Honesty feels fucking good. I bypassed my little pact with myself to not shove the A-word in the face of my soon-to-be ex-bosses, but there was a lovely moment this morning at work and out it came. Quite unplanned and, as my recovery in itself, quite unexpected. Lady Boss popped in to say goodbye as she won’t be around tomorrow, which is my last day with them. She told me about something very exciting that she is on the cusp of achieving so the context of our brief chat was, you know, good stuff. A hug followed and I told her thanks for having me. Perhaps I squeezed her a bit extra because in that moment I got caught up in how much I actually really like this woman and part of me felt really sad that it was her (and her husband) of all the bosses I’ve had that I let down. I mean, on top of my head two people I’ve worked for in the past were complete douche-bags so it’s not as if I was left with limited choice. But it is what it is.
“It’s been lovely,” she said, “sorry it fizzled out.”
My take is this: yes, it fizzled out and I would imagine their view would be fairly aligned with mine. It fizzled out because I simply wasn’t performing and at some stage I suspect they just felt exasperated and resigned about it but too busy with everything else to be able to do more than give me the occasional pointer and hope it’d come right. Something like that. It all just ended up a little set adrift. And to be clear and to repeat what I’ve always said – this is all on me. Honestly, put this job and these bosses to anyone and they’ll agree it’s a lovely little number, this gig. Anyway, I think “fizzled” is spot on. The first couple of years I was operating on autopilot and too muddled to even perform the simplest tasks – what I got right was almost fluke and based on winging it. And it’s only so long you can get by in that way, sooner or later the wheels will come off the bus. I’ve beaten myself up plenty for not using this past year (when I’ve been sober) to pull it all together and I don’t actually have anything resembling a valid reason for failing to do so.
Again, I’ve said it before, that in an ideal world I would have gone to them both a year ago and told them I was trying to get sober after over a decade of killing myself with booze, please have a little faith in me and I’ll put this right and be really great. Of course that’s with that wonderful thing called hindsight. And it’s not as if I didn’t want to – I had the conversation playing out in my head hundreds of times, how I’d put it and what I wanted to say. There was just one thing stopping me and it’s the one thing only hindsight could ever deliver: there was no part of me, a year ago, that believed I’d actually be able to do it. Well, you don’t need to be an alcoholic to understand the dilemma – tell the boss you’re an alcoholic trying to get sober against all odds, then fail to get sober and, well, you’re going to get fired in a hot second right? And then you’ve rendered yourself ENTIRELY unemployable and left with the end stage park bench stretch for the remainder of the race. Cue loss of all else that matters in quick succession. Eek, it all goes to show how dishonest we become when we’re in active addiction. Dishonesty is something I absolutely hate, always have. I imagine most people do and addiction is ugly like that because it forces you into a very uncomfortable corner.
But even if I didn’t ever have The Conversation with them? I had ample opportunity to just get on with Operation Get My Shit Together. I didn’t do it. I honestly have no good answers as to why. I look back on this past year and it’s been all about my recovery. I don’t like placing the blame anywhere other than at my own front door though, because I just don’t believe it CAN be placed elsewhere – lots of people go through lots of stuff and still honour their responsibilities and commitments. They get on with it. I didn’t. I don’t know why, despite really searching my mind for the answers. Maybe I felt a bit hopeless, that I’d lost my grip and slipped so far I couldn’t rescue it? Possibly. Actually, make that probably.
Anyway, that hug was the moment. Lady Boss’s take on it was correct and it felt to me like the right time to say it wasn’t “it” that fizzled, but rather ME who was fizzled for a long time. OK, OK, perhaps selfish of me to whine and point to excuses-excuses-excuses after all when in fact I was going to just own this and take it on the chin, but I didn’t even attempt to stop myself.
“It did fizzle but it was all me,” I spluttered, conscious that she was in a rush, “I did want to say before but I was eyeball deep in alcoholism. I’m awake now though!” I quickly added and felt a bit silly.
“That makes sense,” Lady Boss replied, lovely brown eyes all twinkly as usual and then she perked up, “oh! Let’s have lunch! I have something to show you where your view as an alcoholic might be useful!”
And she was off and I felt joyful, relieved and… …really quite good. Honesty has that effect, doesn’t it? No matter what it is we share, it’s so terrible to have something to hide that even admitting to something that once filled us with heavy, thick shame can be uplifting as the weight of our shitty secrets evaporates.
Hindsight. Sneaky motherfucker, that one. Anyone reading this who’s still trapped in their addiction, take note. I’ll be straight with you though – the reason I held back for the longest time wasn’t primarily fear of what other people might think. The biggest reason for me was that “coming out” would force me to do something about it. However, we’ll get to that. My point is both are bollocks, but please don’t allow shame to be what keeps you trapped – you’ll be amazed at how loving and kind a place this world is. Truly. Maybe I’m just extremely fortunate, but I can report that not a single person I’ve told I’m an alcoholic has spat in my face or screamed at me to get out of their sight. I’d like to submit testimony that the reaction has been 100% positive and if anything I’m closer to absolutely everyone I know as a result. Figures, doesn’t it, now that I don’t have a dirty drinking habit I always have to prioritise and hide at the same time. Scariest person to tell? Dad. Reaction? Told me it made him incredibly happy to hear I’d stopped drinking.
This, you see, is the fucked up thinking our addict’s brain will have us believe for the longest time. I was also scared of telling Hubby. My crazy ass brain had me thinking he’d somehow balk at the A-word and want to leave me, that it would somehow be worse to be married to a person who is brave enough to face their demons and fight them, than a person who clearly has a problem and keeps on destroying herself. Yep, that’s what addiction does – it makes us a little mad.
Also scary to tell: other family. Reaction? Hugs and heartfelt assurances of how proud they are of me for dealing with a problem. Then friends. Reaction? Hugs, hugs and hugs. Words of encouragement but also of questions: why hadn’t I let them know before so they could have tried to help me? Go figure. And, oh, we’re all now even closer because there is that little corner of my heart that used to be closed off and boarded up but where they can all go and know they know all of me because now I let them.
Wow, I almost forgot the worst person to tell of them all! Me. Oohhh now THAT was pretty daunting. You see, there was a long list of things I was scared of and now that I have that lovely new buddy called hindsight it all seems so fucking insane. Well, it is insane. It’s madness in it’s most concentrated form.
When I drank, I was scared to get in the shower in the morning because I felt so unsteady, shaky and weak. Having coffee in the morning made me feel even dizzier. Every journey to work I knew I was over the limit still. Some days I couldn’t see properly. Each day was painful because I was so wrecked even the simplest task was overwhelmingly difficult. I avoided conversations because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep upright, never mind process things spoken to me or formulating a response. Often, I avoided going to the loo because I didn’t trust I’d be able to get there or back to my desk without collapsing. Sometimes I seriously wondered if I could hide under the other desk in the office until the worst shakes and palpitations wore off but then thought that’d be a bad place to die. I’d think this at home too, sometimes going to bed fully dressed when Hubby was away as I didn’t want Bambino to find me naked as well as dead. Dressed and dead seemed a little less terrible. I sometimes wrote notes to myself because I don’t know who I become in black-out or what that person will do. “Don’t post anything on Facebook” or “Don’t go outside“. I sometimes double locked the door and hid my own keys – from myself. Oh, I know, talk about dangerous but I think the fire scenario was the least of it actually. Holidays were like everything else just stuff that got in the way of drinking. Even family and friends – all of whom I love so dearly – I would see in a rush, impatient to get away so I could drink. Oh, drinking WITH them? Hah! Don’t be daft.
I could go on but don’t think I need to. Obviously you can see what a world of wonder and pretty rainbows I had to leave behind. This is addiction though. And at least it was all pretty familiar, just like Katie over at How I Killed Betty once described depression in this post as a dark and murky pit at the bottom of a well – there might be light at the top but the way up is long and difficult and at least you know it down here, in a way it’s more comfortable than what might wait above. Although I’ve never experienced depression, I can so relate to this because I thought why the hell would I even attempt to climb out? My addict’s brain had me convinced that not drinking would be shittier than my ever shrinking alcoholic’s world.
Now? Mm, I don’t think I need to tell you. Over a year in, the novelty still hasn’t worn off and even now I get tearful with gratitude. I wake up feeling clear headed, steady and strong. As I shower, the smell of freshly ground coffee beans and that magical java brewing finds my nostrils as I come out and dry off. I have at least two mugs of it as I put on mascara and look out over the tree tops through our livingroom window. Not a single feeling of regret at things I may have said or done but can’t remember or having to pretend I do. It’s bliss. Hubby and I get up to all the things we always did with the exception that we now also go running together. I run around the 7k loop with relative ease and it is nothing short of glorious. I wash my face before bed and use beauty products like serum and night cream. I can plan ahead and when my tomorrows become todays I do the things I set out to do. I’m no longer a slave and I have all this time. The words flow in tumbling torrents from my fingertips and I recently discovered that over this first year sober I’ve written – by way of word count, not quality! – three books’ worth. I’m no longer winging it and forever fretting over what or where something will go wrong as a result. Bambino now has a really great mum and no longer just alternating between two versions: hungover and ill tempered or drunk and over compensating. And, man! All this honesty! The freedom to just be me!
Enough said, right?
Enough is a good word. I’m Anna. I’m me. That’s enough. I’ll never be a person who thrives in big social situations and like the bull Ferdinand I’ll always be my happiest when I’m just sitting under my cork oak and smelling the flowers instead of joining in. I’m terrible at some stuff and quite great at other things. And that’s cool. Alcohol never made any difference to any of that anyway and I don’t think I ever consciously drank to get more confident anyway. I thought alcohol was glitter to be sprinkled on life. This will amuse anyone, but that not-so-rainbowy world I described was one in which I genuinely felt happy. Honestly, I did. But that’s just what my journey happened to look like and I never drank to escape bad feelings or misery, I drank because I thought it’d enhance happiness. Isn’t that just the craziest thing of all of it? I was happy, yet I poisoned myself in a way that nearly destroyed me and stole so much from me, and I am honestly amazed that I am even here.
Well. It’s all very exciting. I may never collect the Nobel Prize for Literature and obviously it won’t become any more likely until I actually write something, but the point is I’ve shed the chains and I am now able to give things a really good shot. I no longer have to fantasise about those things or just talk the talk. I may never walk the walk but I can fucking try! And why the hell not!
The time is now!
Today I’m not going to drink.