Space Travel Under Duress

So before I became a parent…., I was about to write “I thought….” and then continue to list the qualities you’d imagine Super Mum to have. Point is though, I never imagined myself as a parent before I became one so I simply didn’t have any preconceived ideas around what sort of mum I’d be. It’s funny in itself that I was one of the first in my group of friends to have a baby because I was probably the least likely. So the truth is I didn’t have any idea whatsoever of what sort of mother I would be – it just wasn’t ever something I ever pictured, so how that would all turn out was still a huge unknown even as Bambino was placed on my chest and our eyes met for the first time. I also didn’t picture myself as a drunk, but there we are. There will plenty of time for me to discuss that aspect too, but for now, let’s stick with parenthood only.

I can’t remember who said it, or perhaps I read it somewhere, that kids who play with dolls become good parents. That’s fucking bad news right there. Oh, I did have a doll. Her name was Lillan. My childhood friend Mattias and I used to throw her down the stairs and lock her in the hamster cage, where two hostile gold hamsters would munch on her toes. My super girlie mother – who loves all things pink and sparkly – tried in vain to buy me Barbie dolls. I cut their hair and limbs off. I just wasn’t that girl. I remember just not getting it, not understanding HOW you played with dolls. Change their outfit, then what? All my friends in our neighbourhood were boys and I spent my days in the woods, riding my bike, playing cowboys and indians. Guns = cool, dolls = waste of time. I don’t think the toys we play with or how much we adhere to traditional gender roles play much part in how we turn out as parents, but the idea that how we cared for dolls would be some sort of indication would strongly suggest I’d make a right mess of it. No, I don’t believe only kids who know how to play with dolls grow up to be excellent parents but given how badly Lillan fared in Little Me’s care, I thought it was an amusing thought. Or terrifying, I dunno.

Actually, isn’t there also some saying about keeping a plant alive? Can’t remember how it goes or if it’s in any way related to your future success rate at child rearing. I don’t have a good history with plants and recently a plant a neighbour gave me met its untimely demise. Apparently it was meant to be “hard to kill” but died surprisingly quickly despite my valiant attempts at following watering instructions and where to place it in terms of ideal light etc. Ho-hum.

Despite all these ominous signs, I consider myself a perfectly OK mother – not perfect and not amazing but I do OK. Sober, I even have the ability to sometimes be great at it. Or, rather, the best mum I can be even though I highly doubt I’ll ever win any parenting awards. I love Bambino more than anything, like any normal parent loves their child, and I do my best. Sober, I do my best with the best set of tools available to me.

Because Bambino messed up last weekend, he is grounded until 2019. All screens confiscated and the afternoons consist of homework and reading. Oh, and spending time together a lot more given I have replaced his Playstation as his entertainment. Bambino is working hard on being good and regaining trust and to his mind this will hopefully mean sanctions may cease a little sooner. Bambino be wrong, y’all. Bambino be very wrong. Mummy is thoroughly enjoying this new routine and after just a few days I’ve come to really treasure those two hours in the afternoon when Bambino and I share the dining table with him doing homework at one end and me hammering silver jewellery at the other. For me, this is a highlight and one I look forward to. And that’s not all! Hubby is once again off with work, this time to Hong Kong for a week, and normally this means I sulk the whole time he is away. Yes, there is a fair amount of sulking and I am dreading how empty our bed will be when he’s not there and how badly I always sleep when we’re not cuddled up. I also NEED my best friend around so I always feel lost when he isn’t, but here’s the new thing: my other little best friend IS around and this weekend he won’t be out with his mates and nor will he have mates over.

Now, the reason for Bambino spending the remainder of 2018 grounded and without screen time is a real shitter, but true to form I am willing to shamelessly reap the rewards and it does come with huge benefits. The most glorious one of all is of course all this additional time I now get with Bambino – it might be something to suffer through for Bambino himself but for me it’s freaking jackpot! I need to be treading carefully because I can’t go and make it too much fun – the whole point is that this should fucking STING – but there’s nothing wrong with this mama secretly relishing lots of quality time with her cub, right? I’m googling “best boardgames for two players” and also planning where to go and get a Christmas tree and also where to take Bambino so he can get Christmas gifts for his stepbrothers. Doubt I have to worry though, because I already know all of the above spells out shit storm in his world. After all, a few months ago he quite literally rolled around on the floor crying with laughter at my suggestion he and I head to Thorpe Park.

Or is he secretly delighted to spend time with me too?

I would have liked that as the end to this blog post. A cute and hopeful little question. It’s not like that though. He’s a teenager, for crying out loud! Obviously he’d much rather hang out with his friends than go out with me, and obviously he’d much rather be on Playstation with friends than play board games with his mother. It’d probably be weird if it was the other way around, no? So I probably don’t need to worry about this period of punishment getting “too fun” as it just won’t be his definition of anything even resembling fun. But whether he likes it or not, I think it will do us both lots of good to spend a lot of time together. Just the other evening when I got back from a run, Bambino had taken my spot on the sofa including my sofa cushion – aka hubby, whose lap I always have my legs across. They both glanced up at me when I got back, then the next second continued their stupid action movie and I was relegated to the comfy chair I don’t like. They used to be like this quite often, hubby and Bambino. They also used to have a “man chat” every evening – hubby would lie down with Bambino for a while and they’d chat about “stuff” for a while before Bambino went to sleep. With a teenager all of this changes, which I assume is pretty normal, but it’s nice to get a little glimpse of it again.

Cherokee is planning a trip with her eldest, also a teenage boy, and I found myself wanting to tell Bambino this in a whiny voice – “but [C’s son] is excited about going to London with Cherokee, why don’t you get excited about spending time with meeeee” – but stopped myself. Envious, much? Oh yeah, I am. When she told me I spent a short moment trying to work if there is any destination in the world that Bambino would consider so cool he’d agree to go there even if it meant he’d be going with me. So I’m saving up for space travel.

Well. The little bugger is grounded and bored and I’m just going to enjoy getting time with him even if it is with him under duress. Who cares – I win!

And just to keep this focused on what this blog was always for – sobriety and recovery – trust me when I say it makes me so incredibly happy and grateful to be given all these moments I get to enjoy to the max. No beast pulling me away or distracting me, no rushing through anything to get to my drink, no missing out on moments because I was busy getting hammered or too hungover to appreciate them. Just getting to be right in each moment and be present 100%.

Today I’m not going to drink.


Like a Summer’s Eve

Just got myself in a total tailspin and it’s a good example of what my brain sometimes does to me. I don’t think I’d label this anything beyond Being a Bag of Nerves in much the same vein as my mother. Sometimes I’ll pick up the phone when she calls and she’ll exclaim “oh, thank GOD, there you are” because she’s done exactly what I do too. She’ll randomly note she hasn’t heard from me in perhaps longer than is usually the case. But instead of pinging me a text or calling me at the time she realises it’s been a while, she’ll instead fret like crazy and cook up various scenarios in her mind, including me having died a terrible death in some horrifying accident. This is precisely what I did this morning.

Hubby and I normally text each other several times over the course of the day, and his texts are like clockwork. He texts from the car when he stops at a traffic light somewhere on his way to work. Then he texts again to say he got to work. These are his clockwork, set in stone, routine morning text messages. Today I get the first as usual but not the second. It approaches lunchtime and I check Whatsapp. Nope, he’s not been “seen” since his first on-his-way-to-work text. I send him another I-love-you and follow up with a heart. Then I e-mail him on his work e-mail. Five minutes later and I e-mail again asking for a sign of life. By this stage, I have graphic images whirling through my mind of a crash on the motorway involving 20 cars and an overturned lorry carrying combustible materials. Then he calls back and AS USUAL he has been in back-to-back meetings and my heart rate has rocketed for no good reason whatsoever. I do this if I can’t immediately get hold of Bambino too – even though there is no reason to believe anything sinister has happened, in my mind there are scenarios served up that would terrify Stephen King himself.

Like mother, like daughter. We are worriers.

Alcohol or no alcohol, this is just the way I’m wired and although booze makes anything and everything a thousand times worse, this is something that just happens when I’m sober too. My mother very rarely drinks and when she does it’s a small glass of wine that she doesn’t even finish. And I seem to have in this sense grown up to be just like her. I mean, for God’s sake, of all the things I could have inherited: she is sweet, kind, gentle, loving, wise, strong, clever and every other lovely adjective I can think of. She is also as beautiful as a summer’s eve by Lake Fryken. Mum is an all round much nicer, slimmer and generally better version of me who can cook. In this sea of fantastic traits to inherit, I get her nerves. If I could have at least got her feet – they’re proper lady feet, perfectly shaped and perfectly sized at the end of her long legs and beautiful ankles. I don’t even have ankles – I have bloody CANKLES, the sort of bullshit where your calves just go straight to your feet. And my feet are what Tolkien visualised when he imagined the hobbits. But I got her nerves. Thanks.

Why is this relevant on this blog where I try to focus on sobriety and recovery? Well, it goes back to how I think it’s important to remember that getting sober doesn’t magically turn us into perfect super versions of ourselves. I mean, I couldn’t even begin to list all the amazing ways in which my life has become richer with sobriety. It is 100% true that getting sober has meant that life is fucking magnificent! What sobriety doesn’t change, however, is who I essentially am. I’m still me. It’s just that I’m awake, alert, clear and able to be the best I can be. It doesn’t mean I’ll suddenly challenge Paula Radcliffe in the next London marathon, but it does mean I can go for a jog and find I managed to wobble my way around the park without having to stop and walk. What I’m trying to say is that getting sober is one thing (and don’t get me wrong – it’s a FANTASTIC thing!) but accepting who we are is another and sometimes that’s much harder. Still, it’s a positive thing as whatever flaws, shortcomings and weaknesses I have in my baggage, it’s so much easier to carry it all around when I’m at my best.

Today I’m not going to drink.

On the Radio

When I hit my turning point (aka rock bottom) some ten months ago, it was different to all the other times when I’d felt I’d had enough. I suspect many addicts may say this but do correct me if I’m wrong – after all, I can only really speak for myself and account for how I see things. It felt different in that this time I was desperate and determined to break free. It’s such a tired old phrase, but it felt like I just knew it in my heart. It was over. I was done. I wish I could find a word for it – something to describe a light switch perhaps – just like I have a word for alcoholism itself: the Beast. Or perhaps ‘turning point’ is pretty perfect. After all, that’s what it was and how I still see it. To say ‘rock bottom’ feels a little dramatic because I hadn’t YET sunk to the sort of horrific situation the term implies, but at the same time I never want to EVER dismiss where booze was taking me or look back and say “oh, but I wasn’t that bad“. We all know how that story ends, don’t we? But I digress.

What I wanted to get to was how I immediately hit the AA meetings because I needed a firm anchor. I’d simply wanted to and tried to control it on my own too many times to take another chance. I suppose I had, unbeknownst to myself, actually sort of done the first three steps: accepted in my heart that I was powerless over alcohol, knew deep down I had to find another way and most importantly that I couldn’t do it on my own. What I also did, pretty much from the beginning, was be open about it. I figured the more people I told, the harder it would be for me to fall off the wagon. It was a pretty selfish decision – everyone I told became another set of eyes. I sort of snitched on myself, or on the Beast rather, so friends and family would be better equipped to understand my enemy and thereby more able to help me defend myself. It was all about putting down anchors for me and it was when I knew in my heart I was truly done that I began to throw them out all around my little boat.

AA meetings were brilliant. Not only did it help enormously to sit in those meetings and be surrounded by people who was powerless in the exact same way, it also meant there was something I had to get to which in turn meant I didn’t pour that first glass of wine. Just like someone told me how forcing themselves out for that walk helped in fighting depression, having AA meetings to attend forced me into new habits. Maybe I just wasn’t ready for the AA way of approaching sobriety, but there is much about it that makes perfect sense even though there are also things that just don’t sit right with me. My ex-sponsor seemed to be under the impression that I was being a stubborn brat who refused to see sense. In actual fact I desperately wanted to believe all that was said because early on I felt like AA was my only hope. Unfortunately a stay at a celebrity rehab to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds wasn’t available to me. Therefore I just ignored everything I actually felt and did my best to just swallow the dogma as it was fed to me, no questions asked. Oh, and my people pleasing nature does dictate I agree – not disagree – with stuff. So no, I wasn’t trying to pick holes in the doctrine of AA, I was doing my best to cover those holes up as quickly as they appeared to me.

Holding my hands up and admitting I’m wrong has never been an issue for me, suck-uppy people pleaser that I am. Further to that, having the strength to admit our wrongs is a quality I admire in others so it’s something I actually take pride in myself. Most of all, however, what I want more than anything is to figure out this addiction thing so I don’t give a hoot if I have to draw a million incorrect conclusions before landing at something that starts to resemble the answer to the riddle.

Oh, I know – I ramble on. I am terrible at using 500 words when 5,000 will do.

As you can probably surmise from the lengthy waffle above though, and my incessant excuses and justifications (oh please like me!), I am about to tell you how I was wrong about something. Next time, just ignore the first third of a post to cut the proverbial crap!

In the Tuesday meetings, there was this guy who always used to really irritate me. He always shared and he always went on for a good 15 minutes, which in an hour long meeting with 60-odd people in attendance I think is a little selfish and self indulgent. Give someone else a chance, please! Willow told me that in her LA meetings, they had a timer so everyone who wanted to say something had three minutes to do it and then RRRRRRRRRRRING time’s up, ta very much, now shut yer pie hole and sit yo ass down. Good idea, I thought. Anyway, this guy – who, I need to add, was actually a real sweetheart – would always say how his head was a radio station transmitting and receiving all frequencies at once. I think I got a little lost in how he described how a throat spray containing alcohol got him “funny” and therefore zoned out a little, but thinking back on it the dude made a lot of sense.

My mind has always been a fairly crowded place where my thoughts and impulses have never learned how to form an orderly queue or to politely wait their turn. It’s all at once. There is no order whatsoever. At times it can be as peaceful and serene as Waihi beach at night with the waves of the Pacific lapping the shore with rhythmic, murmuring brush strokes. Other times it’s as chaotic, frantic and loud as the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange. I suppose the main thing is I seem to have very little say in what I will wake up to. It’s fun to be me in that sense. I sort of peek around the corner and never quite know what I’ll discover. These are the inner workings of a thinker.

It’s also quite exhausting at times to feel everything so acutely. I mean, it doesn’t stop with just how I feel – I also absorb like a goddamn sponge what everyone else might feel too. Example: someone might act like a twat. Instead of brushing it off and moving on in the knowledge this is out of my control, I will feel deep sorrow because they must feel so awful inside. I’ll also feel so sad for them because they ended up looking bad and I want to fix it and sometimes I even make attempts to do so. I mean, what is up with THAT? Look, I’m doing my best to rein this sort of behaviour in, but in order to do so I first need to understand what it is and where it comes from. What would be ideal in a situation like that, would be to just focus on being the best I can be and accept that how other people act is 1) not my responsibility, 2) out of my control anyway, and 3) something I have to let go.

Yes, I get the analogy of the radio station. And yes, it’s probably quite true for me too.

What this has got to do with alcohol I suppose is probably obvious. Booze slows all of this down to a more manageable level. I never knowingly drank with this in mind or as my goal, but I think it was a by-product and probably a welcome one.

So what lead me to this? Well. Of course now I’m sober and that means I am being me with the radio mast proudly erected and receiving perfectly with crisp audio and surround sound. My father must have been the sound engineer because everything is set to maximum volume too. Because booze used to numb (and dumb) me down, it’s only really now that I’m discovering that I – at times when I might feel stressed about something – need to switch off. Or even when I’m not stressed at all, I need a break from the chaos. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a huge problem and it doesn’t get me pining for a drink, but it does illustrate how I in some ways can’t do it all at once. For example, I can’t be in the middle of a problem I need to solve and then sit down for a coffee and chill out and laugh and chat. When the noise gets too loud in my head, even hubby or Bambino whistling can feel like a scalpel in my brain.

I’ve got three ways of switching off:

  1. Running.
  2. A long, brisk walk with music or an audio book in my ears.
  3. Losing myself in a book.

Alcohol will never become part of this list, just so we’re clear. I won’t be the first person to tell you that it does work as an anaesthetic when we’re stressed though – isn’t that the biggest stereotype of them all? “I need a strong drink.” Bollocks to that. But interesting to note anyway. Perhaps the glitter I felt alcohol scattered over me felt that way because it also relaxed me? Or numbed me, rather. An unintended side effect to all my celebrations that might just be bigger than I realised. Anyway. What I just realised also, is how important it is for me to switch off at night. I find it quite hard to get to sleep by just getting into bed and switching the light off. I need to read. It slows my mind to that one world of that book and shuts down all those other frequencies. Sometimes all it takes is a couple of minutes of reading for me to get sleepy. Other times I read for an hour, then still can’t sleep and switch the light back on and read until the small hours. Can’t help but feel so very grateful that these tools are so simple and close to hand. All the frequencies coming in at once might mean it feels like chaos sometimes, but I have my own little time-out areas.

The thing that makes me really happy about this is that I never consciously drank to still my mind. That in turn means that when my mind starts to get crowded my impulse isn’t to turn to booze. And so these time-out areas have taken shape all on their own. Not substitutes for booze or diversion therapy. Just the tools that emerged organically. That fills me with so much hope.

Well, there we go. Perhaps another piece of the puzzle.

Today I’m not going to drink.

The Reasons Why

What?” Bambino asks and turns to me, “is alcohol really a drug?

The kid’s on lock down until after Christmas following his decision to get steaming drunk at the weekend. When I went for a run last night I put on a documentary about alcohol for him to watch. It wasn’t the best choice in that it showed alcoholics at the end stage after a lifetime of alcohol abuse so although useful in order to teach him some facts and home truths, I want him to be able to relate. How he was surprised to hear alcohol being referred to as a drug triggered a good discussion and also how else – even in small amounts – it harms the body, but whilst this is good, it’s not enough. Besides, most people do know that alcohol is bad for us but it doesn’t bloody stop us, does it? I would quite regularly feel my heart race and feel genuine terror that this time I might just have gone and broken it, that this time my number might just be up. I’d feel that and then I’d pour myself a drink the next day. Or even the same day. Or the next hour.

We engage in whatever shitty behaviour – drinking, smoking, drug taking or whatever – because of the perceived benefits, end of. Then of course if it’s an addiction that has us trapped or if we want to be cool in front of our mates, that’s secondary. The point is that the reasons why we shouldn’t is pretty much ZIP, ZILCH, NADA to do with it. The reasons we do it override the reasons why we shouldn’t and THAT is what we need to look at and tackle. As long as our reasons to go ahead override our reasons to refrain, we’re fucked.  

It’s like with smoking – the average toddler can probably tell you it’s dangerous to smoke, and I don’t think a single person in the parts of the world where health information is freely available tries a cigarette for the first time UNAWARE that it’s bad to smoke. As Bambino himself so eloquently put it when he was about four years old: “If you smoke, first you get sick and then you get dead.” As much as I love my child and think of him as the most glorious creation to ever inhabit this world, he was not some health guru at four years of age with access to insider information about smoking closed off to other people. No, most other four-yearolds could tell you this too. If you don’t believe me, ask to have an audience with a reception class at a primary school and see how many four-yearolds you can find there who don’t know smoking is bad. And it’s the same with drinking in that I think most people know it’s risky business to drink too much.

I wanted to see what it was like.

This is the reason Bambino gave for doing what he did, i.e. knocking back shots of vodka in his bedroom with a friend.

Perhaps I’ve just given myself a bunch of answers here. Maybe this is precisely what I need to go over with my son. After all, these are the conclusions I have myself come to in these ten+ months since I stopped drinking. Alcohol in my world came with a bunch of promises, like it makes fun more fun and happy happier. Bullshit like that, mostly. Many people drink because booze acts as an anaesthetic and will help push down painful emotions, which of course then in turn instead get amplified given the same anaesthetic also happens to be a powerful depressant. You can’t win. So it’s tearing down Bambino’s reasons TO drink I need to help him tear down, just like I tore my own down.

Bambino may very well grow up to be a responsible adult who can “enjoy” alcohol in moderate amounts and at a level that doesn’t put him in lethal danger on a daily basis. Unlike his mother. If that happens, great. But there is also a considerable chance this limitless nature of his comes from that very same mother and so in spite of his fairly young age, I’ll need to have this conversation with him many times over. Go through all of this the way I went through it myself. Look at what we’re made to think alcohol is and does and then with simple and easily accessible facts and figures show him how this is all a big fat mother of a lie. That’s where I need to start. Fuck, why is it so hard to see this clearly? Almost all documentaries show the dangers of alcohol. We need one to highlight what GOOD we believe alcohol does, which shows what bullshit it all is. We don’t ingest arsenic if we can help it because we know it’s poison, but few of us try having arsenic “to see what it’s like” because we’re not sold a bunch of lies about what good it would do. Alcohol is also a poison but we ignore the dangers because we believe there are benefits to it. Of course in Bambino’s case this might be more troubling than for kids who did not grow up with an alcoholic parent, but let’s just see if I can turn this into some sort of strength.

I want to find someone who I can sit Bambino in front of, someone he can relate to. And I’ll do my best to show him my own journey and how what the world is telling him about booze is a lie. I can’t bring myself to think about Saturday night and how badly it could have ended. Given how ill Bambino was all of Sunday, he would have had a serious amount to drink. At 14, was I really as childlike? He isn’t fully grown, and although there’s a hint of a tash on his top lip, he’s still very much just a BOY and he is still not taller than I am. His voice is still breaking, a slight vibrato making itself known but still not a deep man’s voice. He’s a child. I was roughly the same age when I first tried alcohol but for some reason Bambino seems so much younger, smaller and more of a kid. Which, presumably, means Bambino himself sees himself as the big man just like I before him thought I had it all figured out too.

Hmm…. Scare tactics do have their place, I do believe that, so I’ll be making sure Bambino understands the calibre of this particular dance partner. It is, more importantly perhaps, beginning to become clear to me that I need to approach this in much the same way as I dealt with it myself – by looking at the reasons why. And I should know how to do this, right?

The big lie of alcohol made me angry and bitter when I realised it had stolen so much from me. Now, however, when it’s attempting to steal from my son, this mama bear is working up a rage that I don’t recommend you get in the way of. Hell hath no fury and all that. I fought you off, you motherfucking beast, and now you think you can go after my kid? Oh hell no. Not without a fight you won’t, and trust me – you won’t find me cowering in fear again. I’ll fight you again and again. Or I will die trying. You won’t catch me giving up though so sharpen your claws because you’ll fucking need them.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Ten Times Filtered

And so it happened.

Can I just say one thing?” hubby asked as he made me pause mid-rage in an attempt to get me to draw breath and think through my response carefully, his hand gently on my shoulder and his deep blue eyes fixed on me, “Deal with this the way you wish your parents had with you. Alright?

Bambino, at the age of 14, got drunk. Not at a party, not in the park passing around a cheap bottle of plonk with his mates and not round the corner from Nando’s where he and his friends congregate. Oh no. He got drunk under our roof and right under our noses. It wasn’t a case of “tasting a little” either – he got full-on, dangerously drunk.

It was a weekend like any other and Bambino was just like he usually is (or shall I say, like he USUALLY APPEARS TO BE because right now I don’t know what to believe): happy, chatty and responsible. In fact, when we got up Sunday morning I thought to myself as I went about putting on some coffee that they’d been so good and kept it down. I actually felt really pleased that it’s all going so well and how Bambino is super good at making sure house rules are adhered to. Bambino had the same friend stay who was over last weekend too. This is normal – he usually has one or two mates stay over at the weekends and I always make a fuss of them and do my best to make them welcome. It’s just never occurred to me to search their bags at the door. Earlier in the afternoon there were another couple of boys over too, who left and like Bambino’s other friends they seem straight laced and all come and say hello and tell me thanks for having them when they leave, polite smiles on their faces. So to say I feel like a fucking fool is an understatement.

I was once a teenager too. I knew this was coming. I was roughly Bambino’s age the first time I chugged vodka from a bottle a friend and I had nicked from her parents (and later filled up with water). So it’s not like I was going around thinking Bambino is some little angel who will only taste alcohol once he is of legal age. Hah! That’s a lie. I didn’t see this coming. I did and I didn’t. I think I just didn’t see it happening this way, so brazenly and violently right in front of me. I feel so stupid I can’t even begin to tell you. But I can tell you how my heart was breaking when I last night checked in on Bambino before bedtime and tried to ask him if he’d felt like he couldn’t stop once he started. It was a stupid thing to ask and I don’t know what answer I expected. I got all this so very wrong.

As the coffee is brewing, his little mate emerges from Bambino’s bedroom.

I think he’s sick,” he tells me.

I go in and Bambino is hanging over the far side of his bed. On the windowsill there is vomit both outside and also inside that has trickled down the wall. I walk over to the foot of the bed and there is dark brown puke pooling on the carpeted floor and again some on the wall too. The stuff on the windowsill is like “normal” vomit looks. The stuff right where Bambino is, is almost black in colour.

Right, let’s get you breakfast and then I’ll take you home,” I tell Bambino’s friend who meekly agrees, “hopefully you won’t catch whatever he’s got,” I add and give him a friendly pat on the back.

He won’t look at me. This particular kid never says much though, I figure he’s just very shy, so I think nothing of it as I make him some toast and then go back in to Bambino.

I’m sorry,” Bambino mumbles, eyes half closed and with bits of that horrendous black vomit dried around his mouth and on his pillow, “I’m so sorry, mum, I couldn’t get up to the toilet.

Don’t be silly, these things happen,” I tell my poorly child and reach down and squeeze his foot where it sticks out from under the duvet, “but we need to get you in the bath so I can clear this up.

I draw a hot bath for Bambino and set to work, kitchen roll pushed up my nostrils but even so I keep gagging as I am super squeamish and have to get out of the room a few times to stop myself retching. His friend is eating his toast at the breakfast bar and won’t meet my eye, but he’s quite shy so I chatter away around him as I go back and forth between Bambino’s room and the bin with bags full of kitchen roll I’m using to scoop up the little mounds of black vomit. Underneath the breakfast bar is a built in wine rack and hubby points at them.

Maybe he was on the red vino?” he says to me and Bambino’s friend and laughs at the silly joke.

I laugh with him. Yeah, imagine that – it’s funny because Bambino’s vomit is dark and the idea is so ridiculous. Bambino’s friend doesn’t look up from his plate and he swiftly leaves when he’s finished. After thanking me for having him as usual.

Being a teenage boy, I suspect it’s pretty normal that cleaning isn’t very high up on Bambino’s list of priorities, so once I’ve soaked the carpet and scrubbed all the puke out we get to work on the rest. We retrieve socks and sweet wrappers from under the bed as well as a plate which has a couple of stale biscuits on it that at a glance have been under there for at least a month. We give the whole room a deep clean and I go to tidy up in Bambino’s wardrobe too, all whilst my poor boy is hopefully getting a nice long soak in a lovely hot bath. I couldn’t tell you if the thought was in my head, if I reached in because I was checking but perhaps the thought was there because there was no other reason for me to reach in there. And there is is. At the back of the shelf where his school jumpers live, is a litre bottle of Smirnoff triple distilled vodka. Filtered ten times. It’s about half empty. Of course. It makes perfect sense.

I knock on the bathroom door and my voice is dripping with a weird mixture of fury and sarcasm. The sort of tone I hope will make Bambino’s blood curdle. My most excellent cold, cunning and fucking MAD psychopath tone.

This SPA has closed. Bath time over, my friend,” I hiss.

Whaaat?” Bambino whimpers from the other side of the wall.

I push the door open so it bounces back off the shower wall. It’s a good thing it’s not locked because the force I use would have broken the lock, no doubt about it. How the shower wall (which is glass) doesn’t shatter is a miracle.

Right mister!” I bark, “Get yourself up, dry off and get dressed. We’re going to have ourselves a little chat,” I snarl as evenly as I can through my teeth and have to stop myself from screaming and kicking the wall.

It’s on my way out when I’m stomping towards the living room that hubby catches hold of me and suggests I should deal with this the way I wish my parents had. This is excellent advice but it’s not what I do. I deal with it in precisely the same way my parents did – I bring out the big guns.

Bambino really is terribly, terribly ill. He is struggling to sit up and any time he sips water from the glass I’ve placed in front of him it comes right back up into the bucket he is clutching on his lap.

Mum, I have to lie down,” he manages to splutter before water he’s just drunk gushes out of his mouth as well as his nose and into the bucket.

You’re not going anywhere,” I inform him.

I feel like I have cancer in my eyeballs,” he whines.

Good. So you should.

I want to ask him why, I want to know if this is my fault, I want to know where I’ve gone wrong and I want to understand if he is like me. Did this happen because he’s grown up with a mother who is an alcoholic? A mother who has fallen over drunk head first in front of him? A mother he has come home to almost daily with a glass of wine on the table in front of her? Has this happened because I normalised alcohol? Is this, finally, the result of my failings? The tragic, sad, heartbreaking manifestation of “monkey see, monkey do“? I want to hold him and tell him I’m sorry. I want to make it go away. I want to beg him not to be like me. I want to tell him how I nearly wrecked my life but how he shouldn’t follow in my footsteps. In my chest my broken heart is beating and it’s almost like I can hear the sound of broken glass contracting, loosening, contracting, loosening with each beat. No longer a thump-thump, but a crunching sound.

In this moment I am unable to gauge whether this is a case of what many, many other parents are faced with – a teenager who messed up and got drunk – and what happens as par for the course, or if this is something so much more awful than that. I find it impossible to separate this from my own addiction and what I’ve exposed Bambino to. I am lost. It’s like I’m in a little dinghy in the middle of a stormy sea. I don’t know where the shore is and I don’t know how to navigate my way home. I don’t know how to do this. I am a parent but if this was something you needed a licence to do, this would be the moment mine would be revoked. Disqualified. Barred for life. The sort of person used as an example – a bad one.

What we get from Bambino is a selection of cock and bull stories of how the vodka made its way into his wardrobe. At one point he claims a homeless person gave it to him but eventually it transpires one of his mates brought it in, who had in turn got it from yet another pupil in their year group who got it from an older sibling. Understandably he wants to protect his mates and initially takes the blame but after going through his phone, where he has somewhat unwisely stored both photo and video evidence, Bambino is eventually backed into a corner. I have turned into my father because it turns out it’s the only thing I know how to do. I come down on Bambino and I come down on him hard. One by one, I contact the other parents of the boys who were at ours the day before and the parents of the boy who stayed over. I explain what’s happened and how if I were them I’d want to know. On Bambino’s phone we discover photos from the weekend before where they’ve posed with a bottle of vodka. Not a litre bottle of Smirnoff but a smaller bottle of a brand called Glen. It’s not the first time. Of course this has happened on my watch, when not only Bambino but other children too have been in my care. I send the other parents the photos I’ve found as Bambino squirms and probably tries to make himself believe this is just a bad dream.

This is what scares me the most. You know, if I was still drinking, this could have happened in the same room as I’d be too hammered (and eventually blacked out) to fucking notice much at all, but this is when hubby and I are in the next room stone cold sober. We’re watching the X-Factor followed by our additional, new guilty pleasure I’m a Celebrity Get Me out of Here and then head to bed at about 11pm. And we don’t live in a mansion – this is a two bedroom apartment and Bambino’s bedroom is on the other side of the wall of the living room. They’ve been necking vodka and we had no clue. Not the foggiest. As we always do, we regularly stick our heads in the door to check if they are hungry, if they’re OK, and lastly when we’re off to bed to remind them to keep it down. I’m an alcoholic and imagine I have drunk more than most people. Yet my 14-yearold can get horrifically drunk in the next room and I have no idea. I feel humiliated at the thought that they might have just hid that bottle momentarily when I knocked and then sat there smiling politely back at me and saying goodnight.

Bambino is grounded. His laptop, PS4 and phone are confiscated. He is to go straight to school and straight home after. Between four and five is homework time and after that he can read until bedtime or find a hobby that involves being creative – I will take him to Waterstones and Hobby Craft if he wants to find something to do, but that’s as far as it goes. And his weekly allowance has been suspended. When we get back to London after spending Christmas in Sweden we will reassess. It’s tough and it’s merciless. I don’t think my father’s way was always the right way but I don’t know how else to handle this. Bambino has his work cut out for him winning our trust back. I don’t want to check his friends’ bags at the door (or his!) and I want to be able to trust him. I get that alcohol will make a few appearances and this was always going to happen, and I understand also the odd lie to protect your mates. But the audacity of this, the lies around everything else and some other things we found on Bambino’s phone I can’t so readily understand or forgive.

A million questions whirl around in my head. My heart crunches as it tries to beat. I’m really lost with this. I don’t know how to do this. The truth is I don’t know how I wish my own parents would have dealt with it. I do agree with hubby however, that it has to sting this time and if I were to just remove all his privileges for a week it just wouldn’t be enough. It has to hurt. The scary bit is that this never stopped me or made any difference (I don’t think anyway) to how things turned out with my own drinking. I had the strictest parents of all my friends and until I turned 18 – quite literally the SECOND I turned 18 – they turned up to collect me at 10pm whereas most of my friends regularly were allowed to stay the night at boyfriends’ houses and out the whole night much before then. Would things have been different with my drinking later on in life if my parents had been more relaxed, cut me some slack or let me run wild a bit more? This is the question I can’t answer – can you? Did how harshly I was kept in check make booze more desirable by making it such a taboo? Or if they’d been more chilled, would it have meant I would have spiralled much sooner? Perhaps what they did was perfect? So long as it was within their power they stopped me and thereby delayed my descent into alcoholism and of course, beyond when I was legally an adult there was nothing they could do. I don’t know – I genuinely do not know if they could have said or done anything that had changed anything.

Hubby’s suggestion was of course perfect. Deal with this the way you wish your parents had done with you. The only problem is that I don’t know what that would have been. I can’t see the answer. I don’t know what the right thing to do is. So history is repeating itself because I’m taking my father’s approach. I don’t want Bambino to ever take mine. Open and honest conversations will have to continue, but to be honest this is perhaps what cuts me more than anything else. Bambino KNOWS my story. He knows why I stopped drinking. He knows. And yet..

Feeling a little bit broken this morning but I know we’ll get through this. Bambino is a glorious little person and I just can’t imagine him not turning out great. He might be my son but I do hold plenty of hope he’ll take a good path. I want to believe with all my heart that this is a typical teenage thing and not a warning of things to come. One day at a time, as they say. And isn’t it lucky (yes, let’s find positives where we can) that Bambino’s mother is sober and therefore able to deal with this with a clear mind? I still get so much wrong, but at least I’m not drunk.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Summer Rain

This page has been staring empty at me for a little while. Then I filled it with words and deleted it all. I think it’s one of those moments when I put pressure on myself, like I have to say something really great and profound because today is my ten months sober. Then I wiped it all away with a swift select all and delete because all I can really say is this: I FEEL GREAT!

Going slow has never been in my nature. Being a fast learner is a blessing and absolutely this has made many things very easy going for me. I sailed through school and university with good grades and zero effort. In fact, during my last year of high school my absence was nudging 30% and university was no different – I hardly bothered showing up yet ended up with a strong 2:1 degree and then missed out on a distinction for my Masters by only a fraction despite completely winging it. This probably sounds like bragging but it isn’t – I’m outlining how a Ferrari was parked on my drive and yet I was too lazy to learn to drive. That’s an obnoxious and undesirable trait, this laziness. That Ferrari will just sit there, gather rust, fall apart and lose its value. The problem is that if you don’t also have some built in ethos to work hard, it means that unless things come easy like they normally do, you just don’t bother simply because you don’t know how. In that way I was spoilt and that makes me feel quite ashamed. Some people have to really fight to get by due to learning disorders or just finding learning hard. Joke’s on me though because I didn’t care much and if you don’t develop a habit or desire to give everything your best shot, it almost doesn’t matter what hand you were dealt.

An unfortunate result of having it easy is that I’ve always been really rubbish at those things that do require a bit of perseverance. Even in areas where I have perhaps shown a tiny smidge of talent – like writing – I haven’t shown any grit, and certainly not enough to follow through on anything. Probably from the age of five, my answer would have been the same if you’d asked what my dream is: be a writer, write for a living, write books. I can string a sentence together, right? I mean, there are SO many books out there – best selling books even – that are so poorly written! And I have had lots of stories percolating in my head that might just work. Again, there are SO many books out there where you just wonder how in God’s name they got published. I’ll tell you how: those writers worked at it. Few people sit down and type up a perfect book just like that. It isn’t something that “just happens”. And if I don’t possess the determination, perseverance and ability to stick at it until it bloody works, then it doesn’t matter if I can describe how summer rain feels on your skin so well that you’ll feel it. Not saying I can, by the way – I’ve never worked at honing my skills so perhaps I couldn’t and if I continue the way I’ve been going we’ll never find out, will we?

Good news is that sobriety means I’m at least back to being the real me. I’m no longer Drunk Me who is either plastered or hungover. My mind is clear and alert, and I have energy and an inner calm I don’t actually know if I’ve ever felt before. Will being sober suddenly transform me into a determined and hard working writer? No. Unfortunately I would still have to work and work hard if I even want to produce a draft, let alone one I can submit. All sobriety means is that my drinking is no longer blocking my way. All that work however, I’d still have to do. We’ll see. Perhaps I never will, but what I do know at ten months sober is that booze isn’t going to be the reason why.

Perhaps all you clever folk always had that built in hard working quality I admire so but never had myself. Maybe we sat next to each other in history class. Whereas I scanned through the books quickly the night before an exam and did well, maybe you spent a bit of time every evening leading up to the test and took great care to learn it all. Perhaps we even ended up with the same grade just because I found memorising easy? You know, this makes me think of K, a girl in my class in high school. She was rubbish at math. It was, alongside languages, my strongest subject and I never in my life did any math homework. It just clicked straight away and I got it. Plus I enjoyed it, which helps. K, on the other hand, just couldn’t grasp a lot of it. The poor girl fought like a mad woman to even pass. She sat at the front in each lesson, asked questions that made me roll my eyes (it slowed the lesson right down), and she worked super hard and studied endlessly only to scrape through. I imagine if she’s applied the same approach to life in general she’s a CEO these days – I’d actually be surprised if she isn’t. Very few people just slide in to glorious success on a banana skin, just like very few people hammer out an amazing novel without trying hard.

Well. I’m working on it! Yes, progress is frustratingly slow and sometimes I can just about hear faint echos of Drunk Me who’s getting impatient and ready to move on to the next thing, but it’s starting to come right I think. It’s not like drinking created this in me because obviously this was my nature all along, but I do think drinking exacerbated it. To better myself in whatever way it may be, I do need to be sober and at my full faculties, so it’s down to Sober Me now.

And what do I want? Well. Recovery is pretty big for me. I’d like to see if I can carve out a place for myself in the recovery services. Yes, it’s the hard work approach, that slow and steady path I’ve always avoided. I’m not fantastic at it, but I’m learning and I’m beginning to like it. I suck at a lot of it, it has to be said but whereas before I would have given up and moved on to the next thing, I’m trying to stick at it. My DBS check (a UK security check you need to pass in order to work with children, vulnerable people, etc) has come through and this means I can start the volunteering for the rehab by giving every other Saturday to them. Then, once I hit my one year sober, the rest will hopefully open up a little bit. As for writing… Well, I’m obviously blogging and that’s got me back to really enjoying it again. With any luck this will trigger my love and passion for it all over again. One thing is for certain – I can’t freaking hide behind alcoholism as the reason why I’m not achieving anything worth writing home about. It’s on me now. It’s on ME. Yikes!

Shit! I really wanted to have something really great to say on this little milestone but there we are, just another load of waffle!

Today I’m not going to drink.

Butt Naked and Badass

There is no end to the advantages of being sober and an added bonus is that I think that it’ll only get easier. Occasionally I hear people say they’re stressing about how to explain themselves in a situation where they’d normally drink. I can relate to this because stopping drinking was so HUGE to me and I did wonder if I’d be met with a bunch of chins on the floor in response to me saying no to alcohol. Turns out no one cared much whether I had alcohol or something else, but I can absolutely see why we get a little worked up over it. When we quit, it’s pretty much a whole new world, so no wonder we’re a little anxious about the reaction. Many of the books relating to recovery and sobriety I’ve been reading have sections on how to handle this and some give a list of suggestions for what you can reply or how to explain why you’re not drinking.

I can safely say that I think drinking was almost part of my identity, just like smoking (although since two years back I vape) – a friend from uni once said she couldn’t imagine me as a non-smoker. Out with friends when the bartender might ask if it’s a regular or large glass, someone might have said “large for Anna obviously”. It was just expected of me to drink like a sailor and smoke like a chimney because I always did. So it’s not just removing your security blanket, it’s also hoping people won’t point and laugh at you when you’re standing there all bare. Personally, there’s nothing I hate more than being the centre of attention – I don’t particularly enjoy being noticed so even changing my hair I find uncomfortable as I feel awkward if people notice. So then with this HUMONGOUS change, I did at first think that social gatherings would feel like that nightmare where you’re up on stage in front of a packed theatre and everyone you know and discovering you’re butt naked. The feeling of being exposed is of course fairly logical in that without any booze we are truly ourselves. Perhaps there’s some trace of fear of rejection too? Luckily I quickly discovered it was almost the other way around. Not only did people not disapprove, almost everyone has been impressed. What about that, eh! And more often than not, a few drinks in, someone will approach me and confide that they too actually want to go sober.

The tide is turning on booze. I genuinely believe this. There is no doubt in my mind that my great grandchildren will gawp at alcohol commercials the way we gawp now at tobacco commercials from the 60s. No doubt whatsoever. A recent study showed that a much larger percentage of the age group 16-25 claim to be non-drinkers compared with only 20 years ago. OK, there’s all sorts of other crap young people put into their bodies but one thing at a time and at this present time it would appear that alcohol is slowly but surely losing its street cred. It’s no longer all that cool to drink. Only the other day I saw a post from the Facebook group for my area of London that was encouraging people to shop local and had a list of where you can get various Christmas must-haves from. Yes, it listed a wine merchant’s but it also had a specific entry for “dry drinkers” and that, my friends, made me smile from ear to ear! It wasn’t there like that sad corner of the supermarket that has “free from” products, it was just there alongside and given as much space as the other festive staples like turkeys and wrapping paper. It wasn’t there as an consolation prize for those who “can’t drink alcohol” but as a perfectly good option amongst all the others. Being a non-drinker doesn’t at all mean we become social pariahs like I suspect many of us fear. Well I did anyway – hell, I feared being home alone and not drinking so to even contemplate out socially was mind boggling for me back then. But here we are now and as far as I can see, being a non-drinker isn’t just acceptable, it’s becoming more and more common and something we’re starting to think of as BADASS! And quite right too.

Well, I for one have yet to encounter anyone feeling sorry for me. In fact, a lot of people seem to feel a little intimidated and without me asking about their habits begin to give a long list of reasons why they enjoy drinking – almost like they’re a little embarrassed of their choices and feel an urge to defend them. OK, so I didn’t exactly drink normal amounts and perhaps the reactions I get are therefore all my family and friends drawing a collective sigh of relief, but even so – even people who don’t know me and therefore have never witnessed me guzzle, will invariable comment “oh, good for you!” when I say I don’t drink. It’s 2018 and my impression of the world is that not drinking is almost entirely seen as a really great thing. That’s the response I’ve had anyway.

When I first stopped – actually, I still sometimes get a little insecure about it – I was quite worried that my husband would miss “fun Anna”. Like many other people I shed all inhibitions when I’m drunk and of course this does mean that I’m more likely to be crazier and sillier when I’m hammered. And you only need to listen in sober to a conversation between two giggling drunk people to know that some things are only funny when you’re sloshed. Yes – we did go out more. Yes – we did laugh the next day more often about how funny this thing or that from last night was. Yes – I was wilder in a whole bunch of ways. I still worry about that sometimes. Yet deep down I know that hubby is nothing but thrilled that I stopped drinking. Things ARE different. I can’t sit here and tell you that it’s the same as before because it isn’t. I’m not the same. Things are better. I’m better. No, hubby no longer has a wife who is often more than a little tipsy when he gets home in the evening and ready to let loose on any given day of the week, but he has one who’s up for going to the gym with him or a run. A wife who has done the things she needed to do and isn’t too muddled up from hangovers to even arrange for the groceries. I’m still ME. And that’s who he fell in love with – me. So he has more of the person he fell in love with (this is good AND bad I guess!) because I’m never that dumbed down drunk version of me.

So I’ve come to believe there are just no real downsides to not drinking in this day and age. But then we watched a recent episode of First Dates and a cute couple called Lee and Abbi. Their date was really sweet and they clearly hit it off. Lee was obviously taken by Abbi who came across as super smart, really funny, a little quirky, charming and interesting. Oh, and she’s a really beautiful woman too. But Lee, who likes a good night out, was concerned that Abbi doesn’t drink and therefore decided against another date.

Did he just turn her down because she’s not a drinker?” I asked hubby in disbelief.

Yeah,” hubby replied.

I actually went a little cold.

If I had stopped drinking before we met, would that have put you off me?” I asked, suddenly needy and insecure and once again feeling that worry I did in the beginning that the non-drinking would turn me into a bore.

No. Why?

Well – look at her! She’s wonderful and that bloke turned her down because she prefers a cup of tea and staying in!

Yes, because he’s a twat. I’m not a twat, am I?

Still, it made me feel a bit sad that twatty Lee had turned down lovely Abbi because of such an insane reason, but it turns out Lee did come to his senses. After the end of filming he contacted her and asked her for a chance after all and they ended up dating.

Clearly non-drinking can be a little awkward, after all. When I still drank I would have dismissed any non-drinker as a self righteous boredom zone and done my best to avoid them, but I was a heavy drinker who already knew deep down that I had a massive drinking problem. I did NOT need another mirror held up to me – I already knew. But I do wonder if this is how regular drinker feel too? That we feel a bit threatened and annoyed when someone’s made a really healthy choice? Like when someone exercises a lot and we feel a little inadequate because we feel like we’re not doing enough? Oh, I don’t know. It is still perhaps a little unusual to stay away from alcohol but as I said, I really do believe alcohol is on its way out. I think it’s entirely possible that even in my lifetime there’ll be a day when it’s as frowned upon as smoking is now.

Enough rambling on from me for now but do let me know what you think. Were you worried it’d be awkward to tell people you’re no longer drinking?

Today I’m not going to drink.

Shivery and Cold

Sometimes paranoia creeps up on me. Like a dense and moist little cloud of anxiety and self doubt that slowly envelopes me until I’m shivery and cold. Right this moment I’m wondering if my “coming out” has a negative effect on people around me. From a purely selfish perspective it was a huge relief to finally say it out loud and a massive weight off my shoulders. By accepting and even embracing it, I was given a chance to recover and get back on my feet. It was pretty much entirely a positive thing for me. Scary, sure, and overwhelming too, but I finally felt full of hope for the future and accepting the problem – aka I’m an alcoholic – was the key. There have been some slightly awkward conversations, because it turns out it’s quite hard to just casually drop into conversation that you’re a roaring drunk. With some people, to date namely my brother D and my mother, I’ve felt really worried that me saying I’m an alcoholic would hurt THEM somehow. I.e. that it’d be too sad for them to bear. I mean, for me the sad bit was when I was drinking and this sober stuff is when life has truly begun, but I worried it’d be much harder for them to accept. Perhaps I felt that way because they are in Sweden and rarely see me and therefore it only became an actual THING when I dropped the A-bomb? Oh, I don’t know.

That’s not quite the bit that has me cold and shivery though. Sure, the temperatures have dropped and it’s wet and windy outside (eek, I’ll be running in this later), but I was thinking of Lopez. She’s one of my best friends but I haven’t seen her since my wedding day as I live in the UK and she lives in Canada. Given we don’t see each other often, I obviously haven’t been able to have any conversation with her about me getting sober. I kind of figured it’d only be good news to her though – I mean, both Lopez and Danish once told me about, oh maybe ten years ago they were worried about my drinking – so I didn’t worry about wrapping it in too much cotton wool like I did with my mum. We usually drop each other an e-mail once in a blue moon so I wrote the usual catch-up stuff and accounted for however many detentions Bambino had that particular week (two) and how great things are at home with hubby (very). Then I just said it, that I’d stopped drinking because it’s a huge problem and I’d had enough. Oh, and that I’m an alcoholic. I think I started with the A-word to be fair. And I thought nothing more of it.

There’s never been a reply though.

Months went by. I sent a happy birthday when Lopez turned 43 in August and she did respond then just to say she’d reply properly soon. But then several weeks passed again. I sent a little message just wanting to check she’s OK but again nothing. And now, when another couple of months have passed, I dropped her another message. I can’t quite imagine it’ll be anything to do with me or stopping drinking, because if it was ME she wouldn’t have been my friend to begin with and if it was the drinking surely she’d like me better now I’m sober and especially as she was one of the people around me who were worried about my boozing. Dunno, but I suppose I’ll eventually find out.

Then there’s my dad, who was absolutely delighted to hear I’d stopped drinking but over the past few months he’s not been sending the usual Friday text message that goes to me and my brothers: “have a good weekend my little ones“. And he doesn’t seem to call me as often lately either. Actually, typing this out helps because I see how ridiculous I’m being. I’m going to call dad this evening and if Lopez doesn’t respond in the next week I’ll just sort of ask somehow. I suspect I’ve been taking a little swim in the narcissistic pond (perhaps even the one Narcissus was admiring his own reflection in) again and making things about me-me-me when in fact there’s none of that.

Today I’m not going to drink.

300 Days

I can’t believe I’ve been sober 300 days. This is, no doubt, the longest I’ve gone without alcohol since the first time I ever drank. No joke. I’ve had three long-ish dry spells before this: around 2001 when I was in a shitty situation, when I was married to my first husband and including my pregnancy 2002-2006, and in 2010 when I went for a good four or five months. None of those were “attempts” to get sober, but rather times when alcohol disappeared due to me either going through a rough time and therefore didn’t feel like drinking or being really into running and therefore not adding the one thing that makes it impossible to keep up any fitness regime. None of these were completely booze free, but rather periods of time when I drank very rarely. When it comes to trying to do something about what I for a long time knew was a massive problem, I tried what feels like a million times to control booze. Abstinence would usually last a day or two and any moderation attempts worked until I ordered another one – in other words, never. So this is a victory because in all my attempts to get my drinking under control, this is the first time I’m approaching something that is distinctly beginning to look and feel like success. Perhaps it’s true that practice makes perfect. Not that I need to be perfect – just sober.

This time around was very different or at least it feels that way. Whereas I before knew it was a problem and that I needed to stop, it was only 300 days ago that I’d really had enough. Before this, I’d always still wanted to drink despite knowing I had to stop. This time I just knew I didn’t want to drink anymore, problem or no problem – I was done. I’d had enough of feeling like shit every day. I’d had enough of not being my best. I’d had enough of losing control. I’d had enough of being scared. I’d had enough of not being me. I’d had enough of having enough. I just couldn’t take it anymore. Gone were all delusions of being able to stick to weekends only or stopping at a certain number of drinks or any of the other, countless and ultimately ridiculous rules I tried to make myself believe I could abide by. I think I’d also got to that point where even when I was in the middle of drinking it’d become impossible to try to make myself believe it was fun or beneficial somehow. It was like a toxic relationship coming to an end, and it was of course toxic in the literal sense of the word. You can forgive almost anything when you’re still in love, there are almost no limits to the abuse you will suffer through and yet you defend your love. Then suddenly one day you discover you’ve finally fallen out of love and you see your abuser for who they truly are. In that moment, beauty turns ugly.

I think I had to get to that point. I mean, I wish I’d got there much sooner. In fact, knowing what I know now, I obviously wish I’d never bothered with alcohol at all. But I think I needed to really see alcohol’s real nature and understand it and it wasn’t until 300 days ago today that I genuinely did and knew the game was up. It’s something to be grateful for and I am.

It’s often said that we have to hit our rock bottom before we can begin to recover. Of course that rock bottom is different for everyone. My consequences hadn’t yet become visible outwardly I suppose. I mean, I don’t think anyone around me failed to notice I was a little bit too chummy with the old Sauvignon Blanc, but I wasn’t in the gutter. The most accurate and honest way I can put it would be to say that 300 days ago it struck me like lightning: I knew where I was headed and I didn’t want to go there because it terrified me. It wasn’t yet a reality but it was clear that it wasn’t far away if I went on drinking. The beast had its claws deep into me and was breathing down my neck. I wasn’t in the gutter but I instinctively knew how it’d feel and I knew I had to fight for my life if I wanted to have one. I just knew it was over. Luckily, and perhaps thanks in part to falling out of love with booze, it hasn’t been the fight to the death I first thought I was in for. It’s by far the biggest change I’ve ever made and my life has changed infinitely because of it, but I would be lying if I were to say it’s been tough. I’d also be lying if I were to say it’s been easy. It’s been both, is the truthful answer: mostly easy but a little bit tough. What’s also true is that even though I haven’t had to so far, I’d fight to the death any day to keep hold of what I now have.

Today I’m not going to drink.