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.

Trolls and Sunlight

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

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

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

But anyway. What she wrote.

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

troll

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today I’m not going to drink.

Butterflies in Mordor

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

You and I are like the butterfly effect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7

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

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

Today I’m not going to drink.

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.

The State of Vera’s Glass

Ever encountered an energy thief? I can, as I write this, think of two people in my life who can with just a look sap me of energy and drain away every last little happy vibe. I don’t know where it comes from but perhaps it’s again all back to this need we all probably have: see me, see me! Some wish to be acknowledged, appreciated, validated. I’m trying to live my life according to a whole bunch of new principles and perspectives, and one of them is “never assume bad intent“. This means I am making a concerted effort to stop for a moment and not go with my initial reaction when the reaction is negative. I.e. when I feel irritated, offended or even angry. My intention is to pause for a moment and ascertain if my reaction is indeed valid due to another’s crappy action, or if it’s an exaggerated or even faulty response mechanism that engages and fires because there is something in me that’s off somehow. If I land at the conclusion that the action itself is crappy and my reaction to it is sound, I want to see if I can understand where it’s come from because I just don’t believe there are many people who are just inherently shitty. Gosh, talk about over analysing stuff, but I’m in that sort of mood this week. And yes, I am irritable, possibly due to hormones. Hah! It kind of frightens me to think what I might be like when I hit the menopause and they kick in for real, I’ll be delightful I’m sure.

Anyway.

For all my flaws and shortcomings, I think anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I’m a pretty positive person. My default setting seems to be sunny. Thank God. They’d possibly also say I’m sensitive. I mean, you could probably quite easily, with minimum effort make me either feel really low or exuberantly high. Boom. Case in point: if my bosses are sour faced and quiet I immediately feel a bit ill and assume they hate me, but if they are smiley and chatty it’s enough to make me feel appreciated and accomplished. Both reactions in me that are utterly disproportionate to the actions themselves. But I know this – my emotional antenna is WAY too finely tuned and I can plunge into both inexplicable joy and sorrow for others as well as myself. Exhausting, as I’m sure you can imagine. Another thing I am working on but generally accept to be part of who I am, but being aware of it does help. We’re all different and whereas some people are more sensitive to, say, physical pain or bright lights or strong flavours or whatever it might be, it just happens to be the case that I get the feels very easily. It does also mean that whenever there’s an energy thief around, I go down faster than a fat kid on a see-saw.

One of the two energy thieves I could think of just now that I’m writing this is Vera. I’m naming her that because she was drinking an aleo vera drink just earlier with the motivation it might make her less tired. I like Vera a lot, she is super duper sweet, but I don’t think she has EVER responded to my “how are you?” with anything other than a sad grimace and a so-so hand gesture. OK, I can’t say I’m a bundle of boundless joy this week and we all have our ups and downs – of bloody course we do, it’s LIFE! – but Vera’s glass is not even half full, it’s never had anything in it, the fucking glass is empty. Worse than that, it’s broken and she has severely cut her mouth as a result. Her tongue is almost completely severed and she is bleeding to death. That’s the state of Vera’s glass.

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I don’t know where it comes from in Vera’s case. It’s not that she is spoilt and just won’t appreciate what she has, because she has worked her arse off her whole life and has built up an impressive life from nothing. She’s had nothing handed to her and her work ethic would put any of us to shame. Especially me, unfocused and lazy bugger that I am. Vera’s life I’m sure many would envy. Due to aforementioned hard work, she has now placed herself in a very nice position for the future, having laid solid foundations not only for her baby daughter but also for any further “at least one more” children she and her partner may have. At a glance, she’s got it made. And yet she never has a good day, never seems to be really happy about anything. Of course, I’m sure people could look at me and say the same things – list a bunch of stuff off the cuff and conclude I have nothing to complain about. I have a happy and healthy kid and a loving husband, and we live in a home where we are warm and safe, never worrying about putting food on the table. I’m sure for many people someone else could just take a brief look in through the window and not see any reason why we might complain, and of course there is always more to everything than first meets the eye. I just think some of us are wired the way Vera seems to be and focus on the downers more than the uppers, even when the uppers are right up in our faces. I don’t want this to slip into a discussion about depression, which is something different altogether and comes for you regardless of whether you’re a prince or a pauper. Depression doesn’t give a shit about reasons to be happy or sad, it’s nothing to do with that. Well – I don’t know enough about depression to embark on anything further, so let’s leave it there. This post is about energy thieves and a negative outlook on life, and what I’ve diagnosed Vera with is a piss poor, negative, broken glass attitude.

If I compliment her on her hair, she complains that she found a grey hair and if I say her dress really suits her she’ll complain she gained a few pounds. If I tell her that her daughter is so lovely, Vera will immediately point out how she kept her up all night. If I comment that it must be such a great feeling knowing she’s nearly paid off her mortgage she sighs and recounts how she feels like an old lady due to working. Actually, the way she put it was like this: “oh, I probably won’t get to enjoy it, my body is worn out, it will be too old too soon“. Vera is in her early 30s and is a waitress. Yes, she is on her feet all day and yes, she carries stuff around more than an office worker, but REALLY?

Unless she has some awful, devilish side to her I’ve never seen, this just can’t come from a bad place. Perhaps she needs reassurance that she has done well. Like we all do sometimes, perhaps she wants and needs a pat on the back for having worked so hard? I’ve tried to say to her that it’s impressive to have done what she’s done but it only results in that wistful look and an exasperated sigh over how life is so tough. I don’t want to take any of that away from her, I don’t want to minimise how she feels because her experience is her experience and it’s not up to me to validate or approve it. It just makes me feel so TIRED. So it’s back to me. Me, me, me. I soak up her words and her vibes and magnify them within myself to the point where I am massively affected by them and allow them to adjust my own outlook from happy to sad. Because I do feel sad any time I’ve had a chat with Vera. I’m left feeling a little exhausted, actually.

Then take Olive, named here due to her olive skin that I envy enormously, who may have what many of us would refer to as ‘It All’ but whose young son has a rare form of cancer and has spent more days at hospital than he has at home. Olive can absolutely talk of the heartbreak and absolute nightmare they endure on pretty much a daily basis, but she just doesn’t sweat the small stuff. If I compliment her on her dress she’ll light up and do a twirl and comment on either where she got it or how she bought one in a different colour too because she loves the material. If we talk about grey hair she’ll giggle about something or make a joke and somehow I walk away not with fewer grey hairs but certainly much less worried about any of them. In fact I walk away quite liking the grey hairs I have after discussing them with Olive. Olive has that effect and it’s the very opposite to Vera.

Funny, isn’t it? Goes to show how life and our experiences are a direct result of our thoughts and attitude. I believe that 100%. OK, so we can’t THINK away cancer or the like, but we can always, every time and without exception choose our approach and reactions or at least do something about those. I think if Vera had Olive’s attitude, she’d bounce up each morning and feel gratitude. With Vera’s attitude I reckon Olive would have just given up. Or dragged the whole world down with her. It’s one of the first things about doing the 12 steps really, as far as I’m concerned, or anything at all that we decide to do: having hope. Without hope and a belief that it’ll all come good, where do we get the energy to even try or begin? When I speak with Vera I get the impression that she feels hopeless, that she’s just doing all of this but it’s all pretty pointless and she’ll never have any reward. Well, her body is getting too old too soon, remember? Then Olive, who seems to approach each day with a sense of purpose and hope. World’s apart.

Again, I don’t know what it is that makes Vera so negative about life or so prone to immediately focus on the downsides even in the face of something really positive, but I do know that as usual there is only one thing I can control: myself. I’m not sure how to though, because I’m not going to cut Vera off or stop talking to her. As I mentioned, she is actually a super lovely person. I need to somehow not let it grate on me or get me down when she focuses on the negatives in situations. But how?

Do you know an energy thief who also happens to be someone you either can’t or won’t cut off? How do you manage your reaction to them? Is there a clever way of being immune to their negativity?

In other news, it’s the battle of the neutrals this afternoon – Sweden vs Switzerland in the World Cup. I try to tell myself I don’t care that much, but I do. And then England vs Colombia. The English fans are always really cocky and it’s all football’s coming home, but who knows, they might be right as long as they don’t underestimate Colombia…

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.