Had Me Rolling

All in good time. That’s something that’s very good for my Schumacher brain to get used to and I’m doing my best by being as honest and authentic as I can be. A full time role has already materialised at the rehab but I have made it clear I won’t take it. Whoa, back up, back up…. Nah, you read that correctly. Yes, it is indeed what I want to do for a living but – and this is a huge but – it cannot be at a cost I can’t afford. It is. It’d mean I have one weekend in six off, and the working week is between 50 and 60 hours long. There is a 25-hour shift every week – work the evening shift, sleep at the rehab with the possibility you might be woken by the waking night person to deal with emergencies (and these do happen, as I’ve already seen) and then do the morning shift. On occasion this would be fine, but on a weekly basis and along with effectively sacrificing the quality time I have at weekends with Hubby it’s just not realistic.

This is more than I’m prepared to give. They are pressing on, Rio even offered to do the sleep-over part of MY shifts if it meant I’d accept, but for now I’ve said I’ll continue to take shifts on an ad-hoc basis – so far I’ve said yes to everything, so it’s not like I’m being a princess about it – and see where it goes. I cannot compromise my family life and balance in this way. A standard 40-hour week spread over painfully exhausting shifts, no problem, but that’s not what this is.

And that’s cool. Worst thing I can imagine when it comes to this would be to promise something that I’ll find too challenging to deliver. I think Rio was a little disappointed and God knows he pushed, pushed and pushed some more, but I also know both he and Beethoven appreciated my honesty. Besides, if I agree to more than I feel I can handle and sacrifice too much to do it, I won’t be any good for them anyway. Win-win. Rio did mention he’ll see if they can find a way to pin me down permanently for what I can do and get someone new to cover the shifts I can’t commit to. It’s mainly the 25-hour one because even if I wanted to, Hubby travels a lot and at 14 Bambino is too young to be completely solo like that.

So life will continue this way for a while and that’s awesome. I’m getting shifts at a steady rate with three or four every week and trust me, that’s brilliant. It does take it out of me and often I get home wired as well as absolutely spent, but with this arrangement (that of course also does allow me to say no, should I need to) I still have the balance I need. And oh, I still get quality time, albeit even this way much less, with Hubby and Bambino.

I took the relaxation group again yesterday and I didn’t die. I felt the fear and did it anyway (good book, by the way – “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” – look it up). Good, eh? And next time I might even go into it without my heart beating so hard I’m breathless! Because I’m still learning and finding my feet, I want to check off with either Beethoven or Rio or one of the therapists before I take a reading, poem or video clip to the group. Cherokee sent me the below clip recently. She said once, since I got sober, that she’s glad to have me back. I took this to mean she always loved me for who I actually am, and that perhaps my descent into alcoholism stole me away from her there for a while. If you can call best part of two decades “a while”, that is.

Anyway. Cherokee loves this series called Vikings, and this dude is an actor and plays one of the main parts. I watched it and loved it. The things he is grateful for I can sign my name to, I can totally relate to the fear of saying goodbye to “that life” and more than anything I can only echo his words: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. We need to talk about these things – addiction, mental health, etc – and there is light at the end of the tunnel. I’m with him, and although I’m not a successful actor in my 20s I can still relate to every single thing he said. Er, I don’t have “hanger-on’s” but apart from that bit, I suppose. Let me assure you that there is a way out of the living hell that is addiction. It gets brighter, it gets better and one day you’ll sit there and look back and not believe, uhm, what you USED to believe.

It’s about 15 minutes long. WATCH IT. The guy talks a lot of sense.

As for me, today I’m most grateful for these things, in no particular order:

  1. I woke up without a crippling hangover.
  2. I don’t have to drink today.
  3. Bambino’s sense of humour – he had me rolling this morning, he’s just too funny.
  4. I’m a good wife and finally a present mother.
  5. I get to do something I’m passionate about for a living. Well, ad-hoc anyway!
  6. My new foundation from Bobbi Brown – I look all dewy! (Superficial, I know – sorry, not sorry).
  7. Feeling so enthusiastic and energised.
  8. Hubby’s delectable bottom. Oh, and his grrrrr-wanna-bite-them-they’re-so-good legs.
  9. Being alive.
  10. Cherokee – this amazing, kick-ass woman who is MY friend. She’s with ME! Smug as fuck.
  11. That I can now face my fears and do even the things that terrify me.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Stark Naked, I Swear

I crashed. I hit one of those bumps in the road that I – when I was in active addiction – avoided like the plague. I.e. the sort of bump that I’ve been avoiding my entire adult life, running away and hiding from any potential friction long before it could even form aforementioned bump. When we get sober, I think some of us have this little disillusion that our lives will just magically transform and be perfect – I hear it all the time in various recovery groups: “why am I still not sleeping well? I’ve been sober for weeks!” or that we are pissed off that even though we did that horrendously scary thing and got sober, we’re still in pain! That’s so unfair! Me, me, me!!

Don’t get me wrong – sobriety DOES transform our lives, of course it does. What I’m saying is that it doesn’t make us bullet proof. We still lose our jobs. Our partners still leave us. People we love still get ill. People we love even die. Whilst this may make us bitter as we may feel we deserved better for cleverly and bravely fighting our demons, I think it’s so important to remember that what sobriety actually means is that we get a shot at being the best we can be and be best placed to not just enjoy the happy times but best placed to deal with the shitters too. And that’s where I found myself this Saturday just gone.

I ran the relaxation group again that morning. For those of you who are used to talking in front of people and/or don’t get consumed by anxiety of doing so, it really is no big deal: sit in a circle with 20 people, let everyone know what we’re doing (ten minutes of being silent, then a reading and then we share our thoughts and experiences) and just lead and moderate the discussion. For ME, this used to be unthinkable. Saturday was the second time I did this and it all unravelled. The worst thing that could happen, DID happen. I lost control of the group, couldn’t bring it back in when the discussion turned chaotic and some of the clients ceased the opportunity to wreak havoc. No, it’s not my responsibility to recover for them – my responsibility in this instance is to facilitate a relaxation group. They’re adults, for God’s sake! It’s their responsibility to take the session (and their own recovery) seriously. They didn’t and it was a disaster. Any time I opened my mouth, to steer the conversation back to what it should have been or to ask people to speak one at a time, I got sniggered at, laughed at and it just escalated. I would have felt more comfortable if I’d walked into that room stark naked, I swear.

So here I am, pulling on my big girl pants and making myself do something that actually terrifies me. And it ends up exactly in that place that has had me running from this all my life: I failed. My inner voice had a field day, lemme tell ya. Oh you useless piece of shit, look how pathetic you are! You can’t do this – what a joke! Run away and hide so no one has to be around you, you ridiculous, embarrassing and utterly despicable little bitch. Go hide. Go scratch. Pathetic! Have a drink, obliterate yourself because that’s all you deserve, you fucking failure and ridiculous excuse for a human being.

That’s right. I am actually a very kind and caring person but to myself I am often the meanest piece of shit you could possibly imagine.

I walked away from it angry. I hated each and every one of those clients in that moment. I don’t fucking go to an AA meeting and begin sniggering and being disruptive if someone shares something I personally may think is a load of shit. I respect other people and I am there to recover. By the time I left, my anger had dissolved into that old, familiar feeling – the deepest sadness and the firm belief that I’m good for absolutely fuck-all. Got home, told hubby I’d hit the wall and needed a moment all alone and in silence to just land. I sat on our bed and cried my eyes out. I allowed myself to feel all the things the situation triggered in me. It was shitty and I felt utterly destroyed. Who was I to think I’d be any good at this? Just look at it!

Well. I’m done crying about it now. I think I can now see it for what it was. I did my best with the tools I had. I learned some very useful lessons. Rio, Beethoven and the therapists all hugged me and regaled me with stories of their own, reassuring me they’d all been there and that I’d indeed been good enough. Because what this was, was a bump in the road and one of those I can’t avoid. This is part and parcel of learning and growing. Yesterday when I walked back in through those doors, I ensured my back was a little straighter and I also put a new little strategy in place: I didn’t apologise to anyone for doing my job. Or for using up oxygen by breathing. I didn’t say “excuse me, sorry to interrupt your lunch, you’re next for meds, I’m so sorry to be a pain“. I said “right, you’re next, now please“. Progress, not perfection.

I needed to hit that bump. Be in a situation I find so uncomfortable I want to crawl out of my own skin or stick my fingers into my eyeballs and swirl them around just for the fucking distraction from the pain I feel. What this showed me was this: the worst thing I thought could happen DID happen, but actually….. ….the worst that could, and did, happen was nothing. No one died. I doubt they sat around afterwards having a good old laugh at how they shot me down. Or maybe they did! So what! I’m there to support them in their recovery but I’m not fucking there to recover FOR them. So yesterday I faced them all and I don’t know if it was my straighter back or lack of needless apologies, but dare I say it – I was in charge. And part of the reason why is because I hit a bump, crashed hard but instead of running and hiding, I picked myself up and got back in the saddle. Bring it, biatches. I’m done running and hiding.

Weirdly, I’m looking forward to Wednesday morning when I’ll take that group once again. Yep. Life is life and sometimes everything will fall into our laps and sometimes life will kick our asses. But sobriety does transform us and I’m quite happy – excited, even – to walk back into a situation that last time felt like that nightmare where you’re naked and on stage and everyone points and laughs. I kid you not. Sure, it does also make me feel a little sick but this is what I want to do, it’s what I believe in and what I’m passionate about and if it’s not worth fighting for, then why bother?

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Today I’m not going to drink.

A Few Minutes of Plinky-Plonky Music

Here’s Little Anna kissing Mum. It was in June 1979 in hospital and she’d just given me a little brother. She deserved a kiss, definitely.

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We’re all addicts, aren’t we?” my mother mused when I spoke to her on the phone last night. She said it in that gentle, sweet way she does when she mulls things over and wants to show she relates. “We all have those things we think of as rewards.

Mum, however, was talking about chocolate. She giggled knowingly and told me in that let-me-tell-you-a-secret kind of way that she has on occasion hidden chocolate bars. The way she told me and the way she said it was how you might expect someone to confess to something really quite naughty or controversial. Like my old systems for hiding wine and then disposing of the empties. Bless my beautiful and utterly lovely mother. She was, of course, making perfect sense.

Thank God it’s just chocolate! What if I’d discovered drinking or smoking?” she added, still with that smile in her voice that I could hear all the way from Sweden.

Somehow I can’t quite picture my mother drinking or smoking. She’ll cautiously take a small sip at an infuriatingly small glass of wine at, say, Christmas, but never have I ever known her to DRINK drink. And trying to picture her smoking a cigarette makes me laugh because it’s more unlikely than if she were to moonlight as a stripper. Point is, though, that she did what we do when we really listen to someone talk about something that’s difficult and we want to show we have taken it onboard, wanting to illustrate that we can relate in some way. I believe it comes down to wanting to be kind. Discussing my addiction and recovery with one of my bestest, oldest friends went down in a similar manner – my friend brought up her own view on drinking and I know it was a genuine way of reassuring me that hey, buddy, I hear you. I’ve said it before – I’m very lucky.

We all want and need to be heard, and when you talk openly about what used to be a dirty, shameful secret it’s uplifting to be met with this sort of kindness where your loved ones want to show they really thought about what you said and searched for ways to relate.

Life is manic now. Manic in a good way, but I do have to take care not to allow my full throttle brain to take over. I finally have that coveted employment contract and have been given the first bunch of course work to solidify all these new things I am learning. Today is a day for Anna. Monday I got home closer to 11pm following an evening shift and got up at 5am Tuesday to start another at 7am. Working at the rehab isn’t like an office job with breaks. Kiss 9-5 goodbye. Nevermind the leisurely 9-2 I cruised along at. I’m served lunch by the chef like everyone else, but I have yet to spend longer than ten minutes eating in peace before rushing off to the next thing. I’m yet to complete a task with no interruption. This is where I have to make a conscious effort to breathe and slow myself down because my brain works in PRECISELY in this way – this is the speed setting my brain naturally likes. And it’s PRECISELY the speed setting that had me plunge head first into severe alcoholism. So whilst I’m now feeling restless at this self imposed Day of Chillax and itching to complete all course work I’m able to access, I’m pushing myself back. Jeez, slow down, gal.

Beethoven actually pointed out how Rio has used his addict’s mind to get as good as he is at his job – this top speed, almost frantic approach. So yes, being wired in this way isn’t necessarily a bad thing and my addiction super powers can indeed be strengths, but what I’m saying is I have to be mindful of how I’m feeling. Feeling energised and motivated is one thing, compulsion is quite another and I do 100% feel rattled by a pile of course work I want to churn through. So I’m deliberately leaving it sitting there. Today is Anna’s Day of Chillax. Blog, go for a walk, perhaps bake something. Tomorrow it’s another late shift, followed by a 7am start both Friday and Saturday. Today is self care and deep breaths. Clear my mind and just BE.

This is something Beethoven is always very clear on. Well, the man has worked with addicts for years and at the rehab he also employs a bunch of us. When Rio was throwing shifts into my greedy little hands, Beethoven emphasised I should only do what feels right and not say yes because I feel I have to.

Your husband might come down here and shout at us!” Beethoven joked and Rio laughed out loud and gave a high five, “[Rio] and I might end up in big trouble.

I doubt it. Now he has a wife who comes home from work and is excited and wants to tell him all about her day,” I told them and immediately cringed at how fucking cheesy it sounded.

Aw, that’s really nice,” Beethoven said and smiled, “that’s how it should be, I’m glad you said that.

Drunk Me would have gone bright red for even being in a conversation and the discomfort this always used to entail. Drunk Me would blush furiously if even spoken to. Sober Me smiled and just got on with it. Some days I don’t even recognise myself, so long had I been buried, but I’m slowly learning to be me again. Rio informed me that I’ll run the relaxation group occasionally. This involves talking to a group of roughly 20 people, lead the discussion and moderate following a few minutes of plinky-plonky music and meditation. Had you asked me to do this just 14-or-so months ago I would have refused and run a mile. Even for a handful of people – no fucking way. Never mind a group of 20-odd that on top of things may occasionally include a well known face. Not a problem. The thought doesn’t make me anxious or nervous. Why? Coz I’m sober. Turns out these things don’t actually scare me. It’s just another thing to do, something I’m learning but happy to attempt even if I don’t know it all. Even the idea of getting something wrong doesn’t terrify me. It doesn’t even bother me. What a lovely surprise, Sobriety! I sure as hell didn’t expect THAT. Whatever next?

Well. 428 days sober. That’s a miracle. I well up just typing it because I can’t quite believe it’s real. What a gift. And I’m so grateful I got to wake up again with a clear mind and free from all that heavy shame and regret. For the first time in 15 years, I come home from work knowing I gave it my all and that I did well. For the first time in 15 years, I know me being there made a difference. I haven’t felt this way in so long. And I remember her now, the girl I used to be. I lost her there for a while.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Whacked Them All

Nobody puts Baby in a corner.

Eek! Did I just do something silly? It’s been a long time (14-ish months) since I with my heart in my throat checked my phone to see if I’d posted something really stupid on Facebook. Back to the present moment and I believe I just announced to the world that not only did I abuse alcohol, but my exact words on Facebook just moments ago and now there for all to see were that my drinking problem was of epical proportions. I mean, I’m all for calling a spade a spade but holy cannoli, I think I just whacked them all with a goddamn shovel!

The husband of one of my best friends is big on health. An osteopath by trade (and founder of the Stockholm College of Osteopathy) and a firm believer in looking after our whole being – mind, body and soul – his updates often feature photos from his latest spiritual retreat in places like Kenya or articles around preventative methods of promoting good health. Today he listed ways to promote good health and questioned why not more of Sweden’s national budget is used towards those measures, which would mean a relatively small investment now will prevent huge cost later. So drunky-drunk here felt compelled to jump in. I went to town. No, I strutted into town like a defiant peacock and I made it clear to all and sundry that I’m a sober alcoholic with years of aforementioned EPICALLY PROPORTIONED alcohol abuse, who now wants to see us put this screwed-up world right. I rounded up by asking him if he wants to join my crusade. Well. When I am ready to open my chain of addiction rehab centres that will revolutionise how we treat addiction, I will want experts like him by my side so let’s hope he’s up to the task.

Did you expect me to start the next paragraph or sentence with “jokes aside“? I hope you’ve scheduled a good chunk of today’s available calendar entries as “wait for Anna to say she was joking“. Tomorrow’s too.

Today is a day to survey my arsenal and regroup for Stage Deux of my crusade into the world of addiction treatment. Fine, it’s not really a crusade yet, more of a fact finding research mission but I’m determined that no matter what, part of the mighty All Blacks’ philosophy will remain my focus. For those of you who aren’t into rugby, the All Blacks are New Zealand’s national rugby team and I guess you could say they are to rugby what Canada are to ice hockey – the ones to beat. One of their team mantras is to “leave the jersey in a better place“. That’s what I want to do. Whether that will mean that just a single addict will remember me as someone who treated them with kindness and respect when they underwent treatment or I’ll take my place in the history books alongside Bill W is irrelevant. My best will be good enough and it’s all I can do, but when I wear that jersey I will be humble, honoured and hellbent on leaving it in a better place than I found it. End of story.

Gosh, aren’t I a little hell raiser today? This is the cool thing about being sober though. Not blurt out some crap whilst drunk that you neither actually feel nor particularly care about sober and then regret it with shame burning inside you, but stand up proud and shout from the roof tops the things that you truly feel in your heart. That’s a gift and it’s one that I treasure. Please God, never let me fall back. Please God, help me always remain on this path. I’ll be ever so good, I promise, just help me stay sober.

Now on to lining up my ducks. I’m going to get on LinkedIn and connect the shit out of every recovery professional I can find. Hubby took me through how he uses his and what you can do on there. Gosh, how grown up! But I want to network and find the people in this industry, read relevant articles and find my way around my new career. It feels so amazing to feel this serious about something that really matters to me and be bubbling over with motivation, inspiration and determination. I’m so grateful to be here.

How’s everyone else doing? I feel so absent recently, even though the reason for not commenting and interacting as much as I’d like is a positive one. The blogosphere is still my anchor and reading other people’s blogs is still what most helps me make sense of my own addiction and recovery. It’s here that I found my tribe, some of whom have morphed into amazing real-life friendships. Having said that, as lovely as it is to connect beyond blogs and nicknames, these connections we make in this sphere are every bit as invaluable. Finding your tribe would probably be one of my first pieces of advice to anyone in recovery. There. I’m done. A bit of hell raising and a little declaration of love for my tribe.

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Now let’s carpe the fucking diem!

Today I’m not going to drink.

The Best Answer

No run last night. To be honest, I don’t know if I have the energy to go tonight either. Work is beyond frantic and so it’s self care time at Casa Anna these evenings that follow days at the rehab – peace, quiet and sweet, sweet solitude. Blog, chomp down the odd cinnamon roll and generally just unwind. Hence I’ve declined Hubby’s run request via WhatsApp and will just go for a brisk, long walk. Sometimes a no is the best answer and as we all know, the days of Anna saying yes to everything are over.

Today I mostly went around with a colleague I hadn’t had a chance to get to know much – I’ll call her Raven because she has gorgeous, jet black hair – and like Work-Hubby, she is adding another fantastic layer of knowledge to everything I’m learning. Rio is like a machine gun and brilliant to learn from as he does everything to the letter, something the law abiding and rule loving little Swede in me massively appreciates. Hell, I don’t even cross the road unless there’s a little green man telling me I can do so, and Rio’s approach is therefore wonderful. It’s also awesome to learn that way as it means I from the outset get entrenched in good habits as opposed to taking shortcuts. He does seem to get quite stressy though – actually, make that agitated on occasion – and one second he’ll shove something into my hands only to rip it out of them a second later because he’s changed his mind or suddenly thought of something else for me to do – I’ve had to slow him down several times by gently stating that look, buddy, can I finish this task first. But hey, that’s cool. I like him enormously and obviously the man is taking time to show me so I’m not about to whinge about the speed settings. Work-Hubby and Raven are as calm and methodical as Rio is frantic and full throttle, and this gives me a perfect balance as I’m A) learning to cross all the Ts and dot the Is, and B) allow myself to slow down and find little tricks for remembering the whats, wheres, hows and whens. Perfect.

Many of my colleagues are in recovery. In a team of ten support workers there are only two people who are not in recovery (although this is a guess – I don’t know this for sure) and out of six therapists two are, as far as I know, in recovery. Finding out more about their stories is so fascinating, in much the same way as I find the blogosphere and various recovery/sobriety communities and groups so valuable. They are all incredible people and I’m just so freaking lucky to get to work and be around them, but what struck me today more than anything else is how Work-Hubby is the very embodiment of serenity. He came on his shift shortly before mine was over and as always he has a smile on his face and kind words for every single person he passes – greeting clients and asking how they’re doing today, greeting us colleagues and generally just lifting the atmosphere by his calm presence. This is a man with over 20 years of sobriety who only months ago buried his oldest son who died because of addiction, heroin I believe. Yet there he is, grateful for his own sobriety and appreciative of doing what he loves for a living, totally at peace and content with where he’s at. You don’t start complaining about banalities around someone like that. Well, they’re all like that and I get to be around them and mark my words – I am trying with all my might to soak up their wisdom and knowledge.

Oh God, this turned a bit gushy. Sorry ’bout that. I never did know when to tone it down, never mind turn it off.

Rio just rang me as it happens to swap tomorrow for Saturday. Cool bananas. I was looking forward to tomorrow and getting another day with Raven and Work-Hubby, but there we are. Verbal machine gun Rio on a Saturday it is. Every now and then he comes out with something that makes me laugh out loud with recognition, sometimes a little story or, like in today’s relaxation group, a saying. Today’s little Rio-ism is one I might get printed and framed because it’s just too good. He told the group this to round up a discussion around being a newcomer in AA or NA and feeling worried about sharing when other people have much longer sobriety than we currently do:

TODAY YOU ARE A PEACOCK BUT TOMORROW YOU MIGHT BE A FEATHER DUSTER!

It just doesn’t matter if we’re five days, five weeks, five months, five years or five damn decades sober – we’re only ever one drink away.

Today I’m not going to drink.

When His Eyes Go Squinty

How’s the cold? Is the grim reaper still lurking around?” Dad asks and chuckles. “Have you been at work this week?

Uhm, better,” I reply, “and I’ve been at work as usual. Have a new job, actually.

What? You changed jobs? Again? You switch jobs like a normal person changes their underwear!” he exclaims.

Dad’s of that generation where you do the same thing your whole life and not uncommonly staying at the same company too. He left school the moment he could, started as a dogsbody at the bank as a teenager and worked his way up – by his mid-twenties he was the bank manager, then a director and by the time he retired at the comfortably still-young age of 60 he specialised in investments, funds and insurance. Mum qualified as a teacher and spent most of her working life as a primary teacher, gaining qualifications as she went along within special needs. In Dad’s world you might go and work for a different company but changing the role you’re in beyond promotion is just plain weird. For him, my route is bewildering – how does one go from being a translator to then work as a personal assistant and then wind up working as a recovery support worker at a rehab? Makes no sense to him.

Because I’ve started as a volunteer and went into something completely new, I’ve held back a little on telling people – I wanted to find my feet a little before making any announcements or fielding questions.

At a rehab? They didn’t take you in then?” he teases.

Very funny.

Well, I guess you’re qualified,” he continues and although this conversation has ended up in the land of awkwardness I can hear the smile in his voice.

You’re right. It could easily have been me but there we are, I got myself out as it happens and now I can use that to help others.

Hm, perhaps a step too far. I’m not sure he likes it when I joke about it. Dad goes quiet for a moment, which is unusual for him. Mum has always said he has ADHD and how he’d be a fine example to demonstrate various hyperactive disorders. Seeing Dad still and/or quiet always freaks me out.

Feels good to turn my experience to something good!” I go on as chirpily as I can to lighten the mood again, “And I think I’ll make something very good of this,” I add.

Let’s hope so. You’re running out of jobs to try, you’ve bloody done them all!” Dad tells me and laughs in that way that I love when his eyes go squinty and his shoulders bounce.

Hats off to him. Not only is he of a generation that didn’t job-hop, he is also of a generation and upbringing where addiction is something that afflicts Bad People, those good-for-nothing twits who simply decide to throw their lives away. Yet here he is, being supportive and even making jokes with his only daughter, for whom he probably had so many hopes and dreams but who sank into alcoholism. Perhaps it’s his greatest sorrow? I know he’ll always love me, come what may, but I will never forget how addiction sends ripples and engulfs everyone in its path. I’d be very naive to for even a moment miss how much it has hurt him. And it’s not hard to imagine now that I’m a parent myself. The idea of Bambino following in my footsteps is a thought so painful it crushes my heart into a million shards of ice.

Today I’m not going to drink.

400 Days

It’s hard to start with that title without feeling very happy and a little bit proud. I almost feel a little bashful. At dinner last night, one of Hubby’s work colleagues seemed a little embarrassed at how people were in awe at her impressive finish time for a marathon she recently ran. I feel a little like that right now, like I’m bragging or calling attention to myself by pointing out this milestone. Isn’t that silly? So I bloody SHOULD! 400 days is HUGE for me and I never ever thought I’d be able to say those words: I am 400 days sober. BOOM! At some point not too long ago – say, 400 days or so back in time – I would have resented having to be the sort of person whose greatest achievement is the number of days sober. That wasn’t me! I didn’t want that to be me. And yet, here we are and I can honestly say it makes me happier than I imagine I’d be if someone told me I had a book deal. Yes, this is me and I am proud of every single one of those 400 days. They are a testament to the woman I can be.

Another testament to the woman I am when I’m sober is last night. Literally the sort of situation that sends my anxiety levels sky high: a dinner with Hubby’s work colleagues. Not only am I the one who’s the outsider here in a group where everyone else already know each other well, but these are all super smart, worldly and very senior people in a global company. Around the table, most job titles started with either “Chief” or “VP”. Add lil’ ol’ me and I’m in absolute knots because I just KNOW I’ll embarrass Hubby by being ridiculous and thoroughly disastrous at making polite conversation. Being sober however, I never worked myself up beforehand because let’s face it, I haven’t been guzzling a depressant with anxiety as a side order for a long time. Sure, I felt a little nervous and yes, I would have been relieved if it had got cancelled, but I actually had a really nice time and it’d seem I didn’t wreck Hubby’s career by turning up. Somehow, sobriety allows me to relax and be quite calm. Yep, I felt myself blush when they all turned up and Hubby introduced me to those I haven’t met before and I’m sure my neck was blotchy (damn that v-neck top – bad choice, shoulda known!), but…. …no, it wasn’t at all the nightmare I always believe those situations will be.

It’s mostly a case of being self conscious I think. I stress over looking or seeming stupid, from the shoes I wear to how I speak. I also worry about my hearing which is shockingly bad (almost entirely deaf on one ear), which means in places where there is a lot of chatter or loud background music I’m screwed and can’t hear a thing. There was a live jazz band, I noted with horror as we walked in. I even worry about my nail polish. It’s a case of absolute terror in case I’m so ridiculous it reflects badly on Hubby, even though the man has never EVER insinuated that he is anything other than happy I’m his wife. Yet in my head I’m an embarrassment. Isn’t that just so fucking stupid? THAT’s the stupid part. No, I’m not a successful business woman but so what? I’m a nice person, period. What else could possibly matter? And I do have things to say, funny stories to tell and lots of stuff to talk about. I’m just like anyone else – no better, no worse.

Lo and behold – it was a lovely, lovely evening. I did freeze for a moment when I realised my seat was right in the middle of the table (my default coping mechanism is positioning myself on the sidelines and in the background), but I made the startling discovery that I am actually quite good company. At no point did I feel awful because I couldn’t initiate conversation, to be fair partly due to sitting next to a lady I do know reasonably well having met her many times before and she’s a chatterbox, but still. And eventually it came up: one of the people I met for the first time asked what I do for a living. I told him, along with the other five sets of eyes at this point aimed at me. It was easy and no, I wasn’t met with blank stares or distaste. Nor did I get probing questions as to why, something Hubby and I had talked about – after all, I’m friends on Facebook with Chatterbox and she was one of the people telling me congratulations when I posted a picture of my cake at my one year sober. It’s not hard to put two and two together there, right? I’ve stopped drinking and make a point of celebrating a milestone, and now I work in a rehab. It’s all cool though. And I refuse to hide my story these days. No, I didn’t go into that part because there was no need to and those questions didn’t arise, but even so.

Guess what? The only silly thing (that we all laughed at) was how my accomplished, successful, mega intelligent, worldly and executive board member Hubby seemed to have missed that my native Sweden is in the EU. I think he was probably joking but still, my point is that I didn’t leave feeling like an idiot or woke up this morning dying of shame because of the stupid things I might have said due to being too hungover to think straight. Or worse, having got a bit too drunk as I did at a wedding in Italy, where I last was around a couple of these people. Hubby did at the time reassure me no one had noticed but I wonder if that was one of those occasions when he was just trying to be kind and save me from feeling ashamed.

Being sober is a little like learning who I am all over again. Sober Anna is someone I wouldn’t have recognised those 400 days back. Hubby even describes me as “calm” these days, which is just too funny but appears to be accurate. Judging by last night it would seem I can hold my own and be reasonably fun company around people I in the past would have felt really intimidated by. Who IS this person?! No, I’ll never be a social butterfly but dare I say it – I really enjoyed last night. Stupid alcohol that had me believing I’m stupid and embarrassing when I’m neither. Good riddance.

So hurrah for 400 days that mark another little milestone of the best decision I ever made. If I’d read this when I was still drinking it would have made me sneer and think oh sod off you smug twat, but I can honestly say that being sober has transformed my life. I actually want to pinch myself.

Today I’m not going to drink.