Like Sugar Through the Ferns

Friday, Friday, Friday! Unfortunately it seems the fog is clearing up, although you’re probably wondering what kind of ridiculous lame ass twit would be excited about fog. Me! I’m excited about fog! I freaking love fog in the autumn. Combined by yellowing leaves it makes everything look and feel so eerie. But then I live right by a huge park full of fallow deer that I run through in the evenings and drive through in the mornings and today it was magical – thick fog through which you could see the huge antlers of the huge bucks, the proud silhouettes gently swaying with bursts of frequently moving faster as they bellowed at the females and chased them around. It’s mating season and I think they’re all going a little crazy. Last night on my run I had music on full blast in my ear phones and as I ran through the ferns I heard a noise through the music that made me think it must have been a low flying aircraft, but as I turned to my left I saw a massive buck just 50 metres away, tilting his head back and calling for the chicks to get it on with him. It’s quite a scary sound, aggressive and desperate at the same time. Made me run a tiny bit faster there for a second, something I didn’t do gladly as yesterday’s run wasn’t nice at all.

It’s those pesky middle gears again, see? This is what sobriety is teaching me every so often – it’s not all crazy highs and devastating lows, there’s a vast spectrum in that space I used to think of as the grey, old, boring middle. Getting fit now that I’m not rendered useless by horrific hangovers that make even getting out of bed a humongous test of determination, I’ve had to work at it and although recently it’s started to feel really good I also have those work-outs or runs when it’s just ….blah. And yesterday’s run was all about the blah. 40 minutes of running, 40 minutes of blah and not even Chaka Khan’s ‘Like Sugar’ (my favourite running track) could perk me up or put more spring into my heavy strides.

Hang on though…. 40 minutes?? Yep, this is what I can now do! Can you believe it? I fucking can’t but Chaka Khan has been a huge help – a heavy bass and solid beats is all I need! Just a month or so ago I was struggling to wobble along for even five minutes, see how it builds up! Much faster and way more rewarding than increasing your tolerance to booze, eh! So in recent weeks I’ve finally reached that point where torture has turned into pleasure. I’ve gone for runs and discovered it feels absolutely amazing and I feel strong, my feet pounding the pavement and I feel like superwoman. And then you have other times, like yesterday, when I get to the other end of the park and all I do is focus on getting through it and not enjoying it at all, just want it to be over with. And that’s cool. Life’s like that. It can’t be New Year’s Eve every damn day, and if it was we’d soon get bored of fireworks anyway. I’m learning to like it.

Don’t get me wrong – I am all about the highs and the lows and I will always be Anna, meaning I’ll probably always be someone who feels everything strongly, but I’m really liking this balance sobriety has brought with it. There’s room now in my life for those middle gears too. It’s peaceful. Calm. Oh my God, I’m gonna say it – I’m going to fucking say it!!! It’s SERENE.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Smug Hippies

Help me. I honestly don’t know how to handle this one. Advice needed. Nothing awful, promise, just very important to get right. Have I mentioned that I wish I could have shown Drunk Me how wonderful it is to be Sober Me? How I often wish I could speak to Anna of, say, ten years ago and find some magic words that’d somehow flick a switch in her brain? WHAT ARE THOSE WORDS? And what is it that I can do, if someone I care about actually speaks those words “I need to stop drinking”?

I’ve called her Poppy on this blog in the past and she is someone I love to pieces. She frustrates the hell out of me, actually, because she’s such an amazing person – I honestly don’t know anyone kinder, more caring or loving than she is – and I sometimes feel wine robs her of so much. Silly situations she seems to get herself into, awful people that take advantage of her gentle nature and low moods further exacerbated by alcohol. Actually, I’m not going to wrap it in cotton wool – I love Poppy to bits and it pisses me off to see her trip herself up. I was keeping this to myself having promised myself to never preach the gospel of sobriety to anyone unless they specifically asked to hear it. When I was eyeball deep in active alcoholism, words of warning or even pleas for me to stop would – except for maybe the last two or three years – have achieved the opposite effect: I would have distanced myself from the people in question, possibly been utterly insulted and outraged at their audacity, then gone on my merry messy way. What do I mean by “except the last two or three years”? Simply that towards the end of my drinking I was so fed up with it but just didn’t see a way out, that had I been confronted I think I would probably have broken down with relief and gratefully surrendered.

Anyway. When Poppy and I spoke yesterday, she told me she’s proud of me for getting sober. And then came a question that to my mind might be what sales people might refer to as a buying signal.

When you first stopped, did you get really bad shakes?” Poppy asked.

For me to ask something like this, would mean that I secretly wanted to stop but wanted to first ascertain how crappy stopping would be. I could be wrong though. Often am, as we have established many times before. I told Poppy honestly how it did worry me and how if you drink heavily like I did it can be dangerous to quit cold turkey without medical assistance, but how it was in the end just a matter of a day’s severe hangover (and of course I am a veteran so have battled through many of those before) and then a few more days before I started to feel better, but nothing physically unbearable. Of course this was a long phone conversation during which we talked about lots of other stuff too, but the buying signals (as I interpreted them) kept creeping in.

The problem is that I have no confidence and wine helps me socially,” Poppy told me, “when I have a drink I light up“.

What I first wanted to SHOUT was how bloody amazing she is in her own right, and although she and I have had lots of fun, crazy, super silly times on the juice, it’s my Poppy I love because of all the things that make her HER. That’s nothing to do with wine or however loosened up and goofy we get when we drink. How I see her and how much I admire her is totally unrelated to alcohol. Of course now, with over eight months of solid(ish) sobriety under my belt, I obviously recognise that Poppy – just like everyone and everything else in my world – is much better without booze and I don’t actually like my Poppy more when she’s drunk. I like her just the way she is. She’s better, as we all are, without any goddamn wine. But I could see what she meant and as a shy introvert I think I also used to think alcohol broke down awkward social barriers at one point.

However, there was nothing social about the way I drank, home alone with my box of wine for company as I worked towards black-out, and I told Poppy this straight up. The social aspect just isn’t true for me. I told her though, how when I first stopped I initially felt really apprehensive about two weekend breaks we already had booked: Paris for hubby’s birthday and Gothenburg in June for a Foo Fighters concert. I mean, what kind of idiotic twat goes to Paris and has diet Coke? Who declines slipping into the warm and melty veils of Sauvignon Blanc in the city of love? Or heads to a Foo concert clutching a water bottle – come on! Oh hang on… I do! And it was glorious. 2018 has been so amazing and it’s been such a busy one, packed with those things I used to think you couldn’t do sober but it turns out that not only CAN you do them, they’re so much better!! I tried my best to keep a lid on the passion I feel when expressing how my life has changed so much. When I was still drinking I’m not sure I would have been able to stomach stuff like that, much less believe a single fucking word of it – after all wine was my FRIEND, remember, who I believed made everything more fun, not less. I began to tell Poppy how almost every morning I find myself feeling almost tearful with such intense gratitude and joy to have my life given back to me, but caught myself and instead just stated in more measured tones how I don’t miss always being hungover. No one likes an over excited preacher, plus I sometimes hear myself and want to vomit a little so God knows how I come across to other people. As I said, had Drunk Me been faced with Sober Me it may very well have turned into a punch-up with Drunk Me giving smug, tree-hugging Sober Me a good pummeling.

Although AA wasn’t quite right for me, there are many things I do whole heartedly agree with and one is that the only person who can determine if you have a drinking problem is you. Actually, I don’t know if I agree now that I think of it. What I do believe however is that very few people can successfully become sober until they truly want to stop drinking. I don’t want to be, and nor do I think I should be, the person telling another whether they should drink or not drink. Perhaps I went a little over board when I emphasised to Poppy that I don’t believe she’s anywhere near as bad as I was – yes, if she wants to hear how I’m finding sobriety I’ll bleat on until the cows come home, but I really don’t want to ram it down her throat unsolicited and I want to always make sure I just share MY view, MY perspective and MY experience. Never suggest similarities – if there are any, that’s for Poppy to decide.

Poppy described how she got annoyed with someone who’d made a remark about her drinking even though she’d not finished the bottle of wine she’d opened one particular evening. Truthfully I just told her I would NEVER have been able to do that. In fact, when I was drinking I would have rather said no to drinking full stop than be faced with only one little bottle! Jeez, one bottle of wine would just about get me in the zone and we all know what happens when I get in the zone. The zone is just the spring board. So I steered it back to me and outlined in all its awfulness how I can’t stop. Can. Not. Stop. It’s full-on madness, obsession, compulsion and a raging desire that I can’t control. Again, truthfully, I told her that this is in essence the root of my problem – my inability to stop if I start – and I always used to envy those fairytale creatures who can just decide they’ve had enough and leave it. WTF – how is that even possible? Never understood it. Anyway, I explained that this is in essence how I define what an alcoholic is – one drink is too many, 20 aren’t enough – and if she can actually stop drinking when she’s started she’s in a better place than where I found myself.

But then she said it.

No, Anna, I need to stop drinking.” She paused for a second. “I really need to stop.

Part of me wished I could have just hopped in the car, driven down to the coast and swept her up in my arms. Why didn’t I? Shit, I should have. Perhaps I am to Poppy what Tumbler was to me? Tumbler being a good friend and an incredibly talented lady who also happened to be an alcoholic and drank herself to death, but who I in lucid moments asked for advice. Tumbler sank deeper than I did, and despite brave attempts to get and stay sober, alcohol won in the end. Point is, it was comforting for me to speak openly with someone who themselves drank and also Tumbler could tell me how she went about stopping. Well. I’m trying to put myself in Poppy’s shoes and that’s what I also did when we spoke. I told her I can’t decide anything for her, but if she wants to quit I think it’s a wonderful thing as I believe we’re all – regardless of what our drinking habits are – better off without booze and if there’s anything I can answer or help with please just ask. Is that enough?

It’s so easy to slip into I-want-to-save-the-world mode when you find sobriety I think. You feel like your eyes have just opened and you’re seeing the world for the first time, so you want to spread the word so everyone can experience it too. Not the right approach though, no one likes a smug hippie. Well, perhaps some do, I dunno. But I’m trying the gentle approach for now and see where it leads. I don’t think Poppy is necessarily an alcoholic like I am or that she drinks anywhere near as much as I used to, but at the same time I don’t think people who don’t feel they have an issue with alcohol would think or say that they need to stop drinking. Who knows.

I need to think about this more.

Today I’m not going to drink.

High Fives and Potassium

Somewhere right now, this very morning, there’s a woman who is at a guess on to her second or third ready mixed gin and slimline tonic. Is she a neighbour? Or did she head to a supermarket sufficiently far away that she wouldn’t run the risk of bumping into someone she knows? Did she drink an insane amount last night and now desperate to escape the hell of a hangover? Had she even planned all this and booked today off in advance? I tried not to look because I know how those looks hurt. I went about my business as quickly as I could because I know how that shame burns inside, doing my best to appear as though it could have been fresh bagels and a pint of milk she clutched close to her chest. Four cans of two types of ready mixed gin and tonic, one a can with some pink pattern (very feminine!) that I don’t recall having seen before. No eye contact, I made sure of that to spare her the pain of human interaction but perhaps I was frightened of the emptiness and sorrow I might find there. I tried not to see, wanted to allow her invisibility because I know oh so well what it’s like to be closed off in your addiction. I know what it’s like to hand over your dirty haul to the check-out person and how it’s more painful if they are nice and friendly. Cold transaction, anonymous and invisible, eyes to the floor, fight to keep shaky hands steady to put a card to the reader, hope your presence never registered and you’re forgotten even before you leave.

It’s amazing how much you see even when you make a conscious effort not to and look away. It’s also amazing how much you can feel and how no amount of effort will afford you respite from sadness.

Damp hair combed back, face free of make-up and a gentle scent of something flowery and fresh that trailed behind her. Showered. Recognised the running tights I’ve been waiting for to hit the Sweaty Betty sales because I already have a patterned pair and they are £95 so I can’t quite justify another pair full price. Wedding ring and a pretty impressive engagement ring capturing the light in a way her eyes didn’t. Not that any of this matters. I wouldn’t have felt more sad if she’d been wearing a fucking tiara or if her clothes had been dirty and torn. What breaks my heart is how I think she felt, how I think I might know what was going through her mind. Did she clock me? Did she notice how my eyes fell on the cans and how I immediately averted my gaze? Or was she too caught up in feeling too shamed, broken and dirty to take anything in?

I’d got my pretzels from the bakery section (creature of habit much?) and was standing by the fridge with smoothies, slightly dismayed that Gorgeous Greens was out and instead settled for a much smaller bottle of Naked Green Machine which I don’t like as much because it contains banana and I fucking hate banana. Good for you though, and during my drinking days I forced myself to eat them or drink smoothies containing them because I’d heard or read somewhere they contain potassium and this apparently helps put you right when you destroy yourself with alcohol. When I stood there was when I noticed her, she had her back to me and was surveying the chilled alcohol section and in particular the selection of small, ready mixed cans – G&T, Pimms, rum and coke, Jack Daniels with whatever mixer, etc.

Would I even have noticed or paid any attention if that hadn’t been me not so long ago? Although, to be fair, morning drinking I never QUITE fell into. Still. On the relatively few occasions that I did, it was never wine or beer – the mornings I did suffer so badly I resorted to drinking, it was… bingo…. the ready mixed gin and tonics in their pretty, pretty packaging. When you’re truly in the seventh circle of hell and feel so goddamn awful you can barely stand up, when your heart is beating so hard and fast it feels like it’s about to jump out of your chest and you’re genuinely terrified that you’ve finally gone and broken it – in that moment you need to get something in you FAST. It’s that or landing in the back of an ambulance under the guise of a “panic attack” or anything else that can be blamed on anything other than your drinking. Although it IS panic and I guess ‘attack’ is pretty accurate too. Weak people don’t become alcoholics – they don’t have the strength. It requires a serious, hard core badass to not only swallow but also hold down alcohol before breakfast. Beer is too gross in the morning and wine is too sharp. Those ready mixed, feminine, sweet, gentle G&Ts though – perfect. Sure, the alcohol content is enough to make you shudder, but if you try hard enough it’s not much worse than a Red Bull. They’re easier to hold and you need to keep them down if you’re going to be put back together again. And you can chug one of those small-ish cans down in two or three brave swigs.

Well. I think you can probably tell that this is something I remember very, very well. And whilst THAT sort of morning was in the grand scale of things for me quite rare, the shame is the same when you only put a box of wine and a bottle of soda into your basket on a Tuesday afternoon. Eyes to the floor.

I wonder now where she is and how she is. It’s a couple of hours ago. Through three by now? Race through the first in a panic and desperate but futile attempt to stop the terror, feel immediately calmer when it’s not only down but seems to stay put? Then more slowly through the second. And now the beast is waking. Four cans? Don’t make me laugh! All gone by lunch time if not before. Head out and get on the wine. Blacked out by early afternoon. Perhaps even sleep. Then back again. Twice in one day. This would have been a very extreme example for me, but it has happened and more than once. Had I not stopped this would soon have become my daily routine. That window of time between the last drink and starting again was shrinking more and more. And this isn’t where it ends. This is where you still shower. And buy Sweaty Betty gym gear. And have a marriage and a family. There are even more horrifying depths you can sink to. And you do. Without mercy and without exception. Unless you find your way out.

Or, I have it all wrong! She’d showered after hitting the gym at 6am and was just buying a smoothie. She’s going to have some friends over later. Or her husband loves G&T and she needed to get a bunch for this evening. Could be it? I could have seen something that wasn’t there, but there was something about her demeanor, her way and her eyes. Eyes to the floor. Oh well, I could be wrong. I often am.

Now I look up. I see the world around me and I wonder if it was always this way. People smile at me. Not just polite little smiles the way you politely smile when you end up having eye contact, I mean full on SMILE smiles. I think on the park there is an unspoken female code that seems to happen just by default. Pass another female runner and be met by a smile. Almost without fail. But beyond this too. On a run last week, I think it might even have been the run when I ran for 25 minutes without stopping for the first time, as I was approaching home, I passed this lady. She was in smart work clothes and looked like she’d just come off the bus and was heading home. Just before passing she gave me this SMILE smile. I smiled back as best I could through my pain and panting. Perhaps she felt the way I do when I pass someone I can tell is working really hard – when I do, I feel a real sense of “hey you, you’re doing great!” and feel happy. Perhaps it was a smile of encouragement? There was a young woman I passed probably a month ago, when I was struggling to keep jogging for more than a couple of minutes in one go. She was struggling too but I’ve never seen anyone look so determined (or pained!). Very large chick and everything wobbled and bounced but she kept at it. I gathered what little breath I could, tried to smile but it was probably a grimace and hissed “good work!” just as we were a metre away from passing, neither of us going fast and both freaking dying. “You too!” she gasped, smiled and raised her hand in a high five. GIRL POWER! Stuff like that makes me so happy. Anyway. Now that my eyes are no longer on the floor the world seems to be such a friendly, loving and kind place. It’s pretty spectacular actually.

So it makes me feel so sad when I see someone whose eyes are on the floor. I wish I could show them what they’d see if they looked up.

Today I’m not going to drink.

For the Sexy Bunch

More than once I’ve bleated on about the importance of my tribe, but it really cannot be over emphasised how valuable it’s been for me to find others who are also sober (or trying/wanting/fighting to be). There’s always a nugget of truth in other people’s stories and sometimes an absolute juggernaut of clarity that hits you in solar plexus like a meteorite. My tribe can be found here in the blogosphere, in FB sobriety groups and other sobriety “clubs”. In a FB group I’m part of someone posted the best thing I’ve seen in quite a while. This particular soberista had been on a tour to a gin distillery and had posted the below photos – I am posting them here with her permission to nick them and a promise not to make any mention of her name plus use my own words. This obviously goes without saying but we’re strictly speaking strangers so sometimes it’s reassuring to underline online etiquette. Us sober folk never out anyone other than ourselves, such is the Law of Sobriety. Besides, in all my blogging years – these past eight+ months on here and the previous decade elsewhere – I’ve never named anyone except myself, always using nicknames plus ensuring I never make anyone identifiable.

Anyway. This lady described this fancy tour in the sexy gin distillery – hey, gin really IS bringing sexy back, isn’t it? Don’t know about where you are, but here in the UK it’s currently THE drink for yoga loving, health conscious women. Oh yeah, fuck wheat grass and quinoa – hard liquor is where it’s at! That’s its current marketing target audience, it seems. Fewer calories than wine (because if we’re thin we’re better, right, so what better way than shaming us into choosing one particular drink over another?) and you should see the vast selection of tonic water you can now get – the mixer is now an entire market in itself, it’s insane! Forget tired old Schweppes – Fever Tree is where it’s all at now, heard of it? You must have! You can barely set foot in a pub here in the UK without its logo raining down on you like confetti in the shape of beer mats, garden furniture umbrellas and napkins. Anyway, it’s HUGE, and gin has made an amazing job of reinventing itself as the drink to be seen with – it helps to have sexy friends and Fever Tree has proved a perfect, sexy wing man. So this tour in the distillery was of course ramming all of that home apparently – it was sexy, cool and sophisticated and the tour guide spoke with reverence about the various stages of distillation and the TLC and expertise going into each part of the process to produce this magnificent, sexy motherfucker of a drink. Gin – the drink for the intelligent, successful and sssssssexy bunch! Yeah!

The finest ingredients, the most refined distilling process, the best qualified people to do it all and everything about it is just top fucking notch. And then they add the key ingredient. This:

Amazingly, according to the lady who posted it, the guide proudly pointed this barrel out too. It wasn’t like my sober tribe friend had sneaked away from the group and found this damning piece of evidence after breaking and entering any “staff only” or “top secret” area closed to the public and then bravely exposed them for using poison that could kill us. Oh no, in full view. Ethanol is the new black, friends! Complete with symbols to illustrate that this is a hazardous, dangerous, poisonous and highly flammable ingredient. Come on, think about it, how many things in your fridge, freezer, cupboards and larder have symbols like this? On stuff you add to things you eat or drink? Would you sprinkle a herb that had a label saying it’s flammable on to stuff you’re cooking? Never mind eat it? Serve something poisonous to your family? Encourage someone to ingest something that’s actually a dangerous substance? I mean in a non-want-to-poison-them kind of way.

She’d worded it so perfectly – it literally is one of those things you could see going viral because it hits the nail on the head so goddamn perfectly – but again, if this ever got shared it’ll be for her to do so herself, not me or anyone else. She kindly let me nick the photos, so that’s what I’ve done and so all I can do is give photo credit to a fellow sober sister. Even without her eloquent, hard hitting words, can you see what I mean though? Can you imagine the tour she was on? And in contrast with this barrel? Perhaps only a sober drunk like me will react like this. Are you one of those magical unicorn moderate drinkers? What do you see when you look at the images? Is it just a case of “well yeah, so what” or does this have a bit of an effect on you too? For me, when I saw this, it just summed up how I feel so perfectly it made my jaw drop – quite literally. I read the post with my mouth open. Awesome!

Do you know what? I realise it’s probably hugely irritating to read this if you are indeed one of the people I know in real life and who therefore would have witnessed how I used to drink. Nothing worse than double standards, is there? And here I am, an alcoholic who put away amounts of wine so staggering it’s a small wonder there’s anything left for you lot to drink at ALL! And now I’m preaching and ranting about how poisonous alcohol is! I get it – it’s enough to throw up in your mouth a little. Or a lot. But there we are. I’m sorry, not sorry – these are the things I’m beginning to see. I do want to show the same kindness, courtesy and respect I have myself been afforded by everyone around me, and therefore want to make it clear that I judge no one. I frequently enjoy going to the pub with hubby and friends and I would never start a righteous sermon or condemn anyone else’s choices. I do understand that some of you are able to handle alcohol in a way that I never could. I also accept that some of you enjoy it. It’s not for me to question any of that, so can I just be clear on that the problem drinking I refer to on this blog is my own! Gosh, I’ve enviously glanced over at you my entire adult life wishing I had an off-switch like you seem to.

Having said all of that, here’s an interesting one… If someone told me they could cure me of alcoholism, wave their magic wand over me or do a medical procedure or give me a pill, leaving me JUST LIKE YOU. Transform me into being wired the way you non-alkies are so that I could skip on over to the pub this afternoon, have a couple of beers with hubby and then go on our merry way without me then necking a couple of bottles of wine back home, instead just enjoy booze the way hubby can… Would I want that? No. Honest to God, hand on my heart, I swear on my son’s life – no. This, though, probably comes back to how I no longer have any reasons to drink because all of those did a runner on me. It doesn’t do anything for me, there’s nothing positive about it. Would I want those positive things I once THOUGHT alcohol gave me if I could have them with no consequences health- or otherwise? I.e. add to the fun, sprinkle glitter on life, make happy happier, etc. Sure! Absolutely I would! And why the hell not? But that was all in my head and in reality wine does none of those things for me, so it’s an irrelevant question.

Anyway. There is part of me that wonders if, in the future, my son will sit there with his grandchildren and tell them about a time when alcohol was legal. And not only legal, socially acceptable as well as encouraged! And his grandchildren staring at him and laughing out loud at old booze adverts glamourising alcohol. Perhaps he’ll say “Mum had a tough time with it, she made a descent into alcoholism, but fought her way out just as the tide was turning and alcohol started to become less acceptable. But you know, kids, when she quit, it was actually still the case that she had to explain why she no longer drank alcohol – can you believe it?!“. I do wonder if my son will be telling that story and whether he and his grandchildren will laugh at those insane adverts like we now look back on cigarette adverts from the 70s that attempt to make smoking sexy. Or even at how crazy it is that the soberista who shared about the gin distillery tour was also shown – by the tour guide!! – the poisonous ingredient without it seeming all that crazy to anyone that poison was added to something we’re going to put into our bodies. I wonder.

Today I’m not going to drink.

246 Days

More of these beautiful autumn days and Londres is looking mighty fine in its fall finery. Drove through the park on my usual long-cut to work, listening to the radio and stopping at the Sainsbury’s at the end of the High Street to buy a couple of pretzels and my usual tipple: Gorgeous Greens by Innocent. The large, version of course – some things don’t change, right? 750ml of apple, pear, kale and something called baobab. A bottle of wine’s worth of good stuff instead of a box’s worth (i.e. three bottles…!) of really bad stuff and I’m not just referring to the poor quality of the wine. This feels good. Habits really aren’t all that hard to break, at worst it’s a little strange to begin with – like changing jobs and taking a left out of the train station after being used to taking a right – and stopping drinking was of course mostly down to changing my thinking, not so much to do with my habits. Changing how we think is NOT easy but so totally worth it. Well, if it means escaping destructive behaviours anyway!

Again, as I have so often over the past few months, I sit here and my legs and backside are sore from the gym and running. Those box jumps are a killer. That’s really good pain! It’s pain that tells me that my body has worked and is getting stronger. Gets those endorphins going too so I end up feeling like superwoman. Not like the pain of a hangover when you feel like you’re 100 years old, sick as a dog and going through severe depression. Fuck me, it’s good to be alive, no?

As the title of this post should highlight, as always when it just states the number of days I’ve been sober, I have very little to add today. I feel good and I am happy. There is nothing really that is pushing its way into my thoughts, today is just another day of living but then again that in itself is bloody awesome. I don’t know what I did a year ago today, but I can almost promise you that I was battling a hangover and had to use all my strength to just get through the day. Or maybe it was one of those rare days when I didn’t? Impossible to say, but chances are it was the former. The majority of my days I spent wrecked. It’s only been eight months so of course I remember those days well, and I do make a conscious effort to keep those memories fresh in my mind. It seems impossible that I’d ever forget how bad it got, but you never know – my alcoholic brain has played crazier tricks on me than that, lemme tell ya.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Admiring Satan’s Ass

The sobriety section of my bookshelf is continually expanding and so far it contains bleak and often shocking tales of look-how-I-fucked-my-life-up and triumphant how-I-broke-free battle cries but most often a combination of the two. I suppose either on its own would be a pretty boring story, right? What’s so spectacular about light if it’s all you’ve ever known? Only someone who’s truly experienced darkness can convincingly preach about how magnificent life in the light truly is. And if darkness is the perpetual state of all you know and the light has never fallen on you, well that’s terrible in itself but as far as stories go that wouldn’t be particularly interesting either! Well, I think that’s how I view it because personally I find it quite uninspiring to be told how to quit smoking by someone who’s never touched a cigarette. Or listen to how great it is to be slim by someone who’s never been fat or yo-yo dieted. Darkness and light are dependent on each other and we can’t truly know one without the other, not REALLY. In my view anyway.

So here’s my boozy sobriety bookshelf to date:

Blackout: Trying to Remember the Things I Drank to Forget – Sarah Hepola

Mother’s Ruin – Nicola Barry

Drunk Mom – Jowita Bydlowska

The Easy Way to Stop Drinking – Allen Carr

Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions – Russell Brand

This Naked Mind – Annie Grace

Så Som Jag Minns Det – Mikael Persbrandt

Alcohol Lied to Me – Craig Beck

AnsvarsFULL – Camilla Kuylenstierna

Mrs D is Going Without – Lotta Dunn

The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober – Catherine Gray

För Mycket Av Allt – Sanna Bråding

I’ve probably forgotten at least a couple but it gives you an idea. Personal journeys mixed with those stories that offer clear cut advice and/or instructions on how to break free from alcohol addiction. My favourites have got to be Russell Brand’s and Annie Grace’s books – this is quite funny as Brand is very much a spiritual 12-stepper and Grace is more in line with the we’ve-been-brainwashed school of thought as first pioneered by Carr. My least favourite is Bråding but now that I list both most and least favourites I discover that it seems to be a matter of who I personally like more than how much what they say resonates with me. Well. People buy people, I suppose. Plus Bråding’s story is – beyond how I find her an utterly annoying and self promoting attention seeker – probably also the one I can relate to the least. So is Persbrandt’s – these two are both Swedish actors, by the way – but I like the guy and he doesn’t seem quite so self absorbed and needy, he just puts it out there and it ain’t pretty. I don’t like it when people try to put lipstick on a pig, I wanna see that damn swine in all its gory non-glory. Just like I fucking LOVE and admire the hell out of people who own their shit even when it stinks worse than Satan’s ass.

story

I suppose my bookshelf further goes to show just how immeasurably important it has been for me to read other people’s stories, perspectives, views and experiences of alcoholism during my sober journey. I suspect I will never tire of this and luckily I will probably never run out of stories given there are countless alcoholics and all our stories are as individual as we are. That’s the law of circumstance.

And of course you have a plethora of blogs as wide and colourful as you can imagine (and then some), and I think I’ve just scratched the surface. In this sphere you find those kindred spirits I consider my comrades, those I chat with at the water cooler as we’re all slinging on our swords and shields in preparation for the day ahead. Well. Some of us are on the Pink Cloud and don’t have to swing that sword much, and some of us fight furiously from the moment we wake up and of course some of us who fall not just between those two camps but even further out on each side too. You can always be sure there are people you can learn something from and even when you hear stories that don’t look very similar to your own, you’re bound to be surprised, inspired and a little bit wiser. And sometimes sad too. Yes, AND hopeless and angry and frustrated and when you do it’s usually because you have had your own fill of it and only know it too well. I very rarely come away feeling nothing though, that’s for certain. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that’s never happened.

So there you are. Feel free to browse my ever growing book shelf and do let me know which must-reads I’ve missed out on that you have on yours. I have a life time of sobriety ahead of me so there is no problem if I end up with a reading list that in itself is long enough to be a book.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Fearless Puppies

One of my favourite bloggers as well as someone I have come to really care about is Functioning Guzzler. We’re also travelling side by side when it comes to how long we’ve been sober, both of us around the eight months mark – I imagine if we were school children we’d end up sitting together. Again, it strikes me how it’s both quite strange and remarkably lovely that you can think that way about someone you never met. I like it. Her last post is called What I Miss About Drinking. Honestly, there was part of me that felt a little scared to read it in case she’d mention something that’d suddenly wake the Beast now that I am in a place where I actually struggle to think of anything good booze could possibly do. Yes, it might be a dangerous little game but since when do I care about such things?

So what do I miss about drinking?

Because I immediately thought “uh-oh” as I started reading FG’s post, I suppose I should point out that I don’t want to create triggers or get someone who’s sober in the mood for a drink (or ten), so if you think that might be you, please instead head on over to look at some lovely pictures of puppies HERE.

LET’S GO!

I think the most significant shift in my thinking around drinking was how I came to the realisation that I’d lost nothing. I deliberately avoid saying I “gave up” drinking because I’m so adamant there was nothing to give up – “gave up” does insinuate that I might have made some sort of sacrifice and it honestly doesn’t feel that way. For example, when I stopped drinking, the first thought that popped in to my head was “OH SHIT! What about our romantic weekend in Paris? And the Foo Fighters concert in Gothenburg?” because those were already booked. Turns out of course that both were much better because I was sober and not dull and pointless like my alcoholic brain had tried to make me believe. It’s my alkie brain that wants me to think that I gave something up when I stopped drinking. It still begs the question though – are there things I miss about drinking? Good stuff that just doesn’t happen when I’m sober? Sure. But it’s still isn’t REALLY to do with the booze. Here goes…..

1. The anticipation

Yep, there was always a sense of excitement and anticipation, much like the sparkly happiness you might feel as you head to the airport to catch a flight on holiday. I’d look forward to those glasses of wine by the river on a Friday evening like I’d look forward to going away somewhere – the feeling is the same. And more so if it was a Friday or Saturday when I’d know I wouldn’t have to worry so much about the next day. Gosh, I can conjure up that feeling in an instant and I remember all too well how it’s so strong it makes you feel on top of the world! Oh God, that feeling…

2. Putting the world to rights

One of the loveliest things about those drinks by the river was just chatting away with hubby. Elaine and I used to have really fun conversations too. Those chats were, I suspect, more fuelled by the anticipation and excitement rather than the actual wine, but sober conversations aren’t the same.

3. Debbie Does Dallas

There’s no polite way of saying this. I turn into a porn star when I’m drunk. All inhibitions go out the window and nothing is sacred. Drunk Me will do stuff that makes Sober Me shudder. Drunk Me turns dirty in a way that makes Ron Jeremy look like a choir boy. This makes me a fun person to be married to. Sorry, not sorry – it does.

4. I don’t dance sober

A few drinks loosen me up and I get up and shake my booty. Sober Me is a little too pathetic to do that. I need a couple of stiff drinks down my neck before I hit the dance floor.

LET’S STOP THERE!

No, I’m not getting triggered or finding that I’m gasping for a glass of wine, but I’m having to stop myself from adding what I’ve come to believe at the end of each point. I want to do that separately, so here’s the fine print that I wish I’d discovered much sooner:

1. Nope, I don’t feel that anticipation and excitement in quite the same way sober. I’m happy it’s Friday and look forward to the weekend and spending time with my gorgeous husband, sure, but no, that woohoo feeling isn’t quite as strong as the feeling I got when I knew I’d be drinking. I could lie but I won’t. However, I do know it was based on an illusion and so the whole thing is bloody false anyway! Like finding out your partner was leading a double life all along. You thought it was something it just wasn’t. And I can’t go back from there. I see booze for what it is now and it sure as hell isn’t worth getting excited over.

2. Ever got caught in a conversation with a drunk person? I mean when you’re sober? Well – what do you think? Of course, it does feel like you’re coming up with the most profound truths, observations and conclusions when you’re wasted and yes it can be fun (if you are drunk, that is). Question is, however, if it’s enough to make me want to drink. And are those conversations REALLY more enjoyable? Not really, right?

3. I would imagine if hubby is brutally honest he probably does miss those craziest moments and the most outrageous things Drunk Me initiated (yes, Drunk Me is always the fire starter) and I can’t deny I liked how hubby would say something appreciative about the previous night’s antics in the morning – I felt really pleased with myself. Problem is, how great is it if quite often you can’t remember it? And whilst Sober Me doesn’t drag hubby into the fire escape, sex does tend to be a lot better when you are actually there to enjoy it in the moment as opposed to remembering only fragments (“oh shit, did we really do THAT??”) or worse, need to be told what happened.

4. The dancing thing I think is just one of those little lies I’ve told myself, a way for my alcoholic brain to make me believe I need booze somehow. No, I’ve never been and probably never will be the person who gets up there like a Travolta-esque whirlwind, but the truth is I don’t like doing it drunk either. If I feel like dancing, whether I’m sober or drunk makes very little difference – it’s ALWAYS awkward! It’s just how I am. Is it suddenly more fun because alcohol has numbed me and I care less? No. So that’s just a big, fat myth in itself. Alcohol doesn’t make me brave, it just removes my fear and there is a BIG difference between being brave and being fearless – the two are opposites! Being brave is when you’re scared shitless and manage to do it anyway. If you’re fearless you don’t need to be brave because why would you need to be brave in order to do something that doesn’t scare you?

travolta

So there we are. And may I point out that none of this is in response to FG’s post or her thoughts around what SHE might miss, these are just some of the thoughts that popped into my head around whether there is in truth anything I feel I’ve lost when I showed alcohol the door. There isn’t. And certainly not enough to even consider going back to where I was. Not right now. Not today. It’s just a normal Friday and I feel happy and content and I’m looking forward to the weekend. We’re heading to the pub with two of the neighbours as it happens but I won’t be ordering wine because, well, why would I?

Today I’m not going to drink.