Supporting Cast Members

Christ, my favourite bloggers are firing off so much interesting stuff right now – they always do, but today I’ve literally read post after post that’s made this little brain of mine almost overheat. Doesn’t take much though, I suppose. You could of course say I’m an over analysing, anxious, over excitable and generally quite bonkers bundle with a mind that’s like Santa’s workshop on steroids and this would be absolutely correct. I prefer, however, to say I’m a thinker. Anyway, reading – be it books or blogs or whatever else – is to me what…. holy fuck, I nearly wrote “what smack is to a junkie“…..! Fuckinell, goes to show how brainwashed I am after all – STILL!! – and how hard it is to get some stains out. Obviously if that were true, reading would feel good only for a short moment and relieve me of the discomfort the previous book or blog post created, ruin my health and my soul and ultimately destroy my life. This, needless to say, couldn’t be further from the truth because reading is a massively positive thing that enhances my life and addiction clearly doesn’t do any of that. Holy shitballs, I’m sitting here shaking my head at my own stupidity – where in God’s name did THAT come from?! Anyway. Let’s keep to the subject here: what they said.

Functioningguzzler talked about how her doctor has added to her medical file that she is an alcoholic without her consent or even consulting with her. Not only that, but they did so yet never made any attempt to offer help or support after their diagnosis. Quite rightly, she isn’t best pleased. I, on the other hand, used to have a really wonderful doctor who I’ll refer to as Dr Bumble Bee because he looks a bit like one. Unfortunately I’m no longer his patient as we moved to a different area, but he was an absolute gem. I once told him I was worried about my drinking. He patiently listened, and then gently asked me if I felt able to make adjustments myself (cut down or stop or whatever) or if I felt I needed help. I don’t think I told him honestly how much I drank – hey, telling people you drink two to three bottles of wine most nights isn’t the easiest thing to cop to when you’re still trapped in the vicious cycle – but I know I did say I felt it was too much without declaring the actual amounts. This was probably a couple of years ago so at this point I wouldn’t have been ready to stop or face up to my drinking problem properly, so Dr Bumble Bee’s approach was especially perfect. He sat back in his chair and listened the way he always did, without making you feel rushed by simultaneously tapping away on his keyboard – he always gave his full attention. That in itself fills me at least with confidence and trust.

How about this? I’ll refer you for a blood test but I won’t add anything with regards to the drinking to your records, because things like that stay on your file forever,” he informed me, “I’ll just ask for everything to be checked including liver function and then we talk again when we have the results, how’s that?

For me, that was at THAT particular time exactly what I needed – a doctor who showed empathy and kindness as well as helping me, but also exercising discretion and thinking about the bigger picture. Unfortunately, some things can affect you adversely and having something on your medical file saying that holy crap you are allergic to a highly addictive, extremely poisonous substance which is also a powerful depressant then that can actually do you harm in certain situations. Even if you are taking steps to address the problem. No joke. It’s just a sad fact. I hope with time we can change that, but Dr Bumble Bee was just honest and had my best interests at heart. Plus he knows I’m a mother and I think this probably is the main concern whenever he hinted that I might want to think carefully about having ALCOHOLIC on my medical file. This might potentially be the instance where it could be used against me, for example in any custody proceedings. Thankfully that’s something my ex-husband and I, unlike everything else, managed to get right and figured out between us in what might be considered a civilised manner, but you know what I mean. And I think a good, decent and responsible doctor should alert his patients to all eventualities and possible consequences.

At the same time, of course, I also think a good doctor should take necessary measures as appropriate. Alcoholism is a deadly disease/disorder/addiction that kills the most people in a third place after cancer and heart disease. And if you actually look at the super killers cancer and heart disease, who do you think is lurking in the wings as a prominent supporting cast member of contributing factors? That’s right, booze. So for a doctor to label you alcoholic yet offer no advice or support or even have a chat with you about their observations and diagnosis strikes me as an obscene display of incompetence. I mean, can you imagine a doctor spotting enough symptoms to add to a file that someone’s got cancer yet fail to discuss this with the patient. “Oh, they’ll probably get over it.” This seems crazy to me.

This also highlights the sensitive nature of addiction. It’s still to this day, amazingly, in the year of the Lord 2018 STILL stigmatised and misunderstood. Even medical professionals sometimes don’t have enough understanding of what alcoholism truly is and everything else that goes with it. Not that you can demand that your doctor will know everything about every condition there is, but even so. I sat in an AA meeting once where someone was really, REALLY upset with a friend and colleague. He’d confided in this friend that he’s an alcoholic, and so this person knew the full picture. He then fell off the wagon and disappeared off the radar, shut himself away and made himself unavailable. The friend and colleague tried to get hold of him but couldn’t and got incredibly worried that he was in trouble, which of course he was. She had gone to the boss and explained the situation. And so after his five day bender his boss knew. This made him feel his friend had let him down and he was absolutely fuming with her that she’d gone and told someone else – the boss at that – about his alcoholism. What a Catch 22 though, right? There is part of me that can absolutely see his friend’s thinking. I mean, when someone in my tribe here in the blogosphere goes quiet for a while, I do worry and there is sometimes a little warning bell. An alcoholic who suddenly goes off radar is rarely good news in my view, but of course I base this on myself because when I drink I isolate. When do you take action and when do you just sit back and hope for the best? Not the easiest one to answer, is it?

Anyway. I guess doctors are only human and that makes them fallible like the rest of us. I’d like to see every GP surgery staffed with people like Dr Bumble Bee, but I suppose we’ll just have to be grateful that we have SOME doctors like him and that the majority do their very best too. You get bad eggs in every profession.

Katie over at How I Killed Betty who, thank God, is back in my world after a little break, was talking about camping and reminded me of how I need to rediscover my love of the outdoors. As much as I love running in the park and getting out of London with hubby to find beautiful hiking trails, I felt inspired reading Katie’s last post to start planning something perhaps a little bit more ambitious. I grew up in what to me is the most beautiful place in the world deep in the forests of north Värmland, Sweden, so nature and the outdoors is in my DNA. I grew up running around in the woods and although I know how to rock an evening gown, I know how to make fire, what plants I can eat, how to find my way if I get lost and how to pull up a trout. I’m quite good with knives, axes and guns too although I don’t have a licence to kill the likes of Bambi. I’m Bear Grylls with a little bit of Patsy Stone thrown in, minus the wine these days of course. At some point I really want to explore the north of Sweden and it’d be so much fun to do it as an old school caravan trip – definitely on my bucket list. For all my Bear Grylls talk I’m a bit of a scaredy cat in that I like walls and a door you can lock – actually, I suppose that just shows I’m not very Bear Grylls at ALL – but I reckon it would be amazing to set off and do it properly, sod the caravan and just go with a tent.

Right. Time for a run this afternoon! 51 minutes of running. I managed Tuesday afternoon and it felt GOOD so I hope this one will be another nice one.

Today I’m not going to drink.

267 Days

That one year soberversary is actually slowly coming into view now. It’s amazing how something that I once thought would be impossible is now within reach and these three months ahead before I get to it don’t scare me in the slightest. That’s something I wish Drunk Me would have known, because I think Drunk Me would have immediately started to stress out over having to have a sober Christmas. And here I am, feeling excited because I won’t have to get drunk this year and looking forward to the festive season even more than I usually do for that reason alone. Who would have thought? Who the fuck would have thought? If that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is.

Yes, it’s another one of those boring, nothing-to-report, I’m-pretty-happy kind of posts.

I’ve eyed up a little beauty I might treat myself to when I get to 23rd of January, it’s made of rose gold and glittering little diamonds. No, no, no – not a huge sparkler, I think the rose gold is just vermeil on silver and the stones are all tiny little ones but that’s not the point. What it is or what it costs is actually irrelevant. The point for me is that it’s something to mark the occasion and something I will love and keep, and it would appear that I’m shallow enough to appreciate a piece of jewellery despite never having been particularly girly or glittery in that sense.

I’m still considering a tattoo and have done a bit of Googling to find sobriety symbols but nothing so far. Hubby and I both got our first tattoos a year ago. Mine is a crown and then a string of numbers (Bambino’s birth date and our wedding date) and the Maori word for love that run down my spine and end with an eternity heart symbol. Hubby’s is the same heart symbol with my name and our wedding date incorporated and it’s on his hip and really suits him, it’s sexy as hell and I do enjoy that he’s been branded MINE! Like cattle, almost. [Insert Dr Evil laughter here].

Oh, I’m just waffling now. I’m going to head over to Google now and search for tattoo ideas. Do let me know if you happen to be a shit hot designer and able to draw up something based on sobriety or what have you. I like the idea of a symbol, but I suppose it could also be a string of text. I did toy with the idea of ’23 January 2018′ but it just doesn’t feel right. Plus I already have a couple of dates on my back and worried I’ll end up looking like a fucking calendar.

Anyway.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Drunk’n’Roses

Now that a day has passed, this doesn’t seem anywhere as important now as I don’t have any assholes in my family, so my mother’s reaction when I spelled out that I consider myself an alcoholic wasn’t at all what might make for interesting reading. Then again, I’m not writing this blog to create sensational and explosive content – it’s therapeutic for me to untangle my thoughts through writing and my policy here is brutal honesty. If what I share might give a little hope to someone else like reading other people’s sobriety stories helps me, then that’s the best thing that could happen. Whilst I don’t hold back, I do try hard to stick to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I don’t want to make anything seem harsher than it was for dramatic effect, nor do I want to make it sound as though I was in control because I wasn’t.

Do I have spectacular battle stories? No. My drinking hadn’t (yet!) landed me in the gutter and the consequences were limited largely to embarrassment and holding me back generally. I have plenty of sad, hopeless, ugly and desperate stories but I didn’t lose everything and I never failed to pay a bill because of drink. But I also don’t want to smooth things over or make anything look “better” than it actually was. It’s a tricker balance than you might think! I was in many ways what you might call a functioning alcoholic, at the same time as there was nothing ‘functioning’ about it. I drank to dangerous levels and had I not stopped I believe the slope might have got much steeper quite quickly. I never drank in the mornings and in some ways I think nooooo that would never have been me but that window between waking up and taking the first drink does shrink. Slowly at first perhaps, but it only ever goes in the one direction. What I can say is that I know for certain that if I’d continued I would have landed in hospital or worse – it was only a matter of time.

Bottom line is that I had to get sober and I reached a point where I’d had enough. Sobriety has given me my life back and I’m now the ridiculous numpty who gets tearful at the sunrise and feels a little like she cheated death. No joke. I genuinely spend my days feeling a sense of gratitude I can’t put into words. Oh, here we go, I’m welling up because I am SO looking forward to getting home today. I’m looking forward to going for a run and I’m going to see if I can make myself keep going the whole way around the 8k loop in the park. I managed 6.7k Sunday night and my fastest kilometre took 6.13 minutes! This is by no means fast but for ME, right NOW it’s fucking awesome and I couldn’t quite believe it. And I’m itching to get out on the park. I feel restless and it’s like I’m vibrating, I just want to go! Realising just then that I’m filled with anticipation and actual excitement and that it’s going for a run that I’m looking forward to is fucking huge. I’ve got this feeling, it’s in my bones… This is almost precisely how I used to feel when the Beast had me in its grip and I was desperate to get to the end of the work day so I could drink.

I literally just realised, it dawned on me just as I was writing it. Amazing. And enough to feel so grateful that happy tears are gathering in my eyes. Big moment for Anna.

OK. Get a grip, woman!

Mum. That’s where I was going. Talking about wanting to convey an accurate picture of my drinking does tie into this because I think for many of us the term “alcoholism” immediately gives a certain impression. I’ve mentioned before that Mum doesn’t like uncomfortable topics. She just can’t bear anything that’s painful, awkward, too raw or difficult. She literally walks off if a conversation starts to get even the tiniest bit heated. She gets up and leaves the room. Mum is Little Miss Perfect, you see. Everything is cute and roses and rainbows and in perfect order. Wipe, rub, polish – there! Now it’s pretty and shiny and perfect again. I don’t think it’s a case of denial or that she feels bad inside, I just think she’s sensitive and therefore prefers to close down anything that gets a little icky. And I love her just the way she is – she’s an amazing, extraordinary, strong and wonderful woman, and there is nothing about her that is shallow, even though the above might make it seem that way. Mum just finds it really hard to confront difficult stuff.

Alcoholism and addiction = difficult stuff.

Make no mistake – Mum knows full well that I had a serious drinking problem, as does everyone in my family I reckon. She has seen me outrageously drunk and out of control more than once so to suggest she didn’t know I’m a raging alcoholic would be ridiculous. I laid it out for her and also my Dad, but as I’ve told you previously I kept it gentle: when I stopped drinking I told them it was because I can’t control it, it’s too much and too often, and when I start I can’t stop. That is, of course, how many of us might define alcoholism so I deem it to be completely truthful, but I didn’t spell out the A-word because I knew she’d find it uncomfortable. And when I did spell it out this Sunday just gone, she did get uncomfortable. But here’s what strength is: she was uncomfortable but she didn’t walk away. That shit takes serious cojones and my little sweetpea mother can be freaking Herkules when she needs to be. So when her eldest spelled out to her that she’s an alcoholic she stayed in the moment and acknowledged it. Kudos to Mum.

Hm. Her youngest is about to get her doctorate and her eldest is a drunk. Interesting autumn for Mum, this.

I haven’t wanted to put the label out there because it’s uncomfortable,” I began.

Oh, you don’t need to,” Mum replied and there was a tinge of awkwardness in her voice, I could tell I’d immediately placed her in the sort of situation she finds awkward as fuck.

I’m not uncomfortable with it though, I’ve been more worried that it would upset you.

No one is upset, Anna, there is nothing to be upset about,” her voice still betraying a little tension but I knew she meant it.

Well, it’s the A-word but I know you already know all of this.

Yes, I do,” she said softly and now I could actually detect a smile.

You know when you have something terrible to get off your chest, something that’ll require all your might to say, and you work yourself up to a complete ball of stress and anxiety because you expect a terrible reaction. Instead, the person you’re offloading to just gives you a sympathetic smile, squeezes your hand and tells you they knew all along and that it’s all going to be OK. It was like that.

I’m an alcoholic.

Mm.

I’ve worried it might worry you because all the stuff that the word carries with it, but this is only positive. It’s changed my life so saying it out loud is for me a really great thing and the point where this turns into a happy story so I’m just really keen that none of you feel bad,” I stammered, wanting to encapsulate everything in just a few words but being unable to.

You don’t need to explain to anyone and no one here feels bad,” she reassured me.

I took a few seconds to weigh my words, knowing I might only have her for a couple more minutes before she’d need to walk away from this for now. My roses and rainbows mother had already bent herself out of shape sticking with it this far so I didn’t want to make her more uncomfortable than necessary.

I’m potentially taking on a little writing assignment, and what I also haven’t told you is that I’m working towards finding a place in recovery services,” I began and now it definitely approached being a bridge too far, which I knew it would, “I feel so passionately that we need to shine a light on this, that there are so many Annas out there who might right now be trapped and can’t see a way out, so perhaps I need to be one of the people who stand up and speak out, use my own experience to help others and make a difference.

Well, you have to really consider is that you have a son who is at a sensitive age,” Mum said and now the tension was back, “it might be better to keep it to yourself.

I had already pushed her too far out of her comfort zone – well, to what degree is hearing your child say they’re an alcoholic ever comfortable?! – so didn’t want to go much further.

He’s seen and he understands though. So I can sweep it under the rug or I can make a stand and show him I may have fucked up but I am turning it into something positive.

I’d lost her now though.

We don’t have to decide that now. It’s all good,” she said a little impatiently, adding “Well! I’m going to hit the sofa now and watch….” and there she lost me as she mentioned some British series I’m not interested in.

So that was coming out PROPERLY to Mum and spelling it out. Not traumatic, not negative. I suppose one thing to remember is that she’s not of this over sharing, Instagramming generation. She grew up in a world where one kept one’s dirty laundry to oneself and kept up appearances no matter what went on behind closed doors. Mum also lives in the small town where I grew up, where everyone knows everyone and everyone is in everyone else’s business – just as it tends to be in smaller towns. So that combined with having a daughter who is openly declaring herself to be an alcoholic isn’t particularly comfortable. I have no doubt her first concern is her grandson, Bambino, but I also think it would potentially cause embarrassment – even shame – for her and the rest of my family too. I don’t know, but this is what I will always have to try to balance now.

It’s an infuriating Catch 22, actually! I feel so strongly that sometimes we have to, no matter how uncomfortable and embarrassing it is, be the first to speak up and be real, and hiding or keeping it to myself I feel only contributes to the anonymous approach that I actually think makes it harder to confront our issues. Yet it might hurt those I love if I say it loud and proud – nothing would ever be worth that level of collateral damage. ARGH! Answers on a postcard, please. I suspect a gentle approach is good for now though and I don’t need to go and get a personalised number plate with DRUNK4RD right this minute.

Today I’m not going to drink.

How to Swing a Sword

How can you feel such a connection with someone who’s a complete stranger?” hubby wondered.

Indeed, how can I? It’s an absolutely reasonable question, isn’t it? We were having our morning coffee and as usual sat at opposite ends of the sofa in our dressing gowns and pondering life and the day ahead. I’d had a little piece of magic land in my e-mails, one of my favourite bloggers having reached out and we’ve now connected in real life. Whilst I didn’t have to think about whether it’s magical, I did have to think a little about WHY when hubby floated the question. Hubby isn’t one for blogging, for starters. Secondly he isn’t an alcoholic or addict. So not only doesn’t he quite understand how blogging for me is super important (besides, write is what I do and have always done – come rain OR shine), he also hasn’t been in the position where you are lumbered with something that isn’t all that easy to just go ahead and say. Sure, he has gone through tough times and difficult shit like the next person, but with those things it’s still not been a case of mostly letting it out in an environment completely separate from “the real world” or whatever we should call it.

If I had a problem, I’d probably confide in one of my closest friends. Your blog world and your tribe as you call them is hard for me to understand, I’m just not in that world” he added.

Yep, indeed. Also a totally reasonable observation. This is what most of us do, right? When we need to open up about something that might be filed in the painful, awkward, embarrassing or generally difficult categories, we might open up to one of our closest, most trusted and perhaps longest standing friends. Trust is built up over time. We start with “what’s your name” most of the time, I suppose. Initially we may learn about the stuff that’s really easy to talk about and what most of us would be quite happy to share with any stranger: favourite food, favourite band and so on. And then you build further and find out more about those people you are drawn to for whatever reason. That’s how “normal” friendships start. We start as strangers and we progress by getting to know more and more about each other.

Take Cherokee – I can tell you her shoe size, the name of the horse she had as a kid, what she likes doing and what jokes will make her laugh. We’ve known each other for 30 years and so beyond this, there is solid trust and a connection that have built up over all those years. We’ve seen each other through the teenage years and broken hearts, becoming adults and wives and mothers, winning big and losing hard. And yes, Cherokee is 100% the friend I went to and felt safe confiding in when it came to my alcoholism. She’s had my back since I had a fucking perm, for crying out loud. My friendship with Cherokee makes perfect sense and it grew in the way that friendships normally do, so me confiding in her would never warrant the question why I feel I can or why there is a connection.

But then it dawned on me why it is that I can already feel (and I’d go as far as to say I know!) that this friendship is one that might last a life time. No, I couldn’t tell you where she went to school and I don’t know her favourite film, nor do I know what books she reads or the name of the first boy (or indeed girl!) who broke her heart. She, in turn, doesn’t know where I grew up or where I went to university. We don’t know any of those things about each other that people might know about someone they’ve only known for a relatively short amount of time. OK, we’ve now seen each others’ faces in photos but we could still probably pass each other in the street and not realise.

These friendships that are formed in this tribe, you see, start at the opposite end. We start by laying ourselves bare and sharing the stuff we in some cases can’t even tell our families and “real life” closest confidantes. It’s a fucking MASSIVE leap of faith to reveal your innermost secrets and hardest struggles. So what I know about her – and she about me – is the really big stuff. It’s like any AA meeting. You say your name but instead of then adding “and I’m from London” you add “and I’m an alcoholic“. It just doesn’t go the same way as it would at a dinner party where you’re chatting for the first time with one of your partner’s work colleagues. So no, I don’t know her favourite song but I know she is a survivor of unspeakable things. I don’t know her birthday but I know how many days she’s been sober.

But that in a way makes sense too, doesn’t it? We’re both blogging about getting sober and the blogosphere is, if you want it to be, an anonymous place. And so for that reason we probably feel safe because we know it doesn’t matter actually. But then there are the Facebook sobriety groups I’m part of. I’m just as open there! And that’s not just “Anna K” which I think is all you can see on this blog, on Facebook it’s my full name and if you click on it you can probably see some of my profile and who I’m friends with. But there we feel safe because in those groups we’re all people who are wanting to get and stay sober. Shit, when I think about it, it’s an enormous exercise in blind trust! But that’s what happens when you share the icky stuff before you get to the basic get-to-know-you conversations. We’ve started with this big thing we’re all fighting and we therefore feel connected and are all in it together.

So I’d take both these ladies to fight my wars with me. Cherokee because she loved me even when I had a perm and she kicks ass (including mine when needed) and my blogging friend because the first thing I learned about her is that she knows how to swing a sword and slay dragons.

It’s magic.

xena

The other thing of note that happened over the weekend was that I did finally drop the A-bomb on Mum. I’ve avoided it because I worried it’d make her utterly uncomfortable and upset. Anyway, I’ll share tomorrow – Monday has started off full throttle so I need to wind this up. Oh, it’s nothing bad, I’ve just run out of time that’s all.

Today I’m not going to drink.

World of Dragons

As I have mentioned a few times in recent posts, I seem to be going through a relatively smooth part of my sober journey right now. The thought of drinking is far away and hand on heart, mostly seems very alien. I feel calm and at peace, joyous and grateful and my world seems to be expanding by the second. Keith over at Tiny White Box described addiction like being trapped in a dark, shrinking world and being under siege as it closes in on us, something I definitely sign my name to. Now that I am sober, it is the absolute opposite, unsurprisingly. I nearly wrote “suddenly” but there is nothing particularly sudden about it, so I’ll rephrase: NOW I’m finding myself able to pursue passions and opportunities are beginning to open up to me, little by little. I’m finding that I am capable of committing even when what I commit to requires more than a short burst of my energy. I have rediscovered how amazing it feels when you are kind to yourself, not just emotionally but physically too – I’m getting fit and last night after I’d collected hubby from the airport he turned to me and said “Anna, you’re looking really well“. It doesn’t bloody matter, does it, how we look on the outside, but when it’s a result of living better and recovering the person we were always meant to be, it’s fucking nice to hear.

A little puffed up with pride (this old gal is a sucker for compliments) I took a little look later in the bathroom mirror. He’s right, you know. My skin is looking much brighter than it used to. And my eyes too. But you know, I reckon so much of that comes from inside – I think my whole posture has changed in sobriety. I look up, for starters! Keen to seek eye contact and engage, as opposed to hiding away in my shrinking, dark world of addiction where I am all alone. Who knows, perhaps if you compared my skin now to my skin then, there’d be no discernible difference? Maybe it’s my energy that has changed and is shining through. Anyway, it doesn’t matter – all I know is that when I look in the mirror now, I see Anna. I see myself again. Welcome back, Me – I didn’t realise how much I’d missed you until I got you back.

Yes, this part of the journey seems to be almost laughably easy and this week has brought such good things with it that I feel so good about, not least the fact that I can now run over 7k without keeling over. It’s nice, it’s peaceful, I feel happy and I feel hopeful.

I also know that the only thing that stands between this magical, expanding world and being under siege is one glass of wine. No, I don’t want to and no, I don’t think about it. But I also know lots of people and have heard lots of stories of long term sobriety that suddenly crashes right back into the darkest depths of addiction. Just like that. And I also know that I am wired the way I’m wired – I know the bat shit crazy stuff my alcoholic brain has convinced me to do in the past, and even though RIGHT NOW that seems foreign and makes me shudder, I know I could end up there again oh so easily. It’s fucking insane. Clawing your way out of addiction is like fighting off a massive dragon with a toothpick instead of a sword, yet to fall back into it you just need to raise one tiny little drink to your lips. Fuck me. Sober Me, are you taking notes here? Capital letters please and put it up somewhere you’ll see it every day.

Or how about a tattoo? On my wrist perhaps. Yes, that’s what I’ll do. Someone had NDTD for Never Doubt The Decision. I like that, but I need one that feels right for me. A sobriety symbol but not sure I want the circle with a triangle. Something though that will always remind me in case I keep having these nice patches of smooth sailing so often I end up forgetting where I once was. Just need to figure out what it should be but as with so much in life, I think the answer to this will become clear somehow.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Small Chunk Larry

According to Jason Vale (the author of ‘Kick the Drink …Easily!’) the concept of “Just For Today” and also counting our days sober is a bunch of crap apparently. Someone in one of the sobriety groups I’m part of put this to the rest of us today and asked what we think about it. I must confess I did start reading Vale’s book but felt it was just a rip-off of and a copy based on Allen Carr’s Easyway and therefore tossed it aside. Lots of people praise Vale for the same reasons as they praise Carr and also Annie Grace who wrote ‘This Naked Mind’. I suppose all three come at it from the same angle and Carr just happened to be the first. Anyway, this is not a book review so that’s neither here nor there. The question was what people thought about the idea of approaching sobriety with “Just For Today” in mind and counting our days sober.

Funny that – when I started my sober blog the title I used was precisely that: Just For Today. And I did go into it that way in the very early days of my sobriety. Over the first couple of months I went to AA meetings and the just-for-today philosophy is very much part of the AA approach.

The way I see it, is that it’s a really healthy way to go about the things that overwhelm us and sobriety when you first take the plunge on to dry land can absolutely seem like the most daunting of tasks. OK, I was petrified, filled with self doubt and hand on heart I didn’t actually believe for a teeny-tiny little second that I’d be able to kick the booze. So instead of floundering at the thought of A WHOLE LIFETIME SOBER [insert dramatic horror movie classical music here], a more manageable bite size day at a time feels more like something we are able to do. It’s easier to say that, and hell, I still do! I finish every damn blog entry that way, with that little line that is my little way of expressing gratitude and reaffirming my choice: today I’m not going to drink. The majority of days at this point, sobriety feels easy and light – more like a gift than something I have to do or work at – but it feels good to say it and it keeps me accountable to ME. A simple statement that reaffirms how I now live my life and intend to live it for its duration. And not drinking today isn’t so scary!

It’s a good way to approach a whole number of things – anything that feels too big or too much when we look at the end goal. My running app is based on the very same approach! You don’t run the full 10k in under an hour the first time. You start with running for 90 seconds, walking for 90 seconds and repeating a handful of times. I think the first time you only end up actually running for seven and a half minutes! See? That’s not that scary, right? A couple of weeks later you’ve built up to running for five minutes, walking for two. Last night I ran 15 minutes, walked one minute and repeated three times. 45 minutes!! YEAH! Next time it’s 17 minutes times three and that’s… hang on… 51 minutes – holy smoke! In three weeks, according to the app, I’ll be ready to run 60 minutes in one stretch and after that it’ll be speed intervals until I not only run continuously for the full hour but also cover those full 10k too. See? A tiny bit at a time. Running for 90 seconds to start off with doesn’t seem so bad, right? That’s something we can probably do even when we’re desperately out of shape! At that point, running 10k seems impossible and it probably would be, but when you do a little bit at a time and stick with it that way, all of a sudden you can do it. Although there is nothing sudden about it – you worked your way there and it wasn’t easy but you did it gradually, breaking the bigger task into smaller chunks. And there’s that quote, think it’s by Martin Luther King about how you don’t need to see the whole staircase to take the first step. You get my drift. It makes sense and I do think it’s a really great way to overcome and succeed at those things that at first glance seem too difficult and too overwhelming.

So I guess for me personally it was a really helpful way of looking at it when I first stood there staring at the battle ahead of me and absolutely paralysed at the idea that I would have to be sober for the rest of my life. When that still seemed like an insurmountable challenge, it massively helped to break it down and just think to myself that to hell with tomorrow and I don’t know what will happen then but TODAY I’ll be sober.

Before long, however, sobriety got hold of me and I hopped on to the Pink Cloud, where I’ve pretty much stayed – it was only a matter of a couple of weeks before I felt better than I had in over a decade just physically speaking. And mentally, well, if you stop drinking a depressant I suppose you can’t help but feel happy as fucking Larry, right? And so when I sat in AA meetings and people would say “just for today” and “one day at a time” I realised that it wasn’t sobriety that I lived through one day at a time, but actually my drinking days. THEN it really was a struggle to get through each day and all I could focus on was only that – tomorrow I had no energy to consider because all my strength was used to get through today with the crippling hangover and insane anxiety. So although it helped get me started, I soon discovered that AA’s approach did apply but in the exact opposite way to how they seemed to use it. Funny that, but then I’ve always been a very contrary little madam. Each to her own though, and I can only account for my own experience.

And what about counting days? Same thing really. Hitting one week was amazing. Getting into double digits at ten days was pretty cool. One month – champion! For me it’s been joyous and a real celebration to see that number confirming the time I’ve been on this awesome sober path. Now, however, unless I actually check my app, I couldn’t tell you the exact number of days but it’s in the region of 260. OK, I just checked: 261. It feels as good to see that number as it did to see two and 26. But I’m further in now and sober is the new black. It no longer feels odd to not drink every evening and I find I forget about it all most of the time. But whilst I couldn’t accurately tell you the exact number of days, I have my eyes firmly on the 23rd of each month and in just under two weeks I’ll hit the nine month mark. Perhaps in the future, I’ll forget and the 23rd will slip me by and it turns out I celebrate the year milestones only. I dunno, we’ll see. Anyway, when you manage to stick at it and sobriety feels goooooooood, counting the days is a victory and it feels great to see the number grow.

However, what if you’re struggling? Perhaps counting just gets you feeling shitty and defeated and deflated? Get to whatever number and then there’s a zero all over again. Well, I guess we all find our own way.

Actually, I don’t think it matters so long as we do what works for us. I think I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the moment someone tells you that their way is the only way, smile politely and thank them and then WALK THE OTHER WAY. Alright? There are lots of ways that have worked for lots of people. There’s the obvious, and perhaps best known, AA and I think it’s freaking awesome that the Fellowship has helped thousands upon thousands of people find their way to a sober life. But it’s not the only way and it’s doesn’t work for everyone – I only need to look around me to see proof of that. Don’t for a second pay any attention to “it works if you work it” – that’s bollocks on a grand scale. Of course it bloody works if you work it! Sorry AA, but this is ridiculous. If this were true, then I have a 100% success guaranteed method too and it works if you work it! Here it is: don’t drink alcohol! Tah-dahm! If you fail it’s only because you’re not following my instructions and so there’s something wrong with you, not my method. Each to her own. Every goddamn time.

A bit of criticism aimed at AA there, but show me any philosophy, method or ideology that is just pure perfection? We’re all different. And for the record, I think AA is fucking awesome and it works for a lot of people. So there. Just that one little line I don’t agree with but I know lots of people who achieved a very Happy Sober Ever After by following AA’s method, and I don’t really have anything other to say than it’s an awesome organisation.

That’s probably enough waffle for now – gosh, this really got me going. Baby steps when we feel overwhelmed = good. Counting days = mostly good too. I suppose that sums up my thoughts on the matter.

And here we go:

Today I’m not going to drink.

Elephants and Strong Words

How is it possible that sobriety is showing a whole new side to me that I didn’t know even existed? Not only do I seem to have patience (OK, fine, not exactly huge amounts) and an ability to stay calm (more so, anyway), but I also suddenly seem to be able to do that thing I always dismissed as “not me”: keep at it. What’s up with that? When I’ve made decisions in the past – read: when I drank – I shot from the hip, jumped ship without much thought and gave up on stuff the moment it didn’t go exactly the way I wanted. Now that my sister is about to finally get her doctorate and Mum asked me to help me write a speech for the occasion, I gave some thought to how I see my sister and how she has steadily and stubbornly worked towards this massive achievement. It struck me as the one thing I admire the most and also what makes her so different from me. She stuck at it. Years and years of research, mountains of work she has crawled through at a snail’s pace, plenty of set-backs and having to start over and find new ways – oh, just writing it makes me tired! Have you heard the saying “how to eat an elephant”? Well, it’s all about a tiny bit at a time. My sister has eaten an elephant, basically.

But lo and behold, there seems to be some of that in me too.

Case in point: I am working towards carving out a place for myself in the recovery support services. First of all I need a year’s sobriety under my belt and so long as I stay on this path, this won’t happen until 23rd January 2019, which means that’s when I can begin volunteering. Not can – will. Instead of tearing my hair out, huffing and puffing and throwing in the towel, I’m feeling all zen and peaceful about it and staying on task. Who knew? I’m also hoping to get stuck in with a lovely sober community with some writing and have been given a task to see if I can make it work. In the past I would have cobbled something together quickly (and drunk, probably), fired it off and later not only discovered a bunch of typos but also things I could have done better. Now? I wrote lots yesterday and then I let it stew. Looked at it again today and rewrote most of it. Checked through it and I think I’m happy, but I’m going to look at it again tomorrow and see if I still think it’s my best shot and if I do, THEN I’ll submit it. Drunk Me is quite literally pissing herself laughing at this, by the way.

Another case in point: I fucking hate the gym. I love running even when it doesn’t feel good so this I know I can keep up but the gym is another story altogether. I hate the environment, I hate the stupid techno dance music they play and I hate the people too – everything about it is rubbish and stupid and poo. It’s good when I go with hubby and we work out together, then I can stay motivated and it was also great when I had the luxury of Dimples being my personal trainer, but solo…. …oh my fucking Lord. No thank you. I went yesterday and although I work super hard, half an hour into it I just thought fuck this and left. I just couldn’t find the motivation to do the box jumps, wall sits, pull-ups and rowing that I had left. Given how I go at it, half an hour is still OK as I’d worked my legs so hard I could barely walk down the stairs on my way out, but when I’m with hubby or Dimples I not only do the whole hour and a bit, I also quite like it. Or, actually, I don’t totally hate it – like is too strong a word. Drunk Me? Well, she wouldn’t set foot in a gym in the first place so this is a bit of a ridiculous hypothetical scenario, but if she HAD, she’d cancelled her membership there and then and that would have been that. Sober Me though – fanfare, please – wants to stick at it and is now working out which days I can go with hubby and possibly also…..

HAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAA yes, I’m going to fucking say it and now Sober Me is laughing her arse off too:

…do the body pump classes.

I don’t know who this chick is, I honestly don’t. It’s like I’m being the adult version of me. At 42 years of age, no less. Late shall the sinners awaken. Nah, I’m still very much Anna, just a bit more balanced and measured and although those qualities aren’t very Anna at all, it’s all good and I like this sobriety thing. It’s doing me a world of good. It’s fucking crazy, I feel like I’m an alien who’s randomly fallen off her space ship and landed on this planet with a thud – wide eyed, bewildered and amused at what seems like a completely different world to the one I’m used to. The same in many ways but different. Perhaps it’s because I can see everything with much more clarity now. Obviously when you’re drunk things get hazy and when I was hungover my eyes were mostly on the floor, so perhaps this is just a natural part of getting sober?

Whatever next, though?! Yoga? No. I’ll never do yoga. I fucking hate yoga.

Today I’m not going to drink.