50-Odd Yards Behind Her

Yesterday, I saw someone demonstrate what a really fucking awesome friend is. Right there in front of me.

Little Miss was being dropped off at the rehab by aforementioned friend and wasn’t happy about it. Drunk and unhappy, actually, alternating between savage anger and drink-fuelled poor-little-me sadness. Excuse after excuse after excuse. Little Miss was adamant that she didn’t need to be there, that she has her life together and everything going for her. Sadly, I’d hazard a guess and say I don’t believe she was being dropped at rehab by mistake. A guy who recently left said in the morning meditation group on his last day:

When I came here I didn’t have a drinking problem, it was just my family who had issues. Now that I’m leaving, I know I have a drinking problem and my family’s fine.

Wise words indeed. For some people, it clicks. And heartbreakingly, for many, many more it doesn’t. It takes time and the sad truth is that no matter what our loved ones say or do – even if we end up losing them altogether – we won’t accept help until we accept we have a problem. As much as I do believe this, I am coming to believe that although no one can get you sober but YOU, there is a way to be a great friend and that’s to be honest. Little Miss has a great friend and I have to say I was pretty impressed, because it takes balls to do what she did.

I’m not staying,” Little Miss whined and struggled to light another cigarette, her hand holding the lighter swaying too much and missing the tip of the cigarette.

You have to get well. You are ill!” Good Friend told her firmly.

No I’m not, you bitch, I’m fine,” Little Miss snapped and knocked the cigarette out of her own mouth as she made wild gestures.

How can you say that? You’re not fine at all. If you don’t stay, you’ll go back to an empty house!

I have too much work, I don’t have time to stay here,” Little Miss insisted and pouted defiantly.

What work? When did you last work? Stop bullshitting. Look at you! You’re not fucking fine!

You’re jealous because I have everything I want.

Good Friend at this point glanced at me and shot me a resigned look. I did my best to reassure and persuade Little Miss that coming here was a good thing and we’d help her get well. But how do you convince someone who doesn’t believe they need help that they do? Best part of my shift yesterday was spent doing Little Miss’s admission in small instalments, reassuring her that it’s not a prison and we don’t hold anyone against their will, but let’s just do this one step at a time. At every turn, she wanted to leave, then reluctantly agreed to give it a chance only to change her mind again moments later. In the end, late in the evening, after lots of paperwork and going through the whole process including a full examination by the doctor, she was off. You can’t force recovery on anyone, it never works. Only you can get yourself there.

What Little Miss has however, is a great advantage. She has her Good Friend who clearly loves her enough to make her seek help, but most importantly, sets boundaries and tells her straight. Do you know what, I don’t know if I’d have the balls to do that. Actually, yes. If it were someone I love, yes I would. But it would be fucking horrible, is what I mean. That’s NOT an easy thing to do, and of course Good Friend did end up on the receiving end of a barrage of abuse from Little Miss who was having none of it. Especially not a problem!

I know my friends would have done that for me if they’d realised how fast I was slipping. That’s the shitter with alcohol though, you can sink almost the whole way down to rock bottom without it being too obvious. Little Miss, appears to have sunk a little further than I did. Oh, it wasn’t far off – of that I’m certain, because that slope was beginning to get very steep – but I didn’t quite reach those consequences. Little Miss, as spelled out to her by Good Friend out there on those steps, now had a choice between accepting the help or losing her family as well as her friends, relatives already taking care of her children and a partner who’s moved out. Addiction does that – it strips you bare, because that’s all it wants: you, all on your own, so it can go ahead and kill you.

So to those of you who love an addict – be it your partner, sister, father, friend – I have this to say: it’s OK to set boundaries so lay those down. You can still love us and be there for us at the same time as you tell us straight that we need help. You can’t force us to get clean, we have to do that for ourselves or it won’t work, but you can state your case without compromising your love and even if we lash out you may just have planted a seed. Please be patient with us. I know we hurt and abuse you. That’s not OK, but please do remember we are held hostages by our addiction and this person you love is still here underneath.

Perhaps Good Friend’s words did register somewhere and Little Miss comes back. I do hope so. Perhaps she did come back to an empty house. Hopefully Good Friend along with Little Miss’s other dear ones hold the boundary they set: get yourself help or we walk away. It’s a tough one, very tough. But maybe, just maybe the coin will drop. I couldn’t help but think, as Little Miss stood there waiting for the Uber to take her back home, that I wished she’d just see that just 50-odd yards behind her across the parking lot, a totally new and better life could be started if only she made the decision to come back through those doors. Well. Yesterday wasn’t her day. Let’s hope her day comes soon though.

And, just to be crystal here, OK…. It took me almost 11 years to work up the cojones to ask for help, so I’m not bloody sitting here saying Little Miss is silly. She isn’t. She’s an addict. And like the rest of us, it’ll only happen when it happens. I just hope she’s one of those of us who it happens for before it’s too late. What I say above is said off the back of my own addiction and how I struggled with it, plus an enormous amount of hindsight. Hell, 11 years! I first realised I had a huge problem with drink and sought help in May 2007. It happened for me in January 2018. So don’t for a moment think I’m trying to say I’m some kind of sobriety straight A student. Flippin’eck no. I may work at a rehab now and yes it’s frustrating to know this amazing life awaits and is available yet people continue to throw it all away so needlessly, but I also know how hard it is to see that light when you’re trapped in darkness.

Sometimes we need a lot of nudging. Sometimes we need a Good Friend.

Today I’m not going to drink.

That Goddamn Bottle

Something curious happened.

We were talking about you earlier and everyone was saying that we just can’t imagine you drinking.

I must have jumped, as if someone had prodded me with a stick. Startled, but absolutely delighted, I looked up from what I was doing. The client whose medication I was administering sat on the chair and was smiling at me, an alkie like myself, waiting for me to put her lunchtime batch of detox pills into the little paper cup. She has eyes the colour of the sky on a summer’s day – that solid, light blue – and they were sparkling like eyes do when we’re coming back to life from active addiction. She, like so many others, is again a bright and bubbly individual and already so far removed from the tired and wrecked person who was admitted to the rehab only a week or two ago. It’s a beautiful thing when we begin to recover who we really are. Sobriety does this and it’s fucking awesome.

It was off the back of the morning relaxation group I’d run. The topic had been “say when” and holding boundaries, and I’d shared a little (to prompt discussion) about what my life used to look like when I was drinking. I told the group how I’d say yes to everything and then be too fucked to follow through. I set this in contrast to how I can now say yes and deliver on my promises. Or say no and draw the line. It’s good stuff, that! It was a really great session and many people added stories and insights of their own. I love my tribe and I almost feel a little guilty because I reap so many rewards from working at the rehab – it’s an absolute privilege to be around these fine folk who are in recovery just like I am. I may be getting paid to support THEM, but I’m on the same journey – albeit a little further along – and they help me too. More than they know.

Oh my God – really?” I asked, a little bewildered.

Hell, I have trouble myself sometimes to really believe I’m without the wine now. Being a lush, wine glass forever in hand, was my identity for so long that to hear someone say they couldn’t imagine it really threw me. A good friend of mine, who of course knew me all along and therefore more than familiar with Drunk Me, said the very opposite when I first got sober, namely “Anna, I can’t imagine you without wine!” and laughed. And here’s now someone, or several people actually given they’d apparently talked about me, who can’t actually imagine me as anything other than the person I am now – Sober Me.

Absolutely, we can’t imagine it!” she emphasised and smiled even wider.

I’ve only known you sober too, I can’t imagine you with wine either,” I told her truthfully.

Hah! Just check that awful photo on there, it’s horrible,” she replied and rolled her eyes.

She was referring to the photo on her MAR chart, the medication record we keep for each client. On each one we staple a print-out of the client’s photo, just another safety measure to ensure nothing gets mixed up and the right client gets the right meds. I flipped it over and we both had a look.

Mm, you do look a little tipsy here! Were you drunk when you came in?” I asked.

No! Just really hungover. I missed a trick there, everyone else is saying they drank right up to the last minute,” she chuckled.

Oh God, that’s so funny, I know exactly what you mean! I was looking for this particular bottle of wine the last time I drank and couldn’t bloody find it but I knew it was somewhere,” I said, “then a few weeks sober I realised it was in the wine rack! That really pissed me off at the time because it was like oh, I should have drunk that and now I’d missed out! Isn’t that crazy?” I added and couldn’t help but laugh.

Exactly!” she agreed.

Well, I suppose you’re getting the best value seeing as you didn’t spend the first 24 hours coming right and could just get right in,” I told her and raised a knowing eyebrow, “but yes, I know where you’re coming from. It’s like that, isn’t it? Drink the last drop.

Well. Just one of many, many little conversations that take place at the rehab but one that happened to contain the best compliment I’ve had in a while. SHE COULDN’T IMAGINE DRUNK ME! That’s fanfuckingtastic, no? It’s the same for me though and just as I told her, I can’t quite imagine this lady – who is so perky, smart and articulate – as a drunken mess either. But that’s what we both used to be, a hot mess, and it was pretty cool – one hot mess to another, seeing the other right there in that moment as the opposite of that and the only (very small) difference being that I happen to be a little further along.

Gosh, I remember that wine bottle so well and how I searched for it high and low during one of my last drinking sessions. Ironically, it was right there in the wine rack. Only a raging alcoholic wouldn’t think to look there. Putting bottles in the wine rack was something I never did because, uh, WHY exactly? Right into the fridge to chill and rip into straight away. I never understood wine racks, they always seemed like unnecessary faff to me. Keep the juice handy, I say. But yes, it pissed me off at the time that there it was, that last bottle I should have poured down my neck. I felt deprived! I was going to have that goddamn bottle and there it was again, having fucking hid from me the fucking thing and now laughing in my face! Naaah-nah-nah, naaah-nah! Fuckery.

Now when I think about it, it illustrates something important – namely, how when I was in active addiction it was always a case of tomorrow. I’ll stop after THIS one. Always ‘tomorrow’, never ‘today’. Sobriety is NOW. We can only recover when we go for it, not when we’re putting it off for another time or delaying so we can have another drink. I think Hubby had that bottle – in his normal way of course: it found its way into the fridge and he would have had it one glass at a time over several days – but with hindsight I wish I’d kept it as a reminder. The bottle of wine I never drank. The best bottle.

Today I’m not going to drink.

What Sparks a Light

Holy moly, that was LONG. But oh so worth it! A stretch of eight days at the rehab and my first terrifyingly tiring taste of a 12-hour shift, but strangely I walked away motivated and energised. Poor Hubby may disagree as I was starting to fade by 8.30pm Saturday evening, but even so. Turns out I’m quite the grafter when I’m not busy drinking myself into an early grave. Or, the following is true:

“You often feel tired, not because you’ve done too much, but because you’ve done too little of what sparks a light in you.”

No idea who said it but I suppose that sums it all up – I so genuinely and oh so deeply CARE about this! Even when I am absolutely spent I could go further and faster. OK, so working out what these last three weeks’ 100 hours amounted to in cold, hard cash made me choke on my coffee, but that was never my motivation anyway. BANG ON! Maybe this will wear me out. Maybe I’ll lose interest tomorrow. Who the fuck cares! Right now it’s where I want to be and precisely what I want to be doing. I’m learning so much and beyond that I’m also growing – both in confidence and as a person. I’ve run the morning relaxation group a whole bunch of times and although it still gives me palpitations and makes me so nervous my hands tremble, I’m getting there and I no longer dread it like I did those first few times.

How do you feel about driving the van, Anna?” Beethoven asked.

You fucking kidding me? That thing?! In actual TRAFFIC? With seven or eight people or whatever it seats? How do I feel about that? Oh, lemme think…

No. Sorry, no chance, absolutely not,” I replied despite feeling quite bad I was blatantly saying no to a boss I’m desperate to impress.

I saw no point in giving half baked excuses, I ain’t driving that thing. I’m a terrible driver, not at all confident in city traffic and I wouldn’t be able to park even if I had an entire, totally clear runway at Heathrow at my disposal to park aforementioned thing. Sometimes you just have to be realistic and I just can’t see myself doing that. I’m sure I would get used to driving it, but I don’t think anyone would much appreciate an “outing” being driven around a loop and just back to rehab without stopping anywhere, given I can’t park to save my life. And don’t get me started on LANES and ROUNDABOUTS and other things that are to do with traffic rules and regulations. Unlike the relaxation sessions, this is where actual people could actually die. Whilst I can appreciate the clever psychological device of having a group of people in treatment return to the rehab with a renewed sense of THANK GOD I’M ALIVE, I find that slightly cruel.

What if we do some driving lessons?” Beethoven suggested and smiled.

Fine,” I sighed wearily, “but I’m not taking anyone out in it until I feel confident.

Good girl,” Beethoven boomed, “there you go!

Oh fuckety-fuck-fuck. Clearly I still have some way to go with the boundaries and standing firm. See how my resolute no turned to defeat? Bollocks. Well. If you spot an eight-seater van the colour of cafe latte full of terrified passengers who appear to be alternating between hysterical crying and being deep in prayer, giz a wave. Or honk if you’re happy and you know it. Or something. Perhaps make room the way you do for blue lights, I dunno.

Well. Time to catch my breath now – no work tomorrow! A few hours on Thursday and then three whole days off before I’m back on Easter Monday. I’m absolutely loving it, and the people I get to spend my days with make me happy and I actually refer to the clients as much as my colleagues, if not more.

I didn’t go to treatment myself, but I can tell you that there are no people I admire more than those absolute superheroes who somehow find the herculean strength to walk through those doors. There are moments when someone’s just come through them and they seem so beaten, so broken and so low – every goddamn time I want to just shout LOOK WHAT YOU JUST DID YOU ABSOLUTE CHAMPION!! Perhaps in that moment someone will feel utter defeat, yet they’ve just done something that makes me want to worship right there at their feet. It makes my heart soar every time. Hand on heart, I don’t know that I’d been able to do it. I don’t know that I would have had the strength to walk through those mirrored doors, much less last even 24 hours inside them. I’m not sure they realise just how much they inspire me, move me and fill me with such hope I could just weep of gratitude. Sometimes the human spirit just blows my mind. There really are so many truly beautiful moments. And let me tell you this – I spend time with these superheroes (colleagues and clients) who go into battle with the Beast with nothing but a fucking toothpick to defend themselves with, and I’m so immensely proud that I’m one of them even though I didn’t walk through those doors in the way some of them did. I never thought I’d say it, but being a recovering addict makes me feel proud because we are fucking AWESOME. These people know how to swing a sword, lemme tell ya.

Uhm, feeling borderline religious here… I really am turning into a smug hippie. Yuk.

Time to switch off now. Time for me. Time for family. Time to smile about all these things I have to be grateful for. Most of all I am grateful that:

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?

IMG_9958

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.

IMG_2639

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.

Screen Shot 2019-03-21 at 09.42.01

Now let’s carpe the fucking diem!

Today I’m not going to drink.