That Other Chick

What is an alcoholic? What makes me an alcoholic?

I’m no doctor, nor do I have extensive knowledge or experience of alcohol abuse in the theoretical sense. I just used to be a practicing alcoholic for many, many years and now that I’m sober I only really have my own “research” to go on. However, from this I can conclude that the following is true for me:

  1. Inability to stop.
  2. I can’t control how much I drink.
  3. Alcohol changes me. 
  4. Compulsion to drink. 
  5. Alcohol the first priority.

Let’s look in detail, shall we?

1. Inability to stop.

It’s quite simple: if I start, I can’t stop. I know it sounds like absolute madness and that’s precisely what it is. AA states that alcoholism is “a physical allergy, a mental obsession and a spiritual malady”. For me that’s yep, yep and not sure. All I know is that when I take that first drink, I am a goner. The tragedy ends when I either pass out or run out of wine. I have taken that first drink and with it already feel genuine and deep fear at what might happen, what I might do in black-out and where it’ll take me. I’ve taken that first drink sometimes with a silent wish that if my heart were to give up this time, it wouldn’t be my son who’d find me and please God make me look peaceful, don’t let my loved ones find me sprawled naked on the floor having suffocated on my own vomit. I’d think those things and I still drank. Crazy? Yes – very. Alcoholism is a terrifying monster, a merciless beast and it’s much stronger than any of us. Yes, I knew for the longest time I’m an alcoholic, I just had to grow a spine before I was brave enough to face that awful, sad, heartbreaking truth. Never mind the shame. Oh, the shame.

2. I can’t control how much I drink.

Here’s a novel concept for you, that you may find hard to believe, but I have never in my life EVER taken that first drink with the intention of blacking out. Not a lil’ ol’ once. It’s not just that I can’t stop as per #1, it’s how I start necking the drinks back at a pace that is frightening too. Oh my word, I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve even set myself limits – “I’m going to stop at four”, “I’ll have max three at the pub and two at home”, “no drinking on school nights”… My tipple used to be Sauvignon Blanc with soda water, the soda being something I added as it bulked out the volume and I think I initially thought it’d mean it’d take me longer to get through a glass. Fuck, I can’t even type that without laughing – it’s THAT ridiculous. On a few occasions I switched to beer for the same reason but reverted to the spritzers because beer makes you fat. Again, I’m sitting here laughing at the stupidity of the pathetic drunk I used to be. I’m still a drunk, of course, but would like to think I’m less pathetic now that I’m sober. Point is though, I can’t control it. I lose control the moment I put that first drink to my lips and it doesn’t matter one tiny bit what’s in the glass if it contains alcohol, the result is always the same be it wine with soda, beer, gin and tonic or cocktails. It’s full throttle until – sing along, now – I either pass out or run out of alcohol.

3. Alcohol changes me.

Drunk Me and Sober Me are two entirely different people. Crazy, isn’t it? Well, it’s true. Drunk Me is restless, grouchy, depressed, anxious, insecure nervous, scared, tired, lethargic, lazy – you get the gist. Drunk Me is a miserable cow. And no wonder. Have you tried to have a life when you put away nearly three bottles of wine every evening? Tried work? Tried exercise? Tried to be a good parent, partner, friend? Tried to be good at ANYTHING? It’s hard work and whilst I managed reasonably well at holding everything together, I wasn’t great at any of those things. How could I be? I was always battling crippling hangovers, could barely function. I had to control every aspect of my life because otherwise it would have been unbearable. As for holding it together, alcoholism is a one way track and had I continued I would soon have lost everything anyway. It’s how the story goes and it has no exceptions. Sober Me is full of energy, happy as Santa on Prozac by default, a morning person, loves exercise, is reliable, happy in my own skin, hopeful, calm and able to cope with anything life might throw at me. Sober Me is also a fun and loving partner, a good friend and the sort of mother my son wants and needs: predictable and present, a great one even. Sober Me is flexible and easy going, feels no need to be in control whatsoever and why would I? I’m a brave, strong and spontaneous person at heart. It’s great to be Sober Me. I like that chick a lot.

But there’s more to #3. My personality changes in other ways too when I drink. Suddenly there can be a bout of sudden sadness or anger. Mad arguments that come from nowhere. Behaviour that Sober Me couldn’t even imagine. Things told back to me when I’ve sobered up that I don’t understand, can’t work out where they’ve come from or why in God’s name I have behaved in such a way. I’ve woken up after a session knowing I’ve cried but not knowing why or having any reasons for feeling sad. Same with arguments. I’ve woken up and known that hubby and I have argued about something, the atmosphere still tense and yet have no idea why or what about. I don’t miss those times, let me tell ya. It’s scary though how booze, when you react badly to it like I do, can change you into a fucking monster and not only that, it’s a monster you don’t even know. It makes me feel sick.

4. Compulsion to drink.

This used to be the case even when I didn’t actually want to. This is when the insanity of alcoholism must seem particularly, well, INSANE to non-alcoholics. Yes, I have gone and bought the wine, poured the first glass and put it to my lips despite not wanting to. I’ve been crying and screaming inside, yet I’ve still gone ahead. Put that glass to my lips and breaking my own heart in the process. Most of the time I willingly drank of course, and my trigger has always been a good mood more than anything else. As miserable as life as an alcoholic can be, I was still pretty happy – my life was full of happiness and everything I could ever wish for, just with a heavy, wet blanket on top is the best way I can describe it. My life is awesome but I was ruled by alcohol and that distraction meant I couldn’t fully enjoy living it. Now it’s just awesome. Anyway, as I mentioned, I knew I’m an alcoholic and knew I had a huge problem years and years ago, and THAT made me feel sad. Yet I’d get that damn wine and I’d fucking drink it. And of course once I’d had the first….. I don’t know what to say, it’s just fucking nuts, all of it. Can you even imagine REALLY NOT WANTING TO DO SOMETHING YET YOUR FEET WILL WALK RIGHT INTO IT AND YOU CAN’T EVEN UNDERSTAND IT AS IT’S HAPPENING. Quite literally, I’d find myself buying that wine despite the fact that I on occasion really, REALLY didn’t want to drink anymore.

5. Alcohol the first priority.

As with any of these points, I could give endless examples, but let’s go with a scenario that I thankfully won’t find myself in when hubby and I head off on holiday to Lipari in just over a month’s time – WEEHOOOOO I JUST REALISED IT’S JUST ONE MONTH AWAY!!!!! – and what going away would entail when I was practicing the Religion of Alcoholism. Let’s take Sweden, where we head twice a year, just to keep it nice and simple. It starts the moment we land and before we’ve even got to baggage reclaim, I’ve done a loop through the arrivals taxfree booze area to buy TWO boxes of wine. This is to make sure I don’t have to stress about getting wine when we get to my home town and only alcoholics would head to Systembolaget (the only place you can buy alcohol) before seeing their family, right? Drunk Me got the booze before I even left the airport!! Sweet Lord, once again I’m laughing at Drunk Me as I’m writing this. We see my family and then head to the place we always stay at quite early under the illusion that we’ve been travelling and are going to have an early night. Not true. I want to get away and get on with drinking, sit with hubby outside and enjoy the evening. Only not the evening (or even hubby) – it’s all about the wine. The rest of our stay is spent managing whatever holiday’ing I can muster given I’m drinking heavily (as usual) every single day and I rotate between the Systembolaget stores in two towns in an attempt to disguise how much booze I’m getting through. All activities are planned with my eye on when, what and how I can drink. Everything except drinking with hubby away from everyone is rushed – everything else is stuff I need to get out of the way and tick off the list so I can get on with the drinking. Life happens around alcohol. It’s stressful in the extreme. I crush up empty wine boxes that I throw away in different places, only throwing in the existing bins an amount that would suggest normal holiday consumption in case my father might notice when he comes to take out the trash. It’s a military operation, let me tell you. Any holidays other than Sweden were even more stressful as I would then – on top of all this planning – also have to work out where to get the wine from and ensure I wouldn’t run out.

And life in general was very much like that, holiday or otherwise, given I didn’t drink any more or less. Spend the day with the thought in my head and even before getting in the car to head home after work, I’d have my little drink plan perfectly laid out step by step. Drive home via the supermarket closest to the river where it’s easy to park, pick up a box and a bottle of soda, get home and before I’d even removed my shoes I’d open it and pour a glass. Everything else I fitted in around my drinking. And alcoholism is like that – you quite literally give up your life for the booze. Nothing and no one can make you stop, and nothing or no one can get between you and that glass of wine, ever.

NOW THEN!

Have a look through that list and tell me if it looks good to be Drunk Me. It doesn’t seem fantastic, does it? Being Sober Me, however? Now THAT kicks ass! Life was already pretty glorious despite my heavy drinking, only now I get to really live it – calm, present and able to experience every moment. And for those moments that aren’t quite so glorious, I am a million miles better off and able to cope. I could quite easily sit here and let the happiness I feel at getting ME back wash over me and ask in disbelief why in God’s name I ever wasted so much time drinking, but I know the answer: I’m an alcoholic and when an alcoholic drinks alcohol, it only ever ends up one way. Please God, help me stay on this path of sobriety and never forget how precious my life is. Please never let me fool myself like that again. Please allow me to remain present in this beautiful life I’ve been given.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Career Criminals and Pumas

One of my favourite bloggers – Katie over at How I Killed Betty (go read, she’s AWESOME) – is going on a big cycling adventure later in the summer and I suggested audiobooks. Quite possibly stupid as well as dangerous advice as you probably need both ears in traffic, but it brings me on to my next audiobook that I downloaded ahead of driving to work this morning. I love biographies and recently listened to Mikael Persbrandt’s (Swedish actor), Sanna Bråding’s (another Swedish actor) and Camilla Kuylenstierna’s (just Swedish) books – all three largely around the selection of addictions their authors have battled and overcome so therefore of huge interest to this little drunk. I very rarely read Swedish books beyond the one or two I end up picking up any time we go to Sweden, and as an old school book worm I’ve never really considered audiobooks but LOVE listening in the car so this has gradually become a morning ritual. Biographies that catch my attention tend to be those that chronicle difficult journeys. Anything around alcoholism obviously interests me massively too, given I’m an alcoholic myself. The most recent book and the one I listened to the end of yesterday was ‘The Gangster Princess’ about a woman growing up with drug abuse and violence, then became a career criminal herself (drug dealing, gangs, trafficking, the lot) before spending many years in prison before starting over under witness protection and a new identity. I find all of that stuff fascinating and the most broken and fucked up people with the most difficult and complex journeys seem to me to be the smartest, warmest and honest of all of us.

Anyway. I needed my next fix and in the list of Swedish audiobooks under the biography tab, I found my next indulgence: ‘Puma Swede – My Life As a Porn Star’. I’ve got Ron Jeremy’s biography ‘The Hardest Man in Porn’ on my bookshelves, which is a fun and fascinating account of a life spent screwing on camera as well as a refreshingly intelligent and insightful take on life in general, so I was up for listening to this hardcore minx telling me about her wild life. Perhaps I should outline my view on porn here, by the way? OK, here it is: anything that involves consenting adults where nobody gets hurt against their wishes and all activity falls within legal limits is cool bananas as far as I’m concerned. Think that sums it up. My view on those who participate in porn on or off camera is pretty much in line with that statement too: so long as it’s grown-ups making their own decisions and who take part in everything with their eyes open, then party on I say. So I started listening to Puma Swede expecting a lighter story than the last one of hard drugs and having your children taken away. So far, just a couple of chapters into it, it’s told by a woman who is hilariously witty and who with an keen eye for the absurd invites by leading us into the film set of ‘The Rocky Whore Show’ (yes, really) where she has a starring role and is instructed to do a countdown for Ron Jeremy’s money shot. It’s ridiculous and, as you’d expect, a little outrageous and she talks about quite daring sex acts as if she were noting the weather but she comes across as a woman who knows full well what she’s doing and owns it. Each to her own.

Well. Didn’t mean for this to turn into a book review – sorry!

I don’t know what I want to say about drinking today though. Still sober. Still enjoying sobriety and have no plans or desire to drink. I didn’t go to the AA meeting yesterday, Ivy wasn’t going and as I told you I would I found lots of other stuff to do. I reined myself in on the Lucky Boobies manufacturing line and went back to basics. Only I could be new to metalsmithing, try to set a stone in a complicated setting and expect it to be perfect on the first attempt. I realised how stupid that was and therefore created a little gang of plain little silver pendant boobies, instead of gems for nipples I hammered out little points and they look quite cute. Will finish the shapes later and sand and polish, then I could always put them on here and you can tell me if you know anyone who would consider wearing a little boobie pendant in public. Perhaps I should send one to Puma Swede? L’s husband actually suggested a smart way of getting noticed would be to send something to someone famous anonymously – the more I think of it, the more I like the idea. That might become my mission. See if I can get a boobie necklace to Puma Swede and see if she wears it. Watch this space.

Hold up, hold up…… DRINKING!! This blog is about drinking! Or not, as it were. But I really don’t have anything to say about it today. It’d seem life is pretty awesome and when I don’t spill my thoughts around alcoholism and sobriety out on this blog, life is lived quite happily without booze.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Barbie’s Botched Boobs

How freaking frustrating. I had such a great idea for silver jewellery that I’ve decided to call Lucky Boobies. Metalsmithing really is a test for me because it requires me to be all the things I am not: patient, precise, gentle and conscientious. My default setting is fast and furious (surprised, much?), but working with metal and setting stones forces out The Really Good Me – I have no choice but to pay painful amounts of attention to every last little detail and there is no point skipping over a grade of sandpaper because unless you go through all the grains you can’t get the scratches out from the one before. The fingertips on my thumbs and index fingers are really sore today, and it turns out yesterday’s hours of work on one itty-bitty-titty can just be written off as PRACTICE.

I do everything by hand and from scratch, using freaking ancient techniques and there I was – carefully measuring out a circle on a sheet of silver that I then cut out using a hand saw. File, file and file some more to get rid of the rough edges and when I was satisfied it was reasonably round, I hammered it into a perfect little dome that if it were a boob would not be the remit of Mother Nature but the work of the fine people along Harley Street and look awesome on Barbie. Next, I drilled a hole – again, Harley Street style, high and proud – for a gemstone nipple, after which I set about creating a hoop for a neck chain and soldered this on to it. This took three attempts before the little fucker was straight. I spent the best part of an hour filing and sanding the piece until it was smooth and shiny, and here I went against all better judgement and went for a shortcut – instead of the swivel pin and creating the little angled seat for the stone, I shoved the burr into the dremel and went a little Highway to Hell as opposed to Requiem Mass in D minor. And a little too much heavy handedness and I’ve drilled right through.

Here I had an opportunity to abandon my AD/DC approach and revert to Mozart but hell no, I just selected the next stone up and changed the drill bit to a larger burr. Madness = doing the same thing yet expecting a different result. I’ve done plenty of that, so I should know. Mad as a hatter, that’s me. And yes, through I went and it just wasn’t possible to set the 4mm stone, a sparkly, bright pink Swarovski crystal this time. In my burring frenzy I’d also managed to squeeze the little dome into an oval shape so it was now what you might find in a gallery showing botched plastic surgery for metal boobs. Poor Barbie. She’ll need corrective surgery on that one. So today when I get home, my last attempt will be to set an even bigger stone, 5mm wide this time, using the swivelpin and NOTHING ELSE. If it were a real boob it’d have a nipple the size of a frisbee based on those proportions. But hey, I love the idea and this little exercise just shows how ridiculous I really am: I’m new to metalsmithing, yet I totally believed I would create this perfect, tit pendant at the very first attempt. It’s a real flaw of mine, this stupid thinking that I’ll always get it perfectly right straight away. And here I am trying to educate my son that practice makes perfect when I’ve expected to be the best at absolutely everything without any practice whatsoever since as far back as I can remember.

I will absolutely get those Lucky Boobies right and as much as it pisses me off I might have to fuck up a whole bunch of them before they’ll get good. I think once I’ve figured out how to do it, they’ll be super cute.

I completely fucked up E’s opal, which cracked due to aforementioned heavy hand when I was trying to set it but pushed it too hard, but by mustering patience I do not have and perseverance that stands in direct conflict with everything I am, I ended up setting the irregularly shaped glass bead that is testament to how I do actually have it in me. A critical eye would be able to see the seam I nearly melted open again when I soldered on the hoop for the umpteenth time and overheated the piece, but after painstaking filing, sanding, pushing and bending, it’s looking pretty good.

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As I said – it’s good for me. It really forces me to be The Very Good Me.

But back to why we are here. Or why I am, rather – it’s my blog after all: drinking. Nice, even number today with my app telling me I have been sober for 140 days. Aw, ain’t that nice? I quite fancy heading to the Tuesday meeting on the green this evening. It’s a little earlier than a lot of other meetings that start at 8pm and thereby fuck your whole evening. This one’s at 6pm, which means I can still have a life. I know, I know – without my sobriety there IS no life so this whingeing about late meetings is pretty pathetic, but there we are. I like afternoon ones that mean you have the rest of the evening free. Just texted Ivy to see if she’s going. Hah! I kind of know how that’ll turn out – I’ll get home, will want to unwind, then correct the silver boob with the now huge gem nipple and head out for a long walk before hubby gets home. But perhaps it’d be a wise investment to head off to sit in that church hall with my homies? Although I’m not a flock animal it’s sometimes nice to be with your own kind and there’s always something someone says that I take away with me. Something new to ponder.

Well. Whether I decide to go or not (oh, you can tell by the tone, can’t you, that I don’t even believe myself that I will), one thing is for certain: today I won’t drink.

Take Me To the River

Hmm… I wonder if this would be how a non-alcoholic feels when they are having a drink? As per previous posts, I discovered non-alcoholic beer, but although I did expect to be able to get it in the UK, I wasn’t expecting pubs to serve them – I just didn’t think it’d be a thing here. Turns out not only do they actually have my favourite non-alco beer but they serve it at our favourite pub – Heineken, and with a reassuring “max 0.05% alcohol” at that.

Yesterday was precisely the sort of Sunday afternoon that seems to be tailor made for sitting on the wall by the river having a drink. We have done this before since I quit drinking and I usually get a pint of soda water with fresh lime and this has been absolutely fine of course, but it’s really nice to have an alternative given how it turns out I actually really like beer. It’s funny – the idea of alcohol free wine makes me feel a bit sick, yet wine was what I always drank. Very rarely would I order a pint of lager when I was in full-on active alkie mode, yet suddenly now as a sober alcoholic I’m finding that it’s my favourite drink. If it turned out I reacted badly to caffeine, presumably I’d want to drink decaf coffee, right? It’d seem strange in the same way to go from a coffee drinker to decaf tea or quit tea and start drinking decaf coffee as an alternative?! This switch to beer amuses me a little. But hey, as Willow put it, ANYTHING alcohol free is great, so who cares if I drink beer or unicorn tears so long as I remain sober.

You might all think I’m really foolish for having something that tastes like the real thing, that it might be really risky for a drunk like me to drink non-alcoholic beer, that it’s too close a shave. And who knows. I can tell you that it’s not in any way triggered any desire in me to drink alcohol, but hey, I’ve made a vow of honesty on this blog though so you’ll be the first to know if anything changes on that score. Besides, I have felt the urge on a handful of occasions and it’s not something I’m ashamed to admit, so there we are.

Whilst it hasn’t made me want to drink, something interesting does happen when I have non-alcoholic beer, and it sort of cements for me that AA’s take on what alcoholism is for me: a physical allergy and a mental obsession. If you at any point end up thinking ‘oh, hell no, girl!‘ reading this, feel free to point it out. I have experienced this a few times now – each time I’ve had the non-alco golden nectar that is – and it’s made me feel happy and free each time. It’s sort of proved that part of the problem is definitely physical, that there is indeed something to do with how I’m wired and what happens when the booze hits my blood stream. I’ve observed it keenly each time this has happened and I take it as evidence that I am indeed an alcoholic. Well – if hardcore alcohol abuse stretching over a decade wasn’t enough to show I’m a fully fledged drunky-drunk-drunk.

So there we are, in the afternoon sunshine, sitting on the wall by the river outside the pub where we met just over five years ago and where we celebrated getting hitched last year. We must have sat in this spot hundreds of times over these five years, drinking and chatting, gazing out over the river and generally appreciating being alive. Being sober, this has not changed and to be honest, the absence of booze has only made it all better. Anyway, there we are – hubby with a pint of cider and me with a bottle of Heineken non-alcoholic beer, and this is where my addiction makes itself known. We had two drinks. I find myself taking several big gulps and the taste is gorgeous – I’m diving into a fizzy wave of lager. A few puffs on my e-cigarette and then I lift the bottle to my lips again, greedily drinking more beer down and really enjoying it but I also notice that once I’m no longer thirsty, that the old craving that comes to life when I take a drink.. …doesn’t. And with it, there is no violent force that has me lifting the bottle again and again. When we leave, hubby has finished his two pints and I have left the second bottle with a third left in it.

With the first, there was the definite pang of joy at having a drink – something making itself known in me that is entirely separate from other feelings and specific to the drink, and the old beast is growling contentedly. The mental obsession comes alive immediately, it’s insane how it’s absolutely instantaneous. But there’s no alcohol, so there is nothing to grab on to. Nothing ignites. Nothing awakens. I’m still me. Just me. And I notice the shift in my mind there too. It sounds mad, I know, but I could quite literally feel myself go from a slight sense of euphoria – lift the bottle, lift it again – to a MEH that despite being a ‘meh‘ doesn’t feel deflated or sad, just neutral. And whereas alcohol would trigger the rest of the mayhem that’d usually follow, my mind and body chained together in a death dance, now that the very substance I seem to react so badly to isn’t in my system so it’d appear the gig is cancelled. Nothing in my blood stream, nothing to tickle the receptors in my brain. I’m still here, right here. I imagine it’s my brain making the connection like a heroin addict’s mind might react to the sensation of a needle, but without the physical reaction in hot pursuit, what is there? Nothing. A big, fat nothing. Just me, my life, my mind – the present moment. The lack of a physical reaction – despite me describing it as ‘meh‘ – isn’t a disappointment, it’s a relief. It’s really nice to just sit there on the wall in the evening sunshine and enjoy a beer. Absolutely lovely.

And given how hubby doesn’t turn into a restless ghoul when he drinks stuff that does contain alcohol, I wonder if how I feel when I drink non-alcoholic beer (or anything non-alcoholic for that matter) is how someone who isn’t a drunk feels when they have a drink. I have some, and then it’s enough. I have no compulsion whatsoever to guzzle the rest of it and rush off to get another. I’m done now, that’ll be all, thanks. Do I sit there when that ‘meh‘ happens, wishing the physical reaction would follow? No. Do I wish there was real alcohol in my glass or bottle? No. All I feel is relief that I don’t have to be pulled into that terrifying carousel again, that spins me into a place I don’t want to be and where I have no control over what happens next. It’s complete and blissful relief. This must be it – I have watched others with such fascination in the past, how they could just stop drinking when I found I couldn’t. I just tried to imagine what that would feel like but couldn’t.

It wasn’t even towards the end of my drinking that I’d have that first drink and amongst the euphoria there’d also be a vague but distinct sense of overwhelming sadness. A sense of defeat, knowing when I put the wine glass to my lips I’d set it all in motion again and be unable to stop. That’s fucking terrifying. And I think it is the absence of that defeat that fills me with such joy. I suppose it’s called freedom. Freedom to choose, freedom to feel, freedom to be present and freedom to live. And that’s what I want. It’s how I always want to feel – free to walk away when I’ve had enough, not be slave to something dark and sinister that I can’t control and that will slowly kill me. I close my eyes and smile, saying a silent prayer of gratitude for this life I was once given but now fully can receive. I realise also that it isn’t alcohol that’s the ‘real thing‘ – it’s anything but.

For that, and countless other reasons, I’m not going to drink today.

All That Jazz

I just hopped over to one of my favourite blogs – LoveOverWine – and her last post really jumped out at me. What I love about this blog is the honesty, which is actually a basic requirement for holding my attention to be fair, be it here in the blogosphere or in that crazy world called reality. This particular post was about how perhaps sometimes we feel we need to portray something other than the true picture but how she was always determined to tell it like it is. This we definitely have in common, because for me too, this is the place where I’ve sworn I’ll never try to sugar coat anything. She describes how, when she first got sober, needed to hear that others had struggled too, really see how gritty and awful recovery can be and understand she wasn’t alone. I can completely relate because I regularly read from a bunch of other writers about their journeys. For me, it’s like a virtual AA meeting, really – here we are, a bunch of drunks, sharing our experiences and hopes and fears.

And I will never lie here. If I relapse and wake up in the morning to discover I’ve done a whole bunch of fucked up shit in black-out, I’ll be sure to tell you every last little shameful details. Deal? Good. Glad we cleared that up. My honesty is as important to me as my sobriety – the two go hand in hand because they HAVE TO.

As such, this blog was an anchor I put down solely for the intention of holding myself accountable. I figured it would be difficult and I never once expected anything other than documenting a long series of relapses and starting over. Every goddamn time I’ve written the number of days, then weeks and now months I’ve been sober, I’ve been painfully aware that I may end up saying those things again. Like Blue, who picked up her two-month sobriety chip the evening I got one for one month, only to collect the chip for 24 hours when I’d got to two months. I one hundred gazillion billion percent expected this to be the case for me, and hand on heart could I tell you now that I believe that today will be the one and only time I say I’ve been sober 136 days? No. Hell no. And that scares the living crap out of me. Don’t get me wrong – apart from my son and husband always being happy and healthy, my highest wish is to remain this way, but I also know that the odds are stacked against me and you only have to briefly scan statistics to realise that. OK, that does seem really depressing, doesn’t it? It’s not. It just means I will never take my sobriety for granted or become complacent. I may not have to live my life with my sword drawn, but you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll always keep it nearby.

And as for now? I’m happy. I’m sober. For 136 days I’ve not had a drink. 136 mornings I’ve woken up with a clear mind and a body that feels healthy and strong. 136 days of feeling grateful for the life I have and am no longer destroying. So it’s very far from doom and gloom, actually. It’s a sense of joy and freedom so intense I get tearful just thinking about it. I’m fucking lucky, that’s for certain. Whatever happens, the only day I have any power over is today. One day at a time.

How much did they know? Family, friends, colleagues – the people in my life who don’t actually live with me. How much did they see? How much did they notice? The pain and hurt I have caused my child can never be forgiven and my husband’s heart must have ached too, but I will go back to the two that I love the most another time. What about the people in my life who might see me occasionally but not every day? Who did I fool and who saw right through me?

I’m a bloodhound when it comes to sniffing out my own kind – I swear I can spot another alcoholic a mile off. It takes one to know one. But how far can you pull the wool over a non-alcoholic’s eyes, I wonder? I honestly couldn’t tell you. I do know that my family noticed I drank too much – little comments here and there, a little look in someone’s eye that could have been concern or a product of my paranoia altogether. We went to Edinburgh for my 39th birthday and I spoke with one of my brothers who’d called to say happy birthday. He rounded off with “go easy with the booze“. Fuck, that pissed me off! HOW DARE HE! That’s the reaction of a drunk who knows she’s a drunk because if I hadn’t known I had a drinking problem I wouldn’t have reacted and instead just laughed and told him to piss off. And I also followed the Drunkard’s Text Book after this: I either made jokes about drinking or I went to great lengths to “prove” he was wrong. I know several people right now who still do this, who are still at the “laughing it off” stage or so deep in denial they can’t see the bar for the bottles (see what I did there?).

Hand on heart, if I were to ask the same brother now that I no longer drink he could say one of two things and I’d be equally surprised:

  1. Yes, Sophie, we all know and we’ve all been worried to death about you. We know you’ve nearly gone under with your drinking and we had talked about doing an intervention.
  2. No, we just thought you over indulged on holiday maybe. We thought you just had a few too many occasionally but we never imagined you could be an alcoholic.

I honestly have no idea how much they figured out. I suspect it might be more along the lines of #2, simply because if I knew one of them drank between two and three bottles of wine most days of the week I would be dragging them kicking and screaming to the nearest rehab – no way would I allow them to kill themselves the way I was killing myself and I would do everything in my power no matter how uncomfortable to help. No way would I, if I thought or knew someone in my family or one of my friends drank the way I did, just cautiously tell them to “go easy”. So from that I think it’s probably quite clear that they had no idea I was in such trouble. Hell, even my husband would probably have said at the time that yes, I drank too much but I wasn’t an alcoholic. But even from him – as much as I hate to admit it – I managed to hide, anything from claiming to be on my second drink when it was actually my fourth to in other ways try to minimise any concern he expressed. However, my guess is everyone else just thought I liked my drink a bit too much but never JUST how much. So perhaps I had them fooled. Well done, me.

It’s not that hard though, right? When we’re in Sweden, I can cling on to that it’s HOLIDAY and therefore completely normal to drink every day. Or someone comes to visit, then it’s also HOLIDAY and of course we drink every day. Or have a drink with mates on a Tuesday. They don’t know that when I’m with them I drink both fewer drinks and more slowly than all other days because I know I can’t lose control, but all I want is to get away so I can drink PROPERLY. I wonder how this looks and sounds to non-drunks but I can tell you that I can’t remember if I ever went to the pub with friends without drinking more – a LOT more – once I got home. ALONE. I think I even tried to make people think I was a bit of a lightweight. If I’d been out with a colleague for drinks, for example. I’d stay for maybe three glasses of wine, but then drink up to two bottles more when I got home. Of course the next day the colleague in question would feel OK but I would be a hungover wreck. “Oh yeah, I get really bad hangovers,” would be my standard reply when in fact the amount I had drunk would be enough to drown a horse. And how could anyone I see on holiday ever have reason to believe that I’d drink just as much any day during the year?

And then the shakes. I had an explanation for that too, which is PARTLY true. I do have a condition called Essential Tremor, inherited from my father and paternal grandmother. Completely harmless (grandma is 90 and fit as a fiddle, albeit a very shaky fiddle) but it means you tremble, most noticeably your hands. Add severe alcohol abuse a la Sophie and I’d sometimes be so bad I could barely walk and even have jerky head movements. Jesus, there were times I couldn’t trust my legs and so didn’t leave the house. ALL because of the condition, you understand, nothing at all to do with me drinking wine like it was some sort of competition.

I was also a master at planning my drinking. You have to be when you’re an alcoholic because your greatest fear is running out of booze – the thought is enormously stressful – so I always ensured I had a plan. This got a little trickier any time we were in Sweden, where you can’t buy alcohol in the supermarket or any corner shop – it is state controlled and there’s only one place to buy it. I’m from a small town, so of course there is only the one branch. So Drunk Me was faced with potential small town gossip because everyone knows everyone and you really couldn’t go in every day and buy boxes of wine without setting the jungle drums off (or rather, warning bells – quite rightly). So I’d rotate between my home town and a couple others to make my insane consumption seem less outrageous. Being a drunk is really like a military operation that you have to execute in minute detail and I had it down to a T. At least I thought I was being very clever at the time but as I said, I wonder now if anyone ever bought my bullshit or if I was the only person I managed to fool.

It also, I believe, comes down to what we think an alcoholic is. I suppose all I can say is that the only thing that stands between myself and that poor soul on the park bench who has lost everything is ONE DRINK. I am only ever one drink away. Perhaps I should make it my life’s mission to educate people on alcohol abuse. I think because of all the misconceptions we have and because alcohol actually is something MOST people can handle without problems, us alcoholics sink much further before we get help. It is seen as shameful and dirty, and so it follows that it’s something that’s fucking shit to cop to. And it does break my heart a little. All the things I wanted to do and to be, including an awesome mother to my son. Wasted. Literally, WASTED.

Gosh, this turned fucking glum, didn’t it? Sorry’bout that. Allow me to clarify.

I am very lucky, I know this. I can look my son in the eye and do my best to show him I am trying – he may tell you in the future that mum was drunk a lot but perhaps he’ll also say he is proud of her for fighting her way out of this. Oh fuck it, I can’t write anything that makes that part OK because it never will be, but perhaps you know what I mean. Late shall the sinners awaken, and all that jazz. Still lucky. I got out before I’d fucked my health. I quit before my husband’s life got unbearable. And I am strong. I will never for a moment think I’m stronger than the beast, but I have to believe I can do this. There has to be a part of me that is allowed to hope I will only say I’m 136 days sober this once and that the number will only ever grow.

What gives me hope and fills me with joy is how good it feels to be sober. I couldn’t tell you even one aspect of my life that hasn’t got even better without alcohol. Not a one. I can’t say I’m struggling and I can’t say I’ve overcome huge obstacles. Not yet, anyway.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Last Glass Standing

Now here’s something I’d love to have people’s opinions on…

Just back from what was probably the best short break we’ve ever had, which is an enormous statement given there have been so many and they’ve all been crazy and wonderful. Let’s just say Gothenburg delivered – sunshine from clear blue skies, in the company of close friends, awesome food, friendly people and on our last evening Foo Fighters rocked everyone’s socks off at Ullevi Arena to the point where I was beginning to feel religious. Those boys are phenomenal live and I found myself humming Best of You and Wheels in the car on my way to work this morning.

Best thing of all – I stayed sober and it was wonderful. I’m so happy that I can do all these things I felt doubtful about when I decided to quit drinking and this weekend (which, just like Paris, we booked before I abandoned the booze) was absolutely one of the things that made me hesitate. How could you possibly enjoy a mad weekend in Gothenburg – let alone a rock concert – without drinking? Turns out you totally can and that I enjoyed it much more than I would have if I’d still been on the juice. And no way would I have been able to stay through a whole concert, I would have been stressed out of my mind because the seat rows were stupidly narrow and it would have been impossible to keep running back and forth fetching more drinks. Instead we just sat there happily taking in the atmosphere and music, hubby nursing his beer like a normal person and felt no need to get another, and me occasionally taking a sip from my bottle of water. It was perfection.

My friend L’s husband also doesn’t drink alcohol. I’ve never heard him say he is an alcoholic or that he’s had problems, he’s only hinted that when he drinks it doesn’t turn out so great, but it’s not for me to draw conclusions although I don’t think he’s ever drunk the way I used to. As it happens, when they came to see us in London a couple of months ago, I quite openly shared with them not only that I’d quit drinking but also the reasons why. It’s funny actually, because when I first quit I was dreading the reactions from people. I mean, I’ve spent my whole adult life drinking like a sailor on leave so I expected people to be shocked and have a million questions that’d become uncomfortable. There’s been none of that and it was easy, liberating and really quite nice to just tell L and her husband about it. No judgement whatsoever, just sharing with friends that I trust. Because that’s one of the things I’m still a little weary of – it’s not always so easy to explain you’re a drunk and I’m sure there are times those words are met with disapproval and even disgust. It’s not a nice label to wear. Luckily, it would seem I have the best people in the world around me so up to this point I’ve only been met with love and kindness. Phew.

Anyway, after a day in the sun and wandering around the beautiful city that some call “Little London”, we got to that time when you really fancy finding a bar with an outdoor area where you can have a drink and chill out in the afternoon sun. Said and done, so we found this bar on a street corner and I was tossing up whether I wanted a coffee or a soft drink. Did I mention how I like the smell of beer? I only ever really drank wine and weirdly the smell of wine makes me shudder now – although I used to drink it at such break neck speed I suppose I never did smell it – but the smell of beer, mm….. So when L’s husband ordered an alcohol free beer for himself and turned to me to check if I wanted one, I happily obliged. See? This is what I mean about how nice and easy it was to share my new non-drinking approach to life with these lovely friends – it was just “OK, cool” and no big deal, and when we got to a bar I was offered something alcohol free, in this case beer! I’d forgotten that this is quite common in Sweden, alcohol free beer, and it exists because it means you can enjoy the taste but not have to worry about driving or getting drunk. Sensible little Swedes, gotta love’em.

When we found a lovely little area in a corner with a bit of shade to protect our red shoulders from more sun, I carefully scanned the label. 0.05% alcohol. You could quite literally drink 100 of those bottles and still be sober. Still, my fear was that even a trace of alcohol might set me off – WHAT IF? Then I realised my deodorant contains more alcohol than that and relaxed. Fuck me, was it good to have a beer! I could enjoy the taste and have a beer, it was SO nice. And that was IT! I wonder if this is what it’s like to not be an alcoholic, because nothing happened in me. That raging desire didn’t come to life and a while later I realised that on the table in front of me I saw something I have never seen before. L and my hubby had finished their regular beers and L’s hubby had finished his non-alco beer too. Left was my glass which was still half full. MY GLASS HAS NEVER EVER BEEN THE LAST ONE WITH DRINK LEFT IN IT BEFORE. And when they got some more drinks in, I still had plenty – there was no reason to drink any more than my actual thirst dictated because no alcohol had woken the beast in me. I looked at the table and was filled with joy.

beer

Later on when we were going to get on the ferry back across the harbour to our hotel, we stopped for another drink. Alcohol free beer can have up to 1% alcohol content I think, and the kind they had here had 0.5%. That made me feel uneasy and I decided against it. It’s still so low that I can’t imagine it’d wreck everything but on balance it wasn’t worth it for me. As much as I don’t REALLY care about the science behind the fact that I’m an alcoholic – I am a drunk and that’s that – or what happens biologically in my body when I take a drink, what was going around in my mind was “physical allergy” being part of it, and what if half a percent would be enough to trigger it all off? I wasn’t going to find out and see no need to play Russian Roulette with my health. As fantastic as it was to enjoy a beer, it would never, ever be worth risking my sobriety for. Funnily enough, I would never bother with and have no desire whatsoever to try alcohol free wine. Birra Moretti Zero though – yum!

But anyway! Whoever might read this – what do you think? Do you think alcohol free beer is playing with fire? Do you read this and see someone who is taking her first steps back into active alcoholism by claiming to drink because she likes the taste? Or do you see someone who likes the taste and can continue to enjoy alco-free beer without a care in the world? As always, I’m genuinely interested and more importantly, I know that if my drunkard’s brain were to take over I could probably make myself believe anything so any opinions or perspectives are welcome!

Hearts And Saucepans

Sometimes I wonder what my heart is up to and whether I need to have a doctor check that the old pump is in good order. I used to have spells of my heart beating rapidly when I was still drinking and put it down to just that, my drinking, but it’s happened a few times since I quit and did again a couple of days ago. Quite strange. Is it palpitations? Sometimes it feels like my heart skips a beat and gets all uneven. OK, I’m going to stop or I’ll end up Googling all this and self diagnosing with the scariest thing I can find. It does seem odd because now I don’t seem to have any logical explanation for how my heart sometimes decides to race.

A good night’s sleep was all I wanted. I’d got up at 4am yesterday with hubby who was off on a work trip so I was looking forward to an early night and a solid ten hours. It wasn’t to be. Bambino had two friends with him and the last time I very sternly told them off was at 3.30am and got a loud fart as a response. I was going to get two saucepans to violently bang together to create a wake up symphony for those little arseholes but then decided this might just be too humiliating for my son plus I don’t know these two friends particularly well and didn’t much fancy getting phone calls from angry parents for scaring their little angels. I am so tired I am struggling to stay awake though.

Not much to say about sobriety today except I’m so knackered that I wouldn’t even be able to lift a shot glass. I’d pay good money to be able to go to bed right now. I’m even too tired to feel excited about our weekend away.

 

Today I’m not going to drink.