Guerrilla Tactics

It’s a beautiful Monday morning and London seems to be going in to that seam between summer and autumn with a freshness to the air that feels so good after the humidity of the past months. Still humid and a little muggy and I sweated a freaking ocean on my run yesterday. When I say ‘run’ I refer to the total of 12 minutes I actually jogged. Have a 10k app that is supposed to get me up to speed again. Or not speed perhaps, just get me to a state where I can chug along 10k without having to stop jogging and walk. All in good time. But yes, a gloriously beautiful morning here.

You could say that where I am right now is like the scene from Jaws, think it’s the first one with that woman swimming along and you hear the ominous music that signals the approach of Sharkie-doo with the camera shot zooming in on her from deep in the water below:

  1. Beautiful day.
  2. I feel rested, content and happy.
  3. Add feeling of additional physical wellness due to PT sessions and getting back into running.
  4. I have tomorrow off – albeit standard August procedure, not my Drunkard’s Planning.
  5. Hubby is at Heathrow about to board a flight to the States.

jaws

Oh yeah, I’m that chick in the water and Sharkie-doodle-doo is lurking in the depths below. Do I trust in strength I want to believe I have? Or do I ask for help? I didn’t fucking plan to develop alcoholism! If it had been part of the plan I wouldn’t have moved abroad, because right about now it would be really good to speak the following words:

  1. Hey Mum, I’m OK so don’t worry, but today is a tight spot for me so I’m staying with you for a few days until hubby’s back. 
  2. Dad! How’s it going? Let’s go moose spotting and don’t drop me home until after 11pm because I’ll never want to start drinking that late. 
  3. Hi there brother D, I’m sorry to do this to you but I’m not home dry yet so I’m going to camp out in your spare room. Thanks. 
  4. Cherokee, I feel a tad wobbly so would you mind babysitting me? Yep, I know, ridiculous but all I need is just your presence and we’ll have a nice time I promise.

Well. Those luxuries are far away and so I’ll just have to make do with the anchors I do have and I feel cautiously confident it’ll be fine. There are people I can reach out to here too should I need it, but it never hurts to have a plan and I do. Groceries arrive between 3 and 4pm (can’t be drunk). Window man is over at 5pm to measure everything up (can’t be bloody pissed for that, now can I?). Going for a 10k walk (not possible even with the THOUGHT of booze in my head because the only place I’ll walk then is the fucking store).

The heaviest anchor is Bambino, who is arriving back today after staying at his dad’s last night. I’ve been as open as I can with him and have explained everything except the A-word and just a couple of days ago I received a hug from him with the words “you’re doing well, Mum, I’m proud of you“. It was after I’d been for a gym session and walked back in, and I can promise you that he wasn’t referring to how many squats I’d done. My kid is over-joyed because I’ve quit drinking – if I then decide to take up knitting or train spotting he doesn’t give a honking hoot about. I don’t even think he’d care if I decided to join the circus so long as I’m sober. He might not spell it out but it was me quitting drinking that he meant and nothing else. In a way that makes me want to punch myself in the face. No 13-yearold should ever have to tell their goddamn parent they’re proud of them for not getting smashed on a daily basis anymore. But there we are, I can’t change any of that now, but what I can do is continue to show my boy that I want to be the best I can be and that I’m working hard at this. For all my failures and everything I’ve fucked up, this is my little chance to show him I can do and be better. Not even this rotten drunk would get drunk in front of Bambino now. Not behind his back either. Never again. For such a skinny little twig he is the heaviest anchor of them all.

I’ll be honest, there is no ping! in my head. I’ve felt like this every time hubby’s been away though. We talked about it last night, how I’ve felt a bit vulnerable each time he’s gone away with work but how it’s been fine in the end. Reality has never lived up to my worries beforehand. It rarely does, right? Perhaps it’s a good thing though, to worry like this? I’m going to see it that way I think, that it’s positive that I’m aware of the fact that this is really my weakest point – solitude and a good mood – and I’m just getting myself a little worked up but that the sense of vulnerability is actually serving me well. The Beast doesn’t fight fair, it’s all guerrilla and surprise tactics, but it’s always harder for it to get me when I’m anticipating an attack. The Beast would be much more likely to get me when I don’t expect it. See? I’ve got this.

I’ve been nervous before when hubby’s gone but when push has come to shove it’s actually been fine. That’s the thing with worrying. Like when I have to have a needle. It’s the size of Burj Khalifa in my head but then turns out it’s no big deal at all. Someone said that worrying is like a rocking chair: it’ll keep you occupied but won’t get you anywhere. Well, that makes worrying seem really pointless, but I’m going to stick my neck out and say that when it comes to alcoholism it’s actually another tool. OK, hopefully I’ll always discover that hey, I was fine in the end and any worry I felt was totally needless, but better that than getting ambushed by a monster that doesn’t play fair.

There’s one thing I’m really determined to get right, and again hubby and I spoke about it last night. As much as it’s OK to need those around you, I can’t bloody make my sobriety hang on other people. Hubby is my bestie and I have this whole army of amazing friends and a kick-ass family, but THIS IS MY FIGHT. They can come watch and they can cheer me on and even wipe my brow and hand me a bottle of water, but I can’t remove my gloves or flee from the ring if they leave the arena. I have to keep fighting even when the whole crowd is cheering on my opponent. Go Sauvignon Blanc! Finish her! Even then I have to fight. So me being sober today has to come from me. I have to focus on that I don’t want to drink and not worry because I’m flying solo for a few short days. No, I can’t go and stay at Mum’s, nor can I have a babysitter. I just have to pull on my big girl pants and show who’s boss.

Most of all, I’m reminding myself why I don’t want to drink. I’m forcing myself to in my head list positive things that drinking would bring – there aren’t any, only lots of bad shit. Nothing else.

I’ve got this.

Today I’m not going to drink.

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.

Escaping Everest

Ah, and so back down to earth with a nice little thud – hello, Monday. I think being in Sweden rumbled me a lot more than I expected it to, so it’s good to be back. I sometimes forget that it’s the place where I grew up that creates a lot of sadness and pain in me and so each time I am there I’m a bit overwhelmed by it, it’s not a new Sober Me thing – it’s always been that way but perhaps it was more intense this time because I can fucking feel everything! I never saw moving away as escaping but perhaps that’s what I did and as much as I love it there, I need to keep a safe distance and it’s good to have the North Sea as a barrier sometimes. Regardless, I can shut it away in a box on the other side of that puddle or I deal with it and have it over with. I suspect the latter would be the healthier option. Being back in London does mean my emotions are still like live wires that fizz and crackle but being home means I’m slowly returning to a better balance. All in good time. That doesn’t mean I’m going to slow down, it just means I need to deal with one thing at a time and in the right order. Changes are coming, and I am changing. I have already changed so much by just being present and with the light back on. Alive, I suppose. Still, there is much to be done and I will just have to tackle each little mountain one by one. No Everest in there. Or perhaps one, but I have it all mapped out so I don’t think there’s anything about the climb that’ll catch me off guard and it’s always getting back down that’s much harder. The others nice and challenging in a good way, much like the Mighty Hike. Time to get on with it.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Jump, Capitano!

Something is happening, I can feel it. Oh God, can I feel it! My emotions are taking me places I can’t even explain, much less put into words but I’ll try. It’s like my heart and soul are trying to tell me something – Anna, it’s now! That this is the moment I fall forward, my eyes on the horizon and with my arms stretched wide as if I were a bird, from the platform 300ft above terra firma knowing the elastic rope secured to my ankles and waist will hold. By the way, just so we’re clear – I ain’t fucking doing THAT again! But it’s a little like that. That this is it. The moment my child drew his first breath and I first heard his fragile little cry. Or those tear jerking moments when long lost family are reunited on that sob fest on Channel 4 I’ve been watching. That’s the feeling that’s making my heart tremble and soul vibrate – I just don’t know what it all means but I’m going with it. I see stuff all around me, like the universe is putting clues out for me to see. An elderly man going down to sit by the seafront, taking his late wife’s framed photo with him and placing it next to him because that’s where they used to sit together. Stuff like that. Doses of love so overwhelming my heart trembles.

leap

Had a long conversation with hubby last night. Got on to it quite randomly and although the chances of anyone in my family stumbling in here are slim, I’m not hiding plus I’ll probably end up handing out the web address to them too as and when and so I don’t want to go into detail. But there is something I need to let go of. Well, this is what step four is designed to help untangle and of course it’s part of mine along with much else, but I fully accredit sobriety for bringing me here and continuing to take me to new levels of clarity, insight and peace. It’s amazing. Sharing helps and I’m incredibly fortunate to have my best friend right by my side. No one can get sober for you, much less keep you that way but I also know I can’t do this alone and don’t have to – hubby, friends, now my family and of course AA together form my anchors. Hubby of course the most secure of them all, which is pretty damn impressive given he’s not an alcoholic – he’s doing a pretty awesome job of being my co-pilot. Or ship mate or whatever they’re called. He’s as bossy as I am, but on this particular ship I’m Il Capitano.

It’s freaking me out a little but as these emotions aren’t dark, it’s kind of in a good way. This thing, for example, that I need to let go of is part of this something-is-happening feeling. It’s like a revelation that might happen any minute, that’s a little how it feels. Like I’m about to find out the answer to something. Leap off. Begin something. Perhaps it’s all very simple and that I’m left happy and light because it’s all out there now, including for my family even though I avoided the A-word when speaking to my parents. They know anyway though – even if they’ve done their best to shut their eyes to the painful reality that their daughter is an alcoholic they can’t possibly have failed to know that. Anyway, maybe it’s that? Sobriety has so far been a pretty lovely journey (and by that I mean it hasn’t been a dark or difficult time – it hasn’t been all easy either but it certainly hasn’t been hell) but I was still holding back and was a little cautious in terms of who I shared it all with, but now I think the only thing I could do to reach the perimeter of people who know me, some of whom are barely in my life at all, would be to blast it all out on Facebook. Maybe one day, but not today – I don’t see the need. I guess I also prefer human contact these days and enjoy Facetoface more than Facebook. But I digress.

Something is happening. I’m ready. I just don’t know what it is exactly. Bear with me – remember I am feeling my emotions in their undiluted, unmodified and pure form for the first time in a long time, so I’m not fluent in the language of my heart and soul yet. I always had a knack for languages though, so I hope I’ll pick it up and I’ll try the method that’s worked for me in the past: total immersion.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Dirty Knickers

Once again, let’s go back to what we can do when we know someone we care about drinks too much….. As an alcoholic, this is a very interesting one for me and I have often wondered if there might have been something someone could have said or done to make me get to my turning point sooner. My instinctive and spontaneous answer is simple: nothing. Perhaps the truer answer, however, is that I still don’t know.

I had a conversation with one of my sisters-in-law, M. Instead of an initial, let’s give her a nickname for the purposes of this blog as we are close and chances are I’ll write about her again. Straighty! Oh, how apt! She is the most orderly, by-the-book person I know. A straight arrow and a straight shooter. Beyond this, she also has a better grip than your average non-alcoholic Joe on what alcoholism is due to her profession – this is particularly refreshing as it cuts out a whole catalogue of misconceptions and ignorance around what an alcoholic is. She gets a lot of it. So anyway, Straighty and I had a little exchange yesterday because I came away a little worried that I had dropped the A-bomb like that and might have caused my brother additional worry given he in that moment went from having a sister who drinks too much to having a sister who’s an alcoholic. I think the way I actually put it to them was “well, I’m a raging alcoholic, a full-on, pure bred drunkard“. I am nothing if not blunt. So I wanted to emphasise that me having come to understand and accept this, along with a genuine and sincere wish to stay sober, is good news and hopefully something my brother (and her, of course) can see as a positive thing.

Straighty did what Straighty does and told me straight.

I don’t think your brother worries more. I think he feels it’s a good thing you’ve come to this point and you just confirmed what we’ve believed for some time now anyway.

Well, that’s good and exactly what I wanted – remove some pain, worry and fear by showing that hey, I get it and I’m trying to turn it all around. It was a good exchange to have, albeit via e-mail. We only see each other for a few days twice a year and with us rushing around to see everyone and her a busy mother of four with at least one kid whining for her attention, the uninterrupted moments she and I get just the two of us are extremely rare. Straighty felt I shouldn’t bother trying to “save” anyone’s feelings when it comes to saying I’m an alcoholic. It’s the truth, so what? But for me it is 100% about that when it comes to my parents, saving their feelings. They live in a small town and they are of the generation and upbringing where one keeps one’s dirty laundry to oneself and having an alkie for a daughter would bring shame – lots of it. There is endless gossip, everyone’s in everyone else’s business and you can’t fucking fart without it being the talk of the town in that place, I swear. And that generation is also more worried about how it looks than how it feels, my father and stepdragon two fine examples of how all dirt should be brushed under the carpet. Out of sight. Let me clarify: in all likelihood they all know that I’m a drunk, but it’d be much worse to put a label on it and if other people knew.

I have no issue with saying I’m an alcoholic, much less with what others might think – after all, I’m not going to be more (or less) of an alcoholic just because people talk about it, right? To be fair, if I can get people to talk about it, it’d be my greatest achievement in life. And my sobriety is much more important than people’s opinions – besides, if I didn’t have my sobriety I’d have no life for anyone to have opinions about in the first place. So for me it’s irrelevant, plus I don’t live there so it wouldn’t affect me anyway.

kn

But for my parents I figured it might just be too painful to hear so I told them the truth in a softer (but no less honest) way: I drink too much, I can’t stop when I start and it doesn’t do anything for me. Straighty made a good point though, a VERY good point:

If you just tell everyone straight, then it becomes easier to understand and absorb, and no one has to wonder how far or how low. If you just say you’re an alcoholic, everyone will understand how serious it is.

True. Can’t argue with that. But still it does bother me how it might be too tough for them to deal with. Having said that, I think just like with Straighty and my brother D, my parents (and everyone else who knows me) will already bloody know and perhaps it’ll be a relief for them as much as it is for me to just put those awful knickers out to air where everyone can see them. Perhaps there’ll be a moment to present the A-word, straight and clear but without it being a bomb. And after all, they can choose if they want to tell anyone or not. It’s not a secret. I’ve really been searching my soul if there is part of me holding back in front of them for any other reason than wanting to save them from hurt, and there genuinely isn’t a single one. And they are in a minority anyway, because I’ve told pretty much everyone without shying away from any detail. Unlike Straighty – as much as I do also agree she is right in a way – I do still worry about them having to hear that particular word. Straighty understands a whole lot more than most non-alkies and therefore she is easy to discuss it with, but sometimes she’s just a bit too… ….straight.

So anyway. The point here was back to my still unanswered (or unanswerable) question as to whether there would have been anything anyone could have said or done to make me quit sooner. So if we take Straighty and my brother D. She tells me they talked about it on numerous occasions and when I told them I’m an alcoholic it only confirmed what they had already known, or at least suspected, for quite a long time. Here’s the funny bit though…. Or not so funny. No, it’s funny. I think. At Christmas, just last Christmas, do you know what their present to me was? A bottle of Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc – my favourite, darling kind.

This is what I mean when I’ve pointed out how alcohol is the mother of all bitches to walk away from in terms of getting people around you to understand. Because not only is it considered normal, it is encouraged too, to consume ethanol as part of social occasions. And these are two people who strongly suspect or pretty much know that their sister/sister-in-law has a massive drinking problem, yet gives her a bottle of wine for Christmas. WOW. I’m not saying this is wrong of them, I’m pointing out how fucking mad it all is. Not them, IT! They loved me then, as they do now. Cared for me, as they do now. Worried about me, as they hopefully do a little less now. But isn’t that just absolutely crazy? Like giving a gram of heroine for Christmas to someone you love who you think might be a junkie. Would you?

I reiterate what I kind of think – that if you confront someone you love and tell them their drinking (or whatever other behaviour or drug or condition or what have you it might be) worries you, you are likely to be met with an angry reaction and the person with the possible problem shutting you out. So I’m not in any way saying they did anything wrong, I’m just saying it’s crazy. I think in an even crazier way, it made me less uncomfortable around them and perhaps therefore more likely to tell them straight when I was ready. Because I always knew I wasn’t any good at hiding it.

Anyway. There we are and do let me know your thoughts – there is no end to how much this fascinates me.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Magic and Anchors

It’s with absolute dread and trepidation that I turn the ‘closed’ sign over and open back up after our little summer break. Oh, I’m happy to be HERE, on this blog and catching up on reading what my fellow bloggers have been up to but outside of the blogosphere I need to make some massive changes. Not at home, because it was absolutely lovely to get back home and with hubby and bambino is exactly where I want to be, but I need to figure out what my purpose is now. Sobriety brought me back to myself, it’s been a learning curve to say the least and it wasn’t a huge surprise to realise that I have more to give than what I deliver at work. My job suited an alcoholic but now that I’m sober it actually brings me down. It’s a bit ridiculous because it’s all very nice and easy and I should be grateful but six months down the line I am DONE. I need to figure this out and soon or it’ll really start to drag me down. I’ve never felt as much dread coming in to work as I did this morning. This is priority one now, to work out my escape route and discover what my place in the world might be.

It doesn’t help either that I’m utterly shattered. One of the immediate benefits of being sober was getting quality sleep but during our second holiday I slept worse than I think I ever have. After Italy we headed to my native Sweden and as usual we stayed at the little red house at the foot of the mountain. All other times we’ve been there I was of course chugging wine and therefore passed out in true Drunk Me style, but now – sober – I felt anxiety and the jitters like I never have before. It’s in the middle of nowhere and the silence is deafening beyond the creaks of an old house and the sounds of nature and occasional wildlife outside. Oh, and footsteps I swear I heard going down the stairs at 4.30 one morning. Well, better than up (to where we were sleeping) I guess. The doorbell went twice with no one there, and it’s got gardens and fields all around it so it couldn’t have been a prank even if it’d been Mo Farah who’d pranked us and sprinted off, it’s open spaces for miles and we’d been able to spot anyone. Turns out the doorbell battery is giving up and that might be why, but I scare easily and even though I probably dreamed the footsteps, I had a terrible time sleeping.

Holy crap, how depressing! But I am. Not depressed thank goodness, but DOWN and grumpy.

So anyway. I’d already done our Paris and Gothenburg breaks sober – including a Foo Fighters concert – so Lipari was every bit as magical without wine as I knew it’d be. It was magical BECAUSE no wine, should I say, much like life actually is without booze. But I did wonder what Sweden would be like, or rather, how people might react to brand new Sober Me. Well. Dad already knew, as did Mum, as I told them ages ago I quit drinking. Both reacted with kindness and told me it made them happy I’d made such a decision. No one in my life could have missed that I drank like a sailor on leave so I’m sure I’ve caused them considerable worry and pain, and I’d imagine both my parents drew a massive sigh of relief when they learned I’d stopped drinking. I never used the A-word when I told them, only explained that it had got way too much and how I can’t stop when I start – this is actually the whole truth anyway, whereas the alcoholic label might cause additional worry. I did spell it out to my brother D and his partner M, the A-word and what it had actually been like warts and all. Afterwards I worried it might have been selfish of me, because telling everyone is for me putting down yet another set of anchors as I figure the more of those I have the steadier I’ll be able to remain if a storm hits. But what about THEM? What if I’ve just gone and caused even more hurt?

But you must have known I drank too much,” I said to M a few days after we had the conversation.

We’ve discussed it,” she told me, “I’ve said to your brother several times that the amounts you drank were insane, but he always shrugged it off and it’s hard to know because we only see you twice a year.

Yep, easy to frame as holiday drinking,” I agreed.

But I do worry I have placed a heavy burden on D’s shoulders, because this means he has gone from having a sister who “likes her drink” to having a sister who is an alcoholic and all that this entails. It’s a much bigger problem than over indulgence obviously (if this is indeed how D had me pegged) and perhaps he’ll worry much more now that he knows I’m an alkie and not just someone who has a lot “on occasion” or “on holiday” whatever. Ironically, it is now they no longer have to worry because with me acknowledging – and publicly at that – that I’m a drunk, not only do I have to stay on task (or at least made it very difficult for myself not to) but I also have all these people around me who are aware that I can’t drink like they can and can raise the alarm (or at least confront me) if I were to slip. It’s a tricky one. I do wonder if I should have just left it the way I did with Mum and Dad, given it’s the truth anyway without troublesome and stigmatised labels. Cherokee told me it was the right thing to do and perhaps she’s right. Whatever happens from here on out, what I do know is that my husband along with all my close friends and family know I have this problem and I’ll never EVER be able to try to make them believe I can join them in having a drink Just This One Lil’ Ol’ Time. Ever, ever, ever. Anchors. Can’t fool anyone now. Not even myself, and I was the easiest to fool of them all.

Of course I also need to be patient and kind now that my anchors may have questions. Or have misconceptions around what being an alcoholic is and means. Dad is someone who has very strong opinions and I need to be careful how I tread so I can stop myself getting irritated when he’s coming from a good place, because he does have the biggest heart and although he has a habit of being somewhat unfiltered he does mean well. At my Gran’s he popped open a bottle of bubbly she’d got for her 90th, poured a glass for Gran and another for my hubby, then looked at me and went “and absolutely nothing for you”. It grated on me. Immediately I wanted to inform him that whether or not I drink is MY decision and no one else’s and I certainly don’t need him to be the wine police, but I recognised that he didn’t say it to be mean but because he loves me and thought it was the right thing to do. And I guess it was – I’m not drinking and I don’t want to be drinking. Oh, and I’m an alcoholic so I CAN’T freaking drink. Dad clearly thought he was being helpful and that’s what I need to recognise in these situations. Hell, poor sods, suddenly now with a full-on drunk in the family, how could I expect anyone to know how to handle it when I am still trying to figure it out myself? Suffice to say I have the best friends and family on the planet.

Another thing that irritated me was when M told me how she and D had talked after our conversation. How they were grateful that I have hubby by my side. And again, I had to rein myself and my narcissism right back in because once again it came from a place of love. My sobriety, my decision. But if you’re not an alcoholic and it turns out you have a sister/sister-in-law who is, of bloody course you’re going to feel it’s a wonderful thing and a huge relief that she is married to the best person in the world. I write this now and see even more clearly how unreasonable and selfish of me it is to take it any other way than how it is in all likelihood how I’d feel too. Take Elaine, my friend who drinks too much and whom I’m desperately worried about. Despite all I know about my own drinking and my own sobriety and how no one and nothing in the world could stop me if I decided to hit the bottle again, I’d be less worried if I knew she had a great person by her side for support. We all need it. Even me, and it’s about time I realise that. My first proper sentence was “I can do it myself” and it’s always summed me up pretty well. Sobriety has taught me I can’t – but more importantly perhaps, don’t HAVE to – do it all on my own.

I wasn’t sure how to bring it up, in a way it should have been at the very start of this post, or even a post all in itself, but I had a slip before we went away. It was an interesting one because it was the most unlikely of triggers. Had the mother of all fights with bambino and was angrier than I’ve ever been with him and I opened one of hubby’s beers with the sole intention of numbing myself, calming down. The classic stress response of ‘I need a drink’. It didn’t taste of feel good. It didn’t turn into black-out or even a heavy session. There was no part of it that made the situation better either, not that I thought it would. It did, however, highlight how there is no point in drinking whatsoever. Weirdly it didn’t make me feel guilty either, even though it was four days shy of my six months sober. Told hubby, who was on his way home and had called me en route, that I was drinking a beer, one of HIS. We talked about it the next day and as stupid as it might sound, it would almost have been even better if it HAD turned into an insane black-out with the subsequent hell of the following day. Or how it was all a bit of a non-event was actually perfection. What I did discover was that alcoholic beer is disgusting compared with non-alcoholic beer. I suppose that makes sense and would be true for any drink at all. Of course it’s going to be foul if you add ethanol to it.

So there we are. Holidays over. Slip – or BLIP, perhaps – that perhaps was inevitable. Back to the grind but need to find a new direction.

And anchors. More and more of them. It’s all about the anchors.

Sleeping Dogs and Fuckery

No sooner than I click ‘publish’ on a post where I just conclude I have nothing much to say today, do lots of thoughts of the hmm variety bounce into my head. And it’s the sort of hmm that I fear might run into an essay of gigantic proportions, but I’m actually quite curious as to what others might do.

For those of us who work the 12 steps as part of our sober journey, we will eventually encounter step 8 and 9. These steps involve listing everyone who’s been affected by your fucked-upness and then proceeding to apologise to each one and offer to make amends unless it’d make things worse to do so. As much as those people who have been wronged deserve an apology, I think it also lightens the burden for the wrong-doer. Even if the harm done can never be forgiven, never mind undone, at least you can walk away knowing you faced up what you did wrong. We can’t force anyone to accept an apology but surely it’s better to take full responsibility for our actions, plus it will feel better too. It might not change a thing in terms of the other party’s anger and/or resentment towards us, but I think it makes a huge difference to how we feel to have at least made an effort to right our wrongs.

In my case I think the easiest way to create an accurate list would be to note down every single person I know and had any dealings with during the years when my alcoholism was in full swing and then strike off the few I didn’t hurt. Where I’ll draw a line will be an interesting dilemma because why create potential awkwardness when all there is to it might just be that someone’s been a bit annoyed? Perhaps just focus on when I’ve actually upset people.

One such person is Friction, named that way because she and I always rubbed each other up the wrong way. She is the only person in the world I have had an actual friendship with that ended because we both agreed it wasn’t a good one. As I imagine many of us do, I have had friends where we’ve just grown apart or away, but this one ended because it was a bit crappy. I have no interest in having this person in my life again and nor do I think she’d want to start hanging out again, but when we parted ways one of the things she did say was that she felt I didn’t prioritise her. And I didn’t. I’d often cancel at the eleventh hour. I suspect this made Friction feel like I didn’t value her as a friend, which you can hardly blame her for if this is indeed the case. And that’s what I want her to know. Because as a friend she’s great – 100% one of those people you could call in the middle of the night and she’d hop in the car or what have you to be there for you. And I did always look forward to seeing her because we’d often have a really nice time. That’s what my apology would be – to tell Friction I am sorry if I made her feel I didn’t give a shit about her and this wasn’t the case at all.

The tricky bit is I don’t fucking like her! I was intensely uncomfortable with at times socialising with our husbands in tow and having to look her husband in the eye knowing that she over the years had been sleeping with her boss in return for promotions and pay rises and other financial favours. I couldn’t stand her obsession with status and titles (which I guess drove the boss fuckery in the first place) and really resented her when she told me about all these things in a sort of gleeful way that almost suggested she expected me to be impressed. It was ugly. One year hubby and I met up with Friction and her husband for Christmas drinks. Her hubby made a joke about how much her boss was in love with her, a joking remark about how close they were and which might have been funny had she not been fucking him. Instead there we were, forcing a smile and a chuckle at his joke yet everyone but him knew and I felt absolutely awful. My husband and I walked away feeling really uncomfortable, I remember hubby at the time telling me “I can’t do that again, poor guy“. It was quite bad and the fact that Friction’s husband was a thoroughly nice guy and super sweet didn’t help either.

So she’s actually a person I am quite pleased to no longer have anything to do with. But I made her feel bad and unimportant and that’s obviously not right. What would you do here? The reason I so often cancelled was because I was either too hungover to leave the house or in the process of drinking again – the same reason why I cancelled a million other things when my alcoholism was at its worst, and why she was one of countless friends I’ve let down because I’ve been too wrecked to show up. I mean, that still warrants an apology. And I also don’t like the idea that someone feels bad when it’s my drinking that’s to blame and nothing else.

Then again, I assume her life is just like mine when it comes to our friendship and better without me in it just like my life is better without her. Do I, for example, care what she might think of me now or thought of me then? Not one bit. I assume she doesn’t give a toss about whether I prioritised her or not – clearly it pissed her off (or even hurt her) at the time but to trudge it up now? I don’t see how there is anything to fix. In fact, I would possibly say this is when it’d cause more bad feelings than good to go back there. The only thing that has her popping up on my list is that she at the time said she felt I didn’t give a shit about her and it sort of seems like the right thing to do to say I did, that it was just that she was up against my drinking and let’s face it, no one won on that score.

I think this is where I let sleeping dogs lie. I would be interested to hear what others would do though. No matter what I think of her, it’s wrong she felt that way, but would it really be right to poke at something that’s long gone and over with? And when we’re both better without the other?

Today is a good day. I am sober and I can fulfill all my commitments. I don’t feel too shit to turn up for anything. It’s fucking awesome and long may it continue!