Merry Christmas

Ah, it’s one of those times when I feel I want to have something really important, insightful and well thought out to say. You know, like I already think about my one year soberversary even though I’m still three days away from 11 months and really shouldn’t focus on much beyond this very day when it comes to my sobriety. That’s me though, I always count my chickens well before they hatch. But OK, let’s slow down a little and go with this new way of life I’ve – in spite of myself – have begun to quite like since I ditched the booze: the middle gears. Not always and not fully, but my existence isn’t just filled with extremes now, and instead of only mountains high, valleys low, I now also enjoy what someone once called the gentle rollers. I guess to my own mind I’m in a pretty solid place right now when it comes to sobriety. Make no mistake – I don’t consider myself “cured” or “done with it” or anything like that! I’m just saying that at the 11 month mark I feel I’m in as great a place as I could be and this freedom hinges on me always remembering the road that lead me here and how little it’d take to send me right back to where I started. No thanks!

Christmas is just around the corner and so like over our summer holiday I suspect Storm will be a little quiet until we return from Sweden in the new year. Like when we went to Italy and pictured myself sitting on our sea view balcony blogging, I always imagine writing when we’re in Sweden but I know we’ll be rushing around all over the place like blue-arsed flies. I’ll be lucky if I get to go to the toilet in peace to be honest.

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This is my first sober Christmas. I don’t feel it’s that big a deal, to be honest. My family aren’t big drinkers and besides, being around people who drink doesn’t bother me in the slightest anyway. Is that weird? I honestly feel no temptation but I also know that it’s in the small, unguarded moments I’m probably more likely to be vulnerable. Plus, Christmas is of course a time you spend surrounded by friends and family and all of mine know the score so it’d be incredibly difficult for me even if I did suddenly decide to do a u-turn. No, Christmas feels very safe, thankfully!

Genuinely though, being around people who drink hasn’t bothered me much at all. Last night hubby had a couple of glasses of wine. The only thing that actually made me go HUH? was when I offered to fill his glass up as I was getting something from the kitchen. Hubby told me “nah, I’m good“. Two glasses of wine, not even big ones. How in the holiest of fuckery-fuck-fucks do people do that? What a freak!! I feel like filming him as you would a rare animal for a documentary:

Here we see the moderate drinker in his own habitat, we move quietly to get closer to him and get a good shot. He has had two glasses of wine but declines a third. We are watching closely for stress signals but he seems calm and at peace. This is such an extraordinary phenomenon, one of nature’s great mysteries captured up close, very exciting! Alcoholics have been studied this species for centuries yet we are no closer to understanding its secrets. Oh! Shh! The moderate drinker is slowly getting up. What will he do? Wow, are you seeing what I’m seeing? This is truly a unique moment to observe him. He has got himself a glass of water, having walked past the fridge containing the open wine bottle. Can you believe it? What a magnificent and fascinating creature, truly one of Mother Nature’s most enigmatic conundrums in action!

May your Christmas be very merry and full of love, joy and peace. Don’t let the love you feel stay trapped inside – say those words, give those hugs and do those little things that will let someone know you truly care even if it’s something as small as a smile. Oh God, I’ve gone all love and light again, what’s happening to me?! Go on, spread a little love, the world needs it. And the world needs YOU, so never doubt the decision: stay sober. If you falter, reach out. If you fall, shout for someone to help you get back up. Then quit wearing dress shoes in the snow, you fucking numpty, and get a good pair of boots! (I mean, what next – trying to control your drinking? We tried that, remember? Oh, how we laughed and laughed). Whatever it takes, buddy – find your way and know you’re not alone.

Take good care and see you in 2019.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Gone Fishin’ With Gazza

In one of the sobriety forums I’m part of, there are often questions from those in the earliest stages of kicking the booze about when they’ll start to feel better. This, of course, is impossible to answer as we’re all different, but there are some things that appear to be common when we get sober and stages most of us seem to go through. As we all know, I can only speak for me, so this is what I have experienced so far and look back on from where I stand at 330 days. Oohh! Nice round number, eh!

Breaking the habit

When I took my first trembling, Bambi-on-the-ice steps into my new sober life, the most overwhelming feeling was restlessness and a slight sense of being a little lost. I guess this was mostly down to the actual habit – after all those years of pouring a glass of wine pretty much as soon as I got home, I was suddenly at a bit of a loose end. What now? I’m not going to lie, it felt really weird and I didn’t know what to do with myself. There was the definite sense of boredom because suddenly I had all these hours that I wasn’t sure what to do with and they seemed to pass so slowly. Time felt like something I had to sit through, suffer through and be rid of – it’s like time was my enemy right at the start.

Hubby and I would go for long drives in the evenings those first few weeks. I’m sure those who know better will tell you that distractions aren’t the way to truly deal with a problem but it worked for me. I needed to occupy myself during the witching hours and it seemed like as long as I got to about eight in the evening without a drink I was over the hump. This was a little bit down to my old ways of thinking, in this case that I always got started early as it would mean I’d be passed out by 10pm and would therefore have more hours between the last drink and waking up, which in turn (to my alcoholic brain anyway) meant the hangover would be less severe. Yes, I planned my drinking meticulously, almost always with the objective to make the inevitable discomfort as bearable as possible. If I were to have the first drink at 8pm this would mean I’d probably still be at it at midnight and that would make the following day even more of a shit storm to battle through. That meant that initially I relaxed a little if I got through that crucial time window.

I suppose what this does highlight is the same sort of philosophy as the AA mantra of “just for today”. Don’t worry about tomorrow, just focus on today and in my case I focused on just getting to 8pm. If I got to eight, I was OK, because in my head it would have been so bad to start late that it’d be pointless anyway. A drunkard’s logic is madness in its purest form but this is the brain I have and what I had to work with.

Little by little though, new habits crept in. I rediscovered my love of long, brisk walks and a couple of weeks in I walked around the park every single evening. We signed up for a south coast hike, which kept us out walking long distances most days of the week. And little by little…. …the norm of pouring a glass of wine was replaced by the habit of pulling my trainers on and looking forward to walking for an hour and a half whilst listening to an audiobook. I may have used a bit of force to shift my thinking – fake it ’til you make it – but soon enough my stubborn brain capitulated and it no longer required conscious thought and effort to dodge that wine, it just happened. Eventually I discovered – and to be honest it didn’t take that long – that I’d be on my way home and feel really excited again but it wasn’t about drinking. That, I think, is still one of my greatest victories because I was scared that boredom and restlessness would last and it didn’t.

I want to point out that I don’t consider alcohol abuse a matter of habit any more than I consider nicotine addiction such as smoking a habit. Yes, in a way it is, but if it was all down to a habit you wouldn’t need to light the cigarette – you could just step outside and hold it for a while and go through the motions without inhaling smoke, right? If it was all habit, I could just put something else in the glass, like water. My drinking had other root causes but breaking the habit that surrounded it helped distract me and fill my new found time with things that enrich my life instead of destroying it.

In intensive care

My body must have been really suffering – the amount I used to drink was enough to knock out a horse and I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that I am enormously grateful that I’m even still here. My drinking went on for many years, and I think my poor old body must have been exhausted from fighting to keep me alive. You know when you’ve been working your arse off and finally have some time off and the moment you draw breath and relax you get ill? Same thing, I reckon. When I stopped poisoning myself, all my defence systems could finally come off amber alert and take a much needed rest. Sometimes in medical emergencies doctors will put you in an induced coma and this is so that your body gets a chance to heal.

And no wonder I felt sluggish at the beginning! I cut out over 7,000 calories per week that I’d usually get from all that wine. I was so lethargic! I had no energy whatsoever. Still, I obviously felt amazing because I no longer had to spend my days hungover, but oh my Lord I was so exhausted. It felt like I’d been through war. I’m not a medical professional but I think those early days were my induced coma, when my body was simply on lock down to repair itself.

Need I even point out that even when I was feeling so tired I still felt like a brand new Anna because I was sober? Didn’t think so. It was blissful.

Quality shut-eye

The immediate benefit that was almost instantly delivered was sleep. Oh, glorious, splendid sleep! Drunken sleep meant passing out solid but then waking up at 4am like clockwork with my heart beating out of my chest and sweating, then lying there with severe anxiety until it was time to get up. Obviously that’s really poor sleep and this no doubt added to how atrocious I’d feel the following day. Or every day, rather. Just a couple of days in I was getting a solid block of sleep. I’d read a book until my eyelids got heavy and my mind stopped whirring, then fell asleep surprisingly easily and quickly and slept like a log without waking up until the morning. Yes, I felt tired in the beginning due to aforementioned repair work but my GOD, the sleep I enjoy since I quit drinking is just pure luxury. Priceless. I suppose what I was going to do here was write about the things that take a bit of getting used to and are tricky but I can’t not mention the joy of sleeping well because it’s probably the biggest change I experienced and it was there straight away.

Sweets for my sweet

This must have something to do with those 7,000 calories that suddenly disappeared. You’d think I’d be super slim by now, but oh no! Instead I put weight ON. There is no fairness in the world, I swear. I’ve never been big on sweets and I’ve never liked cakes or biscuits. I’ve always been a big eater (I eat like a truck driver) but never used to order dessert, just don’t like sweet stuff. Roll on sobriety and I’ve turned into the Cookie Monster. And imagine this poor body of mine having a HUGE energy supply suddenly removed. It’s confusing for it. So it got me fat just as a precaution. Thanks.

A lot of people seem to lose weight though and I hear this all the time. It’s all the fucking time that someone who recently quit will tell us others how they’ve lost a stone in that first month without doing a thing. I do hear this a lot more often than I hear of people like myself who pile the pounds on, not off, so if you’re hoping to slim down you’re more likely to do so than swell up just statistically speaking. As with so much though, it’s so individual and it’ll also be to do with how much you drank and every other possible factor you can imagine. But even if you’re like me and you get a little squidgier, it’s so fucking worth it, I promise you. It does seem to balance out after a while though – things are bound to get a little crazy with such a big adjustment so just go with it. One thing at a time and when you start to feel strong in your sobriety you can always up the ante with fitness and getting those wobbly bits firmed up if you so choose.

The Pink Cloud

I capitalise it because as far as I’m concerned it’s my new home address. There are many, many views on this and I don’t think I’ve heard two people describe it in the same way. I also know people who don’t seem to experience it at all, so it’s all very subjective I suppose. In AA it’s often talked about as a tale of warning, that it’s something we should be wary of. What I suspect it is, is the sense of euphoria we feel at our new freedom and feeling so physically well. There’s probably a sense of achievement at having walked away from alcohol in there too, along with feeling virtuous about having made a good choice. Perhaps we feel brave and strong too because we’re doing something we were so scared to do yet now discover our wings can carry us and we’re flying.

For me, getting sober has quite literally meant that I got me back. In some ways, it’s like learning how to live and be me all over again and I’m not exaggerating whatsoever when I tell you that I feel such gratitude it’s making me giddy with joy. There are times when I go for a run and get a little choked up at the sensation of feeling strong and powerful. I’ve literally had to wipe away a few tears on the occasional run (and, irritatingly enough, have to stop because it’s hard to run when you go all sniffly). Right at the beginning I sat each morning on the sofa with my coffee and looked out of the window and whispered heartfelt thanks to I’m-not-sure-what-but-maybe-the-universe for giving me this life and for letting me feel this happy and well. Many of those times I couldn’t hold back tears of joy, not that I tried to. Four days shy of 11 months sober, I still feel this way – in fact I am welling up a little just typing this. And I think that’s what the Pink Cloud perhaps is – joy and gratitude.

Still me

…and the Pink Cloud neatly leads on to this, namely how getting sober does indeed deliver countless positive changes but doesn’t mean all our problems go away. Nor do we suddenly become someone else entirely. Yes, it’s accurate to say that Sober Me is in many ways a different person to Drunk Me, but in essence I’m still Anna and just because I stopped drinking doesn’t mean I’ll suddenly enjoy public speaking. For some reason, I think a lot of us sort of expect sobriety to be the answer to everything and the realisation that it isn’t has us crashing back down to earth with a thud. My theory anyway.

Yep, I’m still lil’ ol’ me. I still crave solitude, I still choose a book over a social event and I still prefer peace and quiet to chatter and stimuli. I’m still terrified of spiders and I don’t like heights. Having said all that, there are also many things my alcoholic brain constructed in order to keep me trapped, things I came to believe that aren’t actually true and that I’ve only discovered in sobriety. I mean, at one point I even sat on a shrink’s couch and was more open to accepting that I might suffer some sort of personality disorder than even consider that my panic attacks and discomfort in situations other than home alone were anything to do with my drinking. Stuff like that.

What I’m trying to get at however, is that I sometimes hear people say how they feel a certain way and had somehow expected that sobriety would fix all issues. It doesn’t. If you had your heart broken, it’ll still be broken even if you put the drink down. What it means is just that you’ll in all likelihood cope much better. Oh, and you won’t make lots of insane drunk decisions to send text messages, make phone calls or whatever else to those exes or whoever else that mortify you later. Take it from me, I’ve drink’n’dialled many a time. Just look at poor Gazza – he turned up hammered out of his skull to an armed stand-off between a nutter who’d shot a bunch of people and police, hoping he’d convince the shooter to come fishing with him. This, to his drunken mind, probably seemed like both a realistic and helpful idea at the time as well as an entirely sensible solution to the problem. Actually, I just did a little fact check and it was cocaine and not just booze apparently – link here. Point is though, the problems will still be there (like Raoul Moat) but the way we deal with them are usually much better (I suspect Gazza might not have reasoned that a fishing trip was the answer – chances are he wouldn’t have got himself involved at all).

There’s also the issue with how some of us drank in the first place to escape our problems or feelings. I wonder if that makes us lazy when it comes to dealing with stuff – that it makes us just shut down because we balk at the idea of actually doing something about it? I never consciously drank to suppress how I felt, so this is pure speculation on my part but I do suspect that if we escape all the time it’ll be really quite scary to have to face problems head on.

Well. Each to her own, but all I can say is that being sober means I get to be the best version of myself. I still occasionally freak out over stupid stuff and sometimes I’m a real arsehole – just ask hubby and Bambino and they’ll be able to tell you what a dick I can be – but overall I’m pretty cool and have discovered I’m actually quite calm under pressure. I swear, I never realised this but I’m actually really level headed, something I always used to make jokes about because “it’s just not me”. It’s very me, as it turns out.

Anyway, because stopping drinking is such a big deal, I think sometimes people fail to realise that life’s still life and we’re still us. The world is still the same as when we drank ourselves to shite but now we can see it more clearly. It’s not a bad deal though, in my view. Going through life living under a heavy wet blanket is no life. I think this might be what people refer to when they talk about the Pink Cloud as something that’s just temporary: the realisation that we still have the same problems as before, that despite how good we feel we still have to deal with our issues.

Can you feel it

Here’s a good one! For yours truly it was probably a good thing no one told me this when I first stopped drinking because I think it might have frightened me right back into the bottle. Alcohol is, as we all know, an anaesthetic. It numbs our senses and it numbs our minds, which includes how we feel. No matter what reason we had to pour that glass, this is an inevitable fact – booze numbs us. And so when we stop drinking, the numbness is gone and taah-daaaaaaah here are all our feelings again! Fuck me, it’s exhausting! My mother has always said that I have “an artist’s soul” and by this she means that everything I feel, I feel strongly. Yep. Tick that box. That sums me up. So even though I never realised it, I now wonder if the fact that booze slowed my mind might have registered in my subconscious as a benefit. Perhaps subconsciously I craved the melty, floaty veils of alcohol because it took the edge off? The more I think about this, the more plausible it seems.

Then we kick the booze and now we get to feel all our emotions on their own merit. No shortcuts, no shutting stuff down. We get the feels – big time. Truthfully, this has been yet another blessing for me, not least due to newly discovered ability to calmly deal with problems, but also because sober I can be rational and balanced. Hahaha, who knew?!

Now, if we drank because we couldn’t stand how we felt, I imagine stopping drinking is really difficult for a whole bunch of additional reasons. Still. Even though it might get you pleasantly numb, alcohol is of course also a depressant so when the anaesthesia wears off you don’t just get the pain back, you get it back tenfold. It really isn’t a very good deal, OK? Not at all. I mean, it numbs you so yes it does conceal the bad stuff for a short while, but it also numbs the good stuff. And THEN it gives you the bad stuff back massively enhanced and souped up. Eesh.

That’s really what sobriety is though: just feeling everything the way it is and in its true form. Even with shitty stuff that’s surely better. Sure, I get that in that moment when you sit there drinking it’s hard to believe but it really is true and there will never be a better decision you can make for yourself and those who love you. Put that drink down, it honestly doesn’t do you any good whatsoever. Even the brief respite when you’re numb isn’t worth it because you’ll feel so much worse when it wears off. That respite or relief is literally like wearing a pair of shoes that are a size too small all day and how good it feels to take them off. How good that feels isn’t a good reason to do that though, right? Or hit yourself with a hammer and then enjoy how good it feels when you stop? Equally pointless. Please trust me on this one.

No one gives a shit

I didn’t massively stress about this I don’t think but I do remember worrying a little about what to say in drinking situations. I was quite open with people from the word go whether they’re in my family or circle of closest friends or people I barely know. Also, it’s worth pointing out that I’m not a social butterfly so I actually find myself in that sort of situation extremely rarely. For that reason, I’m not best placed to account for how to go about declining those drinks when you get sober. I guess all I can say is that people don’t tend to give a flying fuck about what you drink or don’t drink. No one fucking cares, alright? So don’t stress about it. Wear it loud and wear it proud – the only reactions you will get is respect. If someone makes a silly comment or jibe, you can be sure it’s because they feel bad (or jealous perhaps!) for some reason that’s nothing to do with you. Just remember that you’ve made the BEST CHOICE EVER and even people who claim to love alcohol will recognise that. Make no mistake there, my friends. Yes, it might feel a bit awkward initially, but I swear it’s no big deal.

Truth be told, I’m sure some people might also consider people who don’t drink boring or even feel we miss out. So what? Let them!

If you’re not ready to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth – don’t. A “no thanks” is perfectly acceptable and if someone asks you why you don’t want to drink a poisonous and highly addictive substance, it doesn’t matter if you say you’re on a health kick or have joined a cult which prohibits drinking. It’s a harmless little fib and if it helps you, use it. It’s none of anyone else’s business anyway. I do promise you though, I’ve rarely heard of anyone who got a full interrogation. My friends have asked me things out of curiosity and told me “well done” but that’s been off the back of me being pretty blunt about my drinking and my reasons for stopping. You’ll be fine, I promise.

It’s not all, folks

You know, I will have missed out lots of things here and will no doubt read this back and think of something really obvious that I should have included. I was just trying to pick out some of the main things I’ve experienced in sobriety and the stuff I hear others talk about too. I’ll come back to this often, I’m sure. There’s just so much to say but I think this will have to be it for now, except reiterating that getting sober is the best decision I ever made. Nothing I have to deal with in sobriety could possibly be bad enough to go and poison myself over.

Today I’m not going to drink.

The Story of Yet

Once in a while when I was still drinking, I’d do one of those online tests that are designed to tell you if you have a problem with alcohol (or even indicate whether you might be an alcoholic). As I’m pondering my next steps, or rather, my first few into the foray of recovery support, I was browsing around Alcohol Change’s website and they have one of those tests. It’s called “Check Your Drinking”. I’ve decided to hop back in time and become Drunk Me. Actually, Drunk Me would probably have tried to give answers based on how she wanted her alcohol habit to be – i.e. put the units that to my mind would have been OK (like “only” four drinks per evening) rather than the grim reality (that 11th glas is still on the side so perhaps ten and a half?). So I’m hopping back to Drunk Me before I quit drinking roughly a year ago, say, but with Sober Me checking the answers are entirely truthful.

Yes, I’m over 18. I’m female and fall into the age group 35-44. Let’s go.

  1. How often do I drink alcohol? At the far end is four times per week or more. That’s definitely me, and ironically Drunk Me’s healthy goal of only drinking max four nights per week is still at the naughty end.
  2. How many units of alcohol do you have on a typical day when you are drinking? Oh God, time to calculate. I’d usually get through most of a wine box, which is three bottles’ worth. The next day you’d be able to squeeze a glass out of the bag. So if a wine bottle equals four standard glasses of wine as per UK measures and one glass is therefore 175ml, this would put me at 11 glasses of wine. How many units in a 175ml glass? 1.9 units according to DrinkAware if it’s an 11% wine. That would land me at 20.9 units per day (the recommended limit is 14 units per WEEK – fun fact). The max answer is ten or more and I’m putting away twice that. Whoopsy-daisies.
  3. How often in the last year have you had six or more units on one occasion? Ah, this is why I usually gave up on these things as I felt they were aimed at some sort of goody two-shoes person who didn’t actually exist. I mean – who doesn’t have more than six? Who are these people?! The answer at the bad end is daily or almost daily. I guess so. I probably averaged five nights per week with a few exceptions so that’s closer to the truth than saying weekly.
  4. How often during the last year have you found you were unable to stop drinking when you’d started? There isn’t an option saying every single time so I’ll go with the most terrible answer which again is daily or almost daily.
  5. How often during the last year have you failed to do what was normally expected from you because of drinking? Slightly tough one as I somehow did manage to do the bits I really had to do. The problem is I never did anything well but I did mostly deliver what I was meant to in terms of at home and at work, so I’m not sure I can go with daily or almost daily. I frequently under performed (to my own mind at least) and I’m the friend who’d often cancel. I’ll go with weekly. Seems like a fair compromise.
  6. How often during the last year have you needed a first drink in the morning to get yourself going after a heavy drinking session? Finally a goody two-shoes answer! Never. I wasn’t there yet. YET YET YET YET YET YET. The story of yet. This might partly be because I just couldn’t. Or my addiction hadn’t quite forced me in to that corner yet. YET YET YET YET.
  7. How often during the last year have you had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking? Still no every-single-time option so I’ll go with daily or almost daily. Starting with palpitations and the sweats at 4am. Fun times.
  8. How often during the last year have you been unable to remember what happened the night before because of drinking? Ah, black-outs – I remember those well, hahr hahr. Not every single time but probably at least twice a week. So more than weekly but not sure it’d be accurate to say daily or almost daily. Well. It’s more towards the bad end. OK, fine.
  9. Have you or someone else been injured because of your drinking? If this includes emotionally then absolutely yes. Other than that I’ve amassed a plethora of mysterious bruises and scrapes that I at the time would have no idea how I’d acquired. Does that mean I should say yes? Or do they mean more severe stuff here? I think this means more serious stuff than stumbling around drunk and tripping on the rug. So no.
  10. Has a friend, relative, doctor or other health worker been concerned about your drinking and suggested you cut down? Yes – friends and relatives, playful hints here and there, the odd snide remark and the occasional you-should.

The results! *drum roll* I mean, do we really need to see them? Well, here it is!

My score is 31. I’m also told “Your drinking is already impacting on your health and wellbeing and you are at risk of alcohol dependence. You would benefit from speaking to your GP or an alcohol professional as soon as possible about your options for cutting down.” No big surprises there. If my score is 20-25 I’m invited to “sign up for four confidential Skype support sessions with an alcohol specialist to help you get back on track. This new service will help you to make choices that will improve your wellbeing and lower your risk” but my score is obviously way over this so wouldn’t apply to me.

How about that for a post that is stating the bleeding obvious! What can I say, I like quizzes! Oohhh how about I do it all over as Sober Me to see what they say about my current life choices?

Still female and in the same age bracket, hmpf. Other than that just one question pisses me off as it’s one you can’t answer if you never drink alcohol: question 2, obviously, so all I can do is stay at the good end and put the answer that most closely resembles the truth (1 or 2). Again, I don’t think we will have any prizes for guessing what the outcome is: my score is 0 and: “Drinking at this level means that you are unlikely to be putting yourself at risk of alcohol-related harm.” The only time I’m near the bad end is in the age group as I’m closer to 44 than I am to 35. You know what, I’ll still take it as a win.

Anyone else have anything to share that we all know already? Well. Sometimes it’s nice to just give ourselves a pat on the back for making good choices. Sure did with this. Yay me.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Book an Appointment

Almost there! Almost Christmas. It’s always with mixed feelings I head to my native Sweden and I’m trying to have a pre-emptive chat with myself in order to not wind up sad about it this time. God, grant me the serenity and all that. Actually, there’s nothing mixed about it because that’d imply I’d feel a number of things simultaneously and I don’t when it comes to the place where I grew up. I feel joy and anticipation before I go and then I get there and something so very painful comes over me. Not crushingly hurtful or bad, more lots of happiness with an underlying sense of sorrow somehow. I suppose it’s now that I’m sober that I really notice it.

All this stuff I have to deal with – ARGH! Well, this is what sobriety does and it’s very healthy so I suppose I’ll keep on letting all these feelings in when they turn up and ring my doorbell. I sometimes wish they could book an appointment in advance but they don’t appear to be the organised or orderly kind. They barge in, demand my attention and won’t go away until I’ve come up with a solution. The good thing about sobriety is, however, that even though I get to feel everything even more strongly, I’m so much stronger and calmer so stuff just doesn’t rattle me like it used to. I’m not as vulnerable as I was when I was drinking. I can see clearly and I feel an inner calm that booze used to rob me of. Stuff that might at some point have felt hopeless might still be hopeless but I’m making my peace with those things and of course when you accept the way things are you can stop being so caught up in them. At the very least I can move on from them – my life is no longer on hold “until the problem is solved” because I’m no longer wasting energy on things I can’t do anything about. I don’t feel like I have the world – or Sweden – weighing on my shoulders anymore. I suppose I succeed a lot more often in sobriety with knowing what I can control and what I can’t, and once you learn that neat little trick life becomes a lot easier, let me tell you.

Knowing what I can change or control and what I cannot is at the very core of my sobriety for obvious reasons: I know that my power to control alcohol is about as effective as a cat flap in the Hoover Dam.

So I try to apply this to everything in my life now. I make a concerted effort to be the best I can be and change what I can for the better, and those things that are beyond my control I try to accept. It doesn’t always mean things won’t still hurt, but it means those things that are painful no longer have to consume me. Alcohol, you see, is my worst enemy in this case because when I drank I was completely unable to let go of stuff. Things would take up my energy, and made me resentful and bitter. These days, those things don’t have a place in my life. Sure, I get upset – and yes, sometimes resentful and bitter too – but I don’t hold on to things I can’t do anything about. Or, rather, I try not to. I don’t always succeed but I’m much, much better at it.

I feel hope. I feel cautiously joyful this festive season. There may be that little space in my heart that’ll always be a little empty, but I can’t force anyone into it – all I can do is keep the door open and let the love I feel live there. That’s enough. I can give it and that’s all I can do. If it’s not received, that’s beyond my control. Guess what – it’s more than enough. It’s all I need. Ah! ……..aaaaaaaaaand relax.

I don’t think I’ve ever quoted it in full here, so it’s about time:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.

Words to live by for sure.

Today I’m not going to drink.

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.