glasses two and three are considerably faster and now I feel really great! Joyful, excited, full of love and enthusiasm. This is where I might text a few people. I’m loving EVERYONE and EVERYTHING now. Or I might even make a few phone calls if I’m reasonably confident I won’t slur – sometimes I slur half way through the first drink (why though?) but usually I’m OK with speech until I’m heading for drink four. Yes, Drunk Me does make calls before black-out sometimes but that’s OK – or less NOT OK – because these texts and calls I can remember and I’m actually IN them. Embarrassing, sure, sometimes, but these are in the grand scheme of things fine. No sweat. I once again remind myself to perhaps put up that note for the stranger in black-out that I can’t otherwise reach but as usual I don’t bother. Or forget. I can’t be sure which.

Hubby is away and texts. I tell him I am having an early night because I don’t want to have that conversation at 10pm when 1) I’ll be fucking hammered out of my skull, and 2) quite likely be in black-out anyway. It’ll just worry him so better if he thinks I went to bed early. Why drag any innocent bystanders into the pool of shame or worse, worry or hurt the ones I love? No, no, no – THAT would be selfish, no?

Glasses four and five are so fast I’m not sure I can accurately account for them. May I remind you these aren’t standard 175ml wine measures? I’m drinking from a full size regular glass which at a guess holds 400ml out of which I’d estimate that at least 300ml is wine. I don’t really know what happens during glass four and five, except I put them away with lightning speed and it goes electric wavy when I turn it on and six and seven are when it’s definitely getting VERY blurry. This is, if I don’t hit black-out (in which case I obviously can’t AT ALL tell you a single fucking thing), when I sit there and have the Drunken Shakes. This isn’t a little tremor and is NOT to be confused with hangover shakes, this is something else altogether. These are jerky, unsteady movements that mainly affect my hands and arms. Arms most of all, they are that pronounced, too big to affect small extremities like fingers. If I sit there slumped like I often do at this point, with the glass in my hand resting against my leg, it takes all my might to not only lift it (and lift it I must) but hold it steady. I often knock it against my face when I get like this. Am I like this in black-out? Does it happen then too? Well, I don’t fucking know, do I? You tell me.

I wake up. Don’t know much. Look around me only moving my eyes. I got drunk, didn’t I? The overpowering feeling of shame and dread finds me immediately and I cringe as I grab my phone, my first point of call when I need to figure out what happened. Speak to anyone? Oh, look, I talked to both of my grandmothers. I push it away and disable the signals from my shame alarm centre – their hearing is bad anyway so if I slurred they probably didn’t notice, right? Anything on Facebook? No, thank God, but I did make comments – oh no, oh fuck no, SEVERAL COMMENTS – on a political post and unless you’re blind drunk yourself it’s very obvious I’ve drink’n’dialled here. Delete. No texts. Safari history… Watched a bit of porn, eh? Classy. I am unsteady and there is no way I can leave the house, good job I’m so organised and already booked the day off. I knew this, see? So now I have a day ahead of feeling anxious, full of dread and so ashamed I have to spend most of it disabling the deafening signals from my shame alarm centre. It’s a day I can’t do anything with. I need to shower at some stage but right now there is no way I can feel confident enough to tackle slippery tiles. I can barely stand as it is. So I don’t.

See how fun it is to be a drunk? It’s glorious, don’t you think?

But that’s not today. That was Drunk Me. This is Sober Me. I’m seeing my snazzy PT this afternoon and despite going for my first run in I don’t know how long yesterday my muscles are feeling good now. Strong even and I’m looking forward to sets of lunges, squats, spinning and whatever else. Date night with hubby, he is booking this time so I only know it’s on the other side of the river. And bambino has a sober mother.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Trolls and Sunlight

Hello, Wednesday. I’m trying my best to like you but the truth is I’ve always found you dull and you always seem to drag. Sorry.

Since our trip to Sweden I’ve had a little exchange with Cherokee. She’s my best friend and really the female version of hubby – makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? I told her so and she agreed that to be likened to my hubby is praise of the highest order. And yes, I’m so fortunate to have such awesome people as my sidekicks and cheerleaders, I think my journey would have been very different had I been surrounded by arseholes. I know of other people who do not enjoy the luxury of a rock solid support network like I do, and it frightens me to think where I’d be without that. Where I’d be if I were in a situation where those who are meant to love and support me actually didn’t just not support me but actually made it all harder. So I have the utmost respect for those friends who do all this having to swim against the current – that’s heroism on a fucking grand scale. Getting sober is hard enough even when friends and family have your back, you don’t need them stabbing you in it, let me tell ya. I’m very, very fortunate. And until we all are as fortunate as this, I am going to make it my mission to contribute to the conversation around alcoholism and addiction. I think the more we can bring it out into the light, the better a chance we all have to recover.

Cherokee put it so poetically that it actually pissed me off. Bloody HELL, does she HAVE to be so fucking fabulous at fucking everything? Writing is MY thing! And there she goes, penning a few lines that were so perfect I was seething with envy at her talent with words and at the same time admiring her massively for being so clever. She’s awesome. And I’d totally tell her if she had loo roll stuck to her shoe. That’s how much I love her – her many talents, her wit, her intelligence and her beauty only make me admire her. Envious, yes, and I’ve copied her since around 1989, but it’s – I’d like to think anyway – a good sort of envy. Seeing her succeed makes me genuinely happy. I think that’s a sign of when you’ve put someone on a pedestal for the right reasons, which I believe I have when I ponder the very tall ones I’ve placed hubby and Cherokee on. Two people I admire and look up to, yet feel secure and safe around because I know they love me just the way I am and therefore there is nothing I need to prove. I just get to be me. That’s kinda nice.

But anyway. What she wrote.

So we were discussing where I’m at and how I’m now in the midst of a tsunami of emotion following so many years of alcohol abuse and numbing everything I feel, and also about how to set boundaries and change our thought patterns. Cherokee gave me a little crash course in “the power of not giving a fuck” (there are some great books with titles roughly along those lines – I did read one called ‘Fuck It’ a long time ago and thoroughly recommend it, I’m going to dig it out and read it again now that I’m sober) and examples of her own baggage and how she’s learnt to give fewer fucks in some situations. We talked about Project P and my goal to let this go and set new boundaries, and that’s when Cherokee reminded me of the trolls. So she is Swedish like me and still lives where we both grew up, in a part of the world that’s dense with vast forests and where the folklore is crammed full with trolls and mystical beings of the woods. And so she likened issues and thinking we need to face and deal with to just that, trolls.

troll

You know what to do, don’t you?” Cherokee wrote, “You put the trolls right out in the sunlight because that makes them burst, and then when you’ve exposed them you might find they’re nothing but little grey stones that you can throw into the Thames.

I quite literally couldn’t put it better myself and did read those lines wishing it was me who had written those words. I’d forgotten all about those stories about trolls and how you kill them. But perhaps it’s proof that I am not, after all, a troll myself because I spent a lot of time in the sun over our holidays and despite putting on weight that may have something to do with all those cannolis in Italy, I didn’t burst. I say this because Mum has always referred to me as her “troll baby“. Another myth found right there in the folklore. How the trolls sneak into your home at night and replace your human baby with one of their own. Can’t blame Mum though. I was three weeks early yet clocked in at a solid four kilos, was born on a Friday the 13th (no joke) and I also had a thick mop of long black hair that stood on end like a mohican. Hah! I named my best friend Cherokee but when I was brand new it was actually me who looked like a red indian. Anyway, I’d like to think Mum says it in an affectionate sort of way. Although…. She has different ringtones on her phone and the one she has for me is the sound of a dog barking.

Where were we? Seems we’ve dealt with praising hubby, reflected on the awesomeness of Cherokee and established that I’m probably not a troll because I withstood direct sunlight. Good.

I think I’ve mentioned this book before, but I will mention it again, as well as recommend it to anyone who wants to re-frame what alcohol means to them: ‘The Naked Mind‘. It’s really just a better written version of Allen Carr’s ‘The Easy Way to Stop Drinking‘ and absolutely fabulous. I read it a few months into my sobriety along with Carr’s book and they really did cement what I’d come to believe and feel when it comes to booze. 100% part of my tool kit. And what’s even more fabulous is that there is a website as well as a Facebook group you can join (I’ve joined both) and discuss and share with others in the same (or similar) boat along with giving each other support. These two books are important to me because they punch holes in a lot of the stuff we’ve all been brainwashed into thinking around alcohol and exposes booze for what it really is – a foul tasting poison.

Well, as with AA, I can’t say I blindly just go with Carr’s or the Naked’s philosophy but just like AA those form part of the perspective I am developing when it comes to drinking and my own experience. One doesn’t exclude the other. For example, these two books seem to advocate a view that is in direct odds with AA’s stance on what an alcoholic is and seem to suggest there is nothing that is different in or with the alcoholic, and here I lean much more towards AA’s view. I do honestly believe there IS something that sets us alcoholics apart, that there is some sort of fundamental reason why we react differently to alcohol than the non-alcoholic does. But again, this doesn’t matter and I will probably always continue to absorb all I can learn around alcoholism and addiction and nod when I agree and shake my head when I don’t.

OK, that’s enough for now. Sexy hubby, amazing Cherokee, trolls and books. That’s not so bad for boring Wednesday.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Artistry in New Orleans

Tuesday, YEAH! My arse and thighs are aching but I feel really good. Took a bit of an emotional bruising there…. Quit drinking and hopped right on to the Pink Cloud. Spent the first few months in absolute AWE at how good it felt to wake up hangover free and present in my own life. You know, even when I drank, I would have described myself as an emotional hurricane. My mother once said I have “an artist’s soul“. By that she meant that everything I feel, I feel very strongly. This has always been true, even when I was numbing myself with booze. So now that my emotions are crowding me and demanding I feel them all in their pure form, it’s been an interesting ride. To say I feel things strongly now is like saying Hurricane Katrina made it a bit windy in New Orleans. But I think I’m slowly getting there and almost every day there is a new discovery, a new clarity, a new answer. It’s all positive in that I believe it will all – so long as I don’t pick up a drink – lead me closer and closer to who I was always meant to be, allowing me to rid myself of fucked up thinking and untangling emotional knots here and there.

There are three part goals now. Or START goals, perhaps, is more accurate:

  1. I want to get fit. I used to love running and I want to really give it a push and get fit for real. So I found myself one of those snazzy PTs, as apparently you refer to them, and had my first session yesterday. I’m going to see her twice a week for the next three or four and then once I know what I’m doing I’ll join the gym and continue on my own. Endorphins do lots of good and even though I have been doing lots of walking I think we can safely up the dosage here. I want to feel healthy and strong, and should I end up a bit more toned and even get a little slimmer that’d be a bonus.
  2. There is something that I think has fucked me up more than other stuff. I’m going to call it Project P. It is unhealthy and pointless and I am done with it. So I’m figuring it all out – what exactly it is and where exactly it came from and then when this is all clear to me I need to let it go. Perhaps I’ll even have a little ceremony because I do think it warrants a symbolic gesture of some kind, like writing it on a balloon and releasing it. And then allow Project P a place in my life that is normal and healthy.
  3. We all need – I think – to feel we’re valuable, even important, that what we do counts for something. The writing and jewellery making may not be the paths that will allow me to earn a living, or at least not right now, so my keep will need to be earned in a way that does at least make me feel I have a purpose. Even if that purpose is to ensure I made someone’s coffee the way they wanted it. I don’t know. But I need to make a change here and need to figure this out as I currently go into work feeling it’s all a bit pointless. It’s great for lots of reasons but it’s not the one for me, simple as that.

Being in Sweden was a bit of a catalyst, setting off feelings in me I perhaps didn’t expect and it got a bit overwhelming. Not lease because it was the first time going sober and navigating how to put it to my family – to say the A-word or not to say the A-word – and then digesting their reactions (all good) and what they had to say about it (also good, but thought provoking). Always a silver lining it’d seem, and it would appear it’s given me the kick up the backside I needed. There will be, I’m sure, tonnes of other issues I will have to dissect and deal with, but these three are a good starting point. If I can get a handle on these I think I’m well on my way.

In the meantime I continue to feel all these emotions just the way they are. OK, it does sometimes feel like I’m in a crowd consisting of tantrum-throwing toddlers and I’m struggling to get them to form an orderly queue so I can deal with them one by one, but I’m not shutting any of them down and I am sure as hell looking them all in the eye. Sometimes all at once because it would seem sobriety has provided me with a fully functioning spine. Or massive cojones. Well. I have an artist’s soul, don’t I? It’s pretty colourful around here.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Escaping Everest

Ah, and so back down to earth with a nice little thud – hello, Monday. I think being in Sweden rumbled me a lot more than I expected it to, so it’s good to be back. I sometimes forget that it’s the place where I grew up that creates a lot of sadness and pain in me and so each time I am there I’m a bit overwhelmed by it, it’s not a new Sober Me thing – it’s always been that way but perhaps it was more intense this time because I can fucking feel everything! I never saw moving away as escaping but perhaps that’s what I did and as much as I love it there, I need to keep a safe distance and it’s good to have the North Sea as a barrier sometimes. Regardless, I can shut it away in a box on the other side of that puddle or I deal with it and have it over with. I suspect the latter would be the healthier option. Being back in London does mean my emotions are still like live wires that fizz and crackle but being home means I’m slowly returning to a better balance. All in good time. That doesn’t mean I’m going to slow down, it just means I need to deal with one thing at a time and in the right order. Changes are coming, and I am changing. I have already changed so much by just being present and with the light back on. Alive, I suppose. Still, there is much to be done and I will just have to tackle each little mountain one by one. No Everest in there. Or perhaps one, but I have it all mapped out so I don’t think there’s anything about the climb that’ll catch me off guard and it’s always getting back down that’s much harder. The others nice and challenging in a good way, much like the Mighty Hike. Time to get on with it.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Jump, Capitano!

Something is happening, I can feel it. Oh God, can I feel it! My emotions are taking me places I can’t even explain, much less put into words but I’ll try. It’s like my heart and soul are trying to tell me something – Anna, it’s now! That this is the moment I fall forward, my eyes on the horizon and with my arms stretched wide as if I were a bird, from the platform 300ft above terra firma knowing the elastic rope secured to my ankles and waist will hold. By the way, just so we’re clear – I ain’t fucking doing THAT again! But it’s a little like that. That this is it. The moment my child drew his first breath and I first heard his fragile little cry. Or those tear jerking moments when long lost family are reunited on that sob fest on Channel 4 I’ve been watching. That’s the feeling that’s making my heart tremble and soul vibrate – I just don’t know what it all means but I’m going with it. I see stuff all around me, like the universe is putting clues out for me to see. An elderly man going down to sit by the seafront, taking his late wife’s framed photo with him and placing it next to him because that’s where they used to sit together. Stuff like that. Doses of love so overwhelming my heart trembles.

leap

Had a long conversation with hubby last night. Got on to it quite randomly and although the chances of anyone in my family stumbling in here are slim, I’m not hiding plus I’ll probably end up handing out the web address to them too as and when and so I don’t want to go into detail. But there is something I need to let go of. Well, this is what step four is designed to help untangle and of course it’s part of mine along with much else, but I fully accredit sobriety for bringing me here and continuing to take me to new levels of clarity, insight and peace. It’s amazing. Sharing helps and I’m incredibly fortunate to have my best friend right by my side. No one can get sober for you, much less keep you that way but I also know I can’t do this alone and don’t have to – hubby, friends, now my family and of course AA together form my anchors. Hubby of course the most secure of them all, which is pretty damn impressive given he’s not an alcoholic – he’s doing a pretty awesome job of being my co-pilot. Or ship mate or whatever they’re called. He’s as bossy as I am, but on this particular ship I’m Il Capitano.

It’s freaking me out a little but as these emotions aren’t dark, it’s kind of in a good way. This thing, for example, that I need to let go of is part of this something-is-happening feeling. It’s like a revelation that might happen any minute, that’s a little how it feels. Like I’m about to find out the answer to something. Leap off. Begin something. Perhaps it’s all very simple and that I’m left happy and light because it’s all out there now, including for my family even though I avoided the A-word when speaking to my parents. They know anyway though – even if they’ve done their best to shut their eyes to the painful reality that their daughter is an alcoholic they can’t possibly have failed to know that. Anyway, maybe it’s that? Sobriety has so far been a pretty lovely journey (and by that I mean it hasn’t been a dark or difficult time – it hasn’t been all easy either but it certainly hasn’t been hell) but I was still holding back and was a little cautious in terms of who I shared it all with, but now I think the only thing I could do to reach the perimeter of people who know me, some of whom are barely in my life at all, would be to blast it all out on Facebook. Maybe one day, but not today – I don’t see the need. I guess I also prefer human contact these days and enjoy Facetoface more than Facebook. But I digress.

Something is happening. I’m ready. I just don’t know what it is exactly. Bear with me – remember I am feeling my emotions in their undiluted, unmodified and pure form for the first time in a long time, so I’m not fluent in the language of my heart and soul yet. I always had a knack for languages though, so I hope I’ll pick it up and I’ll try the method that’s worked for me in the past: total immersion.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Dirty Knickers

Once again, let’s go back to what we can do when we know someone we care about drinks too much….. As an alcoholic, this is a very interesting one for me and I have often wondered if there might have been something someone could have said or done to make me get to my turning point sooner. My instinctive and spontaneous answer is simple: nothing. Perhaps the truer answer, however, is that I still don’t know.

I had a conversation with one of my sisters-in-law, M. Instead of an initial, let’s give her a nickname for the purposes of this blog as we are close and chances are I’ll write about her again. Straighty! Oh, how apt! She is the most orderly, by-the-book person I know. A straight arrow and a straight shooter. Beyond this, she also has a better grip than your average non-alcoholic Joe on what alcoholism is due to her profession – this is particularly refreshing as it cuts out a whole catalogue of misconceptions and ignorance around what an alcoholic is. She gets a lot of it. So anyway, Straighty and I had a little exchange yesterday because I came away a little worried that I had dropped the A-bomb like that and might have caused my brother additional worry given he in that moment went from having a sister who drinks too much to having a sister who’s an alcoholic. I think the way I actually put it to them was “well, I’m a raging alcoholic, a full-on, pure bred drunkard“. I am nothing if not blunt. So I wanted to emphasise that me having come to understand and accept this, along with a genuine and sincere wish to stay sober, is good news and hopefully something my brother (and her, of course) can see as a positive thing.

Straighty did what Straighty does and told me straight.

I don’t think your brother worries more. I think he feels it’s a good thing you’ve come to this point and you just confirmed what we’ve believed for some time now anyway.

Well, that’s good and exactly what I wanted – remove some pain, worry and fear by showing that hey, I get it and I’m trying to turn it all around. It was a good exchange to have, albeit via e-mail. We only see each other for a few days twice a year and with us rushing around to see everyone and her a busy mother of four with at least one kid whining for her attention, the uninterrupted moments she and I get just the two of us are extremely rare. Straighty felt I shouldn’t bother trying to “save” anyone’s feelings when it comes to saying I’m an alcoholic. It’s the truth, so what? But for me it is 100% about that when it comes to my parents, saving their feelings. They live in a small town and they are of the generation and upbringing where one keeps one’s dirty laundry to oneself and having an alkie for a daughter would bring shame – lots of it. There is endless gossip, everyone’s in everyone else’s business and you can’t fucking fart without it being the talk of the town in that place, I swear. And that generation is also more worried about how it looks than how it feels, my father and stepdragon two fine examples of how all dirt should be brushed under the carpet. Out of sight. Let me clarify: in all likelihood they all know that I’m a drunk, but it’d be much worse to put a label on it and if other people knew.

I have no issue with saying I’m an alcoholic, much less with what others might think – after all, I’m not going to be more (or less) of an alcoholic just because people talk about it, right? To be fair, if I can get people to talk about it, it’d be my greatest achievement in life. And my sobriety is much more important than people’s opinions – besides, if I didn’t have my sobriety I’d have no life for anyone to have opinions about in the first place. So for me it’s irrelevant, plus I don’t live there so it wouldn’t affect me anyway.

kn

But for my parents I figured it might just be too painful to hear so I told them the truth in a softer (but no less honest) way: I drink too much, I can’t stop when I start and it doesn’t do anything for me. Straighty made a good point though, a VERY good point:

If you just tell everyone straight, then it becomes easier to understand and absorb, and no one has to wonder how far or how low. If you just say you’re an alcoholic, everyone will understand how serious it is.

True. Can’t argue with that. But still it does bother me how it might be too tough for them to deal with. Having said that, I think just like with Straighty and my brother D, my parents (and everyone else who knows me) will already bloody know and perhaps it’ll be a relief for them as much as it is for me to just put those awful knickers out to air where everyone can see them. Perhaps there’ll be a moment to present the A-word, straight and clear but without it being a bomb. And after all, they can choose if they want to tell anyone or not. It’s not a secret. I’ve really been searching my soul if there is part of me holding back in front of them for any other reason than wanting to save them from hurt, and there genuinely isn’t a single one. And they are in a minority anyway, because I’ve told pretty much everyone without shying away from any detail. Unlike Straighty – as much as I do also agree she is right in a way – I do still worry about them having to hear that particular word. Straighty understands a whole lot more than most non-alkies and therefore she is easy to discuss it with, but sometimes she’s just a bit too… ….straight.

So anyway. The point here was back to my still unanswered (or unanswerable) question as to whether there would have been anything anyone could have said or done to make me quit sooner. So if we take Straighty and my brother D. She tells me they talked about it on numerous occasions and when I told them I’m an alcoholic it only confirmed what they had already known, or at least suspected, for quite a long time. Here’s the funny bit though…. Or not so funny. No, it’s funny. I think. At Christmas, just last Christmas, do you know what their present to me was? A bottle of Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc – my favourite, darling kind.

This is what I mean when I’ve pointed out how alcohol is the mother of all bitches to walk away from in terms of getting people around you to understand. Because not only is it considered normal, it is encouraged too, to consume ethanol as part of social occasions. And these are two people who strongly suspect or pretty much know that their sister/sister-in-law has a massive drinking problem, yet gives her a bottle of wine for Christmas. WOW. I’m not saying this is wrong of them, I’m pointing out how fucking mad it all is. Not them, IT! They loved me then, as they do now. Cared for me, as they do now. Worried about me, as they hopefully do a little less now. But isn’t that just absolutely crazy? Like giving a gram of heroine for Christmas to someone you love who you think might be a junkie. Would you?

I reiterate what I kind of think – that if you confront someone you love and tell them their drinking (or whatever other behaviour or drug or condition or what have you it might be) worries you, you are likely to be met with an angry reaction and the person with the possible problem shutting you out. So I’m not in any way saying they did anything wrong, I’m just saying it’s crazy. I think in an even crazier way, it made me less uncomfortable around them and perhaps therefore more likely to tell them straight when I was ready. Because I always knew I wasn’t any good at hiding it.

Anyway. There we are and do let me know your thoughts – there is no end to how much this fascinates me.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Magic and Anchors

It’s with absolute dread and trepidation that I turn the ‘closed’ sign over and open back up after our little summer break. Oh, I’m happy to be HERE, on this blog and catching up on reading what my fellow bloggers have been up to but outside of the blogosphere I need to make some massive changes. Not at home, because it was absolutely lovely to get back home and with hubby and bambino is exactly where I want to be, but I need to figure out what my purpose is now. Sobriety brought me back to myself, it’s been a learning curve to say the least and it wasn’t a huge surprise to realise that I have more to give than what I deliver at work. My job suited an alcoholic but now that I’m sober it actually brings me down. It’s a bit ridiculous because it’s all very nice and easy and I should be grateful but six months down the line I am DONE. I need to figure this out and soon or it’ll really start to drag me down. I’ve never felt as much dread coming in to work as I did this morning. This is priority one now, to work out my escape route and discover what my place in the world might be.

It doesn’t help either that I’m utterly shattered. One of the immediate benefits of being sober was getting quality sleep but during our second holiday I slept worse than I think I ever have. After Italy we headed to my native Sweden and as usual we stayed at the little red house at the foot of the mountain. All other times we’ve been there I was of course chugging wine and therefore passed out in true Drunk Me style, but now – sober – I felt anxiety and the jitters like I never have before. It’s in the middle of nowhere and the silence is deafening beyond the creaks of an old house and the sounds of nature and occasional wildlife outside. Oh, and footsteps I swear I heard going down the stairs at 4.30 one morning. Well, better than up (to where we were sleeping) I guess. The doorbell went twice with no one there, and it’s got gardens and fields all around it so it couldn’t have been a prank even if it’d been Mo Farah who’d pranked us and sprinted off, it’s open spaces for miles and we’d been able to spot anyone. Turns out the doorbell battery is giving up and that might be why, but I scare easily and even though I probably dreamed the footsteps, I had a terrible time sleeping.

Holy crap, how depressing! But I am. Not depressed thank goodness, but DOWN and grumpy.

So anyway. I’d already done our Paris and Gothenburg breaks sober – including a Foo Fighters concert – so Lipari was every bit as magical without wine as I knew it’d be. It was magical BECAUSE no wine, should I say, much like life actually is without booze. But I did wonder what Sweden would be like, or rather, how people might react to brand new Sober Me. Well. Dad already knew, as did Mum, as I told them ages ago I quit drinking. Both reacted with kindness and told me it made them happy I’d made such a decision. No one in my life could have missed that I drank like a sailor on leave so I’m sure I’ve caused them considerable worry and pain, and I’d imagine both my parents drew a massive sigh of relief when they learned I’d stopped drinking. I never used the A-word when I told them, only explained that it had got way too much and how I can’t stop when I start – this is actually the whole truth anyway, whereas the alcoholic label might cause additional worry. I did spell it out to my brother D and his partner M, the A-word and what it had actually been like warts and all. Afterwards I worried it might have been selfish of me, because telling everyone is for me putting down yet another set of anchors as I figure the more of those I have the steadier I’ll be able to remain if a storm hits. But what about THEM? What if I’ve just gone and caused even more hurt?

But you must have known I drank too much,” I said to M a few days after we had the conversation.

We’ve discussed it,” she told me, “I’ve said to your brother several times that the amounts you drank were insane, but he always shrugged it off and it’s hard to know because we only see you twice a year.

Yep, easy to frame as holiday drinking,” I agreed.

But I do worry I have placed a heavy burden on D’s shoulders, because this means he has gone from having a sister who “likes her drink” to having a sister who is an alcoholic and all that this entails. It’s a much bigger problem than over indulgence obviously (if this is indeed how D had me pegged) and perhaps he’ll worry much more now that he knows I’m an alkie and not just someone who has a lot “on occasion” or “on holiday” whatever. Ironically, it is now they no longer have to worry because with me acknowledging – and publicly at that – that I’m a drunk, not only do I have to stay on task (or at least made it very difficult for myself not to) but I also have all these people around me who are aware that I can’t drink like they can and can raise the alarm (or at least confront me) if I were to slip. It’s a tricky one. I do wonder if I should have just left it the way I did with Mum and Dad, given it’s the truth anyway without troublesome and stigmatised labels. Cherokee told me it was the right thing to do and perhaps she’s right. Whatever happens from here on out, what I do know is that my husband along with all my close friends and family know I have this problem and I’ll never EVER be able to try to make them believe I can join them in having a drink Just This One Lil’ Ol’ Time. Ever, ever, ever. Anchors. Can’t fool anyone now. Not even myself, and I was the easiest to fool of them all.

Of course I also need to be patient and kind now that my anchors may have questions. Or have misconceptions around what being an alcoholic is and means. Dad is someone who has very strong opinions and I need to be careful how I tread so I can stop myself getting irritated when he’s coming from a good place, because he does have the biggest heart and although he has a habit of being somewhat unfiltered he does mean well. At my Gran’s he popped open a bottle of bubbly she’d got for her 90th, poured a glass for Gran and another for my hubby, then looked at me and went “and absolutely nothing for you”. It grated on me. Immediately I wanted to inform him that whether or not I drink is MY decision and no one else’s and I certainly don’t need him to be the wine police, but I recognised that he didn’t say it to be mean but because he loves me and thought it was the right thing to do. And I guess it was – I’m not drinking and I don’t want to be drinking. Oh, and I’m an alcoholic so I CAN’T freaking drink. Dad clearly thought he was being helpful and that’s what I need to recognise in these situations. Hell, poor sods, suddenly now with a full-on drunk in the family, how could I expect anyone to know how to handle it when I am still trying to figure it out myself? Suffice to say I have the best friends and family on the planet.

Another thing that irritated me was when M told me how she and D had talked after our conversation. How they were grateful that I have hubby by my side. And again, I had to rein myself and my narcissism right back in because once again it came from a place of love. My sobriety, my decision. But if you’re not an alcoholic and it turns out you have a sister/sister-in-law who is, of bloody course you’re going to feel it’s a wonderful thing and a huge relief that she is married to the best person in the world. I write this now and see even more clearly how unreasonable and selfish of me it is to take it any other way than how it is in all likelihood how I’d feel too. Take Elaine, my friend who drinks too much and whom I’m desperately worried about. Despite all I know about my own drinking and my own sobriety and how no one and nothing in the world could stop me if I decided to hit the bottle again, I’d be less worried if I knew she had a great person by her side for support. We all need it. Even me, and it’s about time I realise that. My first proper sentence was “I can do it myself” and it’s always summed me up pretty well. Sobriety has taught me I can’t – but more importantly perhaps, don’t HAVE to – do it all on my own.

I wasn’t sure how to bring it up, in a way it should have been at the very start of this post, or even a post all in itself, but I had a slip before we went away. It was an interesting one because it was the most unlikely of triggers. Had the mother of all fights with bambino and was angrier than I’ve ever been with him and I opened one of hubby’s beers with the sole intention of numbing myself, calming down. The classic stress response of ‘I need a drink’. It didn’t taste of feel good. It didn’t turn into black-out or even a heavy session. There was no part of it that made the situation better either, not that I thought it would. It did, however, highlight how there is no point in drinking whatsoever. Weirdly it didn’t make me feel guilty either, even though it was four days shy of my six months sober. Told hubby, who was on his way home and had called me en route, that I was drinking a beer, one of HIS. We talked about it the next day and as stupid as it might sound, it would almost have been even better if it HAD turned into an insane black-out with the subsequent hell of the following day. Or how it was all a bit of a non-event was actually perfection. What I did discover was that alcoholic beer is disgusting compared with non-alcoholic beer. I suppose that makes sense and would be true for any drink at all. Of course it’s going to be foul if you add ethanol to it.

So there we are. Holidays over. Slip – or BLIP, perhaps – that perhaps was inevitable. Back to the grind but need to find a new direction.

And anchors. More and more of them. It’s all about the anchors.