I won’t lie – there was part of me that hoped (fine – believed) that I’d come away from today’s meeting with a clearer path ahead and some paid hours for whatever bit-jobs the rehab centre might offer. What I come away with is something much more positive that further reinforces some of the things sobriety has been teaching me all along: 1) work is required, 2) easy does it, and 3) progress not perfection. Whilst that might all sound a little muddled, those are probably the most important lessons I’ve learned over these eight months – EIGHT MONTHS!!!!! – I’ve been sober.
OK, let’s stop right there and please can I have a huge hallelujah because I hit eight months this last Sunday, all together now: HALLELUJAH! It’s my blog and I brag if I want to. There, done – patting myself on the back and smiling smugly – and let’s move on.
Back to the task at hand, which is to stay sober and recover who I am meant to be and do all I can to become the very best version of me. Going to see the manager and one of the senior recovery workers at this rehab is part of all of that as I work out whether my little place in this world might be to pay it forward. As I told them during our conversation, I wonder if this is a very natural part of getting sober. Every goddamn morning when I have my coffee I’m filled with such gratitude for feeling healthy and strong – or free from crippling hangovers, rather – that it makes me tearful. Yes, it’d seem that Sober Me is the kind of unbearable twat who will watch the sunrise and cry tears of joy. I cringe just writing that, but it’s true and no wonder! I feel like I imagine that paralysed dude did when Jesus told him to take his bed and go – suddenly he has the use of his legs again! And much like walking to him must have felt like all his dreams coming true, living without drinking and all the crap it brings is for me nothing short of a miracle. So yes, morning coffee and sunrises do strike me as wondrous and magical – every time.
Gosh, do I waffle!
Where were we? Oh yes, a natural part of getting sober! I reckon it’s probably a very natural reaction to want to pass on the gift of sobriety. All the things I wish I could have told and shown Drunk Me. I want to look after that Anna who felt so hopeless and alone in her addiction, hiding in plain sight as she struggled to hold together some semblance of a life. I feel genuinely heartbroken for those who are still trapped by their addictions and, perhaps like me at one point, don’t see a way out. Beyond all of that, the subject of addiction and how our brains get highjacked fascinates me enormously. Who knows, perhaps when I’ve been sober eight years – gutsy assumption, eh! – it’ll be a different story and I’ll find myself doing something completely different altogether, but all I have is NOW and this feels right. But this is where these sobriety lessons I mentioned earlier come in and Full Throttle Anna – my default setting drunk OR sober – has to switch gears and accept that hey, easy does it. This is in absolute conflict with every fibre of my being and it’s so fucking good for me for that very reason. Slow down, girl. It’s early days. Get that hobbit foot in the door, peek in through the gap. You don’t even know what’s in there, easy now and take it as it comes.
I’ve plunged head first into this, that and what-the-fuck all my life – packed one thing in and thrown myself into the next without much thought except wanting to get away from the last one – and in sobriety I’m suddenly discovering that it’s not the world that has to adapt to me, it’s the other freaking way around. What the hell is up with THAT? I thought the deal was that it’s all about me, me, ME?? Jeez.
Take running. Just a few weeks ago, running for just three minutes was pure torture and the first time the app told me to run for five minutes at a time (it’s a running app that builds up to 10k) I didn’t manage to do it the first time. Gasping for air, I had to stop and walk as I only managed four minutes. Full Throttle Anna obviously expected to be Mo Farah from the word go and it turned out I wasn’t, because even Mo fucking Farah didn’t win any gold medals without effort and it turns out I’m only human too. Anyway. Then last week, a couple of days before my brother and nephews arrived, the app told me to warm up for five minutes and then run for 25 whole minutes in one go. AND I DID. And fuck me, it felt GOOD! For the first time in years, I experienced that amazing feeling again when it feels good to run. I was knackered towards the end, but there was definitely a bit there during the first half of it when it was pure enjoyment. And it’s because I’m working at it. I’m building up little by little. The gym is a shit storm every time and God knows if I’ll ever enjoy it, but the running is beginning to feel really, really good. I can tell my body is getting stronger – because I’ve worked at it and I continue to do so.
That’s the key to everything now: I have to work at it. My sobriety and running are two examples – both fairly new and I’m not about to proclaim myself a sobriety guru any more than I’m ready to run the New York marathon. One step at a time, though. And why not aim high? Ambitions aren’t the same as arrogance. I may be on the Pink Cloud still and I do feel quite confident (simply because I don’t want to drink) but don’t take that to mean I believe I have this sussed – I’m forever glancing over my shoulder. And it’ll forever mean work. This thing too, about potentially finding a place where I can prove myself useful within the field of addiction and recovery. Work. And work. And then work. That may sound like a hard slog but don’t forget that with it I get sunrises that make me tearful and feeling good when I run.
So here we are and easy does it. First off, I need a year of sobriety under my belt. This makes sense for lots of reasons, not least because the longer we remain sober the less likely we are to fall back (the brain pathways end up doing lots of clever stuff in the first year or so, which also helps strengthen our resolve) but also I suspect a year does show commitment and a good amount of…. ..yep – work. I guess it’s sort of proving ourselves. I mean, stopping drinking isn’t all that bad. It’s the staying stopped that’s the real bitch and you need a decent stretch of sobriety to gauge how you’re doing so I suppose a year does seem like a sensible goal post initially. Secondly, it’s also a matter of me working out where I’ll fit in (or indeed, if I’ll fit in at all!) and so it looks as though the best place to start is by volunteering. Now that I don’t have any drinking to lie about, hide and maintain, I stuck with the honest approach and outlined what I consider realistic to give and that would at a glance be afternoons after work and the odd Saturday. Every other Saturday perhaps. It’d be silly to over promise, and I’m not willing to compromise too much time with hubby and Bambino. I need to get a DBS check but that’s a formality I suppose and I don’t have a criminal record so should be straight forward, and then we’ll go from there. Where or what I’m sure will become clear eventually. And that’s cool.
I feel hopeful. I’m going in to this for the right reasons and I’m willing to do the work. I’m still me and always will be, so absolutely there is part of me who wants to either have it all now or at least have a clear outline so I’ll at least know WHEN I’ll have it all, but strangely I’m finding that Sober Me is actually very, very OK with this. The reason? Perhaps it’s because Sober Me is discovering that those things we have to work for are worth so much more. Even more shocking, Sober Me seems to enjoy having to work to get what she wants. Fuckinell, this is worse than the fucking tears at the fucking sunrise, what’s the world coming to??! You know, I would always have told you I was good at the sprint but not the marathon (and I think this is always going to be true to some extent) but then Sober Me showed up and it turns out I’m learning to like the continuous effort of working towards a goal. Or working to maintain something that is valuable – like my sobriety.
When I was told about the one year of sobriety they like to see before taking people on, I wanted to say “OK, great, see you then“, smile arrogantly in a David Brent-esque manner, give them a wink and a hand gesture illustrating double barrels, but I’m not THAT cocky. I don’t take a single day sober for granted because whilst drinking to me right now is still as appealing as eating dog shit, I also know that addiction is a fucking sly and cunning beast that I’ll never be safe from. Not completely anyway. I forced that beast into a cage but it doesn’t have a lock and I can never forget that, nor look away for too long. So I feel HOPEFUL I will get to the 23rd January next year and be able to say I’m one year sober. I hope I will. Wouldn’t that be something?
Easy does it. Frustrates the fuck out of me, but does me a world of good.
Today I’m not going to drink.