Disney Prince Auditions

Someone asked me whether I could please clone my husband. I grinned from ear to ear, partly because I felt smug because I’m the lucky woman who got to marry him and partly because I knew he’d love hearing it.

Why would someone say that?” he asked as he stirred various saucepans going on the cooker and looked at me a little bemused, “what did you write to make them say that?

Here’s one of the most endearing things about him: he is easily the loveliest human being you could imagine, just downright GOOD AND DECENT, and then add that he’s ever so pretty and has magnificent legs, yet he doesn’t quite know any of that. It’s a little baffling actually – if I were him I’d positively STRUT everywhere accompanied by my own marching band and parade, honestly. But no, he seems oblivious to what a fantastic person he is. Hence he thought I might have written one of my slightly silly posts praising his perfect bottom (it’s freaking glorious) or somehow exaggerated how supportive he is. To be clear – his bottom was carved by angels and it’s not possible to truly convey, never mind exaggerate, how amazing Hubby has been when it comes to my sobriety. But sometimes I feel like shaking him and shout HAVE YOU MET YOU?! when I’m trying to tell him how awesome he is and he doesn’t seem to get it.

He’s so secure in himself and would never compromise his values or principles, but nor does he walk around all puffed up. He just stands firmly in his spot and has more integrity than anyone else I know. And as for me, I spend an insane amount of time feeling grateful for this best friend of mine. And his bottom.

Now, alcoholic or otherwise, to be married to your best friend and the person you admire and respect more than anyone else in the world is a blessing. To be an alcoholic and have the support and love of that best friend throughout your journey is something I wish we could all have. OK, I got sober and no one else did that for me, but just imagine what it might have been like to have a partner who couldn’t (or worse – wouldn’t want to) understand what you’re up against. Or a partner who decided oh fuck this and left? I am very, very lucky – trust me, I know I am. And so I thought it was in order that I point out how invaluable it is to have a support network and in particular be able to confide in (and if necessary lean on) your partner. Well, whether it’s a spouse or a sibling or a friend, just feeling safe in the knowledge someone close to you is there for you and cheering you on is priceless.

One of the best things Hubby’s done for me in my sobriety is how he’s never pushed me. Needless to say, he did worry about my drinking and sometimes he’d tell me he did. But he never told me to stop or gave me any ultimatum. He simply stated that he was worried but that I’m an adult and make my own decisions and he’d always be by my side regardless. I’ll have to insert our wedding photo into this post or you won’t believe he’s real! I’m not saying anyone should put up with someone else’s drinking if it makes you miserable and it’s absolutely acceptable to give ultimatums, by the way. I’m just saying this is how it all was in our case. Maybe I should get Hubby to write a blog post with a little insight into his perspective of this past year and the years that came before it. God knows how he put up with me – drunk OR sober!

Anyway, when I reached my turning point, he was – as he always is – open and honest and straight up with me. He didn’t sugar coat anything to make me feel better – he simply agreed that yep, it’s pretty bad and it needs to be fixed, but didn’t put me under pressure either. Hubby always had my back and I know it made a difference for me. I knew that he’d catch me if I tripped and help me up again and that’s a massive advantage to have. I mean, if you’re not terrified of failing then trying in the first place isn’t so scary, right?

Hubby isn’t an alcoholic and so to him it really does seem like lunacy in its purest form that I can’t stop drinking if I start. Yet he has asked questions over and over, time and time again in order to understand. You almost cannot fail when you have a partner like him. He asked if I wanted him to stop drinking too and appeared totally willing to do so if it would help me. Personally it doesn’t bother me so I said no, but isn’t that just amazingly kind and even heroic? As the commenter who enquired about potentially cloning him so accurately noted: “what a guy“. Yes indeed. What a guy.

Before I start getting offers from Disney for them to have Hubby audition for turning him into their next Prince Charming, I should point out that he is just a human being like the rest of us. Hubby just happens to be a really great one. The greatest, actually. Yes, I believe I’d be sober even on my own because I don’t think your sobriety can ever hang on someone else, but he’s made a huge difference and the comment about cloning him really made me think because I wish everyone could have a partner just like Hubby. I often hear in sobriety groups how people’s partners sometimes make their recovery harder, how someone’s husband might even try to sabotage her attempts at getting sober or how someone’s wife belittled their determination to change. That’s such a shame and it makes me feel really sad every time.

It’s a big ask of anyone to support someone through recovery but never once has Hubby made me feel like I’m a burden. Instead he’ll high-five me or get me a little card to say congratulations when I reach a milestone or give me a big hug and tell me he’s proud of me. That in itself makes me more motivated. Not that anyone needs further evidence it’s good to stop drinking, but it reinforces the decision when you see all these rewards – whether it’s how well you sleep again or a high-five from someone who loves you.

Well, there we are. An ode to Hubby.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Heart Open, Soul Laid Bare

You’d think that I, as a recovering alcoholic, would have absolute shed loads of patience and empathy for those who are fighting addiction or mental health issues or both. Not so much. It’d appear my tolerance level is surprisingly low. This is not least illustrated by how frustrated I sometimes get with my friend Kitten who suffers severe depression, but also another person in my close vicinity who also suffers depression and panic attacks. OK, now you’ll in all likelihood think I’m a nasty piece of work and perhaps I am. Because I was never confronted about my own addiction I can’t give you any accurate answer as to how that might have gone down – I had the luxury of reaching my rock bottom on my own and broadly speaking I stopped when I’d had enough. In other words, I stopped when I was ready to and I stopped for me. Therefore I can only guess at what would have happened if someone close to me had cornered me, given me an ultimatum and I’d been faced with stop-drinking-or-else.

I don’t have to dig particularly deep to realise that I probably would have responded well to being confronted during the last three or four years. I’m pretty sure I would have broken down from sheer relief and agreed to fight with all my might to get sober – honestly. There were so many times I secretly almost wished something would happen, something that’d force me. It’s crazy to think now how shit scared I was of even attempting to stop drinking, but the sad truth is that I didn’t believe I’d be able to. It just seemed too high of a mountain to climb and I knew I wouldn’t even get to base camp. Inside I was crying out for someone to see how I was sinking, for someone to drag me out of it. Of course, we all know that the only person who can drag you out of addiction is YOU, but I imagine it’s probably common that people get to a stage where they almost hope the world will come crashing down – I certainly did. By ‘crashing down’ I don’t necessarily mean something huge or super scary, I mean anything that would force the spot light on to the real issue.

My rock bottom may seem pretty harmless to those who crashed harder than I did. It might even seem laughably kind to those who had to lose much more than I did. After all, I got away with “only” having hurt and scared my child, ensured I’d never achieved much, worried my husband and of course a generous helping of good old fashioned shame. I’d not lost my child, nor had I ever really put him in danger or had him go without (well – he went without a fully present mother). Despite being unable to be my best, I always managed to hold down a job. My husband never threatened to leave me, much less did. And my shame didn’t extend to losing my driver’s licence or being arrested. So in many ways I do appreciate that my rock bottom wasn’t as vicious and terrifying as it could have been. Oh… YET. Always remember YET.

It was just short of a year ago. January 22nd, to be precise, a Monday. I was so hungover I couldn’t get myself to work. Hell, I couldn’t even stand until well into the afternoon. Sunday evening had been a regular evening, I can’t remember what we did but it definitely wasn’t some big date night or party or anything like that. An educated guess would be we had gone to the pub for “a couple of drinks” and me knocking back probably three, then insisting we got more wine to have at home. At home I’d probably done my usual Anna and put away at least one and a half bottles more, guzzling away like there was no tomorrow compared with Hubby nursing one or possibly two glasses. And of course my tomorrow was horrific and brutal. I called in sick, or rather texted my boss who probably responded with his usual good natured and unsuspecting “poor you, hope you feel better soon“.

Late afternoon I’d showered, weak and shaky and frightened of passing out. Hubby got home in the evening and I don’t think we did anything, from memory it was an uneventful Monday evening. What I do remember clearly however, is the shame and guilt I felt not telling Hubby I’d failed to get to work. It’s weird actually, because stopping wasn’t on my radar. I knew I was eyeball deep in shit obviously, but still hadn’t seen my opportunity – or crash – to reach out for help and speak the words. It only happened when it happened and it was on a Monday that was like hundreds just like it. We were lying in bed in the evening, facing each other and chatting about the day as we normally do.

Can you tell me something, Anna?” Hubby asked.

I went cold, perhaps knowing what was coming. Perhaps I knew it was obvious.

Did you go to work today?

There it was. Inside me, that voice I’d heard so many times was positively screaming at me. Before it had whispered so often and pleaded with me but now it was a desperate cry, like when you scream yourself coarse. Do it! Say it! Reach out now. Do it now. He’s got your back. SAY IT. So I did.

No,” I said meekly and turned on my back, staring at the ceiling as though I was hoping my next sentence might be helpfully written across it. “[Hubby], I’m scared. I have to stop drinking. I’m scared of where it’s taking me.

There. The words that had been stuck in my throat for so long. Underneath the covers Hubby’s hand found it’s way over my stomach and grabbed me gently around the waist, pulling me a little closer.

Anna, you’re already there.

His voice was soft and kind, as usual his approach was balanced and fair and amazingly free of judgment. And it all spilled out of me. All I’d been hiding, how much I’d struggled, how desperate I was to stop. We went to sleep the way we always do, tangled up in each other, and I remember clearly waking up that way too on Tuesday 23rd January 2018. That was the day I made the most important decision in my life. I knew there was no turning back and I knew it was sink or swim. So I swam. It was only when I truly accepted that the game was up that I found the warrior in me, the woman who wants to live life fully and not have that dreadful, sorry existence with one foot in the grave. That was when I could push off, jump off the edge, let go of the railings. Thank God, is all I can say. Thank God.

That same evening I’d looked up a local AA meeting, an open one, meaning anyone can go and not just alcoholics. I collected Hubby from the train station and drove straight there. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own and also I knew Hubby would benefit from understanding better what I was up against. He always used to say I just needed to cut down. Don’t get me wrong, my drinking wasn’t a new topic and Hubby had told me on occasion he worried about me, but I don’t think he ever considered the A-word. In fact, the evening before when I let it all out he’d even said “but it’s not like you’re an alcoholic” – perhaps we both needed to understand it all, and I suppose AA meetings were the logical place to start. I knew in my heart there could be no half way house for me, so I went all in with my heart open and my soul laid bare.

Perhaps an accurate way of describing what rock bottom was for me would be to say it was the moment I finally felt hope that there could be another way. I saw clearly where I was going and it scared me senseless. I didn’t want my son to have to go on with Drunk Mum and I didn’t want Hubby to have to go on with Drunk Wifey. Nor did I want to BE Drunk Me anymore. I’d had enough. I felt done. For real, this time. Rock bottom for me was the moment I knew what I had to do. I knew in my heart I’m an alcoholic, I knew that moderation will never be available to me, I knew I had to stop and stop completely, and I knew it had to be now. I guess the correct term is acceptance. I accepted all those things, and what’s more, I embraced them. Believe it or not, saying out loud that I’m an alcoholic and accepting it in my heart didn’t fill me with shame – it filled me with relief.

Yet another way of describing this would be to say I truly accepted and understood my own limitations. Much like Hubby accepts and understands he is allergic to kiwi fruit, or how a diabetic accepts and understands they have to carry around an insulin pen. Sort of. The beauty of it all is of course that being an alcoholic doesn’t limit me in any way. You might think I’m crazy but I consider it a much worse tragedy to be allergic to a fruit as delicious as kiwi. Honestly. But that’s neither here nor there, because what I was getting at in this post is the importance of acceptance. And this is where I sometimes find I have zero tolerance with Kitten as well as Cupcake (named that way due to excessive sweetness). Kitten makes one maddening decision after the other and Cupcake, who once held up an entire flight by freaking out and having to be taken off, decides to book holidays abroad when she to date hasn’t managed to even go on a weekend away within the country.

What I find frustrating is how both on one hand seem to have clarity of their illnesses (depression for Kitten and depression, anxiety and severe panic attacks for Cupcake), yet have these mad bursts of absolutely failing to see that they plunge themselves out of the ashes and into the fire. As a recovering alcoholic with a black belt in denial you’d think I’d have more empathy in these instances. This is when it’d probably be really useful for Sober Me to try to talk sense to Drunk Me, who probably did over those last few years know there was a massive problem yet continued to deny, deny, deny. Isn’t that weird that this stuff winds me up? Or am I just a shitty old bitch? Who knows, but it struck me as a bit ridiculous. I will continue to try harder at that patience thing.

I suppose in all this rambling on, what I wanted to get at is how it for me was crucial to really accept the state of affairs. Whether you label it a problem or an illness, I could only stop when I’d accepted and understood what it was. And I’d also had enough, perhaps that’s even more important – the more I think about it even as I’m typing this, perhaps that was the real game changer. I’d had it.

Anyway. I count 23rd January as my important date. The last time I drank was 21st January 2018 but it’s the 23rd that matters to me because that’s when I really made the decision.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Old School Jazz Legends

Mm, I get by with a little help from my friends“.

How true that is. Although when I looked up the lyrics just then I realised those naughty Liverpool boys also sing “mm, I get HIGH with a little help from my friends” too, which now makes me like this less from the perspective of quoting it in a sobriety blog. To be fair though, many of the music legends I love the most seem to have had rather serious drug addictions and you’ll have to admit the Beatles are squeaky clean compared with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin if we just look at the 60s alone. Jeez, drugs and alcohol have really extinguished the flames of some extraordinarily talented people. That saddest of lists really is endless. Just imagine where Joplin could have gone. I mean, that powerful, gravelly, wise-old-woman voice coming out of that messy looking little girl! OK, young woman, but still. Just imagine where she would have got to once she’d added more life, years, experience and grit. And this can be said of so many. In recent times there is of course the tragedy of Amy Winehouse, who even in her early twenties had a voice and song writing talent that eclipsed even the old school jazz legends – just imagine how her talent and music might have developed.

It strikes me that these are pained geniuses, that their talent and creativity are perhaps enhanced by pain. I mean, would their work be half as interesting had they been straight laced and privileged average Joes? Gosh, this sounds like I’m now saying they’re better because they were drug addicts and that’s not it at all – I just wonder if it’s their pained and tortured souls that give them depth, that’s all. Unsurprising, I guess. Just a shame that giving full rein to their musical talents wasn’t enough to process their demons and heavier anesthesia was required. Things will sooner or later turn to shit if you more than dabble with drugs. And sometimes even dabbling is enough to sign a death warrant. After all, I don’t know if a single addict deliberately set out to become one.

Gosh, I should make GET TO THE GODDAMN POINT my New Year’s resolution! Where were we? Friends!

I just read functioningguzzler‘s most recent post about hitting her 11 months sober and she’s listed 11 reasons why life sober feels like magic. And as I sat here nodding – given I can relate to everything she said as usual – I also suddenly felt super excited. FG is special to me, you see. I’ve followed her blog since just a few months into my sobriety and these days she is a friend in real life too *sniff* – she’s my very own unicorn and as far as I’m concerned she fucking shits rainbows. Beyond an amazing friendship I know will last for life, she’s also my sister in arms. We got sober around the same time and we’ve gone through all the weirdness, struggles, victories and epiphanies of early sobriety together. We’ve fought this shoulder to shoulder. When I read her post about 11 months sober I was hit by this sense of excitement, and because I’m me and an emotional hurricane, I keep having to force back tears of joy that threaten to overwhelm me. We’ll both be hitting that huge milestone around the same time – me in 19 days and FG about 10 days after that – and it’s so exciting to share this. I keep getting images in my mind about us reaching a finishing line after a grueling race together, or coming back from war. Or two women high-fiving each other because we got somewhere we probably didn’t think we’d ever be. Well, I certainly didn’t.

Sobriety and the sweet victory of reaching milestones is always ours alone, because no matter what there is no one else who can do it for you, but it’s pretty cool to cross that line with people who have been through the same journey.

Obviously it doesn’t end there. One year sober is just that: one year. And with any luck, I’ll be around for many more. If I make it to my eighties, there’ll be at least 40 more years. If I get to 86 years of age, it’ll mean the second half of my life was lived sober. WITH ANY LUCK. And work. And determination. And humility. Lots and lots of humility. Never forget, Anna, the nature of the Beast. It’s always with me because it’s inside me. So this one year will just be one small section of a life I hope I have plenty left of. Like the first kilo when you need to shed 30 I suppose – important, yes, and amazing, absolutely, but only a small part of a much bigger journey. And let’s not forget I’m not quite there yet.

A year ago, I was 11 days sober and getting to one month wasn’t at all a given – in fact, I was surprised when I did! I won’t lie, I feel a lot more confident now and my sobriety no longer feels uncertain and fragile but the road is (and always will be – it’s called LIFE!) full of pot holes that I could so easily fall into if I don’t pay attention. So pay attention I will and I hope you give me an earful if I ever appear to lose sight of the things I must keep in sharp, unwavering focus. Those things are basically my own fallacies. Pretty much how you might take care when you exercise – Hubby has a troublesome calf muscle due to an old injury and in order to keep fit he has to adjust his exercise accordingly and not head out for long runs too often and hit the gym instead as a lot of running aggravates it. Or how you adjust the radiators in your home because some rooms get colder than others. Work with what you have – it doesn’t have to stop you, it just means you have to know yourself and find the way that works. What I’ve discovered is true for me is that it’s usually something to do with balance.

As we’re on to anniversaries, today is 67 months for hubby and I. I got him a card that had on the front “I love you more than food“. They always exaggerate on those things, don’t they? So today it’s pretty sweet being me – sober AND the most amazing man in the world still appears to want to be married to me. I’m frantically doing fist pumps as I type this with one hand. Honestly. Teehee.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Time to Get Moving

Happy New Year! May 2019 be the best one yet!

Actually, given it’s the first time I’ve gone into a new year sober, I’d say 2019’s chances of being pretty spectacular are better than good. I took a break from most things online over Christmas and except blogging I didn’t miss it. I loved Facebook when it first came and for a while I was one of those irritating people who couldn’t do a thing without checking in or posting a picture, but I must have overdosed because I can’t bloody stand it now. I removed my whole account and it was partly because I had ended up inviting 300 “friends” to see every last aspect of my life and I freaked out. To be very clear, I do not have 300 friends – they may have been people I’d say hello to if I bumped into them, along the lines of “we sat next to each other in third grade” or “the brother of a girl I took Spanish with”, but certainly not people who were in my life. Not really. So down it came and a year later I created a new account and the 50-or-so people I’m connected with today are people I actually have at least SOME sort of interaction with beyond attending the same scout camp in June 1984. But even so, I take little interest in it these days and I certainly feel little need (or want) to post anything. Hubby is more into it and likes to take selfies when we’re out somewhere and I grudgingly agree some of the time, but I find myself actually resisting letting the world know what we’re up to.

There’s not a single photo of you and me,” Hubby said when we looked through the photos of our Christmas break.

I think it struck us both as a little sad at first. But then it became really obvious why. There isn’t one because we were enjoying the moments by being in them as opposed to posing up a storm. I also thought “damn, wish I’d taken a photo” when Cherokee and I went for a walk along this beautiful trail in the snow and sunshine – it would have been a lovely one too, but the reason why I didn’t was because I didn’t think to do it. We were too busy walking and talking. So it sort of struck me that, for me personally, the fewer photos I have of something, the better time I had – this seems to be the case for me because if I’m having a really lovely time I’m too caught up in whatever I’m doing to whip out my phone to document it all.

Then again, the place where I grew up is stunningly beautiful – there is nowhere like it and when I one morning had dropped off hubby and Bonus #2 who were going off on a hike through the forest with my dad, the lake looked so beautiful I had to capture it. It was like something out of a fairytale and I couldn’t let it go. Unfortunately a photo can never quite do it justice and I wish I could just transport you to that moment in time in that very spot, but this will have to do:

fryken

A new year often means a new start, but I have no resolutions this year. I mean I have lots of things I want to do and achieve, things I need to get on with now, but I haven’t quite managed to put those into words yet. 2018 was the year I got sober and I sort of feel 2019 should be the year I got serious. No more treading water and just practicing staying afloat, I’ve got that bit sussed and now it’s time I get moving. There are the big statements and broad brush strokes you can make of course, but I am going to take a bit of time and really plan a lot of it out. “Work towards becoming an addiction counsellor” is not specific enough – I need to list all the things I need to do to get there, what courses to sign up for, where I can volunteer, ways in. Amazingly, I’ve patiently (yes, “patiently” – ME!!) laid the ground work there and just need to wait another 20 days and I’ll be able to get going with a rehab I’ve already been in touch with and been to see twice. 20 days from now is when I hit one year sober, you see, and they require you to have this under your belt before working for them, which makes sense as the first year is when you’re most likely to lose your footing. But there is much else besides (fitness, writing, bashing metal into shape, etc) and now that I’m beginning to feel more solid and secure in my sobriety (in that it’s no longer strange – it just IS), I can turn my sights to the things I want to achieve.

I repeat, however, in case anyone reading is new to being sober… It’s a life long journey and I will never lose sight of why I got sober. I’m just saying that a year in, sober is my new normal and I don’t find myself giving it much thought when I’m in situations where previously I would have been drinking. Like New Year’s. No big deal. It’s funny actually and I said it to my brother as I handed him a bag containing Prosecco, wine, beers and Bailey’s for New Year’s Eve, that of all people it was the alcoholic who was in charge of getting the booze.

Holy crap, who else is coming? Have you invited all of London?” my brother exclaimed as he checked through the contents.

What did you expect, sending a drunk to buy booze!” I told him and made sure I smiled so he’d know it wasn’t a problem.

And that’s the funny thing about it. I literally stood there in the store and tried to calculate how much booze normal people might drink and couldn’t for the life of me work out what might be the right amount. I sort of halved my standard everyday intake based on New Year’s being a big celebration and people probably drink more than they usually would and for six adults it didn’t seem excessive to me to assume a bottle of wine each in addition to a beer or two, a glass of bubbly and perhaps a bit of Bailey’s. Is it? My brother certainly seemed to think so. Well. I was obviously sober at midnight and to be honest, no one else seemed intoxicated. There was part of me that cringed at how awful I must have looked all these years always being the one who got totally hammered. Actually, I didn’t participate if I could get out of it for that reason. Hah! There is literally nothing about alcohol that I miss. Good riddance, you fucker.

Bonus #2 asked during the evening if I found it strange or if I craved alcohol, but I honestly don’t at this point. In the beginning I was acutely aware of it but now, well, it just is. I don’t even feel awkward. Pretty sweet, eh?

So I went into 2019 the way I hope I will go into every year for the rest of my life: hopeful, calm, content, present and excited for the future. Please God, let me always remain sober. I’ll never ask for anything more.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Merry Christmas

Ah, it’s one of those times when I feel I want to have something really important, insightful and well thought out to say. You know, like I already think about my one year soberversary even though I’m still three days away from 11 months and really shouldn’t focus on much beyond this very day when it comes to my sobriety. That’s me though, I always count my chickens well before they hatch. But OK, let’s slow down a little and go with this new way of life I’ve – in spite of myself – have begun to quite like since I ditched the booze: the middle gears. Not always and not fully, but my existence isn’t just filled with extremes now, and instead of only mountains high, valleys low, I now also enjoy what someone once called the gentle rollers. I guess to my own mind I’m in a pretty solid place right now when it comes to sobriety. Make no mistake – I don’t consider myself “cured” or “done with it” or anything like that! I’m just saying that at the 11 month mark I feel I’m in as great a place as I could be and this freedom hinges on me always remembering the road that lead me here and how little it’d take to send me right back to where I started. No thanks!

Christmas is just around the corner and so like over our summer holiday I suspect Storm will be a little quiet until we return from Sweden in the new year. Like when we went to Italy and pictured myself sitting on our sea view balcony blogging, I always imagine writing when we’re in Sweden but I know we’ll be rushing around all over the place like blue-arsed flies. I’ll be lucky if I get to go to the toilet in peace to be honest.

tree.jpg

This is my first sober Christmas. I don’t feel it’s that big a deal, to be honest. My family aren’t big drinkers and besides, being around people who drink doesn’t bother me in the slightest anyway. Is that weird? I honestly feel no temptation but I also know that it’s in the small, unguarded moments I’m probably more likely to be vulnerable. Plus, Christmas is of course a time you spend surrounded by friends and family and all of mine know the score so it’d be incredibly difficult for me even if I did suddenly decide to do a u-turn. No, Christmas feels very safe, thankfully!

Genuinely though, being around people who drink hasn’t bothered me much at all. Last night hubby had a couple of glasses of wine. The only thing that actually made me go HUH? was when I offered to fill his glass up as I was getting something from the kitchen. Hubby told me “nah, I’m good“. Two glasses of wine, not even big ones. How in the holiest of fuckery-fuck-fucks do people do that? What a freak!! I feel like filming him as you would a rare animal for a documentary:

Here we see the moderate drinker in his own habitat, we move quietly to get closer to him and get a good shot. He has had two glasses of wine but declines a third. We are watching closely for stress signals but he seems calm and at peace. This is such an extraordinary phenomenon, one of nature’s great mysteries captured up close, very exciting! Alcoholics have been studied this species for centuries yet we are no closer to understanding its secrets. Oh! Shh! The moderate drinker is slowly getting up. What will he do? Wow, are you seeing what I’m seeing? This is truly a unique moment to observe him. He has got himself a glass of water, having walked past the fridge containing the open wine bottle. Can you believe it? What a magnificent and fascinating creature, truly one of Mother Nature’s most enigmatic conundrums in action!

May your Christmas be very merry and full of love, joy and peace. Don’t let the love you feel stay trapped inside – say those words, give those hugs and do those little things that will let someone know you truly care even if it’s something as small as a smile. Oh God, I’ve gone all love and light again, what’s happening to me?! Go on, spread a little love, the world needs it. And the world needs YOU, so never doubt the decision: stay sober. If you falter, reach out. If you fall, shout for someone to help you get back up. Then quit wearing dress shoes in the snow, you fucking numpty, and get a good pair of boots! (I mean, what next – trying to control your drinking? We tried that, remember? Oh, how we laughed and laughed). Whatever it takes, buddy – find your way and know you’re not alone.

Take good care and see you in 2019.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Gone Fishin’ With Gazza

In one of the sobriety forums I’m part of, there are often questions from those in the earliest stages of kicking the booze about when they’ll start to feel better. This, of course, is impossible to answer as we’re all different, but there are some things that appear to be common when we get sober and stages most of us seem to go through. As we all know, I can only speak for me, so this is what I have experienced so far and look back on from where I stand at 330 days. Oohh! Nice round number, eh!

Breaking the habit

When I took my first trembling, Bambi-on-the-ice steps into my new sober life, the most overwhelming feeling was restlessness and a slight sense of being a little lost. I guess this was mostly down to the actual habit – after all those years of pouring a glass of wine pretty much as soon as I got home, I was suddenly at a bit of a loose end. What now? I’m not going to lie, it felt really weird and I didn’t know what to do with myself. There was the definite sense of boredom because suddenly I had all these hours that I wasn’t sure what to do with and they seemed to pass so slowly. Time felt like something I had to sit through, suffer through and be rid of – it’s like time was my enemy right at the start.

Hubby and I would go for long drives in the evenings those first few weeks. I’m sure those who know better will tell you that distractions aren’t the way to truly deal with a problem but it worked for me. I needed to occupy myself during the witching hours and it seemed like as long as I got to about eight in the evening without a drink I was over the hump. This was a little bit down to my old ways of thinking, in this case that I always got started early as it would mean I’d be passed out by 10pm and would therefore have more hours between the last drink and waking up, which in turn (to my alcoholic brain anyway) meant the hangover would be less severe. Yes, I planned my drinking meticulously, almost always with the objective to make the inevitable discomfort as bearable as possible. If I were to have the first drink at 8pm this would mean I’d probably still be at it at midnight and that would make the following day even more of a shit storm to battle through. That meant that initially I relaxed a little if I got through that crucial time window.

I suppose what this does highlight is the same sort of philosophy as the AA mantra of “just for today”. Don’t worry about tomorrow, just focus on today and in my case I focused on just getting to 8pm. If I got to eight, I was OK, because in my head it would have been so bad to start late that it’d be pointless anyway. A drunkard’s logic is madness in its purest form but this is the brain I have and what I had to work with.

Little by little though, new habits crept in. I rediscovered my love of long, brisk walks and a couple of weeks in I walked around the park every single evening. We signed up for a south coast hike, which kept us out walking long distances most days of the week. And little by little…. …the norm of pouring a glass of wine was replaced by the habit of pulling my trainers on and looking forward to walking for an hour and a half whilst listening to an audiobook. I may have used a bit of force to shift my thinking – fake it ’til you make it – but soon enough my stubborn brain capitulated and it no longer required conscious thought and effort to dodge that wine, it just happened. Eventually I discovered – and to be honest it didn’t take that long – that I’d be on my way home and feel really excited again but it wasn’t about drinking. That, I think, is still one of my greatest victories because I was scared that boredom and restlessness would last and it didn’t.

I want to point out that I don’t consider alcohol abuse a matter of habit any more than I consider nicotine addiction such as smoking a habit. Yes, in a way it is, but if it was all down to a habit you wouldn’t need to light the cigarette – you could just step outside and hold it for a while and go through the motions without inhaling smoke, right? If it was all habit, I could just put something else in the glass, like water. My drinking had other root causes but breaking the habit that surrounded it helped distract me and fill my new found time with things that enrich my life instead of destroying it.

In intensive care

My body must have been really suffering – the amount I used to drink was enough to knock out a horse and I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that I am enormously grateful that I’m even still here. My drinking went on for many years, and I think my poor old body must have been exhausted from fighting to keep me alive. You know when you’ve been working your arse off and finally have some time off and the moment you draw breath and relax you get ill? Same thing, I reckon. When I stopped poisoning myself, all my defence systems could finally come off amber alert and take a much needed rest. Sometimes in medical emergencies doctors will put you in an induced coma and this is so that your body gets a chance to heal.

And no wonder I felt sluggish at the beginning! I cut out over 7,000 calories per week that I’d usually get from all that wine. I was so lethargic! I had no energy whatsoever. Still, I obviously felt amazing because I no longer had to spend my days hungover, but oh my Lord I was so exhausted. It felt like I’d been through war. I’m not a medical professional but I think those early days were my induced coma, when my body was simply on lock down to repair itself.

Need I even point out that even when I was feeling so tired I still felt like a brand new Anna because I was sober? Didn’t think so. It was blissful.

Quality shut-eye

The immediate benefit that was almost instantly delivered was sleep. Oh, glorious, splendid sleep! Drunken sleep meant passing out solid but then waking up at 4am like clockwork with my heart beating out of my chest and sweating, then lying there with severe anxiety until it was time to get up. Obviously that’s really poor sleep and this no doubt added to how atrocious I’d feel the following day. Or every day, rather. Just a couple of days in I was getting a solid block of sleep. I’d read a book until my eyelids got heavy and my mind stopped whirring, then fell asleep surprisingly easily and quickly and slept like a log without waking up until the morning. Yes, I felt tired in the beginning due to aforementioned repair work but my GOD, the sleep I enjoy since I quit drinking is just pure luxury. Priceless. I suppose what I was going to do here was write about the things that take a bit of getting used to and are tricky but I can’t not mention the joy of sleeping well because it’s probably the biggest change I experienced and it was there straight away.

Sweets for my sweet

This must have something to do with those 7,000 calories that suddenly disappeared. You’d think I’d be super slim by now, but oh no! Instead I put weight ON. There is no fairness in the world, I swear. I’ve never been big on sweets and I’ve never liked cakes or biscuits. I’ve always been a big eater (I eat like a truck driver) but never used to order dessert, just don’t like sweet stuff. Roll on sobriety and I’ve turned into the Cookie Monster. And imagine this poor body of mine having a HUGE energy supply suddenly removed. It’s confusing for it. So it got me fat just as a precaution. Thanks.

A lot of people seem to lose weight though and I hear this all the time. It’s all the fucking time that someone who recently quit will tell us others how they’ve lost a stone in that first month without doing a thing. I do hear this a lot more often than I hear of people like myself who pile the pounds on, not off, so if you’re hoping to slim down you’re more likely to do so than swell up just statistically speaking. As with so much though, it’s so individual and it’ll also be to do with how much you drank and every other possible factor you can imagine. But even if you’re like me and you get a little squidgier, it’s so fucking worth it, I promise you. It does seem to balance out after a while though – things are bound to get a little crazy with such a big adjustment so just go with it. One thing at a time and when you start to feel strong in your sobriety you can always up the ante with fitness and getting those wobbly bits firmed up if you so choose.

The Pink Cloud

I capitalise it because as far as I’m concerned it’s my new home address. There are many, many views on this and I don’t think I’ve heard two people describe it in the same way. I also know people who don’t seem to experience it at all, so it’s all very subjective I suppose. In AA it’s often talked about as a tale of warning, that it’s something we should be wary of. What I suspect it is, is the sense of euphoria we feel at our new freedom and feeling so physically well. There’s probably a sense of achievement at having walked away from alcohol in there too, along with feeling virtuous about having made a good choice. Perhaps we feel brave and strong too because we’re doing something we were so scared to do yet now discover our wings can carry us and we’re flying.

For me, getting sober has quite literally meant that I got me back. In some ways, it’s like learning how to live and be me all over again and I’m not exaggerating whatsoever when I tell you that I feel such gratitude it’s making me giddy with joy. There are times when I go for a run and get a little choked up at the sensation of feeling strong and powerful. I’ve literally had to wipe away a few tears on the occasional run (and, irritatingly enough, have to stop because it’s hard to run when you go all sniffly). Right at the beginning I sat each morning on the sofa with my coffee and looked out of the window and whispered heartfelt thanks to I’m-not-sure-what-but-maybe-the-universe for giving me this life and for letting me feel this happy and well. Many of those times I couldn’t hold back tears of joy, not that I tried to. Four days shy of 11 months sober, I still feel this way – in fact I am welling up a little just typing this. And I think that’s what the Pink Cloud perhaps is – joy and gratitude.

Still me

…and the Pink Cloud neatly leads on to this, namely how getting sober does indeed deliver countless positive changes but doesn’t mean all our problems go away. Nor do we suddenly become someone else entirely. Yes, it’s accurate to say that Sober Me is in many ways a different person to Drunk Me, but in essence I’m still Anna and just because I stopped drinking doesn’t mean I’ll suddenly enjoy public speaking. For some reason, I think a lot of us sort of expect sobriety to be the answer to everything and the realisation that it isn’t has us crashing back down to earth with a thud. My theory anyway.

Yep, I’m still lil’ ol’ me. I still crave solitude, I still choose a book over a social event and I still prefer peace and quiet to chatter and stimuli. I’m still terrified of spiders and I don’t like heights. Having said all that, there are also many things my alcoholic brain constructed in order to keep me trapped, things I came to believe that aren’t actually true and that I’ve only discovered in sobriety. I mean, at one point I even sat on a shrink’s couch and was more open to accepting that I might suffer some sort of personality disorder than even consider that my panic attacks and discomfort in situations other than home alone were anything to do with my drinking. Stuff like that.

What I’m trying to get at however, is that I sometimes hear people say how they feel a certain way and had somehow expected that sobriety would fix all issues. It doesn’t. If you had your heart broken, it’ll still be broken even if you put the drink down. What it means is just that you’ll in all likelihood cope much better. Oh, and you won’t make lots of insane drunk decisions to send text messages, make phone calls or whatever else to those exes or whoever else that mortify you later. Take it from me, I’ve drink’n’dialled many a time. Just look at poor Gazza – he turned up hammered out of his skull to an armed stand-off between a nutter who’d shot a bunch of people and police, hoping he’d convince the shooter to come fishing with him. This, to his drunken mind, probably seemed like both a realistic and helpful idea at the time as well as an entirely sensible solution to the problem. Actually, I just did a little fact check and it was cocaine and not just booze apparently – link here. Point is though, the problems will still be there (like Raoul Moat) but the way we deal with them are usually much better (I suspect Gazza might not have reasoned that a fishing trip was the answer – chances are he wouldn’t have got himself involved at all).

There’s also the issue with how some of us drank in the first place to escape our problems or feelings. I wonder if that makes us lazy when it comes to dealing with stuff – that it makes us just shut down because we balk at the idea of actually doing something about it? I never consciously drank to suppress how I felt, so this is pure speculation on my part but I do suspect that if we escape all the time it’ll be really quite scary to have to face problems head on.

Well. Each to her own, but all I can say is that being sober means I get to be the best version of myself. I still occasionally freak out over stupid stuff and sometimes I’m a real arsehole – just ask hubby and Bambino and they’ll be able to tell you what a dick I can be – but overall I’m pretty cool and have discovered I’m actually quite calm under pressure. I swear, I never realised this but I’m actually really level headed, something I always used to make jokes about because “it’s just not me”. It’s very me, as it turns out.

Anyway, because stopping drinking is such a big deal, I think sometimes people fail to realise that life’s still life and we’re still us. The world is still the same as when we drank ourselves to shite but now we can see it more clearly. It’s not a bad deal though, in my view. Going through life living under a heavy wet blanket is no life. I think this might be what people refer to when they talk about the Pink Cloud as something that’s just temporary: the realisation that we still have the same problems as before, that despite how good we feel we still have to deal with our issues.

Can you feel it

Here’s a good one! For yours truly it was probably a good thing no one told me this when I first stopped drinking because I think it might have frightened me right back into the bottle. Alcohol is, as we all know, an anaesthetic. It numbs our senses and it numbs our minds, which includes how we feel. No matter what reason we had to pour that glass, this is an inevitable fact – booze numbs us. And so when we stop drinking, the numbness is gone and taah-daaaaaaah here are all our feelings again! Fuck me, it’s exhausting! My mother has always said that I have “an artist’s soul” and by this she means that everything I feel, I feel strongly. Yep. Tick that box. That sums me up. So even though I never realised it, I now wonder if the fact that booze slowed my mind might have registered in my subconscious as a benefit. Perhaps subconsciously I craved the melty, floaty veils of alcohol because it took the edge off? The more I think about this, the more plausible it seems.

Then we kick the booze and now we get to feel all our emotions on their own merit. No shortcuts, no shutting stuff down. We get the feels – big time. Truthfully, this has been yet another blessing for me, not least due to newly discovered ability to calmly deal with problems, but also because sober I can be rational and balanced. Hahaha, who knew?!

Now, if we drank because we couldn’t stand how we felt, I imagine stopping drinking is really difficult for a whole bunch of additional reasons. Still. Even though it might get you pleasantly numb, alcohol is of course also a depressant so when the anaesthesia wears off you don’t just get the pain back, you get it back tenfold. It really isn’t a very good deal, OK? Not at all. I mean, it numbs you so yes it does conceal the bad stuff for a short while, but it also numbs the good stuff. And THEN it gives you the bad stuff back massively enhanced and souped up. Eesh.

That’s really what sobriety is though: just feeling everything the way it is and in its true form. Even with shitty stuff that’s surely better. Sure, I get that in that moment when you sit there drinking it’s hard to believe but it really is true and there will never be a better decision you can make for yourself and those who love you. Put that drink down, it honestly doesn’t do you any good whatsoever. Even the brief respite when you’re numb isn’t worth it because you’ll feel so much worse when it wears off. That respite or relief is literally like wearing a pair of shoes that are a size too small all day and how good it feels to take them off. How good that feels isn’t a good reason to do that though, right? Or hit yourself with a hammer and then enjoy how good it feels when you stop? Equally pointless. Please trust me on this one.

No one gives a shit

I didn’t massively stress about this I don’t think but I do remember worrying a little about what to say in drinking situations. I was quite open with people from the word go whether they’re in my family or circle of closest friends or people I barely know. Also, it’s worth pointing out that I’m not a social butterfly so I actually find myself in that sort of situation extremely rarely. For that reason, I’m not best placed to account for how to go about declining those drinks when you get sober. I guess all I can say is that people don’t tend to give a flying fuck about what you drink or don’t drink. No one fucking cares, alright? So don’t stress about it. Wear it loud and wear it proud – the only reactions you will get is respect. If someone makes a silly comment or jibe, you can be sure it’s because they feel bad (or jealous perhaps!) for some reason that’s nothing to do with you. Just remember that you’ve made the BEST CHOICE EVER and even people who claim to love alcohol will recognise that. Make no mistake there, my friends. Yes, it might feel a bit awkward initially, but I swear it’s no big deal.

Truth be told, I’m sure some people might also consider people who don’t drink boring or even feel we miss out. So what? Let them!

If you’re not ready to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth – don’t. A “no thanks” is perfectly acceptable and if someone asks you why you don’t want to drink a poisonous and highly addictive substance, it doesn’t matter if you say you’re on a health kick or have joined a cult which prohibits drinking. It’s a harmless little fib and if it helps you, use it. It’s none of anyone else’s business anyway. I do promise you though, I’ve rarely heard of anyone who got a full interrogation. My friends have asked me things out of curiosity and told me “well done” but that’s been off the back of me being pretty blunt about my drinking and my reasons for stopping. You’ll be fine, I promise.

It’s not all, folks

You know, I will have missed out lots of things here and will no doubt read this back and think of something really obvious that I should have included. I was just trying to pick out some of the main things I’ve experienced in sobriety and the stuff I hear others talk about too. I’ll come back to this often, I’m sure. There’s just so much to say but I think this will have to be it for now, except reiterating that getting sober is the best decision I ever made. Nothing I have to deal with in sobriety could possibly be bad enough to go and poison myself over.

Today I’m not going to drink.

The Story of Yet

Once in a while when I was still drinking, I’d do one of those online tests that are designed to tell you if you have a problem with alcohol (or even indicate whether you might be an alcoholic). As I’m pondering my next steps, or rather, my first few into the foray of recovery support, I was browsing around Alcohol Change’s website and they have one of those tests. It’s called “Check Your Drinking”. I’ve decided to hop back in time and become Drunk Me. Actually, Drunk Me would probably have tried to give answers based on how she wanted her alcohol habit to be – i.e. put the units that to my mind would have been OK (like “only” four drinks per evening) rather than the grim reality (that 11th glas is still on the side so perhaps ten and a half?). So I’m hopping back to Drunk Me before I quit drinking roughly a year ago, say, but with Sober Me checking the answers are entirely truthful.

Yes, I’m over 18. I’m female and fall into the age group 35-44. Let’s go.

  1. How often do I drink alcohol? At the far end is four times per week or more. That’s definitely me, and ironically Drunk Me’s healthy goal of only drinking max four nights per week is still at the naughty end.
  2. How many units of alcohol do you have on a typical day when you are drinking? Oh God, time to calculate. I’d usually get through most of a wine box, which is three bottles’ worth. The next day you’d be able to squeeze a glass out of the bag. So if a wine bottle equals four standard glasses of wine as per UK measures and one glass is therefore 175ml, this would put me at 11 glasses of wine. How many units in a 175ml glass? 1.9 units according to DrinkAware if it’s an 11% wine. That would land me at 20.9 units per day (the recommended limit is 14 units per WEEK – fun fact). The max answer is ten or more and I’m putting away twice that. Whoopsy-daisies.
  3. How often in the last year have you had six or more units on one occasion? Ah, this is why I usually gave up on these things as I felt they were aimed at some sort of goody two-shoes person who didn’t actually exist. I mean – who doesn’t have more than six? Who are these people?! The answer at the bad end is daily or almost daily. I guess so. I probably averaged five nights per week with a few exceptions so that’s closer to the truth than saying weekly.
  4. How often during the last year have you found you were unable to stop drinking when you’d started? There isn’t an option saying every single time so I’ll go with the most terrible answer which again is daily or almost daily.
  5. How often during the last year have you failed to do what was normally expected from you because of drinking? Slightly tough one as I somehow did manage to do the bits I really had to do. The problem is I never did anything well but I did mostly deliver what I was meant to in terms of at home and at work, so I’m not sure I can go with daily or almost daily. I frequently under performed (to my own mind at least) and I’m the friend who’d often cancel. I’ll go with weekly. Seems like a fair compromise.
  6. How often during the last year have you needed a first drink in the morning to get yourself going after a heavy drinking session? Finally a goody two-shoes answer! Never. I wasn’t there yet. YET YET YET YET YET YET. The story of yet. This might partly be because I just couldn’t. Or my addiction hadn’t quite forced me in to that corner yet. YET YET YET YET.
  7. How often during the last year have you had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking? Still no every-single-time option so I’ll go with daily or almost daily. Starting with palpitations and the sweats at 4am. Fun times.
  8. How often during the last year have you been unable to remember what happened the night before because of drinking? Ah, black-outs – I remember those well, hahr hahr. Not every single time but probably at least twice a week. So more than weekly but not sure it’d be accurate to say daily or almost daily. Well. It’s more towards the bad end. OK, fine.
  9. Have you or someone else been injured because of your drinking? If this includes emotionally then absolutely yes. Other than that I’ve amassed a plethora of mysterious bruises and scrapes that I at the time would have no idea how I’d acquired. Does that mean I should say yes? Or do they mean more severe stuff here? I think this means more serious stuff than stumbling around drunk and tripping on the rug. So no.
  10. Has a friend, relative, doctor or other health worker been concerned about your drinking and suggested you cut down? Yes – friends and relatives, playful hints here and there, the odd snide remark and the occasional you-should.

The results! *drum roll* I mean, do we really need to see them? Well, here it is!

My score is 31. I’m also told “Your drinking is already impacting on your health and wellbeing and you are at risk of alcohol dependence. You would benefit from speaking to your GP or an alcohol professional as soon as possible about your options for cutting down.” No big surprises there. If my score is 20-25 I’m invited to “sign up for four confidential Skype support sessions with an alcohol specialist to help you get back on track. This new service will help you to make choices that will improve your wellbeing and lower your risk” but my score is obviously way over this so wouldn’t apply to me.

How about that for a post that is stating the bleeding obvious! What can I say, I like quizzes! Oohhh how about I do it all over as Sober Me to see what they say about my current life choices?

Still female and in the same age bracket, hmpf. Other than that just one question pisses me off as it’s one you can’t answer if you never drink alcohol: question 2, obviously, so all I can do is stay at the good end and put the answer that most closely resembles the truth (1 or 2). Again, I don’t think we will have any prizes for guessing what the outcome is: my score is 0 and: “Drinking at this level means that you are unlikely to be putting yourself at risk of alcohol-related harm.” The only time I’m near the bad end is in the age group as I’m closer to 44 than I am to 35. You know what, I’ll still take it as a win.

Anyone else have anything to share that we all know already? Well. Sometimes it’s nice to just give ourselves a pat on the back for making good choices. Sure did with this. Yay me.

Today I’m not going to drink.