Bambi In the Zone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

decision

Today I’m not going to drink.

 

 

Sandra Bullock’s Smile

It’s interesting – almost intriguing – for me to hear from those around me what they did see or notice when I was drinking. I met up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time Friday. I’m going to call her Bullock because she resembles Sandra Bullock quite a lot and for a long time I couldn’t for the life of me figure out who she reminded me of but then it dawned on me that she has the exact same features as that wonderful actress. Anyway. We were both going to the gym Friday morning (I work every other day when the people I work for are away so Friday was a day off) and decided to meet up afterwards for some light lunch and coffee. I’ve not seen Bullock since before I quit drinking. We don’t know each other that well but if feels like we do – perhaps it’s because we’re both immigrants and have our native Sweden in common that has meant there is an immediate connection, I don’t know. She’s one of those real salt of the earth people, perhaps that’s why I always liked her so much. Natural, open, genuine – you know, the sort of qualities you’d list as desirable traits in friends.

I mentioned the gym? Can you tell I feel ever so smug and virtuous? I do. I feel like super woman! I still have a few sessions left with Dimples but have now officially signed up with the lycra inferno just down the road, the same gym that hubby goes to, and Friday before meeting with Bullock I had the free PT session they give you when you part with your bank details. A young stack of muscle mass took me through a bunch of stuff but I missed Dimples. Unfair, I know, because you’re never going to have the same quality of instruction in a gym as you do when you have a PT focused on you, the whole you and nothing but you. I shouldn’t complain, and how much fun would it have been for a dude half my age trying to come up with some exercises for an old drunk? He did seem quite amused but at least he didn’t try to make me do burpees.

Yes, I am feeling VERY happy about this life decision of mine to get fit, healthy and strong. And so obviously I’m keen to talk about it, and especially so when Bullock herself had been to the gym Friday morning. It just didn’t seem right to just say I’ve decided to get fit – even though of course that IS true. It doesn’t tell the whole story. So we chatted away about getting into fitness for a while.

It’s been a strange year, in a good way,” I told her, stirring my coffee as I paused and wondered if there is no other way to drop the A-bomb than dropping it and realised there isn’t, “I quit drinking alcohol, which is a biggie for me.

That’s great,” Bullock said and smiled her identical-to-Sandra-Bullock smile, “what made you decide that?

Spit it out, Anna. What are you going to say, girl? The truth or some half baked nonsense about a health kick? Come on, now! Big girl pants pulled up, now go!

I’m an alcoholic.

Excuse me?

I’m an alcoholic,” I repeated and smiled.

Huh?” Bullock went and leaned a little closer, perhaps her hearing is as terrible as mine but in that cafe the acoustics are terrible so it’s probably hard to hear anyway.

I’m an AL-CO-HO-LIC,” I said and emphasised each syllable.

Oh,” Bullock replied, looked at me and smiled, “wow, I didn’t know that.

Well, how could she? Again I was met with the same response I’ve had over and over and over – kindness, sometimes a bit of surprise and interest. It was quite literally as though I’d just told her I have a bit of a cold – the experssion on her face was friendly concern. Just a statement of fact that didn’t warrant a huge reaction, just an acknowledgment that it’s serious but not met with a shock horror reaction. And then Bullock told me, equally matter-of-factly, about a battle of hers.

It’s funny, isn’t it?” she mused, “You just never know what people go through or who hides what.

True. You wouldn’t know from looking at Bullock that she fought the battle she told me about. It just goes to show how democratic these things are. And it makes me think of the tattoo someone in my family told me they’d get – a tattoo of a tree with a deep set of roots to illustrate how you don’t know what’s underneath given you just see the tree and not its roots.

You know, I was thinking about the last time we saw each other on my way here and wondered if you noticed at the time,” I said.

The last time we met up was at the pub and I was so aware of it at the time, just like I always was when I drank socially. I ordered a large glass of wine, Bullock ordered a small one. And then I ordered another when she was still working on hers. A large glass of wine in the UK is 250ml, a small 125ml. So I had four times the amount she did that time and remember feeling funny about it, as I always did in those situations. I’ll say it again – it’s no fun drinking with non-alkies when you’re an alkie, it’s fucking hard work and fills you with anxiety and stress.

No, I don’t remember thinking that,” Bullock told me inbetween mouthfuls of her eggs on toast, “but I did wonder what was going on when you were so keen for me to leave when you needed to pop in to the shop afterwards.

Lightbulb. THAT part I’d forgotten all about but suddenly remembered when she mentioned it. Yes, I needed to get a box of wine and I didn’t want her to see. And I remember her being hard to get rid of as we were both heading in the same direction home from the high street. I kept trying to say goodbye and Bullock kept saying she didn’t mind waiting when I popped in to get whatever I needed to get.

I remember now,” I said, winced at the shame of it and chuckled, “I needed to get wine and didn’t want you to know.

That makes sense now,” Bullock agreed, “it did seem like you didn’t want me to see what you were buying but I just didn’t understand what it was all about.

So she’d noticed something was off but not the bit I thought she may have paid attention to. It’s both interesting and cringe worthy to talk openly about these things now. The good thing about it is that I can now explain to people around me what was at the root of my strange behaviour. Like my sister-in-law M when we had the conversation and she could tell me what they’d seen, thought and suspected. It’s a weight off my shoulders, not only that I no longer have to drink but more importantly that I no longer have to hide, sneak around, manipulate and lie. Thank God for that, because it doesn’t feel good to do any of those things.

Has anyone else had these conversations with friends and/or family? Open discussions about what was going on and how it felt and was perceived for you and for them?

Today I’m not going to drink.

Tiny Splinters

I think I’ve been hiding a little behind my alcoholism. Needless to say, being an active alcoholic means your world shrinks and the booze renders you pretty useless – or at least this was the case for me. No way was I able to achieve anything I wanted when I was forever trapped in a vicious circle of being hammered, being destroyed by hangovers or busy planning my next drink. Round and round I went and there was no fourth option, just going around that vicious spiral deeper and deeper until I was so exhausted I couldn’t do it anymore. Yes, drinking meant I couldn’t keep fit – how could I possibly attempt going for a run (or even a walk) when I felt so ill I couldn’t even stand up? How could I possibly string a sentence together, never mind write a book, when even making a doctor’s appointment was more than my fuzzy head could cope with (dial, speak… …no)? Getting out to see friends was akin to swimming with sharks without the damn cage and don’t get me started on jewellery making – why don’t YOU try to solder a small piece of metal and balance a tiny solder splinter on a tiny, almost invisible seam when you have the shakes and are so hungover it’s even affecting your eyesight? Oh, and add a blow torch and acid just for fun. Besides, you would have to be upright so it’s a moot point anyway. Hell, even walking down the road to buy some milk represented an insurmountable challenge most of the time, as did getting the mail from the postboxes on the ground floor and taking the rubbish out.

Luckily I’d got to the point where I realised that it was the booze that made everything this way. Oh, I know, crazy isn’t it? Like it’d be anything else, but a drunkard’s logic alongside furious denial is a very powerful thing. I knew it had in earnest begun its final descent and had isolated me as well as removed all my chances of being the person I’m meant to be. I could see that. I understood that my drinking was holding me back in every way possible. Of course this wasn’t always the case – at one point I was more receptive to the possibility that I might suffer from a mental disorder than consider my drinking as a possible reason why I couldn’t leave the house. Such are the workings of a drunkard’s mind. But eventually I was just at a point where the real culprit was staring me in the face.

Once I truly accepted that my drinking was causing me all manner of harm – and don’t get me wrong, I thank higher powers every fucking day that I did get to that point – I think I also found myself a nice little hiding place. Haven’t pursued my writing in a serious manner? Well, I’m an alcoholic! How could I? Unproductive at work? Well, I got here, didn’t I? Despite a hangover caused by two and a half bottles of wine last night, I made it in so just get off my back, alright? Unfit and given up on the running? Who could possibly do exercise when actively exercising their right to be a drunk? As shitty as it is to be a drunk, it did give me a solid reason I could point to from inside my victim cocoon and blame for all my shortcomings and failures.

See? Being a drunk has its advantages too, and in my case it gave me a nice little one stop shop of excuses that I could hide behind. Poor me, right? And there was also a big part of me that, once I got to my turning point and wanted to get out of that damn bottle, thought everything would just magically fall into place once I’d rid myself of the juice. I think I kind of thought I’d suddenly shine at work. And why not? It’s not rocket science and everything I need to do I could do in my sleep. No tasks are challenging and whilst I was still drinking that was probably a really good thing as it allowed me to focus on just surviving each fucking day without attempting to do anything more complicated than add up some invoices. So I had some idea that once I was sober I’d be a super star and it’d all be magnificent. Well, at any rate that I’d do a low level job brilliantly if that makes sense. Truth is that I’m probably doing an even worse job than before! I’ve not shone one bit – if anything, being sober has done nothing but underline to me how utterly pointless my job is. Of course it was only ever meant to be a Plan B that was meant to sit alongside my Actual Passions (writing and jewellery making) and bring in some money whilst I pursued those, and for a Plan B it’s in truth really fabulous: it’s local, the hours fit perfectly and I work for lovely people. But…. It just feels like a waste of time and the sad reality is that I’m doing a really shockingly bad job. Even sober and therefore at my full wits, I can’t seem to give it any of the energy or clarity of mind I’m now enjoying. It’s not fair on the people I work for and it’s not fair on myself either.

One of the bloggers I follow – Acquiescent Soul – recently expressed how he’s gone from hopeless and sad to frustrated and angry. Although I can’t say I feel angry, I definitely feel frustrated and as I commented to AS I could probably advise myself too: use it as a springboard to find that Real Purpose. It’s always easier to fix other people’s problems than your own, simply because you can see the issue and point at it but you’re not the one who actually has to do the work, but I realised when I typed my comment to his last blog post that what I was saying was as much to myself as it was to him.

With risk of sounding like I’m obsessed with Dimples, the personal trainer with whom I’m having a few sessions to get me started on getting fit, but she said something that really sums a lot of it up: “Your body isn’t Amazon Prime. Don’t expect it to turn up in two days.” Something like that. But that goes not only for getting fit, it goes for everything I might want to achieve. It’s relevant as hell, because I think on some level I did sort of expect life in general now that I’m sober to have that Amazon Prime-esque slant to it.

Quitting drinking doesn’t mean I’ll automatically go and collect the Nobel Prize for Literature any more than it’ll mean I can suddenly run 10k in under an hour the next morning. Work is required. I have to write the first sentence and many thousands to follow it before I can even have shot at getting published, there has to be A Book and that book needs to be written. If I want to be the author, I have to be the person writing it and that includes the first sentence, the thousands to follow and probably blood, sweat and tears being part of the process too.

Getting physically fit now that my body is no longer ravaged by alcohol also requires work. Nope, I couldn’t fit into my skinny jeans after my second session with Dimples but I swear to God there was part of me that fully expected I’d be at least able to pull them up over my hips. Ridiculous, isn’t it? But nope, I have to work and I have to work hard. My first couple of runs were SHITE. I have the 10k app because this is the distance I want to regularly jog, and each run is so far a mixture of walking and running. The first time, still in Amazon Prime mode, I’d selected Week 5. Oh yeah. Walk one minute, run for five. Couldn’t do it. I haven’t gone back to Week 1 – because I just fucking won’t, OK? – but did rewind to Week 3: walk 90 seconds, run 90 seconds, walk 3 minutes, run 3 minutes and then repeat. This I could do. Quite hard the first time but the next easier. A lot easier, even. It’s happening – I am getting fitter and stronger but I’m not getting it for free and nor am I getting it fast. It feels fucking good though and worth every last aching, sweating muscle burn.

Dad turns 70 in September and my brother, golden boy D, has made him a hunting knife. Dad is big on hunting and he collects hunting knives – the handmade, perfectly crafted and often quite ornate ones that you don’t find south of a few thousand krona. And D wanted this sister of his to make the holder for the belt in silver. And I have! It’s not as perfect as the knife and its sheath but it’s handmade by me and I didn’t have to keep re-doing the soldering as I was steady and focused enough to get it right the first time I aimed the blow torch at the silver pieces I needed to fuse together.

And my Plan B job is never going to be fulfilling unless I make it so. I’m in touch with an addiction support charity and will see if one of their administration roles might work. It’s volunteering and would require one day per week. This would probably work with my current job as my employers previously were happy with me doing my jewellery course one day per week. Start on that basis and then who knows what might open up for me once I have my foot in the door of a building I’m keen to enter? I want to pay it forward, this gift of sobriety. Sure, I’m still new-ish on this journey and much work is ahead of me when it comes to ME – a whole lifetime of work, no doubt – but if I can in any way use all those years of heavy drinking to reach others and perhaps even be that one person who really gets what they’re going through or be of help in some other way, then hey – that’d be one of my greatest achievements.

Bottom line is that quitting drinking isn’t enough to make everything the way it should be or to get me on fast forward to everything I want to do and achieve, but it allows me to take the first step, write the first sentence, show up for the things I want to show up for, hold steady when soldering metal and, well, get GOING. I can begin to put the work in now, towards whatever it may be. Drinking kept me down and I knew that, but the lesson is realising that sobriety won’t in itself pull me up – it will just allow for me building enough muscle to get myself out of the pit, but that is really a miracle in its own right to be honest. I suppose it’s called freedom.

first step

Funny…. It’s been flickering around somewhere in the periphery, just little glimmers of what my book might be, but I see it more and more now. Perhaps my voice belongs with those others who account for a life wasted drinking and living once again in sobriety? Maybe that’s the book I am meant to write? I’m sure Alice will patiently wait, my main character whom despite drinking I’ve spent so much time, love and energy carefully crafting. She’ll understand. As long as John doesn’t go and die, he’s well into his 80s and I need him in the story. Hah. Enough.

Today I’m not going to drink.

A String of Gems and Hope

It really feels like the last week of summer, and I suppose it is. There has been a definite turn in the weather and now with the August Bank Holiday weekend and Notting Hill carnival behind us, autumn is right on the doorstep. This is fine by me – I love autumn. Over sized scarves and sweaters, dark evenings, candle light and hot drinks spiced with cinnamon. Hah! That last bit was interesting as I suppose I would normally have mentioned mulled wine and had to think for a second there about what I might be drinking this first sober autumn I have ahead of me. Well. There’s alcohol free mulled wine should I feel like it, but I suspect as with regular wine I won’t be interested in the alcohol free version. Yep, summer is over and it’s a grey Tuesday here in London with the temperature just nudging 20 degrees. No more tank tops and shorts – it’s back to long sleeves and jeans.

But what a summer! Actually – what a YEAR it’s been so far, and I still have my favourite season and Christmas to look forward to!

2018 started off the way my years normally do: with a severe hangover. Some years I’ve attempted a dry January (and to be fair, mostly managed just fine) but this year I didn’t even consider it. Monday 22nd January I called in sick because I was so hungover I couldn’t move. That evening I acknowledged I was in serious trouble and finally reached out to my husband and spelled it out: I AM AN ALCOHOLIC, I CAN’T GO ON LIKE THIS AND I AM FRIGHTENED. 23rd January my decision was made – I knew I wanted and needed to get sober and sort my life out. And I’ve done my best. I’ve not done a perfect job but where I am compared with where I was going is a miracle. (Oh, I bloody HATE it when sober folk yap on about miracles but this is probably why. No two ways about it – the way I drank and the sheer quantities of wine I put away amounted to “suicidal drinking”. Yes, that’s a thing). So whilst the year did begin with monstrous drinking, I gave myself the best gift: sobriety and a shot at life again.

And 2018 has been a string of magical gems that I have been present for: Ronnie Scott’s, friends over from Sweden, Paris, Foo Fighters in Gothenburg, the Mighty Hike, Lipari, Sweden…. Pretty amazing. To just think I initially thought I’d enjoy life less without the chance to poison myself and actively working to shorten my life whilst hurting my loved ones in the process. Yes, it’s madness, it’s all fucking madness.

Yesterday hubby and I went for a walk around the park. I was tired due to the world’s most uncomfortable bed at a little hotel in the Chilterns where I took hubby for a little getaway. But off we went. We did both comment during our walk that we were walking faster than usual. Hubby had a sore back and hasn’t been allowed much exercise so the last time he came with me on a walk was back in July before our holidays. Normally it takes us one hour and 35-37 minutes, around the inner perimeter of the park which is exactly 10k. 1.31! Felt awesome! Walked fast enough to get a tiny bit breathless and sweaty. Must be the work of Dimples and getting back into running – I’m getting stronger! I must be! And make no mistake – I’m getting stronger because I am able to be the person I was always meant to be, and that person loves being active and feeling strong. I don’t know if I agree with Dimples when she says I “look strong” during the exercise sessions but I am absolutely starting to feel it. As it happens she is away for a week so no sessions until next week now, but I have contacted the gym and will be signing up this week so that by the time our last sessions are done I’ll seamlessly be working out solo too.

If you’d told me last year at this point that I would go on to enjoy all these things booze free and then sign up for the gym too, I’m not sure I would have believed you. I would have wanted it to be true, definitely, but I doubt I would have had the courage to actually believe it. Hopelessness in the face of alcoholism would have made it all seem so far fetched. Like a utopia, almost. And yet it isn’t. Perhaps I’m not free yet, perhaps I’ll never be fully free but I’ll happily settle for what I have now. My addiction has been forced into a cage and that’s amazing, but I’ll just have to accept that I can’t look away for too long because the cage has no lock. But I can live with that. If that’s as free as I can ever get, it’s still a win.

Progress, not perfection, as they say. But this IS perfection as far as I’m concerned. Every last minute that I’m sober is perfection.

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.

A Self Centered Pity Party

Holy crap – welcome, folks, to Anxietyville! It’s not a fantastic place to be but is where I have spent much of the past three nights. I’m not letting it get the better of me, and besides, a good mood is my trigger rather than feeling on edge so perhaps I’m safer than ever?

My son has a complicated relationship with his father. I don’t want to go into detail because again I don’t want to put anyone in an awkward situation if this blog ever did wind up in front of people I’m actually writing about and so I want to keep it as anonymous as I can and disguise everyone as best I can, and ideally beyond recognition. At the very least, I don’t want to air anyone else’s dirty laundry, just my own. So, suffice to say it’s been a difficult year and a half during which my heart has ached for Bambino. It would seem they are now finding their way back to each other and whilst this is freaking amazing news, it also fills me with dread because it would take so little for it all to fall apart again. I don’t think my ex-husband would disagree if I do say openly here that I’m not his favourite person and he therefore refuses to speak to me. This is OK, of course, but does make things slightly tricky if we’re now approaching a situation where we are co-parenting again. So anyway, Bambino spent the night at his dad’s for the first time since January 2017 and they had planned quality time together Monday, after which Bambino was meant to come home. I got a text in the afternoon saying he was going to stay another couple of nights.

I really have to rein myself in – this is a good thing! A really GREAT thing, even. But his text had tinges of what didn’t sound like Bambino and I had a real battle on my hands staying calm and telling myself all was well. In the end he did call me and I was reassured he was fine and it was nothing at all like the sinister scenarios that my mind cooked up. Still. My 13-yearold sends brief text messages to inform me he’s not coming home. If he stays the night at a friend’s place I won’t allow him unless I am in touch with the adult(s) in charge. OK, it’s his father, but even so, this doesn’t sit well with me but I guess I just have to suck it up. He’s coming home today, or at least that’s what he told me yesterday, and I do hope this is the start of spending time regularly at his dad’s again. A fractured relationship with a parent can fuck us up endlessly and it’s the last thing I want for my son. Says the alcoholic. But you know what I mean. This is a real test for me and I am doing my very best to let it go, hold back and focus on what’s important here. This I am obviously much better placed to do sober (just imagine what pouring wine on this would be like) and any anxiety I feel is totally irrelevant. I think it’s true what they say in AA, how us alkies are incredibly self centred – Drunk Me certainly is – and this is a fine example of a situation where I have to give myself a slap across the face and grow some balls. This is not about me or how I feel. Not one bit.

Hubby is still away and this morning I really, really missed him when I had my morning coffee. This is our little morning ritual, see. Whoever’s getting in the shower first sticks it on, by the time we’ve both showered it’s brewed and ready and we have our little morning chat on the sofa. It’s not like it’s ever been a case of agreeing to do this, it’s just what we do and this morning when I sat there on my own in my empty home I really wished hubby could have been there.

OK, that’s enough now – I’ve had my pity party, so let’s move on!

I’m really keen to put my drinking to good use. I mean, it did me no good whatsoever, so it’d seem like a waste to have fought as hard as I did to drink for no reason. Yes, being an active alcoholic is really, really tough – I know I’ve said this a hundred times, but I can’t stress it enough – and I have nothing to show for it. What I do have is the gift of sobriety that I intend to hold on to with all I have, and I feel such a strong desire to reach out and help other alcoholics who are still suffering. I know there has to be a place for me there, that perhaps I can just reach that ONE person and show that I know what it’s like to be there but also that there’s a way out. This is something I need to pursue, whilst never losing sight of the work I will have to continue to do myself to remain sober and have the life that I want.

And life really is so amazing when I don’t poison myself. No black-outs that I have to figure out like a detective, no days wasted to crippling hangovers and no alcohol induced anxiety or low moods. Now I’m just my usual delightful hurricane of emotions but sober I can bloody deal with them. Please, never let me lose sight of this, never let me lose my grip.

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.