There’s a Swedish saying – “det blir vad man gör det till” – which roughly translates to mean that a situation will be what you make of it. I actually had a little anxiety episode last night. Classic Anna: that familiar knot in my stomach and then my mind kicks into gear and serves up all sorts of undesirable outcomes in a continuous loop that’ll play ALL night and keep me wide awake. Good news, however, is that Sober Me is a calm and rational person whose veins aren’t flowing with a powerful depressant! Without much effort I just told myself que será, será and got lost in the book I’m reading until my eyelids were heavy. My old buddy anxiety did of course spring to life the moment I turned off the light but it was freaking amazing how quickly I managed to get it to fuck off. As I felt my heart beginning to beat funny and a little too fast, I realised I could feel hubby’s heartbeat against my arm resting across his chest. So I counted his heartbeats in my head and also tried to breathe deeply and slowly. I’m too dumb to focus on two things at the same time so I had to abandon thinking about my breathing and just counted. I got to 100 and started over. I don’t think I got past 30 the second time. And that was it. I fell asleep and even though I did have slightly disturbing dreams, I had a solid night of shut-eye and woke up feeling rested and energised. Most of all though, I woke up free from the worry I felt last night.
And what was the worry cloud that appeared in my sky last night? Something sobriety related with my name attached to it appeared in hubby’s Facebook newsfeed. Now that in itself is OK, but this is a forum where I am as outspoken as I am on this blog and although I’m not hiding any of this, I’ve carefully considered how I’ve put it to various people. I haven’t seen any pressing need to get ‘alcoholic’ tattooed across my forehead or make big announcements, so it’s really just been a case of telling the people closest to me and in my immediate family and then anyone else as and when alcohol has come up really. I can’t think of anyone I’ve been in contact since I stopped drinking that I actually HAVEN’T told. Anyway. It’s ridiculous really, because I found myself worrying about PRECISELY the thing I want to take positive action to freaking banish: I worried about other people’s reaction. As in, people on Facebook I’m not even really in touch with – remember most people I actually have in my REAL life I’ve already told. So fuck that! Fuckety-fuck-fuck that. OK, it’s not quite as easy as that, even I understand that. I don’t want to hurt my son, for starters. I don’t think any 14-yearold would particularly like to have it “out there” that mum had a drinking problem, right? So obviously I need to tread carefully. But I also consider it my responsibility to show my son that mum has the cojones to stand up and speak out, as opposed to reinforce the very things I want to change by hushing it down and sweeping it under the carpet.
Someone has to be the first to say it. I’m obviously not that person because countless people have stood up and spoken out about addiction and alcohol abuse before me. What I’m saying though, is that I don’t want to be the person who looks down and hunches her shoulders to make herself invisible when it comes to this. I want to be the person who is brave enough to face the music and stand up for what I believe is right even when it means it’s fucking uncomfortable to do so. And this is NOT comfortable to talk about. Oh, the things I’d rather speak out about. How I wish that what I’m saying could be anything – ANYTHING – other than this. I mean, I don’t like drawing attention to myself as it is, so adding a bit of addiction to the mix isn’t exactly my idea of fun. No, there are a million other things I wish I could talk about, or rather, not talk about anything at all and just remain under my cork oak and smell the flowers.
One of my bonus sons (I’m lucky enough to have been blessed with two!) put something out via social media on World Mental Health Day a week or so ago. I mean, I love hubby’s sons like my own and as far as I’m concerned they shit rainbows, but the pride and admiration I felt for Bonus #1 at that moment had me tearing up. We knew of course that a few years ago when he was still at uni, he had a few episodes with panic attacks. Turns out it was a bit more to it than that and he’s been battling anxiety. His social media post basically accounted for his experience and how everyone else might just see him as a confident and outgoing bloke and how it’s hard for a young man to open up about something like this. He went on to emphasise the importance of reaching out and encouraged everyone to do so, highlighting that it’s nothing to be ashamed of and added the hashtag #manxiety. I don’t think anxiety or mental health issues are any easier for a woman than for a man, but men are still in this day and age largely brought up to be tough. Boys don’t cry and all that fucking rubbish. Anyway, that took courage to do and might not have been the easiest thing in the world for Bonus #1 to say, but it could just be that one person who really needs to see it sees it. To see someone like Bonus #1 – intelligent, confident, assertive, successful and outgoing – suffering from anxiety and really see that it’s not a matter of being weak or any such nonsense. Sometimes all it takes is for us to see that it’s someone just like us. Or someone we think really highly of, when it’s a case of can’t-believe-it-happened-to-HIM it might really have an impact. And then those old stereotypes and misconceptions can finally go where they belong: in the trash.
Addiction is of course deemed to be a disease, but unlike cancer or depression it’s something that, at some point at least, involves a choice. A cancer patient has no such choice. In recovery we are given the one thing a cancer patient wants: our life back. We have the choice – and I’m not saying it’s an easy one – to reclaim our lives. And very few, if any of us, ever drank at gunpoint. So as much as I do have a bit of first hand experience of how hopeless addiction can be and how difficult it is to break free, I feel it’s important to make the distinction or at the very least recognise why it’s not EXACTLY the same. It does require more knowledge and it does require more explanation – it’s not at ALL logical for a non-addict how addiction works and what it does, unlike perhaps cancer if we stick with the comparison. Cancer cells develop and spread regardless. But an addict puts the poison into her body. Why? Because it’s an evil thing, that’s why, and shit happens in the brain that can never be undone or removed. Well. Go read up on the subject – dopamine has a lot to answer for, my friends, and our brains light up more spectacularly than the Blitz. What I wanted to establish is that this is a complicated beast and it’s hard to talk about, and even more so because it has so much stigma and shame attached to it.
So yes, I felt a bit of an OH SHIT when I realised a post was public and had my name all over it. But this is where we come back to how things just are what you make of them. I could either panic and take down my whole Facebook account along with this blog in one frenzied swoop. OR I OWN MY SHIT. Am I supposed to be embarrassed? Dunno, I guess I am a little. It’s not the best thing in the world to cop to. Hey, check me out, I’m a raging alcoholic, woohoo! But it is what it is and if I am one more person who hides it, I’m one more person who makes sure the shame and stigma remain the same. So I made a new decision. I don’t need to be dramatic – this isn’t a gutter story, but even if I’d made it all the way there, it doesn’t need lots of choreography. It is what it is. The bigger I make it, the bigger it will seem and be. This is not all I am but it’s part of my life and it happened. It scared me and did me no good. I stopped. And then I wanted to turn my own experiences to something good. End of. No drum roll, just matter of fact.
Bambino first. Always Bambino first. We’ve had the conversation before and we’ll have it again. He gets it. But I’ll check again and then I’ll check again. No drama. It is what it is.
Do I need to make a blanket announcement? No, I fucking don’t. I’m not Beyonce and regardless of what my narcissism might make me believe, no one CARES! I’m not the freaking Queen and I don’t have a spin doctor. It is what it is. Nor do I need to apologise for making the decision to turn my alcohol abuse to something positive where I want to help others. Not one bit. It is what it is. What if someone I haven’t spoken to since “the good old days” suddenly sees that I have written something to do with addiction and sobriety? Good! First it might make them chuckle because if we haven’t spoken in a while it’ll seem very amusing indeed that Anna did that. Then they might read whatever the piece might be and discover holy fuck, she’s an alkie and she’s quit drinking. Or nowhere near as exciting as that sound – they might just think oh. Just that: oh. And then move on to the news story about plastic in our oceans, which is actually of real importance and concern.
I developed alcoholism. I used to drink a lot and now I don’t. Questions on that? Great! Let’s talk! No? Nothing strange there? Great! Enjoy your day.
Today I’m not going to drink.