17 Letters

Let me tell you something: it feels fucking awesome to take action. Being in recovery, as far as I’m concerned, means I’m recovering the person I am meant to be. That person is not the lethargic super lush who could barely string a sentence together that I used to be, but this person who is here now – Sober Me, or rather…. just ME.

Two days away from being able to say ONE YEAR SOBER I’m not just talking about all the things I will do: tomorrow or starting next Monday or next month or next year, and not if or when. Let’s go, bitches! Carpe the goddamn diem! Now, today, in this moment. And so I did carpe the diem, and why not on a sunny and bright Monday such as this? New beginnings are upon me and I’m not just sitting here waiting for life to happen to me. A year ago, the Beast whispered to me “you’re not strong enough to withstand the storm“. I believed it. Not in a million years did I believe that I’d be where I am now, almost at that milestone I never thought I’d reach.

Today I’m telling the Beast: I AM THE STORM and you’d better believe it, you motherfucker.

I thought it’d be scary, but I was smiling to myself as I was walking down the high street this morning. With me I had 17 envelopes containing my CV and a cover letter. 17 because that’s how many envelopes I had at home, by the way. I went into 17 places – cafes, a charity shop, a bookstore, clothes stores, a health store and a florist – handing in those envelopes marked for the attention of the manager. My cover letter starts with the words “I am starting over!” and briefly explains I am turning a leaf and looking to become an addiction counsellor and whilst volunteering and studying within this field I’m looking for whatever hours and shifts they may be able to give me. I haven’t done this since I was a student and I think part of me thought it’d feel a bit ridiculous and like a bit of a defeat but it felt GOOD. It felt good taking charge of my situation and take action in order to get back out on the pitch. No more warming the bench up for the star players whilst they go get it. Time to join the game, I’ve warmed up and stretched and I’m ready to go.

Sure, I’m a little scared having to leapt off the edge without really knowing where I’ll land but although I don’t know whether I’ll land in hot water or on dry land, I know that Sober Me will land on her feet.

Let’s go grab this beautiful, awesome life by the collar and start up some exciting shit damnit!

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Today I’m not going to drink.

A Little Bit of Grace

What an anticlimax. It would appear that at this point, at least, I have not been fired. Just a smile this morning and then my bosses left. I had my neck nicely and conveniently stretched out and ready to have the guillotine drop, but it’d seem having my last meal and final rites was a waste of time. Unless they were planning to come back and fire me. Point is I had no way of knowing and no matter how much I am to blame for not doing my job well (entirely) and how they’ve got every right and reason to be mightily pissed off with me (totally), that’s just odd so I put on my big girl pants and did what I think is right: I fired me.

alan sugar

Whilst this is pretty scary and I’m so in knots I haven’t eaten, I’ve dealt with worse situations – much worse. I’ve dealt with much worse when I was drinking, for God’s sake, and found a way. Gosh, I look back now and sometimes feel quite proud of myself for managing to steer the ship through some pretty harsh storms. At one point I barely stopped to breathe – I had my main full time job, translation work in the evenings and then babysitting too during the weeks Bambino was at his dad’s. On top of that, I was also already down by some way on the slippery slope of accelerating alcoholism and still I came through and made a difficult situation work. I can deal with this, even if I have to stack shelves or serve coffee for a while – to be honest, when you make a career change you can’t always stroll straight into that shiny new job and that’s that, so even despite this unfortunate and unpleasant situation in my current role I would have been faced with some tricky decisions and unknowns. That’s life for you.

Frustrating, yes. I went in today with my heart in my throat not knowing what I was walking into. I felt weak with worry and like I was going to throw up or faint. Would I be yelled at? By Boss Lady alone or both? Or even more people around? A calm chat? Even a friendly chat? Being told off for the last thing I fucked up and just told to shape up? Or told to leave? Or even a cheerful “all sorted now, worse things happen at sea, let’s move on“? Any and every eventuality I was prepared for and I spent yesterday clearing my mind so that I’d be able to calmly apologise, take all shit thrown at me because I deserved it and gracefully accept my fate. I was steeling myself in order not to cry – I’m soft as shite and fall apart very easily, so I was going to save everyone the embarrassment of that too.

As horrible as it was to arrive, I’d made my peace with it all and felt quite calm about it. I “knew” I’d be fired and I also knew this was a good thing, however unpleasant. Still, it’s always shitty to have people be angry with you and so I did feel fucking awful. The feeling reminded me of when I for a very brief period of time was frozen out by my classmates at the age of 10. Funny – I think that was my fault too. Last night I was lying awake with palpitations and whatever sleep I did get was fitful and consisted of nightmares – a strange echo of what most of my nights were like when I was drinking. Perhaps the unknown is just really stressful no matter what your situation is. I didn’t know what to expect, but I guess I didn’t expect for nothing to happen. Oh, I wish I could accurately describe how awkward it was. My colleagues weren’t speaking to me at all, as opposed to how they usually stick their heads in the door to say hello and often have a little chat. Hey, it’s probably awkward for them too and I think they must know Boss Lady was furious with me yesterday, so I don’t blame them but the sooner we’re all put out of our misery the better. And so I made the executive decision to fire me.

It all reminds me a little of drinking. The easy way out would have been to just sit tight. They didn’t fire me so I could have just hung on a bit longer and waited for the axe to drop sometime in the future instead. Aka “I’ll deal with it tomorrow” – exactly how I used to defer dealing with my drinking problem, I knew it was there and it filled me with dread and I just pushed it further and further away into an endless string of tomorrows. Or do what I consider to be the right and honourable thing and deal with the issue without delay. Aka accepting the problem and facing it head on which is basically the attitude that got me sober. If you avoid dealing with things, you get the snowball effect. Ever made a snowman or a snow fortress? Well, you build those out of snow boulders. A snow boulder starts its life as a snowball. Just a standard, harmless little snowball. You then pack more snow on by rolling it in more snow, and it grows and grows as you push it in front of you. Well, I don’t need to clarify the analogy, do I? Ignore a problem or defer it for another time and all you end up with is a much bigger problem. That’s what I did with my drinking and how I’ve dealt with lots of problems. Firing me was throwing a nice little snowball for my bosses to catch. It was the right thing to do.

Wouldn’t it be absolutely infuriating if I’ve misread the whole thing? No, trust me – I haven’t. There is no way that this awkwardness and how people are avoiding me is all in my head. Because alcohol like many other drugs increases and creates paranoia (given it makes you anxious – paranoia often springs from anxiety), I have actually been in situations that I’ve completely misunderstood. There was one job I quit because it was a foray into search marketing and I just quickly discovered it wasn’t my thing, it just didn’t particularly interest me. But I had also convinced myself that I was terrible at it and expected my then bosses to be really pleased to receive my resignation. They weren’t. In fact, they took me to lunch and asked me to stay. I was so taken aback I think I spent most of the meal staring at them and not knowing what to say. One of them pulled up a campaign I’d created on his screen back in the office and said to me as the threw his hands up in a resigned and tired I-can’t-believe-this sort of gesture – “for God’s sake, Anna, just look how good you are at this!“. Again, I stood there and wondered what was going on because how come they didn’t hate me? I know what paranoia can do, but in my current situation there’s none of that. Just sayin’.

It is what it is and I’m very glad to close this chapter. Was I immediately filled with joy and blissful relief? No. It’s still a horrible situation and that sick feeling is still hanging in my chest like a thundercloud but it has now stopped growing. This isn’t some woohoo grab life by the horns diatribe either, I’m just basically outlining for you how I’ve made a dog’s dinner of the day job and how I’m now trying to at least have some grace and honour by doing what’s right. By quitting I’ve of course created other challenges but I can deal with them. I just need to remember who I am underneath – not the Anna who drank, but the Anna who knows how to work and how to work hard. The Anna who can turn things around. The Anna who can take responsibility and be accountable. The Anna I am recovering. I am, after all, in recovery and I’m going to be obnoxious and give myself a pat on the back here because as much as I’m the absolute dickhead in this situation, I’m actually quite proud of myself too. I didn’t race home and drink. Tomorrow morning and every morning thereafter I’m going to wake up clear and lucid and I’m going to find my way again.

It’s time for a new chapter now – it’s about time I get my arse in gear. I’m within touching distance of my one year sober and that’s awesome, but I need to turn my attention to the rest now. I had a bit of breathing space in order to focus on getting sober and I feel steadier on my feet now so it’s time to take on new challenges. Hah! Being out of a job is definitely a challenge. Do I even need to point out that this situation is something that I would have dealt with really badly if I were still Drunk Me? Gosh, cue wailing and sobs of despair! Instead here I am sober, mostly relieved and hopeful for the future. Yes, I still feel yucky too – I feel plenty yucky! – but the problem has stopped getting bigger and I’ve forced myself to deal with it. Now I need to put my money where my mouth is. Time to show my mettle.

I’ve done it before.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Knee Jerk Reactions and Silver Linings

Eek. Well, that made my stomach turn into a huge knot, that’s for sure. However, given I’m sober it didn’t knock me anywhere NEAR as much as it would have had I still been drinking. I must have mentioned I’m in a job I made a huge mess of. OK, not perhaps “huge” mess, but the first two years I was eyeball deep in addiction and when I got sober I haven’t tidied it up – something that should have happened but hasn’t. I have no excuses, I messed up. And so when I cocked up yet another thing, one of my bosses finally got cross with me. Ironically it’s one of the few things I’d actually tried my best with but I can see I’ve got it wrong, so when you take into account my lacklustre performance overall, she’s right to be fuming. We’re having “a chat” (read: “Anna, this is why I’m firing you”) tomorrow because she was too angry to speak to me today, saying it wouldn’t be constructive if she did. In other words, she was too wound up to even shout at me. Pretty bad.

You know, the first part I can explain. The fact that I managed to do anything at all those first two years I was with them (the last two years of my drinking) is a small miracle. The second part is what it is though and there are no excuses for that one. I’ve had plenty of time to clear this mess up. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not disastrous or anything, more that everything is sloppily done, not followed through, no attention to detail. It’s insane really because those things I’m actually good at. I freaking LOVE detail, for God’s sake! Perhaps it seemed like I’d dug myself in too deep a pit to get myself out, I don’t know. I fucked this up, simple as that and when I had ample opportunity to get my shit together I just didn’t. In my mind I’d already checked out and this year has quite literally been a case of just sitting this out until I reach my one year sober (next Wednesday, yay) and can begin volunteering and getting some hours at the rehab I’m in touch with. I’m not proud of it but that’s all there is to it. Yes, it’s my damn responsibility to do the job I’m paid to do to the best of my ability. Did I? No. It’s shitty, it’s entirely my own fault and I’m going to be totally frank with Boss Lady tomorrow. No excuses. Time to bite the bullet.

Apart from getting fired, things are good!

Let’s stick with that yucky part though. I’m not going to lie, I felt sick (as well as taken aback as I wasn’t expecting it) when Boss Lady came in saying she was angry. Sick and when I got back to my desk even a little shaky. Well, being the reason someone is pissed off is never nice and any way you look at it I’m sensitive as fuck. Anyway, it didn’t take many minutes to calmly establish that I had this coming and I suppose it’s the kick up the backside I need. I’ve been treading water when it comes to the job. My focus has been on getting sober and what lies ahead, not what was on my list of responsibilities here and now. Unfortunately. It is what it is. Gosh, I’m trying so hard to not make excuses here so let’s just spell it out: I’ve been a little shit bag. Done a terrible job. Rested on my laurels. Now it’s time to get into gear.

Sobriety is cool because it allows me to be calm and rational. I’ve dropped the rehab a line to remind them I’m all theirs from next week in terms of hitting one year sober and getting on with volunteering. I also pointed out that in an ideal world I’d want paid hours just so they know I’m not just doing this to tick off “charitable actions” on my to-do list but actually very serious about getting into this field. Sobriety and being at my full wits in combination means I don’t feel so bad. Boss Lady getting annoyed with me would have taken up all my focus and totally devastated me had it been back when I was drinking. Sober I suppose I can see it for what it is and not be so panicked or horrified by it. I can’t change stuff that’s already come and gone, but I can choose how I deal with it and move forward. And sitting this out, as much as it’s allowed me to focus on getting sober, was perhaps a mistake as it’s going to be soul destroying for anyone to be in a job you could do in your sleep. That’s perhaps the most ridiculous part in all of this – there’s nothing about it that stretches or challenges me, and so doing it well wouldn’t have required much effort anyway. Well, there we are and time to get serious now.

Drunk Me would have been stressed out of her mind just about now, created a big drama and had at least half a dozen knee jerk reactions. Sober Me, not so much. This was coming all along and it was only a matter of who’d be the first to take the initiative – me or my bosses. I guess for the purposes of this sober blog, that’s the bit to really highlight. When we’re sober we can calmly deal with slightly unpleasant situations and find solutions – even silver linings! OK, so I can’t exactly say I’m looking forward to tomorrow but at the same time it’ll be good to have it over with – it’s been hanging over me for nearly a year. Not good for anyone. It’s the kick up the backside that I need. I said it myself, didn’t I? 2018 was the year I got sober, 2019 is the year to get serious and maybe I needed a little nudge. I mean, if I look back over how things are falling into place, this is just yet another piece that is slotting in nicely. It’s all happening for a reason.

Note to self: you’ve been a bit of a dick, Anna. Sort yourself out.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Play It Forward

I’ve always been a bookworm. Most of the time I have at least two books on the go, but most often three or four. Since I stopped drinking I’ve been devouring sobriety literature like a demon. Hey, I know! I know, I know, I know. I know it might seem like I’m really obsessive and compulsive, but guess what – when it comes to endorphins and nurturing my mind, I don’t think full throttle is a particularly harmful setting so I’m just going with it. I usually have a couple of books I alternate between at home and then another on Audible that I listen to during my drive to and from work. The sobriety books I’m reading are anything from drinking memoirs to fact heavy books on addiction and everything in between. Most recently, I’ve been listening to The Sober Diaries by Clare Pooley, which is of the memoir variety and her style reminds me a little of Bridget Jones: it’s light, easy going and enjoyable. In fact, much better than poor ol’ Bridget as Pooley isn’t such a whinge bag and just strikes me as really charming. I think Bridget – as charming as she is – would do my head in very quickly, whereas Pooley I’d like to hang out with. The blog can be found here.

Anyway, I was reading some of Pooley’s most recent posts and in the comments section an expression I often heard in AA meetings was mentioned: “play the tape forward“. This is really good advice. We can all be clever when armed with that handy thing called hindsight, but playing the tape forward is all about foresight. It might seem like such a simple device, and I guess it is, but I wonder if it’s particularly useful in very early sobriety. It all comes down to understanding the Beast, I suppose and what the Serenity Prayer is all about too.

Let’s say if (or when) that pesky ping! pops in to my head and I suddenly really want to have a drink. My addictive brain might go on to show me glittering and romantic images of a sparkling spritzer by the river on a summer’s eve with my sexy husband or something like that – you know, one of my favourite drinking scenarios. My brain will do its best to show me the “good” parts of drinking, make me believe them and ultimately get me yearning for them. For an alcoholic like me, this is the time when it’s be useful – crucial and life saving, even – to play that damn tape forward. Because playing it forward means I have to confront those images that my addictive mind doesn’t want to know about – the binge drinking, the compulsion, the depths of addiction and the black-outs. Add all the other shitty things drinking brings too, which makes that tape go on for a very long time as they’re endless.

Right now, this seems to happen without much effort but I suspect there will be plenty of times when I’ll really have to remind myself of where booze will take me. What I’m saying is, that when I think about drinking, my brain immediately goes oh gosh no and plays a stream of crappy stuff to me. Right now, when I think of alcohol I think of the shit it will first cause me and then how it’ll kill me. That glass of wine and soda water doesn’t hold any of the promises I used to think it did, it just holds a deadly poison that only does me harm. I guess my inner cassette player currently has some sort of automatic mechanism that kicks in without me having to press play. Or forward, as it were.

Anyway, I just wanted to emphasise this because I think it’s a really good thing to do if we start to fall for the charms of the Beast. Because the Beast can be VERY charming. Like Bradley Cooper serenading you in his raspy voice as he’s strumming his guitar, then gets you out on the stage with him for a duet to thundering applause. Fucking awesome! Absolute magic. WAIT! Play the tape forward. It’s the bit where he pisses himself on stage you need to see. Or the heartbreaking garage scene. Uhm, I’m talking about the film, obviously – A Star is Born. Well, Cooper plays an alcoholic in it and it hits you right where it should, in solar plexus. Playing the tape forward is a good thing to do when we get sober because the Beast is as talented as Cooper and therefore it’s the end bit we need to keep sight of.

It’s astounding really. The downsides to drinking are so severe, so obvious and so immediate, yet in many cases we go on for years – decades, even – because all we allow ourselves to see is that first part. Somehow we close ourselves off to the dark reality of alcoholism and even when we’re in a really desperate state we still manage to convince ourselves that it’s somehow worth it. Trust me, I know. I look back now and shudder at where I got myself, yet I can assure you that I at the time considered myself pretty happy (and in truth, most of the time I was but addiction is addiction and it was breaking me down) and hardly ever knowingly poured myself that first glass with anything other than free will. I say “hardly ever” because there were indeed times when I did pour it and felt such sorrow, not understanding how I got there. Free will, my arse, yet that’s what I mostly believed. Those darker moments when reality came a’knockin’ I quickly knocked back the drinks to knock it right back to the back of my mind.

I hate to be a doom’s day prophet, but I fear there is very little we can do if our minds turn on us. For that reason, it’s good to have a bag of tricks and playing the tape forward is a good one to keep handy. Don’t give any thought to the first part and those lovely images, it’s the end destination you need to remember and it’s always the same one.

Today I’m not going to drink.

A Peaceful Day At Disneyland

Did I ever mention it’s really hard work being a drunk? I must have. Not just anyone can do it, you know – it takes some serious grit being an alcoholic. I imagine it’s less cumbersome working out how to have a peaceful day at Disneyland with 20 five-yearolds loaded on sugar than it is planning how to get through the day when you’re in active alcoholism. It’s not just all the stress of working out how to drink (where you’re getting the drink from, where and how to hide it, where and when to drink it, who to drink with and who to avoid) but also how to remain upright and somewhat able to go through the absolute minimum of motions during the day. Defer what you can, avoid anything more complicated than putting one foot in front of the other. And sometimes even that is a feat of champions, to be honest. I think the worst of it was to get through the hangovers, that painful part that were basically all the hours in the day when I didn’t drink. When I should have been living, really.

First off, I had the Hangover Kit and I’d buy these supplies usually at the same time as I picked up wine and soda:

  • Berocca (vitamin drink)
  • Resolve or Alkaseltzer (relieves headache, settles stomach)
  • Dioralyte (for rehydration – preferable to Resolve/Alkaseltzer as contains no caffeine)
  • Chewing gum (to disguise rancid wine breath)
  • Coconut water
  • Bananas

Obviously I was a seasoned drunk – a veteran, you might say – and quite often when it came to drinking I’d show signs of the organisational skills I very rarely display at work when I actually need them. Sometimes I’d have a glass of Dioralyte inbetween drinks during the drinking session itself in an attempt to rehydrate whilst dehydrating. Oh, it’s such madness! When else would I voluntarily do something really terrible to myself and simultaneously also try to mitigate the harm? It literally is like buying first a knife to repeatedly stab yourself with and picking up a medical kit to tend the wounds during the same shopping trip. FUCK ME. I don’t know if I want to laugh or cry – it actually makes me really fucking angry that I succumbed to this. But then wiser women than me have fallen before me, and wiser women than me will no doubt fall after me too. Unless I went into black-out (and let’s face it, in black-out anything can happen and I wouldn’t have a clue) I’d have a Berocca before bed too, in the pathetic hope I might feel alive in the morning.

The first step would be mixing a Berocca with Dioralyte and gulp down first thing. This was my idea of giving myself the best possible chance of surviving the day ahead. During the first half of the day I’d avoid coffee, despite morning coffee being one of my absolute favourite things in the world, because it makes me feel even weaker and dizzier when I’m hungover. Sometimes, if I had some coffee, I felt like I was swaying and vibrating – a sensation that is every bit as yucky as it sounds. I’d try to eat bananas and drink lots of coconut water – I think it was my friend Tumbler (who, incidentally and tragically drank herself to death) who advised me to ingest anything containing potassium. I recall her saying something about getting twitchy due to dehydration and something about potassium would help counter this. Save yourself convulsions really. It might all have been bullshit, the misguided and desperate attempts of us alcoholics to believe what we wanted to believe. Actually, it was the drinking that was bullshit, but I guess I wasn’t ready to accept this at the time.

I doubt any of the things in my Hangover Kit made much of a difference, actually. I think, as with many other things, much of it was in my head. Like if I knew I’d had some Dioralyte, which contains salts and minerals you typically lose when you have a stomach bug and helps you rehydrate, I’d feel calmer knowing I’d had some, thinking I had replenished some of my body’s desperately depleted defences.

Oh, God – just writing this makes me feel tired, desperate and sad and I’ve put almost one year between myself and this sorry existence. I remember it so well, though. With every word I just typed I felt all of it, perhaps it’s muscle memory and my whole body remembers exactly how it felt. Well, my body spent long enough experiencing it, so figures I guess. Good riddance. Please God, never let me lose sight of why I stopped drinking. Never let me forget. I’ll be ever so good, if you just grant me that one wish. Eek.

As for now, I’m still revelling in the realisation of how sobriety so easily puts life right at my feet. I’ve been thinking lots about what I want to do with it, this life. Don’t get me wrong, I consider the spot I’m in a pretty damn sweet one and to be honest if I never have or do anything beyond what I have or do right now, I’ll die a happy woman. Even so, now that drinking isn’t confining me to a miserable groundhog day style life of endless hangovers, why not aim a little higher? Like, you know, dreams and stuff. My little aha-moment Friday night extended to another realisation that positively made me shriek with excitement. I decided that perhaps that first book I write can be found much closer to home – here. So I printed off everything I’ve written in this past very-nearly-one-year.

The average novel is between 80,000 and 100,000 words in length. When I was trying to give writing a shot four years ago, I stalled and got stuck somewhere around the 50,000-mark. It just seemed such an arduous task, such an awful amount of work and never mind editing and reshaping and reworking the whole thing over and over. As I always did when I was drinking, I fizzled out and that half baked, half completed first draft is still gathering the proverbial dust on my hard drive. I figured that if I ever decided to write about drinking and sobriety (not that I’m a sobriety ninja – I’ll forever be a work in progress on that score), perhaps there might be some stuff from this blog I could use. I doubt there’ll be anything I could just lift, but certainly plenty of material by way of subject matter (even like this when I’ve written about hangover strategies) that I might be able to knock into shape. Well. I decided to print off the whole damn thing so I can read through it all armed with some highlighters and sticky page markers. I was going to do this when I hit the one year sober anyway because I want to look back on this past year and relive it.

book

When I was done printing I had a HUGE, thick pile of paper. 400 pages of single spaced lines of words, words, words. I checked the word count. 260,000. And there it was again, sobriety placing a huge lightbulb right in front of me. Without even thinking about it and with no actual effort or having to make time, I’ve written three novels’ worth in this past year. No, no – I know, it’s just my blog musings and nothing I could ever publish, but it showed me how it’s entirely do-able to knock out this amount. Attempting to write a book is obviously a whole different process – plan the structure, fine tune the archs of the story I want to tell and craft each sentence carefully and then go over it another ten times. But still. That pile of paper containing MY words really showed something to me that I needed to see.

I can do this. I can so totally do this. I can do this because I’m sober.

Today I’m not going to drink.

One by One

Friday evening I experienced one of those really significant moments – the universe really did conspire to put the lightbulb right in my path and there was no way I could miss it. Now, I don’t need any more evidence to understand that my very worst day sober is infinitely better than my very best day drunk, but it really got me. It got me so good I stood in the shower afterwards and shed tears of joy. OK, it’s the time of the month so my emotions are at their absolute highest intensity, but even so.

I was tired, a little cold and I had really full-on period cramps – the sort of cramps that remind you of early labour and that don’t go away even with pain killers, a hot water bottle and assuming the foetal position. It’s dreadful. And I get a bit lightheaded during this time too, possibly due to the fact that I’m prone to being low on iron and, well, “female issues” don’t help on that score, shall we say. OK, too much information perhaps! The point is, however, that I was not exactly in the mood for a run, but Sober Me is actually quite a determined person who follows through on things so we got ready. I pretty much made my peace with getting to the end of our street and telling Hubby to go off on his own, because given I can barely SIT normally with these cramps going on I didn’t exactly expect running to be a huge success.

We headed off and something magical happened. Despite initially feeling like my uterus was going to fall out of me (hm, maybe I’m fishing a little for sympathy here but it did hurt lots, OK?), once we were half way I almost started giggling out of sheer surprise. It felt so amazing! My stomach had stopped hurting so much, I felt strong and light on my feet, my breathing came easy and in synch so I was even able to chat with Hubby as we ran, and even though a few parts on the way back home were uphill we actually ran faster that last bit. Bloody hell (pun intended), this sounds so naff now that I’m writing it! I can’t actually describe this to you but I honestly had one of those hallelujah moments. We got back and I just couldn’t get over it, said to Hubby over and over how insane all of this is. If I were less concerned with “what the neighbours might think” I would have screamed with joy, arms outstretched to catch the sky – honestly. High-fiving Hubby had to do, but that’s OK.

It absolutely made my heart soar and I was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude – OK, I know this sounds like I’m exaggerating, but after throwing my life away for so many years this was HUGE to me. You see, when I was drinking, the absolute IDEAL and something quite unattainable would have been to be able to run 5k a few times a week. And of course I couldn’t. No one can, I don’t think, if they drink as much as I used to unless they’re made of absolute steel. When I drank, being able to run 5k was a really high goal and one I very rarely touched except for the spells here and there when I was dry.

And that’s what got me. There I was, Friday night – at my absolute worst and with period cramps from hell, yet we ran MORE THAN 5k and it felt like I flew the last couple of kilometres. At my absolute crappiest sober, even my highest drunk goals are absolutely smashed. I could have run further. How easily I can go and do the things Drunk Me barely dared even think about and here I am now – Sober Me and bossing it. It makes me ecstatic and sad at the same time. IF ONLY I’D KNOWN. But hey, no time like the present and even though it may seem sometimes like I wasted too much of my life drinking, perhaps I needed to learn these lessons in my own time.

Oh, how I wish I could verbalise this better so I could truly convey how it felt but there we are. Sobriety is making my dreams come true one by one.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Claw Your Way Out of This, Girl

Why did I keep on drinking for as long as I did even when I knew it was A) a massive problem, B) stopped me doing lots of things, and C) killing me? Who better to ask than Drunk Me?

Sober Me: How ya been?

Drunk Me: Fuck, can’t see properly. Don’t really want to talk, find it hard to focus. Feel dizzy, heart’s beating weird. Just need to keep as still as I can. Need to just breathe. Can we do this later? Just give me a couple of hours, I usually feel better by mid-afternoon.

Sober Me: Cool bananas, see you in a few hours!

Tick-tock, tick-tock.

Oh for God’s sake, that’s so annoying! Now she’s cancelled! Can’t she at least have had the decency to call instead of sending a text message ten minutes before we were supposed to meet up? How rude! Here I am, arranging my day to suit her and now it’s all been a waste of time. Ah! She’s texted. We can catch up tomorrow, meet her at that cute pub on the river after work. Great.

And so the following day…

Sober Me: Hey! You been here long? I’m just going to grab a coffee, you want anything?

Drunk Me: Nah, just got here. Literally just got myself a drink.

Sober Me: Oh no, you didn’t. Nice try! Remember I’m sober now – SOBER YOU! – and you have lost your powers to fool me so you can drop the act and we’ll have an honest heart to heart. I know it’s your second or third. You necked the first and deliberately got here half an hour early so you’d get it down you quickly before I turned up, remember? Actually, why don’t you tell me? Second or third?

Drunk Me: Sorry, I’m so used to lying about it I didn’t even have to think about it, I forgot who you were there for a moment, Sober Me. Second. I’d be on my third but there was traffic coming down here so I wasn’t as early as I’d hoped I’d be. That really stressed me out actually!

Sober Me: OK, cool. Keep it straight, sister. I’ll try to get as much out of you before you get too fogged up. So, I just wanted to pick your brains really.

Drunk Me: Go for it.

Sober Me: First off. You know you’re an alcoholic, right? You’ve known this for a long time, haven’t you?

Drunk Me: Yup. 

Sober Me: But you continue to drink even though you deep down know it’s a huge problem and it’s likely to kill you.

Drunk Me: Yup.

Sober Me: Can you, in just one sentence, sum up the main reason why that is? Like, I don’t stop drinking because – and, you know, the main reason or whatever.

Drunk Me: Oh God… I don’t know! Hold on, let me think. Argh! I’ll come right soon, I’m still muddled and find it hard to tie my thoughts together when I’m hungover. It’s like my brain shuts down, like a wet tangle of threads I can’t connect. OK, right. Ready?

Sober Me: Shoot.

Drunk Me: I don’t stop drinking because I don’t know how.

Sober Me: How do you mean? As in, you don’t think you can?

Drunk Me: Kind of. I just don’t know where to start. It doesn’t seem possible, it’s just such a huge thing. It’s overwhelming. And no, I don’t think I’d be able to, I just can’t see it. And what a bleak existence, too! Imagine ALWAYS being sober. Eek!  

Sober Me: But you’re not physically dependent on alcohol, are you? So it’s not like you would truly need a medical detox or your doctor’s assistance to come off it?

Drunk Me: I get withdrawal symptoms, definitely, that’s what these hangovers are, right? But no, it’s rare that I get so ill I have to start drinking again just out of agony. But no, it’s not at a point where I have to drink in the mornings and when I do have the first drink it at least feels like I want it and not that I need it, if you see what I mean?

Sober Me: Mm… But you did also say just now that you’d come right soon, which implies you feel rotten and you’re drinking to make it go away.

Drunk Me: Mm… Don’t know. Uhm…. True, I suppose. Next question please.

Sober Me: Deny, deny, deny! You’re so funny. And a little stupid, but that’s OK – your brain’s under siege by your addiction so let’s move on. So you keep drinking because stopping seems big and scary, do I have that right? And also you don’t think you can?

Drunk Me: Yes. And it seems dull too. Drinking is fun and happy and cosy and glittery and warm. I can’t imagine those summer nights when Hubby and I sit in the evening sun and drink wine and chat and laugh without the wine. It just doesn’t work. Or sitting here on any evening during any season. I just don’t know what that even looks like. Why bother coming here at all?

Sober Me: To hang out with Hubby in a lovely spot and enjoy his company!

Drunk Me: I always enjoy his company! I just mean we could stay at home. 

Sober Me: Sitting here in a place that’s special to you both without drinking seems like a waste of time if you’re not drinking?

Drunk Me: Well, I mean… …that sounds a bit harsh! Not quite like that! 

Sober Me: Actually, that’s what I’m hearing! So, in essence you think life wouldn’t be quite so glittery and nice without drinking?

Drunk Me: Exactly! We – mostly me and Hubby – always have such a laugh when we drink. I don’t see how it would be the same. I look forward to it ALL THE TIME. I plan everything around it! When I’ll drink, where I’ll get it from, how to swerve any awkward moments, how to hide it, how to adjust everything else to fit in with my boozing. It’s always the main objective, like a big jigsaw I have to plan out all the time. Even getting here I raced to get here long before you so I’d be able to drink more.

Sober Me: That sounds like an awful lot of work to me. Stressful!

Drunk Me: Hah! That’s true, actually! I never thought of it like that.  

Sober Me: So meeting me without drinking….

Drunk Me: Well, you’d have to catch me on a day I’m not too hungover and also get in there before I have started drinking, so you’d be lucky. I always find excuses, cancel at the last minute or wriggle my way out of it somehow. All so I can drink the way I want to.

Sober Me: But what I was going to say was if there was no drinking involved you wouldn’t have any of that stress.

Drunk Me: Yeah, but then I wouldn’t have any of that other stuff!

Sober Me: What stuff?

Drunk Me: The excitement, you know – looking forward to drinking, being all happy and sort of energised by it, feeling perky and bouncy when I know I’m going to drink. 

Sober Me: But you’d be seeing me! 

Drunk Me: You’re me. Just sober and more bright-eyed and bushy tailed.

Sober Me: Smart arse. You know what I mean. You’d be seeing a friend or friends or whatever. Isn’t that the whole point of it?

Drunk Me: Oh shit. No, not for me. Holy crap, I just realised I wasn’t even thinking much about how seeing you, I was just happy because I was heading to the pub. That’s the main event for me. It just makes everything more fun! And gets conversation going and stuff!

Sober Me: So I’m just something that fits in around it? 

Drunk Me: As shitty as it sounds, yes.

Sober Me: How do you think your friends would feel if they knew that? If they knew they’re only peripheral and all you really care about is drinking? 

Drunk Me: It’s dreadful, isn’t it? 

Sober Me: Dreadful and stressful! Come on, don’t get sad. Look, I know you’re feeling helpless. It’s OK to say, you know, but I know this still seems way too scary for you. 

Drunk Me: It DOES make me sad! It breaks my heart because I love my friends, genuinely really love them. I don’t know how I ended up here! When did this switch happen? When did I go from being excited about who I was meeting up with to excited that I was going to drink? I feel awful. I keep picturing Lopez’s face if I were to tell her I was happier about getting to drink than seeing her. Can we stop? Change the subject! I can’t bear to think about it. Can we stop please?

Sober Me: That’s the nature of the Beast, my dear. Cunning, baffling and powerful. You need to claw your way out of this, girl.

Drunk Me: I just don’t know how! Where would I start? What would I say? Who would I say it to? It just seems so fucking hopeless. And impossible.

Sober Me: You think it is, yes. That’s your addiction talking. Just like it’s your addiction that makes the drinking more important than who you’re seeing. Can you tell me what the drink gives you that made you more excited about that than you were about seeing me today?

Drunk Me: Er… Well, I’m kind of getting a little buzzy and warm now. Excitable. 

Sober Me: I can tell, it’s like a little switch went on in you with that second drink. Now that you’re into your third you seem happier. You’re chattier too. And you’re suddenly drinking a LOT faster! You went from feeling sad there for a minute to really perking up. 

Drunk Me: I know! I’m kind of in the flow now! Definitely feel better! 

Sober Me: But is that because the alcohol has lifted you or is it simply that you feel less terrible? Describe how you actually feel.

Drunk Me: I don’t feel as unsteady as earlier. I’m no longer dizzy and I don’t feel anxious or stressed.

Sober Me: So this warm and buzzy feeling is actually better described as “not terrible” and perhaps that’s why it feels so good. I mean, would you say that you feel really wonderful or would you say it’s that you just don’t feel shit anymore? 

Drunk Me: Probably that I no longer feel like shit, now that I think about it. Yeah, that’s it. I can’t say I feel all that amazing, just not feeling quite so awful. Stupid, isn’t it?

Sober Me: No, not stupid. You’re an alcoholic, that’s all. This is all very serious though, you know that, don’t you? What you’re doing is dangerous. 

Drunk Me: Can we change the subject? You’re so boooooooring! Joking. I’ll stop. I will, honestly. Just not today. 

Sober Me: Let’s just leave it for now, I see you’ve started really guzzling so it’s probably better if you get yourself home. I’m obviously sober and it’s getting to that point where it’ll soon be having a conversation with a drunk person and that’s quite irritating. No offence!  

Drunk Me: None taken. I can still have a reasonably good conversation for a while, we can keep going. But if we’re not going to, I’d like to rush off before this buzz wears off so I can get more wine on the way home and keep on drinking. So you let me know – if we’re staying, I want to get another drink NOW and if not I want to hurry home. I hate having to break the flow!

Sober Me: Alright, let’s catch up again soon. I just really wanted to ask you what keeps you drinking. That’ll do for now. Try not to die today though, I still have things I want to ask you. 

Drunk Me: I’ll do my best, haha!

Sober Me: You must be made of steel. The way you drink does kill lots of people. Are you not aware of this, you nutter? Joking about it makes it go away a little though, right? 

Drunk Me: Sure does and I do know I’m sailing a bit close to the wind. Every morning at 4am when I lie awake and my heart is beating like crazy I think I’ve finally gone and done it. 

Sober Me: And yet you continue. 

Drunk Me: Yep. And speaking of which – gotta go!

I stand there for a while, watching Drunk Me head off. She’s walking fast, head held high again now that she feels better. I did watch her arrive and she never took her eyes off the ground, her steps unsure and she was holding on to her handbag in a way a nervous car passenger might hold on to their seat belt. It’s sad to watch. Both what alcohol reduces her to and how it’s what puts her “right” again. And I once again remember why I’m so grateful I don’t have to do that anymore. Every single day I am grateful. I’ll tell you what I’m not, though: bored! All Drunk Me’s fears were illusions. Every single one.

Today I’m not going to drink.