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.

Benny Hill’s Recipes

Who are you, anyway? Not that you’re speaking to me,” Madam mumbled whilst burrowing her head deeper into the puffy sleeve of her coat where she was sort of sleeping in the comfy chair in the rehab’s assessment room.

Well, you said you were tired so I thought I’d give you some peace,” I chirped.

Day 2 at rehab and once again I’m doing an admission, this time someone who has been pretty much forced there by a husband who’s had enough. The nickname Madam sums up her attitude. I think we can safely say that the idea of lots of sunshine stories is definitely an illusion I’ve abandoned. Myself and a colleague who I have decided to call Work-Hubby (he shares the same name, is bald and has a beard – just like Hubby) watched as a large SUV pull into the carpark, the type of car where replacing the tyres would cost more than buying my little car outright.

The doors of the rehab are those clever ones I think you get for police line-ups: mirrored on one side so you can’t see in but we could see out. In the front seat we can see there’s an argument going on, animated hand gestures and shouting (not that we can hear them but it looks that way although they might just be people who really like to enunciate). It’s the lady who is going to be booking into rehab for a stay. Then we witness the type of loop you might expect to see on high speed in a Benny Hill episode and we watch it several times over: the man comes out, gets the suitcase out of the boot, goes over to the lady’s side and opens the door for her to step out, she’s not budging, shouting and hand gestures ensue, he storms back around, chucks the suitcase back in, gets into the driver’s seat, more shouting and waving, start the car, then switch off the engine and repeat all of the above.

He’s had it, hasn’t he?” Work-Hubby notes sadly and shoots me a resigned glance.

It’s really sad to see and it’s the man – husband or boyfriend or whatever he is – that I feel really sorry for. Eventually he gets the suitcase again for the umpteenth time and makes his way across the parking lot. Amazingly, the lady steps out and slowly shuffles after him. We introduce ourselves and the man is friendly and seems so hopeful (perhaps relieved she’s finally come through the doors) and the lady is in a shitty mood as well as drunk. She’s rude to everyone and her partner gets the brunt of it. My heart breaks for the guy, there’s something so desperate in his eyes when he looks at either me or Work-Hubby. You can just see how hopeful he is that this is where he’ll pick his love up when she’s been through treatment and on her way back to the woman he used to know and misses so much. Please fix her. Please help her help herself.

I don’t know if I ever got really unpleasant when I was drinking but actually having said that, there were endless mornings when Hubby was in a mood still because I’d picked a fight and I had to try to remember what about. Let’s just be clear – she might be a glorious chick when she isn’t wrecked by booze and I certainly don’t think I was a better drunk. I know I wasn’t. Thank God that’s not me today and I never want to be there ever again.

Of course I prefer to look at here and now and be grateful, but it also made me wonder at which point Hubby might have snapped. Could that have been us? He loves me and I know he’d do anything for me, so I can absolutely imagine him getting me into a rehab and forcing me with ultimatums if he felt my life depended on it. Thank God I’ve never had to see Hubby that way, having to put his hope in the hands of a rehab to rescue me from myself. Just the thought of it breaks my heart. We focus so much on the addict but with risk of offending the whole world now, I genuinely believe it’s those who love us who hurt the most. I mean, I was probably too wasted to notice anyway most of the time. Our Father will probably get a little sick of me repeating myself so much today, but thank God I got out when I did. There is no difference between me and Madam. None whatsoever except a glass of wine – that’s all it would take.

This is my path. It feels so right and I know I can make a difference here. I’m not saying I’ll cure the world of addiction or have high schools named after me, but perhaps I’ll make just one person feel a little better or help somehow, even if it’s something as simple as showing kindness when they’re at their most vulnerable rock bottom.

Hubby is watching rugby on the sofa and we each have a beer in front of us. A Peroni for him and a Becks Blue (alcohol free – dahr!) for me. I really felt like one, really like beer now which is odd because I used to drink wine. In fact, the idea of alcohol free wine (or indeed the regular version) makes my stomach turn. Cool, isn’t it? Blogging and a beer, and I can still head out for a run later. Yep. #winning

Well, because I’m now passing time until the stupid rugby is over, how about a lesson in how to make Anna’s Perfect Cinnamon Rolls? Alrighty!

Crumble 50 grams of fresh yeast into a baking bowl. Melt 150 grams of butter in a saucepan and when melted mix in half a litre of milk and keep on the heat until it’s 37.5 degrees – stick your finger in to check and when it’s just a tiny bit warmer than your body temperature, i.e. when you can feel the warmth, that’s it. Pour into the bowl over the yeast and stir until the yeast has dissolved. Then chuck in 1,5 decilitres of sugar, a teaspoon of salt and a table spoon of ground cardamon. You need about 1,3 litres of plain flour and mix in about three quarters of that – in the end, as the dough thickens you really have to beat it with a wooden spoon and when the dough sort of comes off the sides of the bowl as you move the spoon, it’s ready to be left to rise. Sprinkle some flour over it and cover with a kitchen towel for about an hour.

Then mix a good helping of butter, sugar and cinnamon – I don’t know what quantities I use so I suppose you just go with a mix you like. I like tonnes of cinnamon but that’s just me.

When the dough is good to go (should have risen to about twice its original size), use some of the remaining flower and give it a good kneading. Then take about a third and use a rolling pin to spread it out to a square-ish shape. Spread the butter-sugar-cinnamon mix all over it (not too thick) and then roll it up so you get a swirl when you cut pieces about an inch and a half thick. Put those on to baking trays and once again leave to rise for perhaps an hour.

Then beat an egg or two (I usually end up needing two) and brush the buns before sprinkling sugar on them. Us Swedes have something called “pearl sugar” but if you can’t find this I reckon regular granulated sugar is fine. Or crushed nuts, whatever you like really.

Bake in the oven on about 220 degrees Celcius, bit higher if you don’t have a fan oven (250 probably). We have a fan oven and they seem to be perfect in 11 minutes or slightly less, bake in the middle of the oven.

Ta-daah! Now gorge. Oohhh check out Soberella here, alcohol free beer and sharing recipes on a Saturday evening. What has the world come to? It’s come to something really fucking good, that’s what.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Never Quite Enough

At some stage I will get my arse in gear and create a link on this blog to my sobriety library – I am constantly devouring anything addiction and recovery related that I can get my hands on. The book I’m currently reading is definitely getting me to think. A LOT. Whilst I don’t like all the AA bashing, I’m not surprised by it – even the title makes it clear that the aim is to trash the theory behind 12-step programs. Although I don’t believe there is a one size fits all solution to addiction, I will never ever say anything negative about the fellowship and, in essence, I think AA encapsulates pretty much how I view recovery – acceptance, take stock, make good, live well and be kind. Well, that’s how I interpret it anyway. Say what you will about AA, it is a life saver and changer for thousands of addicts and as far as I’m concerned, even if just ONE person gets and stays sober that’s good enough. Just to make where I personally stand very clear, and although my path hasn’t been hugely AA, the fellowship is actually the reason why I got out when I did because I wouldn’t have known where else to turn initially (or rather, perhaps, EVER) and it was in AA that I truly understood my own addiction: “one drink is too many, 20 aren’t enough“. More, more, more.

The book is called ‘The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry’.

It does rip the rehab industry to shreds, and I’ll have to say a lot of it makes sense. Did you know, for example, that the standard 28 or 30-day or whatever it is stay at rehab isn’t based on any evidence that this time period is sufficient or a good start from an addiction recovery point of view? Nope, it’s based on the time limit set by medical insurance companies (in the US, presumably, which I suppose is the birth place of celebrity rehabs) – that’s where it comes from and has nothing to do with recovery in any way whatsoever. I doubt I’ll need to ask, but did you know “equine therapy” also has no proven benefit when it comes to recovering from addiction? Or tai chi or majestic surroundings – all very nice and lovely distractions perhaps, but none of that helps treat the cause for our addictions. I’m sure that it’d be much better to have a medical detox and be given a wonderful escape from everyday life, focus entirely on recovery and engage in various therapies for a month, but the issue with sobriety isn’t getting sober, it’s staying sober, and sooner or later – or in 30 days! – we have to go back to our normal lives. Lo and behold, success rates aren’t encouraging. Besides, with price tags in the tens of thousands of dollars, this sort of start to recovery isn’t exactly within the grasp for many of us.

The bit I was reading last night however, was about types of addicts and that’s what really caught my attention. During the Vietnam war, thousands of American soldiers got hooked on heroin. Of course, heroin is one of those devil drugs where physical addiction is established almost immediately – it’s quite literally enough to just use the drug a handful of times to become addicted. A bit like nicotine, in that sense – you become physically hooked almost straight away. As a comparison, getting physically addicted to alcohol takes a lot more time and effort – interesting side note, no? Anyway. Back in the States, over 90% of those heroin addicted soldiers went back to their lives and left the heroin behind. Only a small number remained addicts. Why? How is it that the vast majority of people physically addicted to a drug that is generally considered to be one of the absolute worst ones to escape, walked away? No celebrity rehabs in sight, by the way.

Look at Hubby. He’s just had a shoulder op and has a bag of prescription drugs sitting on his bedside table. His stash consists of: co-codamol, tramadol and diclofenac. Only diclofenac isn’t addictive out of this little trio of Hubby’s little helpers. Both medications prescribed for the pain, co-codamol and tramadol, are extremely addictive and a quick browse on the NHS website and a handful of other medical information websites tells me it’s enough to use co-codamol and tramadol – one on its own or both in combination – for just a matter of days to experience physical withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking them. These symptoms can include dizziness, the shakes, the shits, headaches and a few other unpleasant sensations. The effect of these two drugs is obvious: Hubby gets sleepy and quite spaced out. A bit woozy and not quite with it. Thousands of people get prescribed these drugs to treat pain after surgery or other medical complaints like chronic pain of some sort. As established, physical addiction can occur within just days, yet again as with the Vietnam soldiers addicted to heroin, the vast majority of people then finish treatment and walk away. Only a very small fraction continue taking the drugs either via drug dealers or dodgy websites or wherever else you can illegally get your mitts on prescription drugs.

OK, I get that this is probably obvious but I find this so incredibly interesting! What is clear is that anyone – so long as they are made of flesh and blood and the other necessary ingredients to qualify as a “human being” – can become physically addicted to a physically addictive drug. Correct? It doesn’t matter who you are, if you take enough of the drug, you will get physically addicted. Yet, some people can walk away and relatively easily so! The Vietnam soldiers addicted to heroin, for example. Withdrawing from heroin is apparently quite shitty with severe stomach cramps and all sorts of crap (literally) but as with many other drugs it leaves the system fairly quickly and when these soldiers were over the “hump” that appears to be it. I’m sure there were lots of issues and I doubt ANYONE gets back from war and “that’s it”, but in terms of the heroin use, that’s apparently what happened. They didn’t continue using the drug.

So it appears there are two camps here. Addicts and non-addicts. All of us can become physically addicted to a drug but only some of us are addicts in the truest sense, right? The difference is that the non-addicts seem to need a concrete reason to take the drug and when that reason is no longer there, also gone is the need for the drug.

And so for us poor fuckers who seem to be the true addicts, those of us who are a little different in our wiring and who I’m so keen to figure out. In this group, I can just about begin to see two additional camps: fleers and hunters. What unites us is that when the war is over or the pain has subsided, we still continue to take the drug. Besides, we didn’t need a war or physical pain to get started in the first place, did we? It all came down to, broadly speaking, one of these two things: 1) fleeing how we feel, which we either can’t stand or are uncomfortable with, or 2) we aren’t content to just feel enough, we chase the high to get more, more, more.

So according to Anna’s Addiction Index, I’m a hunter addict. My greatest trigger? A great mood! Chase that good stuff! Pour more wine on it! Sprinkle glitter everywhere! Go, go, go! I’m restless and want to move to the next level. It’s never quite enough where I currently am. More, more, more!

Some clever person posted something on This Naked Mind’s Facebook page yesterday. She said in her opinion addiction is never about the drug itself, but about what we’re trying to get away from and figuring that bit out. She put it really eloquently and this doesn’t do her words justice, but that’s the gist of what she said. I think she’s on to something. I’d go as far as to say that the physical side of addiction is the smallest, and by far the easiest part to deal with. OK, not meaning to sound flippant and I’ve had the shakes enough times to know how deeply unpleasant it can be and withdrawal should never be taken lightly. Alcohol can be very dangerous to withdraw from, shakes can progress into fits and convulsions and ultimately death. What I’m saying is that the physical addiction when dealt with in whatever way it needs to be dealt with – warm baths or emergency room detox – is done. When it’s done it’s done. When the poison is out of your system you are no longer physically in its grip.

Let’s look at a drug which is super easy to withdraw from: nicotine. 48 hours and it’s all gone. During those 48 hours the worst symptom you’re likely to experience is a slightly restless and empty feeling, kind of like feeling peckish. If Angelina Jolie or Bradley Cooper (depending on your preference) walked by just as you’re in the middle of it, you’d forget all about wanting that cigarette. That’s how weak nicotine is. So really, you don’t need the strength of Hercules to get through those 48 hours and you certainly don’t need a medical detox. Or nicotine gum, for that matter, which is only in existence to bolster what the government will have lost out on in terms of tax money from tobacco. You don’t need a chewing gum to fight off a craving so weak it doesn’t even give you a headache, OK? Trust me on this one. Anyway, what I’m getting at is that after those couple of days, it’s all in your head. Nowhere else. It’s not habit either – if breaking habits was so damn difficult it’d be illegal to drive from England to France. You switch to the other side of the road, bit weird to begin with but hardly DIFFICULT. It’s not the habit that makes stopping hard.

Actually, nicotine is a bad example because it’s actually the only drug that gives no high whatsoever. Nothing happens when you smoke. You literally just ease the slight discomfort caused by the previous cigarette. Terrible example. My bad! At least with heroin something happens (anyone? I can’t offer any input on that one) and with booze you get drunk. Nicotine? Hahaha! What a fucking con trick! If it didn’t kill so many people it’d be funny. Extremely expensive, tastes like absolute dog’s bottom and you have a one in two chance – 50%!! – of dying a very painful death as a direct result of smoking. You’d think there’d be some extraordinary high, no? If you’ve never smoked, here’s the secret: there is nothing. Zero, zip, zilch, nada. People smoke because they’re addicted to nicotine and kept that way because the economy would collapse if we stopped buying tobacco tomorrow. Just like the economy would collapse if we stopped buying booze. But I digress – let’s go back to Big Brother some other time though, eh?

I think the conclusion is something I think we’ve mostly agreed on whether we are AA superstars or follow other sobriety paths: there’s something that sets some of us apart, makes us “true addicts”. Is it the fabled addict’s brain? It’d make perfect sense to me because I can absolutely see how I’m wired differently to non-addicts. Something in the way I react that’s different perhaps. Sometimes I see it in others, perhaps a bit too much excitement at the mention of alcohol? I dunno. I think it’s also clear that addiction isn’t perhaps all that much to do with the physical side of addiction. Personally, I mostly sniffed around that part, didn’t quite experience the true depths of it, but then with alcoholism that’s usually right on the last stretch, right? So it would make sense that it’s in our heads. Those dopamine levels and all those pathways in our brains that get fucked up and re-routed? But the drug affects the dopamine levels and how our brains produce those, so why is it that MY brain goes into full-on Christmas time workshop at the smallest hint of a high and Hubby’s just doesn’t?

Just last night I suggested (and yes, I realise VERY foolishly and MASSIVELY irresponsibly) to Hubby after he’d told me he’s slept quite poorly since his operation:

Well, just take them anyway before bed because they’ll help you sleep better.

Nah, I’m not in pain,” he replied matter-of-fact.

They’re for pain, nothing else in his world. Therefore, unless he’s in pain to the point of being uncomfortable, why in God’s name would he take them? Me, I saw several additional reasons. I would personally have taken the two (yes, addictive) painkillers even if the pain I was in didn’t require it simply because I like that dopey feeling and knowing it’d send me to sleep. That didn’t even seem to occur to Hubby. Is it that non-addicts just prefer reality to feeling dopey? Fucking weirdos.

Is it an inner sense of being unsettled? AA seem to answer this part of the question with the neatly packaged “spiritual malady”. Perhaps true? Oh, I know I’m not exactly doing a great job of tying the loose ends together as I’m concluding this post but the truth is I don’t know how to. I’m just looking at all these loose ends. Perhaps I’ll never find the answers and that’s OK, but I do find it excessively interesting. I salute anyone who made it to the end of this post – I know I ramble….

Feel free to throw your two-pence into the hat. As always, gratefully received and I always learn so much more here in the blogosphere than any book could possibly teach me.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Ghosts In Broad Daylight

Hubby and I are very similar in many ways. OK, so he is actually the best person on the planet and I’m very far from that, but there are definitely ways in which we are almost too alike. I’m bossy and so is he. We both always and without fail believe that we know the best way to do something and as a result close ourselves off to alternative points of view. As a result, when we bicker about something, we both whinge about how the other person hasn’t listened to us. Or my personal favourite that I like to throw at him simply because I feel it’s good ammunition and allows me to wrap myself in the victim blanket: “you don’t HEAR me“. God, I really am pathetic. Luckily, we usually switch back pretty quickly to both admitting we were being dicks and then declaring our undying love for each other. Anyway, it’d appear that I can never ever again use that ridiculous victim line of not being heard, because it seems Hubby does and when we walked through the park yesterday he blew me away a little.

As we strolled along the path through the wilted ferns, we talked about a friend of mine who I’m really worried about. It’s Poppy and I have mentioned her before. It’d seem she’s being hit with those really bad consequences I personally escaped by the skin of my teeth. How I didn’t lose more is nothing other than insane luck. Anyway, she’s lost her driver’s licence after getting arrested in the morning for being over the limit. You know, I have no idea if I’m seeing things that aren’t there and perhaps she was just unlucky and it was a genuine matter of having had drinks the night before and being slightly over. That, unfortunately, isn’t TOTALLY uncommon and it CAN happen quite easily to almost anyone – we think we’re OK to drive but actually we’re not. Point is though, I don’t know for sure but on top of conversations with her daughter-in-law some time ago (who was desperately worried and told me about some pretty extreme levels of drinking – in fact, much worse than I ever got to) and some other things that have gone down, I just have that awful knot in my stomach. So we talked about what in God’s name I can do. I simply don’t know. Hubby listened when I told him how I worry that even this won’t be enough for Poppy to see that maybe it’s the drinking that’s the root of so many of her problems. Well, if it IS – after all, I can’t know for sure.

I’d be more worried that [her son and daughter-in-law] have moved so far away and she’s now on her own and can drink without anyone seeing it,” Hubby said.

What a guy. What a guy, who listens and who hears me. I’ve often said it that the worst place for an alkie is alone and unchecked (because that’s when we can drink the way we like to), and that’s what he pointed out. Well, I thought that speaks volumes for how keen he is to understand stuff and how much thought he has actually given to everything I’ve talked about. Plus it was a really good point that I didn’t quite think of.

How frustrating though – I feel like I’m just standing by and watching as Poppy goes down. I have already been through this with Tumbler and therefore familiar with waking up one morning to a string of R.I.P’s in the Facebook newsfeed. Actually, with Tumbler the news was broken to me via Messenger by a mutual friend before it became common knowledge and the wider circle began to post their sadness at her passing. “Did you hear that [Tumbler] passed away?” the message from our mutual friend Garbo read – what I felt at the time can only be described as an unsurprising shock. And maybe this is why – my own journey and Tumbler’s death – I perhaps project on to Poppy. I mean, I hope it’s true what Poppy herself says, that her drinking is under control and in moderation. I do want to believe that and desperately so. And yet I do go around with a knot of fear in my chest at the idea that it could happen at any time. I’ll get a message like that again or log on to Facebook expecting funny cat memes and instead being faced with devastating news.

To be honest, I feel like a traitor even writing this. Obviously I never use anyone’s real name or any other identifying details, but even so. Who am I to pass judgment? No one, that’s who. I should just accept Poppy’s view and let her live her life the way she decides to. And again – I have no idea and certainly not that much reason to believe her drinking is beyond “a little too much”. Hell, that’s what I had people believing about me for the longest time!! Even Hubby – and he LIVES with me and is therefore a primary witness – only ever used to say I just needed to cut down a little. It’s amazing how much you can hide even within the walls of your own home. Maybe it’s because I was hiding such an enormous issue that I, as we say in Sweden, see ghosts in broad daylight. I.e. things that actually aren’t there.

I’m going to be you,” I told Hubby and squeezed his hand as we emerged from the park and were walking towards the bridge to cross the river, “I’m going to be just like you with Poppy because it’s the best way I can think of, it’s the only thing I know that might work.

I glanced at Hubby who didn’t say anything in response. I squeezed his hand again, then lifted it to my lips and kissed his knuckles.

That’s probably the biggest compliment I can give you. You do realise there is nothing you could have done better, right? Any of that what-could-I-have-done-sooner is bollocks. You were honest and kind and I turned to you because I knew you would never judge me.

I know,” Hubby said and did his cute half smile.

I just don’t know any other way and that’s partly because Poppy says she’s fine (well – in terms of the drinking, that is) and who am I to say she isn’t? Just because I have a knot in my stomach that might have formed because of a million other things? Fuck me, this isn’t an easy one, is it? Check out the alkie who is now some sort of sobriety warrior and declaring who has or hasn’t a problem. It’s precisely what I shouldn’t be doing. So I’m going to be just like Hubby. I’m going to gently say to Poppy, when there is a good moment, that I worry that her drinking may be causing her problems at the same time as I underline I’m always in a corner and will do all I can to help if she ever needs me. Poppy did say to me many months ago that “no, seriously Anna, I need to stop drinking” but then that got lost again and whenever it came up she was back to claiming she’s all fine and all is well.

What gives me the heebie-jeebies is that this is the approach I took with Tumbler. At one point, I believe it was after her second DUI (how’s that for an echo?), a group of us got together and tried to help and support her. People told Tumbler they’d be there for her but she’d have to be sober when she called. I told her I was there for her and would always take her call no matter what state she was in. Tumbler, like alcoholics do, distanced herself and started lying about her drinking to most people but kept calling me. Nine times out of ten she was drunk. In fact, around the time she posted on Facebook that she was one year sober, I spoke to her – it was 9am in the morning where she was and she told me she was drinking wine. Sometimes I’ve regretted not taking that tougher stance because being softer just enabled her to still have someone to talk to even if she drank, given she didn’t have to hide it from me. At the same time I know that if I’d done that she would have distanced herself from me too and perhaps our conversations did make her feel a little better. I’ll never know. No one will ever know. What I do know is that neither approach worked because the one person who had the power to make Tumbler stop was Tumbler herself and she didn’t want to. Or rather, as she put it to me once: “I don’t think I will ever be able to.

This very dilemma was perhaps one of the biggest questions asked in the film we went to see Saturday morning: Beautiful Boy. It’s the story of a guy who gets hooked on methamphetamines along with alcohol, heroin and whatever else. It shows his father’s desperate attempts to understand, to help, to do the right thing. It poses the question of what we can do to help someone we love, but it doesn’t answer it beyond showing the absolute hell everyone goes through. In a scene from an Al-anon meeting (support groups for the people close to the addict) a woman talks about her niece who has just died from an overdose. She points out how she was already grieving her when she was still alive, but how it now makes more sense to do so. It’s heartbreaking.

So I can only emulate the best person I know, my husband, by trying to give to Poppy what he gave to me:

  1. Openly state I’m worried for her.
  2. Always be kind, always be there and never judge.
  3. Offer her hope by showing her it gets so much better.

And let’s face it, if Poppy’s problems with alcohol are all in my head, all I’ve done is being a good friend when she’s gone through some shit and waxed a little lyrical about the joys of sobriety.

Any views welcome as always.

Today I’m not going to drink.