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.

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.

Too Pretty

I really liked the film but they should have kept set it in England like in the book instead of making an American version. What really bugged me is that Emily Blunt is way too beautiful to play an alcoholic!

blunt

That’s an actual review on someone’s blog, written earlier in this year of the Lord 2018. I’m not going to rant about it or get all puffed up over it, I was just a little surprised to see it, that’s all. I’m going to assume that no one believes that only unattractive people develop alcoholism, but what they actually meant in this review is that she is too fresh faced. Is that it, you think? That it would have been more “believable” had they used a bit of make-up to create red spider veins across her nose and cheeks, made her eyes appear redder and added grease to her hair? Perhaps a few stains on her clothes too? I don’t think many people actually think that all alcoholics are the image of that stereotypical end stage alcoholic, i.e. the broken wreck who has lost their mind and been physically ravaged by the booze.

If I were 32 with my looks fairly intact, I may have taken greater exception to that line because then I would still have been able to point to myself as a reasonably nice looking, well put together and, absolutely, ten years ago I was definitely fresh faced too. Look at me, a good looking drunk! At 42, I don’t think I can. Whilst I don’t think you could necessarily pick me out of a line up of other 42-yearolds and identify me as the drunk, I can myself absolutely see the devastation alcohol was starting to leave not just inside me but on the surface too. Now that I’m sober, these things are of course on the mend, at least the bits that CAN mend: my eyes are brighter and I don’t look so puffy, nor does my skin have that unhealthy, dull, ruddy tint to it. I’m not, strictly speaking, FRESH FACED á la the teenagers in the Clearasil ads, but I am looking WAY better than I did pre-23/01/2018. And yes, I would have looked better than I do if I’d never drunk at all or smoked all those cigarettes. I’m not trying to beat myself up, but these are facts. Not saying I would have been a supermodel but I would have been a better me had alcohol never dragged me under. And let’s not forget the inside either.

So there are two sides to this statement about Blunt’s portrayal of an alcoholic, really. The first would be what I suspect the person who wrote the review absolutely knows anyway, i.e. that amongst alcoholics you find the same variety of people you do all over the planet – from the 1s to the 10s, all sizes, all colours, all sexualities, and so on ad infinitum. The second is that NO, you will not remain fresh faced if you continue to abuse alcohol. Sure, you’ll be able to hide it for a long time but eventually that pretty face of yours will begin to tell the real story. Well. You’ll in all likelihood age and fall apart much faster than you would if you didn’t put poison into your body, obviously. I look at my 67-yearold mother, for example. OK so she is a bit of an exception to the general rule of ageing because she is ridiculously beautiful and looks way younger than her years, and also I am the spit of my father, but if the rules are at all fair I should as her daughter have managed to steal some of those kick-ass genes, right? Truth is though, that her forehead is smoother than mine is and her skin has a MUCH healthier glow.

This may have been the case even if I’d never touched a drop of alcohol or smoked a single cigarette but I think we can all agree that the most likely answer is that no matter what my genes I have, I would have looked more fresh faced now had I taken care of myself in the same way my mother looks after herself. And correct: she never smoked and she VERY rarely drinks alcohol. This is the harsh truth. Booze (and of course smoking) is absolutely devastating for our bodies as well as our looks. Would Ma Dear look the way she does had she been drinking like I did and smoked too? I don’t believe so, but of course there are those people who absolutely trash their bodies with drugs and whatever else, eat poorly and do no exercise and STILL don’t lose their looks or even health. I can’t think of one but they exist, don’t they?

Who do we have in the celebrity star galaxy who is known for hard living yet is as fresh as a daisy? Drew Barrymore? Although, didn’t she have messy teenage years and then got clean? I actually went on Google but it gives me a list of ten celebrities who have all now been sober for decades – Mary J Blige, Bradley Cooper, Anthony Hopkins, Jada Pinkett and some others – and I can’t find anyone who’s STILL AT IT. Help here? They only need to be famous so we have a common reference point given chances are that you and I don’t have friends in common. Someone north of 40, please, who’s an active alcoholic. A full-on, unapologetic piss-head. You know, with a drinking habit like Keith Richards but not Keith Richards as I think we can agree the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll lifestyle is apparent even at a glance. Show me that person, there HAS to be someone, I’m serious!

I think it’s safe to say, even if those exceptions to the rule of booze fuelled ageing do exist, that time will be a lot meaner to us inside and out if we treat our bodies and our health like a rubbish bin. You are what you drink, perhaps, and definitely what you smoke.

As for the film mentioned, Emily Blunt’s character is how old? In her thirties perhaps? Yes, she’s beautiful but the film does depict the alcoholic fairly well I thought when I watched it. She certainly isn’t “too pretty” to be a drunk because no one is, any more than you can be too tall or too skinny. Alcoholism is a democratic creature in that sense, much like depression and most other illnesses and diseases – you can’t buy your way out of any of them. Ever heard of anyone who paid $1,000,000 to escape cancer? Or got well because they were under 5ft4 and only people taller than that got the really aggressive version? Obviously not. Having said that, there are of course groups of people where the prevalence of alcohol abuse is much smaller – e.g. the Arabic world, where alcohol just isn’t used the way it is around this neck of the woods – but my point is based on the assumption that in any group with the same access to booze and the same perception of what it supposedly does and is for, we will not be able to say that it’s a specific type of person who sinks into addiction.

Oh, I don’t know. Do you?

As for this particular alcoholic, yesterday was a little bit monumental for me. Hubby was away and I got home in the evening feeling the way I do when I really REALLY want to have a drink: in a fucking excellent mood after my last training session with Dimples. Home alone and felt happy and good. But no, nothing. Nothing whatsoever. In fact, when I tried to play the dangerous game of deliberately conjuring up images of that huge glass of wine, I felt nothing. Not a thing. Just pleasantly spent from doing squats and burpees, watched a bit of TV and then read my book until I was sleepy. Bliss, really. It made me so happy. See? All these things a non-alcoholic might even dismiss as a really ordinary or even boring evening. Not me – for me, this was HUGE. I’m not so stupid that I for a moment believe that this means I’m “cured” or “there” or “done” but it’s pretty spectacular nevertheless, no? Well, I thought so. There may even been a little happy tear…

Today I’m not going to drink.

A String of Gems and Hope

It really feels like the last week of summer, and I suppose it is. There has been a definite turn in the weather and now with the August Bank Holiday weekend and Notting Hill carnival behind us, autumn is right on the doorstep. This is fine by me – I love autumn. Over sized scarves and sweaters, dark evenings, candle light and hot drinks spiced with cinnamon. Hah! That last bit was interesting as I suppose I would normally have mentioned mulled wine and had to think for a second there about what I might be drinking this first sober autumn I have ahead of me. Well. There’s alcohol free mulled wine should I feel like it, but I suspect as with regular wine I won’t be interested in the alcohol free version. Yep, summer is over and it’s a grey Tuesday here in London with the temperature just nudging 20 degrees. No more tank tops and shorts – it’s back to long sleeves and jeans.

But what a summer! Actually – what a YEAR it’s been so far, and I still have my favourite season and Christmas to look forward to!

2018 started off the way my years normally do: with a severe hangover. Some years I’ve attempted a dry January (and to be fair, mostly managed just fine) but this year I didn’t even consider it. Monday 22nd January I called in sick because I was so hungover I couldn’t move. That evening I acknowledged I was in serious trouble and finally reached out to my husband and spelled it out: I AM AN ALCOHOLIC, I CAN’T GO ON LIKE THIS AND I AM FRIGHTENED. 23rd January my decision was made – I knew I wanted and needed to get sober and sort my life out. And I’ve done my best. I’ve not done a perfect job but where I am compared with where I was going is a miracle. (Oh, I bloody HATE it when sober folk yap on about miracles but this is probably why. No two ways about it – the way I drank and the sheer quantities of wine I put away amounted to “suicidal drinking”. Yes, that’s a thing). So whilst the year did begin with monstrous drinking, I gave myself the best gift: sobriety and a shot at life again.

And 2018 has been a string of magical gems that I have been present for: Ronnie Scott’s, friends over from Sweden, Paris, Foo Fighters in Gothenburg, the Mighty Hike, Lipari, Sweden…. Pretty amazing. To just think I initially thought I’d enjoy life less without the chance to poison myself and actively working to shorten my life whilst hurting my loved ones in the process. Yes, it’s madness, it’s all fucking madness.

Yesterday hubby and I went for a walk around the park. I was tired due to the world’s most uncomfortable bed at a little hotel in the Chilterns where I took hubby for a little getaway. But off we went. We did both comment during our walk that we were walking faster than usual. Hubby had a sore back and hasn’t been allowed much exercise so the last time he came with me on a walk was back in July before our holidays. Normally it takes us one hour and 35-37 minutes, around the inner perimeter of the park which is exactly 10k. 1.31! Felt awesome! Walked fast enough to get a tiny bit breathless and sweaty. Must be the work of Dimples and getting back into running – I’m getting stronger! I must be! And make no mistake – I’m getting stronger because I am able to be the person I was always meant to be, and that person loves being active and feeling strong. I don’t know if I agree with Dimples when she says I “look strong” during the exercise sessions but I am absolutely starting to feel it. As it happens she is away for a week so no sessions until next week now, but I have contacted the gym and will be signing up this week so that by the time our last sessions are done I’ll seamlessly be working out solo too.

If you’d told me last year at this point that I would go on to enjoy all these things booze free and then sign up for the gym too, I’m not sure I would have believed you. I would have wanted it to be true, definitely, but I doubt I would have had the courage to actually believe it. Hopelessness in the face of alcoholism would have made it all seem so far fetched. Like a utopia, almost. And yet it isn’t. Perhaps I’m not free yet, perhaps I’ll never be fully free but I’ll happily settle for what I have now. My addiction has been forced into a cage and that’s amazing, but I’ll just have to accept that I can’t look away for too long because the cage has no lock. But I can live with that. If that’s as free as I can ever get, it’s still a win.

Progress, not perfection, as they say. But this IS perfection as far as I’m concerned. Every last minute that I’m sober is perfection.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Guerrilla Tactics

It’s a beautiful Monday morning and London seems to be going in to that seam between summer and autumn with a freshness to the air that feels so good after the humidity of the past months. Still humid and a little muggy and I sweated a freaking ocean on my run yesterday. When I say ‘run’ I refer to the total of 12 minutes I actually jogged. Have a 10k app that is supposed to get me up to speed again. Or not speed perhaps, just get me to a state where I can chug along 10k without having to stop jogging and walk. All in good time. But yes, a gloriously beautiful morning here.

You could say that where I am right now is like the scene from Jaws, think it’s the first one with that woman swimming along and you hear the ominous music that signals the approach of Sharkie-doo with the camera shot zooming in on her from deep in the water below:

  1. Beautiful day.
  2. I feel rested, content and happy.
  3. Add feeling of additional physical wellness due to PT sessions and getting back into running.
  4. I have tomorrow off – albeit standard August procedure, not my Drunkard’s Planning.
  5. Hubby is at Heathrow about to board a flight to the States.

jaws

Oh yeah, I’m that chick in the water and Sharkie-doodle-doo is lurking in the depths below. Do I trust in strength I want to believe I have? Or do I ask for help? I didn’t fucking plan to develop alcoholism! If it had been part of the plan I wouldn’t have moved abroad, because right about now it would be really good to speak the following words:

  1. Hey Mum, I’m OK so don’t worry, but today is a tight spot for me so I’m staying with you for a few days until hubby’s back. 
  2. Dad! How’s it going? Let’s go moose spotting and don’t drop me home until after 11pm because I’ll never want to start drinking that late. 
  3. Hi there brother D, I’m sorry to do this to you but I’m not home dry yet so I’m going to camp out in your spare room. Thanks. 
  4. Cherokee, I feel a tad wobbly so would you mind babysitting me? Yep, I know, ridiculous but all I need is just your presence and we’ll have a nice time I promise.

Well. Those luxuries are far away and so I’ll just have to make do with the anchors I do have and I feel cautiously confident it’ll be fine. There are people I can reach out to here too should I need it, but it never hurts to have a plan and I do. Groceries arrive between 3 and 4pm (can’t be drunk). Window man is over at 5pm to measure everything up (can’t be bloody pissed for that, now can I?). Going for a 10k walk (not possible even with the THOUGHT of booze in my head because the only place I’ll walk then is the fucking store).

The heaviest anchor is Bambino, who is arriving back today after staying at his dad’s last night. I’ve been as open as I can with him and have explained everything except the A-word and just a couple of days ago I received a hug from him with the words “you’re doing well, Mum, I’m proud of you“. It was after I’d been for a gym session and walked back in, and I can promise you that he wasn’t referring to how many squats I’d done. My kid is over-joyed because I’ve quit drinking – if I then decide to take up knitting or train spotting he doesn’t give a honking hoot about. I don’t even think he’d care if I decided to join the circus so long as I’m sober. He might not spell it out but it was me quitting drinking that he meant and nothing else. In a way that makes me want to punch myself in the face. No 13-yearold should ever have to tell their goddamn parent they’re proud of them for not getting smashed on a daily basis anymore. But there we are, I can’t change any of that now, but what I can do is continue to show my boy that I want to be the best I can be and that I’m working hard at this. For all my failures and everything I’ve fucked up, this is my little chance to show him I can do and be better. Not even this rotten drunk would get drunk in front of Bambino now. Not behind his back either. Never again. For such a skinny little twig he is the heaviest anchor of them all.

I’ll be honest, there is no ping! in my head. I’ve felt like this every time hubby’s been away though. We talked about it last night, how I’ve felt a bit vulnerable each time he’s gone away with work but how it’s been fine in the end. Reality has never lived up to my worries beforehand. It rarely does, right? Perhaps it’s a good thing though, to worry like this? I’m going to see it that way I think, that it’s positive that I’m aware of the fact that this is really my weakest point – solitude and a good mood – and I’m just getting myself a little worked up but that the sense of vulnerability is actually serving me well. The Beast doesn’t fight fair, it’s all guerrilla and surprise tactics, but it’s always harder for it to get me when I’m anticipating an attack. The Beast would be much more likely to get me when I don’t expect it. See? I’ve got this.

I’ve been nervous before when hubby’s gone but when push has come to shove it’s actually been fine. That’s the thing with worrying. Like when I have to have a needle. It’s the size of Burj Khalifa in my head but then turns out it’s no big deal at all. Someone said that worrying is like a rocking chair: it’ll keep you occupied but won’t get you anywhere. Well, that makes worrying seem really pointless, but I’m going to stick my neck out and say that when it comes to alcoholism it’s actually another tool. OK, hopefully I’ll always discover that hey, I was fine in the end and any worry I felt was totally needless, but better that than getting ambushed by a monster that doesn’t play fair.

There’s one thing I’m really determined to get right, and again hubby and I spoke about it last night. As much as it’s OK to need those around you, I can’t bloody make my sobriety hang on other people. Hubby is my bestie and I have this whole army of amazing friends and a kick-ass family, but THIS IS MY FIGHT. They can come watch and they can cheer me on and even wipe my brow and hand me a bottle of water, but I can’t remove my gloves or flee from the ring if they leave the arena. I have to keep fighting even when the whole crowd is cheering on my opponent. Go Sauvignon Blanc! Finish her! Even then I have to fight. So me being sober today has to come from me. I have to focus on that I don’t want to drink and not worry because I’m flying solo for a few short days. No, I can’t go and stay at Mum’s, nor can I have a babysitter. I just have to pull on my big girl pants and show who’s boss.

Most of all, I’m reminding myself why I don’t want to drink. I’m forcing myself to in my head list positive things that drinking would bring – there aren’t any, only lots of bad shit. Nothing else.

I’ve got this.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Dirty Knickers

Once again, let’s go back to what we can do when we know someone we care about drinks too much….. As an alcoholic, this is a very interesting one for me and I have often wondered if there might have been something someone could have said or done to make me get to my turning point sooner. My instinctive and spontaneous answer is simple: nothing. Perhaps the truer answer, however, is that I still don’t know.

I had a conversation with one of my sisters-in-law, M. Instead of an initial, let’s give her a nickname for the purposes of this blog as we are close and chances are I’ll write about her again. Straighty! Oh, how apt! She is the most orderly, by-the-book person I know. A straight arrow and a straight shooter. Beyond this, she also has a better grip than your average non-alcoholic Joe on what alcoholism is due to her profession – this is particularly refreshing as it cuts out a whole catalogue of misconceptions and ignorance around what an alcoholic is. She gets a lot of it. So anyway, Straighty and I had a little exchange yesterday because I came away a little worried that I had dropped the A-bomb like that and might have caused my brother additional worry given he in that moment went from having a sister who drinks too much to having a sister who’s an alcoholic. I think the way I actually put it to them was “well, I’m a raging alcoholic, a full-on, pure bred drunkard“. I am nothing if not blunt. So I wanted to emphasise that me having come to understand and accept this, along with a genuine and sincere wish to stay sober, is good news and hopefully something my brother (and her, of course) can see as a positive thing.

Straighty did what Straighty does and told me straight.

I don’t think your brother worries more. I think he feels it’s a good thing you’ve come to this point and you just confirmed what we’ve believed for some time now anyway.

Well, that’s good and exactly what I wanted – remove some pain, worry and fear by showing that hey, I get it and I’m trying to turn it all around. It was a good exchange to have, albeit via e-mail. We only see each other for a few days twice a year and with us rushing around to see everyone and her a busy mother of four with at least one kid whining for her attention, the uninterrupted moments she and I get just the two of us are extremely rare. Straighty felt I shouldn’t bother trying to “save” anyone’s feelings when it comes to saying I’m an alcoholic. It’s the truth, so what? But for me it is 100% about that when it comes to my parents, saving their feelings. They live in a small town and they are of the generation and upbringing where one keeps one’s dirty laundry to oneself and having an alkie for a daughter would bring shame – lots of it. There is endless gossip, everyone’s in everyone else’s business and you can’t fucking fart without it being the talk of the town in that place, I swear. And that generation is also more worried about how it looks than how it feels, my father and stepdragon two fine examples of how all dirt should be brushed under the carpet. Out of sight. Let me clarify: in all likelihood they all know that I’m a drunk, but it’d be much worse to put a label on it and if other people knew.

I have no issue with saying I’m an alcoholic, much less with what others might think – after all, I’m not going to be more (or less) of an alcoholic just because people talk about it, right? To be fair, if I can get people to talk about it, it’d be my greatest achievement in life. And my sobriety is much more important than people’s opinions – besides, if I didn’t have my sobriety I’d have no life for anyone to have opinions about in the first place. So for me it’s irrelevant, plus I don’t live there so it wouldn’t affect me anyway.

kn

But for my parents I figured it might just be too painful to hear so I told them the truth in a softer (but no less honest) way: I drink too much, I can’t stop when I start and it doesn’t do anything for me. Straighty made a good point though, a VERY good point:

If you just tell everyone straight, then it becomes easier to understand and absorb, and no one has to wonder how far or how low. If you just say you’re an alcoholic, everyone will understand how serious it is.

True. Can’t argue with that. But still it does bother me how it might be too tough for them to deal with. Having said that, I think just like with Straighty and my brother D, my parents (and everyone else who knows me) will already bloody know and perhaps it’ll be a relief for them as much as it is for me to just put those awful knickers out to air where everyone can see them. Perhaps there’ll be a moment to present the A-word, straight and clear but without it being a bomb. And after all, they can choose if they want to tell anyone or not. It’s not a secret. I’ve really been searching my soul if there is part of me holding back in front of them for any other reason than wanting to save them from hurt, and there genuinely isn’t a single one. And they are in a minority anyway, because I’ve told pretty much everyone without shying away from any detail. Unlike Straighty – as much as I do also agree she is right in a way – I do still worry about them having to hear that particular word. Straighty understands a whole lot more than most non-alkies and therefore she is easy to discuss it with, but sometimes she’s just a bit too… ….straight.

So anyway. The point here was back to my still unanswered (or unanswerable) question as to whether there would have been anything anyone could have said or done to make me quit sooner. So if we take Straighty and my brother D. She tells me they talked about it on numerous occasions and when I told them I’m an alcoholic it only confirmed what they had already known, or at least suspected, for quite a long time. Here’s the funny bit though…. Or not so funny. No, it’s funny. I think. At Christmas, just last Christmas, do you know what their present to me was? A bottle of Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc – my favourite, darling kind.

This is what I mean when I’ve pointed out how alcohol is the mother of all bitches to walk away from in terms of getting people around you to understand. Because not only is it considered normal, it is encouraged too, to consume ethanol as part of social occasions. And these are two people who strongly suspect or pretty much know that their sister/sister-in-law has a massive drinking problem, yet gives her a bottle of wine for Christmas. WOW. I’m not saying this is wrong of them, I’m pointing out how fucking mad it all is. Not them, IT! They loved me then, as they do now. Cared for me, as they do now. Worried about me, as they hopefully do a little less now. But isn’t that just absolutely crazy? Like giving a gram of heroine for Christmas to someone you love who you think might be a junkie. Would you?

I reiterate what I kind of think – that if you confront someone you love and tell them their drinking (or whatever other behaviour or drug or condition or what have you it might be) worries you, you are likely to be met with an angry reaction and the person with the possible problem shutting you out. So I’m not in any way saying they did anything wrong, I’m just saying it’s crazy. I think in an even crazier way, it made me less uncomfortable around them and perhaps therefore more likely to tell them straight when I was ready. Because I always knew I wasn’t any good at hiding it.

Anyway. There we are and do let me know your thoughts – there is no end to how much this fascinates me.

Today I’m not going to drink.