Fearless Puppies

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

So what do I miss about drinking?

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

LET’S GO!

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

1. The anticipation

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

2. Putting the world to rights

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

3. Debbie Does Dallas

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

4. I don’t dance sober

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

LET’S STOP THERE!

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

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

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

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

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

travolta

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

Today I’m not going to drink.

Like I’ve Been There Before

Blue skies, sunshine and even in this polluted city the air feels crisp and fresh this morning. I wish all days could be an autumn day like this. I’m sure old London town will get its usual large share of rain through the autumn months and so all the more reason to acknowledge and feel grateful for days like this.

One of the best things as well as probably the most powerful tool in staying sober, second only to a sincere wish to stop drinking, has been for me the opportunity to hear and read about other people’s experiences on this journey. Whether it’s the bloggers I follow (many of whom I have come to genuinely care for and think of as friends), people in AA or everyone on various forums and Facebook groups, they are all helping this old drunk stay on a better path. They might not know it but even when our stories, thoughts and experiences are complete opposites, they are a massive part of my sobriety. I want to scoop you all up, hug you and tell you how much I love you for what you bring to my life because it’s more than I can begin to tell you. You’re like perfect autumn days.

I’m lucky of course, in that I have a strong (amazing, even) support network consisting of friends and family, but no one can understand an addict like another addict. It’s absolutely priceless, in my view, to be able to share with people who themselves have been in your position even if it’s a slightly different kind of beast they are fighting. Sure, my amazing hubby DOES understand that alcohol does something terrifying and dark to me but he will never, EVER know what it feels like – how could he? It’d be the same if someone said to me “hey Anna, I can’t make myself stop running into this brick wall over and over even though it hurts me“. I’d like to think I am empathetic and open minded but unless I’ve had the same or a similar compulsion myself, how in God’s name could I truly GET what that’s like? So if you do – God forbid – ever find yourself in a place where alcohol or whatever it may be is dragging you under, please, as soon as you find a little strength go and seek out those who have gone through or are going through the same thing. There is strength in numbers.

Not everyone is blessed with the support I have. Not only is my husband quite extraordinary in how he has made it his mission to try to come to grips with understanding alcoholism and addictions in order to understand how I might feel and have gone through, I also have friends who show the same, unflinching courage and a family where no one has made me feel ashamed even once. I wish everyone could have exactly all of that and I hope you all do. I suspect not everyone does though, and in those instances it’s even more crucial I believe, to find your brothers and sisters in arms. If you like me are married to someone who will do anything to support you, have friends like Cherokee and a family showing you unconditional love and support that’s awesome – CONGRATULATIONS! – but even then I would strongly recommend expanding that safety net to include people who are in the same boat as you.

So there you have it, Anna’s tool box for recovery:

  1. A wish to stop drinking.
  2. A stellar support network that will spring to action when you ask for help.
  3. Your own kind – those who fight or have fought the same battle.
  4. Finding your feet and patience when you do – this too shall pass.
  5. Learn all you can.
  6. Pay it forward – refer to #3.

Looking at it, that bears echos of AA’s 12 steps but then I suspect no matter the label the approach might roughly remain the same. Logical, really: accept there’s a problem, ask for help, figure out its nature, find others who experience the same struggle, learn a better way, go on to help others in turn. Gosh, that does make it sound easy and it really isn’t, plus I don’t believe two people will ever tell exactly the same story but that’s of course the whole reason why it helps me to hear and read LOTS of stories from LOTS of people.

Another thing when it comes to alcoholism that I think is important to remember is that booze is different things to different people. My ex-sponsor was adamant that every alcoholic without exception drinks to numb pain and as much as I tried I couldn’t ever say this was truly the case for me. For me, stopping drinking was possible and really, the only way I could see, once it became clear that it did nothing for me. I thought it made everything even MORE fun and lovely and great. However, if alcohol had been my crutch and I’d used it to cope or to numb pain (much in the way my ex-sponsor described) then I would imagine it would have been a very different story when it comes to stopping. If the benefit of it is there… It scares me to think about it if I’m honest. Even if we all probably know on a rational level that alcohol doesn’t fix any problem and actually does the very opposite, it doesn’t really matter if there is relief IN ANY WAY. Shiiiiiiiit…. Perhaps it works in the same way though. For me, wanting to stop came when I knew whatever perceived “fun” had long gone, and so perhaps for someone who drinks to numb pain that desire to stop happens when it becomes clear the booze doesn’t give relief anymore. Regardless though, if you surround yourselves with people who are also fighting alcoholism and addiction, there will be someone who will have gone through something similar to you.

Go find those friends. Now. You’ll thank me in the morning.

Today I’m not going to drink.

232 Days

I have nothing to say. Nothing at all. 232 days. Nothing spontaneously springs to mind around sobriety that I need to tell you.

When I scroll through various sobriety forums and Facebook groups, it’s really interesting to see how different people have different experiences and I often see myself in many of those who are more newly sober than I am. Makes sense given I’m still fairly early on in my journey and it wasn’t long ago that I stood in that spot. Quite often I smile when I read victorious exclamations and determined conviction from someone who’s been sober for, say, a couple of weeks. No, not smile as in scoff. I mean smile as in it makes me happy and I remember how it felt. How you are so overcome with gratitude and filled with awe at the life you have suddenly been given back that you just KNOW in your heart you will never drink again. For me this was of course when I went to lots of AA meetings and I got SO pissed off when the old timers would dismiss me in a you’ll-soon-see sort of manner. I was made to feel that this was wrong and only the Pink Cloud that I’d soon fall down from. I think I’m still on it. Perhaps I’m a little less evangelical now that the honeymoon period draws to a close and I also don’t feel tearful with joy every morning in the absence of that dreaded hangover that was my companion for so long, but it didn’t suddenly get difficult or dreary. Sure, once I came back to earth a little, I discovered that on occasion I’ll end up feeling down and all of those other less than amazing feelings that are part and parcel of being a human being, but it’s still not the hard slog that was described to me.

So you have those who at least seem to have effected that change in their thinking and genuinely no longer want to drink. But then you also have the people who clearly still do and therefore are desperate to moderate and really seem down about it all, and no wonder. No amount of will power and no amount of AA meetings and AA friends will help diddly squat if you still view alcohol as something that provides any kind of positive attribute. Only when you truly see alcohol for what it is and what it does for you personally do you have a chance – this is my absolute belief. Actually, I should rephrase “what it does for you” – only when you truly see what alcohol FAILS to do for you do you have a chance. Again, however, I can only speak for myself but this was what kept me firmly trapped. I held on to the belief that alcohol could do for me what it seems to do for non-alcoholics and wanted it to be part of my life too as a little golden edge, as we say in Sweden. Guldkant på tillvaron – adding a golden edge to life (roughly translated anyway) – that’s how I saw it and what I believed it could be. I saw booze as glitter you pour on to life to enhance and accentuate its brilliance. I’d see friends enjoy a couple of beers, laugh and enjoy the evening, and I wanted that too. Only I can’t because with the first something in me comes to life and this is ironic in the extreme because the thing that comes to life wants me dead. For me booze isn’t glitter – it’s napalm.

To be fair, I don’t think anyone can ever be in control of alcohol but I will concede that there are some of us – those of us who are alcoholics – who fare especially badly if we drink. I certainly don’t need to do any more “research” to establish that I can’t drink alcohol!

Anyway, even regardless of how long ago we made a decision to live a better life, there seems to be two distinct camps: those who punch the sky in a winner’s gesture because they truly feel drinking is pointless and they are free, and those who still yearn for that drink and feel miserable because each day is a fight to be sober. The more I learn about alcohol and addiction, the clearer it becomes that so long as we feel we have a reason to drink and that alcohol will give us some sort of benefit we will find it a miserable sacrifice to stop drinking. And that’s the bottom line for me – I reached a point where I truly felt I no longer had to. The truth was staring me in the face and I knew that booze only ever lands me in a stinking pile of shit. No glitter in sight, for me it was all an illusion and a pack of sweet lies that alcohol had me believing for the longest time. So stopping drinking for me is – so far at least – freedom. Refraining from doing something you no longer want to do isn’t hard at all, is it? I think I wrote earlier on in my sobriety that drinking seemed about as appealing as eating a pile of dog shit, and it is still true. At the same time I know how sneaky, cunning and baffling alcohol addiction is so there is no part of me that feels I can ever declare myself safe. In that sense, yes, it’s a day at a time, but it’s not a struggle in the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other kind of way either. It just is. It’s life.

Right. Bit of a waffle but Wednesday is never my best day.

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.

Cowboys on a Bender

The question of moderation came up in a recent discussion. I am an alcoholic so needless to say the ability to moderate drinking is to me the holy grail. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I envy those of you who can enjoy that beer with friends down by the river on a summer’s eve, perhaps have another two or three, get a little giggly and silly and then wander home after enjoying a lovely evening like that. I mean, wander home and that’s THAT. Because I could of course join you, I could even (but not without effort, I hasten to add – you guys drink infuriatingly slowly) drink at the same pace and have the same number of drinks and laugh with you as we sit there watching the river flow by on its journey back to low tide, leaving the walk path wet in that little dip between the pub and that fancy big house someone just renovated where it always flows over its banks when the tide is high. Risky spot, their home insurance must be astronomical. And when you wander home and the evening is over, leaving our empty glasses behind, I make a stop at the off licence and buy at least one, but probably two, bottles of wine and take myself from pleasantly tipsy to roaring drunk and eventually unconscious once I’m back home. I don’t have that off switch, see.

For me, moderation doesn’t work. Actually, for me it doesn’t bloody exist. And I would go as far as to suggest moderation, whether you’re an addict or otherwise, is a myth. It doesn’t exist for those of you who aren’t alcoholics or addicts any more than it does for those of us who are. And how can I say this? What leap of utter lunacy has landed me at such an outrageous conclusion?

Well.

How about I said this to you: “I eat carrots in moderation.

Are those the words of someone who has no problem with carrots?!

Exactly. Isn’t that just so dumb??!

If someone said to me that they moderate how many biscuits they eat everyday, I would assume they are either trying to lose weight or ended up having too many if they didn’t keep themselves in check. If there is no problem, why would you need to moderate? That just doesn’t make sense. Someone whose drinking doesn’t spill over into the darkness of addiction and alcoholism NEVER has to consciously think about moderation. Why would you? I can’t imagine non-alkies pour their first drink and repeat in their minds like a mantra I’m-going-to-stop-at-four-drinks. Sure, normal drinkers may – and probably DO! – hear about recommended limits and consciously say no to drinks on a particular day because they went to a party two days before and think about how much and how often they drink, but that’s not the same thing as far as I’m concerned. Also, if I look at e.g. my husband, something happens to him when he’s had a bit too much to drink AND THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN TO ME – his body tells him to stop. He feels perhaps a little queasy, maybe lightheaded, even a little bit ill and if he were to force more drink down his neck he might actually throw up. His body goes YUK! Hold up, cowboy! My body (never mind my brain!) doesn’t do that. In my mind and body there is a raging desire, a thirst that can’t be quenched.

Can I also be clear on another thing here? Even when hubby goes on a bender (like on his stag do, during which he got VERY drunk!) the state he ends up in isn’t even near where I get to. I don’t think hubby knows what black-out is or has even been near it. After excessive nights out he might say his memory is a bit hazy but I can almost assure you he won’t have any nights where a solid block of hours are a blank, or a point in the evening after which he has no memory whatsoever. So I actually doubt a non-alkie could get to those stages us alkies get to, I don’t think your bodies would allow you even if you tried. You’d just end up puking in the gutter.

Anyhoo! I can’t speak for any alcoholic other than myself and I certainly can’t speak for non-alcoholics, but I can look at the difference between me and hubby. An alkie and a non-alkie.

Funnily enough, we probably have the first drink for the same reason. Let’s take today, because it’s a stunningly beautiful September Friday and the sun is shining. Come the evening, we’d both have that first drink because we’re happy and it’s the weekend and the wine will sprinkle a bit of additional glitter on our excellent mood. We’re relaxed and happy. Yes, that’s right, even after half a life spent getting wasted, I’ve never – NOT ONCE – poured the first glass of wine hoping I’d end up in black-out, fall over and knock my chin against the dining table and write a bunch of embarrassing nonsense on Facebook. Oblivion is never and has never been the intention when I take the first sip. Or gulp. Fiiiiiine *sigh* let’s be pedantic – the first few greedy, hungry gulps, plural.

The booze does what booze does and it numbs us into that state we take for fun – gets us a little loose and dopey, removes inhibitions and makes us giggly and goofy. I’ll concede that this bit is great fun – how could it not be? And right about here it IS like someone poured a bit of glitter on our already good Friday mood and chills us out even further now that the working week is out of the way.

Difference? For hubby this is now enough, this is the good place to be, and where he might either slow right down or even order a soft drink. He’s good and glittery. And so am I in that brief little moment but that’s not where I stay. For me….. I was searching my mind just then to work out how I can accurately describe it to you, and the image that comes to me is of a massive, furious, black tornado tearing across the plains in my direction – I’m directly in its path and it rips me away, throws and spins me mercilessly into a centrifuge of hell. That glittery feeling? That’s sort of like the train whistle when you hear it in the distance like an ominous warning echoing in the distance before the train comes roaring in. That’s all it is and it’s almost as brief. Or the spot where winds and temperatures form a terrifying force of nature. It does for hubby exactly what you see in booze commercials and he can appreciate the carefully selected wine that enhances his meal, whereas for me the damn steak I only eat because I have to and the wine could be fucking urine for all I care so long as I can keep drinking and go faster and faster until I know no more.

tornado

Moderation – I will have to ask hubby now, but I don’t think he would during an evening like the one I describe make a conscious choice to stop at a specific number of drinks. I think it just happens, that he just feels it’s enough and has no need to drink more, let alone faster and faster. When I have alcohol free beer I sometimes wonder if this is how non-alcoholics feel. I do, even now, take a few greedy gulps of the first one – I honestly do! And then quite quickly a few more. I am a bit thirsty, see, and the beer tastes so good! (Heineken 0.0 and Becks Blue are my favourites along with my absolute number one Birra Moretti Zero – yum!). The second, now that my thirst is quenched, is a lot slower and although it tastes just as nice, I’m now good. I may, but probably won’t, have a third. There is no need and the choice is all mine and I can do that thing I have never, ever been able to do with alcohol: I can take it or leave it! It isn’t important to me and if I ran out of beer it wouldn’t make me panic because I can have a glass of water if I’m thirsty.

I’ve started working out and I’m getting back in to running as well. Hubby has consistently always kept up with his fitness, but claims he’s put on a few pounds over the summer so wants to up his game a little. The other day he said he’s cutting back on things that typically make you gain weight and beer is of course one. But so are biscuits, chocolate and carb heavy meals, so he’s also cutting back on all of those things. This is of course conscious moderation but I maintain that this is very different from trying to moderate one specific thing. There is a difference between making adjustments to achieve a goal (cut calories to slim down, cut caffeine to sleep better, spend less to save up for something, etc etc…) and moderating something because we can’t control it or it causes terrible consequences. Hubby is just moderating things to lose a bit of weight and is possibly also a little spurred on by wifey who is suddenly working quite hard to get in shape. Like the other day when someone wore a pair of trousers that looked really good, I asked what brand they were. Sometimes those around us inspire us to follow suit. Hubby has, as I mentioned, always been into fitness so of course he’ll possibly feel a bit energised when his wife gets going. We are always affected and influenced to a greater or lesser degree by those around us, and when I drank, hubby ended up drinking more than he normally would too. Almost inevitable, I think.

But we were talking about moderation. Which I think is a pile of bullshit, but keen to hear your views. In particular I’d love to know if there has EVER been an alcoholic who learned to moderate and went on to drink like a non-alcoholic, with an off switch.

Does any of that make sense? Do you know what I mean when I outline my little theory on how moderation is a myth? Or perhaps I should say that for me, Anna the alcoholic, moderation is a myth because 1) those who would need it can’t do it, and 2) those who don’t need it….. …uhm… ..don’t fucking need it anyway!

Today I’m not going to drink.

Beats and Board Roles

You know when something happens at the right time? When you randomly happen to perhaps read something that is exactly what you need at that precise time? This morning someone on This Naked Mind Facebook group put up screen grabs showing the dramatic change to her resting heart rate now that she is alcohol free (or “AF” as everyone in the group puts it – I see that and think “As Fuck” but I’m getting used to it). It’s stuff like this that really brings it home how alcohol really does wreck our health. And no, I am not referring to you lucky lot who can enjoy it in a manner that can be considered normal, although in all fairness if you guys did cut alcohol out there’d probably be a little improvement in heart health for you too! In only a couple of months, this lady’s resting heart rate had gone from 66 beats per minute to 58! Given my night of palpitations and how my heart was on my mind, this was very well timed.

I do wonder now how my own heart health has improved. It obviously has, I know that, because I no longer experience palpitations during the day like I used to and only very rarely at night. It’s happened on one or two occasions, but still you can’t compare it to how I used to be when I was drinking. It would be so cool to see the graph tracking my heart then and now like this woman could though. See a line over the weeks and months showing how her heart is now so much happier.

If only I’d been able to stick to something, but that was of course the one thing boozing didn’t allow me to do. I’ll say it again: being a drunk is a full time job. It’s like with any other job really, only this one will eventually take over your whole life – it is quite literally the job you have to sacrifice everything else for: interests, friends, family, etc. You just cannot commit to anything else because alcohol demands ALL of you. You might be able to take up a hobby for a while, but you can never give it much time because, well, you already have your work duties to take care of, and using this metaphor those duties consist of ensuring there is a supply of alcohol you then consume in order to get yourself unconscious. How’s that for a career, eh? Perhaps I wasn’t the Oprah Winfrey of boozing, but I was definitely at CEO level with a bunch of non-executive board roles on my CV too – easy. The dedication us drunks demonstrate when it comes to drinking is astonishing and it’s no exaggeration to suggest that if I’d shown the same determination in a different career I may very well have gone pretty far because if you work as hard as I did to drink you almost can’t fail – trust me. I’d suggest this is true for any drunk worth their salt because being an alcoholic requires unyielding, relentless, hard graft.

But when I drank, drinking was of course – as it tends to be when you’re an alcoholic – my main mission whether I realised it at the time or not, and I simply therefore had no capacity or room for anything else. This includes continuing to use the fitness watch I got a couple of summers ago, and for that reason I don’t now have a record of how my resting heart rate might have changed like this lady on the Facebook group. Bit of a shame because it’d be really nice to see actually! As I said, I already KNOW that my whole freaking body is thanking me and given this heart of mine is in said body, I also know it feels better than it used to when I was keeping the vineyards of Marlborough New Zealand in business. Hm, perhaps now that I’m on such a good track I need to start wearing that watch again (especially as there are now runs and workouts to track too!) and use it to highlight how much good I’m doing myself now. Shame, it would have been good to see it in black and white, just like it’s good to see the selfies taken at each month milestone, but there we are. It’s not crucial, just sometimes nice to see hard evidence that confirms something you already know.

Sobriety – I hope – will now allow me freedom to not only pursue but also stick with all these good things, whatever they may be. I also hope that I will always be mindful of how my heart is happier now even though I don’t have any graphs to show the difference, but having said that, perhaps the palpitations I had the other night have the same purpose as those nightmares I now have sometimes – on occasion I’ve dreamt that I’m drinking again. Then I wake up and in that first second of disorientation I still have the horrible feeling of defeat of the dream but then realise it wasn’t real. Waking up from a dream like that gives me all this renewed hope and strength that I will remain sober.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Bambi In the Zone

OK, now where did THAT come from? Yep, still getting used to feeling what I’m feeling without anaesthesia and last night out of nowhere I’m suddenly having weird dreams and waking up with heart palpitations. I suppose you could say that when it comes to doing life now that I’m sober, I’m a little bit like Bambi on that dang ice trying to figure it all out, almost fascinated by my own lack of balance. I never find it slippery in the places I expect to and go flying at times I expect to have a good grip. In this case of a bad night, if I’d never taken the plunge in to alcoholism, perhaps it’d be nothing more than righty-oh, just a shit night and nothing else to think about. Slept badly, s’all. Instead, here I am on high alert and a little perplexed as to why my heart suddenly decides to engage in a furious tango in the small hours. One of my greatest fears is suffering mental ill health and given depression and alcoholism appear to like each others’ company, I am forever twitching those curtains in case the big D is lurking around outside, waiting to be invited to the party.

All I try to do is allow what I feel to be, well, felt. I don’t have a metal detector or a body scanner, nor do I ask to search bags – all emotions are welcome, even if they’re carrying explosives.

Do I feel low? Nope. Do I feel inexplicably sad or anxious? No, can’t say that I do. Yes, there is a restlessness and sense of frustration, impatience I guess to get STARTED. Or rather, I feel frustrated that I’m not already GOING! I want it all NOW! I’m ready to go but I don’t quite know where, all dressed up for the party but where the hell is it?! But how else could I possibly feel? I spent over a decade having to focus on just getting through the day and trust me, even since I have worked part time it’s been a freaking challenge. There just isn’t that energy to spend on the motions you go through when it takes all your might to stay upright and make it seem like you are functioning. Well, we all know now that I didn’t fucking function at ALL, but even so. Now I get that bit for free, because keeping upright isn’t difficult – I wake up feeling strong and healthy and it’d actually require more effort to stay in bed when my whole body is filled with this lust for life and wants to move, work, feel, BE. Case in point – waking early at the weekend and exhausted, jet lagged hubby mumbling I should just stay in bed and snooze with him for a while longer, but just HAVING to bounce up because I am alive. I’m ALIVE! Isn’t that just the most magnificent thing? That morning coffee, man – it still gets me feeling delirious with happiness, I swear. Well, there was no bouncing up this morning because I slept badly and my heart was being a dickhead, but even when I’m tired and it’s hard to get up I’m still light years away from what my mornings used to be. And the morning coffee still tasted like heaven.

Where am I going with this? Perhaps I’m trying to show that I’m actually going through a learning curve, that I’m learning to live again and getting used to feeling the stuff you do when you’re human. And that includes – does it? I don’t know – sleeping badly once in a while. Being sober has brought with it that I take my new, full of energy self – yes, even today because by the time I’d had my morning coffee I felt awake and ready to go – to work. Now I’m one of you! I’m there for the hours required to do a job. And it turns out that when I’m not fighting to get through the day, what I get paid for is about as challenging as pushing a pile of papers back and forth across my desk. This is, in fact, pretty much what I do. There is at least one source of my frustration. I just know I can do more, give more. I’m actually pretty awesome. Yesterday the other desk in the office had to be cleared and I sorted it all and wiped all of that corner down so it’d be clear, clean and inviting – I felt more productive than I have in years. My lovely bosses called me a star and yes, I’m very efficient with a cloth when I get in the zone, but FUCKINELL I CAN DO SO MUCH MORE!! This isn’t their fault, obviously – they are, as I say, lovely – but I need to do something because I can be a star with more than a cloth. I know I can.

Now, now, now – this is my nature. And my nature hasn’t always proved to place me in the best of situations, nor make particularly good choices. Right now I’m Bambi, slipping around in my life and working out how to do this thing. It makes me giggle as often as it makes me furrow my brow. Maybe I just need to stick with this, frustrating as it is, and allow myself to truly get well before I throw myself head first into something else. Just breathe for a while and let these positive changes happen steadily and become my new normal little by little. Hell, I’ve gone from “suicidal drinking” (yes, it’s a thing) to being sober and from struggling to stand up to getting into running again and joining the gym. Fuck me, I know I should just slow down a little and take a look around me. Let this stick. You know, just weeks into sobriety I was feeling on top of the world, much like the newly converted – I saw the light and I was in Nirvana – and I “knew” I never wanted to drink again and sink back into active addiction. I felt brave, I felt confident and I felt so fucking cocky I may as well have pranced around in a peacock headpiece for my own little carnival, steel drums and all. I was so high on excitement at feeling so good again that I think I probably expected that OK, that’s that, done, box ticked, now what? Next!

Not quite like that. Yes, it’s incredible to find yourself in sobriety and I wish everyone could feel the joy I feel now, but sobriety for me also means I now have to get used to navigating this life that’s been returned to me. It’s all positive, of course it is, but it’s still down to me to make it work, whether it’s a bad night’s sleep or discovering that my body is getting stronger when I run and work out. Dimples incorporated what she called “a LITTLE run” last time I saw her – this particular circuit consisted of running around the block and then two other exercises back at her gym that I’ve already forgotten the names of but involved getting my feet in these hanging contraptions and attempting to get my body to obey with fairly disappointing results. She ran with me and it took it out of me completely to just run (OK, fine, slowly JOG) around the block which took roughly 4 minutes – hardly a marathon, is it? – a total of just three times. Dimples chatted away merrily and there wasn’t even a hint of breathlessness or rosy cheeks beyond her usual healthy complexion. Me? I was beetroot red with sweat pouring off me, gasping for breath and unable to speak. Like with everything else right now, I have to work at it and I have to make it work. It won’t happen unless I do it over and over and push myself. I have two sessions left with Dimples and then I’ll be flying solo. With the rest there’s just me. Well, I have hubby and I have friends, but when it comes down to the wire it’s ME who has to do all of this and figure out how to do life again.

Sure, I’m over analysing a lot – in some ways I feel like a baby, wide eyed observing the colourful objects in a mobile over my cot, marvelling at shapes and patterns that I’m seeing for the first time. With this bad night’s sleep too – like when a baby suddenly is frightened by the vacuum cleaner, it’s all new and unfamiliar. And then, you learn. Little by little. Perhaps that’s what I need to focus on, just allowing all this to take the time it takes.

decision

Today I’m not going to drink.