I’ll start with how magical the park was this morning – here it is:
Environment conscious folk will hate me for this, but my morning drive to work is a sacred ritual. I don’t drive the quickest route, instead I take a longcut that takes me through London’s loveliest and second largest park. There are no manicured lawns or flowerbeds, just a beautifully wild and natural sanctuary that is filled with fallow deer that Henry VIII brought in for hunting when he took up abode down the road at Hampton Court Palace. Today is a cold and crisp morning and the sunshine and mist made the park look absolutely spell binding. I wish I could have been out walking or running, this is my favourite sort of day and I actually really begrudged how I’m not a billionaire or a desperate housewife. Still, having this on my (sort of) way to work and just a hundred yards from our front door is pretty goddamn cool. It’s a shame that the photo doesn’t do it justice, but then photos never do – I don’t think the magic of a moment can ever be fully captured that way. And for that reason I mostly stop myself from interrupting the moments – I very rarely pull out my phone as this for me feels like I’m not fully present, but this I just wanted to share because it was so very lovely. As for moments, sobriety lets me be in them. Had I still been drinking I would have been too busy trying to take the shortest route and generally staying upright. Yep, it’s a spectacular gift, this sober stuff.
Driving is kind of my meditation. It’s a time for reflection and when I sort through my thoughts. Concentrating on the road means there is no room for distractions like my phone or the TV or anything else that could be described as mindless, yet something I’m used to enough to allow plenty of brain capacity for a bit of mental hygiene.
This morning when I found myself feeling so grateful, I ended up thinking about how I used to structure my whole life around drinking. The things that didn’t fit I rearranged. Now that I’m sober, I’m forever discovering how I even invented “truths” about who I am and what I like/don’t like in order to keep drinking. For example, I used to hate speaking on the phone. This was mostly because I’d be so painfully aware I was slurring and also my glass would empty within ten minutes and that satisfying gush of wine from the box was so bloody obvious! Then the PSSHHHH! from unscrewing the cap of the soda bottle. Never mind how it’s quite hard work to hold on to any coherent train of thought – I’d quite literally find myself mid-sentence and having forgotten all about where I was going with something. I was all about texting and e-mailing. Problem was those would expose me just as much and my morning ritual back then wasn’t going through a magical park but in a panic reach for my phone and cringe at what I might have sent when I was drunk the night before.
Sober Me isn’t like that. Yes, I’m a creature who expresses herself best and most easily in writing, but I also like chatting on the phone. Last night I got my Cherokee on the line and I came off the phone after our long conversation feeling happy and content inside. This is the beauty of real life, real time interaction – it doesn’t always drain me, sometimes it enriches me. Who knew!
Speaking on the phone I’d written off in my drinking days as simply another thing that “just isn’t me“. Just like other Anna’s Drinking Truths like “I don’t like people“, “I hate socialising” and “I want to be alone“. It is true that I like my own company and sometimes I just need solitude because my brain does overheat with too much stimulus, but I actually also need people. You know, it was only yesterday when a kick-ass lady said something my inner autopilot immediately disagreed with. She said she too (what do you mean – TOO??) feels lost without her husband. And I discovered how I’ve almost trained myself not to need people. Not anyone. I’ve ingrained this in myself so deeply that it’s just how I have always viewed myself. When she said this (fine, fine – it was the lovely Katie from over at How I Killed Betty!), a lightbulb went off in me. Holy shitballs! I’ve somehow managed to convince myself that I don’t need anyone and so it’s almost like I freaking refuse to allow myself to feel any of these things. Even with hubby. I swear I’ve always been of the opinion that sure, if he left me I would never ever love again because he is IT, so that’d be devastating and shit. Bottom line though – I’d live. I wouldn’t love but I would live and I am FINE on my own.
Being a drinking alcoholic in social gatherings suck because I have to be so aware of how much I drink so I don’t lose control and also have to hide it. This is really hard work and not in any way enjoyable. Anna’s Drinking Truth: I hate socialising. The Actual Truth: alcohol made socialising stressful.
Living almost every day with a crippling hangover is thoroughly shit. I’d be weak, dizzy, shaky and unable to follow even simple conversations. That makes human interaction fucking painful. Anna’s Drinking Truth: I hate people. The Actual Truth: alcohol made me feel like death and when you do, any human interaction is painful.
Everything else, be it people or things or even eating (yes – eating!), gets in the way of drinking. Meeting with a friend for coffee takes me away from drinking = stressful, and meeting with friends with a hangover = stressful. Anna’s Drinking Truth: I want to be alone. The Actual Truth: being around people is painful because I’m either stressed out about drinking or so hungover I can barely function.
And then the whole I’M FINE ON MY OWN. I mean, this is to a great extent true. And I do believe we need to be secure and happy in ourselves before we can ever be in a healthy relationship, but it’s also quite normal to need the people you love. I need hubby. I genuinely don’t know what I’d do without him. As for Bambino – my world would collapse without him. The sun sets and rises with those two. I already knew that, I’ve never tried to make myself believe anything but. Still. To admit I depend on them, need them, that my heart can’t beat without them? WHOA. The I’m-fine-on-my-own thing isn’t so much of a Drunk Truth because I was like that since long before I ever drank a drop of alcohol, but as alcohol does with anything that’s negative it really enhanced it. The Beast wants me on my own, remember, so this was perfect – she’s a loner! Why, of course! Me, the bottle and impending death – that’s where it wants me to be.
What this does go back to is this thing I’m increasingly discovering, this fear of mine of being rejected. It appears I may have build myself a pretty impressive fortress over the years and I’m-fine-on-my-own is perhaps its very foundation? Up until pretty much the point that I realised this – uhm, just a moment ago! – the idea of needing other people made me squirm. I don’t recall this myself, but according to my mum the first sentence I spoke was “I can do it myself“. Actually, what I said was “jag kan själv” given I grew up in Sweden and didn’t speak any English when I was two years old, but there we are. I don’t know if that is telling or just shows what a stubborn and obstinate cow I am. Cute aside I thought.
As for Little Anna, I clearly remember being so scared when I was little, of losing my parents or anyone else in my closest family. The thought made me squirm with discomfort and terror, it absolutely petrified me and sometimes had me in such panic and angst I couldn’t sleep. And here’s the really sick and twisted truth that dawned on me too in these last 24 hours of revelations: I recently realised that none of that scared me so much anymore, because even though it’d be heartbreaking and I’d be desperately sad, I’M FINE ON MY OWN and in this case without them. Without everyone. Wow. Thank God I am unravelling this or I might have ended up in a fortress eventually that could never be torn down. Inspecting my heart it’s still needy and ready to love despite all my efforts to close myself off from the world.
This is interesting as hell to me. Scary stuff, this brain of mine. It can make me do things that I plainly don’t like or enjoy yet make me think I do. What else might it be capable of?
Today I’m not going to drink.