50-Odd Yards Behind Her

Yesterday, I saw someone demonstrate what a really fucking awesome friend is. Right there in front of me.

Little Miss was being dropped off at the rehab by aforementioned friend and wasn’t happy about it. Drunk and unhappy, actually, alternating between savage anger and drink-fuelled poor-little-me sadness. Excuse after excuse after excuse. Little Miss was adamant that she didn’t need to be there, that she has her life together and everything going for her. Sadly, I’d hazard a guess and say I don’t believe she was being dropped at rehab by mistake. A guy who recently left said in the morning meditation group on his last day:

When I came here I didn’t have a drinking problem, it was just my family who had issues. Now that I’m leaving, I know I have a drinking problem and my family’s fine.

Wise words indeed. For some people, it clicks. And heartbreakingly, for many, many more it doesn’t. It takes time and the sad truth is that no matter what our loved ones say or do – even if we end up losing them altogether – we won’t accept help until we accept we have a problem. As much as I do believe this, I am coming to believe that although no one can get you sober but YOU, there is a way to be a great friend and that’s to be honest. Little Miss has a great friend and I have to say I was pretty impressed, because it takes balls to do what she did.

I’m not staying,” Little Miss whined and struggled to light another cigarette, her hand holding the lighter swaying too much and missing the tip of the cigarette.

You have to get well. You are ill!” Good Friend told her firmly.

No I’m not, you bitch, I’m fine,” Little Miss snapped and knocked the cigarette out of her own mouth as she made wild gestures.

How can you say that? You’re not fine at all. If you don’t stay, you’ll go back to an empty house!

I have too much work, I don’t have time to stay here,” Little Miss insisted and pouted defiantly.

What work? When did you last work? Stop bullshitting. Look at you! You’re not fucking fine!

You’re jealous because I have everything I want.

Good Friend at this point glanced at me and shot me a resigned look. I did my best to reassure and persuade Little Miss that coming here was a good thing and we’d help her get well. But how do you convince someone who doesn’t believe they need help that they do? Best part of my shift yesterday was spent doing Little Miss’s admission in small instalments, reassuring her that it’s not a prison and we don’t hold anyone against their will, but let’s just do this one step at a time. At every turn, she wanted to leave, then reluctantly agreed to give it a chance only to change her mind again moments later. In the end, late in the evening, after lots of paperwork and going through the whole process including a full examination by the doctor, she was off. You can’t force recovery on anyone, it never works. Only you can get yourself there.

What Little Miss has however, is a great advantage. She has her Good Friend who clearly loves her enough to make her seek help, but most importantly, sets boundaries and tells her straight. Do you know what, I don’t know if I’d have the balls to do that. Actually, yes. If it were someone I love, yes I would. But it would be fucking horrible, is what I mean. That’s NOT an easy thing to do, and of course Good Friend did end up on the receiving end of a barrage of abuse from Little Miss who was having none of it. Especially not a problem!

I know my friends would have done that for me if they’d realised how fast I was slipping. That’s the shitter with alcohol though, you can sink almost the whole way down to rock bottom without it being too obvious. Little Miss, appears to have sunk a little further than I did. Oh, it wasn’t far off – of that I’m certain, because that slope was beginning to get very steep – but I didn’t quite reach those consequences. Little Miss, as spelled out to her by Good Friend out there on those steps, now had a choice between accepting the help or losing her family as well as her friends, relatives already taking care of her children and a partner who’s moved out. Addiction does that – it strips you bare, because that’s all it wants: you, all on your own, so it can go ahead and kill you.

So to those of you who love an addict – be it your partner, sister, father, friend – I have this to say: it’s OK to set boundaries so lay those down. You can still love us and be there for us at the same time as you tell us straight that we need help. You can’t force us to get clean, we have to do that for ourselves or it won’t work, but you can state your case without compromising your love and even if we lash out you may just have planted a seed. Please be patient with us. I know we hurt and abuse you. That’s not OK, but please do remember we are held hostages by our addiction and this person you love is still here underneath.

Perhaps Good Friend’s words did register somewhere and Little Miss comes back. I do hope so. Perhaps she did come back to an empty house. Hopefully Good Friend along with Little Miss’s other dear ones hold the boundary they set: get yourself help or we walk away. It’s a tough one, very tough. But maybe, just maybe the coin will drop. I couldn’t help but think, as Little Miss stood there waiting for the Uber to take her back home, that I wished she’d just see that just 50-odd yards behind her across the parking lot, a totally new and better life could be started if only she made the decision to come back through those doors. Well. Yesterday wasn’t her day. Let’s hope her day comes soon though.

And, just to be crystal here, OK…. It took me almost 11 years to work up the cojones to ask for help, so I’m not bloody sitting here saying Little Miss is silly. She isn’t. She’s an addict. And like the rest of us, it’ll only happen when it happens. I just hope she’s one of those of us who it happens for before it’s too late. What I say above is said off the back of my own addiction and how I struggled with it, plus an enormous amount of hindsight. Hell, 11 years! I first realised I had a huge problem with drink and sought help in May 2007. It happened for me in January 2018. So don’t for a moment think I’m trying to say I’m some kind of sobriety straight A student. Flippin’eck no. I may work at a rehab now and yes it’s frustrating to know this amazing life awaits and is available yet people continue to throw it all away so needlessly, but I also know how hard it is to see that light when you’re trapped in darkness.

Sometimes we need a lot of nudging. Sometimes we need a Good Friend.

Today I’m not going to drink.

I Am Your Disease

I don’t know who the author of this poem is, but whoever wrote it knows the Beast very, very well. It seems so bleak – it is. It seems so frightening – it is. But this is what I always have to remember. When I focus on my recovery and staying sober, the Beast is right outside doing press-ups.

 

I AM YOUR DISEASE

You know who I am, you’ve called me your friend,

Wishes of misery and heartache I send,

I want only to see that you’re brought to your knees,

I’m the devil inside you, I am your disease.

I’ll invade all your thoughts, I’ll take hostage your soul,

I’ll become your new master, in total control,

I’ll maim your emotions, I’ll run the whole game,

Till your entire existence is crippled with shame.

When you call me I come, sometimes in disguise,

Quite often I’ll take you by total surprise.

But take you I will, and just as you’ve feared,

I’ll only want to hurt you, with no mercy spared.

If you have your own family, I will see it destroyed,

I’ll steal every pleasure in life you’ve enjoyed.

I’ll not only hurt you, I’ll kill if I please,

I’m your worst living nightmare, I am your disease.

I bring self destruction, but still you can’t tell,

I’ll sweep you through heaven, then drop you in hell,

I’ll chase you forever, wherever you go,

And then when I catch you, you won’t even know.

I’ll sometimes lay silent, just waiting to strike,

What’s yours becomes mine, cuz I take what I like,

I’ll take all you own and I won’t care who sees,

I’m your constant companion… I am your disease.

If you have any honour, I’ll strip it away,

You’ll lose all your hope and forget how to pray,

I’ll leave you in darkness, while blindly you stare,

I’ll reduce you to nothing, and won’t even care.

So, don’t take for granted my powers sublime,

I’ll bend and I’ll break you, time after time,

I’ll crumble your world with the greatest of ease,

I’m that madman inside you… I am your disease.

But today I’m real angry… you want to know why?

I let this treatment centre full of Addicts entirely slip by,

How did I lose you? Where did I go wrong?

One minute I had you… the next you were gone.

You can’t just dismiss all the good times we’ve shared,

When you were alone… wasn’t it I who appeared?

When you sold those possessions you knew you would need,

Wasn’t I the first one who stepped in and agreed.

Now look at you bastards, you’re all thinking clear,

You escaped with your lives when you found your way here,

Only fools think they’re winners when admitting defeat,

It’s what you must say when you’re claiming that seat.

Go ahead and surrender, if that’s what you choose,

But, I’m not giving up cuz I can’t stand to lose,

So stand in your groups and support hand in hand,

Better choices will save you… leaving me to be damned.

Well, be damned all you people seeking treatment each week,

Be damned inner strength, however unique,

Be damned all your sayings, be damned your cliches,

Be damned every Addict, who back to me strays.

For I know it will happen, I’ve seen it before,

Those who love misery will crawl back for more,

So take comfort in knowing, I’m waiting right here,

But next time around, you’d just better beware.

You think that you’re stronger or smarter this time,

There isn’t a mountain or hill you can’t climb,

Well if that’s what you’re thinking, you ain’t learned a thing,

I’ll still knock you silly if you step back in my ring.

But you say you’ve surrendered, so what can I do?

It’s so sad in a way, I had big plans for you,

Creating your nightmare for me was a dream,

I’m sure gonna miss you… we made quite a team.

So please don’t forget me, I won’t forget you,

I’ll stand by your side watching all that you do,

I’m ready and waiting, so call if you please,

I won’t let you forget me… I am your disease. 

– Unknown

Today I’m not going to drink.

Night, Night Darling

Something I think we – we, the addicts – sometimes forget, is how we’re not the only ones who are in recovery. Addiction is like a bomb, and although it’s us addicts who are hit with the explosion, our loved ones are hit too with the shrapnel and total devastation of our demise. Yes, it takes courage and strength to battle our way through recovery, but our loved ones also have to recover if we’re lucky enough to still have them stand by us. They have to learn to trust us again. Or our ability to stay sober/clean, rather. They may – quite rightly – be filled with anger, resentment, sadness and bitterness and the road back can be a long and arduous one for them too.

Only a few weeks back, Hubby had a wobble. There I was, 15-odd months sober and not a care in the world, bobbing along nicely on my Pink Cloud and filled with gratitude. It didn’t even occur to me until he told me days later how it had looked to him.

Here’s what happened in my world:

Sunday. Hubby gets on flight to Dubai for work, leaving mid-morning. I go for a long walk around the park. Back home and much of the day still ahead of me. Baked some cinnamon rolls. Blogged. Spent some time reading. Cleaned the apartment. Time dragged and I was bored silly. Quite randomly decided that I’d hit up an AA meeting – there’s one a few hundred yards down the road on Sunday evenings that I used to go to early on in recovery. So off I go. Realised half way down I had no cash and in meetings you usually put a few coins in a cup that’s passed around. Went to the cash point. Withdrew £100 as I needed cash for the cleaner too – two birds, one stone. Went into the kebab shop, which was the only place open on Sunday evening, and bought a bottle of water in order to get some change. Went to the meeting, then home. Had some missed calls from Hubby, three in fact, and he’d texted several times too asking if I’m OK. Of course I am! Gosh, what a Mother Hen he can be! Cute, really. Speak with him as I crawl into bed with a book. I do notice that he sounds a bit worried but he can be like that, bless him – he always wants to look after me so I put it down to him just being this glorious, loving husband that he is. Night, night darling.

Here’s what happened in Hubby’s world:

Off to Dubai. Text Wifey to let her know landed safely. Text her again in taxi to let her know en route to hotel. Call her to let her know at hotel safely. Twice, no reply. Another text to check she’s OK. Try calling again an hour later. Goes to answer machine again. She is home alone, Bambino at his dad’s. Uhm, what’s this? She’s taken cash out. And cannot be reached. Now, this used to mean one thing only – when I was home alone I’d usually take the opportunity to drink myself to pieces. Hated my wine purchases showing up on the statement so would always get cash out. And of course I knew I’d be slurring so I’d switch my phone off, normally text Hubby to say I’m having an early night so he wouldn’t worry.

Of course I was fine and still very much sober. But this illustrates how Hubby still worries. I can’t forget that, WE – we, the addicts – can’t forget that. We have to be mindful of those poor souls whose hearts we inhabit and how they need time too. I had to remind myself of this as my immediate reaction when Hubby days later told me he’d thought I’d fallen off the wagon was annoyance – just because drinking at this point in time couldn’t be further from my mind, Hubby still has to learn to trust this new existence too. In a way, he is still held hostage by my addiction. I kissed him a million times over, thanked him for loving me so much and swore to be careful with his heart. And next time, hopefully I’ll be more aware of how it might look in his world and ping him a text before I fall off the radar for a while!

There is also Bambino. Don’t get me wrong, I know in my heart that he is thrilled to bits that Mum is sober and I’ll never underestimate how much my sobriety and fight to remain in recovery means in his world. That does make me a hero and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for my child. However! Never EVER can I lose sight of what that little heart of his might feel every day before he comes home. Perhaps that stone of dread and anxiety still hangs there until the very moment he walks through the door and can see Mum is still sober? Perhaps he still worries and dreads what sort of state I might be in? I may be sober and currently confident in terms of my recovery, but I’ve done so much damage and Bambino might always have that worry as a result. Who knows? Maybe one day he’ll tell me and do you know what? If he one day has some choice words for me, no matter how much they’ll hurt I’ll give him my full attention. Period.

Yes, recovery is a scary and difficult battle. Yes, we are absolutely heroes for battling the Beast. But we also HAVE TO remember we aren’t the only victims. Our loved ones are also on this journey with us and they may very well have every bit as much of a fight on their hands, and of this we must be mindful and respectful.

So today, what I’m the most grateful for are my two boys – Hubby and Bambino – who still somehow deem me worthy of their love despite the devastation I’ve caused through my addiction. Thank God. May they learn to trust my strength as I continue on my journey and one day feel at peace. It’s my responsibility to fight with all my might to show them this. I know they trust in me, but some wounds take a while to heal and until they do I’ll be the best nurse I know how. One day at a time.

Today I’m not going to drink.

That Goddamn Bottle

Something curious happened.

We were talking about you earlier and everyone was saying that we just can’t imagine you drinking.

I must have jumped, as if someone had prodded me with a stick. Startled, but absolutely delighted, I looked up from what I was doing. The client whose medication I was administering sat on the chair and was smiling at me, an alkie like myself, waiting for me to put her lunchtime batch of detox pills into the little paper cup. She has eyes the colour of the sky on a summer’s day – that solid, light blue – and they were sparkling like eyes do when we’re coming back to life from active addiction. She, like so many others, is again a bright and bubbly individual and already so far removed from the tired and wrecked person who was admitted to the rehab only a week or two ago. It’s a beautiful thing when we begin to recover who we really are. Sobriety does this and it’s fucking awesome.

It was off the back of the morning relaxation group I’d run. The topic had been “say when” and holding boundaries, and I’d shared a little (to prompt discussion) about what my life used to look like when I was drinking. I told the group how I’d say yes to everything and then be too fucked to follow through. I set this in contrast to how I can now say yes and deliver on my promises. Or say no and draw the line. It’s good stuff, that! It was a really great session and many people added stories and insights of their own. I love my tribe and I almost feel a little guilty because I reap so many rewards from working at the rehab – it’s an absolute privilege to be around these fine folk who are in recovery just like I am. I may be getting paid to support THEM, but I’m on the same journey – albeit a little further along – and they help me too. More than they know.

Oh my God – really?” I asked, a little bewildered.

Hell, I have trouble myself sometimes to really believe I’m without the wine now. Being a lush, wine glass forever in hand, was my identity for so long that to hear someone say they couldn’t imagine it really threw me. A good friend of mine, who of course knew me all along and therefore more than familiar with Drunk Me, said the very opposite when I first got sober, namely “Anna, I can’t imagine you without wine!” and laughed. And here’s now someone, or several people actually given they’d apparently talked about me, who can’t actually imagine me as anything other than the person I am now – Sober Me.

Absolutely, we can’t imagine it!” she emphasised and smiled even wider.

I’ve only known you sober too, I can’t imagine you with wine either,” I told her truthfully.

Hah! Just check that awful photo on there, it’s horrible,” she replied and rolled her eyes.

She was referring to the photo on her MAR chart, the medication record we keep for each client. On each one we staple a print-out of the client’s photo, just another safety measure to ensure nothing gets mixed up and the right client gets the right meds. I flipped it over and we both had a look.

Mm, you do look a little tipsy here! Were you drunk when you came in?” I asked.

No! Just really hungover. I missed a trick there, everyone else is saying they drank right up to the last minute,” she chuckled.

Oh God, that’s so funny, I know exactly what you mean! I was looking for this particular bottle of wine the last time I drank and couldn’t bloody find it but I knew it was somewhere,” I said, “then a few weeks sober I realised it was in the wine rack! That really pissed me off at the time because it was like oh, I should have drunk that and now I’d missed out! Isn’t that crazy?” I added and couldn’t help but laugh.

Exactly!” she agreed.

Well, I suppose you’re getting the best value seeing as you didn’t spend the first 24 hours coming right and could just get right in,” I told her and raised a knowing eyebrow, “but yes, I know where you’re coming from. It’s like that, isn’t it? Drink the last drop.

Well. Just one of many, many little conversations that take place at the rehab but one that happened to contain the best compliment I’ve had in a while. SHE COULDN’T IMAGINE DRUNK ME! That’s fanfuckingtastic, no? It’s the same for me though and just as I told her, I can’t quite imagine this lady – who is so perky, smart and articulate – as a drunken mess either. But that’s what we both used to be, a hot mess, and it was pretty cool – one hot mess to another, seeing the other right there in that moment as the opposite of that and the only (very small) difference being that I happen to be a little further along.

Gosh, I remember that wine bottle so well and how I searched for it high and low during one of my last drinking sessions. Ironically, it was right there in the wine rack. Only a raging alcoholic wouldn’t think to look there. Putting bottles in the wine rack was something I never did because, uh, WHY exactly? Right into the fridge to chill and rip into straight away. I never understood wine racks, they always seemed like unnecessary faff to me. Keep the juice handy, I say. But yes, it pissed me off at the time that there it was, that last bottle I should have poured down my neck. I felt deprived! I was going to have that goddamn bottle and there it was again, having fucking hid from me the fucking thing and now laughing in my face! Naaah-nah-nah, naaah-nah! Fuckery.

Now when I think about it, it illustrates something important – namely, how when I was in active addiction it was always a case of tomorrow. I’ll stop after THIS one. Always ‘tomorrow’, never ‘today’. Sobriety is NOW. We can only recover when we go for it, not when we’re putting it off for another time or delaying so we can have another drink. I think Hubby had that bottle – in his normal way of course: it found its way into the fridge and he would have had it one glass at a time over several days – but with hindsight I wish I’d kept it as a reminder. The bottle of wine I never drank. The best bottle.

Today I’m not going to drink.