He said what he said

I know you’re anxious, but I also know you have no reason to be, because you always come through and you always do well“, Hubby said.

Guess what? I feel embarrassed writing that, in the same way I’d feel embarrassed saying something that isn’t true. Which I don’t, and hell will freeze over before I start bullshitting here on Storm, the place where I air my dirtiest laundry without an ounce of shame. Actually, THAT is bullshit. I feel shame. Often and a lot. But it doesn’t make me say untrue things, is my point. Here on Storm it’s the whole truth and nothing but, no matter how much it makes me squirm.

Telling you what Hubby said definitely makes me squirm. Apologies if you’re against using worms for fishing, but it’s the image that comes to mind when I want to describe how I feel typing his comment above – like a live worm that’s just been impaled on the hook. Like a little piece of spaghetti having some sort of squiggly fit. Wow – I actually just shivered (and it’s nice and warm in here).

We were talking about how much is in my head right now and how distracted and absent minded this makes me. My beautiful Hubby asked me how he can support me. I know, it’s ridiculous how lovely he is – I almost feel like apologising for claiming him for myself. Hah! There it is again, my in-the-gutters self worth. Like I don’t deserve him. Hey, I don’t know if I do. I don’t know who would. He’s the most wonderful person on the planet. Anyhoo. My head is all over the place because it’s the last few weeks of the counselling course and there’s an external assessment, then an exam and as all fuckery would have it another presentation too. On top of that, I’m finishing up my placement and riding off into the sunset solo with most of my clients coming with me (the agency allows this as they have more clients than they can place with trainees), and this means getting a bunch of stuff in order (contracts, invoicing, insurance – TONNES). Then there’s the hardcore training I’ve been accepted for that has my feet so cold I can no longer feel them. It’s all whirring around in my brain, and whilst it’s all really positive, it’s filling me with the whole range of emotions from joyous excitement to fearful doubt.

And so he said what he said above.

My reaction? I went warm because I love him so much and it’s such a lovely thing to say – he heard me and acknowledged how I’m feeling, then presented me with his view of Anna. His view is one I just can’t see. So for a while I sat there and tried a bit of reality testing. Do I always come through? Maybe I do? I mean, I’m fucking terrified most of the time but I’ve not given up on anything yet. I’m still going and so far it’s all gone to plan. All the things I’ve set out to do, I’ve managed to do so far. Do I always do well? If I look at the Dark Years, the answer is no. In active addiction I mostly managed to wing it, and whilst I always seemed to come through, I can’t say I did anything particularly well. It was mostly autopilot and getting away with a LOT of shit. But since then? Since I came out on the other side? Have I “always” done well? Not sure about that, but I’ve DONE it and it’s been well enough.

So if I reframe his words to something I feel more comfortable with I guess it’d go something like “I always come through and mostly I do well enough“.

Case in point:

Tonight. Hubby is watching the Champions League final and I took my laptop to the couch to get another section of the external assessment (essentially a case study of a client) done. Did a little bit of that, and then decided to head over here to Storm. I feel reasonably certain I know what I’m doing and I’ll pass. No, wait – I’m reasonably certain I’ll comfortably pass. Oohhhh, check me out! Almost arrogant, no? Bottom line is I’ve done a little bit. I’ll have it done in the next couple of days. I’m not being a perfect study robot, but I’m doing well enough. I’m doing OK. And maybe that’s all I need.

I do want to get to a point where it won’t feel so uncomfortable to hear something like that said about me. The fact that it does and how I feel so awkward writing it here – even more so than when I’ve aired my dirtiest laundry – means a lot of work is still ahead. Hah! That’s OK though, right? Because this chick always comes through! YEAH!

Time to let this squiggly spaghetti worm off the hook perhaps? Give myself some slack? Maybe even a little credit? Well. One step at a time.

All I need is certainty around a few simple things. Like knowing I’ll always come through, probably not perfect but I’ll do well enough.

All will be well because:

Today I’m not going to drink.

Trolls and Vaginas

Wow, so THAT was the dance we were engaged in all this time? I don’t know if I put this lightbulb down to one thing over another, I suspect it’s a combination of three: getting sober, the counselling studies and finally opening that boarded up space deep inside the darkest recesses of my soul and shining a light into it.

Growing up as I did in Sweden, in the countryside with the deep forests as my playground, my imagination as a child was often set in motion from Scandinavian folklore. This is often set against the forest and the magical, mystical and sometimes treacherous beings who reside there. It’s even in everyday language – whilst in English you “speak of the devil”, in Swedish we “speak of the trolls” and find them standing on our porches the moment we have uttered the words. The trolls aren’t evil but they do sort of hold the title of the Baddie of the Woods. It’s mostly because they just want to mess with us humans. If you’ve just milked the cows and turn away from a bucket full of milk, a terrible troll may seize the opportunity to dash up and kick it over. That sort of thing. As such, in the stories and fairytales I grew up with, you are rarely at war with them, they are more of a nuisance and what you want is to just make peace with them so they’ll leave you alone. If you mess with the forest – their home – this is a real faux pas and this is when they’ll really set their sights on you.

I don’t remember any stories where anyone wanted to kill trolls, but there’s this saying that goes along the lines of if you need to kill a troll, all you need to do is drag it out into the sunlight because that makes them explode.

Why am I speaking of the trolls? *glancing nervously at the front door* I don’t like the idea of killing trolls, they were my friends when I struggled to have human ones, but the saying about how you go about it I think applies to secrets and things we are either ashamed of or try to bury. You drag them out into the light and they lose their power, or at least some of it. And of course, it’s here that I began that process with addiction. Hah! In a small way to begin with, I even called myself ‘Sophie’ those first few weeks, like someone I knew might stumble into the Storm and see me for what I’d become: a drunky-drunk. Here, I found all of you lot, you beautiful bloggers who inspire me, challenge me and revealed yourselves as my tribe. Functioning Guzzler quite possibly the most extraordinary story of all, on the other side of the world, got sober around the same time. Two lost souls, literally a world apart, who somehow became sisters in arms in this battle and here we both still are, four and a half years later. Others too, who I have never met, whose faces I haven’t seen, who I only know through your blogs and even so seem closer than family. It’s incredible when I think about it, and how powerful it is how just dragging our trolls into the sunlight can create absolute fucking MAGIC.

Then came the really hard work. Any PR professional will tell you that whatever you do, what you need to identify is your WHY. This became important to me. Not the ‘why’ in terms of blogging or understanding addiction per se (although there are big ‘whys’ there too – those were always clear though), but why my story turned out the way it did. I wanted to understand what happened. And so I have worked my large backside off trying to understand and figure out my why. It’s been painful and taken me to the darkest places – although not quite as dark as addiction itself – but I am slowly coming through. I will no doubt spend the rest of my life feeling varying levels of pain because what I tried to achieve as an addict you cannot do sober – UNfeel, UNsee, UNhear.. …UNbe – but whilst that sounds depressing, I don’t feel sad about it. It’s part of who I am. It happened. It happened to me. So now what? I can curl up in a ball (or go back to destroying myself) or I can accept it and make the best of what I’ve been given. Accepting it doesn’t mean I have to think it’s OK (and I don’t), but it DOES mean I don’t have to allow it to seep in and poison all the good things in my life.

And good things – there are more than I can count.

I know, I know… It seems like I’ve just done what I often do and just gone off-piste, but there is a point to all this, I promise.

So let’s just back up for a moment. Sobriety, counselling and trolls into the sunlight. And there was something about a dance, right?

I spoke with someone very close to me. Family. There it was, the heavy and achy ball of what feels like a mixture of anger and regret, right there in the pit of my stomach. And something really strange happened. Somehow, I’d stepped off the dance floor. It’s actually a shit analogy because you’d never find me on one – I only dance when I’m alone, or with the trolls as it happens, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that I have some serious moves. Anyway. We spoke for an hour, which is odd in itself, and three distinct points came where clearly I was expected to do what I always do but …. didn’t.

  1. Bend against my wishes and agree to keep the peace.
  2. Defend my idol.
  3. Reassure and validate them.

Now that I think of it, it’s probably why we stayed on the phone for as long as we did. Funny, that.

Oh, it made me want to bite. Bark AND bite. Over and over. Aim arrows at their Achilles heel, which I know the exact location of and could hit with my eyes closed. Kick and scream. All the behaviours of a frustrated toddler with the addition of malice. Oh wait? Am I malicious? Not as a rule, but I think it’d be fucking daft to pretend I don’t have the capacity for it just like everyone else. See? It’s freeing to embrace all our broken and ugly parts, and guess what? We all have those. I consider myself a better person for having the vagina to admit it though. Why do we say “have the balls” anyway? What a useless body part! OK, I guess it’s nature’s design for storing baby making stuff but bloody hell, she sure did cut loose on the safety aspects here. Why carry the most precious cargo in such an exposed and vulnerable manner, dangling away like that? Although most men seem very protective of them so maybe that was the safety feature she added when she realised what a fuck-up balls were?

Anna!! Enough with testicles and back to the dance.

I guess what I wanted to get to was how I realised after this conversation that went so differently to how it normally would, was how I have actually grown. In counselling terms I guess I, during this phone call, managed to stay in my ‘adult state’. It’s a state I have rarely visited, so perhaps that’s what surprised me.

Without fighting or bending, I still held my boundaries. I didn’t agree when I in fact disagreed, nor did I get rattled at the sermon preached at me. OK, I still feel that heaviness sitting in my stomach and a little in my chest, but not unbearably so. I guess the best way to sum it up would be to say it was probably the first time I had a conversation with this Close Person that I didn’t come away from feeling worse. You know when you feel pushed over or attacked and you come away seething with anger and frustration, all boiling over with all the things you’d tell them – a real fucking piece of your mind – if you had the … vagina.

Does this even make any sense? I guess it doesn’t matter. Another brain dump.

I have definitely grown. Things have and are shifting. There is a presentation still to go and I don’t even feel sick. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I dread it, but I don’t know if I feel quite as awful as I used to.

How is everyone?

Back to the course work. Last sprint. Keep going. One day at a time.

Today I’m not going to drink.

1,594 Days

Hm… Back to that old tradition of putting my days sober as the title when I don’t have anything in particular to say. Really just popping in here because I for the longest time have kept thinking “I must post something on my blog soon!” and this time it really has been the LONGEST time since I last did.

So much has happened!

Well. I did write back in January, but looking at that it’d seem what preoccupied my mind was the Workshop of Doom and all the anxiety that went with that, as well as my thoughts around passing the FOUR YEAR SOBRIETY MILESTONE – sorry, it does need capitalising like that, because it’s freaking MENTAL that this is something this hopeless old drunk went and pulled off. And here she is now – ME!! – still sober and very happily so. Goddamn, that’s just the best feeling.

So, what’s new on Planet Anna? Not that I think there’s an expectant audience waiting with bated breath here in the blogosphere or anything, but this is the place I pour my thoughts out so if you have stumbled in here, an update is due. Even if I’m just a very insignificant little speck in the universe.

We moved into our new home in January and whilst Hubby fell in love with this sexy house at first sight, I was slower to warm to it. Now, three months in, I absolutely love it and I am so glad it was here we ended up, in this dreamy house with its dreamy name, where our huge terrace backs on to a stream. It’s one of those moments when I feel “someone pinch me!” when I lay down to sleep with the bedroom window open listening to the soft murmur of the water flowing below. Our belongings – paintings, photos, existing furniture – have found their new place, new furniture and things have been added – Hubby finally got his fancy super-duper BBQ and we’ve been having BBQ every night since – and it really feels like “home” now. Absolutely thrilled.

And we also have an addition to the family. We already have three boys and added a fourth: Rangi. He is a French bulldog and he is me in dog form: bit anxious and needy, quite scared of quite a lot of things, desperate to love and be loved, has a gentle and calm nature but with completely unhinged episodes where he goes a bit mental. Yep. Like owner, like dog.

Level 4 of the counselling studies is coming to an end, just this term to go, so qualification is finally coming in to view now. I’ve lost my mojo, as I always do in spring, but because I’ve gone at it like a machine, I’m up to date with all work and only have a case study to submit before the external assessment. No “action points” at all over the course of Level 4, so I’m in good shape too. Approaching 300 client hours too, so just another 150 to burn through after qualifying for that coveted accreditation. And best of all, I’ve been accepted to the existential psychoanalysis training I’ve been lusting after. FUCK ME, THIS IS JUST BRAGGING NOW….. Well, yeah, it is. It’s my blog, and I brag if I want to. Bite me. I’m happy and very proud. I spent most of my adult life in the pit of despair, so I’m not feeling even a tiny bit sorry for feeling obnoxiously smug right now. Sobriety delivers again and again.

Anyway. Adding a photo of the mutt for cuteness.

It’s not all sunshine and lollipops. There is darkness I’ve carried with me since forever, but I am working through this still and will be for a long time no doubt. And worries in the present that are at times all my worst nightmares come true, but I shall leave those things for another time. And maybe another space given this is where I tell my story, not that of anyone else’s. Only my own dirty laundry.

But there we are. Life is life. Mostly good, very exciting, sometimes painful and occasionally gut wrenchingly difficult, but always a gift.

Because:

Today I’m not going to drink.

That too did pass

Oh, look! I didn’t die again. Ain’t that nice?

There’s a first for everything and so it would now seem that my cherry has been popped when it comes to giving a presentation in an actual room with Actual People. And it was fine. I’d even go as far as saying it went well. Certainly good enough. Partnerella delivered her part and I delivered mine. Street sparkling clean on both sides and that felt good.

However. I will tell you this without a subscription fee or additional charge: I could not do the January I just had again. I think this was the first time I actually felt like I was breaking. If this had gone on longer, I have no doubt I would have plunged into some sort of depression. The last couple of weeks before the workshop I burst into tears upon waking up. Waking up from probably on average a couple of hours’ sleep per night. And my calf is still dodgy so I’m not running every morning like I usually do. So even without the anxiety of the workshop I was already on the back foot: no running and no sleep. Major dip into the emotional overdraft already. And for the first time I was ready to walk away. I would never have deserted Partnerella but I was pretty much ready to deliver the damn thing and then pack it in, because I have worked too hard to get me back to break me again. Not gonna happen.

So from hereon out it’s baby steps.

It wasn’t just the presentation – I just ended up in a perfect storm and I suppose my anxiety did what it usually does and zoned in on the place where it was safe to let it erupt. Feel pretty foolish about whining to my course mates about how much I hate having to be the centre of attention, but they were all good natured about it and I don’t have any energy left to stress about THAT too. FFS!

Well. Now I’m over the scariest hump to date on this counselling journey and maybe now July is just about coming into view. I’m sure there are some fishbowls and horrible experiential exercises to drag myself through – sorry, no reframing in the world will get me excited about any of that – but the end is there on the horizon now. And from there, we’ll see. Before anything else, I am going to take a full month off and escape to Falla. Morning coffee by the west wall, wander around in the woods and long runs along forest roads. Lazy days by Fryken and just enjoy the Swedish summer and the nights when the sun never sets.

But that’s July and this is February. Right now I’m in our new home that still doesn’t feel like home, but it IS a lovely, lovely house and I’m sure that’ll all come right too.

That’s me. Fuck off January, I’m glad to see the back of you. Next time you’re gonna play nice, you hear me? Hello February, relieved to see you and I hope I get something nice for my birthday – please can I have running back, please?

All will be well, because:

Today I’m not going to drink.

4 Years

I didn’t have the peace of mind to mark the day on the day itself (Sunday 23rd), but I can’t not at least say something.

Truth is I’m really struggling. Not with sobriety, but with my anxiety. The moment is rushing towards me, when I have to do the thing I find scarier than anything else and stand up and speak in front of people, but there is nothing I can do about it and this too shall pass. But because I dread it so much the bottom of my stomach falls out each time I think of it, I’ve been making myself ill these past couple of weeks.

It’s a workshop for the counselling course. Me and one other are paired up do do a workshop lasting about two and a half hours on LGBTQIA+. She is coming over to mine today and we’re going to run through the material. It’s the first time I do this in an actual room with actual people. Only the Zoom version last year, but that was bad enough and I’m feeling so awful about this that I keep bursting into tears. I’ve tried to reassure myself that none of the worst things will happen (but even if they do, none of the scenarios are likely to ruin my life!), people don’t hate me on sight (at least not everyone – I guess some might!) and I’ll be no better or worse than anyone else. Well, it’s my hard thing and I’m feeling sick with worry. But this is it, living life on life’s terms.

I do have a choice I suppose – we always do to some extent, and in this instance I guess I could refuse or quit the course or run away in whichever manner I choose. But this is what I want to do – become a counsellor – and this is the training and the hoops I have to jump through to do so. So I choose to do this.

I’ve resorted to taking Nytol (an over the counter sleep aid – it’s basically antihistamines that make you drowsy) and the last couple of nights I’ve also taken the medication I’m prescribed to counter anxiety as and when I need it, Propranolol (a beta blocker). My usual crutch and feel-good method isn’t currently available to me, I have a calf injury that’s causing me grief, but I have tried to take long, brisk walks every morning to ensure I get those endorphins going a little.

It’s all so horrible and I can’t wait to get to Saturday afternoon and have it over with.

I feel awful. Honestly, I feel so shit I can’t think straight and just getting a question like “what shall we do for dinner?” has me bursting into tears because I’m so overwhelmed.

It’s a shit-sandwich and I’m feeling so, so low. Small, fragile, wobbly, uncertain, fearful and I can really tell how this is taking a huge toll on my mental health. If this were to go on for any sustained length of time I have no doubt I would get seriously ill because I am struggling BIG TIME.

But here’s the good news: none of this makes me want to drink. And if I were to drink, that’d be this counselling dream over in a heartbeat.

I may be struggling and feeling terrible, but I am sober and I’m letting life be life on its own terms.

And that’s a good thing.

And even though I nearly forgot about the 23rd (had Hubby not presented me with a little present and a card it would have slipped me by), it does fill me with exuberant joy and gratitude over where I find myself right about now, even with this shit-show looming. I am sober! I am a woman who just passed a huge milestone of sobriety and almost forgot all about it simply because drinking is no longer a part of my life and rarely figures in my thoughts. That’s SOMETHING. Quite something.

One of the first people I told when I first got sober was Dad, obviously following my best friend (Hubby). So after Hubby gave me the card and gift (a mug that has “I’m Sober, Bitch” – think it’s a play on Britney Spears, no?), I texted Dad. I told him truthfully that I can’t quite believe I got here, how grateful I am and also reassured him I have no desire to go back. Immediately came the response:

There aren’t words for what I’m feeling. You should be enormously proud of yourself, few have that strength. Love you with all my heart.

Dad was the person I was most scared would judge me. He was the hardest to tell. He is rigidly righteous and a straight arrow. No grey areas and the highest moral code. There is no underestimating how beautiful it is that he finds it in himself to praise his only daughter, the addict, for being sober. There were probably a million other things he would have preferred to be proud of.

So that’s it from me today. I’m struggling but by Saturday 29th in the afternoon I’ll be over the hump. I’m happily sober. Moving and settling in has been taxing on Hubby and I and tempers have been fraying (in no small part thanks to me being incredibly stressed and low), but on balance things are good and mostly there is this beautiful life I’m so, so grateful for. And I get to have this life because I’m sober.

It feels like a needless and obvious thing to say, but it makes me feel good and it anchors me:

Today I’m not going to drink.

That Last Stretch

I am so excited about 2022!

Sure, we’re still in this goddamn pandemic, which sucks horse balls, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: my worst day sober is better than my best day drunk. It’d seem that it applies to how I experience the wider world too. Eek, just imagine how this whole shit show that is Covid might have felt if I’d still been drinking. Fuckinell. Doesn’t bear thinking about, does it? Or, actually, let’s. Just for a moment.

You know, this is where I would like to write some hell raising story about the mayhem Drunk Me may have caused, had I still been Drunk Me. Something amusing, even. The truth is though, that pandemic or not, had I not stopped I would have just died. No wild story, just died. Probably in my own urine and vomit. Actually, probably just urine. I didn’t often throw up, my body didn’t seem to have that safety feature of purging in the eventuality of excess. If not in urine, possibly in a fire, given I used to cook in black-out and have come to on many a morning with gas rings on the oven still going. If not in piss or fire, then knocking myself out in some horrendous manner may have been a contender. I mean, even during those short moments of being sober(ish) I had to crouch in the shower for two reasons: 1) too shaky and weak to stand, and 2) terrified I’d slip and bash my head open on the taps. But I don’t think it would have been even as tragic as that. At least a fire is mildly interesting. No, I would probably have gone after passing out, with this heart of mine that was so battered finally giving up. I’m amazed it held out like it did.

I’m sorry, Heart. I love you. We’re good now. You’re a champion. Thanks for having my back.

The pandemic though, I wonder how it might have affected that last sprint. Yes – that last sprint, although when you’re a drunky-drunk it’s more of a stumble, really. Think I’m being dramatic? Think again. I wasn’t far off. There’s part of me that wishes I were exaggerating saying all of this, because even though it’s behind me now, I still feel like I want to bat it away much like I did when when I was right in it and didn’t want to accept how bad I’d got. Anyhoo.

Meeting Hubby meant I slowed down. You know, he’s a witness n’all. So with this witness working from home, drinking would have got so complicated. Ah, there you are, Alkie Brain! I forget what it was like to be ruled by you. Long time, no see. Just the idea irritates me. Isn’t it amazing how deep this goes? I’m sitting here and I can so clearly feel my own annoyance – anger, really – at having someone around to see my drinking, having to sneak around and how bloody impossibly hard that would have been with Hubby home. My best friend, who I love more than anything, who annoys me the least out of all the people in the entire world. It’s so fucked up, addiction. But that’s what could have happened, I guess – the pandemic might actually have slowed me down a little.

A little. If I’d still been alive by March 2020 in the first place, which to be fair would have been unlikely.

Conclusion – thank God I don’t have to drink anymore. Hallelujah! If I had I’d be dead by now and although it mildly fascinates me to ponder at what stage and how the pandemic might have played out for this particular drunk, I guess it’s a fairly dull story. It always is if you already know the ending, and that’s the one thing you’re always guaranteed as an addict, at least if it’s a substance you’re addicted to. It’ll kill ya. Just say no, kids. Hah.

This is quite possibly the loveliest thing of all with recovery – the chance to create better chapters and out of all the ways in which we may feel a life could be wasted, at least destroying yourself wasn’t how it all had to end. Who knows how my story will end, but it won’t be in a puddle of urine or in a fire or head cracked open in the bathtub or from my heart giving up because of alcohol.

And so here I am now, almost four years on and looking forward to the new year ahead that I get to have because I’m sober. In the summer – all being well – I will qualify as a counsellor and I have identified the next training I want to embark on after these initial studies. It’s so exciting! I’m loving the studies and I’m loving the client work, and I’m so happy I found what feels like my calling. I actually can’t believe this is me doing this, it seems surreal. Rewind two and a half years and I nearly walked out that first morning at the realisation there were “check-ins” every time, meaning I’d have to actually … SPEAK. In front of people. It’s a miracle I stayed in that chair because I very nearly packed it in, but maybe it was meant to be. And now I’ve even done presentations, with another workshop in just a month. With a partner who seems to have more of a laissez-faire approach than my military operation precision kind, but even that doesn’t worry me. We’re all different and as different as me and Partnerella are, I think we’ll be OK. Either way, my side of the street shall be sparkling clean and it’s not for me to worry about whether Partnerella produces a Phd thesis or a post-it note – I’ll do my best and that’s that. It seems a little unreal that I’m now looking at the home stretch of these initial studies that will hopefully see me qualify.

See? It’s a very different ‘That Last Stretch’ you get to have when you get sober. Nice, eh?

We’re moving in just a week, to a sexy new house on the other side of the river from where we are now – new area, new street, new everything really. Hubby gets all weirdly annoyed when I call the new house “sexy”, but it is. It’s unusual and once we get settled and get everything the way we want it, it’ll be such a cool space. It backs on to a little stream that flows down to the Thames, which is right at the end of our new street, 100 yards or so from the house. The big park won’t be on our doorstep anymore, but I am happy to trade it for long runs along the river path, ta very much. The new neighbours seem lovely too, they even have their own little Facebook group and seem to know each other well, which is a fantastic surprise. Makes me feel safe to know you have friendly people around you who seem to look out for each other.

All the menfolk seem to be doing well too. Hubby still has the best pins on the planet and is the most glorious soul I’ve ever known. Even when he’s irritating me he’s my favourite human. Bonus sons both doing well, which isn’t surprising as they’re fkn awesome young men with their heads screwed on and hearts located in the right place. Bambino is doing good too, working hard at school and got a job washing dishes at a pub too, and all loved up with his girlfriend. Wider family fine too, in their various corners of the world, and I hope we get to see them in the new year.

So I guess that’s me, right here at the tail end of 2021. At peace, content and excited for the future. Roll on 2022.

Life is fucking amazing. Someone said right at the beginning that recovery would give me a life beyond my wildest dreams. I smiled politely but thought it was bullshit. I thought I’d get sober and things would get better. But I never thought it would get THIS good. I never thought I would ever turn things around in the way that I did and still am doing. Holy cannoli. So if you, who is reading this, are worried (as I was) that life sober will be dull and that the only thing that’ll change is you won’t be so hungover, trust me on this – recovery changes everything. It’s changed everything for me and I’m nowhere near the ending yet. OK, so I could be struck by lightning or a truck tomorrow – life comes with no guarantees, after all – but even if these almost four years were all I got to have, getting sober was still the best thing I did and the life I have now really is beyond anything I ever thought was possible.

Happy New Year!

Today I’m not going to drink.

On ice

What kind of fuckery is this? Thought I’d kick off the week in the loveliest way I know: with a run in the park. And what a glorious morning too, the early morning sky a pink hue and the cold snap of last week over so a little milder and gone too were the winds brought by storm Arwen. I had my booster jab a week ago and although I don’t know for sure if this was the reason my energy levels were at a low for days, I felt much stronger again and was SO looking forward to a lap around the park. Music in my ears and off I went. Barely half a kilometre into the park there were deer wandering across the main path so I decided to head off down a smaller track to leave them in peace, and this is where I noticed a slightly painful cramp in my right calf. The sensible thing to do here would have been to stop and stretch a little and then maybe walk for a while to warm up a bit, but I was so annoyed at the crappy runs I’ve had the previous week that I refused and instead stubbornly continued because I was going to enjoy a long run come hell or high water. Minutes later down the muddy, slippery track hell caught up with me and my calf just seized up so hard it made me stumble. I hobbled back home and here I am now on the sofa, where Hubby ordered me to sit with my leg elevated and calf resting against an ice pack. Grr.

I don’t know when to stop and even when I do I bloody don’t. The irony isn’t lost on anyone, I imagine.

A good friend of mine, who I have called Willow on this blog when I’ve mentioned her, has created a fantastic TikTok series of clips where she talks about death and dying. She is a hospice nurse and what she’s doing is fantastic, plus she does it really well. I’m toying with the idea of doing something similar but around addiction and recovery. Problem is I don’t like being in front of people or the centre of attention so it seems, even to me, a slightly strange idea. However, it is and always has been, my goal to speak loudly about my experience as addiction – like death and dying – is one of those subjects we seem to hide and hush down like we’re too scared of it. Who knows, the idea is percolating and maybe I just need to get over myself, do what the hell I like and not care so much about my faulty alarm system.

Speaking of which, I am getting a better handle on the panic signals my brain sends me. I’m also getting better at spotting bad energy when it comes my way. These days I am much better at closing the door on people and things that are no good for me or who have no business darkening my existence, but once in a while some f*cktard slips through the net and so I’ve spent the past few days looking over my boundaries and reinforced the fencing here and there. Because I’m quite a naive and very trusting soul, I am especially prone to being fooled by the more conniving type of individual – the sort that disguises their shitty-ness with appearing overly nice and kind. Even insults are carefully wrapped up to the point where they almost sound like compliments. Not having that rubbish in my life, but as luck would have it there is a situation where I have no choice but to get along and function with one of these mood killers, so I’m doing my best not to let the dark shit they tease out in me linger beyond what I absolutely have to put up with, which I intend to keep to a bare minimum.

Being a quiet person who prefers to hold back and observe probably sometimes gives the impression that I’m an easy target, but it’s different now – it feels like my eyes have been opened and I’m less likely to fall for bullshit these days – and I’ve been taken for a few rides too many to entertain it again. That’s all well and good I suppose, but I still have work to do as to how much I allow it to affect me. In a way it’s worse when you think it’s a friend and not a foe, it’s just seems colder and so much more manipulative when someone acts the saint. That’s what this person does – a complete and utterly maddening dichotomy of saccharine and viciousness. No thank you. Go shit on your own doorstep, mine is sparkling clean for the holidays.

Yes, I am in a stinking mood, but guess what? I’m nearly four years sober and life is pretty damn awesome! I hold the power here and so shitty things and people are shown the door and cramping muscles are elevated and put on ice. Here on the Pink Cloud we only allow love in and we only let love out too. All others need not bother, you will be turned away.

How are you all? We’re staying put for Christmas as we’re moving house – looks like this will happen five minutes before Christmas as everything has dragged out but that’s cool. I have my boys and everything else I need in my life and now that precious diploma is actually within touching distance too. Life genuinely just keeps getting better every day and all these rewards continue to come my way for this one simple reason:

Today I’m not going to drink.

Whoop-dee-do

Sober Me: Hey!

Drunk Me: Hi. You OK?

Sober Me: I’m good. How are you though? You seem quite spaced out, are you struggling today?

Drunk Me: Same old. It’s at that worst time of the day when I feel especially ropey, just need to hold out until mid-afternoon when it usually eases a little. Dying to pee but don’t trust my legs to carry me to the toilet and I’m shaking too much to type so just sitting here staring at the computer screen really and hoping no one will initiate any conversation.

Sober Me: I forget how bad things are for you.

Drunk Me: Doesn’t matter. Just need to get to 2-ish and it’ll hopefully taper off a bit. Sometimes it gets worse, I’ve had some hairy moments driving home recently.

Sober Me: Did you drive this morning?

Drunk Me: Yup.

Sober Me: Taking Bambino to school too?

Drunk Me: Don’t…

Sober Me: I forget how much your heart breaks every single day. How are you coping?

Drunk Me: It’s not so bad.

Sober Me: Not so bad? It sounds pretty nightmarish to me.

Drunk Me: Moving on. How are you?

Sober Me: Sad for you now.

Drunk Me: Oh stop.

Sober Me: I am.

Drunk Me: Can we talk about something else now? It’s no big deal.

Sober Me: Alright.

Drunk Me: So how’s things?

Sober Me: Sober 1,381 days today.

Drunk Me: Fucking hell! That’s insane! Are you not bored?

Sober Me: What do you mean? Why would I be bored?

Drunk Me: I mean… What do you do?

Sober Me: All those things you would like to do.

Drunk Me: You’re wrong. I don’t want to be sober all the time. Haha, that’s the opposite of what I want to do! Imagine!

Sober Me: Very funny. No, I mean the things you’ve had to give up.

Drunk Me: I have everything I want.

Sober Me: Oh really?

Drunk Me: Yes, really.

Sober Me: Great. Well, then tell me about some writing you’ve done lately? And any half marathons booked in? Are you in a job that fulfils and challenges you? And I hate to upset you by asking, but when can you honestly say you were truly present with your son, your husband, family or friends? Or at work for that matter. Even now, are you present right here?

Drunk Me: Oh Jesus – you sound like a hippie with your in the moment talk. What’s next? Mindfulness or greeting the sunrise?

Sober Me: Well. On that score, do you ever take a moment to enjoy the sunrise?

Drunk Me: Oh spare me. It just sounds so dull, that’s all. All you are basically saying, really, is do exactly what I’m doing now but never drink. There’s no difference except life would get fucking boring.

Sober Me: I’m not bored.

Drunk Me: Maybe not, but your chat is. I’m bored by you.

Sober Me: Bored or irritated because I’m hitting a nerve?

Drunk Me: Nothing more irritating than someone taking your reaction and twisting it to be something that illustrates their point. You’re wrong, sorry.

Sober Me: OK. You’re happy. Yet here we are and it’s a Thursday morning and you barely got yourself to work and just clinging on to getting through the day.

Drunk Me: Look. I know I could do more than I am. I know I have – or had, at least – some potential to be a better version than what I’ve turned into. I’m just not there yet.

Sober Me: Where?

Drunk Me: At a stage where I can figure it all out.

Sober Me: So what stage are you at?

Drunk Me: Not a great one.

Sober Me: And what stands between this and the stage you’re referring to, the one where you can figure it all out?

Drunk Me: I guess working out how to drink in moderation.

Sober Me: Tell me about a time when you could.

Drunk Me: *scrunches up nose*

Sober Me: Do you have any indication from past experience that this is possible?

Drunk Me: Well, yeah, here’s x, y and z occasions when I didn’t wreck myself! See!!

Sober Me: Three occasions. Out of how many? Over a decade of cruising at an altitude of 2-3 bottles of wine per night and writing notes to yourself because you don’t know the lunatic you turn into in blackout?

Drunk Me: But it shows I can.

Sober Me: So if you can, why don’t you? Why, if you can drink in moderation… don’t you just drink in moderation?

Drunk Me: I’ll sort it some other time.

Sober Me: Why another time?

Drunk Me: Because it’s hard work and life will get dull. Dahr.

Sober Me: My life is anything but dull.

Drunk Me: Oh yeah? Pray tell. What’s the wildest thing you did recently?

Sober Me: I did a 10K run this morning. And over the past year I’ve done fishbowls on the counselling course and also a half day workshop presentation. And Bambino and I have had some tough times but I’m solidly there for him and actually being a kickass great mum. I’m becoming a really good version of me! And that’s wild because I didn’t think it was possible.

Drunk Me: You actually speak up in front of people? An actual presentation? A presentation presentation?

Sober Me: An actual fucking presentation. No joke. Me! I did that.

Drunk Me: Well, OK, that all sounds really great so good for you, but hardly wild, is it? But OK, the presentation thing is pretty cool, I know you never thought you could do that and here you are. Impressive. Whoop-dee-do.

Sober Me: Thank you. Point is though, these things may all seem mundane but the joy and freedom I feel at just being alive is WILD!

Drunk Me: I wish I could feel that way.

Sober Me: My darling girl, you can. I promise you. It’s all there waiting for you.

Drunk Me: I doubt it.

Sober Me: I know, but please trust me.

Drunk Me: It seems too huge. I don’t know where to start.

Sober Me: That little spark will ignite.

Drunk Me: What spark? Motivation?

Sober Me: Hope.

Any day of the week

I think I’m at that stage I was sort of fearful of before: sobriety is no longer this huge, new thing. It’s literally become as normal as anything else in my life. Like breathing. Like getting up in the morning. Like having coffee. Like putting my shoes on.

This isn’t a negative thing, I get that – in fact it’s that elusive, perfect thing I never thought would be possible. I never thought it would be possible to live life sober without it being on the forefront of my mind. Before I got sober, I thought it would require effort. Or struggle, rather. That was never the case. No, the first days, weeks and even months, weren’t exactly easy, but never was it a case of oh ehm gee this is awful. So sobriety was for the first couple of years instead this OH MY GOD LIFE IS FUCKING AWESOME thing, but very much at the forefront of my mind pretty much constantly.

And now… …it isn’t.

I guess what scared me about losing that OH MY GOD LIFE IS FUCKING AWESOME feeling, was the idea that I in that case might lose sight of what sobriety has really meant for me (getting this awesome life back), and eventually falling back into the darkness of active addiction. Aka death in slow motion. Or rather, Russian roulette death, given it’s no exaggeration to say the way I was going any one occasion could have spelt the end. Honestly, I know I’ve said it before, but I don’t actually understand how I’m even here – the amount of Sauvignon Blanc I put away was enough to kill a horse. In fact, I reckon it was enough to kill a goddamn T-rex.

So here we are and I’m sober and I don’t give it much thought at all. Dangerous ground? Nah, I don’t think so, because it’d appear that, so far at least, the one thing that hasn’t faded in the slightest is that I just don’t see any point in drinking. As in – I think of drinking and I shudder. The earth is round and Anna can’t drink alcohol. More than that, there is no benefit to Anna drinking alcohol. I don’t want to. See, this was the thought that always worried me somewhat – so long as this is how I feel, then great, but what about if my brain did a number on me and suddenly there it is again, the desire? Well, I guess we can never predict the future, but I can honestly tell you on all that is holy including Bambino’s life, that drinking holds about the same appeal as jumping off a cliff. The two aren’t all that dissimilar anyway.

Now in the final year of the counselling studies, or at least the three years that’ll see me qualified (all going well). I’m sure I’ll continue to build and study further, but it’s a good feeling to begin to see that precious diploma there on the horizon. Still this whole academic year to go but I’m feeling good about where I’m finding myself about now – almost on double the clinical hours I need to qualify and all assignments passed without any “action points”. Have also changed groups so I’m in a new crowd of people – danger, danger! – but the set-up is different (evening classes and the occasional Saturday) and suits me much better. Even the idea of presentations and fishbowls (sessions with a peer in front of the class) doesn’t bother me. Correction: OK, it bothers me, I fucking HATE being the centre of attention, but I don’t feel terrified like I used to. I feel super nervous. Just not paralysed. Nice, eh?

We’re in the process of moving too. We have a buyer for our apartment and considering two houses we have viewed. It’s been a frustrating and anxiety filled ride – back in June we thought it was all systems go but then the chain broke so it was back to the drawing board. Now we’re set again with a buyer, but the house we wanted may be gone. The good thing is that the market appears to have gone absolutely mental, so houses pop up all the time that are both exciting AND within budget, so we’re feeling pretty good about it all.

Anna good. Hubby good. Bonus sons good. Bambino… …TEENAGER. Gosh, he delights and terrifies me in equal measures, but I guess the bottom line is he is a good kid. A pretty normal teenager, who does exactly what teenagers should do: push boundaries. He does this with gusto, and in the process a lot of my buttons. And as much as he sometimes drives me to the brink of my sanity (not that far a distance, to be fair), I wouldn’t change a thing.

What a boring update.

Well. I mean, what types of TV programmes do I like? True crime documentaries any day of the week, dark stories about the dark side of the mind. Imagine trying to watch something where everything is just fucking nicey-nicey all the time, how dull wouldn’t that be? So I guess a boring blog post is a good thing, from that perspective. It doesn’t mean life is perfect, it sure as hell isn’t and I wouldn’t particularly want to relive last weekend with Bambino and his latest stunt, but in the grand scheme of things I have exactly what I want: a perfectly normal life with the perfectly normal mixture of highs and lows, all of which I can handle because I’m in a good place. A sober place. That fills me with gratitude.

Hm, see, it is at the forefront after all. Perhaps not in my thoughts, but certainly all around me always.

Today is a good day.

Today I’m not going to drink.

No, not today

Grant me the fucking serenity!

It’s coming up to 4am, it’s broad daylight and if I had trouble getting to sleep as it was, it’s bloody hopeless now. It’s crazy, because here I am, in my favourite spot on the planet and where my soul is most at peace … usually. Not this time. It’s like my entire being is in uproar and I have already decided that tomorrow I am calling in sick. I did it the second to last Friday of the counselling course – called in sick. OK, so I did have a blistering headache and it was just the afternoon I sacked off, but a headache never stopped me before – if I have a pulse, I turn up. I don’t have the course or work tomorrow, what I am calling in sick to is anything anyone may suggest we do tomorrow. Or today, rather.

I need to be a little mindful of how I put all of this. Partly because this could be read by anyone, so therefore a bit of a respect is in order so I don’t go and hurt people whilst I hold court here with no one else being able to give their view (or defence). Mostly, though, because this is a blog about recovery from addiction, I don’t want to send any reader into a real state of worry that I am in the middle of an almighty relapse. So without further ado, let’s establish some ground rules:

  1. My words, my view, my perspective. Not gospel. Just Anna’s musings. Through Anna’s eyes.
  2. As shit as I feel right now, I swear on Bambino’s life that I’d rather eat vomit than take a drink or anything else that might alter how I feel.

All good? OK, great.

I feel like I’m breaking. I wouldn’t call it a breakdown (she says immediately after calling it “breaking” – go figure), but I am definitely at a stage where I really have had my fill. I was buckling around the course, I was buckling at home and now I’m fucking buckling here at Falla too – of all fucking places. The ONE place in the world where my heart can truly beat unhurried.

So in my life, I appear to have a small selection of people who I feel less than good around. Half the time I can’t even pinpoint why but it’s as if the air changes when I’m around them. I’m not stupid enough to believe this is all to do with them – yeah, I’m looking at ME – but something has to change here. Change them? Again, not stupid enough. So that leaves moi. I need to change how I go about this and how I navigate people who, for whatever reason to do with me or them, leave me feeling shit.

I haven’t slept but given it’s 4am, I guess the evening I just sat through is strictly speaking yesterday (and how I wish I could just leave it there – in goddamn yesterday – and let this day I’ve just stayed awake into be a new day). And whilst I did speak up for bloody once, it was utterly pointless and only proved to me that my previous modus operandi – il silenzio – sometimes actually is the best way forward. I learned the skill of staying silent many moons ago and I learned it for good reason. Isn’t that so irritating? All this work I’ve been doing to “get over” it and be more vocal. Maybe I had it right all along? Whatever defence mechanisms we do have, we normally developed because at some point and in some way they worked.

It’s a mantra I often repeat to myself and I’ve repeated it many times here on this blog too: not my circus, not my monkeys. Really, this is just a variation of the part of the Serenity Prayer that tells me to accept the things I cannot change. “Things” most definitely includes other people. Another way of saying it is “don’t argue with stupid”. And yet another: “don’t wrestle with a pig, you’ll get muddy and what’s worse is the pig likes it”.

It’s quite simple when I break it all down: I can’t let things go.

Nope. Totally hopeless at it. I suck. Whoever or whatever drags in a stink that pollutes the air and for some reason I can’t fucking walk away. Oh no, I stay and inhale it until I’m choking on the fumes. Then, whilst retching, I probably thank them for it too. Or apologise. Or both. Then I bend over. You get the gist. It’s pathetic, really. I take shit I shouldn’t without protest.

Even simpler: I’m a push over who can’t let things go.

Fear also captures me in an ice cold grip. Last-night-but-still-today-for-me-who-hasn’t-gone-to-bed-yet was a prime example. I sit at a table and listen to bullshit. Hurtful and unfair bullshit. When I can’t take it anymore, I attempt Operation Speak One’s Mind. With devastating results. Boom goes my heart and suddenly I am shaking so bad I can’t even keep my voice steady – same old story – and nearly fainted too. Revert to standard procedure: shrink and go mute.

Simpler still: I am a scaredy-cat who can’t speak her truth, who then gets pushed over and can’t let things go.

Time for a reality check, no?

The bullshit? Yep, as far as I’m concerned that’s what it is. Bullshit of the highest order. I doubt the sources feel that way, but their truth isn’t mine and how they feel is nothing to do with me. Did I say anything I now regret? Nope. Ah, see, one of the wonderful things about sobriety – I very rarely these days have to spend my time wallowing in shame and regret. I spoke my fucking mind and said my peace. Well, some of it, before I felt too faint to continue. But this is progress because at least I didn’t just sit there listening to what I consider bullshit. This is good.

I don’t have to agree. I even managed to pipe up so I am not guilty of giving the impression I did either.

Now for the clincher. Do the bullshitters have to agree with me? Hm…. Is this where the shoe pinches, as we say here in Sweden? This may cut closer to the bone than I like to admit. I recently felt taken advantage of and part of my gripe was that the would-be-advantage-taker never gave any impression that they knew they had, much less acknowledged it or – God forbid – said “hey, I’m sorry“. And so I have to ask myself why I can’t believe, think and feel what I do without someone else’s approval?

Oh fuck, it’s THAT simple: I am a scaredy-cat who can’t speak her truth, who then gets pushed over and can’t let things go unless someone validates her perspective.

How fucking irritating.

Next stop, Sweet Oblivion! ALL CHANGE!

Maybe this will have to be a case of fake it til’ I make it, but this can’t go on. It’d seem I’ve lived my entire life based on other people’s approval, and what’s worse, it’s often people I don’t even particularly like. Even then, I let it crush me. No, I’m not even exaggerating here – it CRUSHES me. Like it crushed me tonight or yesterday or whatever this twilight zone now is. 4.30am. Hubby and I had a few games of Yatzee (Falla tradition) even though it was midnight by the time we got back here. By 1am we were in bed. I spent a good couple of hours further attempting to switch my brain off by reading but by 3.30am I gave up because I couldn’t. So I went downstairs, cried for a while and then came on here to pour my thoughts out in a further attempt at getting them to disperse a little. Well, it does help to turn thoughts into words, I’ve done it since I first learned to write. The books too – it was all I wanted and I pestered every adult in my vicinity to read to me endlessly until I cracked reading myself a couple of years before I went to school.

My mother is a teacher and she had no idea. Random fact about me, see. I started school and she had no idea I could already read fluently. No, I’m not some kind of genius, apparently it’s not that uncommon that kids crack the code themselves the way that I did. I’d like to think I’m special, alas … #annafunfacts

Sorry, lost the thread there, where were we?

Oh yes, learning to let go and my various attempts at stilling my mind.

You know how some people just let things wash over them. Like water off a duck’s back, is that the saying? You know what I mean. How do they do it?

I do have some ideas to try though, whilst embarking on my journey to Sweet Oblivion:

  1. Crushing words or event.
  2. Ask myself if I genuinely care about this thing or this person.
  3. Not my circus, not my monkeys or does this stray clown indeed belong to my circus?
  4. Act accordingly – let other circus be the other circus or get my clowns back in line.
  5. I can disagree without beating others into agreeing with my point of view.
  6. Let the things and people who truly matter be and feel the way they do. I don’t have to embrace the things I find hard to stomach.
  7. Let the fuck GO.

You know, even writing it, I don’t believe it. I’m not at my best when I’m sleep deprived and this holiday is getting stupid now, I’ve slept so incredibly badly. I don’t believe in the above but I know it’s how I would like to operate so that’s what I’m going to try harder at.

Starting today. I’m going to call in sick. Actually, hold up! No, that’s not it. I’m going to do what the hell I like. With Hubby. Maybe dad, who will no doubt turn up and let’s face it, even though I’ve had to concede he is a regular human being with flaws, he’s still on a pedestal in many ways and along with Hubby and Bambino he is one of a VERY select few I can stand to be around no matter my mood. All others needn’t bother. I don’t care if my heart actually beats itself out of my chest and hops away across the fields surrounding Falla, I will reply with this entire sentence:

No“.

No calling in sick. No excuses. Just a ‘no’. Well, I guess there’s no need to be a complete arsehole. Maybe I’ll extend it to “no, not today“. But if I want to be able to sleep soundly and not sit here at Falla – on holy ground as far as I’m concerned, which is what makes this even more infuriating – battling anxiety, dread and sorrow because of the opinions of people I wouldn’t actually ask for advice, then something has to fucking give. I mean, that’s so fucked up I don’t even know where to begin. Or actually, I have to stop giving. Stop being pushed over. Stop letting the air around me get polluted. Or rather, I need to stop staying with it. Walk away. LET GO.

Am I angry? Yes. I’ve been angry a lot over these past two months. Like I said, I’ve been buckling. Is it anyone’s fault but my own? Nope. And so can anyone else fix it for me? Hardly.

The simplest thing of all: this scaredy-cat needs to summon the courage to change the things she can.

Wow. 5am. This is now my favourite time of day, but it bloody helps if I have slept and of course I haven’t on this occasion. I do like this though, in a way, despite feeling so distraught just an hour ago. When I look out of the window I can see a couple of deer on the field outside. And here I am, sitting in the same spot that the Anna of Falla before me, dad’s grandmother, used to sit in. Slightly different as dad has renovated since then, but the kitchen table is pretty much in the same spot and I always sit in what used to be her spot. Funny how I just realised that, it was never deliberate, I just let my tired and wired mind travel back and remembered that. I have quite chunky black rimmed glasses too.

I do wonder what she would make of it all. This family is certainly full of stories and secrets that we seem to like keeping hidden. Problem is I can’t stand that. I can’t stand it but end up in a self enforced cage of silence that closes in on me and crushes me.

I don’t even know where to start. But maybe I’ve come face to face a little bit with some of the reasons why I buckle at speaking my mind. And I don’t fucking like it – never did – so it needs to change. Silence and escaping may have worked at some points but no longer.

Probably best if I get some sleep or I’ll end up telling people to fuck off and that won’t be ideal either. With some sleep maybe I can just go with the full sentence of “no” – that would be a good start.

Over and out.

Anna of Falla