Elton John and the Hardest Word

Monday! I started by applying for a job with an addiction centre that hubby had happened across somehow. I just know I can be of much more use in a role I actually really care about because it’s closer to my heart. Or very close to my heart, full stop. I’m also in touch with an addiction charity as another way in would be to volunteer, but given I don’t have a money tree in the garden to pick shiny, new £50 notes off, the paid option would be much more viable. Or viable, full stop.

Got up early today. Hubby was leaving for Amsterdam and had to get out of bed at 4am and whilst I snoozed when he was in the shower, I found myself being unable to get back to sleep and got up just minutes after he left. By 6am I was showered, dressed and ready so spent the morning on the sofa drinking coffee and reading the news about the Swedish election. And so now, at 10.24, it feels like the afternoon and I’m a little spaced. In a really good mood though! Hold up….. Oh, hell no, not THAT again. You know, I’m so aware of it that even on a day like this when I actually feel really confident I won’t drink and don’t have the slightest little urge to do so, I am still conscious of the worry hubby might feel. Like this morning on my way in. I went to Sainsbury’s and picked up my usual smoothie and a couple of pretzels, carbs and fruit sugar to keep me fuelled up until the afternoon. Noticed they also had my favourite beef jerky – sweet and hot – and because they always run out, I picked up the whole lot. Nine bags. It all came to £21-something. And I almost felt a need to let hubby know exactly what I’d bought, because I wonder what his first thought would be otherwise seeing that transaction on a day he’s not going to be home. 20-odd quid would also be what a box of wine, a bottle of soda and some Dioralyte would set me back.

It’s the kind of transaction that sets off warning bells and I should know because I’m a cunning alkie who would – if I were indeed getting booze – prefer to pay cash and thereby be more likely to get away with it given the bank statement wouldn’t have quite so many damning entries on it. Or perhaps hubby doesn’t register these things at all and it’s just me who is really aware of it because I used to take such care and go to such lengths to disguise what I was up to. After all, when I talk to the people around me it’s rarely the things I thought they noticed that they tell me about now. Bullock, for example, didn’t at all reflect over how I drank two large glasses of wine when she drank one (which is the bit I remember stressing over and wanted to find a way around) but instead wondered why I was so keen to get rid of her when we left the pub (I didn’t want her to see that I was getting wine to drink at home). So who knows.

If I were to take a photo of my bag full of beef jerky and send to him, he’d probably feel bad for me and tell me I don’t need to do that. But I also don’t want him to worry. How do you fill the people who love you and worry about you with confidence after a life hiding, sneaking around, down-playing and lying about your drinking? It would seem this, like so much else, will take time. And to be fair, it makes me feel safe that everyone around me knows.

It’s a different feeling when you say goodbye to your friends at the pub and they have no idea you’re not heading home and going to bed like they are. Well, you are, but you’re making a stop to get more booze first and you can only pray that blacked-out you end up in bed at some point not too far north of midnight if there’s work the next day. It’s a helpless and hopeless spot to be in, to stand there and say goodnight to friends when they don’t know this, wanting to ask for help but not knowing how. It’s fucking heartbreaking to walk off from your friends, with urgency in your steps towards your own destruction, quite literally death defying determination to do something you actually don’t want to do but can’t stop yourself from doing. I can’t even begin to tell you how frightening that is, to feel the excitement at getting away to get drinking for real after the social warm-up at the same time as you’re filled with sorrow, fear and desperation, and wishing as you’re blinking back the tears that you could just say that one little word – help. Elton John, talented as he is, has it all wrong – ‘sorry’ isn’t the hardest word at all, ‘help’ is. Ask any addict.

But I did ask for help. FINALLY. After years of being scared I eventually ended up being so terrified I had no other choice but to reach out. And thankfully they all listened. Hubby, my friends and family – and let’s not forget the friends I’ve made e.g. via AA and This Naked Mind groups – form a safety net. I don’t even need them to do anything, not so far anyway, it’s just the security and safety I feel in them knowing. Alcohol is of course FURIOUS with me for snitching to everyone, because it’s harder to control me and abuse me when it’s no longer “our little secret”. For me, alcoholism has been exactly like an abusive relationship – your abuser always wants to isolate you and that’s what alcohol does too. Harder now when everyone around me know what’s up – hell, I’ve made it really difficult for myself to fall back and it’d get ever so awkward and difficult with all the questions! Well – that was really my intention anyway, to put down anchors and build walls before I get to a stage (if we ever truly do, that is) where I feel totally confident I’ll never drink again.

Yup, it’s tough shit, but here’s the good news, and I say this to all of you who may still be summoning up all your might and speak that little word – just short of eight months in, still quite new to fitness and still figuring out how to live life on life’s terms, I already have too much to lose. Life, already, has turned too magnificent to throw away. Last night hubby and I went for a run. Sure, I’m still building up but I ran for 20 minutes and then another couple of bursts of around five minutes each. That’s half an hour! And it’s not long ago that I struggled to keep going for three minutes. It’s still torture, sure, and sometimes I begin to feel overwhelmed doing this thing called living, but fuck me is it all worth it!

It’s important to remember though, that I had all of this before I sank into alcoholism on a big scale. The morning coffee would have tasted great, running would have felt awesome and my friends and family were as wonderful then as they are now, so it’s not like realising all these things now is suddenly a guarantee that I won’t drink again. I did it before, remember? I threw precisely all of that away. But maybe now, after wrecking myself the way I did with drinking, these are no longer things I take for granted and that’s why my morning coffee is enough to make me lyrical and beginning to feel physically strong gets me tearful with gratitude. This, I need to remember, if I get to a point where I just take it for granted again. Right now though, in this moment, it’s extraordinary to me that I find myself here – sober and counting all these blessings – and I don’t want to give it up again. For what? What good did drinking ever do for me? Uhm… Not a fucking thing.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Choke Holds and Limitations

Phew – I think I’m nearly there now. I was really nervous this time because it was all stacked against me: home alone, a great mood, feeling awesome mentally and physically too, and two days off which meant the nights before would have been an “excellent” time to chug wine. And I didn’t. I fucking didn’t. I’m so relieved I feel a little tearful, actually. Cherokee checked in on me last night and like I said to her on the message string, it’s absolutely terrifying how my alcoholic brain still has a grip on me. And it’s not a loose grip either, it’s a choke hold and claws that tear into my throat. What’s terrifying is that I know there are only shitty consequences to drinking, and what’s more, it brings nothing positive with it. Beyond that, I don’t actually want to!! I don’t want to drink, I don’t want to sit home alone completely hammered and I certainly don’t want to ruin this sober life I am building for myself. How is it, that this awful thing that I know would kill me, still is something I have to be so weary of? But in a way this is probably a good thing, that I keep this awareness and my wits about me, that I accept I’ll never be completely safe.

Have another session with the lovely Dimples today, which I’m sure will be worse than the hottest part of hell given I’m achy from the session two days ago but I’m looking forward to it. Working out feels really good. At the time, I get to several points during the workouts when I genuinely think I’m just going to have to give up, but then Dimples magically manages to push me and afterwards I feel like a super woman. Oh, I know – a personal trainer is indulgent on a grand scale but I can tell you right now that had I joined a gym and gone solo it would have been a maiden voyage and nothing beyond. With Dimples I have the luxury of her telling and showing me what to do, combined with her expertise in how to build a good gym session. Being faced with gym facilities without this would have been pointless. Plus, had I been in a gym on my own doing the circuits Dimples put me through last time I would have packed it in after the two. I certainly wouldn’t have attempted that shit storm called burpees more than the once, that’s for sure. So it’s an education for me, pushing beyond my self perceived limitations. This is what I needed to discover – how to put myself through my paces and stretch beyond where my body might start to complain.

I am desperately unfit though and my impatient nature does mean I half expect (oh, who am I kidding – I completely expected it!!) to see significant results after just three sessions, but life is now teaching me a whole new approach. Sobriety and fitness are similar in that respect – neither is easy (or quick), but if I keep at it my life will be rich beyond my dreams and the results will be amazing. I just can’t snap my fingers, do the plank for half a minute and expect that to be all the work that was required. And as much as I do enviously glance at Dimples and note how toned and fit she is, I also remind myself that she works at it. Perhaps she is one of those fortunate people who gets a lot for free, but her arms don’t look the way they do because she sits on her arse all day. And she doesn’t have good skin because she chain smokes either. Dimples is toned and fit and healthy because she works at it and takes care of herself so how in God’s name could I expect to, after half a life time of smoking and heavy drinking, rock up for a training session and walk out an hour later looking like Dimples? This will, like sobriety, require my commitment and lots of dedication. And I owe this to myself.

But here we are and there was something I very nearly forgot – yesterday was my 7 months anniversary. Well, 7 with a little slip, let’s keep this honest shall we? My slip was just before my 6 months and it pisses me off, but there is always a lesson and I suppose it just really showed me (once again) how alcohol does absolutely nothing for me. This week was a little scary but I think I just need to sometimes also give myself a little credit and recognise that I can actually do this. I can’t master burpees yet, but I will hopefully get to a point where I can get my body to obey there too.

I’ve got this. So tell me, when do you feel fearful of the Beast getting to you? Do you ever end up in the sort of perfect storm that two nights this week presented me with? I.e. your combination of triggers thrown at you all at once? I’d love to know.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Guerrilla Tactics

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

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

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

jaws

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve got this.

Today I’m not going to drink.

On the Other Side of the River

I’ve got this feeling, inside my bones…. Timberlake has put it very well and the song may as well be the soundtrack. Kind of in the background a little initially but it’s right there even from early in the day, and when I give the feeling a bit of attention it intensifies and makes me happy. Work is frustrating because I just want it out of the way. I know the exact route and the journey itself is almost half the excitement. Just thinking about the journey is exciting and fills me with impatience – come on, TODAY, pass! When I can finally leave work I am in a goddamn excellent mood and hop into my little car. I tootle down along the fields, the scenic route with protected views of the river – yes, it’s so beautiful it’s a protected area, this little patch of London – then a left across the bridge. By now I’m humming along, because I’ve REALLY got this feeling. Yes, inside my bones. Oh, it’s is all encompassing and all consuming. There is nothing else. I have no time or energy for anything else.

On the other side of the river now, approaching the traffic lights where I turn right into the High Street. I’ve got that sunshine in my pocket…. This feeling is not even worth trying to fight and by now I am no longer in charge of my limbs as I just dance, dance, dance… I grab a coconut water as I walk past the chilled section because I have it in my head that this contains potassium, which is good to have when you poison yourself. If it happens to be somewhere on my route where I immediately can see and grab it without stopping (let alone having to look for it) I grab a box of Dioralyte too for rehydration. Nowhere to hide when I’m getting you close and I round the corner to the left and grab a bottle of soda water from the shelves on the right without stopping – I’m on autopilot and I could find my way around this store blindfolded. My movements are fluid and I don’t skip a beat, I’d probably look quite good in some sort of musical just about now. And then another left and I almost skip around that corner. Chilled booze to my right but I don’t like having three glass bottles that clink together and betray my mission to the world, and I glance lovingly down to my left. “Sainsbury’s Own” – which means the supermarket chain’s own, shitty brand – Soave. A neat little box that holds three bottles without any of the annoying, treacherous fucking clinking! Cheap, dry, white plonk. Fairly pleasant and even more so when diluted with a bit of fizz from the soda when we move, well, you already know

My shame alarm centre registers a signal as I’m in the queue as well as when I hand my basked to the cashier but I push it back and disable it and it disappears anyway when the contents of my basket – a box of wine, a bottle of soda water and a small coconut water container – are placed in the bag. I don’t use the self check-out because when you buy booze you have to get the cashier over anyway to approve the purchase so this is quicker. Out! I’m nearly there!

The five minute drive up the High Street and home consists of me visualising the step process. I tap my fingers on the steering wheel impatiently as I have to stop by the traffic lights. Finally home it’s much like my Sound of Music dance through the supermarket aisles, I don’t even remove my shoes or put down my handbag because there is nothing I can see but you when you dance, dance, dance. Wine box and soda out of the bag, break in to it and fill a regular drinking glass with two thirds wine and a bit of soda and then ice cubes to make it palatable – who wants warm wine? A couple of greedy gulps and I note I’ve swigged a third (was it really a COUPLE of gulps?) so top it up straight away. Phew! NOW I can remove my shoes and with less hurry I put the box and soda and the coconut water in the fridge. Shoes off, bag down, change into trackie bottoms and put my hair up, as if it’d get in the way but heck, I’m not chancing it.

Just us now. Sofa. My phone. Sometimes laptop. And my usual reminder to myself: DON’T PUT ANY SHIT ON FACEBOOK. I sometimes mean to write this on a sheet of paper to put up somewhere I can see and hopefully register it even once I’m in black-out. See, when I go into no man’s land and lose time, I’m no longer me and I don’t even know that person so God knows what they might do. My only way of reaching that chick is by putting up a note. Sometimes she goes and posts stuff on Facebook, other times she’s written toe curlingly embarrassing e-mails and other times I see from the call lists on my phone that she’s had phone conversations too. All a blank to me. Seeing the evidence of the call with name and duration is ALL that I’ll know of it. It could be half an hour of conversation that is a mystery to me. Oh, the amount of times I’ve pretended to remember a conversation, taking cues from whoever and nodding and trying to appear all “oh yes, of course“. But at this stage, I’m still here. The first glass isn’t – except of course those first gulps I take before I do anything else – all that fast. The familiar taste with bubbles fills me with peace. Mm….

My shame alarm centre does send off a signal right around here but I switch it off. Put it away quickly, away with it! Why in God’s name be so negative and pay attention to how sad it is that I’m sitting here with my wine? Alone. On the sofa. With my phone. No, no, no! Best get on with it! I take a good swig and feel the bubbles wash down my throat as I dive into the wine wave, I feel that hot blood in my body when it drops oohhh… Glasses two and three are considerably faster and now I feel really great! Joyful, excited, full of love and enthusiasm. This is where I might text a few people. I’m loving EVERYONE and EVERYTHING now. Or I might even make a few phone calls if I’m reasonably confident I won’t slur – sometimes I slur half way through the first drink (why though?) but usually I’m OK with speech until I’m heading for drink four. Yes, Drunk Me does make calls before black-out sometimes but that’s OK – or less NOT OK – because these texts and calls I can remember and I’m actually IN them. Embarrassing, sure, sometimes, but these are in the grand scheme of things fine. No sweat. I once again remind myself to perhaps put up that note for the stranger in black-out that I can’t otherwise reach but as usual I don’t bother. Or forget. I can’t be sure which.

Hubby is away and texts. I tell him I am having an early night because I don’t want to have that conversation at 10pm when 1) I’ll be fucking hammered out of my skull, and 2) quite likely be in black-out anyway. It’ll just worry him so better if he thinks I went to bed early. Why drag any innocent bystanders into the pool of shame or worse, worry or hurt the ones I love? No, no, no – THAT would be selfish, no?

Glasses four and five are so fast I’m not sure I can accurately account for them. May I remind you these aren’t standard 175ml wine measures? I’m drinking from a full size regular glass which at a guess holds 400ml out of which I’d estimate that at least 300ml is wine. I don’t really know what happens during glass four and five, except I put them away with lightning speed and it goes electric wavy when I turn it on and six and seven are when it’s definitely getting VERY blurry. This is, if I don’t hit black-out (in which case I obviously can’t AT ALL tell you a single fucking thing), when I sit there and have the Drunken Shakes. This isn’t a little tremor and is NOT to be confused with hangover shakes, this is something else altogether. These are jerky, unsteady movements that mainly affect my hands and arms. Arms most of all, they are that pronounced, too big to affect small extremities like fingers. If I sit there slumped like I often do at this point, with the glass in my hand resting against my leg, it takes all my might to not only lift it (and lift it I must) but hold it steady. I often knock it against my face when I get like this. Am I like this in black-out? Does it happen then too? Well, I don’t fucking know, do I? You tell me.

I wake up. Don’t know much. Look around me only moving my eyes. I got drunk, didn’t I? The overpowering feeling of shame and dread finds me immediately and I cringe as I grab my phone, my first point of call when I need to figure out what happened. Speak to anyone? Oh, look, I talked to both of my grandmothers. I push it away and disable the signals from my shame alarm centre – their hearing is bad anyway so if I slurred they probably didn’t notice, right? Anything on Facebook? No, thank God, but I did make comments – oh no, oh fuck no, SEVERAL COMMENTS – on a political post and unless you’re blind drunk yourself it’s very obvious I’ve drink’n’dialled here. Delete. No texts. Safari history… Watched a bit of porn, eh? Classy. I am unsteady and there is no way I can leave the house, good job I’m so organised and already booked the day off. I knew this, see? So now I have a day ahead of feeling anxious, full of dread and so ashamed I have to spend most of it disabling the deafening signals from my shame alarm centre. It’s a day I can’t do anything with. I need to shower at some stage but right now there is no way I can feel confident enough to tackle slippery tiles. I can barely stand as it is. So I don’t.

See how fun it is to be a drunk? It’s glorious, don’t you think?

But that’s not today. That was Drunk Me. This is Sober Me. I’m seeing my snazzy PT this afternoon and despite going for my first run in I don’t know how long yesterday my muscles are feeling good now. Strong even and I’m looking forward to sets of lunges, squats, spinning and whatever else. Date night with hubby, he is booking this time so I only know it’s on the other side of the river. And bambino has a sober mother.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Trolls and Sunlight

Hello, Wednesday. I’m trying my best to like you but the truth is I’ve always found you dull and you always seem to drag. Sorry.

Since our trip to Sweden I’ve had a little exchange with Cherokee. She’s my best friend and really the female version of hubby – makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? I told her so and she agreed that to be likened to my hubby is praise of the highest order. And yes, I’m so fortunate to have such awesome people as my sidekicks and cheerleaders, I think my journey would have been very different had I been surrounded by arseholes. I know of other people who do not enjoy the luxury of a rock solid support network like I do, and it frightens me to think where I’d be without that. Where I’d be if I were in a situation where those who are meant to love and support me actually didn’t just not support me but actually made it all harder. So I have the utmost respect for those friends who do all this having to swim against the current – that’s heroism on a fucking grand scale. Getting sober is hard enough even when friends and family have your back, you don’t need them stabbing you in it, let me tell ya. I’m very, very fortunate. And until we all are as fortunate as this, I am going to make it my mission to contribute to the conversation around alcoholism and addiction. I think the more we can bring it out into the light, the better a chance we all have to recover.

Cherokee put it so poetically that it actually pissed me off. Bloody HELL, does she HAVE to be so fucking fabulous at fucking everything? Writing is MY thing! And there she goes, penning a few lines that were so perfect I was seething with envy at her talent with words and at the same time admiring her massively for being so clever. She’s awesome. And I’d totally tell her if she had loo roll stuck to her shoe. That’s how much I love her – her many talents, her wit, her intelligence and her beauty only make me admire her. Envious, yes, and I’ve copied her since around 1989, but it’s – I’d like to think anyway – a good sort of envy. Seeing her succeed makes me genuinely happy. I think that’s a sign of when you’ve put someone on a pedestal for the right reasons, which I believe I have when I ponder the very tall ones I’ve placed hubby and Cherokee on. Two people I admire and look up to, yet feel secure and safe around because I know they love me just the way I am and therefore there is nothing I need to prove. I just get to be me. That’s kinda nice.

But anyway. What she wrote.

So we were discussing where I’m at and how I’m now in the midst of a tsunami of emotion following so many years of alcohol abuse and numbing everything I feel, and also about how to set boundaries and change our thought patterns. Cherokee gave me a little crash course in “the power of not giving a fuck” (there are some great books with titles roughly along those lines – I did read one called ‘Fuck It’ a long time ago and thoroughly recommend it, I’m going to dig it out and read it again now that I’m sober) and examples of her own baggage and how she’s learnt to give fewer fucks in some situations. We talked about Project P and my goal to let this go and set new boundaries, and that’s when Cherokee reminded me of the trolls. So she is Swedish like me and still lives where we both grew up, in a part of the world that’s dense with vast forests and where the folklore is crammed full with trolls and mystical beings of the woods. And so she likened issues and thinking we need to face and deal with to just that, trolls.

troll

You know what to do, don’t you?” Cherokee wrote, “You put the trolls right out in the sunlight because that makes them burst, and then when you’ve exposed them you might find they’re nothing but little grey stones that you can throw into the Thames.

I quite literally couldn’t put it better myself and did read those lines wishing it was me who had written those words. I’d forgotten all about those stories about trolls and how you kill them. But perhaps it’s proof that I am not, after all, a troll myself because I spent a lot of time in the sun over our holidays and despite putting on weight that may have something to do with all those cannolis in Italy, I didn’t burst. I say this because Mum has always referred to me as her “troll baby“. Another myth found right there in the folklore. How the trolls sneak into your home at night and replace your human baby with one of their own. Can’t blame Mum though. I was three weeks early yet clocked in at a solid four kilos, was born on a Friday the 13th (no joke) and I also had a thick mop of long black hair that stood on end like a mohican. Hah! I named my best friend Cherokee but when I was brand new it was actually me who looked like a red indian. Anyway, I’d like to think Mum says it in an affectionate sort of way. Although…. She has different ringtones on her phone and the one she has for me is the sound of a dog barking.

Where were we? Seems we’ve dealt with praising hubby, reflected on the awesomeness of Cherokee and established that I’m probably not a troll because I withstood direct sunlight. Good.

I think I’ve mentioned this book before, but I will mention it again, as well as recommend it to anyone who wants to re-frame what alcohol means to them: ‘The Naked Mind‘. It’s really just a better written version of Allen Carr’s ‘The Easy Way to Stop Drinking‘ and absolutely fabulous. I read it a few months into my sobriety along with Carr’s book and they really did cement what I’d come to believe and feel when it comes to booze. 100% part of my tool kit. And what’s even more fabulous is that there is a website as well as a Facebook group you can join (I’ve joined both) and discuss and share with others in the same (or similar) boat along with giving each other support. These two books are important to me because they punch holes in a lot of the stuff we’ve all been brainwashed into thinking around alcohol and exposes booze for what it really is – a foul tasting poison.

Well, as with AA, I can’t say I blindly just go with Carr’s or the Naked’s philosophy but just like AA those form part of the perspective I am developing when it comes to drinking and my own experience. One doesn’t exclude the other. For example, these two books seem to advocate a view that is in direct odds with AA’s stance on what an alcoholic is and seem to suggest there is nothing that is different in or with the alcoholic, and here I lean much more towards AA’s view. I do honestly believe there IS something that sets us alcoholics apart, that there is some sort of fundamental reason why we react differently to alcohol than the non-alcoholic does. But again, this doesn’t matter and I will probably always continue to absorb all I can learn around alcoholism and addiction and nod when I agree and shake my head when I don’t.

OK, that’s enough for now. Sexy hubby, amazing Cherokee, trolls and books. That’s not so bad for boring Wednesday.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Escaping Everest

Ah, and so back down to earth with a nice little thud – hello, Monday. I think being in Sweden rumbled me a lot more than I expected it to, so it’s good to be back. I sometimes forget that it’s the place where I grew up that creates a lot of sadness and pain in me and so each time I am there I’m a bit overwhelmed by it, it’s not a new Sober Me thing – it’s always been that way but perhaps it was more intense this time because I can fucking feel everything! I never saw moving away as escaping but perhaps that’s what I did and as much as I love it there, I need to keep a safe distance and it’s good to have the North Sea as a barrier sometimes. Regardless, I can shut it away in a box on the other side of that puddle or I deal with it and have it over with. I suspect the latter would be the healthier option. Being back in London does mean my emotions are still like live wires that fizz and crackle but being home means I’m slowly returning to a better balance. All in good time. That doesn’t mean I’m going to slow down, it just means I need to deal with one thing at a time and in the right order. Changes are coming, and I am changing. I have already changed so much by just being present and with the light back on. Alive, I suppose. Still, there is much to be done and I will just have to tackle each little mountain one by one. No Everest in there. Or perhaps one, but I have it all mapped out so I don’t think there’s anything about the climb that’ll catch me off guard and it’s always getting back down that’s much harder. The others nice and challenging in a good way, much like the Mighty Hike. Time to get on with it.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Butterflies in Mordor

My bad mood and terrible sleep now combine to a headache that I just cannot seem to shift. At home, what should only have been a calm discussion between my son and I culminated in a screaming match during which I totally lost control, resulting in us once again hugging each other an hour later and both in tears. Moments like that I wouldn’t even argue if someone told me I’m too rubbish to be called a mother and from now on only be referred to as Gestation Facility as pregnancy seems at times to be the only thing I did somewhat well and without completely fucking up. Not proud of myself at all. And when it comes to arguing, the apple has fallen so close to the tree I’m not sure it’s even detached from its branch – my son is a master wordsmith and I’m pretty sure he could make a brick bleed out of frustration alone if he set his mind to it. When we finally managed to TALK and were friends again, he gave me a lopsided smile and said:

You and I are like the butterfly effect.

I think there’s a film with that title but haven’t seen it and I had actually no idea what this means. It sort of sounds like something bittersweet though, has a sadness and a sense of fragile beauty to it somehow.

If it’s at precisely the right moment in precisely the right place, it’s enough that a butterfly flaps its wings to start a hurricane,” he told me.

There is no better way to describe us when we clash. The actual issue drowns almost immediately as we both spin furiously out of control and get caught up in frustration and anger to the point that we’re lying there on the battle ground in our own blood not knowing what we’re meant to be fighting for but that we didn’t want the other hurt. There is no one who can push my buttons like he can, no one who can make me angrier, but as I told him, this is because there is no one I love as much as I love him. There’s a Swedish saying that goes “den man älskar agar man” which basically means that we hurt the ones we love. It makes sense I suppose, just like no one can make us hurt more than the ones we love. Entirely logical even though it doesn’t make it easier. Luckily, butterflies and hurricanes aside, we seem to be able to express love as well as anger so we always end up in a good place but I really am disappointed with myself for losing control like that – it’s my damn job to hold it together. Bambino is a teenager and it’s HIS job to be rebellious and difficult, not mine.

Well. Today is a new day and I can’t change what’s been, so as with much else I can just try harder to learn from past mistakes and try harder to be better than before. If I keep focusing on how much I’ve fucked up in the past – even yesterday – I’ll just end up feeling like shit. I need to remember my fuck-ups as a motivation to do better, but not focus on them. Sometimes a fine line and a hard balance to keep, don’t you agree? However, Rome wasn’t built in one day and I do give myself some slack given I’m basically re-learning how to do life now that I’m sober. It’s quite mad to think that for over a decade there are very few experiences I went through, very few situations I faced and very few decisions I made without either being drunk or hungover. For example I can’t honestly tell you if I have even been in a job interview without battling a hangover – that would have been the sort of thing I would have wanted to avoid having a hangover for but rarely succeeded, if ever. So this life thing? It’s kinda new.

With the sleeping – or the lack thereof – this week, I’m going to have to get this back to normal. Well, back to my new, sober normal obviously as the sleep I was getting when I was drinking was terrible. We have a marathon length hike on Saturday across the south coast so to rock up in Brighton Saturday morning with a headache from sleeping badly would not be fantastic. I know there are natural remedies you can take to get you relaxed but for someone who spent years poisoning herself I am surprisingly reluctant to take pills or supplements that alter the way I feel. Even the prescription medicine I have to combat the pain for fibroids I don’t take unless it’s so bad I can’t cope. Why? Because I believe it’s always better to allow your body to feel what it’s meant to be feeling even if it’s pain. Isn’t that the funniest thing you’ve ever heard coming from a DRUNK?!?!?! I know, I’m fucking hilarious. But it’s all true. Yet another example that highlights, I suppose, how brainwashed we are when it comes to booze. Pain relief? No thanks, I don’t like to put stuff into my body that isn’t natural. A large glass of a substance that kills more people than any other drug AND as a cherry on top is proven to increase your risk of getting a whole variety of cancers? Oh, yes please!

You know, I think you could write a whole book on the madness of alcohol brainwashing alone. A trilogy, even, showing how the power of booze makes Mordor seem like Disneyland.

Back to my shitty week though. About three weeks into my sobriety it was my birthday and then Valentine’s Day. On the latter we ended up having a puncture, so there we were in the freezing cold and being whipped by sideways rain with me trying to hold an umbrella that was about as effective as a napkin and hubby on all fours trying to change the damn tyre. It was not the best half hour and we were both chilled to the bone by the time we were seated. I told my sponsor about it when I saw her the following day and she exclaimed “oh my God, and you still didn’t drink! That’s what I call a result!“. This is one of the things in AA that I’ve probably struggled with the most, i.e. the idea that we drink to overcome hardship or difficult feelings. Or indeed that all addiction comes from a void inside somehow. You know, this could all be true, and I won’t deny that the “restlessness, discontent and irritability” I first heard described by my awesome Willow as a root cause for alcoholism has played heavily on my mind during this staggeringly crappy week I’m having. It makes me shit myself to think that how I’ve been feeling this week might come from within, that this is just what it’s going to be like to be me from now on and these previous five-plus sober months was just a bit of a joke. Right in this moment I honestly couldn’t tell you for sure what I believe, so the jury is out on that score, but any time I’m stressed or feeling glum – and this applies to when I was drinking too – I don’t particularly want to drink. Last night was massively stressful and upsetting and the idea of a drink could not have been further from my mind beyond consciously thinking to myself before bed that thank God I’m not drinking and how much more stressful and upsetting it had been if I were. So to be honest, if I need to spend the rest of my days as grumpy as I’ve been this week, it might be a really excellent way to stay sober.

Don’t get me wrong, when I was drinking a bad mood didn’t always stop me and I have drunk on every goddamn mood a human being could possibly have because, well, I’m an alcoholic. My greatest trigger, however, is a good mood and/or great things happening. You wouldn’t think it reading my blog this week, but I’m actually a pretty happy bunny most of the time, and with a good mood making me want to drink… ..let’s say I’ve done a lot of celebrating in my time. So my first sponsor’s insistence on how ALL drunks ALWAYS drink because of negative emotions made it hard for me to really get on board with it. I think it just took me a while to realise and accept that, well, no actually – she is describing her own experience and perspective and I’m not less of a drunk just because my experience doesn’t exactly match hers. I’m a drunk too, you ignorant cow! #drunktoo

So here we are and in 48 hours from now we’ll probably be about a third of the way from Brighton to Eastbourne. How hard can it be? I have two nights ahead, both of which I pray to God will give me some quality sleep although these hills look fairly harmless, don’t you think?

7

I think it could so easily turn into a vicious circle. Last night I really wanted to sleep, and needed it. And there I was, worried the night would be as bad as the one before and sure enough, the moment I let worry into my mind I was fucked and even though it wasn’t anywhere near as awful as the previous night it still took me forever to get to sleep. So I need a really great way of getting myself into the sleep zone this evening.

If anyone has any really great ways of laying the foundations to a wonderful night’s sleep, please let me know.

Today I’m not going to drink.