A Delicate Balance

This is interesting… I often create little conversations between Drunk Me and Sober Me – partly because I never want to lose sight of how bat shit crazy all that stuff is, but also because it’s sort of terrifying and fascinating. It turns out I can’t go and stay with Kitten, my depressed friend, after all – my bosses can’t give me the time off so there’s nothing much I can do. I had everything lined up – flights, trains and everything else – but it can’t be done and it’s out of my control. I feel bad, obviously, but trying my best to be there for her as much as I can when I’m actually thousands of miles away. I’m asking advice from friends who know more about depression than I do, or rather people I know who have gone through what Kitten is going through. It’s so hard to know how I best support her. Part of me just wants to shower her with kind words and encouragement, but I also don’t want to cheer her on when I feel she’s putting herself in potentially really bad situations. The other part of me doesn’t want to make everything much worse by telling her OH HELL NO, GIRL. I’m desperately trying to be gentle and loving, yet honest. It’s a delicate balance to negotiate.

In a lengthy exchange, I found myself asking Kitten to read her own words to me as though it was someone else’s. It was with regards to a recent decision she made and made me think of my conversations with Drunk Me. She agreed that it wasn’t a good thing but of course the illness has kidnapped her brain and what she is trying to solve is actually the Devil’s own fucking equation. In so many ways, there are parallels with alcoholism and I guess addiction in general too. Your reasoning goes out of the window and you’re stripped of all capacity to make sound judgments and good decisions. I immediately felt oh shit did I sound harsh or did I just make her feel really stupid or small or just generally ten times worse than she already did?

I suppose honesty is the best way though, or in any case the only way I know when it comes to this. I explained that my wish is only for her to get well and feel better and if I come across as mean it wasn’t my intention. I also asked her to yell at me if I don’t get it right or support her in a way that doesn’t work for her.

What a frightening, dark and fucking awful bitch depression is though – and from within! Bet Kitten would LOVE to have the choice – albeit difficult one – that I had, i.e. something resembling at least an opportunity to STOP. I’m not at all saying that what alcoholics need to “learn” is that the solution is to stop because clearly it isn’t always as straight forward as that, FAR from it, but I would imagine that Kitten would gladly go through any withdrawal and any number of 12-step meetings if chances were she could recover.

What are your views on depression? How would you support a friend who suffers? Any do’s or don’t’s?

Today I’m not going to drink.

Hot Heads and River Banks

Something really cute happened Saturday at paintballing. Bambino is an only child and so hubby’s two boys aren’t just the jackpot win and massive cherry on top for me, but also for Bambino who ended up with two older brothers as part of the deal. Now, the fiery temper and short fuse in our modern day family portrait are largely catered for by yours truly. Hubby is the most well balanced and measured person in the world. I’ve never seen him lose his rag or freak out. Get angry? Sure, but VERY rarely and never in a scary or disproportional way. Things just don’t rumble him, the whole world could be on fire and he would stay pretty chilled and calmly work out how to approach the problem in a logical and rational manner. My bonus sons aren’t hot heads either, clearly a perfect mix of their chilled dad and gentle mum. Yesssssssssssss she’s nice. There, I said it. *sigh* Hubby’s ex-wife is quite lovely. Divorce doesn’t bring out the best in anyone and yes there are stunts that were pulled that I’ll never understand, but the past is the past and when she isn’t busy with warfare and destroying her ex-husband, she is very sweet. Anyway!

There they were, deep into their last game of paintball and suddenly Bambino gets into an open area and is pelted with shots. As instructed, he holds his hand up to signal he’s been shot and therefore out, but some guy kept shooting at him. Now, the rest kind of happened in slow motion. Bonus #1 loses his shit. He stomps over in a few furious strides, shoves Bambino in behind him and tears the guy a new arsehole.

WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU? HE HAD HIS HAND UP! WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU STILL SHOOTING AT HIM, HE’S A KID!

I can tell you this much – the reason why I teared up a little wasn’t because someone hit my kid with a few paintballs.

And what does this have to do with sobriety? The answer: everything. This is an example of the feels, and when you’re sober you get to feel everything at maximum capacity and in technicolour, surround sound too. It’s pretty cool. Drunk Me would have been touched at Bonus #1’s brotherly display towards my son too, but my emotions would have been muddled and slippery and not vibrant and focused like they are when I’m sober.

Something just came over me. I never considered myself a masochist but I did this – precisely this – the last time hubby was away as well. I looked out of the window just now and it’s yet another one of those beautiful autumn days that I love so much. I’m feeling happy and free and at peace. Hubby away and now would traditionally be JUST the sort of time I’d be excited about drinking. Why do I do this? I quite literally just deliberately tried to feel – or remember how it used to feel – excited about having a drink. I deliberately just tried to make myself feel it. What fucking sort of Russian Roulette did I just come up with? Gosh, that was a risky little exercise! Make no mistake – I don’t think for a second that I’ll ever be “cured” or safe from alcoholism. Even having worked so hard at understanding what alcohol was for me and taking it all apart, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to declare I conquered the Beast. I may have fought it off but it’s alive and kicking and I’ll always have to keep an eye on it. Random, but that’s what just happened in my head and all it took was for me to look out the window and see what a beautiful day it is. So many reasons to let it remain a beautiful day and the good news is that at this stage it would seem that even when I try to play with fire, my brain won’t quite accept that drinking would be a good idea. Phew. That was a really, really stupid thing to do.

Does anyone else do this? Deliberately tempt fate?

Near to where my mother lives is a little power station. It’s got that sort of huge barrier mechanism that opens and closes to control the water flow, basically it’s a dam. Fuck me, I think about this now and it actually makes me go a little cold. I recall it’s time controlled but I could be wrong – I don’t know if it opens automatically at set times or if someone has to get down there to do it – but that’s almost what makes it worse because we didn’t know at the time when it might open. We used to, with terror tingling our spines, crawl across the top of it. Had it opened when one of us was on it, we would have been swept down by a crushing mass of water into the stony river bed far below. Other times we climbed down the river bank and hopped along the stones in the shallow water. Had it opened when we were down there that would have ended badly also. Shit, it makes me shiver to think about it. Almost as stupid as an alcoholic deliberately trying to conjure up romantic illusions of booze.

Well. I guess that was today’s display of utter madness from me. Anyone else engaging in really fucking stupid behaviour on this fine Tuesday, I wonder?

Today I’m not going to drink.

Monday in Eden

It’s Monday and it’s a good one. I say this in an attempt to convince myself I’m in my usual good mood. Hah! Pretty obvious I’m not, eh? Not in a bad mood exactly but feeling distinctly prickly and impatient, which is almost always the case when this she devil is hormonal. That bloody Eve and her fucking apple appetite – if it weren’t for her us women wouldn’t have to put up with this menstrual cycle nonsense or the pain of childbirth or any of that. I wonder how having children would have gone down in Eden though? You just collect them like you would a parcel at the Post Office? Or we’d all have rubber band vaginas that wouldn’t stretch too far or snap or tear? Bet Eden ladies would just have their rubber minkies just snapping back to perfect and tight and provide perfect bladder control even during the most relentless sneezing fit? Oh I don’t know, but then Eden also sounds like a really boring place if apples were considered such a taboo there. Yes, I’m a total delight this morning. Sorry Eve, I’m sure you did your best.

A recent conversation really got me thinking. Alcoholism and depression. Being challenged is very good for me, because I think I’m always right so I’ve really given this lots of thought over the past day. As usual, I can only speak for myself so I’ll have to start there.

I’m an alcoholic. I didn’t drink because I had a terrible childhood and I didn’t drink to cope with stress or pain or life. In fact, the times when I’ve gone through something shitty I’ve largely stayed away from alcohol because I was always terrified I’d end up feeling much worse. I had it in my head (and I don’t know where it came from) that alcohol enhances everything we feel, and so when I felt down I steered well clear of the stuff. When I look back on the past 20 years, there are two bad patches where I went through serious shit storms. Those also happen to be the two longest dry spells when I almost entirely stayed away from alcohol. It’s not a coincidence. Now I obviously know that this statement I had in my head is only half true: all alcohol does is numb and depress us, so yes, it’ll enhance how shitty or sad we feel but it can’t ever make us happier. After all, it’s a depressant so by default that just isn’t possible. It can only ever make you less happy or sadder. My number one trigger was (and is) a good mood. Booze to me was the illusion of a positive addition to life, I’ve referred to it before as glitter and that’s how I saw it when I was eyeball deep in my addiction. Crazy, isn’t it? I’d point to anything other than my BFF Sauvignon Blanc as a problem – I only saw the truth when I had no other choice and couldn’t lie to myself anymore. It was never my BFF – it was my worst enemy and it was out to kill me.

Beyond this however, I didn’t drink the way most of the people around me drink. I binge. When I start, something happens in me and I cannot stop. I either drink until there’s nothing left to drink or until I pass out – whichever happens first. And because I was really fucking awesome at being an alcoholic, I always made sure I had an ample supply. It takes over with terrifying force that I have no power over. I am powerless over alcohol and I always was.

Was I depressed? Sure – with every hangover I felt low, anxious, paranoid, vulnerable, scared and unsettled. But this was a by-product of booze when my whole system was awash with this powerful depressant. Do I feel depressed when I don’t drink? No. Sure, I have bad days and sometimes I get upset or angry about stuff as we all do, but I have never experienced depression per se. I.e. a hopeless state of feeling low and all those other things for no reason whatsoever. I’ve never cried for five hours without understanding why, which is how my friend Lopez described her depression. Another friend, Kitten, is right now battling a patch of severe depression and she is a tee-totaller. So when I refer to depression, I refer to the illness that comes from within. Not the kind we put into our system. The way I see it for me personally and my own experience is that something in my wiring means that I can’t find the off-switch when I start, and also that I am a human who got addicted to a highly addictive substance. I kind of relate to the first two parts of AA’s take on it: a physical allergy and a mental obsession. It 100% feels that way to me. AA’s third bit says it’s a spiritual malady but I just don’t know about that one. Perhaps one to explore further but it does imply pain somehow and that just wasn’t why I drank. I have never filled up that glass of wine in order to stop feeling bad about something.

But there is a link, although I don’t think this would come as news to anyone. If you ingest a depressant, you will end up feeling depressed. And alcohol is also an anaesthetic, so it would also make sense that someone might turn to it to escape depression or any other type of pain or stress.

Because I wanted to get some facts, I hopped on over to The Royal Society of Psychiatrists. This is what they say:

What is the connection between depression and alcohol?

We know that there is a connection – self-harm and suicide are much more common in people with alcohol problems. It seems that it can work in two ways:

  • you regularly drink too much including (including ‘binge drinking’) which makes you feel depressed OR
  • you drink to relieve anxiety or depression.

Either way:

  • Alcohol affects the chemistry of the brain, increasing the risk of depression.
  • Hangovers can create a cycle of waking up feeling ill, anxious, jittery and guilty.
  • Life gets depressing – arguments with family or friends, trouble at work, memory and sexual problems. 

Remember what I said? I’m always right. Oh, stop! I’m KIDDING! But this does point to how I see it: if you drink a depressant, it’ll get you depressed and if you are already depressed you might be inclined to self medicate with Uncle Booze the anaesthetic. It also makes sense that it makes us more likely to become depressed, given it affects the chemical balance in our brains – depression by definition in the biological sense is, after all, a chemical imbalance in the brain. This all makes sense to me. What do you think?

I’ve heard before about the presence of alcohol in suicides, I can’t remember the figure on top of my head now…. I’m going to look it up…. Oh damn… I wanted the percentage of suicides in the UK 2017 where alcohol was present, but I’m struggling to find it strangely. So unfortunately I can’t quote it because I simply can’t remember what the percentage I’ve heard before is, but I do remember it’s a huge number. It’s sort of logical though. No matter how much you want out, taking your own life must be 1) scary as hell, and 2) hard to put in action. But when you’ve come up with a modus operandi, you still have to go through with it and what better way than calling in Uncle Booze again to numb your senses. Alcohol is perfect for that little thing called fear, which is why we’re much more likely to do stupid shit when we’re drunk. What I can find online are some other interesting facts around alcohol and suicide though.

The Samaritans tell me:

The link between alcohol misuse and suicidal behaviour is well established. The risk of suicide is up to eight times greater when someone is abusing alcohol. Alcohol can reduce people’s inhibitions enough for them to act on suicidal thoughts and it can increase impulsivity, change people’s mood and deepen their depression.

The Oxford Academic has published a paper called ‘Association Between Alcohol Misuse and Suicidal Behaviour which states as follows:

Intoxication and psychological distress

Alcohol has a biphasic effect on emotion, with low doses often ameliorating negative affect, but higher doses producing central nervous system depressant effects (Hufford, 2001). Many adults and adolescents believe alcohol can be used as a form of self-medication, but unfortunately this effect reverses itself at higher levels of intoxication (Pihl and Smith, 1983), and can precipitate suicidal behaviour. Borges et al. (2000) found that alcohol’s effects were mainly on suicidal ideation and unplanned attempts rather than planned attempts, thus lending more evidence to the theory that acute intoxication is more significant, in relation to suicide, than chronic abuse.

To me, this underlines that alcohol is, ahem, very VERY bad for us. Sorry to be flippant – these are terrifying facts. If we are not depressed it’ll hugely increase our chances of ending up there, and if we already are it will make us even more unwell and much more likely to act upon dark thoughts. It numbs our senses. Scary shit, no?

The question still remains as to whether all alcoholics are depressed. Personally, my drinking days were dark – my reasons for drinking may not have been to self medicate but Oh Ehm Gee do I know what it’s like to feel like death both inside and out the next day! Because I don’t feel that way when I don’t drink is why I’ve come to the conclusion that the low mood, anxiety and everything else I felt with my hangovers were a direct result of the alcohol. Sober Me can be in a morning grump or, like now, a little ratty because I’m hormonal, but in general I don’t feel low or any of those things. Never have. Research and studies seem to point to how alcohol gets us depressed and/or increases our risk of developing clinical depression, as well as showing evidence of alcohol and drug use as a form of self medication. I can’t, however, find anything to suggest ALL alcoholics drink to drown their sorrows. Unless of course you look at what addiction is: relieving the discomfort of the previous drinking session or hit, which may or may not take the form of a low mood. We’ve become dependent on it – physically or mentally or both. Habit also has a lot to answer for. And of course, chuck in the reasons we tell ourselves we have to drink. I fucking celebrated the neighbour’s cat’s birthday – I always found a reason to propose a toast. If there wasn’t a reason I invented one – cue aforementioned cat.

So much to make sense of I suppose. What do you think?

This is turning out to be very long, but there’s one thing I really wanted to tell you so please bear with me for a short while longer… Yesterday I was heading out for a run. I love running in the rain but not in a sky fall where it comes down so hard you can’t even see. Well, 20 or so minutes into my run, the heavens opened. I was already hormonal and in a bit of a shitty mood so I needed the endorphins going, there’s no better way to get me feeling really good than a long run. So I actually got really pissed off, or rather, disappointed because I needed that run. Muttering to myself, I stood under the nearest tree for a while and then sprinted across the fields hunched as the heavy rain whipped the shit out of me. As I got back to “our” end of the park it suddenly stopped. I was SO annoyed and completely drenched. And then I looked up and saw the most perfect rainbow and it felt like it was some higher power telling me to get some perspective. It seemed to end roughly where hubby’s gym is and that’s where he was at the time, my very own pot of (heart of) gold. I pulled myself together and felt instantly happier. It honestly made me feel all light and happy inside and as though it was a sign. Silly perhaps, but sometimes we get just what we need exactly when we need it and in that moment of hormonal aggro and being soaked to the bone, I needed a rainbow.

rainbow.jpg

Today it isn’t raining so I’ll be heading out for the full hour.

Today I’m not going to drink.

A Tiny Bit of Mist

It’s a lovely morning – well, mid-morning by now – with a tiny bit of mist that the sun is slowly burning through. It rained all night but now we’re back to the sort of gorgeous autumn day we’ve been spoilt with the past couple of months. I’m sitting in the base camp at the Delta Force Paintball grounds at a rickety table and it’s just warm enough outside for it to be pleasant. Hubby, Bambino, Bonus #1 and Bonus #2 are running around shooting and getting shot during their first game of the morning. Because Bambino is under 16 I’ve had to sign a consent form that also holds me to the understanding that my child won’t shoot anyone in the head. In other words, I could be charged with something imminently – my damn kid has no freaking sense of safety rules so all I can do is pray he’ll rein his little mad self in just enough for me to avoid being prosecuted in a court of law.

paintball10nov19.JPG

It’s quite heartwarming to see Bambino with the bonuses – despite having been thrown together in a constellation they had no say in whatsoever, they seem to have the kind of chemistry you’d expect if they had been brothers all along. My bonus sons are in their twenties and show tonnes of patience with Bambino (who is an extremely excitable teenager) and yet familiar enough with each other to bark if he goes too far. I glanced over at Bambino with Bonus #2 this morning at home and my heart soared – Bambino sauntered over and with his arm across Bonus #2’s shoulders showed him something on his phone. Nothing contrived or forced, just how they naturally are with each other these days. This obviously has nothing to do with drinking or my sobriety except perhaps that I can feel this joy and gratitude fully without booze numbing my senses. So much to be grateful for and I can’t help but smile as I sit here listening to the sound of smattering paintball guns over the fence at the far side of this safe zone area.

My friend Kitten asked if I can come over to help her out and just be around for a few days and I don’t know yet if I can go as my bosses may very well say no. Hubby and I talked it over last night. It’s all down to boundaries, really. Drunk Me would agree to anything and everything and then either have her energy sucked out of her doing something she didn’t have the emotional resources to do or wriggle out of it at the last minute. The first thing about going to Kitten was to work out if this is something I can freely give without bending myself out of shape. It is – SOLELY because I’m sober, I need to add. Any sacrifice it means for me in terms of emotional well being, time, money and whatever else will be impacted, I can give away. Yes, I can do that.

Will it help though? What happens when you leave?” Hubby asked.

This is the thing though. Having me around for a few days won’t cure Kitten’s depression. It might in all likelihood not even make her feel better. Depression, I guess, doesn’t work like that because then all a doctor would need to do for a patient would be to order them to focus on their social life. It’s not like Kitten will be well again when I leave. Well, whenever she does recover, it certainly won’t have anything to do with me. But perhaps being there for her and showing I care counts for something. It might not make a dent in her depression but it might let her know that she’s important and loved.

Life has a funny way of teaching you the lessons you needed to learn at precisely the right moment. It now seems like perfect serendipity that I just finished a book that emphasised the three C’s of Al-Anon: You didn’t CREATE it, you can’t CONTROL it and you can’t CURE it. This sums up my role as Kitten’s friend now that she reaches out to me, whether I can go and stay with her for a few days or just remain where I am now and only available on the phone or via messages and e-mail. What I need to understand and remember in this situation, just like the people who support ME in my sobriety, is that I can only offer my love and support and accept that it might not make a blind bit of difference. Or perhaps it will but I have to give it unconditionally and never hinge my hopes on the outcome and give my love regardless. If I can’t accept this, I can’t give it at all. Makes perfect sense I guess.

OK, it’s getting chilly now…

Today I’m not going to drink.

If You Fall

This will require some thought because the last thing I want is to use someone else’s bad situation to polish my ego, but sobriety has once again delivered and it makes me feel really good. ‘Good’ is perhaps the wrong word, because it’s not in any way ‘good’ that someone I care about is hurting, but it does make me feel solidly content that I can be the person who’ll come through for a friend in need if she needs me. Let’s call her Kitten because she’s quite small and cute. Kitten messaged me this morning and asked if there is any way that I can get to her and be around for a week. She’s suffered depression and anxiety for years and is right now going through an especially rough patch. Dark thoughts are creeping up on her and she needs someone around, to talk and for company but also to help with every day things like cooking and stuff. Someone to lean on.

First thing to conclude is thank God she reached out to Sober Me. Reaching out full stop is something to be grateful for, obviously, so regardless of to whom it’s a huge victory. But what if she’d reached out to Drunk Me of say, a few years ago? Because I – like most people – care about my friends, I would have wanted to help and I would have had a huge emotional reaction and promised the earth. I would have wanted to be there for her with all my heart! But I wouldn’t have been able to follow through. I wouldn’t have been able to make arrangements, take that flight and then a train to get to her, never mind be around for HER. If I’d made it there…. HAHAHA! Sometimes I really do end up writing utter fucking bullshit before I catch myself! TWAT! What a ridiculous thought – let’s face it, I wouldn’t have because when I was drinking several friends got married and I was too wrecked to make it to weddings just across town, let alone abroad. That fact never stopped me from promising anything though and every single time that I did make promises I genuinely wanted so much to keep them. I think I felt I’d manage somehow but of course when push came to shove I never could.

But even if I’d miraculously made it over to her, I wouldn’t have been able to be present for her. A week without drinking? Oh, I think not. So if I, against all odds, had managed to fight my way through Heathrow, a flight and all the anxiety this entails with a hangover, the airport at the other end and getting myself on to a train to a town I’ve never set foot in before, I would have been useless for Kitten. What she needs is someone to be there for her and how could I possibly have been when the Beast was demanding my full attention? So if anything, I would have made it worse for her because suddenly she would have had a drunk person in her home. Oh that’s a lie – I wouldn’t have made it there! Being there for her would have meant helping her with things like food shopping and how is that EVER going to happen when I’m too hungover to even get out of the house? No, Kitten’s hopes may have been falsely raised by my over promising and then this friend would have failed her by under delivering and left her in her hopeless loneliness whilst I sailed off into another black-out.

Again, this isn’t designed to show what a great friend I am – what I’m trying to tell you is what great friends we’re all able to be when we’re sober. I’ve not made a single promise I can’t or won’t keep. I told her I’d get to her if I can. I told her I’d have to check hubby’s schedule (he travels a lot and the coming few weeks are MAD) because Bambino can’t be home alone over night (although he’d LOVE that!). I’ve done exactly that. There is a stretch of days I can give her. I’ve checked flights and I’ve checked trains. I gave her the dates and asked her to think it over.

I want you to come over,” Kitten told me without skipping a beat.

OK, then I’ll go over the details again with hubby and check with my boss if I can have those days off,” I told her, “it might be a no but I’ll do what I can.

I’ve not said to her that I’ll be there because I don’t yet know for sure that I’ll be able to. I’ve told her I will be there if I can. If my bosses say no, then it won’t work but I tried. It won’t be because the Beast is busy killing me. I won’t let her down because I’m too fucked from a hangover. And being unable to drink won’t be what stops me going either. If I can’t go I haven’t broken any promises or let anyone down. And if my bosses let me have those days off and I can go, then I get to be someone who is of help and can focus her full attention on a friend who needs it.

That’s Sober Me. A solid, dependable person who will calmly do her best and not make promises she can’t keep. Maybe I need to get this ego of mine in check, but besides feeling worried and sad for a friend I care about, it also made me feel calm and secure to know I’m the right person to reach out to. I can now be the person who won’t just answer a text message but who will actually show up too. This is who I am, this is who I was all along but drinking stole it from me. And that’s how sobriety is once again delivering and giving me a life I am so privileged to have – no, this isn’t about me, but WOW how amazing to be able to be there for someone who needs you and I am more grateful for that gift than I am able to tell you. I don’t go around thinking I’m this super amazing person, but the fact that I am now able to be the best version of me is something I’m grateful for every last fucking day. Talk about life changing. With sobriety I’m suddenly in a position to do myself proud once in a while. Be USEFUL. Be the person who will catch you if you fall. Finally.

I’ve sent the e-mail asking for those days off.

Another thing that’s worth mentioning is how amazing it is that Kitten has reached out. Perhaps as a veteran of war in the depression stakes she knows the ropes, who knows, but I am so proud of her. I’ve not experienced it myself so I don’t know or understand what depression feels like, but I know very well how much it takes to say those words: help me. No matter what we’re up against, in my opinion that’s the biggest, scariest and most important step we take.

Today I’m not going to drink.

This Last Bastion

As much as I genuinely don’t want to drink and the idea of even a small sip makes me feel a little sick, there is one situation I know could end really badly. Someone in my tribe blogged today about feeling emotionally raw and how in the moment she felt like letting go, how she for a brief while wanted to drink. Of course our triggers are different and in her case and in the situation she was in, the urge to drink came from wanting to numb all the sorrow she felt in that moment. Perhaps you’re reading this, brave girl, so can I point out (again) how fucking proud I am of you? You’re quite amazing, you know. We must all have those times and situations where it just happens, whatever our triggers are. Well, I was MEGA triggered a few weeks back. Had I gone there solo, I don’t even know if I’d bothered trying to resist. That’s how powerful Drunk Me is when she gets my attention and it just wouldn’t matter that I know in my heart that it won’t do me any good. It’s so crazy and impossible to make sense of.

Hubby and I went down to the coast to see Poppy, who used to be my favourite drinking buddy. Hubby was still doing Sober October and I sort of hoped he’d give himself a hall pass as I worried that Poppy might feel awkward otherwise. I’d been quite happy if the two of them had kept the drinks coming all day, actually. Funny that. Anyway, I just knew because I felt the ping! then for the first time in months. I don’t know when it last happened but it must have been when I’ve been home alone – this doesn’t appear to be the case anymore, probably due to new habits that have taken root – but there it was and it was STRONG. Old illusions pushed their way back into my conscious and served up images of how lovely it’d be to just have wine with Poppy and talk shite all afternoon. No, it wasn’t a struggle and if anything I was a little relieved to get away, but it happened. It’s crap, actually, because I love Poppy to bits and I would hate to avoid seeing her on my own, but perhaps that’s what I need to do until this last bastion of old ghosts falls apart too. A woman’s gotta do what a woman’s gotta do.

Drunk Me:

Ah, so good to get out of London for a bit and sit here with a huge bowl of marinated mussels right on the seafront! Fresh air, huge seagulls that fly a little too close hoping to snatch food and in the company of the people I like drinking with the most: Poppy and hubby. There it is, a large glass of Sauvignon Blanc topped with soda. A little shiver when I take the first sip. Only one sip which has yet to hit my blood stream but just the knowledge that I have has me buzzing and we’re gossiping about the people at the place where Poppy and I used to work. It’s giggly, it’s fun, it swings between the ridiculously silly to the heartfelt and serious, back and forth, back and forth… An unseasonably warm afternoon in October, right by the sea, with two of my favourite people, it’s fun and lovely and an energising break from London. Three of those big glasses of wine disappear within the space of a couple of hours and we head back to London. Car journey is a pain in the arse but then we get back and I pick up a box of wine on the way and get on it again at home. It’s just loads of fun. We get good and drunk and have some seriously wild sex to top it all off.

Sober Me:

It’s fucking stressful all of it, though, remember? Those mussels you only eat because you sort of have to, but do you actually even taste them? No, you just want those out of the way. Hubby drinks slowly and Poppy eats slowly – both irritating, right? That holds it all up and you try to pace yourself so that their glasses aren’t nearly full when you order the next one. You’ll feel shit tomorrow and Sunday will be completely wasted, but even after a sip you feel excited and don’t care about this. It’s ridiculous – do you even remember how good you feel when you don’t do this to yourself? Stupid cow. Three down but hubby has stopped at two because he’s driving. You sneak a few big gulps from Poppy’s glass as she giggles at how you’re getting more down you when hubby has gone to the bathroom. You love that she gets this and helps out. You have the whole car journey back up to London now, which sucks horse balls because it’s a two hour interruption to the one thing that has now eclipsed everything else. All you have in your head is where you’ll get the wine from and when you’re close hubby suggests Marks & Spencer, an idea you immediately reject because their only boxed wine is a two-bottle job and that’s not going to be enough. Plus you’ve sobered up a little. It has to be Sainsbury’s – that’s where REAL women get their three-bottle boxes. But damn, you’ve sobered up a bit, so you will probably need more than half of that. You fix this problem by making your glasses much bigger at home. Hubby will hopefully think you’ve just filled it up with just soda and not realise your glass of wine is nearly double his. Job done. Aaaaaaand off we go and you’re soon a goner. Maybe you end up having really awesome sex and if you’re REALLY lucky you might remember little flashes of it, wouldn’t that be good? Or did you argue? Who knows! And Sunday? A write-off – like most days. I don’t know what in all of this was so great, lady? The sex possibly, but you can’t even remember it, can you?

Yep, I know all of this and perhaps I really am thoroughly nuts to have these exchanges with myself, but with Poppy the pull was stronger. In fact, it existed whereas in most other areas of my life it’s all but disappeared. It’ll be some silly knot in my brain that has me still associating wine with good times and perhaps it’s because Poppy and I have never EVER spent time together sober. Well, except at work but even then there were a few boozy lunches. Maybe I just need to create a new way for us to spend time and until the ping! stops pinging I’ll just drag hubby along. I mean, I genuinely thought I’d forever be vulnerable home alone and it just hasn’t turned out that way – my brain has formed new paths and connections and it’s no longer overwhelming. This was the first time I’ve seen Poppy in person in all these months I’ve been sober so maybe it’s just like the first time hubby went away for a few days and will come right once my mind learns that we are friends and not just drinking buddies? It wasn’t hard to resist but I also accept that this was partly because I had hubby with me. I suspect had I been alone against the Beast in that situation it might have been a fight to the death. Or immediate capitulation on my part? Who knows. But I did learn that the Beast can sneak up on me so I’ll just use the tools I have to make myself safer when I need to.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Turquoise Sofas and Sharks

The Pink Cloud – yep, still on it and still thinking about it. Hubby and I talked about it a bit last night and he seems to have the same view that I have, i.e. that a positive change will initially seem more amazing than perhaps a few years on. It came off the back of a letter from the Inland Revenue and hubby gasping at how much tax he paid last year. Hubby is the sensible realist in our relationship and what I bring to the mix is unwavering optimism, foolishness and rose tinted glasses. After grumpily calculating how many full time nurses he paid for last year (five) and how many years we could have shaved off the mortgage using this money (also five), I reined him in. What in God’s name are we complaining about? There we were, sitting on our turquoise sofa in our own apartment, windows boarded up because we’re having them refurbished.

  1. Turquoise sofa. It matches the colour of the sea in the New Zealand beach scene in the painting on the wall behind it. The big mirror on the other wall has bits of the same shade. See, we get to have what we want and put as many nails into the walls as we please because…….
  2. It’s OUR apartment. Only three years ago hubby was still locked in the most senseless divorce battle of the century. He quite literally had to hand every last penny over and was left with what is sometimes referred to as FUCK ALL – at the age of 49 he had to hand everything he’d ever worked for over to his ex and start over from scratch. When he moved in with us he arrived with all his earthly belongings in two car loads, this was all he had to show for having worked his whole life. It looked a little bleak but here we are and……
  3. We are having the windows refurbished because we own the place and can make any improvements we freaking like! And although we couldn’t go with double glazing, it’s pretty damn fantastic to be able to do this with money we don’t have to borrow. Apart from the mortgage, we have no debts and it’s the best feeling.

Perhaps we illustrated how it’s quite normal to initially be quite excited about something but then get used to it and just take it for granted, or worse, think it’s a bit crappy? It’d be easy to look at that letter from the tax man and get mad at how much tax they demand off hubby, when in fact hubby should do a victory dance because he has a really good salary. THAT’s what our focus should be and I’m really pissed off that for a moment there we allowed ourselves to be the twats who couldn’t see the wood for the trees. Ouch! My diamond shoes are too tight! OK, OK – I don’t pay anywhere near as much tax as hubby does and I’m sure if I did I’d perhaps also feel a bit disgusted at how much is taken away, who knows.

I do sometimes wonder though, if I’m deluded somehow. Or maybe I just inherited some of my father’s almost unbearably positive attitude. He’s extreme though – he can find the upside to any situation. If you broke your leg it’s great that it wasn’t your neck. If it was your neck then it’s awesome that you didn’t die. If you died it’s great that it was quick. If it wasn’t quick it was great that it wasn’t a REALLY terrible death, like a shark attack. …and if it was a shark attack, WOW will you just look at that magnificent creature, how amazing to see such an impressive beast up close! I’m not quite like him and I do like to have a good ol’ whinge sometimes, but in general I honestly think it takes quite a lot for me to get beaten down and feel negative about things. Part of it might be naivety, I accept that. Perhaps part of it is survival instinct, who knows. My upbringing and life to date contain no terrible stories beyond fairly normal bruises so it doesn’t come from coming away from something terrible. I mean, my joy at being sober comes from having gone through something terrible – my drinking was a nightmare that I spent many years trapped in. So that part makes perfect sense to me – how else could I possibly feel, of freaking course I feel joyful over silly little things – but even if you remove all of that, I’ve always had a fairly sunny outlook. Maybe I’m just really fortunate to be wired that way.

Whatever the answers are, I think it’s normal to get a rush of happiness when life takes a turn for the better just like it’s normal to get a bit bored or even gloomy when there are no changes at all. Perhaps if we at some point move to New Zealand, I’ll walk across to New Chums beach for the 100th time and NOT be blown away? Or find the sound of the cicadas annoying? And the mussels they serve at the Pepper Tree might after a while seem pretty standard as opposed to OH MY GOD THESE ARE SO AMAZING. After a while, names like Te Kauwhata and Whitianga might cease to strike me as magical and my mother-in-law’s lolly cake could even morph into ordinary. Actually, scrap that – her lolly cake is what dreams are made of, that won’t change even if I were to have some every fucking day of the week.

In case anyone wondered, yes, this is relevant to drinking – I’m still in what I guess you could call early recovery – as I’m trying to work out whether this joy I feel at being sober is something that’ll stop being wonderful and intense at some stage.

The place where I grew up is a good example. I don’t recall being amazed by it when I still lived there. If anything, I vaguely remember thinking it was a bit of a shit hole. That’s so offensive I am tempted to delete it – anyone who speaks of the place with anything other than reverence and wonder AND doesn’t have a framed map of the region above their bed should be shot with no questions asked in my book. I go to visit and every single time I ask myself what in God’s name I was thinking leaving a place like that. Just the nature is enough in itself to keep you there with its dense forests and all the lakes. It’s just the most beautiful place in the world, there’s just nothing like it and every single time on our drive there from the airport and come out towards the big roundabout and I see it ahead of me I feel tearful and happy. So perhaps I was blind to it because I was so used to it, and it’s now that I can no longer take it for granted that I’m so in love with it and really only see the really good things?

Anyway. I’m rambling. I don’t know where I was going with this except to say I reckon we all need a moment sometimes to rein ourselves, stop and look around us. There is usually so much to be grateful for. It’s when we lose sight of that, that we may fall off any pink clouds or become a bit meh about stuff. I’m not saying we should be like kids on Christmas morning over every last little thing because it’d be really exhausting if everyone was as crazy happy and cheerful as my dad, but you know….

Today I’m not going to drink.