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.

Nuts and Tricks

Well, thank God for that – I can’t say last night was the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had but it was a vast improvement given the previous two and I am starting to feel like myself again. I think we’re all set for our hike tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to walking along the south coast and across the Seven Sisters with hubby. We’re also over the last hump with Bambino and the explosion we had, but I guess I have to be a realist on that score and make my peace with the fact that he’s a teenager and we in all likelihood have the worst storms still ahead of us. If I can manage to ride those out without losing control each time, I’m sure we’ll emerge on the other side with just the average amount of wounds you can expect from the teenage years.

Funny. I spoke with my dad, who happened to call me on Hurricane Night, when I sat on the sofa exhausted after the explosive row I had with my son. I chuckled and told him I don’t know how he survived my teenage years (given my son is a carbon copy of his mother inside and out and my poor father had to endure me) and I actually asked him how he even got through it. Dad laughed, possibly enjoying this delightful little case of Karma. When I later spoke with Bambino, I apologised for losing my cool like that and told him I felt awful that I hadn’t managed to stay calm. I also told him that my own parents never lost it like that, and in the moment that was truthful – I couldn’t remember a single instance when they went nuts the way I did just then. And it turns out it was my brain playing tricks on me again, because when I thought about it more, old memories started to emerge from the depths of my mind where they’d been buried. Because we had hurricanes too. Lots of them.

hurricane

The time my dad shouted at me so much my uncle kept telling him to stop because the stuff he was yelling at me was too much and too far – yes, he lost it. 100%. (I’d failed to come home at the agreed time and he turned up furious at my then boyfriend’s house to get me home – I swear he was frothing at the mouth).  The time my mum slapped me across the face and her heartbroken expression a micro second later – yep, she lost it. 110% you might say, and I think if I ever brought it up she would be mortified. I’d imagine she still feels that slap burning her hand and feels awful about it. (I’d sneaked out and had a cigarette and then lied straight to her face when she confronted me). And here we are now, almost 30 years later and it’s me who’s the parent to a young teenager and when I think of those times my own parents lost control I can totally see why. It’s just that I’d forgotten that they ever did. I’d forgotten, now that I have them both on pedestals and beat myself up when I don’t get it right, that they fucked up too. Just as we all do. It’s never going to be OK to lose control like that, but I’m going to try not to be so hard on myself. Or at the very least stop making myself believe all other parents do it all much better.

And drinking? Nope, still sober. But then I’ve had a shitty week and even when I was drinking I feel like it less when I’m down so in terms of sobriety this week has been plain sailing. 164 days sober, they’re adding up! Like it.

It’s unbearably hot at the moment, and even though my office is probably the coolest room in the house it’s still uncomfortable. I can’t wait to be done for today, end this week, get home and start the weekend. Bambino has one of his stepbrothers over to keep him company (and ensure the house doesn’t burn down) as hubby and I will be heading off down to Brighton for our hike at 6am. We need to get there for about 7.30am to park, register and then we’re off! The downside is we’ll be missing the football – Sweden are playing England tomorrow and as much as it’d shred my nerves to watch the game, it’s a bit of a bummer we’ll miss it. Going to see if we can listen to it en route perhaps, or at least parts of it. Or get someone to text us the scores. Or we just don’t give a fuck about any of that and keep our phones tucked away and enjoy an amazing day trekking along the beautiful south coast of England. Just a thought!

So here’s to hoping I’ll get a good night’s sleep and that there’ll be a nice breeze tomorrow as it’s tiring just sitting in front of a computer in this heat…..

Adieu to this crappy week now. Have a wonderful weekend wherever you are.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Warning! Heart overload!

There are so many things about my drinking that I don’t miss. Actually, let’s rephrase: there is nothing about my drinking that I miss. One of the first things that happened when I quit was that I sleep so much better. From waking up several times with a pounding heart, I now fall asleep easily and sleep like a log until the morning. The quality of my sleep now is awesome and I wake up feeling refreshed, strong and calm. So I don’t miss the 4am waking hour I used to have when I was drinking, when I’d lie awake for what felt like ages and when my heart was furiously fighting to do its job in spite of the terrible working conditions I offered, pounding with all its might to keep my alcohol contaminated blood flowing through my veins as it should. My poor heart.

Another thing I don’t miss is the anxiety I used to feel. This is not to say I never feel anxious but rather when I do it’s not the inevitable byproduct of ingesting a depressive agent such as alcohol. It’s no longer a chemical reaction to poison but a way for my gut/soul/Higher Power/whatever to communicate that something is wrong. This also allows me to fully acknowledge and feel all emotions on their own merit as they are no longer triggered by a poison I put into my body. Last night I had awful nightmares, vivid and graphic scenarios, and I woke up almost in panic and shuffled over to hubby’s side and clung on to him. My heart was beating in that way it used to at 4am every morning, hard and fast, and I was a tightly rolled up bundle of fear and terror. Just like the Grade A hangovers I used to have all the time.

What I have the luxury of now that I’m sober, is the ability to first of all acknowledge this deep dread and anxiety for exactly what it is, and given it’s not the result of booze I can at least try to understand what it is my gut is trying to tell me. Instead of battling withdrawal, I can receive the messages my soul is sending me and try to decipher their origin and meaning. Being sober allows me to feel fully and explore every emotion. I suppose you can say it lets me be completely tuned into my emotions given I don’t via alcohol numb some and enhance others – I just feel each one exactly as they are. I’d say last night I experienced what borderline reminded me of the panic attacks I suffered over a period following the divorce from my first husband. At the time, I suppose they were my soul trying to tell me I needed to pause, breathe and reset – WARNING, beeeeeeep, beeeeep, too much, too much, WARNING, heart overload, beeeeeeep, hold up, hold up, beeeeeeep, beeeeeeeeep, slow doooooown, WARNING, immediately engage self care system, beeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!

And so instead of just riding it out I can at least attempt to unpack where all this dread and fear came from.

  1. I am sensitive to hormonal fluctuations and around my period I sometimes feel a little low. There’s one contributing factor right there.
  2. My son was heartbroken yesterday due to how his father (my ex-husband) treats him. Their relationship is buggered and it causes my son immense hurt. My sun rises and sets with my boy and when my teenager who I usually have to beg for hugs sobs in my arms as if he were a small child again, my heart breaks in thousands of little pieces. Little shards of pain that slice through my soul.

There you are. I was feeling low and hormonal (and OK, probably bad tempered too after unsuccessfully trying to pick a fight with hubby who annoyed me by, you know, breathing) and my child was hurting. Hello nightmares and palpitations!

What can we conclude? Well. Once a month I morph into an intolerable little cow with an attitude problem. My periods are beyond what I can control and until Mother Nature decides I no longer need them, they will continue to happen. I can try harder to manage my mood when those hormonal changes happen though, even if it’s as simple as telling hubby “look, I’m sorry, I feel this way, please give me some slack and I’ll make it up to you some other time“. Just give my nearest a bit of a weather warning perhaps. The situation with my son’s father is even further out of my control. I can’t control my ex’s behaviour and I can’t take away the pain it results in for my son. But again, what I do have the power to control is ME. I can try to be the best parent I can be and show my son how much I love and respect him and everything else. Be there for him and help explain how this isn’t his fault. And so on.

Yes! One more thing right there that I don’t miss about drinking. Imagine if I poured alcohol on existing period gloom and the pain I feel for my son – sweet Lord, it’d get unbearable and I’d be rendered completely unable to cope with any of it. Hubby would be faced with not only a hormonal witch but a drunk and out of control one. Plus in all the angst my son is already feeling, he’d have to see mum drunk as well. Eesh – can’t think of anything more awful, can you? I’d be no good to anyone, least of all to myself.

Back to anxiety for a brief moment – I know of course that many people suffer anxiety and how sometimes it has NO root cause, that perhaps some warning systems are too finely tuned or a little out of whack. And I don’t want to make light of that or sound flippant. I think I’m probably prone to it, couldn’t tell you if I react more strongly or am more sensitive to pain than the next person. Doesn’t matter though because as usual I can only speak for myself and my own experience.

Right, so that’s enough of a brain dump from me. Have a wonderful weekend wherever you are.

Today I’m not going to drink.