Sober Mama, Brave Bambino

This is Bambino. It’s nearly 12 years ago – Midsummer’s Eve 2007 to be exact – and we were on our way to the Swedish Church for celebrations with my friend E. I never put photos on this blog of anyone else, Bambino included, because I don’t think it’s right unless that person has expressly said it’s OK. In this case I feel it’s OK. Bambino doesn’t look like this anymore, except for his huge blue eyes. Now he’s a lanky 14-yearold with dark fluff on his top lip. I’d like to think I look exactly the same, but alas….


Unfortunately for Bambino, it would seem he’s inherited his teeth from me. Sort of like he was God’s last appointment that day, when God was tired and just wanted to get home and therefore just threw a handful of teeth in there. So he’s getting braces and because his gob is quite crowded, some teeth have to come out. He had two out this morning and back again tomorrow for another two. Let me just say I still feel sick. We both needed a lie-down after that ordeal. Can I just warn you right now that further down there’s a horrible picture of a horror tooth. It’s the devil of all teeth, I swear. The picture does NOT do it justice, it’s a mean son of a gun this one.

Now, Bambino is – in spite of his neurotic mother – a really resilient and robust little dude. He’s never been one to kick up a fuss. I sat with him at the hospital the time he’d banged his head at school and had a big gash on his forehead that the doctor had to stitch up – bit weepy and clearly upset but not a peep. He just got on with it whilst I couldn’t even look, bravely just dealing with it, his big eyes looking up at the doctor for reassurance occasionally. Then there was the time he was violently sick, he was five or six at the time, and retching so much he lost his breath, plus he had a raging temperature too. In between violent heaving that made his tiny little torso contract, he whispered “OK, it’s OK” like an instruction to himself. Bambino is an absolute trooper, so much braver than I’ve ever been, calm and with the endurance of a super hero. God, I admire my little man so much, he’s something else that boy.

He’s had a tooth pulled before and it wasn’t fun, but it was what it normally is – unpleasant but doesn’t take very long and once you’re nice and numb it’s rarely a matter of more than five or ten minutes to get it out, right? And who likes needles? But he’s done it before and whilst he wasn’t looking forward to it, he was as chilled out as always and there was zero complaining or worry on his part.

This was something else though. The first tooth to go was a molar and they had to get that one as it had a filling and better to take a “bad” tooth than a healthy one. The dentist said it’d be trickier to get out as it had roots that were bending outwards so Bambino was clear on that it’d go on for perhaps a little longer. He seemed more concerned about the needle beforehand, but just asked how long that part would take and was happy with the response of just a minute. THE DAMN THING TOOK 45 MINUTES TO COME OUT. As Bambino is underage, I had to be present and I’ve never fought so hard to keep a calm demeanour. Smiled encouragingly at Bambino any time there was a break and he sought my eyes but I felt like throwing up the whole time. When the dentist was at it, I had my eyes closed and tried to think about something else.

This tooth is very attached to you,” the dentist said as she once again had the nurse cleaning up a little saliva and blood.

Bambino got several more rounds of the needle to ease the discomfort. It was brutal and I was breaking inside. The dentist’s neck was blotchy and she was visibly stressed-out too. I expected her to go and ask for help at any minute. She had told us beforehand that there was a risk of the roots breaking off, in which case Bambino would have to go to a dental surgeon, but after much pushing and pulling and pained groans and whimpers from Bambino, the devil tooth finally came out. Now, my kid isn’t one for crying. When Bambino cries, you know it’s bad. He was white as a sheet and shaking, a few tears rolling down his lovely face as he shakily removed the goggles to wipe them away as the nurse was dabbing at his mouth. It was vicious, I feel like crying just writing this. And after that ordeal there was still one more to go, but this one of the more normal kind and although there were a couple more injections, ten minutes and it was over.

I was last out of the room and the dentist put a hand to her chest and mouthed “oh my God” to me.

Out in the car Bambino hunched over and cried. When my robust little trooper cries, it means there’s MORE than reason to and anyone else would have lost it completely. And he has to go back again tomorrow for another two. So, so brave, this little dude, and I’m so proud of him. And why talk about this on this sobriety blog? Well, because I was a good mum today. I was present and calm and I looked after my kid. I was at my full faculties. I was a good mum today because I’m sober. If I’d been hungover I would have fainted or had a complete breakdown. I wouldn’t have been able to be there for Bambino in the same way when I was still drinking. Sober, it would appear I’m a lot more like Bambino, actually: pretty brave and pretty calm and pretty strong.

Here’s the devil tooth – just look at that evil, evil thing:


Today I’m not going to drink.


Back from the Edge

What I’m always intrigued to find out when I read any drinking memoir (currently reading ‘Girl Walks Out of a Bar’ by Lisa Smith) is how much someone drank. Sometimes I wonder if this is my addict’s brain hoping to be able to say “look! That person drinks more! That means you are FINE!” but I can report that except for some of the stories that involve other substances too, there have been few so far where the author has topped my levels. On occasion I find myself thinking they must be lying. One bottle of wine per day? Pah! You call that a drinking problem? Bloody amateurs! Truth of the matter is it doesn’t, uhm, matter. We’re all different and we all react differently too. I always feel a bit hesitant to divulge the amounts I used to drink just in case someone like Drunk Me might hear and take it to be “oh look! She drinks WAY more! That means I am FINE!” – that’d be terrible. At the same time I want to be open and honest about this and talking about the actual amount of wine I was drowning in is part of the story here.

Strangely enough, looking back it would seem the amount I drank remained pretty level for almost the entirety of the 12-13 years I drank heavily. When I first spiralled, it was gradual but it was also FAST. In almost no time I quickly worked my way up to and went from almost a bottle of wine a night to nearly two bottles in what can’t have been more than a matter of a year or so of almost everyday drinking, and that’s where I seemed to remain. My cruising speed seemed to stabilise at between two and a half and closer to three bottles and that’s where I seemed to stay. Oh, I know, it’s staggering amounts – I’m not saying otherwise – but isn’t it a little surprising that it didn’t creep further? Then again, perhaps it would have. I just can’t imagine hard liquor but I’m sure my friend Tumbler probably said the same thing at some stage before she found herself drinking Jagermeister before breakfast during those last few years before she lost her life to alcoholism. It’s not as if I ever saw myself drinking a cask of wine every night of the week either. Tomaydo, tomahto.

Before I met Hubby nearly six years ago, I did go under a few times. One particular moment sticks out in my mind of getting more wine as soon as I could stand up one day and I was shaking so bad and was so dizzy I felt my legs starting to give way when I was less than 50 yards from my front door. I think that’s the only time I thought I’d have to open one of the bottles there and then, right on the sidewalk out in the street, and take a few swigs to come right. I didn’t have to, but you can bet your bottom dollar I was into that bottle before I even took my shoes off after making it home those last few yards. I don’t know what time of day it was but probably not much past lunchtime. Hubby, unbeknownst to him, probably slowed me down. Never good to have a witness when you’re up to no good. So I probably have more to thank him for than just telling him I’m grateful for being my best friend – the fact that he just exists seems to have pulled me back from the edge a bit. I’m sure this is true for many alcoholics but I sank the deepest when I was left alone and unchecked and could drink the way I wanted to.

That was the amount I seemed to maintain over the majority of my heavy drinking days – around the two and a half bottles of wine per sitting. Before the dawn of Hubby there were patches – sometimes longer periods – of every single day, definitely. There were also times when I didn’t drink that often and even a longer period one year where I didn’t drink at all for nearly five months. I suspect many of us alkies have a drinking history like that, slightly patchy. In the years since Hubby came along I’d say I’ve probably averaged around four or five nights a week. To be clear though, there are very few instances when I’ve had a drink and it hasn’t lead to me getting completely blotto or in black-out. Apart from times when I’ve either not been able to as there was no more booze or we had visitors or similar, it’s always been a case of if I have one I’m a goner. One drink is too many, twenty aren’t enough – the story of my life.

Do you read this and think HOLY MOLY did she really drink that much? Or do you read this the way I read about one bottle of wine per day and think WTF that’s nothing? You don’t have to tell me but it does always interest me for some reason to hear what another addict’s/alcoholic’s daily intake looked like. Not sure why and whilst in the past it would have been in the hope I’d be able to say “hurrah! I don’t have a problem because just look how much SHE drinks! I’m nothing like that!“, that’s not the case now. I don’t want to drink again because 1) it only causes shit and has no benefits, and 2) if I start drinking I cannot stop.

So the book I mentioned at the beginning is actually one of those where I’ve gone HOLY MOLY, because Smith describes drinking wine and snorting cocaine from the moment she wakes up. There is no part of me – at least not right now – that is trying to use this as a favourable comparison though. It’s not better and it’s not worse. Addiction is addiction. Just like it might be easy to point to the end stage alcoholic on the park bench and say “but I’m not THAT bad” in some pathetic attempt at making yourself believe you’re a “better” drunk because you’re drinking a good wine and not strong cider out of a can in full view. Tomaydo, tomahto. I’ve said it before, but the only difference between me and the drunk on the park bench in this very moment is one drink. That’s all.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Hey Jude

For anyone who knows me even a tiny bit, it won’t come a surprise when I say I am an emotional tornado. Everything I feel, I feel strongly and although sobriety has definitely balanced me out a bit (I’ve even been described as CALM in the past year which is fucking hilarious but absolutely delights me!), I do often feel stuff right from my core and out into my fingertips. Like navigating my own feelings wasn’t enough, I also soak up the mood and atmosphere around me like a sponge. I can be in THE best mood, then there’ll be the slightest twinge of yuckiness and I crash into the deepest doom. Or I can be feeling low and apprehensive and then walk into a cheery situation and immediately be lifted so high I feel delirious. Exhausting, much? Yeah.

So I’m in the process of closing an old chapter and beginning a new one. I chucked in a job that sucks the life out of me and decided it’s time to start living and do something productive with my time. Just over a week ago I walked along the high street and handed in my CV and a I’m-starting-over cover letter to a bunch of shops and cafes. I mean, the whole thing is a little bit terrifying but I felt so positive and fired up and felt in my heart that all will come good. A knot of dread did form in my chest a few times over the past week any time I allowed fear to join the party – shit, I’ve messed up here, what if I can’t get a job, and so on. I always bloody preach how anyone who wants to work can find SOMETHING quickly and make a living so long as you accept you can’t always be precious about stuff, so there was part of me that worried it might not be as easy as I thought.

Then two magical things happened. A couple of days later I received a letter through the post, handwritten in beautiful calligraphy on the sort of letter paper I used to buy sets of when I was around 12 years old and had pen pals. It was from a store owner and she thanked me for dropping in my CV. She isn’t looking for staff but wished me luck with my new chapter and finished off with “your enthusiasm will serve you well“. Stuff like this fills me with joy and further enforces my faith in humanity. The second magical thing isn’t all that magical – I did offer my services after all – but still filled me with renewed hope. The owner of a little organic cafe rang me yesterday and I’m heading over to see her this afternoon to see what hours they may be able to offer me if she thinks I’m the right person to serve coffee. In my head, I keep thinking I’ll bloody love that sort of thing and I think it’s also really cool to go into something with absolute transparency – how many times have I sat in interviews trying to make it sound like “oh yes, this is for the longhaul and in 10 years’ time I see myself heading up a department“. This is so much nicer – I’m keen to do this and know I’ll enjoy it, and it’s to bring in some cash when I pursue a new career. What a relief, eh.

So I feel really good and know I’m making the right decisions. Sober Me is quite good at that stuff, just like I’m sure most of us are better at calm and rational decisions when we’re not constantly numbed and poisoned by a liquid depressant. This is all really positive. And when I’m down there today I’m going to pop in to the other store and ask to see Jude, the talented calligrapher who sent me the lovely letter, and tell her that I’m going to keep that letter with other things I keep as memories because it was a lovely thing to receive. What I’m actually going to do is frame it because I was so inspired by it, but I won’t tell poor Jude that because she’ll think I’m bonkers. To Jude I’ll just say it was a nice gesture that didn’t go unnoticed. Paying it forward is a wonderful thing, but paying it back is good too. It’s also good to know I was right in thinking I can make it work even if it might take a while before I find the right place for me in the world. And, I think I’ll actually be quite good as a barista. Nothing better than finishing the day knowing you did a good job and took pride in what you did, whether it was to oversee a multi-million acquisition or serve someone a cup of coffee.

Who else chucked in their job without having the road mapped out? What was the deal? How did it go? Did you also swing between top-of-the-world empowered and shit-your-pants scared?

Today I’m not going to drink.

A Tiny Bit of Hope

What is that one thing? The thing, if you could sum it up, that meant you could stop?” Hubby asked.

We were sitting as we often do, at opposite ends of the sofa, talking about life and, well, this time my sobriety. My one-year anniversary happened when he was away, so I guess it was especially topical.

It wasn’t just one thing,” I said as my mind went into overdrive, “it was a whole bunch of things that came together at the right moment.

But you keep saying how it was a stormy sea and how the waves parted at exactly the right moment and you saw your life line,” Hubby insisted and threw back at me the analogy I always use to describe the moment I saw my chance to ask for help, my way out. “What was it? And what could I have done that might have got you there sooner?

OK, so just so I’m clear on what you’re asking – you’re wanting me to articulate what made me stop drinking, what you did and what you could have done sooner to help bring it about?

Yes. What did it take for you to stop?

You do realise that if we find the answer to that question, we’ll cure the world of all addictions, don’t you?” I replied and smiled in a slightly smart-arsey kind of way, after all I’m the drunkard here. “Quids in if we crack that old chestnut and are able to provide a sure-fire answer. We’ll have high schools and streets named after us.

But, summarise it,” Hubby went on, “not the waves, not the life line, spell out exactly what it was.

It’s a good question though, isn’t it? I mean, when I was still trapped it would have been the one thing I would have wanted the answer to. In AA they often say that the alcoholic has to hit rock bottom before they can get sober. It sounds severe, doesn’t it, ‘rock bottom’? Makes you think of social services, homelessness and the park bench stereotype. It doesn’t have to be all those hugely devastating things though. I prefer to think of it as my turning point because it wasn’t a big or dramatic event, it was simply a combination of mainly two things: I’d fucking had it with drinking and at the right moment I saw my life line. Yes, like the huge waves in a stormy sea parted just as I glanced in the right direction and caught a glimpse of a life line, then swam furiously towards it. OK, less fucking poetic – Hubby asked me the right thing in the right moment and I saw my chance to finally speak the words: “help, I’m scared“. Is that somewhat clear? I was desperate to stop and just when I needed it there was a chance for me to ask for help so I did. Oh, and a third ingredient: a tiny bit of hope.

But what Hubby was asking and was trying to get at, was whether HE could have said or done anything that could have got me there sooner. After all, he now knows how I felt for many years and how often that little voice inside of me had cried out long before I was able to verbalise it myself. Could he have said or done something? Anything? I know I have pondered this before on this blog, but I think it’s such a hugely important discussion that it needs plenty of attention. Well, a bit further along now and I’m gaining clarity each day in terms of my own experience, and I feel I can give you at least SOME kind of accurate answer as to what you can do if you want to help someone you care about: not a damn thing.

There is nothing – genuinely nothing – anyone could have said or done that would have got me there sooner. Sure, threatening to take away my child or my home away or ultimatums of that caliber would certainly have scared me into stopping. FOR A WHILE. I don’t believe force is the answer. I’m sure there are people who stop against their will and white knuckle it for eternity, but what sort of life is that? I just don’t believe in that sort of thing – I truly believe that the only person who can get you out of addiction is YOU.

I have a son. He is my world. My sun rises and sets with him and I would die for him. No, really – I’d die for him. But I couldn’t stop drinking for him. I know this is a hard pill to swallow and even though I’m the drunk here, even I want to punch me in the face and scream at me YOU DON’T DESERVE TO BE A MOTHER, so I get how insane this is. That’s addiction, my friends. And besides, if the love for our children was the answer, then all we need to do is encourage all addicts to start families! Problem solved, no? Oh, that’s right – it doesn’t work like that. People lose EVERYTHING and still they drink or use. I’m witnessing a friend crash further than I ever have and she’s not even hinting at booze being anything to do with it. So along with “make babies” we can strike off most other ultimatums from the list of things that might solve the problem of addiction. Agree?

This is a key point, actually, when it comes to my sobriety. It’s worth pointing out over and over: I don’t believe the reasons why we shouldn’t drink have anything to do with it. What we need to focus on is why we feel we SHOULD. Most children can probably tell you that alcohol is harmful, just like they can tell you that smoking kills. The terrifying thing, however, is that even small children will also have a glamourised image of what drinking is and does and THAT, folks, is what needs changing. What kept me drinking was the simple fact that I believed it did something for me and although it was the negatives that were starting to outweigh my perceived positives that got me fed up with it and made me want to stop, what keeps me sober and happy today is knowing that there’d be more benefit to me eating dog poo. If I still believed there were benefits to drinking I’d feel deprived, pissed off and resentful. Actually, rephrase that: if I still believed there were benefits to drinking I would have started up again because that’s what always happened before. I think that’s the glaring difference this time – this time I deconstructed my whys and discovered the answer to each one was nothing.

Back to what Hubby or anyone else might have been able to say or do, though. Not a thing, really. However, there is something I do think made a difference: I felt safe. I knew he was there for me, I knew he supported me and I knew there was no judgment. When you feel that way, it’s possible to open up and be vulnerable. Who feels able to open yourself up if what you can expect is to feel even worse? When an addict feels judged or what have you, they clam up and off we go with the hiding and the dishonesty. Feel free to correct me if you feel I’m missing something or that I’m just getting all this wrong – I’d love to hear any views on this because let’s face it, I’m really just trying to figure all this out.

When it comes to being supportive, I’m not saying you should turn the other cheek until your head is spinning like Linda Blair’s in the Exorcist. Watching someone you love slowly commit suicide by addiction is heartbreaking. You have every right and reason to say “I cannot do this” and walk away – absolutely. No one can demand of you to remain in that awful position that hurts you, and it’d be more than reasonable to refuse to keep coming home to a spouse who’s drunk every day. But I’m saying that if you want the alkie you love to turn to you and confide in you and be more likely to ask for help – be the safe harbour. Nearby or on stand-by. You can still let them know their drinking upsets you and worries you. You can still say that you can’t just watch and need to distance yourself. That’s totally OK and healthy – always look after yourself. As we all know, alcoholism doesn’t just hurt the alcoholic. Ironically, I honestly feel it’d be much worse to watch Hubby or someone else that I love fight alcoholism than doing so myself. I know that sounds strange, but it’s true.

There was also another safe harbour for me in some of my friends. Cherokee was someone I confided in occasionally. She never told me she thought my drinking was OK but I suppose there’s a difference between “you deserve better than that” and “stop drinking you terrible person“. She told me it made her sad to hear what I was doing to myself. Like with Hubby, I felt safe with her and that’s why I confided in her long before I even stopped. Both of them managed a pretty perfect balance of non-judgment and honesty. Compare this to how I might have felt about going to my Dad, who is quite an opinionated straight arrow – I told him, sure, but only once I’d got sober. I did sort of expect the lecture but all I got was love and support so perhaps I misjudged him, but still – point is I felt judged and therefore kept it to myself, just like I did around everyone else. I mean, saying “I’m an alcoholic” or that other little word – “help” – is fucking hard as it is.

So I suppose it wasn’t quite so biblical as I may have initially looked at me getting sober with huge waves parting and seeing a life line. Hubby had placed life lines all around me and any which way I’d looked at any which moment, one would have appeared. I do realise that now that I’ve really thought hard about his question. There is nothing more he could have said or done. He just loved me and honoured his promise of “for poorer”. I felt safe and so was able to reach out before plunging towards a much harsher rock bottom. I felt able to reach out. His question made me realise it’s nothing to do with “sooner”. Hubby and friends like Cherokee are the reason it didn’t become “later”. Or “too late”.

What made me stop can be broken down into three things:

  1. I’d had enough.
  2. I felt able to reach out and ask for help.
  3. I felt hope.

Perhaps that image in my mind of waves parting in the storm are more to do with that last bit – hope. That somehow I knew there could be a better life and I reached for it. I knew of course that those mornings I woke up hangover free I felt so good compared with a hangover – hope formed again in me when I started to see that my best friend Sauvignon Blanc was actually a lying, cheating and stealing bitch who was out to bring about my untimely demise.

Wow. This turned looooooong! Well, I had a lovely week off work and despite having lots of quality time to myself I hardly spent any time at all in front of my computer. Well. Now back to reality to sit out the last few weeks of my old job and figure out my first steps forward as I close the door on my old life.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Talk About It

Those words roll off my tongue quite easily these days: “I’m an alcoholic“. I find myself telling my story openly, freely and – actually – keenly. Sure, I find addiction a very interesting subject just based on its superb ability to hold our brains hostage alone, but beyond this I think the more we talk about it, the more chance others will have to get out of the dark pit of alcoholism. The more we talk and share, the more we will understand and the more we understand the better placed we will be to have empathy. And once we have understanding and empathy, perhaps the last thing the addict will have to worry about is the shame and stigma traditionally associated with being a drunk. I mean, clawing your way out of that pit is bad enough as it is without people judging you too. So I talk about it. A lot.

Went and got my hair done as it was once again starting to resemble the sort of hedge you get around derelict buildings, where green fingers stopped lovingly tending to it a long time ago. Hairdressers are chatty folk, aren’t they? Sometimes you see these articles or even books where e.g. flight attendants will disclose the worst instances of passengers’ behaviour. I’d love to read a book titled ‘Things I Only Tell My Hairdresser‘. They’re sort of neutral, aren’t they? Actually, I’m often way too open as it is, but because it struck me about hairdressers just now because, well, I only went the other day, and also you spend at least half an hour with them and actually (hopefully!) much longer than you ever spend talking with your doctor.

Well. There I was, having aforementioned hedge chopped and tended to by a lovely chick I’ll call Rosy because her hair was a really cool shade of dusty rose. We chatted as you do and I found out she works at this salon a couple of times per week and on the side runs her own business.

So what line of work are you in, then?” Rosy asked.

Ah, well…” I started, made a face and chuckled, “I quit my job Friday, so I suppose nothing right now, but I’m hoping to get into addiction counselling.

That’s great, really great!” Rosy told me and even stopped for a moment to place her hands on my shoulders, gave a little squeeze and smiled broadly.

A bit over enthusiastic I thought, but hey, hairdressers are always chirpy and bubbly, aren’t they? But this wasn’t just as-you-do chatter, and when she went back to separate out the next strands of my hair to cut, I found out why my future career had made her stop and smile.

You know, I grew up with addiction.

Oh wow, did you really? That must have been very hard,” I felt that old knot of sorrow in my chest like I always do when I hear these stories of the children who grow up with people like me for parents.

Yeah, it was. I was taken away from my mum,” Rosy told me but this didn’t make her stop what she was doing, “but she’s clean now. She went to rehab five times before it stuck and the last time was really her last chance and it was on condition that she also moved. The other times she’d come out and then her old dealers would come around with whatever.

Rosy told me matter-of-factly of a life growing up with parents who weren’t sober, being separated from mum and having dad in jail. Mum now in a different part of the country and dad in Spain. Stepmum and brother dead, both due to addiction and in the past couple of years.

Dad’s doing well. He got clean when I was five and has kept at it. Mum had to go to rehab several times over and now she has decided to drink again, which I’m really upset about but I think she feels she should be allowed that as long as she doesn’t go back on the drugs.

Do you think she’ll manage?” I asked.

I don’t know. She does drink every day. It’s hard because she gets really upset when we talk about it, I think she has a lot of guilt.

I told Rosy my story and imagined her wanting to plunge the scissors into my neck. I genuinely felt ashamed confessing to drinking for so many years and my son witnessing it so often. And quite rightly – I’m not trying to unnecessarily beat myself up here but I bloody SHOULD feel shame at that part, end of story. We talked and talked. Of course what I wanted to know more than anything else is how I best go about this for Bambino’s sake.

I have tried to bring about the conversation, but he either bats it away or tells me it wasn’t so bad, which is obviously something he only says not to upset me,” I said.

It’s so hard isn’t it,” Rosy agreed, “I have things to say about it but I can’t stand to see mum get upset. Dad has never given me any opportunity to talk about it at all.

And that’s the problem! Bambino might hold back on the old MUM YOU AWFUL DEVIL WOMAN HOW COULD YOU KEEP DRINKING AND HURT ME just to protect my feelings. Speaking to Rosy helped and when I got home I knew what to say and so I did. Bambino was sitting in the kitchen having cereal for an after school top up ahead of dinner (we get through Crunchy Nut like you wouldn’t believe) and I asked him to put his phone down. Full attention. And I said the things Rosy told me she’d wanted her parents to say to her, which is what I’d asked her.

Right, listen. I know you feel awkward and uncomfortable about this and I’m not going to force you to talk about it, OK, but I want to make something clear so you just know, alright?

Bambino nodded but was squirming a little.

No matter what you say, I know I’ve upset you with my drinking and that it’s hurt you.


No, let me finish, I need to say this to you.

Oh God, fine, go on then.

I know you probably don’t want to say anything because you worry I’ll feel sad or upset and I know you want to protect me. That’s utterly lovely of you and you’re such an amazing person for wanting to look after me, OK. But I want you to know how sorry I am and how unforgivable it is. No! Don’t,” I told him when he drew breath to protest, raised my hand to signal to hold on, “Don’t say anything, unless of course you want to, but there may come a day when you feel you want to tell me a thing or two. You might be furious with me or there might be something you really want me to understand about how you felt in all of this. And all I wanted you to know right now is that when you do, I will give you my full attention and I will listen. It doesn’t matter how I feel about it or if it upsets me to hear it. I will always listen when you want to say your peace. OK?

Alright, cool,” Bambino told me with a roll of the eyes as usual.

No, I can’t undo years of drinking by a nice little speech to my teenager. But I can make sure he gets to have his say when he is ready, and like I promised him, when that day comes I will listen. Until then, I won’t force the conversation or labour the point, but I will talk about it generally – we have to talk about this. You never know who might need to hear it. I needed to hear what Rosy had to say, hear another child (although Rosy is of course no longer a child!) who grew up with addiction. It helped me. And perhaps in some small way it was good for Rosy to hear an old drunk like me wanting to do better and help others, but perhaps I’m just being a bit narcissistic now.

Today I’m not going to drink.

One Year Sober

Ever since this day was starting to finally come into view, I’ve been looking forward to it so much because I couldn’t wait to get here. Yesterday – the last day of my first sober year – a million thoughts were going through my mind. Every so often amongst all the blogs I read, someone might write a post about a milestone and the insights and discoveries they’ve made along the way. Honestly, even MONTHS back I’d often think about what I might have to say myself, also wanting to have something really awesome to share that might help someone else in turn in the same way as it’s helped me so much to hear other people’s stories and thoughts.

Nope, this isn’t that sort of post. Sorry!

Yes, today is a hugely important day to me. It marks the anniversary of the most important decision I’ve ever made in my whole life. Without this decision, there wouldn’t BE a life. Now there is. And I am happy. Happier than I have ever been. No joke. And I wouldn’t have a drink if you paid me. Possibly only if it was to quite literally save someone from dying, but then it’d have to be someone I’d be willing to die for because drinking would kill me – that’s where drinking would lead. You get where I’m going with this though. I’m happy and sober is a fucking awesome place to be – there’s cake here! And a unicorn bag containing a card and presents from my Hubby aka the man with the perfect bottom (fiiiiiine, he’s witty and smart too).

Hubby is away with work and had recorded a little video greeting that I discovered waiting for me on WhatsApp this morning. Too cute. He’d got me a tank top that has “Sober AF” printed on it. ‘AF’ stands for Alcohol Free but I like to think of it as “Sober As Fuck” because I’m a bit immature.

Today is hugely important, but apart from cake for breakfast it was a day here and now in my life. And what dawned on me just a while ago when I was out for a run was that the HERE AND NOW is exactly where I want to be. Why? Because I found my stupid little brain thinking “oh, wouldn’t it be great if today’s run on this important day was super fast and super easy and super perfect“! My life and my attitude was always about all the things I will do if/when/if only/after/when I have/later and so on. Just like this anniversary, my sights were always on what might be just beyond the horizon. And that’s bullshit, actually. All I have is this moment, right here right now. And I love it here. I didn’t do lots today, in fact I did a bit less than I should have. I didn’t fly around the 6k loop like Mo Farah and my pace per kilometre was a bit crappier than my last run. And that’s what dawned on me: so fucking what. It’s here and it’s now and I feel fucking GREAT.

Oh, and I look a bit pretty because I went to the hairdressers so it’s one of those rare moments when my hair is all styled and bouncy into Hollywood-esque locks. Half the time I don’t even bother brushing it, so let’s enjoy that win for a moment as tomorrow it’s back to looking like the Lion King:


Perhaps that’s the lesson I did learn in this first year of being sober? To be happy and content right here right now. Do you know what? I’ll take it. It seems like the greatest jackpot in the world to me.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Crazy Ass Dreams

A year ago today, I was in a very different place. I’d called in sick because I was too hungover to even stand up and I was consumed with guilt – for myself, for having lied to my bosses once again and despite texting with Hubby during the day not telling him I’d failed to get myself to work. I felt awful. Full of shame and full of anxiety. Much like the most other days over more than a decade leading up to it, I felt that shame and guilt burning a hole in me, not that it felt like there was much left to burn through.

It was a shitty place to be, that’s for sure.

Today, a year on, I’m in a place that is pretty much the opposite. I feel healthy and well, I have honoured all my commitments and I’ve been productive. There is no shame, guilt or anxiety eating away at my soul. My son’s eyes are glittering and I don’t have to see the sorrow I used to see there all those times he came home and glanced at the big glass of wine on the table in front of me. At four in the afternoon. Today I get a big hug from him when I tell him what the big cake and the single ‘1’ candle I bought is for.

I’m proud of you Mum“, he told me, “I’ll carry the cake in for you in the morning“.

What a sweetie he is. I think what he’s aiming for is the whole walking in with the cake and singing like you do on a birthday. Thank heavens for this boy of mine. There is nothing I can ever do to make up for what I put Bambino through, but at least I can show him I’m doing all I can to be the best me NOW. And always acknowledge and accept that what came before was unforgivable. The genuine happiness I see in his huge, blue, beautiful eyes now tells me I’m doing good.

Hubby has left me a gift bag that has unicorns on it. He is away with work, and to be honest not sharing tomorrow with him is the only negative I can find in the whole world right now. Sobriety has turned my world into a pretty amazing place, you see, the sort of place where dreams come true and where I can go after whatever crazy ass dream that I might have. What sobriety has shown me more than anything is that I’ve discovered that actually, all my dreams are true right in this very spot.

It’s been 364 days and I never thought I’d be able to say that tomorrow I’ll wake up to my one-year anniversary of being sober.

I’ll catch you then. Funnily enough it seems this last day of my first sober year is the one where so far the most thoughts around it all has been going through my head and I’m finding it hard to put into words what I’m feeling. There are many things – all wonderful – but there is one feeling right now that eclipses everything else: gratitude.

I can’t quite believe it’s real. Please God, always let me stay this way – sober.

Today I’m not going to drink.

17 Letters

Let me tell you something: it feels fucking awesome to take action. Being in recovery, as far as I’m concerned, means I’m recovering the person I am meant to be. That person is not the lethargic super lush who could barely string a sentence together that I used to be, but this person who is here now – Sober Me, or rather…. just ME.

Two days away from being able to say ONE YEAR SOBER I’m not just talking about all the things I will do: tomorrow or starting next Monday or next month or next year, and not if or when. Let’s go, bitches! Carpe the goddamn diem! Now, today, in this moment. And so I did carpe the diem, and why not on a sunny and bright Monday such as this? New beginnings are upon me and I’m not just sitting here waiting for life to happen to me. A year ago, the Beast whispered to me “you’re not strong enough to withstand the storm“. I believed it. Not in a million years did I believe that I’d be where I am now, almost at that milestone I never thought I’d reach.

Today I’m telling the Beast: I AM THE STORM and you’d better believe it, you motherfucker.

I thought it’d be scary, but I was smiling to myself as I was walking down the high street this morning. With me I had 17 envelopes containing my CV and a cover letter. 17 because that’s how many envelopes I had at home, by the way. I went into 17 places – cafes, a charity shop, a bookstore, clothes stores, a health store and a florist – handing in those envelopes marked for the attention of the manager. My cover letter starts with the words “I am starting over!” and briefly explains I am turning a leaf and looking to become an addiction counsellor and whilst volunteering and studying within this field I’m looking for whatever hours and shifts they may be able to give me. I haven’t done this since I was a student and I think part of me thought it’d feel a bit ridiculous and like a bit of a defeat but it felt GOOD. It felt good taking charge of my situation and take action in order to get back out on the pitch. No more warming the bench up for the star players whilst they go get it. Time to join the game, I’ve warmed up and stretched and I’m ready to go.

Sure, I’m a little scared having to leapt off the edge without really knowing where I’ll land but although I don’t know whether I’ll land in hot water or on dry land, I know that Sober Me will land on her feet.

Let’s go grab this beautiful, awesome life by the collar and start up some exciting shit damnit!


Today I’m not going to drink.

A Little Bit of Grace

What an anticlimax. It would appear that at this point, at least, I have not been fired. Just a smile this morning and then my bosses left. I had my neck nicely and conveniently stretched out and ready to have the guillotine drop, but it’d seem having my last meal and final rites was a waste of time. Unless they were planning to come back and fire me. Point is I had no way of knowing and no matter how much I am to blame for not doing my job well (entirely) and how they’ve got every right and reason to be mightily pissed off with me (totally), that’s just odd so I put on my big girl pants and did what I think is right: I fired me.

alan sugar

Whilst this is pretty scary and I’m so in knots I haven’t eaten, I’ve dealt with worse situations – much worse. I’ve dealt with much worse when I was drinking, for God’s sake, and found a way. Gosh, I look back now and sometimes feel quite proud of myself for managing to steer the ship through some pretty harsh storms. At one point I barely stopped to breathe – I had my main full time job, translation work in the evenings and then babysitting too during the weeks Bambino was at his dad’s. On top of that, I was also already down by some way on the slippery slope of accelerating alcoholism and still I came through and made a difficult situation work. I can deal with this, even if I have to stack shelves or serve coffee for a while – to be honest, when you make a career change you can’t always stroll straight into that shiny new job and that’s that, so even despite this unfortunate and unpleasant situation in my current role I would have been faced with some tricky decisions and unknowns. That’s life for you.

Frustrating, yes. I went in today with my heart in my throat not knowing what I was walking into. I felt weak with worry and like I was going to throw up or faint. Would I be yelled at? By Boss Lady alone or both? Or even more people around? A calm chat? Even a friendly chat? Being told off for the last thing I fucked up and just told to shape up? Or told to leave? Or even a cheerful “all sorted now, worse things happen at sea, let’s move on“? Any and every eventuality I was prepared for and I spent yesterday clearing my mind so that I’d be able to calmly apologise, take all shit thrown at me because I deserved it and gracefully accept my fate. I was steeling myself in order not to cry – I’m soft as shite and fall apart very easily, so I was going to save everyone the embarrassment of that too.

As horrible as it was to arrive, I’d made my peace with it all and felt quite calm about it. I “knew” I’d be fired and I also knew this was a good thing, however unpleasant. Still, it’s always shitty to have people be angry with you and so I did feel fucking awful. The feeling reminded me of when I for a very brief period of time was frozen out by my classmates at the age of 10. Funny – I think that was my fault too. Last night I was lying awake with palpitations and whatever sleep I did get was fitful and consisted of nightmares – a strange echo of what most of my nights were like when I was drinking. Perhaps the unknown is just really stressful no matter what your situation is. I didn’t know what to expect, but I guess I didn’t expect for nothing to happen. Oh, I wish I could accurately describe how awkward it was. My colleagues weren’t speaking to me at all, as opposed to how they usually stick their heads in the door to say hello and often have a little chat. Hey, it’s probably awkward for them too and I think they must know Boss Lady was furious with me yesterday, so I don’t blame them but the sooner we’re all put out of our misery the better. And so I made the executive decision to fire me.

It all reminds me a little of drinking. The easy way out would have been to just sit tight. They didn’t fire me so I could have just hung on a bit longer and waited for the axe to drop sometime in the future instead. Aka “I’ll deal with it tomorrow” – exactly how I used to defer dealing with my drinking problem, I knew it was there and it filled me with dread and I just pushed it further and further away into an endless string of tomorrows. Or do what I consider to be the right and honourable thing and deal with the issue without delay. Aka accepting the problem and facing it head on which is basically the attitude that got me sober. If you avoid dealing with things, you get the snowball effect. Ever made a snowman or a snow fortress? Well, you build those out of snow boulders. A snow boulder starts its life as a snowball. Just a standard, harmless little snowball. You then pack more snow on by rolling it in more snow, and it grows and grows as you push it in front of you. Well, I don’t need to clarify the analogy, do I? Ignore a problem or defer it for another time and all you end up with is a much bigger problem. That’s what I did with my drinking and how I’ve dealt with lots of problems. Firing me was throwing a nice little snowball for my bosses to catch. It was the right thing to do.

Wouldn’t it be absolutely infuriating if I’ve misread the whole thing? No, trust me – I haven’t. There is no way that this awkwardness and how people are avoiding me is all in my head. Because alcohol like many other drugs increases and creates paranoia (given it makes you anxious – paranoia often springs from anxiety), I have actually been in situations that I’ve completely misunderstood. There was one job I quit because it was a foray into search marketing and I just quickly discovered it wasn’t my thing, it just didn’t particularly interest me. But I had also convinced myself that I was terrible at it and expected my then bosses to be really pleased to receive my resignation. They weren’t. In fact, they took me to lunch and asked me to stay. I was so taken aback I think I spent most of the meal staring at them and not knowing what to say. One of them pulled up a campaign I’d created on his screen back in the office and said to me as the threw his hands up in a resigned and tired I-can’t-believe-this sort of gesture – “for God’s sake, Anna, just look how good you are at this!“. Again, I stood there and wondered what was going on because how come they didn’t hate me? I know what paranoia can do, but in my current situation there’s none of that. Just sayin’.

It is what it is and I’m very glad to close this chapter. Was I immediately filled with joy and blissful relief? No. It’s still a horrible situation and that sick feeling is still hanging in my chest like a thundercloud but it has now stopped growing. This isn’t some woohoo grab life by the horns diatribe either, I’m just basically outlining for you how I’ve made a dog’s dinner of the day job and how I’m now trying to at least have some grace and honour by doing what’s right. By quitting I’ve of course created other challenges but I can deal with them. I just need to remember who I am underneath – not the Anna who drank, but the Anna who knows how to work and how to work hard. The Anna who can turn things around. The Anna who can take responsibility and be accountable. The Anna I am recovering. I am, after all, in recovery and I’m going to be obnoxious and give myself a pat on the back here because as much as I’m the absolute dickhead in this situation, I’m actually quite proud of myself too. I didn’t race home and drink. Tomorrow morning and every morning thereafter I’m going to wake up clear and lucid and I’m going to find my way again.

It’s time for a new chapter now – it’s about time I get my arse in gear. I’m within touching distance of my one year sober and that’s awesome, but I need to turn my attention to the rest now. I had a bit of breathing space in order to focus on getting sober and I feel steadier on my feet now so it’s time to take on new challenges. Hah! Being out of a job is definitely a challenge. Do I even need to point out that this situation is something that I would have dealt with really badly if I were still Drunk Me? Gosh, cue wailing and sobs of despair! Instead here I am sober, mostly relieved and hopeful for the future. Yes, I still feel yucky too – I feel plenty yucky! – but the problem has stopped getting bigger and I’ve forced myself to deal with it. Now I need to put my money where my mouth is. Time to show my mettle.

I’ve done it before.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Knee Jerk Reactions and Silver Linings

Eek. Well, that made my stomach turn into a huge knot, that’s for sure. However, given I’m sober it didn’t knock me anywhere NEAR as much as it would have had I still been drinking. I must have mentioned I’m in a job I made a huge mess of. OK, not perhaps “huge” mess, but the first two years I was eyeball deep in addiction and when I got sober I haven’t tidied it up – something that should have happened but hasn’t. I have no excuses, I messed up. And so when I cocked up yet another thing, one of my bosses finally got cross with me. Ironically it’s one of the few things I’d actually tried my best with but I can see I’ve got it wrong, so when you take into account my lacklustre performance overall, she’s right to be fuming. We’re having “a chat” (read: “Anna, this is why I’m firing you”) tomorrow because she was too angry to speak to me today, saying it wouldn’t be constructive if she did. In other words, she was too wound up to even shout at me. Pretty bad.

You know, the first part I can explain. The fact that I managed to do anything at all those first two years I was with them (the last two years of my drinking) is a small miracle. The second part is what it is though and there are no excuses for that one. I’ve had plenty of time to clear this mess up. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not disastrous or anything, more that everything is sloppily done, not followed through, no attention to detail. It’s insane really because those things I’m actually good at. I freaking LOVE detail, for God’s sake! Perhaps it seemed like I’d dug myself in too deep a pit to get myself out, I don’t know. I fucked this up, simple as that and when I had ample opportunity to get my shit together I just didn’t. In my mind I’d already checked out and this year has quite literally been a case of just sitting this out until I reach my one year sober (next Wednesday, yay) and can begin volunteering and getting some hours at the rehab I’m in touch with. I’m not proud of it but that’s all there is to it. Yes, it’s my damn responsibility to do the job I’m paid to do to the best of my ability. Did I? No. It’s shitty, it’s entirely my own fault and I’m going to be totally frank with Boss Lady tomorrow. No excuses. Time to bite the bullet.

Apart from getting fired, things are good!

Let’s stick with that yucky part though. I’m not going to lie, I felt sick (as well as taken aback as I wasn’t expecting it) when Boss Lady came in saying she was angry. Sick and when I got back to my desk even a little shaky. Well, being the reason someone is pissed off is never nice and any way you look at it I’m sensitive as fuck. Anyway, it didn’t take many minutes to calmly establish that I had this coming and I suppose it’s the kick up the backside I need. I’ve been treading water when it comes to the job. My focus has been on getting sober and what lies ahead, not what was on my list of responsibilities here and now. Unfortunately. It is what it is. Gosh, I’m trying so hard to not make excuses here so let’s just spell it out: I’ve been a little shit bag. Done a terrible job. Rested on my laurels. Now it’s time to get into gear.

Sobriety is cool because it allows me to be calm and rational. I’ve dropped the rehab a line to remind them I’m all theirs from next week in terms of hitting one year sober and getting on with volunteering. I also pointed out that in an ideal world I’d want paid hours just so they know I’m not just doing this to tick off “charitable actions” on my to-do list but actually very serious about getting into this field. Sobriety and being at my full wits in combination means I don’t feel so bad. Boss Lady getting annoyed with me would have taken up all my focus and totally devastated me had it been back when I was drinking. Sober I suppose I can see it for what it is and not be so panicked or horrified by it. I can’t change stuff that’s already come and gone, but I can choose how I deal with it and move forward. And sitting this out, as much as it’s allowed me to focus on getting sober, was perhaps a mistake as it’s going to be soul destroying for anyone to be in a job you could do in your sleep. That’s perhaps the most ridiculous part in all of this – there’s nothing about it that stretches or challenges me, and so doing it well wouldn’t have required much effort anyway. Well, there we are and time to get serious now.

Drunk Me would have been stressed out of her mind just about now, created a big drama and had at least half a dozen knee jerk reactions. Sober Me, not so much. This was coming all along and it was only a matter of who’d be the first to take the initiative – me or my bosses. I guess for the purposes of this sober blog, that’s the bit to really highlight. When we’re sober we can calmly deal with slightly unpleasant situations and find solutions – even silver linings! OK, so I can’t exactly say I’m looking forward to tomorrow but at the same time it’ll be good to have it over with – it’s been hanging over me for nearly a year. Not good for anyone. It’s the kick up the backside that I need. I said it myself, didn’t I? 2018 was the year I got sober, 2019 is the year to get serious and maybe I needed a little nudge. I mean, if I look back over how things are falling into place, this is just yet another piece that is slotting in nicely. It’s all happening for a reason.

Note to self: you’ve been a bit of a dick, Anna. Sort yourself out.

Today I’m not going to drink.