One by One

Friday evening I experienced one of those really significant moments – the universe really did conspire to put the lightbulb right in my path and there was no way I could miss it. Now, I don’t need any more evidence to understand that my very worst day sober is infinitely better than my very best day drunk, but it really got me. It got me so good I stood in the shower afterwards and shed tears of joy. OK, it’s the time of the month so my emotions are at their absolute highest intensity, but even so.

I was tired, a little cold and I had really full-on period cramps – the sort of cramps that remind you of early labour and that don’t go away even with pain killers, a hot water bottle and assuming the foetal position. It’s dreadful. And I get a bit lightheaded during this time too, possibly due to the fact that I’m prone to being low on iron and, well, “female issues” don’t help on that score, shall we say. OK, too much information perhaps! The point is, however, that I was not exactly in the mood for a run, but Sober Me is actually quite a determined person who follows through on things so we got ready. I pretty much made my peace with getting to the end of our street and telling Hubby to go off on his own, because given I can barely SIT normally with these cramps going on I didn’t exactly expect running to be a huge success.

We headed off and something magical happened. Despite initially feeling like my uterus was going to fall out of me (hm, maybe I’m fishing a little for sympathy here but it did hurt lots, OK?), once we were half way I almost started giggling out of sheer surprise. It felt so amazing! My stomach had stopped hurting so much, I felt strong and light on my feet, my breathing came easy and in synch so I was even able to chat with Hubby as we ran, and even though a few parts on the way back home were uphill we actually ran faster that last bit. Bloody hell (pun intended), this sounds so naff now that I’m writing it! I can’t actually describe this to you but I honestly had one of those hallelujah moments. We got back and I just couldn’t get over it, said to Hubby over and over how insane all of this is. If I were less concerned with “what the neighbours might think” I would have screamed with joy, arms outstretched to catch the sky – honestly. High-fiving Hubby had to do, but that’s OK.

It absolutely made my heart soar and I was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude – OK, I know this sounds like I’m exaggerating, but after throwing my life away for so many years this was HUGE to me. You see, when I was drinking, the absolute IDEAL and something quite unattainable would have been to be able to run 5k a few times a week. And of course I couldn’t. No one can, I don’t think, if they drink as much as I used to unless they’re made of absolute steel. When I drank, being able to run 5k was a really high goal and one I very rarely touched except for the spells here and there when I was dry.

And that’s what got me. There I was, Friday night – at my absolute worst and with period cramps from hell, yet we ran MORE THAN 5k and it felt like I flew the last couple of kilometres. At my absolute crappiest sober, even my highest drunk goals are absolutely smashed. I could have run further. How easily I can go and do the things Drunk Me barely dared even think about and here I am now – Sober Me and bossing it. It makes me ecstatic and sad at the same time. IF ONLY I’D KNOWN. But hey, no time like the present and even though it may seem sometimes like I wasted too much of my life drinking, perhaps I needed to learn these lessons in my own time.

Oh, how I wish I could verbalise this better so I could truly convey how it felt but there we are. Sobriety is making my dreams come true one by one.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Claw Your Way Out of This, Girl

Why did I keep on drinking for as long as I did even when I knew it was A) a massive problem, B) stopped me doing lots of things, and C) killing me? Who better to ask than Drunk Me?

Sober Me: How ya been?

Drunk Me: Fuck, can’t see properly. Don’t really want to talk, find it hard to focus. Feel dizzy, heart’s beating weird. Just need to keep as still as I can. Need to just breathe. Can we do this later? Just give me a couple of hours, I usually feel better by mid-afternoon.

Sober Me: Cool bananas, see you in a few hours!

Tick-tock, tick-tock.

Oh for God’s sake, that’s so annoying! Now she’s cancelled! Can’t she at least have had the decency to call instead of sending a text message ten minutes before we were supposed to meet up? How rude! Here I am, arranging my day to suit her and now it’s all been a waste of time. Ah! She’s texted. We can catch up tomorrow, meet her at that cute pub on the river after work. Great.

And so the following day…

Sober Me: Hey! You been here long? I’m just going to grab a coffee, you want anything?

Drunk Me: Nah, just got here. Literally just got myself a drink.

Sober Me: Oh no, you didn’t. Nice try! Remember I’m sober now – SOBER YOU! – and you have lost your powers to fool me so you can drop the act and we’ll have an honest heart to heart. I know it’s your second or third. You necked the first and deliberately got here half an hour early so you’d get it down you quickly before I turned up, remember? Actually, why don’t you tell me? Second or third?

Drunk Me: Sorry, I’m so used to lying about it I didn’t even have to think about it, I forgot who you were there for a moment, Sober Me. Second. I’d be on my third but there was traffic coming down here so I wasn’t as early as I’d hoped I’d be. That really stressed me out actually!

Sober Me: OK, cool. Keep it straight, sister. I’ll try to get as much out of you before you get too fogged up. So, I just wanted to pick your brains really.

Drunk Me: Go for it.

Sober Me: First off. You know you’re an alcoholic, right? You’ve known this for a long time, haven’t you?

Drunk Me: Yup. 

Sober Me: But you continue to drink even though you deep down know it’s a huge problem and it’s likely to kill you.

Drunk Me: Yup.

Sober Me: Can you, in just one sentence, sum up the main reason why that is? Like, I don’t stop drinking because – and, you know, the main reason or whatever.

Drunk Me: Oh God… I don’t know! Hold on, let me think. Argh! I’ll come right soon, I’m still muddled and find it hard to tie my thoughts together when I’m hungover. It’s like my brain shuts down, like a wet tangle of threads I can’t connect. OK, right. Ready?

Sober Me: Shoot.

Drunk Me: I don’t stop drinking because I don’t know how.

Sober Me: How do you mean? As in, you don’t think you can?

Drunk Me: Kind of. I just don’t know where to start. It doesn’t seem possible, it’s just such a huge thing. It’s overwhelming. And no, I don’t think I’d be able to, I just can’t see it. And what a bleak existence, too! Imagine ALWAYS being sober. Eek!  

Sober Me: But you’re not physically dependent on alcohol, are you? So it’s not like you would truly need a medical detox or your doctor’s assistance to come off it?

Drunk Me: I get withdrawal symptoms, definitely, that’s what these hangovers are, right? But no, it’s rare that I get so ill I have to start drinking again just out of agony. But no, it’s not at a point where I have to drink in the mornings and when I do have the first drink it at least feels like I want it and not that I need it, if you see what I mean?

Sober Me: Mm… But you did also say just now that you’d come right soon, which implies you feel rotten and you’re drinking to make it go away.

Drunk Me: Mm… Don’t know. Uhm…. True, I suppose. Next question please.

Sober Me: Deny, deny, deny! You’re so funny. And a little stupid, but that’s OK – your brain’s under siege by your addiction so let’s move on. So you keep drinking because stopping seems big and scary, do I have that right? And also you don’t think you can?

Drunk Me: Yes. And it seems dull too. Drinking is fun and happy and cosy and glittery and warm. I can’t imagine those summer nights when Hubby and I sit in the evening sun and drink wine and chat and laugh without the wine. It just doesn’t work. Or sitting here on any evening during any season. I just don’t know what that even looks like. Why bother coming here at all?

Sober Me: To hang out with Hubby in a lovely spot and enjoy his company!

Drunk Me: I always enjoy his company! I just mean we could stay at home. 

Sober Me: Sitting here in a place that’s special to you both without drinking seems like a waste of time if you’re not drinking?

Drunk Me: Well, I mean… …that sounds a bit harsh! Not quite like that! 

Sober Me: Actually, that’s what I’m hearing! So, in essence you think life wouldn’t be quite so glittery and nice without drinking?

Drunk Me: Exactly! We – mostly me and Hubby – always have such a laugh when we drink. I don’t see how it would be the same. I look forward to it ALL THE TIME. I plan everything around it! When I’ll drink, where I’ll get it from, how to swerve any awkward moments, how to hide it, how to adjust everything else to fit in with my boozing. It’s always the main objective, like a big jigsaw I have to plan out all the time. Even getting here I raced to get here long before you so I’d be able to drink more.

Sober Me: That sounds like an awful lot of work to me. Stressful!

Drunk Me: Hah! That’s true, actually! I never thought of it like that.  

Sober Me: So meeting me without drinking….

Drunk Me: Well, you’d have to catch me on a day I’m not too hungover and also get in there before I have started drinking, so you’d be lucky. I always find excuses, cancel at the last minute or wriggle my way out of it somehow. All so I can drink the way I want to.

Sober Me: But what I was going to say was if there was no drinking involved you wouldn’t have any of that stress.

Drunk Me: Yeah, but then I wouldn’t have any of that other stuff!

Sober Me: What stuff?

Drunk Me: The excitement, you know – looking forward to drinking, being all happy and sort of energised by it, feeling perky and bouncy when I know I’m going to drink. 

Sober Me: But you’d be seeing me! 

Drunk Me: You’re me. Just sober and more bright-eyed and bushy tailed.

Sober Me: Smart arse. You know what I mean. You’d be seeing a friend or friends or whatever. Isn’t that the whole point of it?

Drunk Me: Oh shit. No, not for me. Holy crap, I just realised I wasn’t even thinking much about how seeing you, I was just happy because I was heading to the pub. That’s the main event for me. It just makes everything more fun! And gets conversation going and stuff!

Sober Me: So I’m just something that fits in around it? 

Drunk Me: As shitty as it sounds, yes.

Sober Me: How do you think your friends would feel if they knew that? If they knew they’re only peripheral and all you really care about is drinking? 

Drunk Me: It’s dreadful, isn’t it? 

Sober Me: Dreadful and stressful! Come on, don’t get sad. Look, I know you’re feeling helpless. It’s OK to say, you know, but I know this still seems way too scary for you. 

Drunk Me: It DOES make me sad! It breaks my heart because I love my friends, genuinely really love them. I don’t know how I ended up here! When did this switch happen? When did I go from being excited about who I was meeting up with to excited that I was going to drink? I feel awful. I keep picturing Lopez’s face if I were to tell her I was happier about getting to drink than seeing her. Can we stop? Change the subject! I can’t bear to think about it. Can we stop please?

Sober Me: That’s the nature of the Beast, my dear. Cunning, baffling and powerful. You need to claw your way out of this, girl.

Drunk Me: I just don’t know how! Where would I start? What would I say? Who would I say it to? It just seems so fucking hopeless. And impossible.

Sober Me: You think it is, yes. That’s your addiction talking. Just like it’s your addiction that makes the drinking more important than who you’re seeing. Can you tell me what the drink gives you that made you more excited about that than you were about seeing me today?

Drunk Me: Er… Well, I’m kind of getting a little buzzy and warm now. Excitable. 

Sober Me: I can tell, it’s like a little switch went on in you with that second drink. Now that you’re into your third you seem happier. You’re chattier too. And you’re suddenly drinking a LOT faster! You went from feeling sad there for a minute to really perking up. 

Drunk Me: I know! I’m kind of in the flow now! Definitely feel better! 

Sober Me: But is that because the alcohol has lifted you or is it simply that you feel less terrible? Describe how you actually feel.

Drunk Me: I don’t feel as unsteady as earlier. I’m no longer dizzy and I don’t feel anxious or stressed.

Sober Me: So this warm and buzzy feeling is actually better described as “not terrible” and perhaps that’s why it feels so good. I mean, would you say that you feel really wonderful or would you say it’s that you just don’t feel shit anymore? 

Drunk Me: Probably that I no longer feel like shit, now that I think about it. Yeah, that’s it. I can’t say I feel all that amazing, just not feeling quite so awful. Stupid, isn’t it?

Sober Me: No, not stupid. You’re an alcoholic, that’s all. This is all very serious though, you know that, don’t you? What you’re doing is dangerous. 

Drunk Me: Can we change the subject? You’re so boooooooring! Joking. I’ll stop. I will, honestly. Just not today. 

Sober Me: Let’s just leave it for now, I see you’ve started really guzzling so it’s probably better if you get yourself home. I’m obviously sober and it’s getting to that point where it’ll soon be having a conversation with a drunk person and that’s quite irritating. No offence!  

Drunk Me: None taken. I can still have a reasonably good conversation for a while, we can keep going. But if we’re not going to, I’d like to rush off before this buzz wears off so I can get more wine on the way home and keep on drinking. So you let me know – if we’re staying, I want to get another drink NOW and if not I want to hurry home. I hate having to break the flow!

Sober Me: Alright, let’s catch up again soon. I just really wanted to ask you what keeps you drinking. That’ll do for now. Try not to die today though, I still have things I want to ask you. 

Drunk Me: I’ll do my best, haha!

Sober Me: You must be made of steel. The way you drink does kill lots of people. Are you not aware of this, you nutter? Joking about it makes it go away a little though, right? 

Drunk Me: Sure does and I do know I’m sailing a bit close to the wind. Every morning at 4am when I lie awake and my heart is beating like crazy I think I’ve finally gone and done it. 

Sober Me: And yet you continue. 

Drunk Me: Yep. And speaking of which – gotta go!

I stand there for a while, watching Drunk Me head off. She’s walking fast, head held high again now that she feels better. I did watch her arrive and she never took her eyes off the ground, her steps unsure and she was holding on to her handbag in a way a nervous car passenger might hold on to their seat belt. It’s sad to watch. Both what alcohol reduces her to and how it’s what puts her “right” again. And I once again remember why I’m so grateful I don’t have to do that anymore. Every single day I am grateful. I’ll tell you what I’m not, though: bored! All Drunk Me’s fears were illusions. Every single one.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Sluggish Hercules

Mornings have always been my favourite part of the day. This was always the case and surprisingly so even when I was drinking heavily – despite being in a complete fog and feeling like death, I always appreciated the glory of first light. Hangovers often robbed me of my love for morning coffee (it made me even dizzier) but even back in those days I loved mornings the most. Perhaps it’s the promise of a new day, I don’t know. A little bit like spring time maybe, when everything comes to life.

Needless to say, since I’ve been sober every last part of my life has improved enormously and my mornings are now absolutely freaking fantastic! No matter how tired I might be or how hard it was to get out of bed, mornings are the most precious time for me. This was a crappy one, as it happens. I went to bed a bit later than normal (I like to be tucked in not too far north of 10pm) and perhaps that hour was what made the difference. I pressed snooze at least five times (as opposed to twice) and getting up felt like an effort. If only today were a duvet day! This is the thing though, now that I think about it – getting up was a bit shitty but once I was upright that was it! Put on coffee and had a shower. Sure, I felt a bit meh and not as bouncy perhaps as I usually feel, but this is just it – I still felt well, I felt healthy and I felt strong. Just a tiny bit sluggish perhaps.

The message here? A sluggish Sober Me morning is still infinitely better than a “good” Drunk Me morning. Even my most tired, crappiest, rubbish mornings these days totally eclipse even the very best ones I had when I was drinking. In fact, you can’t even compare the two. Yes, I know this is all obvious but I need to focus on these things sometimes. Really remember how awful I’d often feel in comparison with now and how the worst I feel now is still miles and miles better than the best I felt back then. Isn’t it mad?

So I’m back into running. I freaking love it! Even when it’s shitty and I nearly keel over I love it! My favourite runs are those when I feel strong, my breathing is right and comes easy and my stamina seems to be herculean. Hahaha, I just read that sentence back and realised that the picture I just painted you could be easily misconstrued. When I allude to strength and stamina, I am telling you how I feel, not what I am – where I am at now is good for ME. Others may very well look at my pace per kilometre and snigger because fast I ain’t! I can just about keep on jogging for an hour – this is good going for ME but lots of people run half and full marathons and an hour’s leisurely jog won’t seem like much to them and certainly not like stamina of herculean proportions. Just thought I’d point that out! So anyway, point is I love running the most during those (for me) long runs that feel really, really good. The ones I like less are the ones where my breathing is all over the place, I feel all out of rhythm and it’s just a struggle the whole way.

In my head, rubbing shoulders with all my other dreams and images, is the idea of early morning runs. Take a weekend morning, running through the beautiful park across the road from us when the morning mist is still caressing the fields and it’s just me, a handful of early bird dog walkers and the fallow deer – BLISS! That’s when I want to have those feel-good runs when I can do 10k and enjoy it. There’s just something so appealing and attractive about running in the morning. Sexy, even. Again, folks – I can assure you that ‘sexy’ is not a term that could be used to describe me when I’m running, I’m just referring to the idea of morning runs, which to me is a little sexy. I just love the thought of it, getting this slightly wobbly body of mine moving and my heart pumping and then take on the day.

You’d think, wouldn’t you, based on me being a morning person this would be the perfect time for me to go running? Nope.

Can’t fucking do it. The times I’ve tried I’ve just not managed – body feels like lead, I can’t breathe and it’s just torture. Not very sexy at all. Despite being this (usually) cheerful and energetic morning person who loves bouncing up crazy early, morning runs don’t work for me. You’d think it’d be the optimum combo, no? Well, it isn’t. After checking with friends much fitter than I am, it’d appear it IS harder to run in the mornings than it is in the evenings. I don’t know if this just happens to be me and those friends, but at least it isn’t just me because that’d really piss me off. I am THE morning person – it’d be a slap in the face! I guess those weekend mornings can be long walks instead.

The main thing about running is that I love how good it makes me feel but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping to tone up and slim down a little too. You see, I’m one of those unfortunate drunks who didn’t lose any weight when I stopped drinking. In spite of me cutting out over 7,000 calories per week by binning the vino, I didn’t not just not lose weight, I piled it ON! You know, I’m not THAT pissed off actually. Jokingly I’ll make a big deal of it but if a little fat is all I got by way of draw backs of quitting the booze, bring it on baby! I did cut myself some slack and figured if putting insane amounts of sweets and chocolate into my face in the beginning made it easier somehow then so be it. However I did go a little overboard (in fact I might sink the damn ship) and got a bit podgy, so once I was through a couple of months I began taking long, brisk walks almost every day – both because I love walking and because I wanted to get the podge back under control as I was struggling to get into my clothes.

In the summer Hubby and I did a marathon hike and after our holidays I attempted becoming a gym bunny but only discovered I hated it. Being Sober Me, I did actually give it a good shot unlike Drunk Me who’d make one half baked attempt and then pack it in. Unfortunately, after two months or so of diligently going twice a week and religiously following a full program I realised I just didn’t enjoy it. Even the sense of accomplishment afterwards didn’t make it worth it. I just don’t enjoy the gym, sorry. And so I got back into running, something I knew I love and that’s where we are now. I’m probably at this moment roughly the same size I was when I stopped drinking but with the glaring difference that I’m healthy and reasonably fit. Again – healthy and fit for ME. I’m going to add in walks those days when I don’t go for a run and it’s still for the same reasons – it makes me feel so, so good and hopefully it’ll tone me up a little.

The one thing I will not do is cut back on eating. OK, so stuffing myself full of sweets is one thing and certainly I’ve slowed down in that respect, but I have a hearty appetite and I love food. I can’t bear the smaller portion approach and I positively HATE feeling deprived and hungry. No way, José. So I figure plenty of exercise, bit less of the sweets and chocolate and if I remain on the cuddly side then so be it. As long as I feel strong and healthy and have those lovely endorphins going, the rest doesn’t matter so much – it’s just vanity, really. Luckily Hubby seems to appreciate even my wobbly bits and although my backside has it’s own time zone I sit very comfortably, ta very much.

JUST LOOK AT THAT, WILL YOU! The biggest lush of them all is yapping on about exercise! I just wrote a long post about the merits of different types of exercise and that’s just fucking absurd!! It actually made me giggle (my boss happened to walk past and I had to pretend someone had just sent me a funny text!) out of sheer joy and amazement. This is what sobriety does – it turns you into the best you. And currently the best me can at a slow pace wobble along for about 10 kilometres without having to stop and walk. Oh, sweet victory!

I still want to be an early morning runner though so there will have to be a way to get my body to agree it’s a fabulous idea…

Today I’m not going to drink.

Disney Prince Auditions

Someone asked me whether I could please clone my husband. I grinned from ear to ear, partly because I felt smug because I’m the lucky woman who got to marry him and partly because I knew he’d love hearing it.

Why would someone say that?” he asked as he stirred various saucepans going on the cooker and looked at me a little bemused, “what did you write to make them say that?

Here’s one of the most endearing things about him: he is easily the loveliest human being you could imagine, just downright GOOD AND DECENT, and then add that he’s ever so pretty and has magnificent legs, yet he doesn’t quite know any of that. It’s a little baffling actually – if I were him I’d positively STRUT everywhere accompanied by my own marching band and parade, honestly. But no, he seems oblivious to what a fantastic person he is. Hence he thought I might have written one of my slightly silly posts praising his perfect bottom (it’s freaking glorious) or somehow exaggerated how supportive he is. To be clear – his bottom was carved by angels and it’s not possible to truly convey, never mind exaggerate, how amazing Hubby has been when it comes to my sobriety. But sometimes I feel like shaking him and shout HAVE YOU MET YOU?! when I’m trying to tell him how awesome he is and he doesn’t seem to get it.

He’s so secure in himself and would never compromise his values or principles, but nor does he walk around all puffed up. He just stands firmly in his spot and has more integrity than anyone else I know. And as for me, I spend an insane amount of time feeling grateful for this best friend of mine. And his bottom.

Now, alcoholic or otherwise, to be married to your best friend and the person you admire and respect more than anyone else in the world is a blessing. To be an alcoholic and have the support and love of that best friend throughout your journey is something I wish we could all have. OK, I got sober and no one else did that for me, but just imagine what it might have been like to have a partner who couldn’t (or worse – wouldn’t want to) understand what you’re up against. Or a partner who decided oh fuck this and left? I am very, very lucky – trust me, I know I am. And so I thought it was in order that I point out how invaluable it is to have a support network and in particular be able to confide in (and if necessary lean on) your partner. Well, whether it’s a spouse or a sibling or a friend, just feeling safe in the knowledge someone close to you is there for you and cheering you on is priceless.

One of the best things Hubby’s done for me in my sobriety is how he’s never pushed me. Needless to say, he did worry about my drinking and sometimes he’d tell me he did. But he never told me to stop or gave me any ultimatum. He simply stated that he was worried but that I’m an adult and make my own decisions and he’d always be by my side regardless. I’ll have to insert our wedding photo into this post or you won’t believe he’s real! I’m not saying anyone should put up with someone else’s drinking if it makes you miserable and it’s absolutely acceptable to give ultimatums, by the way. I’m just saying this is how it all was in our case. Maybe I should get Hubby to write a blog post with a little insight into his perspective of this past year and the years that came before it. God knows how he put up with me – drunk OR sober!

Anyway, when I reached my turning point, he was – as he always is – open and honest and straight up with me. He didn’t sugar coat anything to make me feel better – he simply agreed that yep, it’s pretty bad and it needs to be fixed, but didn’t put me under pressure either. Hubby always had my back and I know it made a difference for me. I knew that he’d catch me if I tripped and help me up again and that’s a massive advantage to have. I mean, if you’re not terrified of failing then trying in the first place isn’t so scary, right?

Hubby isn’t an alcoholic and so to him it really does seem like lunacy in its purest form that I can’t stop drinking if I start. Yet he has asked questions over and over, time and time again in order to understand. You almost cannot fail when you have a partner like him. He asked if I wanted him to stop drinking too and appeared totally willing to do so if it would help me. Personally it doesn’t bother me so I said no, but isn’t that just amazingly kind and even heroic? As the commenter who enquired about potentially cloning him so accurately noted: “what a guy“. Yes indeed. What a guy.

Before I start getting offers from Disney for them to have Hubby audition for turning him into their next Prince Charming, I should point out that he is just a human being like the rest of us. Hubby just happens to be a really great one. The greatest, actually. Yes, I believe I’d be sober even on my own because I don’t think your sobriety can ever hang on someone else, but he’s made a huge difference and the comment about cloning him really made me think because I wish everyone could have a partner just like Hubby. I often hear in sobriety groups how people’s partners sometimes make their recovery harder, how someone’s husband might even try to sabotage her attempts at getting sober or how someone’s wife belittled their determination to change. That’s such a shame and it makes me feel really sad every time.

It’s a big ask of anyone to support someone through recovery but never once has Hubby made me feel like I’m a burden. Instead he’ll high-five me or get me a little card to say congratulations when I reach a milestone or give me a big hug and tell me he’s proud of me. That in itself makes me more motivated. Not that anyone needs further evidence it’s good to stop drinking, but it reinforces the decision when you see all these rewards – whether it’s how well you sleep again or a high-five from someone who loves you.

Well, there we are. An ode to Hubby.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Heart Open, Soul Laid Bare

You’d think that I, as a recovering alcoholic, would have absolute shed loads of patience and empathy for those who are fighting addiction or mental health issues or both. Not so much. It’d appear my tolerance level is surprisingly low. This is not least illustrated by how frustrated I sometimes get with my friend Kitten who suffers severe depression, but also another person in my close vicinity who also suffers depression and panic attacks. OK, now you’ll in all likelihood think I’m a nasty piece of work and perhaps I am. Because I was never confronted about my own addiction I can’t give you any accurate answer as to how that might have gone down – I had the luxury of reaching my rock bottom on my own and broadly speaking I stopped when I’d had enough. In other words, I stopped when I was ready to and I stopped for me. Therefore I can only guess at what would have happened if someone close to me had cornered me, given me an ultimatum and I’d been faced with stop-drinking-or-else.

I don’t have to dig particularly deep to realise that I probably would have responded well to being confronted during the last three or four years. I’m pretty sure I would have broken down from sheer relief and agreed to fight with all my might to get sober – honestly. There were so many times I secretly almost wished something would happen, something that’d force me. It’s crazy to think now how shit scared I was of even attempting to stop drinking, but the sad truth is that I didn’t believe I’d be able to. It just seemed too high of a mountain to climb and I knew I wouldn’t even get to base camp. Inside I was crying out for someone to see how I was sinking, for someone to drag me out of it. Of course, we all know that the only person who can drag you out of addiction is YOU, but I imagine it’s probably common that people get to a stage where they almost hope the world will come crashing down – I certainly did. By ‘crashing down’ I don’t necessarily mean something huge or super scary, I mean anything that would force the spot light on to the real issue.

My rock bottom may seem pretty harmless to those who crashed harder than I did. It might even seem laughably kind to those who had to lose much more than I did. After all, I got away with “only” having hurt and scared my child, ensured I’d never achieved much, worried my husband and of course a generous helping of good old fashioned shame. I’d not lost my child, nor had I ever really put him in danger or had him go without (well – he went without a fully present mother). Despite being unable to be my best, I always managed to hold down a job. My husband never threatened to leave me, much less did. And my shame didn’t extend to losing my driver’s licence or being arrested. So in many ways I do appreciate that my rock bottom wasn’t as vicious and terrifying as it could have been. Oh… YET. Always remember YET.

It was just short of a year ago. January 22nd, to be precise, a Monday. I was so hungover I couldn’t get myself to work. Hell, I couldn’t even stand until well into the afternoon. Sunday evening had been a regular evening, I can’t remember what we did but it definitely wasn’t some big date night or party or anything like that. An educated guess would be we had gone to the pub for “a couple of drinks” and me knocking back probably three, then insisting we got more wine to have at home. At home I’d probably done my usual Anna and put away at least one and a half bottles more, guzzling away like there was no tomorrow compared with Hubby nursing one or possibly two glasses. And of course my tomorrow was horrific and brutal. I called in sick, or rather texted my boss who probably responded with his usual good natured and unsuspecting “poor you, hope you feel better soon“.

Late afternoon I’d showered, weak and shaky and frightened of passing out. Hubby got home in the evening and I don’t think we did anything, from memory it was an uneventful Monday evening. What I do remember clearly however, is the shame and guilt I felt not telling Hubby I’d failed to get to work. It’s weird actually, because stopping wasn’t on my radar. I knew I was eyeball deep in shit obviously, but still hadn’t seen my opportunity – or crash – to reach out for help and speak the words. It only happened when it happened and it was on a Monday that was like hundreds just like it. We were lying in bed in the evening, facing each other and chatting about the day as we normally do.

Can you tell me something, Anna?” Hubby asked.

I went cold, perhaps knowing what was coming. Perhaps I knew it was obvious.

Did you go to work today?

There it was. Inside me, that voice I’d heard so many times was positively screaming at me. Before it had whispered so often and pleaded with me but now it was a desperate cry, like when you scream yourself coarse. Do it! Say it! Reach out now. Do it now. He’s got your back. SAY IT. So I did.

No,” I said meekly and turned on my back, staring at the ceiling as though I was hoping my next sentence might be helpfully written across it. “[Hubby], I’m scared. I have to stop drinking. I’m scared of where it’s taking me.

There. The words that had been stuck in my throat for so long. Underneath the covers Hubby’s hand found it’s way over my stomach and grabbed me gently around the waist, pulling me a little closer.

Anna, you’re already there.

His voice was soft and kind, as usual his approach was balanced and fair and amazingly free of judgment. And it all spilled out of me. All I’d been hiding, how much I’d struggled, how desperate I was to stop. We went to sleep the way we always do, tangled up in each other, and I remember clearly waking up that way too on Tuesday 23rd January 2018. That was the day I made the most important decision in my life. I knew there was no turning back and I knew it was sink or swim. So I swam. It was only when I truly accepted that the game was up that I found the warrior in me, the woman who wants to live life fully and not have that dreadful, sorry existence with one foot in the grave. That was when I could push off, jump off the edge, let go of the railings. Thank God, is all I can say. Thank God.

That same evening I’d looked up a local AA meeting, an open one, meaning anyone can go and not just alcoholics. I collected Hubby from the train station and drove straight there. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own and also I knew Hubby would benefit from understanding better what I was up against. He always used to say I just needed to cut down. Don’t get me wrong, my drinking wasn’t a new topic and Hubby had told me on occasion he worried about me, but I don’t think he ever considered the A-word. In fact, the evening before when I let it all out he’d even said “but it’s not like you’re an alcoholic” – perhaps we both needed to understand it all, and I suppose AA meetings were the logical place to start. I knew in my heart there could be no half way house for me, so I went all in with my heart open and my soul laid bare.

Perhaps an accurate way of describing what rock bottom was for me would be to say it was the moment I finally felt hope that there could be another way. I saw clearly where I was going and it scared me senseless. I didn’t want my son to have to go on with Drunk Mum and I didn’t want Hubby to have to go on with Drunk Wifey. Nor did I want to BE Drunk Me anymore. I’d had enough. I felt done. For real, this time. Rock bottom for me was the moment I knew what I had to do. I knew in my heart I’m an alcoholic, I knew that moderation will never be available to me, I knew I had to stop and stop completely, and I knew it had to be now. I guess the correct term is acceptance. I accepted all those things, and what’s more, I embraced them. Believe it or not, saying out loud that I’m an alcoholic and accepting it in my heart didn’t fill me with shame – it filled me with relief.

Yet another way of describing this would be to say I truly accepted and understood my own limitations. Much like Hubby accepts and understands he is allergic to kiwi fruit, or how a diabetic accepts and understands they have to carry around an insulin pen. Sort of. The beauty of it all is of course that being an alcoholic doesn’t limit me in any way. You might think I’m crazy but I consider it a much worse tragedy to be allergic to a fruit as delicious as kiwi. Honestly. But that’s neither here nor there, because what I was getting at in this post is the importance of acceptance. And this is where I sometimes find I have zero tolerance with Kitten as well as Cupcake (named that way due to excessive sweetness). Kitten makes one maddening decision after the other and Cupcake, who once held up an entire flight by freaking out and having to be taken off, decides to book holidays abroad when she to date hasn’t managed to even go on a weekend away within the country.

What I find frustrating is how both on one hand seem to have clarity of their illnesses (depression for Kitten and depression, anxiety and severe panic attacks for Cupcake), yet have these mad bursts of absolutely failing to see that they plunge themselves out of the ashes and into the fire. As a recovering alcoholic with a black belt in denial you’d think I’d have more empathy in these instances. This is when it’d probably be really useful for Sober Me to try to talk sense to Drunk Me, who probably did over those last few years know there was a massive problem yet continued to deny, deny, deny. Isn’t that weird that this stuff winds me up? Or am I just a shitty old bitch? Who knows, but it struck me as a bit ridiculous. I will continue to try harder at that patience thing.

I suppose in all this rambling on, what I wanted to get at is how it for me was crucial to really accept the state of affairs. Whether you label it a problem or an illness, I could only stop when I’d accepted and understood what it was. And I’d also had enough, perhaps that’s even more important – the more I think about it even as I’m typing this, perhaps that was the real game changer. I’d had it.

Anyway. I count 23rd January as my important date. The last time I drank was 21st January 2018 but it’s the 23rd that matters to me because that’s when I really made the decision.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Old School Jazz Legends

Mm, I get by with a little help from my friends“.

How true that is. Although when I looked up the lyrics just then I realised those naughty Liverpool boys also sing “mm, I get HIGH with a little help from my friends” too, which now makes me like this less from the perspective of quoting it in a sobriety blog. To be fair though, many of the music legends I love the most seem to have had rather serious drug addictions and you’ll have to admit the Beatles are squeaky clean compared with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin if we just look at the 60s alone. Jeez, drugs and alcohol have really extinguished the flames of some extraordinarily talented people. That saddest of lists really is endless. Just imagine where Joplin could have gone. I mean, that powerful, gravelly, wise-old-woman voice coming out of that messy looking little girl! OK, young woman, but still. Just imagine where she would have got to once she’d added more life, years, experience and grit. And this can be said of so many. In recent times there is of course the tragedy of Amy Winehouse, who even in her early twenties had a voice and song writing talent that eclipsed even the old school jazz legends – just imagine how her talent and music might have developed.

It strikes me that these are pained geniuses, that their talent and creativity are perhaps enhanced by pain. I mean, would their work be half as interesting had they been straight laced and privileged average Joes? Gosh, this sounds like I’m now saying they’re better because they were drug addicts and that’s not it at all – I just wonder if it’s their pained and tortured souls that give them depth, that’s all. Unsurprising, I guess. Just a shame that giving full rein to their musical talents wasn’t enough to process their demons and heavier anesthesia was required. Things will sooner or later turn to shit if you more than dabble with drugs. And sometimes even dabbling is enough to sign a death warrant. After all, I don’t know if a single addict deliberately set out to become one.

Gosh, I should make GET TO THE GODDAMN POINT my New Year’s resolution! Where were we? Friends!

I just read functioningguzzler‘s most recent post about hitting her 11 months sober and she’s listed 11 reasons why life sober feels like magic. And as I sat here nodding – given I can relate to everything she said as usual – I also suddenly felt super excited. FG is special to me, you see. I’ve followed her blog since just a few months into my sobriety and these days she is a friend in real life too *sniff* – she’s my very own unicorn and as far as I’m concerned she fucking shits rainbows. Beyond an amazing friendship I know will last for life, she’s also my sister in arms. We got sober around the same time and we’ve gone through all the weirdness, struggles, victories and epiphanies of early sobriety together. We’ve fought this shoulder to shoulder. When I read her post about 11 months sober I was hit by this sense of excitement, and because I’m me and an emotional hurricane, I keep having to force back tears of joy that threaten to overwhelm me. We’ll both be hitting that huge milestone around the same time – me in 19 days and FG about 10 days after that – and it’s so exciting to share this. I keep getting images in my mind about us reaching a finishing line after a grueling race together, or coming back from war. Or two women high-fiving each other because we got somewhere we probably didn’t think we’d ever be. Well, I certainly didn’t.

Sobriety and the sweet victory of reaching milestones is always ours alone, because no matter what there is no one else who can do it for you, but it’s pretty cool to cross that line with people who have been through the same journey.

Obviously it doesn’t end there. One year sober is just that: one year. And with any luck, I’ll be around for many more. If I make it to my eighties, there’ll be at least 40 more years. If I get to 86 years of age, it’ll mean the second half of my life was lived sober. WITH ANY LUCK. And work. And determination. And humility. Lots and lots of humility. Never forget, Anna, the nature of the Beast. It’s always with me because it’s inside me. So this one year will just be one small section of a life I hope I have plenty left of. Like the first kilo when you need to shed 30 I suppose – important, yes, and amazing, absolutely, but only a small part of a much bigger journey. And let’s not forget I’m not quite there yet.

A year ago, I was 11 days sober and getting to one month wasn’t at all a given – in fact, I was surprised when I did! I won’t lie, I feel a lot more confident now and my sobriety no longer feels uncertain and fragile but the road is (and always will be – it’s called LIFE!) full of pot holes that I could so easily fall into if I don’t pay attention. So pay attention I will and I hope you give me an earful if I ever appear to lose sight of the things I must keep in sharp, unwavering focus. Those things are basically my own fallacies. Pretty much how you might take care when you exercise – Hubby has a troublesome calf muscle due to an old injury and in order to keep fit he has to adjust his exercise accordingly and not head out for long runs too often and hit the gym instead as a lot of running aggravates it. Or how you adjust the radiators in your home because some rooms get colder than others. Work with what you have – it doesn’t have to stop you, it just means you have to know yourself and find the way that works. What I’ve discovered is true for me is that it’s usually something to do with balance.

As we’re on to anniversaries, today is 67 months for hubby and I. I got him a card that had on the front “I love you more than food“. They always exaggerate on those things, don’t they? So today it’s pretty sweet being me – sober AND the most amazing man in the world still appears to want to be married to me. I’m frantically doing fist pumps as I type this with one hand. Honestly. Teehee.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Time to Get Moving

Happy New Year! May 2019 be the best one yet!

Actually, given it’s the first time I’ve gone into a new year sober, I’d say 2019’s chances of being pretty spectacular are better than good. I took a break from most things online over Christmas and except blogging I didn’t miss it. I loved Facebook when it first came and for a while I was one of those irritating people who couldn’t do a thing without checking in or posting a picture, but I must have overdosed because I can’t bloody stand it now. I removed my whole account and it was partly because I had ended up inviting 300 “friends” to see every last aspect of my life and I freaked out. To be very clear, I do not have 300 friends – they may have been people I’d say hello to if I bumped into them, along the lines of “we sat next to each other in third grade” or “the brother of a girl I took Spanish with”, but certainly not people who were in my life. Not really. So down it came and a year later I created a new account and the 50-or-so people I’m connected with today are people I actually have at least SOME sort of interaction with beyond attending the same scout camp in June 1984. But even so, I take little interest in it these days and I certainly feel little need (or want) to post anything. Hubby is more into it and likes to take selfies when we’re out somewhere and I grudgingly agree some of the time, but I find myself actually resisting letting the world know what we’re up to.

There’s not a single photo of you and me,” Hubby said when we looked through the photos of our Christmas break.

I think it struck us both as a little sad at first. But then it became really obvious why. There isn’t one because we were enjoying the moments by being in them as opposed to posing up a storm. I also thought “damn, wish I’d taken a photo” when Cherokee and I went for a walk along this beautiful trail in the snow and sunshine – it would have been a lovely one too, but the reason why I didn’t was because I didn’t think to do it. We were too busy walking and talking. So it sort of struck me that, for me personally, the fewer photos I have of something, the better time I had – this seems to be the case for me because if I’m having a really lovely time I’m too caught up in whatever I’m doing to whip out my phone to document it all.

Then again, the place where I grew up is stunningly beautiful – there is nowhere like it and when I one morning had dropped off hubby and Bonus #2 who were going off on a hike through the forest with my dad, the lake looked so beautiful I had to capture it. It was like something out of a fairytale and I couldn’t let it go. Unfortunately a photo can never quite do it justice and I wish I could just transport you to that moment in time in that very spot, but this will have to do:

fryken

A new year often means a new start, but I have no resolutions this year. I mean I have lots of things I want to do and achieve, things I need to get on with now, but I haven’t quite managed to put those into words yet. 2018 was the year I got sober and I sort of feel 2019 should be the year I got serious. No more treading water and just practicing staying afloat, I’ve got that bit sussed and now it’s time I get moving. There are the big statements and broad brush strokes you can make of course, but I am going to take a bit of time and really plan a lot of it out. “Work towards becoming an addiction counsellor” is not specific enough – I need to list all the things I need to do to get there, what courses to sign up for, where I can volunteer, ways in. Amazingly, I’ve patiently (yes, “patiently” – ME!!) laid the ground work there and just need to wait another 20 days and I’ll be able to get going with a rehab I’ve already been in touch with and been to see twice. 20 days from now is when I hit one year sober, you see, and they require you to have this under your belt before working for them, which makes sense as the first year is when you’re most likely to lose your footing. But there is much else besides (fitness, writing, bashing metal into shape, etc) and now that I’m beginning to feel more solid and secure in my sobriety (in that it’s no longer strange – it just IS), I can turn my sights to the things I want to achieve.

I repeat, however, in case anyone reading is new to being sober… It’s a life long journey and I will never lose sight of why I got sober. I’m just saying that a year in, sober is my new normal and I don’t find myself giving it much thought when I’m in situations where previously I would have been drinking. Like New Year’s. No big deal. It’s funny actually and I said it to my brother as I handed him a bag containing Prosecco, wine, beers and Bailey’s for New Year’s Eve, that of all people it was the alcoholic who was in charge of getting the booze.

Holy crap, who else is coming? Have you invited all of London?” my brother exclaimed as he checked through the contents.

What did you expect, sending a drunk to buy booze!” I told him and made sure I smiled so he’d know it wasn’t a problem.

And that’s the funny thing about it. I literally stood there in the store and tried to calculate how much booze normal people might drink and couldn’t for the life of me work out what might be the right amount. I sort of halved my standard everyday intake based on New Year’s being a big celebration and people probably drink more than they usually would and for six adults it didn’t seem excessive to me to assume a bottle of wine each in addition to a beer or two, a glass of bubbly and perhaps a bit of Bailey’s. Is it? My brother certainly seemed to think so. Well. I was obviously sober at midnight and to be honest, no one else seemed intoxicated. There was part of me that cringed at how awful I must have looked all these years always being the one who got totally hammered. Actually, I didn’t participate if I could get out of it for that reason. Hah! There is literally nothing about alcohol that I miss. Good riddance, you fucker.

Bonus #2 asked during the evening if I found it strange or if I craved alcohol, but I honestly don’t at this point. In the beginning I was acutely aware of it but now, well, it just is. I don’t even feel awkward. Pretty sweet, eh?

So I went into 2019 the way I hope I will go into every year for the rest of my life: hopeful, calm, content, present and excited for the future. Please God, let me always remain sober. I’ll never ask for anything more.

Today I’m not going to drink.