The Loveliness of Slow

Last weekend was an unusual one. Hubby was away, which he often is, but unlike other times I now had the company of Bambino, who, thanks to some bad choices is grounded until 2019 and therefore had to hang out with mummy. Bambino is brilliant company actually, and I’m thoroughly enjoying getting all this time with my charming, witty, funny and often hugely irritating son. I think if he’d not been grounded and banned from all screens, I would have been bored stupid over the weekend. Instead, everything we did we did together as opposed to him being out and about with his friends or holed up in his room on the Playstation. I’m desperately missing hubby, so much so that it makes my heart churn, but this time has been easier simply because my little man has been much more of a companion. Obviously this is not his choice and I do realise he’d much prefer to play Red Redemption or whatever that new game is called, but I’m reaping the rewards nonetheless.

It was quite a slow weekend though, it has to be said. What struck me though, is how much a sober weekend contains even when we don’t do much. I wake early, so even after what is in my world a long lie-in, I’m up by 7.30. Enjoyed the morning sitting on the sofa and drinking coffee. Bambino emerged a couple of hours later and I did a bunch of laundry, cleaned the apartment and got all the Christmas decorations out. We headed to the Swedish shop and got our body weight in sweets plus two tubs of gingerbread cookie dough – I’ve polished one off so far, which means I’ve eaten it and not that I’ve baked any cookies. I get this cookie dough for this purpose alone. Hubby, in an ill advised moment, one year suggested we bake cookies and I nearly filed for divorce. It’s gloriously delicious, I cut big chunks that I proceed to put into my face as if it were normal cake. I’m not actually a huge fan of gingerbread cookies, but the dough – oh ehm gee. Anyway, this little outing across west London had us out and about for a couple of hours and after this our Saturday really dragged – it was pissing it down with rain so heading to a market or similar wasn’t an option. We watched Modern Family all afternoon, then I made Bambino play a few board games with me (he refers to this as BORED games, the little shit bag) and generally the rest of the day dragged a bit. Went for a long walk when the rain let up a little and managed to get my running shoes covered in mud along the paths in the park.

Sunday we made a fry-up for breakfast and then headed off to get a Christmas tree and spent some time trying to get this standing somewhat straight despite the trunk being shaped like a half circle (I swear they sent us off with a different one to the one we picked which looked so straight and symmetrical and perfectly Disney). I couldn’t reach all the Christmas decorations on top of our wardrobes but we put out the ones I did manage to get down, including the embroidered table cloths my grandmothers made for me when I was little. Christmas has arrived at Casa Storm, even if our tree is weirdly bent. In the afternoon I went for a run when Bambino went to get a hair cut and then we cooked spaghetti bolognese together.

Shall we add lots of chili because [Hubby] isn’t here?” Bambino asked and smiled.

Bambino and I both love a good kick, whereas Hubby often ends up sweating and having a runny nose when I cook, so obviously with him not being around we had a free pass to set our meals on absolute fire. Chili doesn’t go with bolognese though I don’t think.

No chili, but we’ll use the whole garlic bulb!” I replied and raised my hand for a high five.

Oh my God you’re so lame, don’t high five me,” Bambino sighed and rolled his eyes, “that’s so embarrassing, Mum, don’t EVER high five me.

Whatever. But see? Regardless of whether I’m uncool with my high fiving or if there is such a thing as too much chili or garlic (in my opinion there isn’t), point is there’s not that much there in terms of what we did over the weekend. It really was a very lazy one. What’s amazing though, is how the above would have been my idea of a Super Productive and Eventful Weekend back when I was drinking. Forget morning coffee for starters, and I would have been too hungover to get in the car to negotiate my way and then parallel park across town. You can easily remove walks and runs, and I probably wouldn’t have got the Christmas tree either.

TIME. It’s one of the great benefits of being sober along with countless others. There is so much of it now! And I love it! And this is what struck me about this weekend, how slow and really quite uneventful it was. Lovely, but uneventful. Yet if you were to rewind to my drinking days, I would have felt accomplished and really satisfied I’d got lots done. I mean, remove the run because that was never possible except for dry patches here and there, but beyond that. Trip to the Swedish shop – wow! Superwoman! Get a tree – fanfuckingtastic! So much time wasted on being drunk or hungover and all that time I used to waste I now have back. This weekend I did everything I needed and wanted to do and got a whole load of quality time with my son too, and I still had hours and hours to spare and had what can only be described as a slow and lazy weekend. Amazing.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Fine in the Fortress

I’ll start with how magical the park was this morning – here it is:

park.jpg

Environment conscious folk will hate me for this, but my morning drive to work is a sacred ritual. I don’t drive the quickest route, instead I take a longcut that takes me through London’s loveliest and second largest park. There are no manicured lawns or flowerbeds, just a beautifully wild and natural sanctuary that is filled with fallow deer that Henry VIII brought in for hunting when he took up abode down the road at Hampton Court Palace. Today is a cold and crisp morning and the sunshine and mist made the park look absolutely spell binding. I wish I could have been out walking or running, this is my favourite sort of day and I actually really begrudged how I’m not a billionaire or a desperate housewife. Still, having this on my (sort of) way to work and just a hundred yards from our front door is pretty goddamn cool. It’s a shame that the photo doesn’t do it justice, but then photos never do – I don’t think the magic of a moment can ever be fully captured that way. And for that reason I mostly stop myself from interrupting the moments – I very rarely pull out my phone as this for me feels like I’m not fully present, but this I just wanted to share because it was so very lovely. As for moments, sobriety lets me be in them. Had I still been drinking I would have been too busy trying to take the shortest route and generally staying upright. Yep, it’s a spectacular gift, this sober stuff.

Driving is kind of my meditation. It’s a time for reflection and when I sort through my thoughts. Concentrating on the road means there is no room for distractions like my phone or the TV or anything else that could be described as mindless, yet something I’m used to enough to allow plenty of brain capacity for a bit of mental hygiene.

This morning when I found myself feeling so grateful, I ended up thinking about how I used to structure my whole life around drinking. The things that didn’t fit I rearranged. Now that I’m sober, I’m forever discovering how I even invented “truths” about who I am and what I like/don’t like in order to keep drinking. For example, I used to hate speaking on the phone. This was mostly because I’d be so painfully aware I was slurring and also my glass would empty within ten minutes and that satisfying gush of wine from the box was so bloody obvious! Then the PSSHHHH! from unscrewing the cap of the soda bottle. Never mind how it’s quite hard work to hold on to any coherent train of thought – I’d quite literally find myself mid-sentence and having forgotten all about where I was going with something. I was all about texting and e-mailing. Problem was those would expose me just as much and my morning ritual back then wasn’t going through a magical park but in a panic reach for my phone and cringe at what I might have sent when I was drunk the night before.

Sober Me isn’t like that. Yes, I’m a creature who expresses herself best and most easily in writing, but I also like chatting on the phone. Last night I got my Cherokee on the line and I came off the phone after our long conversation feeling happy and content inside. This is the beauty of real life, real time interaction – it doesn’t always drain me, sometimes it enriches me. Who knew!

Speaking on the phone I’d written off in my drinking days as simply another thing that “just isn’t me“. Just like other Anna’s Drinking Truths like “I don’t like people“, “I hate socialising” and “I want to be alone“. It is true that I like my own company and sometimes I just need solitude because my brain does overheat with too much stimulus, but I actually also need people. You know, it was only yesterday when a kick-ass lady said something my inner autopilot immediately disagreed with. She said she too (what do you mean – TOO??) feels lost without her husband. And I discovered how I’ve almost trained myself not to need people. Not anyone. I’ve ingrained this in myself so deeply that it’s just how I have always viewed myself. When she said this (fine, fine – it was the lovely Katie from over at How I Killed Betty!), a lightbulb went off in me. Holy shitballs! I’ve somehow managed to convince myself that I don’t need anyone and so it’s almost like I freaking refuse to allow myself to feel any of these things. Even with hubby. I swear I’ve always been of the opinion that sure, if he left me I would never ever love again because he is IT, so that’d be devastating and shit. Bottom line though – I’d live. I wouldn’t love but I would live and I am FINE on my own.

Being a drinking alcoholic in social gatherings suck because I have to be so aware of how much I drink so I don’t lose control and also have to hide it. This is really hard work and not in any way enjoyable. Anna’s Drinking Truth: I hate socialising. The Actual Truth: alcohol made socialising stressful.

Living almost every day with a crippling hangover is thoroughly shit. I’d be weak, dizzy, shaky and unable to follow even simple conversations. That makes human interaction fucking painful. Anna’s Drinking Truth: I hate people. The Actual Truth: alcohol made me feel like death and when you do, any human interaction is painful.

Everything else, be it people or things or even eating (yes – eating!), gets in the way of drinking. Meeting with a friend for coffee takes me away from drinking = stressful, and meeting with friends with a hangover = stressful. Anna’s Drinking Truth: I want to be alone. The Actual Truth: being around people is painful because I’m either stressed out about drinking or so hungover I can barely function. 

And then the whole I’M FINE ON MY OWN. I mean, this is to a great extent true. And I do believe we need to be secure and happy in ourselves before we can ever be in a healthy relationship, but it’s also quite normal to need the people you love. I need hubby. I genuinely don’t know what I’d do without him. As for Bambino – my world would collapse without him. The sun sets and rises with those two. I already knew that, I’ve never tried to make myself believe anything but. Still. To admit I depend on them, need them, that my heart can’t beat without them? WHOA. The I’m-fine-on-my-own thing isn’t so much of a Drunk Truth because I was like that since long before I ever drank a drop of alcohol, but as alcohol does with anything that’s negative it really enhanced it. The Beast wants me on my own, remember, so this was perfect – she’s a loner! Why, of course! Me, the bottle and impending death – that’s where it wants me to be.

What this does go back to is this thing I’m increasingly discovering, this fear of mine of being rejected. It appears I may have build myself a pretty impressive fortress over the years and I’m-fine-on-my-own is perhaps its very foundation? Up until pretty much the point that I realised this – uhm, just a moment ago! – the idea of needing other people made me squirm. I don’t recall this myself, but according to my mum the first sentence I spoke was “I can do it myself“. Actually, what I said was “jag kan själv” given I grew up in Sweden and didn’t speak any English when I was two years old, but there we are. I don’t know if that is telling or just shows what a stubborn and obstinate cow I am. Cute aside I thought.

As for Little Anna, I clearly remember being so scared when I was little, of losing my parents or anyone else in my closest family. The thought made me squirm with discomfort and terror, it absolutely petrified me and sometimes had me in such panic and angst I couldn’t sleep. And here’s the really sick and twisted truth that dawned on me too in these last 24 hours of revelations: I recently realised that none of that scared me so much anymore, because even though it’d be heartbreaking and I’d be desperately sad, I’M FINE ON MY OWN and in this case without them. Without everyone. Wow. Thank God I am unravelling this or I might have ended up in a fortress eventually that could never be torn down. Inspecting my heart it’s still needy and ready to love despite all my efforts to close myself off from the world.

This is interesting as hell to me. Scary stuff, this brain of mine. It can make me do things that I plainly don’t like or enjoy yet make me think I do. What else might it be capable of?

Today I’m not going to drink.

Sadness Came A’Knockin

I began to write the below Saturday evening but left it as a draft… Sober Me is quite good at leaving those knee jerk reactions out. Instead of throwing it all out there – on here – I wanted to think about it more…

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Typically on a Saturday night I’m either cuddled up with hubby on the sofa or out somewhere with him. Blogging tends to happen in the mornings of weekdays, but I found myself getting feeling really sad. Had a little cry, even. Hubby is eight hours ahead in Hong Kong, besides it’s hardly an emergency so I guess I’ll speak to him tomorrow. This is a tough one because I want to keep this blog to being MY story and not slap other people’s stuff on here. I find that a really hard balance and frequently fail miserably. I already feel I’ve gone too far in sharing stuff about Bambino, that he might just HATE me talking about even here in the relatively anonymous blogosphere. Then again, it’s quite hard to separate when your life is inevitably and intrinsically entwined with those around you. I also can’t stand cryptic shit – you know when someone might post something in half on social media, like “I’m so pissed off” and leaving it like a cliff hanger. So I suppose I’ll just honestly vent but take care not to tell anyone’s story but my own.

Hm.. Easier said than done.

With sobriety and feeling everything ALL THE TIME, the realisations seem to come in waves and I appear to be caught in a tsunami right now. This evening was the first time I felt really sad in a really long time. Since I stopped drinking I seem to have grown a bit of a backbone and do my best to meet my feelings head on when they come for me. Well, they did. And I answered the doorbell and invited them all in.

Since I was little, I’ve preferred my own company. I’ve just never been particularly social. This goes with the territory of being an introvert – my energy comes from within, as opposed as from being around other people. The glaring exceptions that prove the rule would be hubby and Bambino, but other than that I have more or less preferred to spend my time in my own head. I feel crowded very quickly. Crazy, much? What I’m beginning to realise is that it’s not just a case of being a bit of a loner – it’s my way of avoiding the pain and sadness I feel at being rejected. Or, shall I say, when I perceive that I’ve been rejected – what I perceive and what is real are sometimes two different things. It just dawned on me this evening over a phone call as I was so needy and desperate and then ultimately heartbroken when the person at the other end couldn’t get off the phone quick enough. It’s entirely self absorbed and selfish – other people have their own lives that don’t stop just because it was a good time in my day to call just then. Look, I know it’s ridiculous. It’s just that it came over me and quite intensely too.

Hey, I’m sober. I get to feel all this and today it was sadness that came a’knockin. It’s a good thing and whatever it is I’ll end up untangling, it’ll only do me – and others – good to do so. It’s the beauty of sobriety. If I’d kept on drinking, I’d go to my (much too early) grave with whatever this turns out to be unresolved. God knows what it is. Literally – God knows. I don’t but I think I can just about begin to see it, and Sober Me won’t look away like Drunk Me did. I wouldn’t be surprised if I, with a bit more thought and having slept on it, realise I’m just being over sensitive and irrationally paranoid – I do that sometimes. Or, I discover and unlock something in me that needed discovering and unlocking. It’s an interesting ride, this sober stuff, that’s for sure. And the best thing is that no matter what happens, I’ll be able to deal with it and hopefully this in turn will mean I become a better person for it.

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And now it’s Monday. On the one hand, I am quite ready to just apply logic and rationale here and accept that I’m by nature quite needy. Because I’m so highly strung and finely tuned emotionally, it’s just how it is – a lot of things sting and I sometimes just need to get a bit of a grip. On the other, I wonder if I’m now stumbling across something that will – once I’ve managed to dissect and clarify it – help me understand better and thereby remove some of a potential void I was trying to fill with booze, albeit somehow unbeknownst to myself…?! I never knowingly drank to suppress sadness, but whether or not it was deliberate, alcohol is an anaesthetic so perhaps a by-product of my drinking meant this particular knot was concealed. And of course now that I’m sober, I get to feel it full on and because sobriety has meant I’m trying to wear my big girl pants, I now also get to deal with it properly.

Yes, there is pain there, when it comes to this. I’m like a child all over again in this situation, handing my heart over unconditionally and met with a “no, thank you, you keep that“. That’s hurtful stuff. Sure, that sadness makes itself known in certain scenarios but they’re rare and most of the time, due to how life has taken shape, I’m completely removed from it all. But here’s the interesting thing that I’m sort of asking myself now… …perhaps it wasn’t so much an adventurous nature as it was a need to get away?

It’s easy to outline all the things that highlight how my life is and always has been a very blessed one, but being blessed is not the same as being fine. Is it? If it were, then by that logic it’d only be those who experience “real” adversity that’d ever feel pain and that’s just not the case. When I say ‘blessed’ I refer to how I have a wonderful family, grew up in a safe and nice home wanting for nothing, enjoyed good health, always had awesome friends and further on was also blessed with my son and hubby. When I say ‘blessed’ I mean that I didn’t have to grow up surrounded by violence, abuse or losing my parents or siblings in some horrific way. I wasn’t bullied at school and experienced no traumas or negative events that could be described as anything more than most people go through. Yet in all of that, maybe there was a void somehow. And maybe I became all the things I am – in particular a loner and also eventually an alcoholic – because I had to get away from the sorrow that void created. And maybe I did run away. Because it’s when I submerge myself in a certain situation that I feel it so keenly, this overwhelming sadness when it feels like I tried to give away my heart only to have it handed back to me.

Then again, it makes little sense because if there’s anything I have always done so willingly and so full of trust no matter what is give this heart of mine away. Over and over! I’ve never been someone who has barriers. The love of my life came along and I had no hesitation in trusting or believing in his love for me or giving myself fully to him, none whatsoever. There was no fear on my part. What I do know, however, is that when someone appears to like me (in the non-romantic sense, like a friend) I end up feeling almost tearful with gratitude, as though my default expectation is that people will somehow automatically dislike me. Sweet Lord, I’m so fucked up. None of this makes sense to me. After all – I like me! I don’t go around feeling worthless or bad or undeserving of love. I go to sleep at night knowing in my heart I’m a good person, that I mean well and that I’m loving and kind. I like who I am and I feel very secure in who I am. And yet… I mean, on the one hand I know I’m a kickass wife and make my husband happy because I’m just a really good egg, and on the other I feel so rejected in some situations (i.e. that are nothing to do with hubby at all). I don’t get it but I’m sure it’ll all fall into place as I continue on my journey. If I can bravely and with absolute honesty begin to map out those knots and where exactly they sting and hurt, then I will hopefully eventually get them out. Or at the very least accept them and learn not to let them sting quite so much.

Thoughts? Any words of wisdom are always welcome and you lot seem to have a real knack for delivering lightbulb moments.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Space Travel Under Duress

So before I became a parent…. ..hm, I was about to write “I thought….” and then continue to list the qualities you’d imagine Super Mum to have. Point is though, I never imagined myself as a parent before I became one so I simply didn’t have any preconceived ideas around what sort of mum I’d be. It’s funny in itself that I was one of the first in my group of friends to have a baby because I was probably the least likely. So the truth is I didn’t have any idea whatsoever of what sort of mother I would be – it just wasn’t ever something I ever pictured, so how that would all turn out was still a huge unknown even as Bambino was placed on my chest and our eyes met for the first time. I also didn’t picture myself as a drunk, but there we are. There will plenty of time for me to discuss that aspect too, but for now, let’s stick with parenthood only.

I can’t remember who said it, or perhaps I read it somewhere, that kids who play with dolls become good parents. That’s fucking bad news right there. Oh, I did have a doll. Her name was Lillan. My childhood friend Mattias and I used to throw her down the stairs and lock her in the hamster cage, where two hostile gold hamsters would munch on her toes. My super girlie mother – who loves all things pink and sparkly – tried in vain to buy me Barbie dolls. I cut their hair and limbs off. I just wasn’t that girl. I remember just not getting it, not understanding HOW you played with dolls. Change their outfit, then what? All my friends in our neighbourhood were boys and I spent my days in the woods, riding my bike, playing cowboys and indians. Guns = cool, dolls = waste of time. I don’t think the toys we play with or how much we adhere to traditional gender roles play much part in how we turn out as parents, but the idea that how we cared for dolls would be some sort of indication would strongly suggest I’d make a right mess of it. No, I don’t believe only kids who know how to play with dolls grow up to be excellent parents but given how badly Lillan fared in Little Me’s care, I thought it was an amusing thought. Or terrifying, I dunno.

Actually, isn’t there also some saying about keeping a plant alive? Can’t remember how it goes or if it’s in any way related to your future success rate at child rearing. I don’t have a good history with plants and recently a plant a neighbour gave me met its untimely demise. Apparently it was meant to be “hard to kill” but died surprisingly quickly despite my valiant attempts at following watering instructions and where to place it in terms of ideal light etc. Ho-hum.

Despite all these ominous signs, I consider myself a perfectly OK mother – not perfect and not amazing but I do OK. Sober, I even have the ability to sometimes be great at it. Or, rather, the best mum I can be even though I highly doubt I’ll ever win any parenting awards. I love Bambino more than anything, like any normal parent loves their child, and I do my best. Sober, I do my best with the best set of tools available to me.

Because Bambino messed up last weekend, he is grounded until 2019. All screens confiscated and the afternoons consist of homework and reading. Oh, and spending time together a lot more given I have replaced his Playstation as his entertainment. Bambino is working hard on being good and regaining trust and to his mind this will hopefully mean sanctions may cease a little sooner. Bambino be wrong, y’all. Bambino be very wrong. Mummy is thoroughly enjoying this new routine and after just a few days I’ve come to really treasure those two hours in the afternoon when Bambino and I share the dining table with him doing homework at one end and me hammering silver jewellery at the other. For me, this is a highlight and one I look forward to. And that’s not all! Hubby is once again off with work, this time to Hong Kong for a week, and normally this means I sulk the whole time he is away. Yes, there is a fair amount of sulking and I am dreading how empty our bed will be when he’s not there and how badly I always sleep when we’re not cuddled up. I also NEED my best friend around so I always feel lost when he isn’t, but here’s the new thing: my other little best friend IS around and this weekend he won’t be out with his mates and nor will he have mates over.

Now, the reason for Bambino spending the remainder of 2018 grounded and without screen time is a real shitter, but true to form I am willing to shamelessly reap the rewards and it does come with huge benefits. The most glorious one of all is of course all this additional time I now get with Bambino – it might be something to suffer through for Bambino himself but for me it’s freaking jackpot! I need to be treading carefully because I can’t go and make it too much fun – the whole point is that this should fucking STING – but there’s nothing wrong with this mama secretly relishing lots of quality time with her cub, right? I’m googling “best boardgames for two players” and also planning where to go and get a Christmas tree and also where to take Bambino so he can get Christmas gifts for his stepbrothers. Doubt I have to worry though, because I already know all of the above spells out shit storm in his world. After all, a few months ago he quite literally rolled around on the floor crying with laughter at my suggestion he and I head to Thorpe Park.

Or is he secretly delighted to spend time with me too?

I would have liked that as the end to this blog post. A cute and hopeful little question. It’s not like that though. He’s a teenager, for crying out loud! Obviously he’d much rather hang out with his friends than go out with me, and obviously he’d much rather be on Playstation with friends than play board games with his mother. It’d probably be weird if it was the other way around, no? So I probably don’t need to worry about this period of punishment getting “too fun” as it just won’t be his definition of anything even resembling fun. But whether he likes it or not, I think it will do us both lots of good to spend a lot of time together. Just the other evening when I got back from a run, Bambino had taken my spot on the sofa including my sofa cushion – aka hubby, whose lap I always have my legs across. They both glanced up at me when I got back, then the next second continued their stupid action movie and I was relegated to the comfy chair I don’t like. They used to be like this quite often, hubby and Bambino. They also used to have a “man chat” every evening – hubby would lie down with Bambino for a while and they’d chat about “stuff” for a while before Bambino went to sleep. With a teenager all of this changes, which I assume is pretty normal, but it’s nice to get a little glimpse of it again.

Cherokee is planning a trip with her eldest, also a teenage boy, and I found myself wanting to tell Bambino this in a whiny voice – “but [C’s son] is excited about going to London with Cherokee, why don’t you get excited about spending time with meeeee” – but stopped myself. Envious, much? Oh yeah, I am. When she told me I spent a short moment trying to work if there is any destination in the world that Bambino would consider so cool he’d agree to go there even if it meant he’d be going with me. So I’m saving up for space travel.

Well. The little bugger is grounded and bored and I’m just going to enjoy getting time with him even if it is with him under duress. Who cares – I win!

And just to keep this focused on what this blog was always for – sobriety and recovery – trust me when I say it makes me so incredibly happy and grateful to be given all these moments I get to enjoy to the max. No beast pulling me away or distracting me, no rushing through anything to get to my drink, no missing out on moments because I was busy getting hammered or too hungover to appreciate them. Just getting to be right in each moment and be present 100%.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Like a Summer’s Eve

Just got myself in a total tailspin and it’s a good example of what my brain sometimes does to me. I don’t think I’d label this anything beyond Being a Bag of Nerves in much the same vein as my mother. Sometimes I’ll pick up the phone when she calls and she’ll exclaim “oh, thank GOD, there you are” because she’s done exactly what I do too. She’ll randomly note she hasn’t heard from me in perhaps longer than is usually the case. But instead of pinging me a text or calling me at the time she realises it’s been a while, she’ll instead fret like crazy and cook up various scenarios in her mind, including me having died a terrible death in some horrifying accident. This is precisely what I did this morning.

Hubby and I normally text each other several times over the course of the day, and his texts are like clockwork. He texts from the car when he stops at a traffic light somewhere on his way to work. Then he texts again to say he got to work. These are his clockwork, set in stone, routine morning text messages. Today I get the first as usual but not the second. It approaches lunchtime and I check Whatsapp. Nope, he’s not been “seen” since his first on-his-way-to-work text. I send him another I-love-you and follow up with a heart. Then I e-mail him on his work e-mail. Five minutes later and I e-mail again asking for a sign of life. By this stage, I have graphic images whirling through my mind of a crash on the motorway involving 20 cars and an overturned lorry carrying combustible materials. Then he calls back and AS USUAL he has been in back-to-back meetings and my heart rate has rocketed for no good reason whatsoever. I do this if I can’t immediately get hold of Bambino too – even though there is no reason to believe anything sinister has happened, in my mind there are scenarios served up that would terrify Stephen King himself.

Like mother, like daughter. We are worriers.

Alcohol or no alcohol, this is just the way I’m wired and although booze makes anything and everything a thousand times worse, this is something that just happens when I’m sober too. My mother very rarely drinks and when she does it’s a small glass of wine that she doesn’t even finish. And I seem to have in this sense grown up to be just like her. I mean, for God’s sake, of all the things I could have inherited: she is sweet, kind, gentle, loving, wise, strong, clever and every other lovely adjective I can think of. She is also as beautiful as a summer’s eve by Lake Fryken. Mum is an all round much nicer, slimmer and generally better version of me who can cook. In this sea of fantastic traits to inherit, I get her nerves. If I could have at least got her feet – they’re proper lady feet, perfectly shaped and perfectly sized at the end of her long legs and beautiful ankles. I don’t even have ankles – I have bloody CANKLES, the sort of bullshit where your calves just go straight to your feet. And my feet are what Tolkien visualised when he imagined the hobbits. But I got her nerves. Thanks.

Why is this relevant on this blog where I try to focus on sobriety and recovery? Well, it goes back to how I think it’s important to remember that getting sober doesn’t magically turn us into perfect super versions of ourselves. I mean, I couldn’t even begin to list all the amazing ways in which my life has become richer with sobriety. It is 100% true that getting sober has meant that life is fucking magnificent! What sobriety doesn’t change, however, is who I essentially am. I’m still me. It’s just that I’m awake, alert, clear and able to be the best I can be. It doesn’t mean I’ll suddenly challenge Paula Radcliffe in the next London marathon, but it does mean I can go for a jog and find I managed to wobble my way around the park without having to stop and walk. What I’m trying to say is that getting sober is one thing (and don’t get me wrong – it’s a FANTASTIC thing!) but accepting who we are is another and sometimes that’s much harder. Still, it’s a positive thing as whatever flaws, shortcomings and weaknesses I have in my baggage, it’s so much easier to carry it all around when I’m at my best.

Today I’m not going to drink.

On the Radio

When I hit my turning point (aka rock bottom) some ten months ago, it was different to all the other times when I’d felt I’d had enough. I suspect many addicts may say this but do correct me if I’m wrong – after all, I can only really speak for myself and account for how I see things. It felt different in that this time I was desperate and determined to break free. It’s such a tired old phrase, but it felt like I just knew it in my heart. It was over. I was done. I wish I could find a word for it – something to describe a light switch perhaps – just like I have a word for alcoholism itself: the Beast. Or perhaps ‘turning point’ is pretty perfect. After all, that’s what it was and how I still see it. To say ‘rock bottom’ feels a little dramatic because I hadn’t YET sunk to the sort of horrific situation the term implies, but at the same time I never want to EVER dismiss where booze was taking me or look back and say “oh, but I wasn’t that bad“. We all know how that story ends, don’t we? But I digress.

What I wanted to get to was how I immediately hit the AA meetings because I needed a firm anchor. I’d simply wanted to and tried to control it on my own too many times to take another chance. I suppose I had, unbeknownst to myself, actually sort of done the first three steps: accepted in my heart that I was powerless over alcohol, knew deep down I had to find another way and most importantly that I couldn’t do it on my own. What I also did, pretty much from the beginning, was be open about it. I figured the more people I told, the harder it would be for me to fall off the wagon. It was a pretty selfish decision – everyone I told became another set of eyes. I sort of snitched on myself, or on the Beast rather, so friends and family would be better equipped to understand my enemy and thereby more able to help me defend myself. It was all about putting down anchors for me and it was when I knew in my heart I was truly done that I began to throw them out all around my little boat.

AA meetings were brilliant. Not only did it help enormously to sit in those meetings and be surrounded by people who was powerless in the exact same way, it also meant there was something I had to get to which in turn meant I didn’t pour that first glass of wine. Just like someone told me how forcing themselves out for that walk helped in fighting depression, having AA meetings to attend forced me into new habits. Maybe I just wasn’t ready for the AA way of approaching sobriety, but there is much about it that makes perfect sense even though there are also things that just don’t sit right with me. My ex-sponsor seemed to be under the impression that I was being a stubborn brat who refused to see sense. In actual fact I desperately wanted to believe all that was said because early on I felt like AA was my only hope. Unfortunately a stay at a celebrity rehab to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds wasn’t available to me. Therefore I just ignored everything I actually felt and did my best to just swallow the dogma as it was fed to me, no questions asked. Oh, and my people pleasing nature does dictate I agree – not disagree – with stuff. So no, I wasn’t trying to pick holes in the doctrine of AA, I was doing my best to cover those holes up as quickly as they appeared to me.

Holding my hands up and admitting I’m wrong has never been an issue for me, suck-uppy people pleaser that I am. Further to that, having the strength to admit our wrongs is a quality I admire in others so it’s something I actually take pride in myself. Most of all, however, what I want more than anything is to figure out this addiction thing so I don’t give a hoot if I have to draw a million incorrect conclusions before landing at something that starts to resemble the answer to the riddle.

Oh, I know – I ramble on. I am terrible at using 500 words when 5,000 will do.

As you can probably surmise from the lengthy waffle above though, and my incessant excuses and justifications (oh please like me!), I am about to tell you how I was wrong about something. Next time, just ignore the first third of a post to cut the proverbial crap!

In the Tuesday meetings, there was this guy who always used to really irritate me. He always shared and he always went on for a good 15 minutes, which in an hour long meeting with 60-odd people in attendance I think is a little selfish and self indulgent. Give someone else a chance, please! Willow told me that in her LA meetings, they had a timer so everyone who wanted to say something had three minutes to do it and then RRRRRRRRRRRING time’s up, ta very much, now shut yer pie hole and sit yo ass down. Good idea, I thought. Anyway, this guy – who, I need to add, was actually a real sweetheart – would always say how his head was a radio station transmitting and receiving all frequencies at once. I think I got a little lost in how he described how a throat spray containing alcohol got him “funny” and therefore zoned out a little, but thinking back on it the dude made a lot of sense.

My mind has always been a fairly crowded place where my thoughts and impulses have never learned how to form an orderly queue or to politely wait their turn. It’s all at once. There is no order whatsoever. At times it can be as peaceful and serene as Waihi beach at night with the waves of the Pacific lapping the shore with rhythmic, murmuring brush strokes. Other times it’s as chaotic, frantic and loud as the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange. I suppose the main thing is I seem to have very little say in what I will wake up to. It’s fun to be me in that sense. I sort of peek around the corner and never quite know what I’ll discover. These are the inner workings of a thinker.

It’s also quite exhausting at times to feel everything so acutely. I mean, it doesn’t stop with just how I feel – I also absorb like a goddamn sponge what everyone else might feel too. Example: someone might act like a twat. Instead of brushing it off and moving on in the knowledge this is out of my control, I will feel deep sorrow because they must feel so awful inside. I’ll also feel so sad for them because they ended up looking bad and I want to fix it and sometimes I even make attempts to do so. I mean, what is up with THAT? Look, I’m doing my best to rein this sort of behaviour in, but in order to do so I first need to understand what it is and where it comes from. What would be ideal in a situation like that, would be to just focus on being the best I can be and accept that how other people act is 1) not my responsibility, 2) out of my control anyway, and 3) something I have to let go.

Yes, I get the analogy of the radio station. And yes, it’s probably quite true for me too.

What this has got to do with alcohol I suppose is probably obvious. Booze slows all of this down to a more manageable level. I never knowingly drank with this in mind or as my goal, but I think it was a by-product and probably a welcome one.

So what lead me to this? Well. Of course now I’m sober and that means I am being me with the radio mast proudly erected and receiving perfectly with crisp audio and surround sound. My father must have been the sound engineer because everything is set to maximum volume too. Because booze used to numb (and dumb) me down, it’s only really now that I’m discovering that I – at times when I might feel stressed about something – need to switch off. Or even when I’m not stressed at all, I need a break from the chaos. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a huge problem and it doesn’t get me pining for a drink, but it does illustrate how I in some ways can’t do it all at once. For example, I can’t be in the middle of a problem I need to solve and then sit down for a coffee and chill out and laugh and chat. When the noise gets too loud in my head, even hubby or Bambino whistling can feel like a scalpel in my brain.

I’ve got three ways of switching off:

  1. Running.
  2. A long, brisk walk with music or an audio book in my ears.
  3. Losing myself in a book.

Alcohol will never become part of this list, just so we’re clear. I won’t be the first person to tell you that it does work as an anaesthetic when we’re stressed though – isn’t that the biggest stereotype of them all? “I need a strong drink.” Bollocks to that. But interesting to note anyway. Perhaps the glitter I felt alcohol scattered over me felt that way because it also relaxed me? Or numbed me, rather. An unintended side effect to all my celebrations that might just be bigger than I realised. Anyway. What I just realised also, is how important it is for me to switch off at night. I find it quite hard to get to sleep by just getting into bed and switching the light off. I need to read. It slows my mind to that one world of that book and shuts down all those other frequencies. Sometimes all it takes is a couple of minutes of reading for me to get sleepy. Other times I read for an hour, then still can’t sleep and switch the light back on and read until the small hours. Can’t help but feel so very grateful that these tools are so simple and close to hand. All the frequencies coming in at once might mean it feels like chaos sometimes, but I have my own little time-out areas.

The thing that makes me really happy about this is that I never consciously drank to still my mind. That in turn means that when my mind starts to get crowded my impulse isn’t to turn to booze. And so these time-out areas have taken shape all on their own. Not substitutes for booze or diversion therapy. Just the tools that emerged organically. That fills me with so much hope.

Well, there we go. Perhaps another piece of the puzzle.

Today I’m not going to drink.