Here’s Little Anna kissing Mum. It was in June 1979 in hospital and she’d just given me a little brother. She deserved a kiss, definitely.
“We’re all addicts, aren’t we?” my mother mused when I spoke to her on the phone last night. She said it in that gentle, sweet way she does when she mulls things over and wants to show she relates. “We all have those things we think of as rewards.”
Mum, however, was talking about chocolate. She giggled knowingly and told me in that let-me-tell-you-a-secret kind of way that she has on occasion hidden chocolate bars. The way she told me and the way she said it was how you might expect someone to confess to something really quite naughty or controversial. Like my old systems for hiding wine and then disposing of the empties. Bless my beautiful and utterly lovely mother. She was, of course, making perfect sense.
“Thank God it’s just chocolate! What if I’d discovered drinking or smoking?” she added, still with that smile in her voice that I could hear all the way from Sweden.
Somehow I can’t quite picture my mother drinking or smoking. She’ll cautiously take a small sip at an infuriatingly small glass of wine at, say, Christmas, but never have I ever known her to DRINK drink. And trying to picture her smoking a cigarette makes me laugh because it’s more unlikely than if she were to moonlight as a stripper. Point is, though, that she did what we do when we really listen to someone talk about something that’s difficult and we want to show we have taken it onboard, wanting to illustrate that we can relate in some way. I believe it comes down to wanting to be kind. Discussing my addiction and recovery with one of my bestest, oldest friends went down in a similar manner – my friend brought up her own view on drinking and I know it was a genuine way of reassuring me that hey, buddy, I hear you. I’ve said it before – I’m very lucky.
We all want and need to be heard, and when you talk openly about what used to be a dirty, shameful secret it’s uplifting to be met with this sort of kindness where your loved ones want to show they really thought about what you said and searched for ways to relate.
Life is manic now. Manic in a good way, but I do have to take care not to allow my full throttle brain to take over. I finally have that coveted employment contract and have been given the first bunch of course work to solidify all these new things I am learning. Today is a day for Anna. Monday I got home closer to 11pm following an evening shift and got up at 5am Tuesday to start another at 7am. Working at the rehab isn’t like an office job with breaks. Kiss 9-5 goodbye. Nevermind the leisurely 9-2 I cruised along at. I’m served lunch by the chef like everyone else, but I have yet to spend longer than ten minutes eating in peace before rushing off to the next thing. I’m yet to complete a task with no interruption. This is where I have to make a conscious effort to breathe and slow myself down because my brain works in PRECISELY in this way – this is the speed setting my brain naturally likes. And it’s PRECISELY the speed setting that had me plunge head first into severe alcoholism. So whilst I’m now feeling restless at this self imposed Day of Chillax and itching to complete all course work I’m able to access, I’m pushing myself back. Jeez, slow down, gal.
Beethoven actually pointed out how Rio has used his addict’s mind to get as good as he is at his job – this top speed, almost frantic approach. So yes, being wired in this way isn’t necessarily a bad thing and my addiction super powers can indeed be strengths, but what I’m saying is I have to be mindful of how I’m feeling. Feeling energised and motivated is one thing, compulsion is quite another and I do 100% feel rattled by a pile of course work I want to churn through. So I’m deliberately leaving it sitting there. Today is Anna’s Day of Chillax. Blog, go for a walk, perhaps bake something. Tomorrow it’s another late shift, followed by a 7am start both Friday and Saturday. Today is self care and deep breaths. Clear my mind and just BE.
This is something Beethoven is always very clear on. Well, the man has worked with addicts for years and at the rehab he also employs a bunch of us. When Rio was throwing shifts into my greedy little hands, Beethoven emphasised I should only do what feels right and not say yes because I feel I have to.
“Your husband might come down here and shout at us!” Beethoven joked and Rio laughed out loud and gave a high five, “[Rio] and I might end up in big trouble.”
“I doubt it. Now he has a wife who comes home from work and is excited and wants to tell him all about her day,” I told them and immediately cringed at how fucking cheesy it sounded.
“Aw, that’s really nice,” Beethoven said and smiled, “that’s how it should be, I’m glad you said that.”
Drunk Me would have gone bright red for even being in a conversation and the discomfort this always used to entail. Drunk Me would blush furiously if even spoken to. Sober Me smiled and just got on with it. Some days I don’t even recognise myself, so long had I been buried, but I’m slowly learning to be me again. Rio informed me that I’ll run the relaxation group occasionally. This involves talking to a group of roughly 20 people, lead the discussion and moderate following a few minutes of plinky-plonky music and meditation. Had you asked me to do this just 14-or-so months ago I would have refused and run a mile. Even for a handful of people – no fucking way. Never mind a group of 20-odd that on top of things may occasionally include a well known face. Not a problem. The thought doesn’t make me anxious or nervous. Why? Coz I’m sober. Turns out these things don’t actually scare me. It’s just another thing to do, something I’m learning but happy to attempt even if I don’t know it all. Even the idea of getting something wrong doesn’t terrify me. It doesn’t even bother me. What a lovely surprise, Sobriety! I sure as hell didn’t expect THAT. Whatever next?
Well. 428 days sober. That’s a miracle. I well up just typing it because I can’t quite believe it’s real. What a gift. And I’m so grateful I got to wake up again with a clear mind and free from all that heavy shame and regret. For the first time in 15 years, I come home from work knowing I gave it my all and that I did well. For the first time in 15 years, I know me being there made a difference. I haven’t felt this way in so long. And I remember her now, the girl I used to be. I lost her there for a while.
Today I’m not going to drink.