Had Me Rolling

All in good time. That’s something that’s very good for my Schumacher brain to get used to and I’m doing my best by being as honest and authentic as I can be. A full time role has already materialised at the rehab but I have made it clear I won’t take it. Whoa, back up, back up…. Nah, you read that correctly. Yes, it is indeed what I want to do for a living but – and this is a huge but – it cannot be at a cost I can’t afford. It is. It’d mean I have one weekend in six off, and the working week is between 50 and 60 hours long. There is a 25-hour shift every week – work the evening shift, sleep at the rehab with the possibility you might be woken by the waking night person to deal with emergencies (and these do happen, as I’ve already seen) and then do the morning shift. On occasion this would be fine, but on a weekly basis and along with effectively sacrificing the quality time I have at weekends with Hubby it’s just not realistic.

This is more than I’m prepared to give. They are pressing on, Rio even offered to do the sleep-over part of MY shifts if it meant I’d accept, but for now I’ve said I’ll continue to take shifts on an ad-hoc basis – so far I’ve said yes to everything, so it’s not like I’m being a princess about it – and see where it goes. I cannot compromise my family life and balance in this way. A standard 40-hour week spread over painfully exhausting shifts, no problem, but that’s not what this is.

And that’s cool. Worst thing I can imagine when it comes to this would be to promise something that I’ll find too challenging to deliver. I think Rio was a little disappointed and God knows he pushed, pushed and pushed some more, but I also know both he and Beethoven appreciated my honesty. Besides, if I agree to more than I feel I can handle and sacrifice too much to do it, I won’t be any good for them anyway. Win-win. Rio did mention he’ll see if they can find a way to pin me down permanently for what I can do and get someone new to cover the shifts I can’t commit to. It’s mainly the 25-hour one because even if I wanted to, Hubby travels a lot and at 14 Bambino is too young to be completely solo like that.

So life will continue this way for a while and that’s awesome. I’m getting shifts at a steady rate with three or four every week and trust me, that’s brilliant. It does take it out of me and often I get home wired as well as absolutely spent, but with this arrangement (that of course also does allow me to say no, should I need to) I still have the balance I need. And oh, I still get quality time, albeit even this way much less, with Hubby and Bambino.

I took the relaxation group again yesterday and I didn’t die. I felt the fear and did it anyway (good book, by the way – “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” – look it up). Good, eh? And next time I might even go into it without my heart beating so hard I’m breathless! Because I’m still learning and finding my feet, I want to check off with either Beethoven or Rio or one of the therapists before I take a reading, poem or video clip to the group. Cherokee sent me the below clip recently. She said once, since I got sober, that she’s glad to have me back. I took this to mean she always loved me for who I actually am, and that perhaps my descent into alcoholism stole me away from her there for a while. If you can call best part of two decades “a while”, that is.

Anyway. Cherokee loves this series called Vikings, and this dude is an actor and plays one of the main parts. I watched it and loved it. The things he is grateful for I can sign my name to, I can totally relate to the fear of saying goodbye to “that life” and more than anything I can only echo his words: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. We need to talk about these things – addiction, mental health, etc – and there is light at the end of the tunnel. I’m with him, and although I’m not a successful actor in my 20s I can still relate to every single thing he said. Er, I don’t have “hanger-on’s” but apart from that bit, I suppose. Let me assure you that there is a way out of the living hell that is addiction. It gets brighter, it gets better and one day you’ll sit there and look back and not believe, uhm, what you USED to believe.

It’s about 15 minutes long. WATCH IT. The guy talks a lot of sense.

As for me, today I’m most grateful for these things, in no particular order:

  1. I woke up without a crippling hangover.
  2. I don’t have to drink today.
  3. Bambino’s sense of humour – he had me rolling this morning, he’s just too funny.
  4. I’m a good wife and finally a present mother.
  5. I get to do something I’m passionate about for a living. Well, ad-hoc anyway!
  6. My new foundation from Bobbi Brown – I look all dewy! (Superficial, I know – sorry, not sorry).
  7. Feeling so enthusiastic and energised.
  8. Hubby’s delectable bottom. Oh, and his grrrrr-wanna-bite-them-they’re-so-good legs.
  9. Being alive.
  10. Cherokee – this amazing, kick-ass woman who is MY friend. She’s with ME! Smug as fuck.
  11. That I can now face my fears and do even the things that terrify me.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Stark Naked, I Swear

I crashed. I hit one of those bumps in the road that I – when I was in active addiction – avoided like the plague. I.e. the sort of bump that I’ve been avoiding my entire adult life, running away and hiding from any potential friction long before it could even form aforementioned bump. When we get sober, I think some of us have this little disillusion that our lives will just magically transform and be perfect – I hear it all the time in various recovery groups: “why am I still not sleeping well? I’ve been sober for weeks!” or that we are pissed off that even though we did that horrendously scary thing and got sober, we’re still in pain! That’s so unfair! Me, me, me!!

Don’t get me wrong – sobriety DOES transform our lives, of course it does. What I’m saying is that it doesn’t make us bullet proof. We still lose our jobs. Our partners still leave us. People we love still get ill. People we love even die. Whilst this may make us bitter as we may feel we deserved better for cleverly and bravely fighting our demons, I think it’s so important to remember that what sobriety actually means is that we get a shot at being the best we can be and be best placed to not just enjoy the happy times but best placed to deal with the shitters too. And that’s where I found myself this Saturday just gone.

I ran the relaxation group again that morning. For those of you who are used to talking in front of people and/or don’t get consumed by anxiety of doing so, it really is no big deal: sit in a circle with 20 people, let everyone know what we’re doing (ten minutes of being silent, then a reading and then we share our thoughts and experiences) and just lead and moderate the discussion. For ME, this used to be unthinkable. Saturday was the second time I did this and it all unravelled. The worst thing that could happen, DID happen. I lost control of the group, couldn’t bring it back in when the discussion turned chaotic and some of the clients ceased the opportunity to wreak havoc. No, it’s not my responsibility to recover for them – my responsibility in this instance is to facilitate a relaxation group. They’re adults, for God’s sake! It’s their responsibility to take the session (and their own recovery) seriously. They didn’t and it was a disaster. Any time I opened my mouth, to steer the conversation back to what it should have been or to ask people to speak one at a time, I got sniggered at, laughed at and it just escalated. I would have felt more comfortable if I’d walked into that room stark naked, I swear.

So here I am, pulling on my big girl pants and making myself do something that actually terrifies me. And it ends up exactly in that place that has had me running from this all my life: I failed. My inner voice had a field day, lemme tell ya. Oh you useless piece of shit, look how pathetic you are! You can’t do this – what a joke! Run away and hide so no one has to be around you, you ridiculous, embarrassing and utterly despicable little bitch. Go hide. Go scratch. Pathetic! Have a drink, obliterate yourself because that’s all you deserve, you fucking failure and ridiculous excuse for a human being.

That’s right. I am actually a very kind and caring person but to myself I am often the meanest piece of shit you could possibly imagine.

I walked away from it angry. I hated each and every one of those clients in that moment. I don’t fucking go to an AA meeting and begin sniggering and being disruptive if someone shares something I personally may think is a load of shit. I respect other people and I am there to recover. By the time I left, my anger had dissolved into that old, familiar feeling – the deepest sadness and the firm belief that I’m good for absolutely fuck-all. Got home, told hubby I’d hit the wall and needed a moment all alone and in silence to just land. I sat on our bed and cried my eyes out. I allowed myself to feel all the things the situation triggered in me. It was shitty and I felt utterly destroyed. Who was I to think I’d be any good at this? Just look at it!

Well. I’m done crying about it now. I think I can now see it for what it was. I did my best with the tools I had. I learned some very useful lessons. Rio, Beethoven and the therapists all hugged me and regaled me with stories of their own, reassuring me they’d all been there and that I’d indeed been good enough. Because what this was, was a bump in the road and one of those I can’t avoid. This is part and parcel of learning and growing. Yesterday when I walked back in through those doors, I ensured my back was a little straighter and I also put a new little strategy in place: I didn’t apologise to anyone for doing my job. Or for using up oxygen by breathing. I didn’t say “excuse me, sorry to interrupt your lunch, you’re next for meds, I’m so sorry to be a pain“. I said “right, you’re next, now please“. Progress, not perfection.

I needed to hit that bump. Be in a situation I find so uncomfortable I want to crawl out of my own skin or stick my fingers into my eyeballs and swirl them around just for the fucking distraction from the pain I feel. What this showed me was this: the worst thing I thought could happen DID happen, but actually….. ….the worst that could, and did, happen was nothing. No one died. I doubt they sat around afterwards having a good old laugh at how they shot me down. Or maybe they did! So what! I’m there to support them in their recovery but I’m not fucking there to recover FOR them. So yesterday I faced them all and I don’t know if it was my straighter back or lack of needless apologies, but dare I say it – I was in charge. And part of the reason why is because I hit a bump, crashed hard but instead of running and hiding, I picked myself up and got back in the saddle. Bring it, biatches. I’m done running and hiding.

Weirdly, I’m looking forward to Wednesday morning when I’ll take that group once again. Yep. Life is life and sometimes everything will fall into our laps and sometimes life will kick our asses. But sobriety does transform us and I’m quite happy – excited, even – to walk back into a situation that last time felt like that nightmare where you’re naked and on stage and everyone points and laughs. I kid you not. Sure, it does also make me feel a little sick but this is what I want to do, it’s what I believe in and what I’m passionate about and if it’s not worth fighting for, then why bother?

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Today I’m not going to drink.

Milk Or Sugar With That?

Beyond tired. But it’s a good tired. What an awesome week! I’m sober, Bambino’s been a superstar, Hubby is on his way home this evening from another work trip and I can’t wait to pinch his bottom kiss him stupid, and I am a paid member of staff at the rehab and all signed off to fly solo with the medication. Rio’s verbal machine gun instruction style has paid off and I feel quite confident. Except one pill flew out of the stubborn blister pack and landed on the client’s head and then I had to chase after another as I missed the detox meds. Still. I could just picture Rio staring at the screen in the staff room at the CCTV with these mishaps and throwing his hands in the air and shouting oh come on, Anna, what are you doing girl? Look at this, what’s wrong with this woman?!” in his usual manner. It’s endearing though and today he’s been mostly smiling. Actually, that’s not quite truthful. He’s mostly been laughing at me, starting with bursting out into a loud cackle the moment I walked in at 6.45am.

I’d say I’m reasonably bright but I’m just so bloody ditzy with it. Sometimes my brain just locks up completely and things that are really obvious become incomprehensible. When I’m tired I can barely work a zip. It’s a good tired, but it’s a full on tired. These shifts would be exhausting if I worked 9-5. That doesn’t exist at the rehab. It’s 7am-3pm or 2pm-10pm. After a bunch of those and often the early one straight after the late one, meaning I’ve not had more than five hours’ sleep, and things can quickly start to spin.

Last night I was going to take my maiden voyage admission. It wasn’t to be. The client was in a state so serious that the doctor asked me to get an ambulance. Fair dos. I reminded myself I’m Calm Anna with ice in her stomach and dialled 999.

Are they unconscious?” the dispatcher asked.

Not quite, but dangerously intoxicated and the doctor who’s with them says they needs to get to A&E,” I responded, already impatient and stressed as I realised I was in for a questionnaire.

How’s their breathing?” the dispatcher lady continued, “is it normal or are they having trouble breathing?

I am not with them,” I told her as firmly as I could without snapping having already explained the situation, “I am in a staff office and they’re in a different room but it’s serious enough that the DOCTOR who is with them and who has examined them has instructed me to call for an ambulance.

The doctor popped his head in at this stage, just for a second to check the ambulance is on the way and to tell me to inform the dispatcher that the person is vomiting blood.

They are vomiting blood,” I parrot and drum my fingernails against the desk, “can you confirm the ambulance on the way?

Rio dashes in to fetch something as I’m confirming some other details and then the doctor is back in, again to check for reassurance the “blue light” (as he calls it rather than ‘ambulance’) is indeed coming. I’m at this point fielding a few more vomit questions.

Yes, he’s vomiting blood,” I repeat.

Ground coffee!” the doctor adds hurriedly, before disappearing off again.

Huh? I freeze for a moment. They’re puking coffee? But I’ve told them they’re puking blood! Holy shitballs.

Uh, they’ve vomited coffee,” I say and scrunch up my nose as I don’t get why the doctor is so keen to specify this.

Whether he’s vomiting coffee or orange juice doesn’t matter, right? Blood I understand wouldn’t be great, but why is he so specific about this? Coffee? Do I actually need to do closer inspections of vom in the future? Oh please God no, I’m just too squeamish. No vom for me. Eurgh. But how did I misunderstand this? I was so sure the doctor had said they were vomiting blood, surely? Oh well, now it’s coffee and I repeat this on the phone. Several times. Who knows, perhaps coffee clings harder to your stomach or something and if THAT comes up it’s serious or something?

The poor client is picked up and they take him in. It turns out “ground coffee” is code for blood from the sacro-something or other. Rio has a laughing fit when I tell him the latest tale illustrating my utter stupidity and having asked for an ambulance for someone who’s vomiting coffee. But at least it arrived, eh, and quickly too. The doctor makes a noise as you would at a daft little puppy that’s just chased a ball and too late realised it’s clumsily charging straight into the wall. Still. All’s well that ends well. The client is where they need to be and will be back with us as soon as they’re well enough to begin detox and their recovery journey.

So my maiden voyage admission was instead a lovely lady who checked in this morning and a very pleasant flight I have to say, in the great scheme of things and compared with many I’ve sat in on. And it was right after my maiden voyage running relaxation group. Spoke and didn’t fall apart. Can’t say I was overly assertive but Rome wasn’t built in one day. Neither was Stockholm. I did OK with both, I think. Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but good enough for my first solo flights. I fucking love this. It’s tough and it’s heartbreaking and it’s exhausting, but even now that I’m so tired I doubt I’ll last beyond 8pm, it makes me smile and feel really fortunate that I get to hop out of bed tomorrow morning at 5am to head off to rehab on a Saturday morning. My ex-bosses gave me a lovely card when I left that reads “do what you love and love what you do” – I think this might just be it.

Counting my blessings would take forever, but the fact that I’m sitting here 430 days sober is the greatest gift I’ve ever been given alongside Bambino and Hubby. Oh, and my bonus sons. Sobriety and my boys and loving what I get to do for a living – life’s pretty damn awesome on Planet Anna.

Today I’m not going to drink.

A Few Minutes of Plinky-Plonky Music

Here’s Little Anna kissing Mum. It was in June 1979 in hospital and she’d just given me a little brother. She deserved a kiss, definitely.

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We’re all addicts, aren’t we?” my mother mused when I spoke to her on the phone last night. She said it in that gentle, sweet way she does when she mulls things over and wants to show she relates. “We all have those things we think of as rewards.

Mum, however, was talking about chocolate. She giggled knowingly and told me in that let-me-tell-you-a-secret kind of way that she has on occasion hidden chocolate bars. The way she told me and the way she said it was how you might expect someone to confess to something really quite naughty or controversial. Like my old systems for hiding wine and then disposing of the empties. Bless my beautiful and utterly lovely mother. She was, of course, making perfect sense.

Thank God it’s just chocolate! What if I’d discovered drinking or smoking?” she added, still with that smile in her voice that I could hear all the way from Sweden.

Somehow I can’t quite picture my mother drinking or smoking. She’ll cautiously take a small sip at an infuriatingly small glass of wine at, say, Christmas, but never have I ever known her to DRINK drink. And trying to picture her smoking a cigarette makes me laugh because it’s more unlikely than if she were to moonlight as a stripper. Point is, though, that she did what we do when we really listen to someone talk about something that’s difficult and we want to show we have taken it onboard, wanting to illustrate that we can relate in some way. I believe it comes down to wanting to be kind. Discussing my addiction and recovery with one of my bestest, oldest friends went down in a similar manner – my friend brought up her own view on drinking and I know it was a genuine way of reassuring me that hey, buddy, I hear you. I’ve said it before – I’m very lucky.

We all want and need to be heard, and when you talk openly about what used to be a dirty, shameful secret it’s uplifting to be met with this sort of kindness where your loved ones want to show they really thought about what you said and searched for ways to relate.

Life is manic now. Manic in a good way, but I do have to take care not to allow my full throttle brain to take over. I finally have that coveted employment contract and have been given the first bunch of course work to solidify all these new things I am learning. Today is a day for Anna. Monday I got home closer to 11pm following an evening shift and got up at 5am Tuesday to start another at 7am. Working at the rehab isn’t like an office job with breaks. Kiss 9-5 goodbye. Nevermind the leisurely 9-2 I cruised along at. I’m served lunch by the chef like everyone else, but I have yet to spend longer than ten minutes eating in peace before rushing off to the next thing. I’m yet to complete a task with no interruption. This is where I have to make a conscious effort to breathe and slow myself down because my brain works in PRECISELY in this way – this is the speed setting my brain naturally likes. And it’s PRECISELY the speed setting that had me plunge head first into severe alcoholism. So whilst I’m now feeling restless at this self imposed Day of Chillax and itching to complete all course work I’m able to access, I’m pushing myself back. Jeez, slow down, gal.

Beethoven actually pointed out how Rio has used his addict’s mind to get as good as he is at his job – this top speed, almost frantic approach. So yes, being wired in this way isn’t necessarily a bad thing and my addiction super powers can indeed be strengths, but what I’m saying is I have to be mindful of how I’m feeling. Feeling energised and motivated is one thing, compulsion is quite another and I do 100% feel rattled by a pile of course work I want to churn through. So I’m deliberately leaving it sitting there. Today is Anna’s Day of Chillax. Blog, go for a walk, perhaps bake something. Tomorrow it’s another late shift, followed by a 7am start both Friday and Saturday. Today is self care and deep breaths. Clear my mind and just BE.

This is something Beethoven is always very clear on. Well, the man has worked with addicts for years and at the rehab he also employs a bunch of us. When Rio was throwing shifts into my greedy little hands, Beethoven emphasised I should only do what feels right and not say yes because I feel I have to.

Your husband might come down here and shout at us!” Beethoven joked and Rio laughed out loud and gave a high five, “[Rio] and I might end up in big trouble.

I doubt it. Now he has a wife who comes home from work and is excited and wants to tell him all about her day,” I told them and immediately cringed at how fucking cheesy it sounded.

Aw, that’s really nice,” Beethoven said and smiled, “that’s how it should be, I’m glad you said that.

Drunk Me would have gone bright red for even being in a conversation and the discomfort this always used to entail. Drunk Me would blush furiously if even spoken to. Sober Me smiled and just got on with it. Some days I don’t even recognise myself, so long had I been buried, but I’m slowly learning to be me again. Rio informed me that I’ll run the relaxation group occasionally. This involves talking to a group of roughly 20 people, lead the discussion and moderate following a few minutes of plinky-plonky music and meditation. Had you asked me to do this just 14-or-so months ago I would have refused and run a mile. Even for a handful of people – no fucking way. Never mind a group of 20-odd that on top of things may occasionally include a well known face. Not a problem. The thought doesn’t make me anxious or nervous. Why? Coz I’m sober. Turns out these things don’t actually scare me. It’s just another thing to do, something I’m learning but happy to attempt even if I don’t know it all. Even the idea of getting something wrong doesn’t terrify me. It doesn’t even bother me. What a lovely surprise, Sobriety! I sure as hell didn’t expect THAT. Whatever next?

Well. 428 days sober. That’s a miracle. I well up just typing it because I can’t quite believe it’s real. What a gift. And I’m so grateful I got to wake up again with a clear mind and free from all that heavy shame and regret. For the first time in 15 years, I come home from work knowing I gave it my all and that I did well. For the first time in 15 years, I know me being there made a difference. I haven’t felt this way in so long. And I remember her now, the girl I used to be. I lost her there for a while.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Whacked Them All

Nobody puts Baby in a corner.

Eek! Did I just do something silly? It’s been a long time (14-ish months) since I with my heart in my throat checked my phone to see if I’d posted something really stupid on Facebook. Back to the present moment and I believe I just announced to the world that not only did I abuse alcohol, but my exact words on Facebook just moments ago and now there for all to see were that my drinking problem was of epical proportions. I mean, I’m all for calling a spade a spade but holy cannoli, I think I just whacked them all with a goddamn shovel!

The husband of one of my best friends is big on health. An osteopath by trade (and founder of the Stockholm College of Osteopathy) and a firm believer in looking after our whole being – mind, body and soul – his updates often feature photos from his latest spiritual retreat in places like Kenya or articles around preventative methods of promoting good health. Today he listed ways to promote good health and questioned why not more of Sweden’s national budget is used towards those measures, which would mean a relatively small investment now will prevent huge cost later. So drunky-drunk here felt compelled to jump in. I went to town. No, I strutted into town like a defiant peacock and I made it clear to all and sundry that I’m a sober alcoholic with years of aforementioned EPICALLY PROPORTIONED alcohol abuse, who now wants to see us put this screwed-up world right. I rounded up by asking him if he wants to join my crusade. Well. When I am ready to open my chain of addiction rehab centres that will revolutionise how we treat addiction, I will want experts like him by my side so let’s hope he’s up to the task.

Did you expect me to start the next paragraph or sentence with “jokes aside“? I hope you’ve scheduled a good chunk of today’s available calendar entries as “wait for Anna to say she was joking“. Tomorrow’s too.

Today is a day to survey my arsenal and regroup for Stage Deux of my crusade into the world of addiction treatment. Fine, it’s not really a crusade yet, more of a fact finding research mission but I’m determined that no matter what, part of the mighty All Blacks’ philosophy will remain my focus. For those of you who aren’t into rugby, the All Blacks are New Zealand’s national rugby team and I guess you could say they are to rugby what Canada are to ice hockey – the ones to beat. One of their team mantras is to “leave the jersey in a better place“. That’s what I want to do. Whether that will mean that just a single addict will remember me as someone who treated them with kindness and respect when they underwent treatment or I’ll take my place in the history books alongside Bill W is irrelevant. My best will be good enough and it’s all I can do, but when I wear that jersey I will be humble, honoured and hellbent on leaving it in a better place than I found it. End of story.

Gosh, aren’t I a little hell raiser today? This is the cool thing about being sober though. Not blurt out some crap whilst drunk that you neither actually feel nor particularly care about sober and then regret it with shame burning inside you, but stand up proud and shout from the roof tops the things that you truly feel in your heart. That’s a gift and it’s one that I treasure. Please God, never let me fall back. Please God, help me always remain on this path. I’ll be ever so good, I promise, just help me stay sober.

Now on to lining up my ducks. I’m going to get on LinkedIn and connect the shit out of every recovery professional I can find. Hubby took me through how he uses his and what you can do on there. Gosh, how grown up! But I want to network and find the people in this industry, read relevant articles and find my way around my new career. It feels so amazing to feel this serious about something that really matters to me and be bubbling over with motivation, inspiration and determination. I’m so grateful to be here.

How’s everyone else doing? I feel so absent recently, even though the reason for not commenting and interacting as much as I’d like is a positive one. The blogosphere is still my anchor and reading other people’s blogs is still what most helps me make sense of my own addiction and recovery. It’s here that I found my tribe, some of whom have morphed into amazing real-life friendships. Having said that, as lovely as it is to connect beyond blogs and nicknames, these connections we make in this sphere are every bit as invaluable. Finding your tribe would probably be one of my first pieces of advice to anyone in recovery. There. I’m done. A bit of hell raising and a little declaration of love for my tribe.

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Now let’s carpe the fucking diem!

Today I’m not going to drink.

The Best Answer

No run last night. To be honest, I don’t know if I have the energy to go tonight either. Work is beyond frantic and so it’s self care time at Casa Anna these evenings that follow days at the rehab – peace, quiet and sweet, sweet solitude. Blog, chomp down the odd cinnamon roll and generally just unwind. Hence I’ve declined Hubby’s run request via WhatsApp and will just go for a brisk, long walk. Sometimes a no is the best answer and as we all know, the days of Anna saying yes to everything are over.

Today I mostly went around with a colleague I hadn’t had a chance to get to know much – I’ll call her Raven because she has gorgeous, jet black hair – and like Work-Hubby, she is adding another fantastic layer of knowledge to everything I’m learning. Rio is like a machine gun and brilliant to learn from as he does everything to the letter, something the law abiding and rule loving little Swede in me massively appreciates. Hell, I don’t even cross the road unless there’s a little green man telling me I can do so, and Rio’s approach is therefore wonderful. It’s also awesome to learn that way as it means I from the outset get entrenched in good habits as opposed to taking shortcuts. He does seem to get quite stressy though – actually, make that agitated on occasion – and one second he’ll shove something into my hands only to rip it out of them a second later because he’s changed his mind or suddenly thought of something else for me to do – I’ve had to slow him down several times by gently stating that look, buddy, can I finish this task first. But hey, that’s cool. I like him enormously and obviously the man is taking time to show me so I’m not about to whinge about the speed settings. Work-Hubby and Raven are as calm and methodical as Rio is frantic and full throttle, and this gives me a perfect balance as I’m A) learning to cross all the Ts and dot the Is, and B) allow myself to slow down and find little tricks for remembering the whats, wheres, hows and whens. Perfect.

Many of my colleagues are in recovery. In a team of ten support workers there are only two people who are not in recovery (although this is a guess – I don’t know this for sure) and out of six therapists two are, as far as I know, in recovery. Finding out more about their stories is so fascinating, in much the same way as I find the blogosphere and various recovery/sobriety communities and groups so valuable. They are all incredible people and I’m just so freaking lucky to get to work and be around them, but what struck me today more than anything else is how Work-Hubby is the very embodiment of serenity. He came on his shift shortly before mine was over and as always he has a smile on his face and kind words for every single person he passes – greeting clients and asking how they’re doing today, greeting us colleagues and generally just lifting the atmosphere by his calm presence. This is a man with over 20 years of sobriety who only months ago buried his oldest son who died because of addiction, heroin I believe. Yet there he is, grateful for his own sobriety and appreciative of doing what he loves for a living, totally at peace and content with where he’s at. You don’t start complaining about banalities around someone like that. Well, they’re all like that and I get to be around them and mark my words – I am trying with all my might to soak up their wisdom and knowledge.

Oh God, this turned a bit gushy. Sorry ’bout that. I never did know when to tone it down, never mind turn it off.

Rio just rang me as it happens to swap tomorrow for Saturday. Cool bananas. I was looking forward to tomorrow and getting another day with Raven and Work-Hubby, but there we are. Verbal machine gun Rio on a Saturday it is. Every now and then he comes out with something that makes me laugh out loud with recognition, sometimes a little story or, like in today’s relaxation group, a saying. Today’s little Rio-ism is one I might get printed and framed because it’s just too good. He told the group this to round up a discussion around being a newcomer in AA or NA and feeling worried about sharing when other people have much longer sobriety than we currently do:

TODAY YOU ARE A PEACOCK BUT TOMORROW YOU MIGHT BE A FEATHER DUSTER!

It just doesn’t matter if we’re five days, five weeks, five months, five years or five damn decades sober – we’re only ever one drink away.

Today I’m not going to drink.

What People in Love Do

Funny that – used the search function on the archive for a Swedish TV channel to see if there might be some interesting documentary or something around alcoholism and addiction, and all they had is a series called ‘Skam’. Translation: ‘shame’. Perhaps that’s all I needed to learn today? Pretty accurate, if you ask me.

I hate to sound like that whiny Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, but it got me thinking. Isn’t it so stupid how we view addiction? We split it up in categories. Clare Pooley (Sober Mummy here in the blogosphere and author of The Sober Diaries) gave a Ted talk that highlighted this. Take another legal drug, nicotine. You stop smoking and to the rest of the world you are a hero. Nicotine we all know to be bad, and you are ever so good when you stub out that filthy habit. Right? Compare this with alcohol abuse. Stop drinking and 1) you have to explain why, and 2) there must be something wrong with YOU. This drives me mad! It’s so very true – it’s the only drug you have to justify NOT taking and if you have a problem with it, the assumption seems to be that you are inherently bad or weak somehow.

Yes, I do absolutely believe that there is something about how I’m wired that made me more likely to develop alcoholism. Actually, scrap ‘believe’ – I know it’s different because I can see it! It’s blatantly clear that what happens when I drink is entirely different to what happens when e.g. Hubby drinks. This weekend he did that thing again that confuses the hell out of me. We headed down to south Devon for a random weekend escape and after a trip on a steam train, we found a pub to watch the rugby. During the couple of hours we were there, Hubby had three pints. It was raining so we headed back to the B&B for a while before dinner.

Now this is probably a little strange, but even though I don’t at all want to drink I seem to go into Anna-mode when Hubby does and become super aware of what I might perceive as his drinking needs. Hence, I suggested we get some wine or a couple of beers to take back because in my formerly wine soaked world there is nothing worse than breaking the flow. Come on, that’s just agony, no? Nah. I think he even asked me why. I scrunched up my nose and again tried to figure out what actually goes on in the mind of a normal person, but as usual I just couldn’t understand it. Back at the little guesthouse, we spent an hour looking through photos we’d taken, watched some of another rugby game on TV and googled the best restaurant in Paignton and booked a table. Dude’s totally calm and apparently completely unaffected by this. If anything, I felt a little restless. Headed out and over the best meal I’ve had this year, Hubby had a couple of glasses of wine. And that was it. I’m calm and content because the Beast doesn’t have its claws into me, and Hubby is calm and content because he’s immune to the Beast. Got back, did what people in love do and then fell asleep.

The next day the sun was out and we headed out for a walk along the sea front. I just had to ask him because I just don’t understand how that stuff feels! All I know is that when I drink, something in me comes alive that I cannot stop or control, this insane compulsion that I cannot stop. I assume it’s how I feel when I……. Oh holy crap, I’m struggling to think of something I do in moderation and end up feeling “that’s enough, thank you” about. I eat like a truck driver and drink coffee like a demon, there are actually very few areas of my life where I apply that thing the Swedes call ‘lagom‘ = not too much, not too little: just right. Water!! WATER! I can moderate fucking water! If I’m thirsty and drink some water, I definitely hit a pleasant point where I have had enough and I’ve just had enough to quench my thirst. I don’t keep on gulping water beyond the point that I’m just nicely satisfied. So that’s what it must be like for a non-alkie to my mind.

So those three pints you had,” I put to him as we strolled past little beach huts and souvenir stalls, “you would have had enough to feel what, a bit tipsy?

Not really, just like feeling I’ve had a drink,” Hubby replied.

But enough to get you going, right?” I insisted.

Yeah, I guess.

So when we went back to the hotel, you didn’t want to go on drinking?

No.

This is so weird for me! At that point, when you’ve had a few and sort of got into it, are you saying there’s no part of you that really wants to go for it?” I asked, both curious and confused because to me that violent desire to guzzle is so overpowering I can’t imagine not feeling that way after a drink.

“No.”

Just no? Nothing? Doesn’t it aggravate you to stop?

No.

OK, so…” I searched for new words to ask the same thing, “in that moment you don’t feel any urge to keep going? You can literally take it or leave it and it doesn’t stress you out?

Yeah.

To Hubby, this was all so obvious that there weren’t anything other that one-word answers. It’s just how it is for him. To me, it’s bewildering because I just can’t imagine how that feels, how it’d be possible to feel the way after a glass of wine as I do after a glass of water. No, I don’t wish that were me. Is that strange? Surely the the greatest wish for me, as an alcoholic, would be that I could drink like a normal person? I don’t. Once the illusion of booze shattered and I saw no benefit to drinking anymore, this went right out of the window. I’ve said it before, if someone offered me a pill that’d enable me to drink the way Hubby can I honestly wouldn’t bother. That’s neither here nor there though, the point is I find it really fascinating to hear him describe what happens when he drinks, which of course is seemingly very little.

In other news, life at rehab goes on and I had my first observation today. I’ve done observations several times now but this time it was me who was observed. Not due to a risk of seizures or self harm but giving the clients their medication. I’ve watched it done many times now and this was the second and third time (breakfast and lunch) that I did it myself. As we were doing the handover for other staff coming on shift, Work-Hubby turned to me and suggested I do it. As luck would have it, Beethoven (who is the manager) joined and it was down to me to talk through each client’s mood and updates. I don’t actually know if I did well or really badly but I did my best, and guess what? That’s good enough. Shockingly, I didn’t get nervous – what the hell is THAT about? I mean, not even a little. My cheeks didn’t burn and my heart didn’t race, nor did my voice tremble. I just did it to the best of my ability and felt completely relaxed about it, intimidation levels firmly at zero. I like Sober Me – she’s quite a cool chick.

Well. Hubby is on his way home and I really need to head out for a run – it’s been two weeks! I got struck down with the cold from hell and last week was just too busy and exhausting, but now need to get my arse in gear again. I can really tell the difference – I end up feeling really sluggish when I don’t exercise.

Today I’m not going to drink.