Trolls and Sunlight

Hello, Wednesday. I’m trying my best to like you but the truth is I’ve always found you dull and you always seem to drag. Sorry.

Since our trip to Sweden I’ve had a little exchange with Cherokee. She’s my best friend and really the female version of hubby – makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? I told her so and she agreed that to be likened to my hubby is praise of the highest order. And yes, I’m so fortunate to have such awesome people as my sidekicks and cheerleaders, I think my journey would have been very different had I been surrounded by arseholes. I know of other people who do not enjoy the luxury of a rock solid support network like I do, and it frightens me to think where I’d be without that. Where I’d be if I were in a situation where those who are meant to love and support me actually didn’t just not support me but actually made it all harder. So I have the utmost respect for those friends who do all this having to swim against the current – that’s heroism on a fucking grand scale. Getting sober is hard enough even when friends and family have your back, you don’t need them stabbing you in it, let me tell ya. I’m very, very fortunate. And until we all are as fortunate as this, I am going to make it my mission to contribute to the conversation around alcoholism and addiction. I think the more we can bring it out into the light, the better a chance we all have to recover.

Cherokee put it so poetically that it actually pissed me off. Bloody HELL, does she HAVE to be so fucking fabulous at fucking everything? Writing is MY thing! And there she goes, penning a few lines that were so perfect I was seething with envy at her talent with words and at the same time admiring her massively for being so clever. She’s awesome. And I’d totally tell her if she had loo roll stuck to her shoe. That’s how much I love her – her many talents, her wit, her intelligence and her beauty only make me admire her. Envious, yes, and I’ve copied her since around 1989, but it’s – I’d like to think anyway – a good sort of envy. Seeing her succeed makes me genuinely happy. I think that’s a sign of when you’ve put someone on a pedestal for the right reasons, which I believe I have when I ponder the very tall ones I’ve placed hubby and Cherokee on. Two people I admire and look up to, yet feel secure and safe around because I know they love me just the way I am and therefore there is nothing I need to prove. I just get to be me. That’s kinda nice.

But anyway. What she wrote.

So we were discussing where I’m at and how I’m now in the midst of a tsunami of emotion following so many years of alcohol abuse and numbing everything I feel, and also about how to set boundaries and change our thought patterns. Cherokee gave me a little crash course in “the power of not giving a fuck” (there are some great books with titles roughly along those lines – I did read one called ‘Fuck It’ a long time ago and thoroughly recommend it, I’m going to dig it out and read it again now that I’m sober) and examples of her own baggage and how she’s learnt to give fewer fucks in some situations. We talked about Project P and my goal to let this go and set new boundaries, and that’s when Cherokee reminded me of the trolls. So she is Swedish like me and still lives where we both grew up, in a part of the world that’s dense with vast forests and where the folklore is crammed full with trolls and mystical beings of the woods. And so she likened issues and thinking we need to face and deal with to just that, trolls.

troll

You know what to do, don’t you?” Cherokee wrote, “You put the trolls right out in the sunlight because that makes them burst, and then when you’ve exposed them you might find they’re nothing but little grey stones that you can throw into the Thames.

I quite literally couldn’t put it better myself and did read those lines wishing it was me who had written those words. I’d forgotten all about those stories about trolls and how you kill them. But perhaps it’s proof that I am not, after all, a troll myself because I spent a lot of time in the sun over our holidays and despite putting on weight that may have something to do with all those cannolis in Italy, I didn’t burst. I say this because Mum has always referred to me as her “troll baby“. Another myth found right there in the folklore. How the trolls sneak into your home at night and replace your human baby with one of their own. Can’t blame Mum though. I was three weeks early yet clocked in at a solid four kilos, was born on a Friday the 13th (no joke) and I also had a thick mop of long black hair that stood on end like a mohican. Hah! I named my best friend Cherokee but when I was brand new it was actually me who looked like a red indian. Anyway, I’d like to think Mum says it in an affectionate sort of way. Although…. She has different ringtones on her phone and the one she has for me is the sound of a dog barking.

Where were we? Seems we’ve dealt with praising hubby, reflected on the awesomeness of Cherokee and established that I’m probably not a troll because I withstood direct sunlight. Good.

I think I’ve mentioned this book before, but I will mention it again, as well as recommend it to anyone who wants to re-frame what alcohol means to them: ‘The Naked Mind‘. It’s really just a better written version of Allen Carr’s ‘The Easy Way to Stop Drinking‘ and absolutely fabulous. I read it a few months into my sobriety along with Carr’s book and they really did cement what I’d come to believe and feel when it comes to booze. 100% part of my tool kit. And what’s even more fabulous is that there is a website as well as a Facebook group you can join (I’ve joined both) and discuss and share with others in the same (or similar) boat along with giving each other support. These two books are important to me because they punch holes in a lot of the stuff we’ve all been brainwashed into thinking around alcohol and exposes booze for what it really is – a foul tasting poison.

Well, as with AA, I can’t say I blindly just go with Carr’s or the Naked’s philosophy but just like AA those form part of the perspective I am developing when it comes to drinking and my own experience. One doesn’t exclude the other. For example, these two books seem to advocate a view that is in direct odds with AA’s stance on what an alcoholic is and seem to suggest there is nothing that is different in or with the alcoholic, and here I lean much more towards AA’s view. I do honestly believe there IS something that sets us alcoholics apart, that there is some sort of fundamental reason why we react differently to alcohol than the non-alcoholic does. But again, this doesn’t matter and I will probably always continue to absorb all I can learn around alcoholism and addiction and nod when I agree and shake my head when I don’t.

OK, that’s enough for now. Sexy hubby, amazing Cherokee, trolls and books. That’s not so bad for boring Wednesday.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Love and Burning Ears

154 days. There you go – your sure fire way of knowing I don’t really have much to say today. But hey, no matter the amount of days, so long as that number is anything other than zero it’s worth mentioning and I feel good. It feels good to say it, to hear it, to type it and to read it. I like looking at it. It’s mine and it’s probably one of a very small number of things I’ve had to work hard for.

So I’ve put out a few hooks now, in my quest to turn a decade destroying myself and hurting those who love me into something positive and fruitful. I almost feel a bit sheepish for being so lucky when I don’t actually deserve any of it – my friends and family haven’t showed me anything other than love, kindness and…….

………holy moly, talk about ears burning! I was interrupted by a phone call and it was one of my brothers, D, completely out of the blue in the middle of the day which first made me think something bad had happened. See, sometimes I’m a real pessimist. He’s not been to visit me at all over these 23 years I’ve now lived in the UK, mostly because I live in London and he can’t stand crowds and the stress of a big city. Bit like me really – don’t ask me why I decided to live in one of the biggest cities on the planet. And he is coming to see us! Plan is to fly over with his eldest two, who are both in their early teens like my son. D has four sons and the youngest two will stay put with mum. In September! It made me so happy my voice nearly broke, which I tried my best to hide as we exchanged our customary good natured insults.

Well, if my sister can stop drinking, I guess I can get to London,” D told me and I could hear the smile in his voice.

Yes,” I agreed, “shows you anything is possible, doesn’t it?

Day 154 was already pretty great but now it’s turned goddamn AWESOME!

So what I was about to write when D’s ears started to burn and he interrupted me, was that my friends and family have showed me nothing but love, kindness and support since I quit drinking. Not everyone is as lucky and honestly I didn’t expect to be. Part of me worried that some might feel ashamed of me (but perhaps some do and only hide it from me), get angry or what have you. SAYING I’m an alcoholic seemed worse than the fact that I already knew I was one 100%. Funny, isn’t it? That’s one of the things I’d really like to change. There are people who don’t have huge reservoirs of love like I do, big families or friends who will stand by them and offer support. There are people who either never had any of that or lost it. Or don’t have it for a myriad of other reasons. What if I can be there and offer that kindness and understanding for just one person? AA in all its glory and all of us there supporting each other, but I want to do more. My “day job” is as a PA but although I work for lovely people and don’t hate what I do, what does it REALLY matter? What if I could put that energy towards working in a capacity that in some way contributes to helping other alcoholics and addicts? I’m realising more for each day that this may just be why I was put here. Writing and silversmithing are my passions, but perhaps this is also part of my purpose here on earth?

Not just to be there for others – we do that in AA on a daily basis – but actively work in the field of recovery in whatever shape it could be. I need to figure out where and how to start but as usual I think asking questions is a pretty decent starting point, so that’s what I’m doing. Lots of them.

Thank you, God, for letting me wake up again sober and live through another day without having to drink. And thanks for the glorious summer weather too, you really are quite the artist when you shroud this island in its best finery.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Smack Bang

It’s probably lucky that I didn’t realise at the time that one of my sobriety milestones would land smack bang on Midsummer – I wonder now if that might have put me off. I knew of course that ALL big celebrations from then on would hopefully be sober for me, but to have a sobriety anniversary on the day of the biggest celebration in the Swedish calendar? No thank you. Or nej tack, as it were. One year we went to Hyde Park where lots of frog dancing, garland wearing and very drunk Swedes congregate – and we drank a lot of wine. Last year we went to stay at a little farm in Somerset – and drank a lot of wine. Other years we’ve done other things – and drunk a lot of wine. The activity in question might have changed but the drinking hasn’t. But here I am and I’m still sober. Five months and two days. Hurrah!

We went to see the most Swedish friend I’ve ever had. She takes all Swedish traditions super seriously and is ultra patriotic, it’s quite lovely actually and especially for me who hasn’t been all that bothered over the now 23 years I’ve lived away from the country where I grew up. Don’t get me wrong, I love the country I came from and I still get tearful when I hear any opening verses to traditional Swedish songs be it Lucia or Christmas or Midsummer, but my friend E goes all in. There was pickled herring, cured salmon, new potatoes dressed with dill, a sandwich cake (actually made by me – super proud!), meatballs and everything else you can expect on a smörgåsbord, followed by cinnamon rolls with the coffee afterwards. Bubbly and Swedish Rekorderlig cider for the adults except of course me. No worries.

As with most people, I’ve told E that I’ve quit drinking. I didn’t have to tell the story from the beginning because she and I shared a flat for a while and she is therefore more than well acquainted with my former drinking habits. Beyond hubby, she’s probably the friend who has seen the most, so I didn’t really have to explain why except my intention is to stay sober and there is no middle way for me.

Not even half a glass though?” she asked, but then immediately noted that I shook my head and concluded “no, soft drink for you then!” and it was no big deal.

This does highlight one of the difficulties with alcoholism – because it’s something the vast majority knows how to handle and control, it’s harder to explain that it’s the first drink I can’t have and not the sixth or seventh (or tenth and eleventh). E has never had issues with drinking and I’ve both known her to have one or two glasses of wine and stop there, or go on a bender and finish the night at 4am with tequila shots. But it’s her own choice and I suppose it’s then quite hard for her to understand how it isn’t mine and never has been or can be. She’s great though and she would never suggest that half a glass of Prosecco if she thought it was anything other than a case of moderation.

Way back when, in what feels like a different time but then again I suppose it was, E and I ended up getting an apartment together because we both ended up going through a crisis each at exactly the same time: my first marriage ended (very, very badly) and hers too (also very, very badly). Two heartbroken little Swedes shacked up together to try to piece their lives together again and I guess it was all quite sad but I look back on that time with huge affection. Having said that, it might have been easier for me – I was the one to leave after finally having tried all I could to save a marriage that was rotten almost from the start, but E had a huge shock having thought hers was happy only to discover that her husband had flown in a mistress from abroad every time E was away with work. She expected kids to be next, and I guess that’s what she got although it wasn’t a baby and instead a Portuguese 19-yearold. For me, it was like turning the page and I felt like a new person the moment I finally left my awful marriage behind. I felt, despite the stress and worry over divorce and childcare arrangements, happy and content again after a couple of years of misery and MAN did I celebrate! It was wine every night and it was during this period my alcoholism really kicked off.

I do believe us alcoholics have the unfortunate combo of what AA refers to as “a physical allergy and mental obsession” so I suppose I must have been that way wired and inclined all along, but this was when it properly took hold of me – it would have sooner or later, and this just happened to be when everything came together in a perfect storm in a wine glass. A year of drinking every day of the week and I had scared myself badly – I remember the morning vividly, despite the fact that I would have been hungover beyond belief. I walked into the kitchen and on the worktop were three wine bottles. Two empty and about a fifth left in the third. I’d been home alone. There were little instances like that, little steps, a steady progression: the first time I realised the next day that I’d polished off a whole bottle of wine on my own, then one and a half, then two…. When I stood there and surveyed those three bottles, I listened more attentively to the warning bells inside of me. I contacted AA and went to a meeting the same day.

Since then, those first AA meetings I went to, I’ve known I’m an alcoholic. All the things were true for me, most of all “one drink is too many, twenty aren’t enough” and I sat there wide eyed in those meetings and knew it was me. But perhaps I wasn’t ready. Clearly I wasn’t. Perhaps I needed to reach my rock bottom of drinking.

You know, I realise that for people who read this blog, it might appear that I’ve just quit drinking and whoop-dee-dooooooo I’m reaching the milestones one by one and it’s just plain sailing with no relapse in sight. Perhaps I should have been clearer on this point. I went to my first AA meeting the same day that I walked into the kitchen and saw those three bottles. That was May 2007. My relapse lasted nearly 11 years. Just in case anyone pops in here and gets the impression that I’ve quit, done so easily (which, THIS TIME, it’s mostly been to be fair) and never been tempted. I’m tempted all the fucking time and although I’ve now been sober over five months it’s been a long time coming!! And when I slipped it turned into over a decade of drinking to oblivion, until I had regular back cramps (my kidneys, I guess) and had got to a point where I was struggling to even do a very easy part time job. So this isn’t my first attempt. I made countless promises to myself over that decade but couldn’t keep a single one of them. In the end I was so destroyed by booze I was exhausted by it all, couldn’t do it anymore and finally I knew one evening that I was done with it. Thank God I got to that point, that something clicked in me and I knew I wanted out. If I hadn’t I don’t think I’d be far off the near-end stages of alcoholism because the merry-go-round only spins faster and faster and when it has started to shrink your world for real it all happens with frightening speed. So, there we are, if anyone wondered.

Funny – it only really dawned on me now that I was writing about my friend E that it occurred to me to go back all those years. Haha, how stupid am I?? I’ve even said occasionally how I thought this blog would document a struggle to get sober with slips at every turn. How conveniently I’ve somehow blocked out that I had a slip that lasted nearly 11 years! Perhaps I could call myself a veteran after all? And that decade long relapse was HARD AS FUCK. I honestly don’t know how I did it, I look back on it and wonder how I even managed to stay upright. Absolutely everything was hard work, something as nice as meeting up with friends required enormous effort! How the fuck did I do it? Never mind being a mother, going to work and everything else. Beats me.

Anyway. Here we are now and I’m no longer destroying my life and the lives of those who love me by drinking myself into an early grave. It’s been five months and two days and I still feel so, so good about this. I will never take my sobriety for granted and I will protect it like a mama grizzly bear protects her cubs. It’s the most important thing in my life because without it, there IS no life.

What’s YOUR journey? Was there a journey before? One so far back you have almost forgotten about it?

Today I’m not going to drink.

Fascinators and Phallic Symbols

Today is the kind of day when I actually feel like drinking would be a great idea,” I said as I adjusted my fascinator.

Hubby smiled as he drove into the car park of Ascot Racecourse, kind of chuckled a “hmh!” that wasn’t in approval or disapproval but just sort of a half grunt response to acknowledge that he’d heard me. And it was only a thought but it was nice that he heard me and that helped it fade very quickly, because that’s one of my best defences: speaking it out loud. When the thought comes, I let it out. I put words to it and it goes away. Boom. I allow those thoughts when they come a’knockin’ and I deliberately invite them in. Foolish perhaps, but I feel trying to shut them out or suppress them might be worse. And voicing them to someone else, most often to hubby, makes me feel safe, it’s almost like the urge gets closed down the moment I share it (same strategy as why it’s good to share in AA meetings I guess). Fine, so I know full well that if the beast got its claws into me there’s nothing anyone else could do. If I were to decide I was going to drink, nothing would – or could – stop me. But it does help to not be alone, because alone is where the beast prefers me to be. It’s in its nature to strip all semblance of a life away from the alcoholic, isolate her, shrink her world and slowly edge her towards death. And it goes without saying that voicing a fear to someone we trust means we weaken the beast – telling someone is, I think, the best thing we can do when we’re in harm’s way. Alcohol can’t speak, of course, but if it could it’d coax us drunks in the same way an abuser would – urge us that this is our little secret, threaten us with worse if we snitch and ultimately have us believe they are our only friend and no one else would understand or believe us anyway.

So anyway, we settled on our picnic blanket and it struck me how strange this little piece of Britishness is. There we were, dressed up to the nines and having paid more than we would have for a couple of concert tickets to even be there, yet we were sitting on a picnic blanket in a car park between rows of cars and eating food and snacks and strawberries straight out of the packets. You’re not allowed to enter if the shoulder straps of your dress are not of a minimum width, but eat your lunch with plastic cutlery is no problem. But this is what you do. People around us had picnic furniture and several with table cloths and even flower vases. It’s quite lovely and a little eccentric I think, this car park picnic thing, and I do love the wonderful British people who inhabit (and allow me to inhabit too) this lovely island and partake in their quirky ways.

The thought of drinking alcohol disappeared but for a brief moment when we were on the stands ahead of a race and I thought to myself that it was hard enough to negotiate steps and lawns in high heels and felt grateful I don’t have to drink anymore. We did go three years ago, and I drank then. I don’t think I got recklessly drunk, but then I rarely did when we were out – my full-on drinking always took place at home, much in line with aforementioned dirty little secret and isolation. For that reason, I was usually extremely restless and anxious to get away in order to get on with getting sloshed, and my guess is I must have been keen to get home after a couple of hours. Not so these days though and this is one of the biggest changes for me now that I’m sober: I get to be present, I can relax in the moment and just enjoy it. No stress, no hurry. Like many other awesome benefits to sobriety, this is utterly wonderful and I always did really hate the restlessness booze filled me with – I’d go as far as to say it was unbearable.

And that brings me to the greatest thing of all – quitting drinking has given me my freedom back!

That’s not to say I never feel anxious, restless or down. I don’t like flying so feel anxious when I have to get on a plane. I get restless when I feel done with one thing and want to move on to the next, like when hubby takes an eternity to finish off a coffee after a meal – we have already spent two hours sitting here and I am all ambiance’d out, ta. I feel down when something sad happens or when something hurts. Of course I feel all those things, but I feel them when there is a reason to. When I drank I’d frequently experience those feelings almost like they were a default setting. Thank God I’m free from that and only need to feel bad when there is a reason to do so. Oh, and I get a bit sad when it’s the time of the month, I really do feel the fluctuation in hormone levels and I once ended up crying watching Friends when I had my period. But you know what I mean, don’t you? Those feelings aren’t my natural way of being. They are quite the opposite, I’ve discovered. It has really amused me to realise that I’m actually pretty calm when I used to think of myself as highly strung and antsy. Who would’ve known?

Of course you end up feeling free when you’re no longer a slave. Now I go into situations for what they are as opposed to being distracted (and stressed) by how to factor in my drinking and all that this entailed. It’s still a novelty, actually, because I catch myself feeling little hints of stress that dissolve the moment I remember I don’t have to drink anymore and it’s replaced by a sense of gratitude.

Another blogger wrote something that made me think – how us dry alcoholics can feel utterly convinced and super strong about never wanting to drink again one day, then feel like hitting the bottle the next. That’s probably the scariest thing about alcoholism as far as I’m concerned, because as I’ve bleated on about in this blog I really DO see all the benefits (and necessity, of course) of total abstinence. I also know with the rational part of my brain that alcohol does nothing for me and that I’d be better off eating dog shit if I feel like doing something both stupid and pointless. Yet, the compulsion is so strong that it still pulls at me. That’s terrifying because what in God’s name does it have on me when I honestly KNOW it does nothing for me? When I know that it’ll just go to shit if I have a drink, why does it still hold some power over me? Well, I don’t know. Do you? Any theories? It honestly is – to me – like an abusive partner. You go back time and time again, but WHY when all they do is cause you harm? It’s maddening!! All I know right now is that this thing that I don’t actually want to do is occasionally tempting, and that’s enough to respect its power massively. I guess I’ll just always have to remember the beast is much bigger than I am.

In other news, this weekend is the most important celebration of the year for us Swedes – midsummer! We mark the lightest point of the year by getting very, very drunk and dance like little frogs around a phallic symbol. This year we’re heading over to a friend of mine and will binge on various Swedish delicacies and I suppose I’ll be on water or alco-free beer. And yes – just then there was a little ping! in my head and I conjured up images of hubby and I having a midsummer celebration picnic in the park and drinking wine. The association with fun and a great time is so strong. So strong that even though I know that those images are illusions, they still have a firm hold on me.

For anyone interested in celebrating midsummer like a Swede, here’s an instruction video:

Today I’m not going to drink.

Take Me To the River

Hmm… I wonder if this would be how a non-alcoholic feels when they are having a drink? As per previous posts, I discovered non-alcoholic beer, but although I did expect to be able to get it in the UK, I wasn’t expecting pubs to serve them – I just didn’t think it’d be a thing here. Turns out not only do they actually have my favourite non-alco beer but they serve it at our favourite pub – Heineken, and with a reassuring “max 0.05% alcohol” at that.

Yesterday was precisely the sort of Sunday afternoon that seems to be tailor made for sitting on the wall by the river having a drink. We have done this before since I quit drinking and I usually get a pint of soda water with fresh lime and this has been absolutely fine of course, but it’s really nice to have an alternative given how it turns out I actually really like beer. It’s funny – the idea of alcohol free wine makes me feel a bit sick, yet wine was what I always drank. Very rarely would I order a pint of lager when I was in full-on active alkie mode, yet suddenly now as a sober alcoholic I’m finding that it’s my favourite drink. If it turned out I reacted badly to caffeine, presumably I’d want to drink decaf coffee, right? It’d seem strange in the same way to go from a coffee drinker to decaf tea or quit tea and start drinking decaf coffee as an alternative?! This switch to beer amuses me a little. But hey, as Willow put it, ANYTHING alcohol free is great, so who cares if I drink beer or unicorn tears so long as I remain sober.

You might all think I’m really foolish for having something that tastes like the real thing, that it might be really risky for a drunk like me to drink non-alcoholic beer, that it’s too close a shave. And who knows. I can tell you that it’s not in any way triggered any desire in me to drink alcohol, but hey, I’ve made a vow of honesty on this blog though so you’ll be the first to know if anything changes on that score. Besides, I have felt the urge on a handful of occasions and it’s not something I’m ashamed to admit, so there we are.

Whilst it hasn’t made me want to drink, something interesting does happen when I have non-alcoholic beer, and it sort of cements for me that AA’s take on what alcoholism is for me: a physical allergy and a mental obsession. If you at any point end up thinking ‘oh, hell no, girl!‘ reading this, feel free to point it out. I have experienced this a few times now – each time I’ve had the non-alco golden nectar that is – and it’s made me feel happy and free each time. It’s sort of proved that part of the problem is definitely physical, that there is indeed something to do with how I’m wired and what happens when the booze hits my blood stream. I’ve observed it keenly each time this has happened and I take it as evidence that I am indeed an alcoholic. Well – if hardcore alcohol abuse stretching over a decade wasn’t enough to show I’m a fully fledged drunky-drunk-drunk.

So there we are, in the afternoon sunshine, sitting on the wall by the river outside the pub where we met just over five years ago and where we celebrated getting hitched last year. We must have sat in this spot hundreds of times over these five years, drinking and chatting, gazing out over the river and generally appreciating being alive. Being sober, this has not changed and to be honest, the absence of booze has only made it all better. Anyway, there we are – hubby with a pint of cider and me with a bottle of Heineken non-alcoholic beer, and this is where my addiction makes itself known. We had two drinks. I find myself taking several big gulps and the taste is gorgeous – I’m diving into a fizzy wave of lager. A few puffs on my e-cigarette and then I lift the bottle to my lips again, greedily drinking more beer down and really enjoying it but I also notice that once I’m no longer thirsty, that the old craving that comes to life when I take a drink.. …doesn’t. And with it, there is no violent force that has me lifting the bottle again and again. When we leave, hubby has finished his two pints and I have left the second bottle with a third left in it.

With the first, there was the definite pang of joy at having a drink – something making itself known in me that is entirely separate from other feelings and specific to the drink, and the old beast is growling contentedly. The mental obsession comes alive immediately, it’s insane how it’s absolutely instantaneous. But there’s no alcohol, so there is nothing to grab on to. Nothing ignites. Nothing awakens. I’m still me. Just me. And I notice the shift in my mind there too. It sounds mad, I know, but I could quite literally feel myself go from a slight sense of euphoria – lift the bottle, lift it again – to a MEH that despite being a ‘meh‘ doesn’t feel deflated or sad, just neutral. And whereas alcohol would trigger the rest of the mayhem that’d usually follow, my mind and body chained together in a death dance, now that the very substance I seem to react so badly to isn’t in my system so it’d appear the gig is cancelled. Nothing in my blood stream, nothing to tickle the receptors in my brain. I’m still here, right here. I imagine it’s my brain making the connection like a heroin addict’s mind might react to the sensation of a needle, but without the physical reaction in hot pursuit, what is there? Nothing. A big, fat nothing. Just me, my life, my mind – the present moment. The lack of a physical reaction – despite me describing it as ‘meh‘ – isn’t a disappointment, it’s a relief. It’s really nice to just sit there on the wall in the evening sunshine and enjoy a beer. Absolutely lovely.

And given how hubby doesn’t turn into a restless ghoul when he drinks stuff that does contain alcohol, I wonder if how I feel when I drink non-alcoholic beer (or anything non-alcoholic for that matter) is how someone who isn’t a drunk feels when they have a drink. I have some, and then it’s enough. I have no compulsion whatsoever to guzzle the rest of it and rush off to get another. I’m done now, that’ll be all, thanks. Do I sit there when that ‘meh‘ happens, wishing the physical reaction would follow? No. Do I wish there was real alcohol in my glass or bottle? No. All I feel is relief that I don’t have to be pulled into that terrifying carousel again, that spins me into a place I don’t want to be and where I have no control over what happens next. It’s complete and blissful relief. This must be it – I have watched others with such fascination in the past, how they could just stop drinking when I found I couldn’t. I just tried to imagine what that would feel like but couldn’t.

It wasn’t even towards the end of my drinking that I’d have that first drink and amongst the euphoria there’d also be a vague but distinct sense of overwhelming sadness. A sense of defeat, knowing when I put the wine glass to my lips I’d set it all in motion again and be unable to stop. That’s fucking terrifying. And I think it is the absence of that defeat that fills me with such joy. I suppose it’s called freedom. Freedom to choose, freedom to feel, freedom to be present and freedom to live. And that’s what I want. It’s how I always want to feel – free to walk away when I’ve had enough, not be slave to something dark and sinister that I can’t control and that will slowly kill me. I close my eyes and smile, saying a silent prayer of gratitude for this life I was once given but now fully can receive. I realise also that it isn’t alcohol that’s the ‘real thing‘ – it’s anything but.

For that, and countless other reasons, I’m not going to drink today.

The Big Day

The 23rd of January is my important date and the one I count from when I refer to my sobriety. It’s not the last day I drank or the first day I was sober but the day I put my big hobbit foot down and screamed ENOUGH! Well, not screamed. I decided and I was determined. I went online and found an AA meeting. It was an open one, which I took to be beautiful serendipity because I needed poor hubby to get help in understanding what alcoholism is. He was working in town that day so I collected him at the train station and drove like a formula one driver to the meeting – hubby had quite literally five minutes to process that we were going to an AA meeting. But that is the day that is meaningful to me. The last day I drank was actually 21st of January and the first day being sober was therefore the 22nd. But it’s the 23rd that counts as The Big Day for me.

Today it’s 127 days and I look in amazement at that number. Fuck me, isn’t that just so lovely? I’ve been an active participant in my own life all of those days, all 127 of them! I’ve not blacked out, I’ve not been numbed by booze and I’ve not behaved in a way that was painful or embarrassing to look back on. I’ve lived 127 days in sharp focus and glorious technicolour! 23rd of January 2018 is a very, very important day for me.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Heaven and Hell

So my previous post was about the notion that sobriety is hard work. Whilst I respect those who consider it to be so, it is not true for me. The hard work for me was drinking. That was REALLY tough. It’s funny, I look back on it almost like I look back on the first few years after my divorce. I was suddenly a single mother with a toddler and I had to work my backside off to keep everything together, working full time and at the same time struggling to provide my child with something that resembled a nice childhood. A child, who, by the way, didn’t sleep through the night at the time. I look back on those years and wonder how in God’s name I didn’t collapse with exhaustion. And that’s how I look back on my drinking too – how in the name of all that’s holy did I manage to drink like that for so long? I honestly don’t know. I can SORT OF remember that sure, I was extremely run down at times trekking to nursery in the morning to drop my child off after not getting to sleep more than four stretches of less than an hour and then head to work, but I can see why I managed because you just do. The main reason of course was my son and all the joy he has always given me, so despite working myself to the ground and suffering sleep deprivation to a possibly harmful degree, it was all quite doable.

But the drinking? Fuck me. What reason did I have to deliberately poison myself when there was never any reward? It’s one thing to be a bit tired because you haven’t slept and then be reminded why when you force your eyelids open to discover a mini-person standing by your bed in whose eyes you see all that is right in this world. It’s another to force your eyelids open when the alarm goes and no matter how beautiful a day it might be you are in hell and there is nothing whatsoever that’s made it worth it. But beyond that, how did I fucking do it? I clearly remember being at work and being afraid to move because all of a sudden my heart would begin to hammer in my chest in a wild tango and I’d be filled with paralysing fear that I’d die there and then. I’d dread having to get myself home and there was once I took the secluded route towards the river because I was shaking so bad from a panic attack (set off by a deadly hangover, of course) that I felt embarrassed walking down the main road. AND THEN I WENT HOME AND STARTED DRINKING ALL OVER AGAIN. Go figure – tell me what you come up with because if the ‘why’ wasn’t crazy enough I sure as hell am bewildered as to HOW it went on for as long as it did.

That’s right, I genuinely cannot tell you how I coped. I mean, look at me now. I’m sitting at work and it’s a bit shit, you know, given I don’t particularly feel a burning passion for this Plan B gig I’m only doing as it frees me up to do the things that do fire me up. How did I manage to do this over those years when I was so wrecked with hangovers I was actually afraid of having to speak to people due to being too zonked to 1) comprehend and process anything relayed to me, and 2) respond in a coherent manner.

So yes, I had to work hard as hell to drink. And not only once it’d turned into a three-bottles-a-day habit – I had to work my arse off to get there in the first place, steadily working up my frequency and tolerance once I’d got over the foul taste. No aspect of my drinking was easy. I had to work hard to get there, make no mistake.

But sobriety? Or, as I like to refer to it, LIFE?

It’s funny, because hubby and I talked about it only the other night. He told me, once again, that he’s proud of me. He told me, once again, that it must be hard. I don’t blame him because even I am quite shocked at how a raging alcoholic like me, who drank like I did, can go from guzzling wine like there’s no tomorrow to being sober without difficulty. I get that he must think that I secretly DO find it hard. Even I am sitting here thinking it must be. Maybe I’m blocking something out? There must be some deeper, more sinister answer somewhere, right?

Only there isn’t. It’s beautifully simple.

I drank because I was under the illusion it added a bit of glitter to life. And then the illusion shattered and I saw my drinking for what it was: total devastation and nothing else. And so I removed this devastation from my life and now I am left with a life I am free to live to the full. I am slave to nothing and no one. I am finally free to FEEL. I am no longer numb. It’s such a gift I feel overwhelmed with gratitude and joy.

Sobriety (aka LIFE) means this:

I wake up and feel good. Even if I’m a bit tired and could have pressed snooze a few more times, I feel fucking good. It’s a joy to put on coffee and make breakfast. It’s wonderful to take a shower and then come out again from the bathroom into an apartment that smells of freshly ground coffee beans. Then put on make-up which is minimal because now my skin is clear and my eyes are bright again. Sophie in the mirror looks back at me and she looks WELL. This chick’s been taking her vitamins and eating her greens, I think. I like her a lot. Instead of taking the quickest route and being terrified I’ll faint driving, I drive around for an hour listening to audiobooks before work. I love driving! And I love listening to books read in my native tongue. It’s bliss. And then, well, work’s quite dull and I would rather spend the day doing other stuff, but I’m feeling good and I get stuff done because my mind is keen and alert and I remember stuff. Then all the really great stuff – driving home each day and looking forward to a long walk, seeing my boys and enjoying the evening. Everything I do, whether it’s choice or obligation, I do with joy and I’m present. Well, not always joy because there are limits to how fucking cheerful there is a need to be over silly shit, but each situation I find myself in is the best it can be because I’m fully there. If it’s a shitty situation it’s still the best possible scenario because it’d be infinitely shittier if I were drunk or hungover. Just like any glittery moments are splendid because I am present and can enjoy them to the full – I can’t do that numbed by ethanol. It’s wonderful, simply wonderful. And for those times when life gives me lemons I’ll be so much better equipped to deal with any crap. Just taking a deep breath is enough to make me happy. It makes me feel grateful that I can.

Right now, bored at work (well – blogging isn’t working, this is stolen time but that’s how bored I am), I still feel ridiculously excited about life. Grateful I get to be here, joyful that I can take that deep breath and feel it in my chest where my heart is beating calmly and strongly. Fuck, I just welled up writing that. I welled up that very second when I wrote about my heart and took a moment to pay attention to how I feel physically. And mentally? Amazing too, although it’s fair to say I’ll always be a little crazy.

When I drank, life was one day at a time. My whole focus had to be on just getting myself through the day and when I started drinking again in the evening tomorrow was only ever going to be a write-off that I couldn’t bear think about before I woke up in it ravaged by another hangover. I had to drag myself through each day.

Now though, when life is LIFE, I can plan ahead and it’s so fucking exciting I might just pee my pants. We’ve got a bunch of trips booked in and I cannot WAIT to be THERE, PRESENT and in the moment!! We even have a 10-year plan! Who would have thought? That’ll take me into my 50s and a decade I know I would never have got to see if I’d continued drinking, no way. Perhaps I’ll be hit by a bus tomorrow, but I sure as hell ain’t going to depart from this life by my own hand. Not when there is so much living to do in this awesome LIFE.

So no. Today I’m not going to drink.