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.