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.

Albums in an Expanding World

Where I grew up, a small town in countryside Sweden, a lot of businesses close down for all of July. In fact, this is often the case around the whole country as this is when people take their holiday. Unlike in the UK where you’re lucky if your boss agrees to let you take a couple of weeks in one go, Swedes book almost their whole holiday entitlement in one block. And of course in Scandinavia it’s trendy to look after your employees, so people tend to have six weeks per year to take off work. Nice, eh? Most people book all of July off and a lot of the country closes down – cinemas, hair dressers, factories and even airlines. Well, the smaller domestic ones anyway. So just like the 10-seater plane that takes people from the place I grew up to Stockholm and back, I’m heading into a few weeks of summer holidays free of musts and to-do lists. As much as the idea of blogging from our sea view balcony in Italy appeals to me, I’m going to enjoy the moments in the moment and remain blissfully offline. There’s always a bit of worry when a drunk goes off radar I suppose, my first thought when I haven’t heard from Ivy or Blue or Butterbean or any other sober friend is whether they’re OK or have fallen off the wagon. Well, you’ll be the first to know, but rest assured I’m heading off into the Mediterranean sunsets with these five-plus months of happy sobriety and no wish to wreck any of it. And that’s all I have really, a genuine intention to stay on this path.

summer

When Facebook was first popular I spent huge amounts of time online. I’ve always been a blogger and just like I do now I used to write pretty much every day, albeit not about being an alcoholic. However, it was no accident that my old blog was called ‘A Storm in a Wine Glass’. In a way I wish I’d kept it but it’s all gone and deleted since many years back. Another blog I wrote on for some years was called ‘Morning Pages’ and like the previous it was just really my observations of life but with the title from the advice of an author – the idea was to write as soon as you get up and not give it any thought. I used to set a timer for 20 minutes and write whatever popped into my head. I still have the latter but haven’t posted anything in a long time as my attention has been focused here and on my quest to get sober. Anyway, when Facebook exploded and everyone got on to it, I did too. I never went as far as post pictures of my dinner but I spent an awful lot of time on there. It was also the time when my drinking was at its worst so it suited me to have a world that had shrunk to the kitchen table where I sat every evening in front of my laptop.

Since I met hubby, the world has expanded a little again, and since I quit drinking it’s become beautifully enormous, and whenever I do forget to take my phone with me it’s just a relief. I find myself unwilling to take photos, never mind posting them online straight away, in favour of just being in the moment and not ruin it by whipping out a goddamn phone every time something is lovely be it a sunrise or a meal. I want to get a camera, an actual camera, and take photos when on holiday, then look through them all only when we’re back and get them developed. Actual photos that you see when they’ve been developed and not before, put them into albums that you look through by turning pages and not swiping through on a screen. It’s funny, I find myself wanting to go back in time a little and move away from screens and apps. Last year I decided to get an old school mobile phone so managed to find a restored Nokia 8250 on ebay, the same phone I used to have around 2001. The plan worked until I discovered it really handicapped me. I’d just wanted to have a phone that you can make phone calls on and use to send text messages and get away from the distraction of Facebook etc, but it’d seem times have moved in a way that means that sort of phone is really awkward to use! My mother was in London and I found myself unable to help when I needed to find a number for a taxi firm. Couldn’t go online and I don’t even think the directory service exists anymore, the trusty old 192 you could ring to get a phone number you’d write down on a piece of paper. Somewhat miffed I declared defeat and put my SIM card back into my iPhone.

My friend E is definitely a Facebookaholic and the last time she was on holiday there was even a photo posted on her timeline from when she was on the toilet. Not a selfie, thank God, but a photo to illustrate some flaw in Cypriot lavatory design I believe. When we celebrated Midsummer at her place, her husband – clearly well drilled in social media etiquette and procedure – even announced “OK, wait, don’t touch the food until the photos are done“. And hey presto, E snapped away and our buffet lunch was shared on Facebook before we’d even taken our first bite. Nothing wrong with that, but I want a break from it all. I want to get to Lipari and enjoy a beautiful, magical holiday with hubby and just feel it’s us. I want to take precious holiday snaps but the evenings I want to spend taking in the view of the sea and not sit and flick through and post the whole day’s experiences online with both of us absorbed by our phones. Isn’t it funny how it almost seems like a little challenge to not look at our holiday photos until we are back? Something you’d never have done, say, 20 year ago?

Yes! I want to have REAL albums again. Get photos developed and be all excited to see how they turned out, bring them back from the photo store and sit down together on the sofa and look through them whilst avoiding getting finger prints all over them. Now I just need to convince hubby this is a good idea. He always has his phone on him, even to the loo, but because of his work he can’t really leave his phone at home when we go out like I can. However, I think he’s much like me – if the damn phone is there you end up messing around on it – and I doubt he’d panic at the idea of going offline. So long as my son can get hold of me I don’t need to ever be available and I’m going to draw full advantage of that fact now.

Sobriety is definitely playing a big part in wanting to embrace living – I’m finally present in my own life and it seems a waste to live it in any other way or place than in the moment so that’s what I’m going to do. Perhaps I’ll find the occasional moment to post something here if something bubbles up in me that I just have to share, but who knows. All I wanted to do for now is wish you all a wonderful summer as I don’t know if I’ll be back here again until half way through August. I’m so looking forward to my summer holidays without drinking, I can’t tell you how excited I am to go into all of this knowing I’ll not miss a thing and not waste any days because of hangovers. Being sober is fucking exciting!

Just like Sweden, this Swede is closing up shop for the holidays.

Today I’m not going to drink and here’s to an amazing, sober summer!

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!

Cautious Confidence and Sweat

Can I just start with a warning today – this post will doubtlessly contain incessant bragging and is really just a huge exercise in attention seeking. And I don’t give a shit, I am THAT proud of myself!

We did it! 26 miles/42 kilometres along the south coast from Brighton to Eastbourne on the hottest day of the year, conquering the Seven Sisters, who, by the way, are fucking BITCHES. I swear, if I’d known how bad those hills would be I don’t know if I’d bothered even if I hadn’t hiked 20 miles already by the time we got to them. Oh, who am I kidding, as exhausting and difficult those last six miles were, I am so, so happy we managed to do it and yes, I’d do it again. I kind of feel about this like I do about childbirth – fucking painful and in the moment you make a solemn vow to never EVER do it again but then… ….you totally would and then you totally do. Well, I only gave birth the once because life’s plan for me didn’t involve bearing more children, but you know what I mean – it was never the fear of giving birth that was the reason I only did it the once. And as much as I thought I’d collapse when we finally reached the top of Beachy Head, the last huge hill before it was finally over, and we just had that last downhill stretch to Eastbourne, I knew I’d do this all over again as soon as I stepped over the finish line with aching hips and feet.

I’m not going to ever lie here on this blog, remember, so as tempting as it is to say WHOAAAAA what a champion I am I’ll be honest and tell you that the last couple of inclines my husband was pretty much pulling me. There. It was 100% much, much harder than I thought and those last six miles with steep inclines nearly did me in. Weirdly it was the last mile which was only downhill that was the worst and I actually thought I might not make it, I was THAT exhausted and felt like I was going to collapse. I’ve never been in a situation before when I’ve been so physically spent that it’s literally been a case of putting one foot in front of the other – that was all I was thinking during that last mile: one more, one more, and again, one more…. Also, I’m no good with heat as it is and sweat like a truck driver at the tiniest hint of sun, but this was something else. Without the heat, I know my hips and feet would have ached just as much but the heat was brutal. It might not have been any easier in more tolerable temperatures or even a bit of wind or shade, but fuck me that heat was vicious!

Thought the start photo was funny – check out Miss Contrary in the bottom right corner refusing to wear the green top. When I stand out it’s rarely for the right reasons, but hey ho. It wasn’t refusal so much as a matter of comfort though and had it not been so goddamn hot I would have happily worn the thick race day top. My friend Cherokee (who regularly does crazy shit like marathons and various long terrain races) had warned me against anything with seams, so my trusty super thin and seamless blue top it had to be. Unlucky for you, I have also hidden hubby’s gorgeous face just like I do with any photos I add here that happen to have friends or family in them. He probably wouldn’t mind, in fact he’ll probably ask me why I’ve done that and might even be a little offended, but he hasn’t asked to have his beautiful face displayed on this blog so unless he takes issue he’ll remain anonymous. He’s also on a plane to Prague with work as I write this so I can’t ask him anyway. I suppose you’ll just have to trust me when I say he was carved by angels.

OK, that’s it, I’m done and I’m sorry if that was all a bit obnoxious!

Sooooo…. Drinking. I’m not drinking. 167 days. I look at that number and find it quite unbelievable. I just don’t know if I ever TRULY believed I could do it. I know it’ll never be a case of “oh, I’m cured now!” and I’ll have to stay on task for the rest of my days, but whatever happens in the future I can still go back to this day and see those digits knowing it happened. And where are we right now? Not struggling but yes, I absolutely do feel like having a drink now and again. Not every day and it’s only been two occasions that I can think of when I was close to actually choosing death over life – OK, now I sound like a real drama queen, but that’s where drinking will take me because I’m an alcoholic and can’t drink like “normal people”. It’d be silly, or even dangerous, for me to think of it in any other way. I was killing myself the way I was going, period. So yes, two occasions when I very nearly did or at the very least REALLY wanted to. But I’m still sober and that feels really awesome.

I’ve learnt so much about myself over these five and a half months and I’m so grateful I got to that stage when I knew I wanted to change before it got much worse or had been too late. Don’t ever think I don’t know how lucky I am. Who knows what irreversible damage I’ve already done – I dread to think what I put my body through and every time I feel my heart beating hard, especially on the rare occasion that I have palpitations, I whisper ‘I’m sorry’ and hope to God I haven’t broken it. And those poor organs who had to battle so hard to cope with the poison in my blood stream. I did often have an ache in my lower back, which I assume might have been my kidneys. Any blood tests I had, including the one I had done in spring with a few months of sobriety in the bag, always showed good liver function (which drunky-drunk here always took for a green light to continue) but I don’t know how much of the story a blood test can tell. Probably very little. I simply don’t know if I stopped in time or if there’ll be a price to pay, but even if it turns out I left it too late to change my course I still know I’ll be better placed to pay my dues sober, whatever they may be. Sorry, that sounds very glum but I don’t want to minimise how serious alcoholism is or what it does. Sobriety, however, cannot be overestimated and no matter what the future holds I know that so long as I stay sober I can continue to recover the person I was always meant to be and even take a good shot at stuff like dreams and ambitions, YAY! Not a bad deal, is it?

Oh, another thing that just dawned on me is that this week is probably more of a risk zone for me than others as hubby is away. Because we’ve had a super busy summer so far and always something going on, I just haven’t had time to dread him being away and perhaps that’s why that devilish ping! with accompanying illusions of wine hasn’t popped into my head. Well, it isn’t there, or at least not yet.

Should it be hard to resist it if it does happen? So let’s break it down. I think sobriety so far hasn’t felt difficult because I just haven’t wanted to drink. Even on those two occasions I can think of when the urge got quite strong I can’t say it was a battle to the death to get through it. Mostly there is no will power required whatsoever, which is entirely logical given you don’t need any to avoid doing something you don’t want to do anyway. And I know I don’t want to drink. I can’t think of a single benefit drinking would give me, not a one. Dragging my fat arse over those last hills Saturday just gone took all my might though. The fucking will power I had to use to get through those last few miles was an enormous effort and a case of genuinely not wanting to go on coupled with doubting I’d be able to. So I keep thinking that if my brain goes ping! it really shouldn’t be difficult. On Saturday I knew I wanted to finish, I wanted that achievement and sense of accomplishment. After fighting those last miles I knew that finishing would feel SO good. So there was a reason to go against what I really wanted to do – give up – and go on. I have no reason to drink. Literally nothing at all. Mm…. See, I’m getting quite scared just writing this and perhaps it’s myself I’m trying to convince more than tell anyone reading this how pointless drinking is. I suppose if anything it shows the ugly and devious nature of alcoholism, how even when booze brings you nothing but harm and misery we still go on drinking.

I feel cautiously confident though. My hips are very sore and right now my 90-yearold grandmothers are both more sprightly and agile than I am, but I feel good and aching hips are better than aching kidneys – holy crap, I can’t even believe I typed that just now as if you could ever compare! Sober Me is who I want to be. I want to be the Anna who lives her life fully, not Drunk Me. It’s Sober Me standing there exhausted at the finish line with hubby. Drunk Me could never feel as good as that chick, much less do that. There – no contest.

Today, God willing, I am not going to drink.