Here On This Bed

Resentments – wow, do I have them! Whilst I mostly feel at peace these days and much more able to accept and let things go, there is one big hurdle I have yet to overcome. Because I feel it’s right to tell only my own story, it’s hard to process my number one resentment on this blog as any detail would mean I expose other people’s stories and those are not for me to tell. I suppose the details aren’t that important as far as a blog about recovery goes – it’s how I deal with it that’s important, and talking about this needs no intricate detail.

Most of the time, I don’t think of it and I can’t say it affects my life on a day to day basis. My resentment lives in the place where I still find myself this morning: in Sweden. Not exactly in this very spot – I’m propped up against pillows on the bed in our top floor hotel room in the capital and gazing out across the roof tops of Stockholm. My Big Resentment lives approximately 300 miles from here, deep in the forests near Sweden’s western border to Norway, so I’m still quite some distance away. Still, it cuts so deep that only the mention of a name and a comment one person made nearly two years ago (!!) has me thrown right into irritability, restlessness and discontentment. Sound familiar?

So, I have two choices:

  1. Push it back down and numb myself.
  2. Lift it up, pull it out with all its roots and inspect it closely.

Well. As dictated by law here on the Pink Cloud, it is against the rules to sweep things under the rug. In Sweden we sometimes say “don’t wake a hibernating bear” but on the Pink Cloud that’s exactly what we do. In fact, I’m going to rock up at the cave and poke that damn grizzly with a big stick and see what happens.

As big resentments often do, my Big Resentment dates back many, many years. I wasn’t the only casualty, in fact someone dear suffered much more. I think all of us in that particular constellation suffered greatly, and perhaps most of all the person who still has the ability spring up from the past and knock me sideways by the mere mention of their name. It has doubtlessly shaped who I am and my behaviour as I’ve gone through life. In many ways I present the behaviour of codependence in how I have always been a yes-sayer and bent over backwards to keep the peace no matter how much it has cost me emotionally. Smooth over, forgive when I actually cannot, smile when I want to cry and forever an attitude of “if you’re fine, I’m fine“. Except I never was. It was never, ever FINE.

On the subject of codependency, when it comes to this I’m that Adult Child. My emotional growth in this aspect was stunted and I’m still that eight-yearold girl who just desperately wants to be loved and for you to see how good and kind she is. It’s no exaggeration to say I’m still her and if you weren’t able to grow from that place, it sends after shocks across the surface like rings on the water throughout your life. I have a steadfast belief that love will be taken away from me. You may love me right now, but actually you just think you do and once you realise I’m not worthy – as you eventually will – you’ll walk away and I’ll be all alone. I still have to really fight to make myself believe that e.g. Hubby actually DOES love me as deeply as he says he does and isn’t planning on divorcing me. My immediate thought when he was super tired last night was that he is going off me, that he’s finally discovered I’m not very sexy or beautiful or attractive at all. Impending doom at every turn. A text message an hour after he left for work this morning saying he misses me doesn’t have the same impact at all – I’m simply not wired to believe someone could love me enough (or that I’m lovable enough, rather) to miss me after just an hour. When he tells me he thinks I’m pretty I am convinced there’s something wrong with him, that he’s deluded somehow but will soon realise I’m Shrek. When Hubby says something nice about me, the eight-yearold girl I still am inside nods knowingly because she knows it isn’t true. It’s crazy shit.

So how do I get past this? My Big Resentment is in the past but also lives on. It’s insane that 35 years later, I can sit here on this bed in this hotel room and feel prickly and full of anger. BECAUSE OF THE MENTION OF HER NAME AND A COMMENT SHE MADE TWO YEARS AGO. I feel wronged. I want vengeance! Justice! But what would change? What would it change if that person knocked on the door here and now? If she walked in, sat down and told me she’s sorry. If she told me she had me wrong all along and has now put everything right so the rest of the world knows it too? What would that change? Would I be able to let it go then? This is what we want, isn’t it? When we feel wronged we want vindication somehow, no? That angry, bitter, resentful part of me wants her sucker punched into submission – humiliated, shamed, reduced to rubble and exposed.

Uhm… Whoops! …I see it now that I actually typed it out that in my moments of resentment I want her to feel the way she always made me feel. Wow, Anna. Time for a change perhaps? The saying goes that resentment is like drinking poison hoping the other person will die. That’s precisely what this is. Oh, and what I indeed did for all those years – drank poison and only hurting myself as a result.

Why is approval so crucial for me? Why do I fall apart like I do when someone doesn’t think I’m the best thing since they discovered how to make coffee? I’d use the sliced bread metaphor but I’m watching my carbs at the moment and I love coffee so much more. Something broke in me all those years ago and there is still a gaping hole in my heart that I never managed to fill, despite many valiant attempts. My modus operandi all this time has been to laugh it off, pretend I don’t care and that it doesn’t bother me. If you’re fine, I’m fine. It seems I need to accept that this hole in my heart is there and instead of living like it isn’t I have to learn to find a new way. It’s nuts to allow this to consume me like it has over these past three days when in fact NOTHING HAPPENED. Just the mention of a name and a comment. Stuff I knew anyway, yet it brought it all back.

Maybe my Big Resentment needs a new home. It’s better to have that little hole in my heart than fill it with stuff that doesn’t belong there, right?

Perhaps my Big Resentment can live right here? In room 1025 at Clarion Hotel Sign in Stockholm. I’m sitting here with it right now, feeling it all and trying to see it clearly. Perhaps I’ll even visit. But it can’t keep living in me like it has. Yes, this can be its new home and I’m going to try to walk out in an hour and say my goodbyes. I absolutely HAVE TO let this go. I don’t need to forget and I don’t have to forgive either, but I can decide who and what I allow into my life and to what degree. Feeling consumed by resentment for three days just because I was reminded of her is fucking nuts.

We stayed with one of my best childhood friends on their beautiful island in the archipelago and I need to remember what she said instead, even though my brain is wired to only absorb only the things that confirm I’m unlovable: “Imagine how she must feel inside, she’s broken“. M said it and squeezed my hand. Wise words. And I know they’re true. Happy, content people don’t behave like this person does. And I guess most of all I pity my Big Resentment, because when I detangle it all I see a very small person who is scared. Perhaps she’s the biggest victim of us all. So I can in a way choose, I suppose – do I go through life broken too, or do I try to heal?

It’s there, it all happened. But it’s not happening anymore. I’m not brainy like Einstein, talented like Toni Morrison or beautiful like Cameron Diaz, but I’m absolutely, 100% good enough, and worthy and deserving of love as much as the next person. I have lots to offer and at the age of 43 and sober it’s time to let go. Yes, there’s a hole in my heart but it’ll only stay that way if I insist on forcing shit into it that doesn’t belong there.

So long, Big Resentment. I’m sorry for my part. Enjoy the room upgrade. I’ll see you when I see you and do stay in touch because you’re part of me after all, but let’s enjoy a healthier relationship from now on. You can’t live in my heart rent free anymore, go find yourself a job. Arrivederci.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Pocahontas Book At The Ready

There she was, my little sister. We’d congregated outside – Mum, Stepdad, two brothers, a sister-in-law, Hubby and me. Sis emerged from the building in front of us, boyfriend in tow. This is their stomping ground and inside those walls they’ve spent countless hours in the laboratories studying plant DNA. Or something called polyploids, in Sis’s case, and this day was her day – as more and more people gathered outside, I could just about see how her nerves were beginning to set in. Sis was about to go into the auditorium and defend her PhD thesis and all these people, us included, were going to see her do it.

The opponent isn’t here yet, I hope his flight was cancelled,” Sis giggled and rolled her eyes.

The process strikes me as brutal. Some terribly clever and eminent professor was flying in from the States, his role for the day to challenge Sis’s thesis. First she’d present for roughly 20 minutes. Then the opponent would give a presentation too. Then Sis would get grilled for “as long as it takes”, a process that, we were told, could take hours. This, in front of three other professors who’d then decide Sis’s fate, plus her supervisors, other PhD students, friends and of course her whole family.

So who is the opponent?” Mum asked and put her arm around Sis, “someone you know?

Sis rolled her eyes and laughed as you do when someone says something outrageous.

Well,” Sis’s boyfriend smiled, “if you imagine the professors on the examination board are in the treetops, this dude is on the moon. He is THE guy.

Time to go in!” a woman shouted from the entrance and the small crowd started to move.

Welcome Professor!” someone else then exclaimed excitedly.

Yep, there he was. THE guy. A man of slight build, sharply dressed and with a happy smile on his face and laptop bag swinging by his side as he hurriedly made his way in. I glanced at Sis and caught her eye. She turned her head away and shrank a little, tears welling up. Every big sister instinct kicked in. I wanted to scoop her up, make everything difficult go away and threaten anyone making her feel anything other than amazing with violence. I inched over to where she stood. No hug, just slipped my hand into hers and held it tightly.

Breathe. You’ve got this. You know this.

I know,” she whispered as she blinked a tear away, “it’s just a lot of emotion.

I could see Mum hovering nearby, probably cursing me – the thunderous, messy one – and willing me to leave Sis – the gentle, steady one – alone and not get her emotional. Uhm, not get her emotional like ME. I’m better at being calm and steady now that I’m sober, but I guess my family might still be getting used to this. Sis took a deep breath, smiled her chipper here-goes smile, shrugged her shoulders and off we went.

Everyone took their seats, at a guess around 60 people in total, and after a brief explanation of the order of events, Sis did her thing. To me, she is still five years old and tip-toeing into my room in the morning and crawling into bed with me, Pocahontas book at the ready for me to read to her. To me, she is a delicate butterfly. To me, she is a vulnerable and fragile little pixie I need to protect and defend. Hell, I felt ill and unsettled when she moved in with her boyfriend because I didn’t feel she is ready to have her heart broken and only relaxed when I realised he worships the ground she walks on. When we took a walk around the area where they live, I felt the need to say she mustn’t go running those trails on her own late in the evening. I want to wrap her in cotton wool and make everything easy for her, never let her feel hurt and never let her worry.

However. She isn’t five years old. She’s 30.

There in front of us was an accomplished woman, who presented her PhD thesis with confidence, charm and enthusiasm. She moved calmly between changing slides on the laptop projector and then to stand in the middle again as she spoke about the gobbledygook on the screen. The red dot thingymabob she pointed at the big screen was steady – had she even trembled a little, it would have gone all over the place. Nope. Not a twitch.

Of course she passed. She got grilled for three hours and she said afterwards that it was the worst thing she’s had to do, but she got her PhD to loud cheers and applause and is now DOCTOR Sis. We, her family, were congratulated too and THE guy, the king of polyploids or whatever he is, shook our hands. He smiled warmly at me when it was my turn and told me that my sister is a great scientist and he’s looking forward to see what she’ll do next.

We’re ready to go to the Nobel dinner so we hope she goes for a Nobel prize,” I told him, thinking I was being ever so clever and amusing.

Yes, we will start dieting soon!” Mum chimed in, thinking she was being ever so clever and amusing too.

Oh?” THE guy went, eyebrow raised, “they will have to create one for biology, there isn’t one.

Well, screw you too, smarty-pants. Doh.

What Sis showed me, or emphasised rather, was how to live life on life’s terms. She believed in this. Sis felt passionate about polyploids, whatever those are. She had something to say about it, and she was going to say it, damn it! She felt a thousand jitters and years of hard work and lots of hurdles had her on the verge of breaking down in tears. The opponent probably felt to her as I imagine I’d feel if Toni Morrison were to appraise my writing. But she didn’t run or hide, she got on with it. She felt the fear and did it anyway. And that’s just it. Sis didn’t try to soften the blow or numb herself. She had to do this and she did it. Oh, and the Toni Morrison of the world of polyploids said she’s great. Great things rarely happen in the comfort zone, right? Time to take a leaf out of Sis’s book, me thinks.

I was also reminded of something I already knew – I have to bloody stop feeling everyone else’s feelings! I reckon most of the time it’s not even how they feel anyway, just how I imagine they do. Oh fuck it, she’s my little butterfly and I would absolutely thump anyone who crosses her.

And now, with Swedish countryside swishing past as we’re on the fast train from Gothenburg to Stockholm, I’m once again a little confused as to why I moved away. Every so often, when I go to Sweden, I have a little moment of bewilderment. It’s so lovely here! It’s clean, everything works and absolutely everything is of a much higher standard than in the UK. And then some stupid Swede will just barge into me and say “oops!” instead of “sorry”, jump the queue (what the fuck is the problem, blondies?), push on to the train before people have managed to get off (this warrants a prison term as far as I’m concerned) or generally drive me insane (WOULD IT HURT TO USE A BIT OF COMMON SENSE AND MANNERS YOU BLUE-EYED FREAKS?). I’m a total schizophrenic when it comes to my patriotism, you see. When I’m in the UK – which, by any measure is “home” – I’ll happily preach about how Sweden is the crown of creation. Then when I’m in Sweden I immediately see all the things that are so much better about the UK. Perhaps I’m a fairly even blend by now?

Today I’m not going to drink.

Night, Night Darling

Something I think we – we, the addicts – sometimes forget, is how we’re not the only ones who are in recovery. Addiction is like a bomb, and although it’s us addicts who are hit with the explosion, our loved ones are hit too with the shrapnel and total devastation of our demise. Yes, it takes courage and strength to battle our way through recovery, but our loved ones also have to recover if we’re lucky enough to still have them stand by us. They have to learn to trust us again. Or our ability to stay sober/clean, rather. They may – quite rightly – be filled with anger, resentment, sadness and bitterness and the road back can be a long and arduous one for them too.

Only a few weeks back, Hubby had a wobble. There I was, 15-odd months sober and not a care in the world, bobbing along nicely on my Pink Cloud and filled with gratitude. It didn’t even occur to me until he told me days later how it had looked to him.

Here’s what happened in my world:

Sunday. Hubby gets on flight to Dubai for work, leaving mid-morning. I go for a long walk around the park. Back home and much of the day still ahead of me. Baked some cinnamon rolls. Blogged. Spent some time reading. Cleaned the apartment. Time dragged and I was bored silly. Quite randomly decided that I’d hit up an AA meeting – there’s one a few hundred yards down the road on Sunday evenings that I used to go to early on in recovery. So off I go. Realised half way down I had no cash and in meetings you usually put a few coins in a cup that’s passed around. Went to the cash point. Withdrew £100 as I needed cash for the cleaner too – two birds, one stone. Went into the kebab shop, which was the only place open on Sunday evening, and bought a bottle of water in order to get some change. Went to the meeting, then home. Had some missed calls from Hubby, three in fact, and he’d texted several times too asking if I’m OK. Of course I am! Gosh, what a Mother Hen he can be! Cute, really. Speak with him as I crawl into bed with a book. I do notice that he sounds a bit worried but he can be like that, bless him – he always wants to look after me so I put it down to him just being this glorious, loving husband that he is. Night, night darling.

Here’s what happened in Hubby’s world:

Off to Dubai. Text Wifey to let her know landed safely. Text her again in taxi to let her know en route to hotel. Call her to let her know at hotel safely. Twice, no reply. Another text to check she’s OK. Try calling again an hour later. Goes to answer machine again. She is home alone, Bambino at his dad’s. Uhm, what’s this? She’s taken cash out. And cannot be reached. Now, this used to mean one thing only – when I was home alone I’d usually take the opportunity to drink myself to pieces. Hated my wine purchases showing up on the statement so would always get cash out. And of course I knew I’d be slurring so I’d switch my phone off, normally text Hubby to say I’m having an early night so he wouldn’t worry.

Of course I was fine and still very much sober. But this illustrates how Hubby still worries. I can’t forget that, WE – we, the addicts – can’t forget that. We have to be mindful of those poor souls whose hearts we inhabit and how they need time too. I had to remind myself of this as my immediate reaction when Hubby days later told me he’d thought I’d fallen off the wagon was annoyance – just because drinking at this point in time couldn’t be further from my mind, Hubby still has to learn to trust this new existence too. In a way, he is still held hostage by my addiction. I kissed him a million times over, thanked him for loving me so much and swore to be careful with his heart. And next time, hopefully I’ll be more aware of how it might look in his world and ping him a text before I fall off the radar for a while!

There is also Bambino. Don’t get me wrong, I know in my heart that he is thrilled to bits that Mum is sober and I’ll never underestimate how much my sobriety and fight to remain in recovery means in his world. That does make me a hero and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for my child. However! Never EVER can I lose sight of what that little heart of his might feel every day before he comes home. Perhaps that stone of dread and anxiety still hangs there until the very moment he walks through the door and can see Mum is still sober? Perhaps he still worries and dreads what sort of state I might be in? I may be sober and currently confident in terms of my recovery, but I’ve done so much damage and Bambino might always have that worry as a result. Who knows? Maybe one day he’ll tell me and do you know what? If he one day has some choice words for me, no matter how much they’ll hurt I’ll give him my full attention. Period.

Yes, recovery is a scary and difficult battle. Yes, we are absolutely heroes for battling the Beast. But we also HAVE TO remember we aren’t the only victims. Our loved ones are also on this journey with us and they may very well have every bit as much of a fight on their hands, and of this we must be mindful and respectful.

So today, what I’m the most grateful for are my two boys – Hubby and Bambino – who still somehow deem me worthy of their love despite the devastation I’ve caused through my addiction. Thank God. May they learn to trust my strength as I continue on my journey and one day feel at peace. It’s my responsibility to fight with all my might to show them this. I know they trust in me, but some wounds take a while to heal and until they do I’ll be the best nurse I know how. One day at a time.

Today I’m not going to drink.

That Goddamn Bottle

Something curious happened.

We were talking about you earlier and everyone was saying that we just can’t imagine you drinking.

I must have jumped, as if someone had prodded me with a stick. Startled, but absolutely delighted, I looked up from what I was doing. The client whose medication I was administering sat on the chair and was smiling at me, an alkie like myself, waiting for me to put her lunchtime batch of detox pills into the little paper cup. She has eyes the colour of the sky on a summer’s day – that solid, light blue – and they were sparkling like eyes do when we’re coming back to life from active addiction. She, like so many others, is again a bright and bubbly individual and already so far removed from the tired and wrecked person who was admitted to the rehab only a week or two ago. It’s a beautiful thing when we begin to recover who we really are. Sobriety does this and it’s fucking awesome.

It was off the back of the morning relaxation group I’d run. The topic had been “say when” and holding boundaries, and I’d shared a little (to prompt discussion) about what my life used to look like when I was drinking. I told the group how I’d say yes to everything and then be too fucked to follow through. I set this in contrast to how I can now say yes and deliver on my promises. Or say no and draw the line. It’s good stuff, that! It was a really great session and many people added stories and insights of their own. I love my tribe and I almost feel a little guilty because I reap so many rewards from working at the rehab – it’s an absolute privilege to be around these fine folk who are in recovery just like I am. I may be getting paid to support THEM, but I’m on the same journey – albeit a little further along – and they help me too. More than they know.

Oh my God – really?” I asked, a little bewildered.

Hell, I have trouble myself sometimes to really believe I’m without the wine now. Being a lush, wine glass forever in hand, was my identity for so long that to hear someone say they couldn’t imagine it really threw me. A good friend of mine, who of course knew me all along and therefore more than familiar with Drunk Me, said the very opposite when I first got sober, namely “Anna, I can’t imagine you without wine!” and laughed. And here’s now someone, or several people actually given they’d apparently talked about me, who can’t actually imagine me as anything other than the person I am now – Sober Me.

Absolutely, we can’t imagine it!” she emphasised and smiled even wider.

I’ve only known you sober too, I can’t imagine you with wine either,” I told her truthfully.

Hah! Just check that awful photo on there, it’s horrible,” she replied and rolled her eyes.

She was referring to the photo on her MAR chart, the medication record we keep for each client. On each one we staple a print-out of the client’s photo, just another safety measure to ensure nothing gets mixed up and the right client gets the right meds. I flipped it over and we both had a look.

Mm, you do look a little tipsy here! Were you drunk when you came in?” I asked.

No! Just really hungover. I missed a trick there, everyone else is saying they drank right up to the last minute,” she chuckled.

Oh God, that’s so funny, I know exactly what you mean! I was looking for this particular bottle of wine the last time I drank and couldn’t bloody find it but I knew it was somewhere,” I said, “then a few weeks sober I realised it was in the wine rack! That really pissed me off at the time because it was like oh, I should have drunk that and now I’d missed out! Isn’t that crazy?” I added and couldn’t help but laugh.

Exactly!” she agreed.

Well, I suppose you’re getting the best value seeing as you didn’t spend the first 24 hours coming right and could just get right in,” I told her and raised a knowing eyebrow, “but yes, I know where you’re coming from. It’s like that, isn’t it? Drink the last drop.

Well. Just one of many, many little conversations that take place at the rehab but one that happened to contain the best compliment I’ve had in a while. SHE COULDN’T IMAGINE DRUNK ME! That’s fanfuckingtastic, no? It’s the same for me though and just as I told her, I can’t quite imagine this lady – who is so perky, smart and articulate – as a drunken mess either. But that’s what we both used to be, a hot mess, and it was pretty cool – one hot mess to another, seeing the other right there in that moment as the opposite of that and the only (very small) difference being that I happen to be a little further along.

Gosh, I remember that wine bottle so well and how I searched for it high and low during one of my last drinking sessions. Ironically, it was right there in the wine rack. Only a raging alcoholic wouldn’t think to look there. Putting bottles in the wine rack was something I never did because, uh, WHY exactly? Right into the fridge to chill and rip into straight away. I never understood wine racks, they always seemed like unnecessary faff to me. Keep the juice handy, I say. But yes, it pissed me off at the time that there it was, that last bottle I should have poured down my neck. I felt deprived! I was going to have that goddamn bottle and there it was again, having fucking hid from me the fucking thing and now laughing in my face! Naaah-nah-nah, naaah-nah! Fuckery.

Now when I think about it, it illustrates something important – namely, how when I was in active addiction it was always a case of tomorrow. I’ll stop after THIS one. Always ‘tomorrow’, never ‘today’. Sobriety is NOW. We can only recover when we go for it, not when we’re putting it off for another time or delaying so we can have another drink. I think Hubby had that bottle – in his normal way of course: it found its way into the fridge and he would have had it one glass at a time over several days – but with hindsight I wish I’d kept it as a reminder. The bottle of wine I never drank. The best bottle.

Today I’m not going to drink.