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?

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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.

Worry Clouds and Melon Sorbet

The first thing sobriety changed for the better for me almost immediately was my sleep. From terrible sleeping patterns with waking up several times with the sweats and palpitations, it was only a few days in that I ended up falling asleep quickly (although to be fair, when I was drinking I’d be out like a light) and then sleep solidly until morning. Because being sober is a change for me, I’ve taken pleasure in noting all changes and even when I’ve felt bad for whatever reason I’ve enjoyed being able to experience my emotions completely as they are without anaesthesia. Even when I’ve felt really crappy it’s been a positive thing to just be faced with the actual crap, as opposed to a big, wet cluster fuck of wine soaked mess that may or may not contain an actual message from my soul. Plus I used to be too fucked from either being too drunk or too hungover to begin to untangle it anyway. Goes without saying that no matter what I’m feeling, when those emotions come along I’m awake, alert and ready to take them on no matter what they’re bringing me.

And here’s where I want to salute Mother Nature again for equipping me with this excellent survival system – all our senses are there to keep us alive! Even fear is our friend, if you think about it, Mother Nature’s genius way of letting us know that we need to watch out. And so I think of feelings as my subconscious sending me signals. Feeling good = keep doing that! Feeling bad = hm, let’s have a look at what’s going wrong here shall we?

This week has been quite crappy so far. I’ve been irritable and unsettled. Some I’ve assumed to be the work of hormones given I do get a bit down when Auntie Flo pays a visit, but this is worse than I usually get. I’ve slept badly over the past few nights. Not as badly as I did when I was drinking, but much worse than at any other point during these blissful five-plus months of sweet sobriety. Nightmares, lying awake, having trouble going to sleep. Can I just say though, that even when I’m feeling off and sleep badly, I still get to wake up without a hangover so even after a night of bad sleep I’m feeling miles better than I did during the Drunken Years. Either way, it’s been horrible lying there in the dark, unable to get comfortable, my jaw clenched and thoughts spinning webs of worry and anxiety. My jaw is cramping and achy – it’s where I carry stress. Some people carry it in their shoulders, for me it’s in my jaw.

Because I get to feel properly for the first time since I was actually in my late twenties, I don’t know what to make of it and it really frightens me. This isn’t a chemically induced alco dip. This is the stuff I’m feeling and I can’t immediately see any logical reason. Oh yeah, and there it is – my heart is beating faster than normal too. Hello palpitations, long time no see, how’ya been? What if I’m now plunging into depression or anxiety, or, heaven forbid, both? I’ve not been sober long enough before to truly feel everything so now that I do it can be overwhelming. What is this? Is it anxiety? Is it a lurking depression? The rational part of me kicks in and I decide I can only begin to understand this by spending some time with ME. Hubby is also tossing and turning, plus we went to bed pissed off with each other so his tossing is of the exaggerated kind – it’s like trying to fall asleep in a bouncy castle loaded with toddlers. When I’m confident he’s finally gone to sleep, I get up as quietly as I can, picking up my trackie bottoms and tank top from the floor and take them with me as I tip-toe out of the bedroom. I only put them on when I’m in the living room. And there I sit, at 1.30am, vaping and wishing I could make myself some coffee, giving my soul a private audience and waiting for it to help me understand what it’s trying to tell me.

Except the occasional breath that tastes of melon sorbet and menthol, I focus on my breathing and although it’s dark I close my eyes as an invitation to my mind to serve up any stresses I need to deal with. What are the images? What are the emotions? What am I so in knots about? Most of all I try to figure out what I’m feeling just sitting there alone in the middle of the night with only myself for company, doing nothing but breathing. I figure if I discover it’s uncomfortable I’m in trouble. What if it’s being me that’s uncomfortable and has me in this state? What then? I feel a little tearful at the thought but I know that I need to face this head on and if I can stare down the beast I can bloody search within myself for the cause of pain if I have to. So I do. For someone who has always detested any new age hippy-dippy shit I’m not exactly good at this but do my best. Inhale, exhale, fill my chest and then let it sink back – over and over until my mind agrees to focus on this only. I like it. It’s relaxing and it feels good. I go on to “think through” my whole body – this is quite funny because it’s something my childhood friend M sort of taught me. She used to get stoned and then do this as a way to relax her whole body and then claimed it was like she was in some sort of trance like state. I’ve never been much for drugs and so didn’t join in when it came to weed, but this little procedure of hers did stay with me. I start from the bottom up: I think of my toes, each one in turn and what they look like, the position they’re in, both visualise and feel each part and then the same thing throughout my entire body moving up through my feet, legs and so on. It doesn’t send me into a different dimension (possibly because I’m not stoned) but it does do the trick and I can finally feel my jaw relax and the tension in me lift.

When I’ve untied mind from being bundled up in a tight and whirring tangle of anxiety, the spikes go from struggling to buzz and strike at me all at once and all my worries and fears are just floating around me in separate little clouds, I can calmly examine them one by one. They don’t feel so charged and prickly anymore because I’ve given them this audience and each will have their turn instead of trying to shoot and crackle their way into my conscious that’s been locked down by anxiety.

Yup, there’s stuff in one in particular that hurts no matter how I turn it over. I feel the bumps and lumps and discover I can’t heal this pain or change it. This can only be lived through but I do reluctantly realise I have to be less selfish and that some of the angst I feel comes from putting myself first and losing sight of what’s important. Chuck in a little forgiveness and the tangle is less severe. The little cloud of worry still hovers around me and will continue to do so, possibly for a very, very long time and maybe even forever, but if I can reel myself back in like this once in a while and regain my focus on what matters it’s going to be much easier. I find a number of other little clouds that are just pathetic. The sort of clouds that have formed because I’ve just fucking lost another few marbles – stuff I’ve ended up worrying about for no apparent reason and even if there was reason to worry there’s nothing I can do about it. Those clouds I need to figure out what to do with – how to stop wasting energy worrying about stuff I can do literally fuck all about. Answers on a postcard please. With the rest of the little clouds that patiently wait there as they’re hovering around me, it’s mostly a case of acknowledging them and trying to be really fucking zen about it. Genuinely try to give each problem a little score or label to indicate how real and important it is and my level of power to change it.

So nothing has changed, really. It’s in the middle of the night and I’ve just sat on my own in a dark room with nothing but my breathing for company. But my thoughts, or my worry clouds rather, have calmed down because I gave them my full attention and that made them stop shooting lightning all over my mind like the little drama queens that they are.

I quietly and carefully creep back into bed. I don’t cuddle up to hubby because I’m still pissed off with him and at this point he is to my mind the one of us who was more of a dick last night. I may engage in the odd little spell of meditation but I’m still me and right now he’s a git. And that’s OK. My thoughts have quietened, worry and stress at least temporarily lifted and clouds dispersed for now. And I can finally sleep.

Oh, I’m still having a shitty week. But hey, that’s cool too. At least I know what I’m feeling, what I’m ACTUALLY feeling and not a haze of booze depression or paranoia. All home grown worry clouds here, folks! Au natural!

Today I’m not going to drink.

Dancing With Hemorrhoids

There’s this woman who really rubs me up the wrong way. It’s ridiculous because I don’t know her and I’ve never met her in my life, we just happen to be part of the same Facebook group. Because this is so pathetic (on my part obviously, not hers) it made me wonder why it is that I allow myself to become wound up at what someone says online. And, may I add, nothing she’s ever expressed in that Facebook group has been aimed at me personally or anything I could possibly take offence at. It’s mad, isn’t it? I can only conclude that I have too much time on my hands or something, but that can’t be it because life is usually busy. Am I bitter and alone? Is that it? Nope, not that either. At least I don’t think I am? Am I? No. Surely not. I wake up each morning, this one included, feeling happy and content. Except yesterday, I wasn’t fucking content then with a cramping uterus. But this isn’t about my period cramps from hell. It’s about me being mysteriously bothered by a woman I don’t know and with whom I have zero dealings. I need to figure this out – right now! – and once I have, rightfully feel bloody stupid and laugh at myself before proceeding to let this nonsense go. Here goes.

Let’s call her Needs-a-Poo because when I read what she writes I imagine her voice to be like when you really need to do a poo or are in the process of squeezing out something akin to a bear’s arm. It’s not as nice or poetic as Dances With Wolves (and may we all take a moment here to appreciate Kevin Costner’s arse, although 20 years on it probably doesn’t look like that anymore) but I am in a bitchy mood and also petulantly childish, the woman irritates me and this is my blog so I name people what I want.

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Actually, looking at it now in that picture it’s nowhere near as good as I remembered it to be and Mr Costner also has chicken legs, eurgh. His bottom (even here, 20 years ago) is a bit flat, no? I need to sneakily take a photo of hubby and stick on here to illustrate naked male perfection, the guy has the most divine bottom and his legs should be fucking illegal. I swear if I weren’t married to him I’d end up in prison for just what goes on in my head when aforementioned divine bottom and illegal legs are on display. I hate people who brag and I hate people who are smug, but again, this is my blog although now it’d appear I’m behaving precisely in Needs-a-Poo’s online manner. Can’t express it enough though, my husband is what I, if I weren’t married to him, would refer to as prison bait. I literally can’t walk past him without slapping him on the bum or pinching or groping him. Even when he’s eating and dropping half a sandwich down his front (I keep wondering what happens at work lunches and dinners – I mean, how on earth does he get by then?) I want to molest him. Perfection in a lovely well built kiwi package. Yummy–dum-dum. OK, enough, I feel Bad Me taking over and need to get back to what I was actually wanting to talk about. Needs-a-Poo.

So what does she write and comment on that makes me spend energy sighing and rolling my eyes? Well, it’s exactly what I’ve just engaged in without inhibition – bragging. So the discussion could be about anything at all but the most recent I can think of was a parenting discussion around bedtimes. Most people then added what time their kids go to bed and their ages. Needs-a-Poo did the same but went on to add that her precious dahr-ling does swimming before school and then pony riding and tennis after so she’s oh so tired and needs plenty of sleep. Another time someone had asked a question related to school uniforms and Needs-a-Poo felt the need to get in to her response how unique and gifted her child is. I genuinely don’t know why it grates on me the way it does! But anyway, Needs-a-Poo always seems eager – or even desperate – to put across how nice her house is, how well her kid is doing at school or whatever, what a good area they live in and so on. I honestly can’t read her comments without groaning and much eye-rolling.

So I think I have just caught myself when I’m at my most cynical and negative when it comes to Needs-a-Poo. I chucked in a throw-away comment about Kevin Costner’s bottom which was totally random and not even in my head until I typed the first Indian name I could think of that was nicer than ‘Needs-a-Poo’ and that film popped into my head, followed by the scene with naked Mr Costner. I got the picture and then looked at it and realised that this male bottom I used to think was so delicious is nowhere nice as my husband’s. Et fucking cetera. And where did this come from? This incessant and frankly off putting bragging about how hot my husband is that then followed? Where? I’ll tell you where: it came from a place of the purest and strongest love and how I love that big old kiwi so much I can barely breathe. I’m fucking crazy about my lovely, sweet hubby. That’s where it came from. And how, when I look at anything or anyone he could possibly be compared to I can’t even see how the bottom belonging to one of the greatest Hollywood heartthrobs of our time is anything special because hubby is to me the dreamiest creature to ever inhabit this planet. And it’s like I can’t help but shout about it.

Why do I shout about it? Is there part of me who wants you, who reads this blog, to be impressed that I’m married to such a dreamy wonder? Probably not, actually, because you could be precisely the sort of smart, amazing, witty, attractive woman who could steal him away from not as smart, not very amazing, not as witty and not as attractive me! Is there a part of me who wants to show the world hey, this incredible guy chose ME!!!!! Possibly, but I can’t say it’s a huge motivation. Sure, I’m proud of him and I always feel such fondness for him when we’re around my friends and family, joyful at what a great person he is and it fills me with happiness to see how those I love also appreciate him and he them, but that’s not my reason for bragging. In fact, I sometimes feel guilty! Like when a sister-in-law asked what we’d done for Valentine’s and I said we’d had a lovely time and she went “of course you did, with that man!”. I almost felt like I wasn’t worthy. I felt sheepish telling her how hubby had got me flowers and presents and taken me out. I felt the need to tell her what great gifts I’d got for HIM. So do I brag because I want people to know he chose me because it’s ME who totally rocks? Do I brag because it’s lil’ ol’ me I want you to see?

Gosh, that might be approaching the real reason a little – I have, after all, always been utterly desperate for people to like me and care WAY too much what other people think of me. One tiny comment, even if it’s from someone I don’t even like, can crush me and be imprinted in my conscious forever. I’ve always known that about myself because it’s always been there, this inexplicable insecurity that so many of us seem to feel and this sensitivity that means I can go from invincible to dust with just one unkind word. So maybe, just maybe, I’m trying to not just see what’s great about me through hubby, but to get you to like me too. Because, you know, if someone as great as him loves me, then that must mean I’m very, very loveable.

Anyway!

When I brag about hubby, it comes from 1) a place of love, and 2) wanting to be loved.

So what about Needs-a-Poo? If we assume nothing is wrong with her, that in all likelihood means she’s just like any other parent, namely, she loves her daughter so much it’s driving her nuts and wants to shout it from the rooftops. It turns out her daughter is also the result of IVF and years spent trying and repeatedly grieving failure after failure. So perhaps even more so than your average, bog standard parent like me who didn’t go through the same heartbreak to get there, she is even more appreciative of the gift that is parenthood. Who knows? I don’t know where her need to demonstrate what they have in terms of material possessions (their house, their area, their cars and so on) comes from but perhaps she grew up with very little. Or she has worked her arse off to have a life she is now very, very proud of? Or she’s fucking irritating and an incorrigible smart arse braggy boots. Entirely possible too. Or she just wants to be seen and loved like the rest of us. Maybe that’s all there is to it, even if it’s irritating and the voice over that accompanies her comments sounds like someone who is pushing out a mega poo.

This is one of the reasons why I’m loving sobriety – not only do I get to feel all my emotions properly without modification, I also have the luxury of dissecting them and thereby understanding myself better. It’s really interesting – I’m soooooo much more fucked up than I realised and now I can get to know myself for real, fucked-upness and all. Fucked-upness is the new black. When a bad feeling comes, whatever it might be – sadness, anger or, in the case of Needs-a-Poo, irritation – I can slam on the breaks and take a proper look around and see where it came from. So when Needs-a-Poo bleats on about her precious kid, her house or whatever else, is it a case of me worrying that people will run out of love and none will be left for me? I don’t know, I honestly don’t. I do suspect, however, that even though she is infuriatingly, frustratingly annoying, it’s very likely it all just comes from love. So I’m going to close my eyes for a moment, say a little prayer and wish for good things for Needs-a-Poo. There! Don’t get me wrong, she annoys the crap out of me and I want to staple things to her head every time I read her smug and conceited comments and wish a bad case of hemorrhoids on her, but I am, after all, trying to stay connected to a better way of living and be a better me so less of the hemorrhoids and more of the assumption she is basically an OK person. I’m trying, OK?

Sobriety feels good today. No beast in sight at the moment and despite the beautiful summer weather the urge to drink hasn’t really come over me much over the past week. Hard not to imagine drinking when the rest of the world congregates at riverside pubs and beer gardens, but right now it’s plain sailing. In other words, a good time to not only feel gratitude but also be vigilant. Such is the nature of the beast. Ho-hum.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Warning! Heart overload!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today I’m not going to drink.

Vomit and AA Super Stars

I wonder what would happen if we made the 12 step approach to recovery undone. If we waved a magic wand and made it so that it never came to be, I wonder if we would inevitably end up with a very similar strategy based on what happens within us when we get sober. Sounds a bit ridiculous, I know.

With my first sponsor I ended up getting quite turned off, which is in a way really strange as 1) I absolutely adore her, and 2) she is living proof of how the 12 step program can work miracles. For me, she’s the sort of person I glance at and think “I’ll have what she’s having, please“. Perhaps I wasn’t ready, perhaps I was still too fresh into my sobriety to be fully open to it all – Sparks is what Willow used to call “an AA super star” by way of describing how she is very set in practicing the 12 steps and 12 traditions very strictly according to the AA way. Perhaps I wasn’t ready to be told not to question anything. Unsurprisingly, I can now see that Sparks was right in everything she said and even the things that I didn’t feel I could relate to she expressed for a good reason – to help me stay sober. I think I thought I had to accept everything as 100% true for me in every sense and so inevitably I encountered conflict almost immediately as no two people are the same. There just cannot be one size fits all to treat the human condition. So I guess I made the mistake of allowing the differences to grate on me instead of focusing on the similarities. And maybe, despite how I love Sparks to bits, she’s just not the right sponsor for me. Hey ho, always lessons to be learned, that’s half the fun, no?

Back to undoing the existing 12 step model. The reason I ask what might happen, is because now that I’ve got a few months of sobriety under my belt, I have discovered how some of these things actually happen in what seems to be an entirely organic and natural process, although as usual I can of course only speak for myself. You get to a point where you just can’t do it anymore and know it’s all a big mess, you want to live differently and you accept you can’t do it on your own. You go on to dissect your own patterns of thinking and behaviour in order to find a better way and you sincerely want to put right the hurt you have caused. When sobriety almost immediately delivers and your life experience goes from bleak and hopeless to light and joyful and you already see positive changes all around you, something almost magical (as magical as sobriety itself I suppose!) happens within and you want to share with others who suffer how there is a way to recover the person they were always meant to be and have the life of their dreams. Fuck me, I want to vomit reading that, I’m starting to sound like Sparks.

Anyway, my point is that I reckon what happened was Bill W & Co devised the steps and traditions not so much based on religion as their own recovery, because no one handed them the Big Book, right? It’s clear these dudes are Bible bashers, but remove the odd ‘God’ and ‘Higher Power’ they’re really just describing the process of recovering from alcoholism and what happens within us as we do. What do you think? This is all the stuff they concluded and so now that I have been sober using tools I’ve picked up in all sorts of places and not just in AA, I can begin to see how it all happened. Or rather, how it COULD have happened. Feel free to shout when I say stuff you think is totally wrong – I’m just letting my thoughts run wild and spill out as usual.

However, none of that matters anyway – who cares if the 12 step model was sprayed on to a wall when a unicorn did a wet fart or if it lit up across the sky when Thor smashed his hammer around – I just find it interesting and I love how sobriety allows me to discover new things almost every day. Like when I realised I was doing a bit of step 9 work when I said to my mother that I’m sorry for causing so much worry – it was specifically to do with my drinking so bang on subject and I specifically apologised for the heartache I must have caused her. Fuck me, the poor woman, I fall apart if my kid scrapes his knee, and I can only hope that my son does not in turn and passed down by me carry this most unfortunate predisposition.

When I get ready for steps 8 and 9, my son’s name will be the top name on that list even though there too I have, without using the A-word or placing too much burden on his still young shoulders, expressed sincere remorse and asked forgiveness for hurting him with my drinking. Anyway, that can be talked about more some other time, I just wanted to point out how some things kind of get triggered by sobriety and much of the stuff outlined in the 12 steps is what at least I have discovered I end up feeling anyway. And although my narcissistic brain does want me to think I’m the cleverest recovering drunk there is, I know I just cannot be alone in having this happen in this way.

So. I’m lacing up my finest 12 step shoes and off we go. Well, I’ll be lacing up my new trainers and will head to the women’s meeting and then walk back – that’ll be roughly the same distance as my normal walk around the park so a matter of two birds one stone. For those of you who aren’t members of AA, it’s normally the case that women stick with women and men with men (this reduces the potential risk of a whole new set of complications) so I’m making it easy for myself, plus I know who I want to ask. There are inevitably, as with all situations in life, people in AA you relate to and people you don’t, people you like and some who just really grate on you. People in AA are warmer and friendlier and WAY more open than any other situations I’ve found myself in, but trust me you get good’uns and bad’uns everywhere, so you don’t just grab anyone to sponsor you although I don’t know if there is some set of official guidelines for finding a sponsor. I chose Sparks because she was someone I got to know straight away, in fact the was the first person to swoop in and talk to me before she took my phone and added her number. She had the qualifications too: she was further along into her sobriety than I am and she’d done the steps. Beyond this I really like her on a personal level. She just seemed like a natural choice and I do enjoy her no-nonsense and slightly brutal approach even if I may not have been ready for it.

So yes, I do have my eye on someone (jeez, that sounds so fucking creepy!!) I’d like to speak to and see if she’s up for sponsoring me. Unless she’s an absolute twat of course, but I won’t know that unless I speak to her and if she isn’t as un-twatty as she seems I’ll just have to go back on the prowl, but that’s my criteria for having her in mind: she seems like a non-twat and I can identify with the stuff she shares.

For the purposes of this blog I’m going to call her Breeze because she’s softly spoken, comes across as gentle, always smiles (but most people in AA are very smiley) and when she shares I sometimes wonder how the hell she broke into my head and stole my thoughts. Bit like asking her out really. I’m not great like that. I’m a sunny and friendly person but a little shy with the approach so my normal strategy is to smile and hope other people make the first move when friendships are to be made. May have to put my big girl pants on here though and just do it. Chances are that she won’t burst out laughing and then mock me for even daring to THINK she’d want to be my sponsor. If she raises her hand again this evening to indicate she’s happy to speak to newcomers (which I think is the signal for being happy to be someone’s sponsor but I could be wrong – oh FUCK, what if I’m wrong and I ask her and then I’ll look really stupid and feel mortified OH SHUT THE HELL UP BRAIN!!), I’m going to do it. Oh, I am pathetic, just watch me stare at my hands in my lap for a bit and not knowing what to do when everyone else starts chatting after the meeting, feel a little silly and then just leave after talking with all the people I already know. Or I end up not going as usual.

You know, I’m really torn. On the one hand I absolutely 100% value AA so, so much and I always intend for AA to be an important and necessary part of my sobriety. Crucial and central, even. On the other I am not struggling to stay sober. I feel I need to go to stay connected and I suppose sometimes I just need to remind myself of that. Most of all, I just need to LISTEN TO THE SIMILARITIES instead of feeling frustrated any time I hear experiences that are nothing like my own and I can’t relate. But hey, it’s a journey and it’d be pretty boring if I didn’t learn stuff all the time. Long may it last!

Today I’m not going to drink.

Fascinators and Phallic Symbols

Today is the kind of day when I actually feel like drinking would be a great idea,” I said as I adjusted my fascinator.

Hubby smiled as he drove into the car park of Ascot Racecourse, kind of chuckled a “hmh!” that wasn’t in approval or disapproval but just sort of a half grunt response to acknowledge that he’d heard me. And it was only a thought but it was nice that he heard me and that helped it fade very quickly, because that’s one of my best defences: speaking it out loud. When the thought comes, I let it out. I put words to it and it goes away. Boom. I allow those thoughts when they come a’knockin’ and I deliberately invite them in. Foolish perhaps, but I feel trying to shut them out or suppress them might be worse. And voicing them to someone else, most often to hubby, makes me feel safe, it’s almost like the urge gets closed down the moment I share it (same strategy as why it’s good to share in AA meetings I guess). Fine, so I know full well that if the beast got its claws into me there’s nothing anyone else could do. If I were to decide I was going to drink, nothing would – or could – stop me. But it does help to not be alone, because alone is where the beast prefers me to be. It’s in its nature to strip all semblance of a life away from the alcoholic, isolate her, shrink her world and slowly edge her towards death. And it goes without saying that voicing a fear to someone we trust means we weaken the beast – telling someone is, I think, the best thing we can do when we’re in harm’s way. Alcohol can’t speak, of course, but if it could it’d coax us drunks in the same way an abuser would – urge us that this is our little secret, threaten us with worse if we snitch and ultimately have us believe they are our only friend and no one else would understand or believe us anyway.

So anyway, we settled on our picnic blanket and it struck me how strange this little piece of Britishness is. There we were, dressed up to the nines and having paid more than we would have for a couple of concert tickets to even be there, yet we were sitting on a picnic blanket in a car park between rows of cars and eating food and snacks and strawberries straight out of the packets. You’re not allowed to enter if the shoulder straps of your dress are not of a minimum width, but eat your lunch with plastic cutlery is no problem. But this is what you do. People around us had picnic furniture and several with table cloths and even flower vases. It’s quite lovely and a little eccentric I think, this car park picnic thing, and I do love the wonderful British people who inhabit (and allow me to inhabit too) this lovely island and partake in their quirky ways.

The thought of drinking alcohol disappeared but for a brief moment when we were on the stands ahead of a race and I thought to myself that it was hard enough to negotiate steps and lawns in high heels and felt grateful I don’t have to drink anymore. We did go three years ago, and I drank then. I don’t think I got recklessly drunk, but then I rarely did when we were out – my full-on drinking always took place at home, much in line with aforementioned dirty little secret and isolation. For that reason, I was usually extremely restless and anxious to get away in order to get on with getting sloshed, and my guess is I must have been keen to get home after a couple of hours. Not so these days though and this is one of the biggest changes for me now that I’m sober: I get to be present, I can relax in the moment and just enjoy it. No stress, no hurry. Like many other awesome benefits to sobriety, this is utterly wonderful and I always did really hate the restlessness booze filled me with – I’d go as far as to say it was unbearable.

And that brings me to the greatest thing of all – quitting drinking has given me my freedom back!

That’s not to say I never feel anxious, restless or down. I don’t like flying so feel anxious when I have to get on a plane. I get restless when I feel done with one thing and want to move on to the next, like when hubby takes an eternity to finish off a coffee after a meal – we have already spent two hours sitting here and I am all ambiance’d out, ta. I feel down when something sad happens or when something hurts. Of course I feel all those things, but I feel them when there is a reason to. When I drank I’d frequently experience those feelings almost like they were a default setting. Thank God I’m free from that and only need to feel bad when there is a reason to do so. Oh, and I get a bit sad when it’s the time of the month, I really do feel the fluctuation in hormone levels and I once ended up crying watching Friends when I had my period. But you know what I mean, don’t you? Those feelings aren’t my natural way of being. They are quite the opposite, I’ve discovered. It has really amused me to realise that I’m actually pretty calm when I used to think of myself as highly strung and antsy. Who would’ve known?

Of course you end up feeling free when you’re no longer a slave. Now I go into situations for what they are as opposed to being distracted (and stressed) by how to factor in my drinking and all that this entailed. It’s still a novelty, actually, because I catch myself feeling little hints of stress that dissolve the moment I remember I don’t have to drink anymore and it’s replaced by a sense of gratitude.

Another blogger wrote something that made me think – how us dry alcoholics can feel utterly convinced and super strong about never wanting to drink again one day, then feel like hitting the bottle the next. That’s probably the scariest thing about alcoholism as far as I’m concerned, because as I’ve bleated on about in this blog I really DO see all the benefits (and necessity, of course) of total abstinence. I also know with the rational part of my brain that alcohol does nothing for me and that I’d be better off eating dog shit if I feel like doing something both stupid and pointless. Yet, the compulsion is so strong that it still pulls at me. That’s terrifying because what in God’s name does it have on me when I honestly KNOW it does nothing for me? When I know that it’ll just go to shit if I have a drink, why does it still hold some power over me? Well, I don’t know. Do you? Any theories? It honestly is – to me – like an abusive partner. You go back time and time again, but WHY when all they do is cause you harm? It’s maddening!! All I know right now is that this thing that I don’t actually want to do is occasionally tempting, and that’s enough to respect its power massively. I guess I’ll just always have to remember the beast is much bigger than I am.

In other news, this weekend is the most important celebration of the year for us Swedes – midsummer! We mark the lightest point of the year by getting very, very drunk and dance like little frogs around a phallic symbol. This year we’re heading over to a friend of mine and will binge on various Swedish delicacies and I suppose I’ll be on water or alco-free beer. And yes – just then there was a little ping! in my head and I conjured up images of hubby and I having a midsummer celebration picnic in the park and drinking wine. The association with fun and a great time is so strong. So strong that even though I know that those images are illusions, they still have a firm hold on me.

For anyone interested in celebrating midsummer like a Swede, here’s an instruction video:

Today I’m not going to drink.

Huge Oceans of Kindness

No more hesitating. I’m going to do it! The story about Alice is still one I want to tell, but the story I have to tell first is the one about Sophie. A true story before a fictional one. And I don’t want to do it anonymously – how can I talk about removing the stigma and shame attached to alcohol abuse when I myself hide behind an alias and am still so preoccupied with what people might think that I don’t want to stand by my own freaking truth? So when I tell Sophie’s story I have to start by killing her off because this story is my own, it’s my truth and it’s my voice I want you to hear. After all, how could I ever expect to encourage others to talk openly about alcoholism and trust in me to be in their corner when I show up to the party wearing a Halloween mask? It doesn’t seem right and it’s about time I pull my own pants down.

Why don’t you?” hubby asked.

Not just about pulling my pants down, which he always approves of the dirty git, but why I don’t just slap my real name on here along with a photo where you can see more than my woolly hat and behave according to how I hand on heart feel – i.e. how I absolutely, 100% embrace the fact that I’m an alcoholic and if anyone’s got a problem with that I know with conviction that it says more about them than it does about me. After all, I’ve been open with both my family and my friends when the subject of drinking has come up – told them truthfully that I have quit drinking alcohol for the simple reason that I can’t stop when I start. So why hide here, of all places? It’s a bit ridiculous really if you think about it, not least because this is a tiny little blog in a huge ocean of others with a small handful of readers and the chances of this landing in front of my family are minuscule. I.e. a family I’m not trying to hide anything from in the first place so using an alias is actually quite ridiculous.

But! (There’s always a ‘but’, isn’t there?) How would my parents and siblings feel about having an alcoholic in the family, something so closely associated with shame and embarrassment? “Yes, this is my youngest daughter who is about to get her Phd, and this is my eldest – she’s an alcoholic.” As open minded, supportive and kind as my mother is, I just can’t exactly see her saying that with pride. Hubby himself is a good example, actually. It’s his surname I bear. An unusual one at that. And hubby happens to be on the board of a global company. Call me crazy, it won’t be the first time, but I do feel that for this reason alone I’d be best advised to be discreet about what a big, fat drunky-drunk I am. Can you see what I mean? That’s what has made me weary more than anything else, because I genuinely don’t have a problem with it for my own sake.

What if it affected you negatively?” I asked, “would you not worry about it reflecting badly on you to have people know your wife is a drunk? Wouldn’t you be embarrassed?

No,” he said without missing a beat.

Huh. Am I desperately prejudiced myself, or shockingly backwards in my thinking, in saying that if it were me I’d probably be a little concerned in that respect? Even though I personally would like to think I’d never judge, I’d be painfully aware that many others would. Hubby seemed completely unconcerned by any of that. Weirdo! Or is it because I’m so preoccupied with this that I have completely misjudged all of it? After all, every single person I have told about quitting drinking and my reasons why, has responded with nothing but kindness. And not the sort of kindness you’d expect if you were diagnosed with cancer “oh my God, you poor thing, we’re here for you and we’ll do all we can” but a more relaxed sort of kindness “oh OK, well, good for you“. An it’s-no-big-deal sort of kindness. I fully expected my father to go to town with a long lecture followed by scolding me for having sunk so low, yet instead he praised me for making such a great decision and told me he had huge respect for me. Huh. Or perhaps it’s just I’m discovering that the world – amazingly – does not revolve around me and that’s what’s actually shocking me. That friends, family and people in general, including business associates of hubby’s, don’t actually need to give it further thought than “oh“. That they don’t, in fact, gather around to discuss my many shortcomings at length. Huh.

More than anything, I need to stop worrying what people may think. This is me, this is my truth and I own it. And if those close to me feel shame for any reason, the question should be whether I want to have them near me anyway.

My name is Anna and I’m an alcoholic.

Hahaha, it’s not the most heroic outing the world has ever seen, is it? And after all that build-up it’s a bit of an anti-climax, don’t you think? Oh well, there we are. But just like the 23rd of January, it’s a START, because this is when I stop thinking about putting my little journey to good use and begin to actually DO IT. I’m not a fan of clichés or those “words of wisdom” on cheesy memes or whatever else, but there’s one I once saw in my Facebook newsfeed that I downloaded with the intention of having it printed and framed. And I think I now will, along with living according to exactly what it says:

year

Today is all I have and today I’m not going to drink.