VIP Lounge Villains

Oh, here we go. Hello hormones! I’m so done with this – Santa, all I want for Christmas is the menopause, honestly. Even hot flushes must be preferable to this, surely. Uhm, obviously this blog is about how I’m navigating my sobriety so let’s just say that right now, in my current state, drinking would be like pouring jet fuel on a bonfire. The idea is as scary as it is comical, it’d literally be the worst idea in the world. Even back when I was drinking I would have been hesitant to pour wine on this sort of mood, honestly.

Dad sends a photo of how he’s made our beds at the little farmstead where we stay any time we go to Sweden, complete with the Union Jack blankets on top. OK, so I frequently tell my father I love him – shouting as loud as I can so he’ll hear me atop the pedestal I’ve placed him upon. Actually, when dad and I have a conversation it usually consists of shouting a lot as we both have terrible hearing, plus max volume is his default setting and always has been. Anyway. Just hearing from dad got me all sentimental and really missing him, so I got all weepy and fired off a little declaration of love. I think a little bit of how my heart ached came from one of my favourite bloggers who had written about her father and how she lost him four years ago. Whilst I’ve never been one to save on the love ammo and like to fire indiscriminately around me, I made another vow to never hold back when I feel love somehow. Be it that I was cheered up by the smiley lady at the bakery one morning or that Bambino randomly reached out and held my hand the other night when he was in the comfy chair and I on the sofa. I told bakery chick she put me in a good mood and I told Bambino that there was nowhere else I’d rather be. One day you might find it’s too late and I don’t want to stand there at the pearly gates (oh, who am I kidding, I mean of course the queue to hell’s VIP lounge) with a huge stash of love I failed to give.

Oh fuck, this now sounds like I’m trying to have you all believe I’m some zen hippie who spends her time meditating and uses the phrase “love and light” a lot. To be clear: I’m a right old nightmare of a person and difficult in a mindbogglingly large number of ways, but let me tell you this: if you’re someone I love I’ll make damn sure you know it and if you’ve made me particularly happy that day you can be certain I’ll say. And randomly it might come over me how grateful I am to know you and so I’ll come and let you know in my unfiltered, much too intense and over the top kind of way. Of this you can be sure so get ready to cringe and have your toes curl out of awkwardness.

So yes, when I’m like this, it’s enough to send me a photo of two beds with Union Jack blankets on them to have me tear up a little. Last night I ended up having an argument with Bambino and I was still seething this morning – I guess it’s karma that I have a son who argues and wriggles and twists things as skillfully as his mother, I’ve truly met my match there. Went to bed pissed off and woke up that way too, so this is me today: grumpy and emotional. A real treat, you might say.

Anyway, there we are. Hormones suck and this is what they do to me. When I’m hormonal everything gets an additional layer of emotion, which in lots of ways is totally unnecessary given I feel everything acutely as it is and really don’t need that. Eesh, imagine if I’d been drunk when Bambino and I clashed last night – a million times worse and I would have lost my rag. I can’t say I handled it perfectly but I managed a lot better and stayed way calmer than I’d been able to had I been drinking. And imagine if I’d been hungover today and therefore booze-depressed – it might have then pulled me down enough to NOT feel that sentimental joy thinking about Christmas and just ruined the whole thing. Maybe I would have felt too sad and only able to focus on the sad bits to text anything back at all beyond a heart emoticon or something. The best thing about texting dad and letting him know how much I appreciate him is that I did so sober! This means I don’t have to look at my phone tomorrow and cringe. It also means I meant it 100% as there’s no drunken bullshit in there. It’s just 100% me, nothing enhanced or numbed, just exactly what I felt without distortion.

Conclusion: Anna shall stay sober and spread the love this Christmas. Uhm, starting TOMORROW, alright? Nothing more off putting than someone trying to be kind whilst frowning – I think that might come off wrong. Barking at someone I love them might just be strange too. Yes, tomorrow I shall begin my festive cheer and today I’m going to just ride out this hormonal wave.

Apologies for the doom and gloom post but I really am in a really bad mood. Going to head out for a run as soon as Bambino’s on the train to his dad’s – I desperately need those endorphins. Honestly, I keep catching myself tensing my jaw, I think it’s where I carry stress and bad moods – after a while it aches and I have to remind myself to relax. I really am a grumpy old lady today but at least I’m a sober one. Holy smoke, I keep imagining what you’d get if you poured Sauvignon Blanc into this sorry mess! I don’t want to be flippant about it, but it’s a little bit comical actually. I imagine you’d get some sort of cartoonish villain.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Contagious Keith

Good, ol’ Keef! I was really cheered up this morning when an article saying Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones has quit drinking. This is awesome in the same way that I think it’s awesome when other celebrities openly say this – when someone is in the public eye, it has such an impact and so when the platform is used to promote such a great message (as opposed to using their fame to be a brand ambassador in order to compel their following to consume, consume, consume) it makes me really happy. OK, he didn’t – from what I understand – specifically set out to announce this, but media got wind of it and he openly responded. Awesome. When it’s one of those old rockers who have spent a lifetime as the very embodiment of sex, drugs & rock’n’roll, it’s particularly great. I think some of us feel that alcohol becomes part of our identity, but in Richards’ case I’d say his lifestyle has almost eclipsed his talent as a musician. Mention Jagger and you think first about the music, possibly also his huge mouth and skinny jeans. Mention Richards and yep – sex, drugs & rock’n’roll. I think I even used to joke about being able to drink like Keith Richards when I was still in those stages when I knew I had a huge problem but tried to disarm any comments by joking about it. Anyway, this might be a bit daunting for our kid Keef, no? Who is he going to be now?

According to the article, Richards conceded that playing sober was a little strange at first. I love this! I wish he’d expand on this. I want to hear how he feels. The wild lifestyle that has defined him for decades stripped away, does it now mean we get to witness instead an incredible musical legend in his own right? His talent without distraction and without the dilution of this additional, messed up persona? Isn’t that something? Richards is already an integral part of one of the world’s most influencial bands – just imagine what he can be now he’s sober.

It’s only rock’n’roll but I like this a lot!

The other thing I think is very positive when someone – famous or otherwise – says out loud they’ve stopped drinking, is how it almost forces those around us to kind of think about it. When it comes to Richards, believe it or not he was someone I used to take comfort from: “ah, well, I’m still safe and can keep going, just look at Keith Richards! It’s about your genes! Hasn’t done him any harm, has it?” As addicts, it’s comforting to be able to point to someone who drinks or uses more than we do because if they’re OK (read: alive) it means we don’t have a problem! When I still smoked I always referred to this old lady I knew, who was 95 years old and in amazing health despite chain smoking since the was a teenager.

This is one of the reasons why I’m sometimes hesitant to divulge how much I used to drink. I mean, I often find that people have lots of questions when they find out I stopped drinking. Sometimes I just know, partly from the things they ask and sometimes because I’ve seen them drink and recognised myself, that their questions are code for I’m-trying-to-work-out-if-I’m-OK-by-comparison and it’s in those instances that I never quite know whether to account for the actual amounts. Let’s face it, Drunk Me would use the information to confirm she’s fiiiiiiiiine and take it as a green light to carry on. Besides, I suppose it doesn’t really matter as we’re all different and there are lots of factors at play when it comes to how much alcohol our bodies can tolerate. I’ve sat in AA meetings and someone will talk about how they used to drink a bottle of wine and two beers every night, and I’d wonder why they were even there! Compared with my almost-three bottles of wine per sitting, this didn’t seem bad at all to me. In fact, when I was still drinking, a bottle of plonk and a couple of beers would have been fucking ideal, lemme tell ya. That wouldn’t even give me a hangover! Puhr-lease! You can be sure that in the same meeting there’d be someone else who’d hear me talk about my boxes of wine containing three bottles’ worth and chuckle at my amateurish drinking levels.

Regardless of the amounts however, I think one of the best things we can do when we get sober is TALK ABOUT IT! I don’t mean ramming sobriety down people’s throats at any given opportunity, but I think it’s really fucking positive when we are able to be open about it. Those questions almost always get asked! In fact, I don’t think I’ve had any conversation about this without being asked about it – whether it’s been situations where I’ve told friends and family I stopped drinking because I’m a drunk or situations where I’ve declined alcoholic drinks by saying I don’t drink. Every time, now that I think about it, I’ve been asked questions. And do you know what else? Every time, now that I think about it, I’ve been praised! Anything from “well done” or “I’m proud of you” (when I’ve told the person the full story) to “wow, you’re so good” (when a random person hears me say I don’t drink – usually to point out how healthy it is, like you would say it to someone who hits the gym a lot). You never know – it might just be that Drunk Me will hear you say it and it might get them thinking. They might take away massive amounts from hearing you talk openly about it and seeing for themselves how great you feel now. Or it might be someone who never had any issue with alcohol whatsoever who feels a little bit inspired to make a healthy choice too – like my gorgeous husband who recently commented how he so rarely drinks now that I no longer do, plus how much better he feels despite never having guzzled like I did. Health and happiness = contagious!

As I’ve heard in AA meetings so many times: “I’ll have what he/she’s having“! This is precisely what some of us need to see when we take that scary first step! We need to see how awesome sobriety is and how much better life is without booze. Just like we will love hearing Richards play and discover how this rock legend is even better now he’s sober. No, we don’t always feel comfortable talking openly about it and some of us may have judgmental families or other circumstances that mean we prefer to keep our sobriety to ourselves, but I’m not saying we only help when we go around openly talking about it or need to get ALCOHOLIC tattooed across our foreheads – there are many ways to share without having to be public about it: anonymous blogs, AA, and so on. No matter how we share, even the tiniest whisper could be the start of something really fucking great.

And so I want to applaud ol’ Keef for saying it out loud, albeit a little bashfully. Good on ya. For this particular alcoholic, it underlines how I’ve made the best possible choice! For a drunk like me, to see one of the world’s most notorious drunks turn his back on booze is empowering! It helps me to hear this. It helps me to know Richards stopped drinking.

To round this off, here’s one of my favourite Rolling Stones songs and I currently have it on my run playlist:

Today I’m not going to drink.

Preparing My Sails

Perhaps I should see if I can successfully sail past that 11-month buoy before I start preparing my sails for rounding the one year marker, but I’m nothing if not impatient. Besides, flight tickets to the city of angels isn’t something you just go and buy the week before. Fuck it – it’s clear in my mind: magical and romantic evenings enjoying the sunset in Huntington Beach with hubby, and when he has to work me and Willow in an open top muscle car of some description and the wind in our hair as we’re cruising around Hollywood Hills. If she picks me up in a silly little Peugeot I’ll be seriously unimpressed – I have her pegged in a Mustang or something that’d roar in a similar manner. I’m going to make hubby take me to dinner at Sur (Lisa Vanderpump, people – what more reason could I possibly need?) or Villa Blanca and I hope he’ll also drag me along for long hikes. I need to see that view! I suppose he’ll have to show up for some of the meetings he’s actually going there for in the first place, but this is where Willow comes in. And what better way to celebrate my one-year milestone than with my hubby and best friend as well as with Willow, who I got to know via AA before she deserted London to head back to Los Angeles. Now THAT would be pretty fabulous.

I think it fits and partly so because it also really highlights how much more fun life is without alcohol! I mean, rewind a year or more and I would have had trouble imagining going to LA sober. Well, I had trouble imagining going ANYWHERE and doing ANYTHING sober, but trips like that would always have appeared in the sentences that went something like “I’ll quit drinking after the LA trip“. Just like I initially felt OH FUCK as we already had a weekend in Paris and a trip to Gothenburg planned when I stopped drinking – those were what I immediately hesitated over. How can you possibly go to Paris and NOT drink wine? Turns out you not only can but it’s freaking glorious too, and I have to say I’m really happy that LA hasn’t come up until now that I’m sober – imagine wasting a week there by drinking. Oooohhhhh! I’m really excited but will have to calm down as it might not be possible for me to go. Bosses will have to agree the time off and Bonus #1 would have to agree to spending a week with his teenage stepbrother Bambino. Not at all certain and then of course there’s a cost too and unfortunately we’re not made of money. We shall see.

Do you have a way of commemorating your milestones? I was toying with the idea of a gold ring – but again, not being a rich is a bit of an obstacle – and adding a tiny little diamond for each year. I was also thinking about a tattoo but don’t really want the AA sobriety symbol and haven’t seen an alternative I like. I would have gone with the date – 23 January 2018 – but already have Bambino’s birth date and our wedding day along my back so might end up like a fucking calendar.

Then again, forget trips, trinkets and tattoos – I already gave myself and those who love and care about me the greatest gift of all.

Los Angeles would be so cool though… Oohhh I hope it can work!

Today I’m not going to drink.

Fresh Out of Hell

During those first few weeks and months of sobriety, I quite frequently had dreams that I was drinking again. I was so relieved and grateful to get away that I think it was my subconscious poking me by way of saying oh, check this out, here’s a nightmare to remind you. Every time I woke up with that sinking feeling and awful shame. I’d carefully look around only moving my eyeballs, scanning the ceiling and top half of the room around me with that familiar shitty feeling of trying to work out what happened the night before. Then the next moment I’d realise I’d once again woken up without a hangover and feel so relieved it made me tearful. It’s like with anything I suspect, when we escape something terrible and the horror is fresh in our minds because we’re fresh out of hell. During those early days – well, it’s still quite early days – those dreams would really shake me up and it was quite easy to quickly establish OH HELL NO, I ain’t going there again.

A long term sober blogger recently said how “the further I get from my last drink, the closer I get to my next one“.

Whilst we might think that the longer we stay sober, the safer we are (and I would imagine this is in many ways true), I really understood what this meant this morning.

There was a wine box and I’d poured a glass and in the dream it was just like my other drinking dreams in that my choice was gone – I’d already had some and the damage was done. Bambino came in and got pissed off with me in that typical teenager sort of way, when it’s disguised as anger and sulking but actually beneath it all is real, heartfelt hurt. And here’s the really scary bit that really proves to me that the brain I have today is the brain I had all along and the very same one that had me sinking into addiction – in the dream I was horrified I’d let Bambino down so made a show of pouring out the glass of wine, yet… …at the same time calculating if there’d be enough left to drink and when I’d be able to get to it behind Bambino’s back, because I was 100% going to drink it. I sort of don’t want to type it because it makes me shudder, but I always promised to keep this honest and this is the ugly truth. Well, the honest account of a very ugly dream anyway.

Nothing has changed, by the way – I still don’t want to drink, I still am absolutely rock solid in my conviction it does nothing for me and I still want nothing more than forever stay this way. Just wanted to point that out. This dream isn’t a build up of me increasingly toying with the idea of a drink. Quite the opposite and that’s what’s scary about it! I just wanted to highlight that this is something my brain cooked up that is in absolute opposition to everything I, in this moment, want and believe. Eesh.

Anyway!

Those early drinking dreams were awful because just like the one I had last night they always started with it being too late – i.e. I’d already had a drink and the wheels were set in motion without me having any way of stopping it. What made this dream interesting is how there was the added thought process: the manipulation and being shady as fuck in order to deceive (in this case Bambino) so I would get to drink. I know I said it before about those dreams whenever they’ve happened, how I reckon it’s my subconscious reminding me of where I was going and how grateful I should be that I got away. This one really did hammer the same message home – I don’t want to be the mother who does that again, the one who lies and hides to sustain that evil habit, the one whose heart breaks because she’s letting her son down yet can’t help herself. No thank you.

You’re so good, Mum. I’m proud of you,” Bambino told me when I got back from a run one evening last week.

God, so slow though!” I gasped, still out of breath and grumpily noting via Runkeeper that my pace is ridiculously slow.

So what! You’re doing it!

Bambino said it with that little-man sort of voice. Like he’s the adult telling me the child to see the bigger picture. I think he knows exactly what he’s doing and says stuff like that to encourage me and it’s his way of letting me know he’s happy about it. No one in the world could possibly see me run and be impressed, honestly I am that slow. Anyway. That, right there, is the mum I want to be. The on-the-cuddly-side-of-medium-but-OK-fine-probably-large mum who ran 6k and now can barely breathe but damn it I did it. And I do it every other day, even when I don’t want to. And have my son see how I work hard at something and commit! THAT is who I want to be. And in sobriety this is who I am.

Isn’t it strange, that further down the line a drinking dream (or nightmare, really) is so much more evil in its nature? I would absolutely say that these almost 11 months into my sobriety I feel a lot safer than I did, say, at 11 weeks. Not only am I now used to it and the idea of having a drink is actually a very strange one, new pathways have formed in my brain and so old habits are all but gone too. It’s also natural and my normal to casually say “no thanks” and not think any more of it when offered a drink compared with earlier on when it was still strange and felt odd to order soda water. So yes, absolutely it is true for me that my sobriety seems to solidify with time. However, remember what I said about being fresh out of hell? Again, this I think is so natural. I was in an accident when I was about ten years old, got knocked off my bike by a car. I had nightmares about being hit by a car and when I had to cycle the same route after I’d recovered I was crying my eyes out because it had really traumatised me. I remember feeling so ill any time we drove past the spot and the black break marks on the tarmac from the car that hit me were there for months afterwards. I was scared for a long time. And then it faded and later on I never gave it much thought at all. No more nightmares and I’d happily cycle anywhere.

This is what we are wired to do! Our brains are programmed to fade out the bad stuff and hold on to the good bits. So whilst I feel more and more secure in my sobriety, chances are that how bad it got won’t seem as bad to me in five or ten years’ time as it still does now. Entirely logical, no? It would make perfect sense that someone who’s been sober for years and years could fall back! You feel secure and it’s been forever since alcohol was ever a problem in your life. You feel secure because you’re set in new habits and a new normal where a drink would be out of the ordinary. You feel secure because you look back and hey, stopping drinking wasn’t so hard was it? So you can probably just do it the once. So what. No big deal.

I can see how easily it could happen. You know, because I was so scared of falling back when I first escaped I told EVERYONE. I declared it to my family and friends and even my bosses because I figured the more people who know, the more chance there is that someone will blow the whistle if I come up against that enemy again: me. I have sometimes referred to all these people as my anchors. Getting sober will always have to come from me, but knowing I have a large number of people who are aware of my struggle with alcohol makes me feel so much safer. After all, the Beast wants to isolate me and get me on my own, so snitching on it instantly means it’s harder for it to get to me. Anna 1 – Booze 0. However, I actually wonder if it just doesn’t happen that way – the Beast is a fucking cunning creature and I doubt it’d try to get me when I’m anchored down. So I’m going to ask people I know who were sober for a long, long stretch what that scenario was when they picked up a drink again. I picture it being something unusual – perhaps you’re away with work or at some party or anything else that takes you away from your own habitat. And suddenly you’re offered one and it just happens, in one floating motion with no real thought behind it. Lights dimmed on those hellish memories of your rock bottom and a heightened sense of how strong you’ve been for all this time? Well – I’m just speculating here and simply because I just can’t see myself get a stash of booze and set to work on a Tuesday afternoon in the way I used to. Too much explaining for starters and no one enjoys drinking whilst having to justify it – that’s why us alkies prefer drinking on our own.

Thinking about the dream now, it makes me feel sad but most of all grateful that I don’t have to be her anymore. I don’t have to do that. There is nothing I miss about it and I’m glad the shame of it is so strong it lingers even all these months later. I hope it lingers longer still. Much longer. Forever, in fact. I’m going to create a list of things that I am grateful and joyous to be free of and find a way of carrying it with me or putting it up somewhere I will see it every day. At this point all of those things are fresh in my mind because I’m still fresh out of hell. Really spell out how I used to feel and what drinking felt and looked like. More thoughts to come on this, no doubt.

Feel free to share if you have dreams like that or something similar – I’d love to know.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Skipping Ceremonial Duties

An article popped up in my Facebook newsfeed a few days ago, shared by a friend who suffers depression as well as going through a break-up. The article was about loneliness and “self care” and it struck me how thin the line is between setting healthy boundaries and morphing into a self absorbed twat. It was written by a health coach and the message was aimed at people who witness a friend or family member go through something, be it mental health or addiction issues. To say it was harsh is an understatement and it made me think of my friend Kitten, who often reaches out to me as she battles her demons and whom I’m doing my best to be there for.

To those going through something difficult, the advice is to put themselves first and if people supporting them don’t do so with a never ending supply of energy and time, they’re shits. “Don’t offer support if you can’t give it 100% on your loved one’s terms” reads the instruction to those who are trying to be supportive. It states that you should ask yourself if you can totally put your own needs to the side for the time that it will take. I take issue with this. Massively so.

Either, it is the case that only people who have lives akin to an episode of My Little Pony should ever offer support, or it’s total bollocks. Perhaps the author of the article would be aghast that I, a recovering alcoholic, am attempting to be there for a friend in need? We all have our own lives and most of the time said lives come with varying degrees of good and bad. When I read the article I almost felt like in order to do it right, you’d have no problems whatsoever and wake up wearing an Instagram filter, plus have no other commitments in life so you can dedicate yourself fully to your loved one in need and always at the exact time they need you to. You’d basically probably have to be royalty with staff to run everything in your life for you as well as be excused from public commitments and ceremonial duties as required. So the Queen would potentially be good enough for this type of support role but only if she was prepared to call in sick a lot.

I think there is such a thing as taking it too far. Yes, mental health and addiction issues are really, really difficult things to go through and require an enormous amount of strength to overcome. Of course it would be terrible to have friends and family judging you or refusing to support you – even I get that. But to demand they should only do so if they can completely neglect their own needs is bloody preposterous. “Don’t give advice based on your experience,” the article tells me. Uhm, I’m doing my best to just listen and let Kitten know I’m here for her, but when she does ask me what I think she should do, what else can I bloody base it on than what I feel or have experienced myself? Perhaps I got defensive reading it because I do feel pretty rubbish in terms of supporting Kitten. Once I even apologised for being too harsh – I felt awful and wanted to say sorry after she’d come to me with what appeared to be an additional heap of problems stemming from a bunch of incredibly poor decisions and I told her that her decisions were poor.

But here’s the deal, and what I try to always say to Kitten. Depression – I’ve not been there. I don’t know how it feels. I don’t know what it’s like. So I always ask her to tell me how I can best support her. I try to always underline that what I suggest when she asks for advice is based on myself – I suggested walks because walking and running are my results guaranteed solution for feeling low, and creating something with your hands (be it knitting or ceramics or jewellery making) as that always calms my mind. I do my best to say “how about” instead of “do this“. Call me stupid, but this requires a lot of effort for me and not least because depression is freaking frustrating to deal with. I don’t get it! How can the world possibly look so gloomy and hopeless? It’s like she’s actively looking for things to be sad about and be a victim! ….but that’s probably what depression looks like to those of us who don’t truly get what it’s like, right? So I do my best and part of doing my best is accepting that I don’t get it – and I tell Kitten so, as well as ask her what she needs.

In return, I would never dream of asking someone to only be supportive if they can give me 100%. To be honest, I had no idea how people would react so I guess it’d be fair to say that it would probably have been enough if no one had hated me. Instead, I was of course met with only kindness and love, but not everyone is that lucky. But we have a Kitten-&-I-Situation with me and hubby. He’s not an alcoholic and therefore he’ll have no idea how it actually feels. To him it must seem, when I try to explain what I’m going through, exactly the way it does to me when Kitten is trying to explain her depression to me. Bloody hell, girl! Just stop after a couple of drinks! Just say no, what’s the big deal? Get a grip! Hubby is the best person on the planet and has asked and asked and asked again. It must seem so alien to him yet he’s forever getting up in my grill and wanting to know what’s happening in my mind. And do you know what? Sometimes he’ll NOT get something or ask me something I find ridiculous, but for God’s sake so what? Just because he is my greatest supporter doesn’t mean he has to get it all and behave precisely the way I (me, me, me!) need him to at every hour every day. And that’s what this article seems to suggest – namely that in hubby’s case, he should just dedicate his whole damn existence to my recovery or frankly, butt out. Perhaps I’m reading it all wrong but that’s what jumps out of me and it winds me up enormously.

By the way, it’s in Swedish so perhaps a bit pointless to link to it, but I suppose you can always stick it into Google Translate: Hälsocoachen Åsa Nyvall.

It largely talks about the sense of being alone, which I can definitely relate to with my own addiction – only a year ago I was still trapped and the idea of reaching out and asking those around me to understand seemed like climbing Mount Everest. I get all of that and I have been there. But I also consider it MY DUTY to communicate what I need, and if I’m in such a bad place that even this is impossible, I cannot possibly resent my loved ones for being at a loss as to how to help me. I just don’t think that’s fair – how could they possibly know?

I genuinely believe the vast majority of people have good hearts. I’m absolutely certain that most people would do anything to help. But we’re all different and if I’m honest I think e.g. my father is probably one of the people who, with regards to my drinking, feels it’s “just” a matter of not drinking. And guess what? That’s OK. He’s done his best to understand but it’s also up to me to understand that his world is a lot more black and white than mine is. And of course, he – like hubby – isn’t an alcoholic so for him the way to control alcohol is to control alcohol. Yah? For him it really is a matter of just declining another drink. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. It’s more than OK because as much as it actually irritates me when he decides to be the Wine Police and loudly proclaims NO ALCOHOL FOR ANNA in social situations, he’s actually got my back and doing his best to support me. I think it’d be really shitty of me to be unappreciative. Perhaps I personally would prefer him to not be so bloody loud but mostly I just love him that little bit more for wanting to help, because that’s what he’s trying to do and what I try to recognise.

The article also talks about when friends and family fall away, how people eventually become sick of trying to support you if you don’t recover fast enough. That’s a shame but again, people do their best and supporting someone in recovery must be hugely draining. I often say to hubby “let’s talk about something else now” if we’ve spent lots of time discussing recovery related things, and I say it because I’m aware that my recovery IS and HAS been very central over this past year. It will always be central to me and therefore also to hubby given he’s married to me. However, he is in this marriage too and has stuff that’s important that he needs to vent and discuss. Even if he was that royal who had everything done for them and could skip public engagements at the drop of a hat to be there for me, he also has his own needs. It just can’t be one way. For brief periods, yes. Of course if Kitten has a crisis I will make time for her, and I imagine most people would do this for someone they care about but we all have our own lives and needs too.

Also, being there for someone can be exhausting and this goes back to a previous post I wrote with regards to being there for Kitten. There is sometimes a limit to how much I can give. I’ll probably go to hell, but after a long exchange I can feel myself getting pulled down and need a break. Sounds awful and perhaps I’m just a shit friend, but sometimes I need to come up for air or I’ll drown too. It’s a balance, I think. As much as Kitten should focus on self care, so should I and I simply don’t want to end up feeling selfish if I need to step away momentarily. And I think those of us who are in recovery from addictions need to always be mindful and considerate of those who support us in the same way we want them to be mindful and considerate of us. I’m willing to suggest that there is not one person on this planet who does not have their own needs. I’m willing to state as fact that if we demanded this of someone, they’d eventually – and probably even quite quickly – fall away, just like this article suggests. So surely the whole concept of demanding or giving 100% all the time is absurd?

I don’t know if I am getting it right with Kitten but I make damn sure I don’t promise her something I can’t give her. Giving her 100% isn’t possible. I wouldn’t even expect that from my spouse on a beyond-temporary-crisis basis. Is it just me or is the suggestion we should only offer support if we’re willing to forsake all our own needs ridiculous! Surely it’s a matter of offering what you can and delivering on just that: giving what you can.

Ah, there it is again! Balance. It’s all down to balance.

Well, there’s a rant on a Monday for you but there we are. Perhaps this pinched at some insecurity in me, I don’t know, but I really did find myself getting my back up when I read that article.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Smoosh Him Silly

Happy Friday to you!

The restlessness is making me twitchy, I just want to get going with the weekend now – head home, go for a manicure (how very Housewives of Beverly Hills of me!), sort Bambino out before he is off to his dad’s for the weekend, then go for a run and this evening make the apartment all welcoming and Christmassy for hubby who lands at 5am tomorrow morning. Drunk Me would usually sleep through (I think it was twice that I woke because hubby rang, stranded at the airport and wondering if he needed to get in a taxi – eesh, I cringe thinking about it), but Sober Me is very dependable so I’ll be drinking my morning coffee at 4am before getting in the car to go and collect him. He’ll no doubt be jetlagged after a week adjusting to being eight hours ahead so I’m going to tone down my over excitement and let the poor guy have a bit of peace. Joy to the world and all that. Well, he can be an exhausted hot mess for all I care – emphasis on ‘hot’ – as long as I get to climb all over him, steal his body heat (I’m always cold and he’s always toasty) and generally just smoosh him silly.

Yep. It’s more than enough to get me in a really brilliant mood!

For those of you who know me a little better, this might just get you a little worried – a good mood was always my biggest trigger – but let me reassure you that at this present time there is no part of me that wants to drink. Not one bit. Sorry to go all I’ve-seen-the-light evangelical on you, but every goddamn time I think about this it makes me feel so grateful and relieved I could just weep. I don’t want to drink! It’s magic. I don’t actually know how else to describe it. MAGIC.

Of course, this didn’t just happen. I’m at this point and found sobriety after the slippery slope of alcohol abuse had begun to get extremely steep. You know, it always only ever goes downwards but in my case it was so slowly at first that it was only when I was actually in trouble that I realised it. The line was so bloody fine! One day you can keep it up and the next you discover you’re too fucked up to function, yet you only did what you’ve done for quite a long time. You cannot keep going like I was though – eventually it’ll start to catch up with you and it did for me. Even though my extreme drinking went on for over a decade, it’s amazing what you can get away with for the longest time. Well. It got shitty and I got scared and I wanted to get off that runaway train. I consider myself lucky that I got to a point where I’d had enough, that this happened before I’d begun to really suffer irreparable and irreplaceable losses. PHEW. I’m also very grateful that my turning point was one I got to myself and not one I was forced into with a big fat OR ELSE.

It was me who’d had enough. It was my eyes that opened. It was me who wanted to stop. And it was me who did stop. And I stopped because I truly no longer wanted to drink. It was no longer a case of “I need to stop but still crave a drink” – the appeal of a drink all but died. Since then I have taken immense care to at least begin to unpack all the things that alcohol was to me and what I thought it did. I needed to inspect all of those pieces carefully, hold them up to the light and understand what they were. What I discovered was (and is – this is and probably always will be an on-going process) that it was all an illusion and that booze is nothing other than a filthy poison that never did any of the things I thought it did. It never made happy happier, it never made fun funnier and it never added even the tiniest benefit. I feel grateful every single day that I am free from its evil trap and consider myself so, so fortunate that I got to that point where I could walk away. Or rather – the point where I wanted to walk away. After all, it isn’t hard to stop yourself from doing something you no longer want to do.

When getting sober I consider this a luxury – God help me if I’d had to rely on will power or some sort of distraction, I wouldn’t have lasted five minutes. Well, just like previous attempts at sobriety had failed. Those attempts failed for one reason only: I still wanted to drink. Honestly, that’s all there is to it. I wasn’t able to stop (or at least I didn’t!) as long as there was the tiniest part left in me wanting to keep on drinking. Only when I reached a point where I felt done with it and genuinely had enough could I get sober.

From what I’ve learned so far, sobriety appears to be a very individual thing so I’m not saying my way is the best way or the only way. I know lots of people who got sober in lots of different ways. I have used the analogy of childbirth before – whatever results in the delivery of a healthy baby, I don’t think it matters much if it was with the help of an epidural, a c-section or whilst doing a bit of gardening and baby just gracefully popped out amongst the roses. Who cares? I see sobriety the same way and I do try to be respectful and not preach when someone does it in a way that I can’t understand or relate to. If what keeps you sober is running around your house naked three times at dawn every morning, good on’ya.

What I do try to do, is absorb all I can from other sober folk – the whys, the hows and so on. There are lightbulb moments on pretty much a daily basis. I want to know about the pitfalls, I want to hear about the struggly bits, I want to learn about all these stages we all seem to go through in sobriety – that’s the one thing we all do seem to have in common regardless of our methods. Stages. There’s the acceptance. Then there’s hope. Then there’s summoning up the oomph to make a change. Then we untangle and unpack all that stuff. We contemplate. We want to put things right. We seem to discover and get to know ourselves again. We find a better way. And perhaps the one thing I seem to find in every single person: the genuine, passionate and sincere wish to help the next person find their path too. That’s probably the most overwhelming thing I feel – I want to scoop up Drunk Me in my arms and hold her, tell her this life is possible and that it’s within her grasp to find it. And I regularly – as conceited and smug as this may sound – want to high five Sober Me. Sorry, not sorry – I like this version of me. I’ve got this.

And yet, having said all of that, the one thing I need to always remember and keep at the forefront of my mind is that relapsing is so, so easy. The more distance I cover between Drunk Me and the present day, the more the negatives of drinking are likely to fade. One day my brain could trick me again. And that’s why sobriety will always have to be my absolute focus and priority. It doesn’t have to consume me but it can never slip into neglect because the moment I lose sight of it I’ll be in trouble. Big trouble.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Charismatic and Mental

There are several books I should never have read and several films I should never have watched. I should never have watched the Blair Witch Project because it messed me up massively and I slept with the light on for years. That last scene where one of the “documentary makers” is standing there facing the wall in that basement made my soul contract and freeze to ice. I should also not be reading Pretty Girls which is currently on my Kindle, as already its parts of graphic sexual violence are ingrained in the tapestry of my mind where I suspect I’ll have a hard time washing them out. If you were to scan my bookshelves, I’m proud to say you’d find some books there that I’d like to think points to how awesome I am, like several by the amazing Toni Morrison who is one of my absolute heroes. But you might also soon deduct that I might be some sort of Hannibal Lecter in the making. There are books about the Manson Family, Ted Bundy, the Green River killer, Fred and Rosemary West, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, the Columbine massacre, the Ipswich murders, the Soham tragedy and a good sprinkling of Adolf Hitler too. What is this morbid fascination with evil?

Last night I watched part of a documentary about Jonestown. This DEFINITELY goes in the category of stuff I should not be reading or watching, because I had nightmares all night. This was by measure of the number of lives lost, the greatest massacre involving American citizens until 9/11, yet I’d never heard of it. I’ve heard the expression “drinking the Kool-Aid” and have used it too. I knew what it means as a saying and think I’ve used in the right sort of context, but I never knew where it came from. Now I know and I wish I didn’t. It comes from a mass murder/suicide where followers of the Jonestown People’s Temple cult drank cyanide mixed with – that’s right – Kool-Aid (or rather, Flavour-Aid, which is apparently a cheaper version) as instructed by their charismatic, terrifying and totally mental leader, Jim Jones. Brr! I haven’t seen all of it and know that although I’d be better off not watching the rest, I won’t be able to help myself. So anyway, nearly a thousand people committed collective suicide by drinking the Kool-Aid, some forcibly but many by blindly following and believing Jones was some sort of Messiah.

Isn’t it amazing – and fucking terrifying – what our brains can make us do? Drink a poison in the belief something good will come of it? I’d never… …uhm… …hang on….

Ironically – and I kind of take this as a sign from above – the Kool-Aid used at Jonestown was grape flavoured.

Today I’m not going to drink.