Tiny Splinters

I think I’ve been hiding a little behind my alcoholism. Needless to say, being an active alcoholic means your world shrinks and the booze renders you pretty useless – or at least this was the case for me. No way was I able to achieve anything I wanted when I was forever trapped in a vicious circle of being hammered, being destroyed by hangovers or busy planning my next drink. Round and round I went and there was no fourth option, just going around that vicious spiral deeper and deeper until I was so exhausted I couldn’t do it anymore. Yes, drinking meant I couldn’t keep fit – how could I possibly attempt going for a run (or even a walk) when I felt so ill I couldn’t even stand up? How could I possibly string a sentence together, never mind write a book, when even making a doctor’s appointment was more than my fuzzy head could cope with (dial, speak… …no)? Getting out to see friends was akin to swimming with sharks without the damn cage and don’t get me started on jewellery making – why don’t YOU try to solder a small piece of metal and balance a tiny solder splinter on a tiny, almost invisible seam when you have the shakes and are so hungover it’s even affecting your eyesight? Oh, and add a blow torch and acid just for fun. Besides, you would have to be upright so it’s a moot point anyway. Hell, even walking down the road to buy some milk represented an insurmountable challenge most of the time, as did getting the mail from the postboxes on the ground floor and taking the rubbish out.

Luckily I’d got to the point where I realised that it was the booze that made everything this way. Oh, I know, crazy isn’t it? Like it’d be anything else, but a drunkard’s logic alongside furious denial is a very powerful thing. I knew it had in earnest begun its final descent and had isolated me as well as removed all my chances of being the person I’m meant to be. I could see that. I understood that my drinking was holding me back in every way possible. Of course this wasn’t always the case – at one point I was more receptive to the possibility that I might suffer from a mental disorder than consider my drinking as a possible reason why I couldn’t leave the house. Such are the workings of a drunkard’s mind. But eventually I was just at a point where the real culprit was staring me in the face.

Once I truly accepted that my drinking was causing me all manner of harm – and don’t get me wrong, I thank higher powers every fucking day that I did get to that point – I think I also found myself a nice little hiding place. Haven’t pursued my writing in a serious manner? Well, I’m an alcoholic! How could I? Unproductive at work? Well, I got here, didn’t I? Despite a hangover caused by two and a half bottles of wine last night, I made it in so just get off my back, alright? Unfit and given up on the running? Who could possibly do exercise when actively exercising their right to be a drunk? As shitty as it is to be a drunk, it did give me a solid reason I could point to from inside my victim cocoon and blame for all my shortcomings and failures.

See? Being a drunk has its advantages too, and in my case it gave me a nice little one stop shop of excuses that I could hide behind. Poor me, right? And there was also a big part of me that, once I got to my turning point and wanted to get out of that damn bottle, thought everything would just magically fall into place once I’d rid myself of the juice. I think I kind of thought I’d suddenly shine at work. And why not? It’s not rocket science and everything I need to do I could do in my sleep. No tasks are challenging and whilst I was still drinking that was probably a really good thing as it allowed me to focus on just surviving each fucking day without attempting to do anything more complicated than add up some invoices. So I had some idea that once I was sober I’d be a super star and it’d all be magnificent. Well, at any rate that I’d do a low level job brilliantly if that makes sense. Truth is that I’m probably doing an even worse job than before! I’ve not shone one bit – if anything, being sober has done nothing but underline to me how utterly pointless my job is. Of course it was only ever meant to be a Plan B that was meant to sit alongside my Actual Passions (writing and jewellery making) and bring in some money whilst I pursued those, and for a Plan B it’s in truth really fabulous: it’s local, the hours fit perfectly and I work for lovely people. But…. It just feels like a waste of time and the sad reality is that I’m doing a really shockingly bad job. Even sober and therefore at my full wits, I can’t seem to give it any of the energy or clarity of mind I’m now enjoying. It’s not fair on the people I work for and it’s not fair on myself either.

One of the bloggers I follow – Acquiescent Soul – recently expressed how he’s gone from hopeless and sad to frustrated and angry. Although I can’t say I feel angry, I definitely feel frustrated and as I commented to AS I could probably advise myself too: use it as a springboard to find that Real Purpose. It’s always easier to fix other people’s problems than your own, simply because you can see the issue and point at it but you’re not the one who actually has to do the work, but I realised when I typed my comment to his last blog post that what I was saying was as much to myself as it was to him.

With risk of sounding like I’m obsessed with Dimples, the personal trainer with whom I’m having a few sessions to get me started on getting fit, but she said something that really sums a lot of it up: “Your body isn’t Amazon Prime. Don’t expect it to turn up in two days.” Something like that. But that goes not only for getting fit, it goes for everything I might want to achieve. It’s relevant as hell, because I think on some level I did sort of expect life in general now that I’m sober to have that Amazon Prime-esque slant to it.

Quitting drinking doesn’t mean I’ll automatically go and collect the Nobel Prize for Literature any more than it’ll mean I can suddenly run 10k in under an hour the next morning. Work is required. I have to write the first sentence and many thousands to follow it before I can even have shot at getting published, there has to be A Book and that book needs to be written. If I want to be the author, I have to be the person writing it and that includes the first sentence, the thousands to follow and probably blood, sweat and tears being part of the process too.

Getting physically fit now that my body is no longer ravaged by alcohol also requires work. Nope, I couldn’t fit into my skinny jeans after my second session with Dimples but I swear to God there was part of me that fully expected I’d be at least able to pull them up over my hips. Ridiculous, isn’t it? But nope, I have to work and I have to work hard. My first couple of runs were SHITE. I have the 10k app because this is the distance I want to regularly jog, and each run is so far a mixture of walking and running. The first time, still in Amazon Prime mode, I’d selected Week 5. Oh yeah. Walk one minute, run for five. Couldn’t do it. I haven’t gone back to Week 1 – because I just fucking won’t, OK? – but did rewind to Week 3: walk 90 seconds, run 90 seconds, walk 3 minutes, run 3 minutes and then repeat. This I could do. Quite hard the first time but the next easier. A lot easier, even. It’s happening – I am getting fitter and stronger but I’m not getting it for free and nor am I getting it fast. It feels fucking good though and worth every last aching, sweating muscle burn.

Dad turns 70 in September and my brother, golden boy D, has made him a hunting knife. Dad is big on hunting and he collects hunting knives – the handmade, perfectly crafted and often quite ornate ones that you don’t find south of a few thousand krona. And D wanted this sister of his to make the holder for the belt in silver. And I have! It’s not as perfect as the knife and its sheath but it’s handmade by me and I didn’t have to keep re-doing the soldering as I was steady and focused enough to get it right the first time I aimed the blow torch at the silver pieces I needed to fuse together.

And my Plan B job is never going to be fulfilling unless I make it so. I’m in touch with an addiction support charity and will see if one of their administration roles might work. It’s volunteering and would require one day per week. This would probably work with my current job as my employers previously were happy with me doing my jewellery course one day per week. Start on that basis and then who knows what might open up for me once I have my foot in the door of a building I’m keen to enter? I want to pay it forward, this gift of sobriety. Sure, I’m still new-ish on this journey and much work is ahead of me when it comes to ME – a whole lifetime of work, no doubt – but if I can in any way use all those years of heavy drinking to reach others and perhaps even be that one person who really gets what they’re going through or be of help in some other way, then hey – that’d be one of my greatest achievements.

Bottom line is that quitting drinking isn’t enough to make everything the way it should be or to get me on fast forward to everything I want to do and achieve, but it allows me to take the first step, write the first sentence, show up for the things I want to show up for, hold steady when soldering metal and, well, get GOING. I can begin to put the work in now, towards whatever it may be. Drinking kept me down and I knew that, but the lesson is realising that sobriety won’t in itself pull me up – it will just allow for me building enough muscle to get myself out of the pit, but that is really a miracle in its own right to be honest. I suppose it’s called freedom.

first step

Funny…. It’s been flickering around somewhere in the periphery, just little glimmers of what my book might be, but I see it more and more now. Perhaps my voice belongs with those others who account for a life wasted drinking and living once again in sobriety? Maybe that’s the book I am meant to write? I’m sure Alice will patiently wait, my main character whom despite drinking I’ve spent so much time, love and energy carefully crafting. She’ll understand. As long as John doesn’t go and die, he’s well into his 80s and I need him in the story. Hah. Enough.

Today I’m not going to drink.

A String of Gems and Hope

It really feels like the last week of summer, and I suppose it is. There has been a definite turn in the weather and now with the August Bank Holiday weekend and Notting Hill carnival behind us, autumn is right on the doorstep. This is fine by me – I love autumn. Over sized scarves and sweaters, dark evenings, candle light and hot drinks spiced with cinnamon. Hah! That last bit was interesting as I suppose I would normally have mentioned mulled wine and had to think for a second there about what I might be drinking this first sober autumn I have ahead of me. Well. There’s alcohol free mulled wine should I feel like it, but I suspect as with regular wine I won’t be interested in the alcohol free version. Yep, summer is over and it’s a grey Tuesday here in London with the temperature just nudging 20 degrees. No more tank tops and shorts – it’s back to long sleeves and jeans.

But what a summer! Actually – what a YEAR it’s been so far, and I still have my favourite season and Christmas to look forward to!

2018 started off the way my years normally do: with a severe hangover. Some years I’ve attempted a dry January (and to be fair, mostly managed just fine) but this year I didn’t even consider it. Monday 22nd January I called in sick because I was so hungover I couldn’t move. That evening I acknowledged I was in serious trouble and finally reached out to my husband and spelled it out: I AM AN ALCOHOLIC, I CAN’T GO ON LIKE THIS AND I AM FRIGHTENED. 23rd January my decision was made – I knew I wanted and needed to get sober and sort my life out. And I’ve done my best. I’ve not done a perfect job but where I am compared with where I was going is a miracle. (Oh, I bloody HATE it when sober folk yap on about miracles but this is probably why. No two ways about it – the way I drank and the sheer quantities of wine I put away amounted to “suicidal drinking”. Yes, that’s a thing). So whilst the year did begin with monstrous drinking, I gave myself the best gift: sobriety and a shot at life again.

And 2018 has been a string of magical gems that I have been present for: Ronnie Scott’s, friends over from Sweden, Paris, Foo Fighters in Gothenburg, the Mighty Hike, Lipari, Sweden…. Pretty amazing. To just think I initially thought I’d enjoy life less without the chance to poison myself and actively working to shorten my life whilst hurting my loved ones in the process. Yes, it’s madness, it’s all fucking madness.

Yesterday hubby and I went for a walk around the park. I was tired due to the world’s most uncomfortable bed at a little hotel in the Chilterns where I took hubby for a little getaway. But off we went. We did both comment during our walk that we were walking faster than usual. Hubby had a sore back and hasn’t been allowed much exercise so the last time he came with me on a walk was back in July before our holidays. Normally it takes us one hour and 35-37 minutes, around the inner perimeter of the park which is exactly 10k. 1.31! Felt awesome! Walked fast enough to get a tiny bit breathless and sweaty. Must be the work of Dimples and getting back into running – I’m getting stronger! I must be! And make no mistake – I’m getting stronger because I am able to be the person I was always meant to be, and that person loves being active and feeling strong. I don’t know if I agree with Dimples when she says I “look strong” during the exercise sessions but I am absolutely starting to feel it. As it happens she is away for a week so no sessions until next week now, but I have contacted the gym and will be signing up this week so that by the time our last sessions are done I’ll seamlessly be working out solo too.

If you’d told me last year at this point that I would go on to enjoy all these things booze free and then sign up for the gym too, I’m not sure I would have believed you. I would have wanted it to be true, definitely, but I doubt I would have had the courage to actually believe it. Hopelessness in the face of alcoholism would have made it all seem so far fetched. Like a utopia, almost. And yet it isn’t. Perhaps I’m not free yet, perhaps I’ll never be fully free but I’ll happily settle for what I have now. My addiction has been forced into a cage and that’s amazing, but I’ll just have to accept that I can’t look away for too long because the cage has no lock. But I can live with that. If that’s as free as I can ever get, it’s still a win.

Progress, not perfection, as they say. But this IS perfection as far as I’m concerned. Every last minute that I’m sober is perfection.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Cool Mama?

Oh, just a little side note as it actually turned into a lovely moment. Last night when Bambino and I were just chilling out after dinner I suggested we do something together on Saturday just he and I. He gave me an amused look.

OK, like what?” he asked, “give me a proposition then.

How about we head to Thorpe Park?” I offered all hopeful that he and I could have a real ball of a time at this amusement park, knowing I can get on the scariest rides now that I’m not battling hangovers.

Bambino’s face went blank for a second and he stared at me, brow furrowed, then a little smile pulled at the corners of his mouth and his eyes glittered. And then he dissolved in fits of laughter.

That’s literally the worst idea ever!” he gasped between uncontrollable giggles, “imagine if I bumped into friends, oh I’m here with MUMMY!

He fell to his side on the sofa and clutched his middle, howling with laughter. And I realised how ridiculous it was and nearly snorted some coffee out through my nose during a badly timed sip. Found myself throwing my head back and laughing out loud too and there we are, both with our eyes tearing from all the giggling. I want to believe we actually bonded a little but perhaps I just really confirmed to him how desperately uncool I am.

Yes, I suggested a day at Thorpe Park “with MUMMY” for my teenager. It would seem I’ve turned into precisely the sort of out-of-touch parent I used to think my own parents were when I myself was Bambino’s age, and it was even funnier when I put myself in my old teenage Doc Martens and imagined how I would have felt about a day at the fair with my mum. I’m laughing now just typing it. Fuckinell, it’s comedy gold!

Choke Holds and Limitations

Phew – I think I’m nearly there now. I was really nervous this time because it was all stacked against me: home alone, a great mood, feeling awesome mentally and physically too, and two days off which meant the nights before would have been an “excellent” time to chug wine. And I didn’t. I fucking didn’t. I’m so relieved I feel a little tearful, actually. Cherokee checked in on me last night and like I said to her on the message string, it’s absolutely terrifying how my alcoholic brain still has a grip on me. And it’s not a loose grip either, it’s a choke hold and claws that tear into my throat. What’s terrifying is that I know there are only shitty consequences to drinking, and what’s more, it brings nothing positive with it. Beyond that, I don’t actually want to!! I don’t want to drink, I don’t want to sit home alone completely hammered and I certainly don’t want to ruin this sober life I am building for myself. How is it, that this awful thing that I know would kill me, still is something I have to be so weary of? But in a way this is probably a good thing, that I keep this awareness and my wits about me, that I accept I’ll never be completely safe.

Have another session with the lovely Dimples today, which I’m sure will be worse than the hottest part of hell given I’m achy from the session two days ago but I’m looking forward to it. Working out feels really good. At the time, I get to several points during the workouts when I genuinely think I’m just going to have to give up, but then Dimples magically manages to push me and afterwards I feel like a super woman. Oh, I know – a personal trainer is indulgent on a grand scale but I can tell you right now that had I joined a gym and gone solo it would have been a maiden voyage and nothing beyond. With Dimples I have the luxury of her telling and showing me what to do, combined with her expertise in how to build a good gym session. Being faced with gym facilities without this would have been pointless. Plus, had I been in a gym on my own doing the circuits Dimples put me through last time I would have packed it in after the two. I certainly wouldn’t have attempted that shit storm called burpees more than the once, that’s for sure. So it’s an education for me, pushing beyond my self perceived limitations. This is what I needed to discover – how to put myself through my paces and stretch beyond where my body might start to complain.

I am desperately unfit though and my impatient nature does mean I half expect (oh, who am I kidding – I completely expected it!!) to see significant results after just three sessions, but life is now teaching me a whole new approach. Sobriety and fitness are similar in that respect – neither is easy (or quick), but if I keep at it my life will be rich beyond my dreams and the results will be amazing. I just can’t snap my fingers, do the plank for half a minute and expect that to be all the work that was required. And as much as I do enviously glance at Dimples and note how toned and fit she is, I also remind myself that she works at it. Perhaps she is one of those fortunate people who gets a lot for free, but her arms don’t look the way they do because she sits on her arse all day. And she doesn’t have good skin because she chain smokes either. Dimples is toned and fit and healthy because she works at it and takes care of herself so how in God’s name could I expect to, after half a life time of smoking and heavy drinking, rock up for a training session and walk out an hour later looking like Dimples? This will, like sobriety, require my commitment and lots of dedication. And I owe this to myself.

But here we are and there was something I very nearly forgot – yesterday was my 7 months anniversary. Well, 7 with a little slip, let’s keep this honest shall we? My slip was just before my 6 months and it pisses me off, but there is always a lesson and I suppose it just really showed me (once again) how alcohol does absolutely nothing for me. This week was a little scary but I think I just need to sometimes also give myself a little credit and recognise that I can actually do this. I can’t master burpees yet, but I will hopefully get to a point where I can get my body to obey there too.

I’ve got this. So tell me, when do you feel fearful of the Beast getting to you? Do you ever end up in the sort of perfect storm that two nights this week presented me with? I.e. your combination of triggers thrown at you all at once? I’d love to know.

Today I’m not going to drink.

A Self Centered Pity Party

Holy crap – welcome, folks, to Anxietyville! It’s not a fantastic place to be but is where I have spent much of the past three nights. I’m not letting it get the better of me, and besides, a good mood is my trigger rather than feeling on edge so perhaps I’m safer than ever?

My son has a complicated relationship with his father. I don’t want to go into detail because again I don’t want to put anyone in an awkward situation if this blog ever did wind up in front of people I’m actually writing about and so I want to keep it as anonymous as I can and disguise everyone as best I can, and ideally beyond recognition. At the very least, I don’t want to air anyone else’s dirty laundry, just my own. So, suffice to say it’s been a difficult year and a half during which my heart has ached for Bambino. It would seem they are now finding their way back to each other and whilst this is freaking amazing news, it also fills me with dread because it would take so little for it all to fall apart again. I don’t think my ex-husband would disagree if I do say openly here that I’m not his favourite person and he therefore refuses to speak to me. This is OK, of course, but does make things slightly tricky if we’re now approaching a situation where we are co-parenting again. So anyway, Bambino spent the night at his dad’s for the first time since January 2017 and they had planned quality time together Monday, after which Bambino was meant to come home. I got a text in the afternoon saying he was going to stay another couple of nights.

I really have to rein myself in – this is a good thing! A really GREAT thing, even. But his text had tinges of what didn’t sound like Bambino and I had a real battle on my hands staying calm and telling myself all was well. In the end he did call me and I was reassured he was fine and it was nothing at all like the sinister scenarios that my mind cooked up. Still. My 13-yearold sends brief text messages to inform me he’s not coming home. If he stays the night at a friend’s place I won’t allow him unless I am in touch with the adult(s) in charge. OK, it’s his father, but even so, this doesn’t sit well with me but I guess I just have to suck it up. He’s coming home today, or at least that’s what he told me yesterday, and I do hope this is the start of spending time regularly at his dad’s again. A fractured relationship with a parent can fuck us up endlessly and it’s the last thing I want for my son. Says the alcoholic. But you know what I mean. This is a real test for me and I am doing my very best to let it go, hold back and focus on what’s important here. This I am obviously much better placed to do sober (just imagine what pouring wine on this would be like) and any anxiety I feel is totally irrelevant. I think it’s true what they say in AA, how us alkies are incredibly self centred – Drunk Me certainly is – and this is a fine example of a situation where I have to give myself a slap across the face and grow some balls. This is not about me or how I feel. Not one bit.

Hubby is still away and this morning I really, really missed him when I had my morning coffee. This is our little morning ritual, see. Whoever’s getting in the shower first sticks it on, by the time we’ve both showered it’s brewed and ready and we have our little morning chat on the sofa. It’s not like it’s ever been a case of agreeing to do this, it’s just what we do and this morning when I sat there on my own in my empty home I really wished hubby could have been there.

OK, that’s enough now – I’ve had my pity party, so let’s move on!

I’m really keen to put my drinking to good use. I mean, it did me no good whatsoever, so it’d seem like a waste to have fought as hard as I did to drink for no reason. Yes, being an active alcoholic is really, really tough – I know I’ve said this a hundred times, but I can’t stress it enough – and I have nothing to show for it. What I do have is the gift of sobriety that I intend to hold on to with all I have, and I feel such a strong desire to reach out and help other alcoholics who are still suffering. I know there has to be a place for me there, that perhaps I can just reach that ONE person and show that I know what it’s like to be there but also that there’s a way out. This is something I need to pursue, whilst never losing sight of the work I will have to continue to do myself to remain sober and have the life that I want.

And life really is so amazing when I don’t poison myself. No black-outs that I have to figure out like a detective, no days wasted to crippling hangovers and no alcohol induced anxiety or low moods. Now I’m just my usual delightful hurricane of emotions but sober I can bloody deal with them. Please, never let me lose sight of this, never let me lose my grip.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Jack’s Fractured House

Two posts in a day! See? When I’m ME and full of energy and have a clear mind, I have fucking LOTS to say! This is in spite of what might have turned into a terrible night’s sleep, but it would seem I am actually getting quite good at handling my feelings.

We went to bed as usual and cuddled up with hubby snoozing against my shoulder as I read for a while. The sleep wave came as it normally does when I read and I put my Kindle away, removed my glasses, checked my alarm was set and turned off the light. Snuggled in to warm hubby and that was that. Only it wasn’t. Perhaps it was a bit of anxiety at flying solo when he is away this week coupled in with a tinge of worry over Bambino spending the night at his dad’s given they have a fractured relationship and I wasn’t sure how it would go. Lay awake for a while but realised that my thoughts and emotions weren’t about to slow down, so fumbled in the dark for my glasses and Kindle and my dressing gown and went into the livingroom. And there I stayed, reading on the sofa until I was confident my mind had got back to the appropriate speed limits. And then that really was that and despite it being 1am by the time I came back to bed I did sleep those few hours soundly until my alarm went as usual at 6am. Feel quite proud of that, actually – I just accepted it for what it was (speeding thoughts and emotions) and dealt with it, just read my book until they were done. Yay!

The book I was reading (and finished) was ‘I’ll Stop Tomorrow’ by Paul Campbell, by the way, and I might talk about that some other time. Heavily leaning on AA and its philosophy and it did highlight some stuff I really don’t agree with as well as outline lots of stuff I do, so I’ll come back to it I’m sure.

Did I mention I joined a sobriety Facebook group? Yes I did, it’s the group for The Naked Mind for those who use this as part of their toolkit in getting sober and it’s super interesting to read posts and comments from others who are kicking the booze. There’s a good mixture – you have the alcoholics like me who sank quite far, you have some alcoholics who sank deeper and some who didn’t sink very far at all, you have those who drank “a bit too much” and really the whole register down to those who are only quitting temporarily for a health kick. Today someone asked how much we used to drink before we quit. Now, THAT is a question I am hesitant to answer!

I’ve been open on this blog when it comes to the amounts I used to drink of course, but even here I often hesitate and wonder if it’s such a good idea because I don’t know who you are who’s reading this, much less your situation. What if you’re me of, say, a few years ago? And what if, when I say I drank on average two and a half bottles of wine per day, you look at this and it’s more than you drink? And what if you look at this and take it to mean you don’t have a problem because just LOOK at how much Anna used to drink! I’m nowhere near as bad as that! That must mean I’m Just Fine. Tricky one, isn’t it? So I said exactly that, that I didn’t want to say in case me of yesteryear might see it and deduct she’s absolutely fine when in fact she might not be fine at all? Honesty in all its glory but what if that honesty could cause harm? Then again, whilst my amount of booze might fill one person with comfort that they’re not so bad, it might signal to another that oh shit, I drink more than Anna and she feels SHE has a problem. Damn, where does that leave me?! Swings and roundabouts I suppose.

Perhaps this is only interesting for me but it made me think about whether I spill all the beans, and when and where it is safe to do so. It’d be really shitty if I was the reason a budding alcoholic sank much further, so if you are me of yesteryear can I just say this: if you regularly drink more than you intended and find you can’t stop once you take that first drink…. Well…. I think we all deep down know when our drinking is a problem, a developing problem or anything else that isn’t quite “normal” but if that does apply to you, then perhaps have a little.. ….THINK, as Aretha Franklin puts it. And may she rest in peace – what a sad loss for the world but nowhere near as tragic as those amazing talents who left us too soon because booze and drugs. Sweet Lord, I am really preaching today!

I have two Aretha Franklin songs on the playlist I’ve put together for running. ‘Think’ is indeed one but this is my favourite, I can’t get enough of it – if I am at home I can’t stop myself from singing along and dancing and if I’m out on a run it puts a spring in my step:

Thoughts and emotions are welcome here and today I’m not going to drink.

Guerrilla Tactics

It’s a beautiful Monday morning and London seems to be going in to that seam between summer and autumn with a freshness to the air that feels so good after the humidity of the past months. Still humid and a little muggy and I sweated a freaking ocean on my run yesterday. When I say ‘run’ I refer to the total of 12 minutes I actually jogged. Have a 10k app that is supposed to get me up to speed again. Or not speed perhaps, just get me to a state where I can chug along 10k without having to stop jogging and walk. All in good time. But yes, a gloriously beautiful morning here.

You could say that where I am right now is like the scene from Jaws, think it’s the first one with that woman swimming along and you hear the ominous music that signals the approach of Sharkie-doo with the camera shot zooming in on her from deep in the water below:

  1. Beautiful day.
  2. I feel rested, content and happy.
  3. Add feeling of additional physical wellness due to PT sessions and getting back into running.
  4. I have tomorrow off – albeit standard August procedure, not my Drunkard’s Planning.
  5. Hubby is at Heathrow about to board a flight to the States.

jaws

Oh yeah, I’m that chick in the water and Sharkie-doodle-doo is lurking in the depths below. Do I trust in strength I want to believe I have? Or do I ask for help? I didn’t fucking plan to develop alcoholism! If it had been part of the plan I wouldn’t have moved abroad, because right about now it would be really good to speak the following words:

  1. Hey Mum, I’m OK so don’t worry, but today is a tight spot for me so I’m staying with you for a few days until hubby’s back. 
  2. Dad! How’s it going? Let’s go moose spotting and don’t drop me home until after 11pm because I’ll never want to start drinking that late. 
  3. Hi there brother D, I’m sorry to do this to you but I’m not home dry yet so I’m going to camp out in your spare room. Thanks. 
  4. Cherokee, I feel a tad wobbly so would you mind babysitting me? Yep, I know, ridiculous but all I need is just your presence and we’ll have a nice time I promise.

Well. Those luxuries are far away and so I’ll just have to make do with the anchors I do have and I feel cautiously confident it’ll be fine. There are people I can reach out to here too should I need it, but it never hurts to have a plan and I do. Groceries arrive between 3 and 4pm (can’t be drunk). Window man is over at 5pm to measure everything up (can’t be bloody pissed for that, now can I?). Going for a 10k walk (not possible even with the THOUGHT of booze in my head because the only place I’ll walk then is the fucking store).

The heaviest anchor is Bambino, who is arriving back today after staying at his dad’s last night. I’ve been as open as I can with him and have explained everything except the A-word and just a couple of days ago I received a hug from him with the words “you’re doing well, Mum, I’m proud of you“. It was after I’d been for a gym session and walked back in, and I can promise you that he wasn’t referring to how many squats I’d done. My kid is over-joyed because I’ve quit drinking – if I then decide to take up knitting or train spotting he doesn’t give a honking hoot about. I don’t even think he’d care if I decided to join the circus so long as I’m sober. He might not spell it out but it was me quitting drinking that he meant and nothing else. In a way that makes me want to punch myself in the face. No 13-yearold should ever have to tell their goddamn parent they’re proud of them for not getting smashed on a daily basis anymore. But there we are, I can’t change any of that now, but what I can do is continue to show my boy that I want to be the best I can be and that I’m working hard at this. For all my failures and everything I’ve fucked up, this is my little chance to show him I can do and be better. Not even this rotten drunk would get drunk in front of Bambino now. Not behind his back either. Never again. For such a skinny little twig he is the heaviest anchor of them all.

I’ll be honest, there is no ping! in my head. I’ve felt like this every time hubby’s been away though. We talked about it last night, how I’ve felt a bit vulnerable each time he’s gone away with work but how it’s been fine in the end. Reality has never lived up to my worries beforehand. It rarely does, right? Perhaps it’s a good thing though, to worry like this? I’m going to see it that way I think, that it’s positive that I’m aware of the fact that this is really my weakest point – solitude and a good mood – and I’m just getting myself a little worked up but that the sense of vulnerability is actually serving me well. The Beast doesn’t fight fair, it’s all guerrilla and surprise tactics, but it’s always harder for it to get me when I’m anticipating an attack. The Beast would be much more likely to get me when I don’t expect it. See? I’ve got this.

I’ve been nervous before when hubby’s gone but when push has come to shove it’s actually been fine. That’s the thing with worrying. Like when I have to have a needle. It’s the size of Burj Khalifa in my head but then turns out it’s no big deal at all. Someone said that worrying is like a rocking chair: it’ll keep you occupied but won’t get you anywhere. Well, that makes worrying seem really pointless, but I’m going to stick my neck out and say that when it comes to alcoholism it’s actually another tool. OK, hopefully I’ll always discover that hey, I was fine in the end and any worry I felt was totally needless, but better that than getting ambushed by a monster that doesn’t play fair.

There’s one thing I’m really determined to get right, and again hubby and I spoke about it last night. As much as it’s OK to need those around you, I can’t bloody make my sobriety hang on other people. Hubby is my bestie and I have this whole army of amazing friends and a kick-ass family, but THIS IS MY FIGHT. They can come watch and they can cheer me on and even wipe my brow and hand me a bottle of water, but I can’t remove my gloves or flee from the ring if they leave the arena. I have to keep fighting even when the whole crowd is cheering on my opponent. Go Sauvignon Blanc! Finish her! Even then I have to fight. So me being sober today has to come from me. I have to focus on that I don’t want to drink and not worry because I’m flying solo for a few short days. No, I can’t go and stay at Mum’s, nor can I have a babysitter. I just have to pull on my big girl pants and show who’s boss.

Most of all, I’m reminding myself why I don’t want to drink. I’m forcing myself to in my head list positive things that drinking would bring – there aren’t any, only lots of bad shit. Nothing else.

I’ve got this.

Today I’m not going to drink.

On the Other Side of the River

I’ve got this feeling, inside my bones…. Timberlake has put it very well and the song may as well be the soundtrack. Kind of in the background a little initially but it’s right there even from early in the day, and when I give the feeling a bit of attention it intensifies and makes me happy. Work is frustrating because I just want it out of the way. I know the exact route and the journey itself is almost half the excitement. Just thinking about the journey is exciting and fills me with impatience – come on, TODAY, pass! When I can finally leave work I am in a goddamn excellent mood and hop into my little car. I tootle down along the fields, the scenic route with protected views of the river – yes, it’s so beautiful it’s a protected area, this little patch of London – then a left across the bridge. By now I’m humming along, because I’ve REALLY got this feeling. Yes, inside my bones. Oh, it’s is all encompassing and all consuming. There is nothing else. I have no time or energy for anything else.

On the other side of the river now, approaching the traffic lights where I turn right into the High Street. I’ve got that sunshine in my pocket…. This feeling is not even worth trying to fight and by now I am no longer in charge of my limbs as I just dance, dance, dance… I grab a coconut water as I walk past the chilled section because I have it in my head that this contains potassium, which is good to have when you poison yourself. If it happens to be somewhere on my route where I immediately can see and grab it without stopping (let alone having to look for it) I grab a box of Dioralyte too for rehydration. Nowhere to hide when I’m getting you close and I round the corner to the left and grab a bottle of soda water from the shelves on the right without stopping – I’m on autopilot and I could find my way around this store blindfolded. My movements are fluid and I don’t skip a beat, I’d probably look quite good in some sort of musical just about now. And then another left and I almost skip around that corner. Chilled booze to my right but I don’t like having three glass bottles that clink together and betray my mission to the world, and I glance lovingly down to my left. “Sainsbury’s Own” – which means the supermarket chain’s own, shitty brand – Soave. A neat little box that holds three bottles without any of the annoying, treacherous fucking clinking! Cheap, dry, white plonk. Fairly pleasant and even more so when diluted with a bit of fizz from the soda when we move, well, you already know

My shame alarm centre registers a signal as I’m in the queue as well as when I hand my basked to the cashier but I push it back and disable it and it disappears anyway when the contents of my basket – a box of wine, a bottle of soda water and a small coconut water container – are placed in the bag. I don’t use the self check-out because when you buy booze you have to get the cashier over anyway to approve the purchase so this is quicker. Out! I’m nearly there!

The five minute drive up the High Street and home consists of me visualising the step process. I tap my fingers on the steering wheel impatiently as I have to stop by the traffic lights. Finally home it’s much like my Sound of Music dance through the supermarket aisles, I don’t even remove my shoes or put down my handbag because there is nothing I can see but you when you dance, dance, dance. Wine box and soda out of the bag, break in to it and fill a regular drinking glass with two thirds wine and a bit of soda and then ice cubes to make it palatable – who wants warm wine? A couple of greedy gulps and I note I’ve swigged a third (was it really a COUPLE of gulps?) so top it up straight away. Phew! NOW I can remove my shoes and with less hurry I put the box and soda and the coconut water in the fridge. Shoes off, bag down, change into trackie bottoms and put my hair up, as if it’d get in the way but heck, I’m not chancing it.

Just us now. Sofa. My phone. Sometimes laptop. And my usual reminder to myself: DON’T PUT ANY SHIT ON FACEBOOK. I sometimes mean to write this on a sheet of paper to put up somewhere I can see and hopefully register it even once I’m in black-out. See, when I go into no man’s land and lose time, I’m no longer me and I don’t even know that person so God knows what they might do. My only way of reaching that chick is by putting up a note. Sometimes she goes and posts stuff on Facebook, other times she’s written toe curlingly embarrassing e-mails and other times I see from the call lists on my phone that she’s had phone conversations too. All a blank to me. Seeing the evidence of the call with name and duration is ALL that I’ll know of it. It could be half an hour of conversation that is a mystery to me. Oh, the amount of times I’ve pretended to remember a conversation, taking cues from whoever and nodding and trying to appear all “oh yes, of course“. But at this stage, I’m still here. The first glass isn’t – except of course those first gulps I take before I do anything else – all that fast. The familiar taste with bubbles fills me with peace. Mm….

My shame alarm centre does send off a signal right around here but I switch it off. Put it away quickly, away with it! Why in God’s name be so negative and pay attention to how sad it is that I’m sitting here with my wine? Alone. On the sofa. With my phone. No, no, no! Best get on with it! I take a good swig and feel the bubbles wash down my throat as I dive into the wine wave, I feel that hot blood in my body when it drops oohhh… Glasses two and three are considerably faster and now I feel really great! Joyful, excited, full of love and enthusiasm. This is where I might text a few people. I’m loving EVERYONE and EVERYTHING now. Or I might even make a few phone calls if I’m reasonably confident I won’t slur – sometimes I slur half way through the first drink (why though?) but usually I’m OK with speech until I’m heading for drink four. Yes, Drunk Me does make calls before black-out sometimes but that’s OK – or less NOT OK – because these texts and calls I can remember and I’m actually IN them. Embarrassing, sure, sometimes, but these are in the grand scheme of things fine. No sweat. I once again remind myself to perhaps put up that note for the stranger in black-out that I can’t otherwise reach but as usual I don’t bother. Or forget. I can’t be sure which.

Hubby is away and texts. I tell him I am having an early night because I don’t want to have that conversation at 10pm when 1) I’ll be fucking hammered out of my skull, and 2) quite likely be in black-out anyway. It’ll just worry him so better if he thinks I went to bed early. Why drag any innocent bystanders into the pool of shame or worse, worry or hurt the ones I love? No, no, no – THAT would be selfish, no?

Glasses four and five are so fast I’m not sure I can accurately account for them. May I remind you these aren’t standard 175ml wine measures? I’m drinking from a full size regular glass which at a guess holds 400ml out of which I’d estimate that at least 300ml is wine. I don’t really know what happens during glass four and five, except I put them away with lightning speed and it goes electric wavy when I turn it on and six and seven are when it’s definitely getting VERY blurry. This is, if I don’t hit black-out (in which case I obviously can’t AT ALL tell you a single fucking thing), when I sit there and have the Drunken Shakes. This isn’t a little tremor and is NOT to be confused with hangover shakes, this is something else altogether. These are jerky, unsteady movements that mainly affect my hands and arms. Arms most of all, they are that pronounced, too big to affect small extremities like fingers. If I sit there slumped like I often do at this point, with the glass in my hand resting against my leg, it takes all my might to not only lift it (and lift it I must) but hold it steady. I often knock it against my face when I get like this. Am I like this in black-out? Does it happen then too? Well, I don’t fucking know, do I? You tell me.

I wake up. Don’t know much. Look around me only moving my eyes. I got drunk, didn’t I? The overpowering feeling of shame and dread finds me immediately and I cringe as I grab my phone, my first point of call when I need to figure out what happened. Speak to anyone? Oh, look, I talked to both of my grandmothers. I push it away and disable the signals from my shame alarm centre – their hearing is bad anyway so if I slurred they probably didn’t notice, right? Anything on Facebook? No, thank God, but I did make comments – oh no, oh fuck no, SEVERAL COMMENTS – on a political post and unless you’re blind drunk yourself it’s very obvious I’ve drink’n’dialled here. Delete. No texts. Safari history… Watched a bit of porn, eh? Classy. I am unsteady and there is no way I can leave the house, good job I’m so organised and already booked the day off. I knew this, see? So now I have a day ahead of feeling anxious, full of dread and so ashamed I have to spend most of it disabling the deafening signals from my shame alarm centre. It’s a day I can’t do anything with. I need to shower at some stage but right now there is no way I can feel confident enough to tackle slippery tiles. I can barely stand as it is. So I don’t.

See how fun it is to be a drunk? It’s glorious, don’t you think?

But that’s not today. That was Drunk Me. This is Sober Me. I’m seeing my snazzy PT this afternoon and despite going for my first run in I don’t know how long yesterday my muscles are feeling good now. Strong even and I’m looking forward to sets of lunges, squats, spinning and whatever else. Date night with hubby, he is booking this time so I only know it’s on the other side of the river. And bambino has a sober mother.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Trolls and Sunlight

Hello, Wednesday. I’m trying my best to like you but the truth is I’ve always found you dull and you always seem to drag. Sorry.

Since our trip to Sweden I’ve had a little exchange with Cherokee. She’s my best friend and really the female version of hubby – makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? I told her so and she agreed that to be likened to my hubby is praise of the highest order. And yes, I’m so fortunate to have such awesome people as my sidekicks and cheerleaders, I think my journey would have been very different had I been surrounded by arseholes. I know of other people who do not enjoy the luxury of a rock solid support network like I do, and it frightens me to think where I’d be without that. Where I’d be if I were in a situation where those who are meant to love and support me actually didn’t just not support me but actually made it all harder. So I have the utmost respect for those friends who do all this having to swim against the current – that’s heroism on a fucking grand scale. Getting sober is hard enough even when friends and family have your back, you don’t need them stabbing you in it, let me tell ya. I’m very, very fortunate. And until we all are as fortunate as this, I am going to make it my mission to contribute to the conversation around alcoholism and addiction. I think the more we can bring it out into the light, the better a chance we all have to recover.

Cherokee put it so poetically that it actually pissed me off. Bloody HELL, does she HAVE to be so fucking fabulous at fucking everything? Writing is MY thing! And there she goes, penning a few lines that were so perfect I was seething with envy at her talent with words and at the same time admiring her massively for being so clever. She’s awesome. And I’d totally tell her if she had loo roll stuck to her shoe. That’s how much I love her – her many talents, her wit, her intelligence and her beauty only make me admire her. Envious, yes, and I’ve copied her since around 1989, but it’s – I’d like to think anyway – a good sort of envy. Seeing her succeed makes me genuinely happy. I think that’s a sign of when you’ve put someone on a pedestal for the right reasons, which I believe I have when I ponder the very tall ones I’ve placed hubby and Cherokee on. Two people I admire and look up to, yet feel secure and safe around because I know they love me just the way I am and therefore there is nothing I need to prove. I just get to be me. That’s kinda nice.

But anyway. What she wrote.

So we were discussing where I’m at and how I’m now in the midst of a tsunami of emotion following so many years of alcohol abuse and numbing everything I feel, and also about how to set boundaries and change our thought patterns. Cherokee gave me a little crash course in “the power of not giving a fuck” (there are some great books with titles roughly along those lines – I did read one called ‘Fuck It’ a long time ago and thoroughly recommend it, I’m going to dig it out and read it again now that I’m sober) and examples of her own baggage and how she’s learnt to give fewer fucks in some situations. We talked about Project P and my goal to let this go and set new boundaries, and that’s when Cherokee reminded me of the trolls. So she is Swedish like me and still lives where we both grew up, in a part of the world that’s dense with vast forests and where the folklore is crammed full with trolls and mystical beings of the woods. And so she likened issues and thinking we need to face and deal with to just that, trolls.

troll

You know what to do, don’t you?” Cherokee wrote, “You put the trolls right out in the sunlight because that makes them burst, and then when you’ve exposed them you might find they’re nothing but little grey stones that you can throw into the Thames.

I quite literally couldn’t put it better myself and did read those lines wishing it was me who had written those words. I’d forgotten all about those stories about trolls and how you kill them. But perhaps it’s proof that I am not, after all, a troll myself because I spent a lot of time in the sun over our holidays and despite putting on weight that may have something to do with all those cannolis in Italy, I didn’t burst. I say this because Mum has always referred to me as her “troll baby“. Another myth found right there in the folklore. How the trolls sneak into your home at night and replace your human baby with one of their own. Can’t blame Mum though. I was three weeks early yet clocked in at a solid four kilos, was born on a Friday the 13th (no joke) and I also had a thick mop of long black hair that stood on end like a mohican. Hah! I named my best friend Cherokee but when I was brand new it was actually me who looked like a red indian. Anyway, I’d like to think Mum says it in an affectionate sort of way. Although…. She has different ringtones on her phone and the one she has for me is the sound of a dog barking.

Where were we? Seems we’ve dealt with praising hubby, reflected on the awesomeness of Cherokee and established that I’m probably not a troll because I withstood direct sunlight. Good.

I think I’ve mentioned this book before, but I will mention it again, as well as recommend it to anyone who wants to re-frame what alcohol means to them: ‘The Naked Mind‘. It’s really just a better written version of Allen Carr’s ‘The Easy Way to Stop Drinking‘ and absolutely fabulous. I read it a few months into my sobriety along with Carr’s book and they really did cement what I’d come to believe and feel when it comes to booze. 100% part of my tool kit. And what’s even more fabulous is that there is a website as well as a Facebook group you can join (I’ve joined both) and discuss and share with others in the same (or similar) boat along with giving each other support. These two books are important to me because they punch holes in a lot of the stuff we’ve all been brainwashed into thinking around alcohol and exposes booze for what it really is – a foul tasting poison.

Well, as with AA, I can’t say I blindly just go with Carr’s or the Naked’s philosophy but just like AA those form part of the perspective I am developing when it comes to drinking and my own experience. One doesn’t exclude the other. For example, these two books seem to advocate a view that is in direct odds with AA’s stance on what an alcoholic is and seem to suggest there is nothing that is different in or with the alcoholic, and here I lean much more towards AA’s view. I do honestly believe there IS something that sets us alcoholics apart, that there is some sort of fundamental reason why we react differently to alcohol than the non-alcoholic does. But again, this doesn’t matter and I will probably always continue to absorb all I can learn around alcoholism and addiction and nod when I agree and shake my head when I don’t.

OK, that’s enough for now. Sexy hubby, amazing Cherokee, trolls and books. That’s not so bad for boring Wednesday.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Artistry in New Orleans

Tuesday, YEAH! My arse and thighs are aching but I feel really good. Took a bit of an emotional bruising there…. Quit drinking and hopped right on to the Pink Cloud. Spent the first few months in absolute AWE at how good it felt to wake up hangover free and present in my own life. You know, even when I drank, I would have described myself as an emotional hurricane. My mother once said I have “an artist’s soul“. By that she meant that everything I feel, I feel very strongly. This has always been true, even when I was numbing myself with booze. So now that my emotions are crowding me and demanding I feel them all in their pure form, it’s been an interesting ride. To say I feel things strongly now is like saying Hurricane Katrina made it a bit windy in New Orleans. But I think I’m slowly getting there and almost every day there is a new discovery, a new clarity, a new answer. It’s all positive in that I believe it will all – so long as I don’t pick up a drink – lead me closer and closer to who I was always meant to be, allowing me to rid myself of fucked up thinking and untangling emotional knots here and there.

There are three part goals now. Or START goals, perhaps, is more accurate:

  1. I want to get fit. I used to love running and I want to really give it a push and get fit for real. So I found myself one of those snazzy PTs, as apparently you refer to them, and had my first session yesterday. I’m going to see her twice a week for the next three or four and then once I know what I’m doing I’ll join the gym and continue on my own. Endorphins do lots of good and even though I have been doing lots of walking I think we can safely up the dosage here. I want to feel healthy and strong, and should I end up a bit more toned and even get a little slimmer that’d be a bonus.
  2. There is something that I think has fucked me up more than other stuff. I’m going to call it Project P. It is unhealthy and pointless and I am done with it. So I’m figuring it all out – what exactly it is and where exactly it came from and then when this is all clear to me I need to let it go. Perhaps I’ll even have a little ceremony because I do think it warrants a symbolic gesture of some kind, like writing it on a balloon and releasing it. And then allow Project P a place in my life that is normal and healthy.
  3. We all need – I think – to feel we’re valuable, even important, that what we do counts for something. The writing and jewellery making may not be the paths that will allow me to earn a living, or at least not right now, so my keep will need to be earned in a way that does at least make me feel I have a purpose. Even if that purpose is to ensure I made someone’s coffee the way they wanted it. I don’t know. But I need to make a change here and need to figure this out as I currently go into work feeling it’s all a bit pointless. It’s great for lots of reasons but it’s not the one for me, simple as that.

Being in Sweden was a bit of a catalyst, setting off feelings in me I perhaps didn’t expect and it got a bit overwhelming. Not lease because it was the first time going sober and navigating how to put it to my family – to say the A-word or not to say the A-word – and then digesting their reactions (all good) and what they had to say about it (also good, but thought provoking). Always a silver lining it’d seem, and it would appear it’s given me the kick up the backside I needed. There will be, I’m sure, tonnes of other issues I will have to dissect and deal with, but these three are a good starting point. If I can get a handle on these I think I’m well on my way.

In the meantime I continue to feel all these emotions just the way they are. OK, it does sometimes feel like I’m in a crowd consisting of tantrum-throwing toddlers and I’m struggling to get them to form an orderly queue so I can deal with them one by one, but I’m not shutting any of them down and I am sure as hell looking them all in the eye. Sometimes all at once because it would seem sobriety has provided me with a fully functioning spine. Or massive cojones. Well. I have an artist’s soul, don’t I? It’s pretty colourful around here.

Today I’m not going to drink.