Serial Killers and Office Bullies

Don’t give him the gift of your power“, one of the therapists at work advised a colleague who was getting fed up with the behaviour of another.

The colleague in question I’ve previously referred to as ‘Work-Hubby’ as he bears not only the same name, but is also bald and has a beard just like Hubby does. He is a great guy – superb at his job and a wonderful colleague, and with 23 years of recovery under his belt he has taught me so much. The colleague who had riled Work-Hubby I will have to nickname Jobsworth. If you look up the definition of the term itself, it sums him up to a tee:

“A low ranking official who follows their instructions and procedures to the letter, and upholds petty rules even at the expense of humanity or common sense – often just to piss you off and to make themselves feel important.”

Needless to say, it’s incredibly frustrating to work with someone as toxic as Jobsworth is. Rude, mean-spirited, abrupt, spiteful and small minded is just the preamble. Part of Jobsworth’s role is to look after the stationery. Someone recently asked him for Post-Its and was given three loose ones as opposed to a pack. Someone else asked for an envelope but got a loud telling off in front of clients and other staff, and was then instructed to justify the need for one. A fucking envelope. And don’t get me started on pens. I asked for one once (never again, lemme tell ya) and the reaction I got was as if I’d demanded Jobsworth let me have his entire family to sacrifice to the Norse gods in a viking style ritual.

Last week, Jobsworth went a step too far and Work-Hubby walked out. The most serene man on the planet walked out. Work-Hubby isn’t someone who gets emotional and storms off in a huff over nothing – this is a guy who recently showed me a photo of a tree he’s planted in his garden along with a fence and stone feature around it. This is where he and his wife have scattered the ashes of the son they lost to addiction early this year. The man buried his son and has therefore had to endure that unspeakable torment no parent should have to go through – burying your child – yet he spoke of it all with a sense of peace, closure and even, amazingly, gratitude. I say this by way of pointing out that Work-Hubby doesn’t sweat the small stuff, OK? Through all that life has thrown at him, this man has kept his sights on what matters and I can tell you with pretty steadfast certainty that he’s not very likely to let a Post-It rumble him.

This has been a case of continuous bullying, belittling and minimisation and eventually he’d had his fill. Enough is enough.

So it’s been building for a while and I don’t know exactly what happened as I was in a different part of the rehab doing some archiving at the time, but from Work-Hubby’s text it was the last straw and he was done with it. I asked him to reconsider and speak to Rio, and I hoped he would but I also suspected he is a man of his word and the camel’s back was irreversibly broken. Perhaps this is one of those times when all I can (and should) do is accept it’s none of my business and it’s not for me to get emotional about it, but if they had gone and lost one of the rehab’s best team members over a moron like Jobsworth I knew that then my loyalty would be in question too.

As it turns out, Work-Hubby did come back and I believe the situation is now being dealt with through standard HR procedures – official complaint and then down to management to untangle.

What struck me as slightly strange however, was how another colleague simply told Work-Hubby to “work your program” by way of dealing with the situation. Personally, I think that’s precisely what Work-Hubby did when he walked out. In order to keep himself – and, most importantly, his recovery – safe, he risked his job to do so. He was willing to go to any length to stay sober and getting fired was the better option than allowing resentment building up further. Resentment, as most of us know, being the number one reason for a spectacular relapse or, indeed, why we stay trapped.

Whilst I absolutely agree that we should always reflect and ask what our part might have been, I don’t for a moment believe we should let things go if we’ve been mistreated. Jobsworth actually went as far as getting up from his desk and trying to intimidate Work-Hubby by challenging him with “let’s go outside and sort it out now” and unless I’m really missing something here, that shit doesn’t belong in the workplace. It doesn’t belong anywhere. And to further emphasise how ridiculous this all is, this invitation – presumably a punch-up – was down to not being aware that an Amazon delivery had to be logged. It’s mindboggling stuff, really.

Just because we learn to reflect, accept and let go, surely this doesn’t mean we have to forever turn the other cheek? Or does it? Hell, to me that’d be like saying “ah well, Ted Bundy killed your entire family but hey ho, just work your program“. Hell no! Mr Bundy should be held to account, no? Imagine telling all victims to recognise their part and work their programs, end of. Nonsense if you ask me and I don’t care if we’re dealing with a serial killer or, as is the case here, an office bully. If someone gets treated badly in whatever way, we should speak up, no?

Thoughts?

Today I’m not going to drink.

Surrounded by Deer and Butterflies

Just hopped over to Nelson’s blog, One Drunk’s Tale and his latest post: “I’m a Good Boy Now”. He talks about being on Antabuse and I’ve just told him good for you and I guess that’s my view, really – whatever keeps you sober, buddy. Of course if we can overcome something – be it a headache or freaking childbirth – au naturel, great, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong in seeking medical help if this is what will make the difference. For the record, when I gave birth I demanded they pump me full of every damn drug they had in stock. Other women might gasp in horror and advocate delivering your own baby whilst sitting in a meadow surrounded by deer and butterflies but that wasn’t me. I did what worked for me (and obviously – to be clear – with my baby’s safe arrival in mind and as a priority before you think I was brandishing a crack pipe and a bottle of vodka in the delivery room). And why should recovery be different as long as it keeps all concerned safe and doesn’t involve anything stupid? Some of us go to meetings, some of us go it alone, some of us check into rehab and some of us try medication.

From what I understand, when you’re on Antabuse you get violently ill if you consume alcohol so I suppose it’s mostly a big deterrent, as opposed to e.g. Naltrexone which counters the effect of opiates and booze and as such should rewire your brain to deem those pointless. Something like that.

This is what the NHS website says about Antabuse (or Disulfiram as it’s branded here): Disulfiram works by deterring you from drinking by causing unpleasant physical reactions if you drink alcohol. These can include nausea, chest pain, vomiting and dizziness.

I suspect it’s a case of different strokes for different folks and I’ve heard people praise and curse both Antabuse and Naltrexone. The latter I actually looked into about a year before I stopped drinking. I’d seen the Ted talk by Claudia Christian (“One Little Pill”) and it sounded magical to me – a pill that’d somehow turn me into a normal drinker, which is what her talk kind of suggested. The idea makes me shudder now, but I think the way it has sometimes been marketed and in particular as the Sinclair Method wasn’t necessarily as a means to break free from addiction but how to drink “normally”. To me, whilst I was still very much in the grip of the Beast, this was music to my ears. It was around this time I sought help at the Priory and had some counselling. The counsellor, a fellow alcoholic, shook her head, shot me a resigned smile and told me she’d tried everything, this included. Therefore, I sort of dismissed it as pointless but I’ve heard lots of people say it’s really worked for them.

I guess back then, I would have been much more inclined to try Naltrexone because the problem was that I still wanted to drink and Naltrexone seemed like a way to do just that. Antabuse is therefore a very different gig altogether. Apparently you can have it as a sort of implant too. Thinking about it and trying to figure out how Drunk Me would have seen it, I imagine only someone who is dead serious about stopping drinking chooses Antabuse. When I still wanted to drink (and therefore still drank!) I would have just skipped taking the damn thing and Naltrexone would have been the only option I’d consider as it’d allow me to drink, simple as that. With Antabuse, I guess you really have to mean it.

Beethoven, the general manager at the rehab, actually said something similar about heroin addicts. He said he knows how serious someone is about coming off the drugs depending on which medication they ask for. When a heroin addict asks to be put on Methadone, they still want to use but when they want “the subbies” (Subotex, brand name for Buprenorphine) he knows he’s working with someone willing to give it a good go. Buprenorphine will make you very sick if you do heroin. Kind of the same thing.

So I guess based on this little hypothesis, we could conclude that good ol’ Nelson is very serious about this. Obviously I already knew this, but this I suppose underlines it.

What’s your view? Was your recovery helped along by medication? Thoughts, perspectives, opinions? I’m all ears as usual when it comes to all things recovery.

Today I’m not going to drink.

A Reasonable Chunk

“Create the kind of life that has you waking up on a Monday morning feeling excited”.

Well, this is what I’m working towards. Can’t say I’m bubbling over with excitement just now but I feel good and I’m definitely optimistic and excited for the future. My impatience does not serve me, as usual I want everything NOW – all at once at furious speed – but I’m learning to pace myself. Had Drunk Me taken a glance at the life of Sober Me that I have now, I don’t think she would have been excited about it – envious of my sobriety yes, but she would have rolled her eyes at the rest. Where’s the fun? And what a ball ache to study counselling one day a week for THREE YEARS! Bloody hell, come on! Let’s go, let’s go, let’s gooooooooo……. Build up experience of how a rehab is run by working exhausting shifts at mindbogglingly poor pay with a goal of getting a couple of years on the old CV? Kill me, kill me now.

Sober Me feels differently about it. I know I keep talking about myself as two different people but this is what addiction does. Addiction forces us into a really uncomfortable position where we have no choice but to go fast or not at all – there is no middle ground, and it’s the middle ground we get back to when the fog lifts. And so now I do get excited about all the things Drunk Me would have scoffed at. I feel excited about slowly working towards a move that probably won’t happen for another five years. I feel motivated by slowly working my way to a good spot of work experience and study combined – yes, excited at what this might get me to in three years’ time. It doesn’t feel like a long slog at all. Sure, it’s a long time, but whereas addiction has you hurtling at lightning speed or not at all, sobriety allows you to enjoy the journey.

Sometimes old habits make themselves known and I find myself doing a little job search on occasion when Rio has really driven me up the wall and to the brink of my sanity, but I always come back to the same spot: stick with it, girl. The dude has taught me a lot. Perhaps not so much through his wisdom (although, he does have plenty of that too) as how I have to really work hard at not losing my patience at his chaos, but it’s been good for me. Sort of in the same way, I imagine, as it’s good for you to learn how to deal with a really difficult child when training to be a teacher.

It’s already been seven months. Seven of 24 that I set as a reasonable chunk of experience. Before I know it, it’ll be a year and I’ll be half way through. I’ve already had another job offer following an interview I half-heartedly went for, so I know that even the experience I’ve accumulated has taken me a decent part of the way, but I know that a longer stretch of sticking with this one will be much better. Besides, it’s such a lovely little rehab and I genuinely love it there.

It’s all good. Dunno about excitement in the wild and exuberant kind of way a la Drunk Me, but I definitely feel very happy and content on this a-bit-cold-for-August Monday morning.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Really Grates On Me

If you’ve ever mingled in recovery circles, and AA in particular, you’ll be more than familiar with the view that addicts are dishonest, manipulative and sneaky. What’s your view? Here’s mine:

When it comes to active addiction – yes, absolutely. Or “obvs”, as Bambino would so eloquently put it. Of course we have to hustle our asses off to hide and maintain our addiction, which when we’re in active addiction is what mercilessly rules us and dictates our every move. With an addict who is in active addiction, the answer to questions such as “how much have you had?“, “when did you last use/drink?” or indeed “are you battling addiction?” will likely be lies. Obvs.

The problem I have, is that I just don’t believe these shitty traits are inherent or natural qualities in the person who is an addict. Recovering addicts tend to be the most open and honest people I know, as well as the hardest working and least manipulative. Rarely do I meet people – or know people – working harder at being straight arrows. To me, there is a huge difference and for that reason it really grates on me when people say “oh, but us addicts always lie“. Do we? I don’t. Nor do the vast majority of recovering addicts I know.

This was on my mind today off the back of a comment that was made at work. There was a difference of opinion as to whether someone had been promised something, and whether that person was right to feel short changed. Without any fact finding or even considering the circumstances, someone said:

Come on – between [so-and-so] and an addict, I’m not going to believe the addict, am I?

Whoa! That made my blood boil! The matter at hand had nothing to do with addiction, it was something else entirely, but the assumption was that an addict always lies about everything. Am I crazy or is this outrageous? Chin-on-the-floor moment for Yours Truly.

Yes, I was dishonest in how I hid how much I drank. Yes, I manipulated my entire life to fit around drinking. Yes, I was sneaky in how I controlled everything in order to ensure maximum drinking time and space. But am I a dishonest, manipulative and sneaky person PER SE? Hell no. I won’t even cross the fucking road unless there’s a little green man telling me I can do so. I’m the sort of person who holds her hands up when she’s fucked up and if I were to find money that doesn’t belong to me I’d make a concerted effort to take all steps to ensure they’d be returned to their owner. You’d catch me getting a tarantula for a pet before you catch me tell a lie. It’s not who I am, it’s not the real Anna and the Anna here today IS the real Anna. In recovery we recover who we truly are.

Personally, I believe I was a prime candidate for addiction for tonnes of reasons, but the two biggest are that 1) I’m a highly sensitive person, and 2) I carry unresolved emotional pain with me from my childhood. What I can tell you in no uncertain terms is that I didn’t turn out to be addict because I’m somehow inherently dishonest or any of that bullshit. Oh gosh, you can tell I’m angry about this, can’t you? I just believe that those crappy qualities spring from the slavery of addiction and not the person itself. If you take an extreme example of what addiction forces people to do, it’d be to think of someone who sells their body to fund their habit. For me it’s the same thing – not that this is who they are as a person or something they “just do”, but something they are forced to do because they are in active addiction.

Instead of further going into how I see it, let me instead get on to what I actually wanted: ask you guys. How do you see it? Personal views, gut instincts, perspectives or cold, hard facts if you have any of those lying around – hit me up! I’m so keen to know if I’ve really got the wrong end of the stick here, which is entirely possible but I want to learn and understand so please argue your point – even if I stubbornly argue mine, I am genuinely open to changing my mind. If you think I’m wrong, tell me! If you think I’m failing to see it from the right perspective, tell me! I’m so keen to hear your views on this.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Then You Lot Rocked Up

The one thing my addiction hates is when I listen to anything other than, well, IT. That’s by far my most powerful weapon in recovery. Since I stopped drinking and started bettering, I am forever devouring everything about addiction I can get my hands on – memoirs, studies, fact books, documentaries and most of all sharing with others on the same journey. Needless to say, the focal point for all of that has taken place and continues to take place here in the blogosphere.

Have I told you lately that I love you? Those of you whose blogs I read, those of you who pop in here and exchanges we have in each others’ comment sections. I fucking love you. Never underestimate the magnitude of the part you all play in this chick’s recovery. Fine, I’ll stop before I get REALLY emotional. But I love you, OK? Like, loads.

My addiction doesn’t like this at all! Fellow bloggers, the Beast hates YOU in particular! Not only do you stop it from having me believe I’m all alone, you also teach me so much about it. The Beast is secretive you see, and would much have preferred me trapped in the illusion that it added something good to my life. The Beast needed me to think it was my only friend and then you lot rocked up and rocked the boat. Everything changed. You really are the worst! Unlike books I might read or documentaries I might watch, not only do I take in what you’re saying but then you interact too! Oh, you….. Teehee! Together we’re strong, see?

The Beast is a bit like, what’s-his-face, Hitler’s propaganda minister. Dr Goebbels? Cut off free press and alternative points of view – if you only hear one side of a story you’re never going to know anything different, much less believe it.

And that’s why one of my best pieces of advice is to learn – devour information, stories, opinions and perspectives like your life depends on it. Well, my life does depend on it because if I pick up a drink again the Beast will be jubilant and go about its business of killing me. That’s what it wants and ALL it wants: me alone, in its grip and set to die. The fix? Find those stories. Soak up what others who are in the same boat are saying, find out what the Beast did to them and how they broke free, listen to their stories.

There are so many great books out there, so much uplifting, heartbreaking and brilliant testimony. I’ve only read a fraction of them all, but you can browse my recovery library HERE if you are looking for something new to read. One day I will write a little comment about what I personally thought of each of them, but for now, if you want to be hit with a gritty yet laugh-out-loud funny account of addiction, try My Fair Junkie by Amy Dresner. She’ll talk about the most awful stuff yet her turn of phrase and black humour is delicious. Sometimes you just have to have a bleak laugh at the absurdity of it all. I loved it. Might not be to everyone’s taste, but there we are. That’s how rock’n’roll I am – book recommendations on a Friday evening.

Well, my sexy Hubby is heading home after a week away with work and I should probably do something about that pedicure… ..or perhaps I can just squeeze in one more teeny tiny little episode of Modern Family…

Today I’m not going to drink.

At a Reasonable Pace

Trägen vinner“, goes the Swedish saying. It roughly means that if you’re stubborn enough, you’ll get there. Keep going, buddy – basically. It’s one of the things I’m really able to do in recovery: I’m able to keep going. No longer does everything have to happen with lightning speed and no longer do I pack things in if I’m not immediately excellent at it. Slowly does it. Bit by bit, step by step. It’s great stuff and it’s so unlike me it makes me laugh. Before I got sober I simply never took my time with anything. Anything I was naturally good at, I’d take a quick shot at but just as quickly lose interest – I just didn’t have the wherewithal to keep anything up. Short bursts of energy and creativity that’d fizzle out faster than they’d exploded into action. If you’d asked me back then, I would have told you I just wasn’t wired that way, that I just wasn’t “the sort of person” who’d stick at something. For me it was always a sprint, never a marathon.

Only it wasn’t a case of “not in my nature”. It was a case of addiction. Plain and simple.

Turns out I am doing OK at this one-step-at-a-time business. OK, so patience will probably never be my strong point, but I’m hell of a lot better at it than I once thought myself to be. Well, Sober Me is. Drunk Me wasn’t. It isn’t any more complicated than that. When we recover, who we really are emerge from underneath all the shit addiction had us buried under and rarely are we the smudgy, sluggish and even despicable people we turned into as slaves when we return to truly living.

There were so many lies I told myself!

I am not a flock animal” has to be one of the most ridiculous of those lies. Yes, I fucking am! Not only don’t I hate being with other people, I actually love it and I don’t shrink anymore. Well, figures as I don’t have a drinking problem to hide and maintain, which obviously gets really tricky unless you isolate. I love learning about stuff, hearing what others have to say and have an exchange. I positively thoroughly LOVE it, this stuff that happens in flock situations. I 100% love solitude and quiet, but I need connection too.

I don’t like being the centre of attention” was another. OK, this is partly true. It’s unlikely you’ll ever catch me dancing on the tables or fight for the mic at karaoke, but I like to speak up and I thrive on being heard. We all need validation in whatever little way and I feel good voicing my feelings, opinions or whatever else I may have something to say about. Sure, I might feel a little self conscious and stuff, but I am still ME.

I don’t dance sober” – well, this one does remain at least somewhat true, I think, except when I’m alone (and then I do really go for it – ‘Mr E’s Beautiful Blues’ by Eels does the trick every time). I’ll awkwardly bop along on the sidelines at a push. I mean, here’s me at a midsummer celebration in 1978. Two-yearold me danced sober around the maypole, and you can tell I’m not entirely sold on the idea but who knows – perhaps I was just mortified at how Mum had put me in a dress, and a RED one at that? It’s just not my colour.

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Point is though, some “truths” do remain as we get sober – perhaps the dance floor just isn’t my place – but I find there are so many lies too. I’m discovering almost on a daily basis that I’m simply so much better than I gave myself credit for. Wow… That almost sounds like I’m beginning to accept and come to love who I am. I guess I always did like me but shrunk and hid away because I always thought no one else did. This chick, though – she ain’t doing too bad just about now.

And this chick is quite fabulous – yes, FABULOUS! – at sticking with it, at keeping going, at persevering. What made me think of this was how the end of my run this evening felt better than the last one. Instead of throwing in the towel because the last one left me feeling like I was going to vomit, I headed out with determination and knew I’ll get stronger and stronger, faster and faster. Not about to overtake Mo Farah on the park, but hey. It’s good stuff and I know that if I stick at it, I’ll soon be chugging around my old 6-7k loops at a reasonable pace (for ME – it’s still snail pace by most other people’s standards!) without having to stop and walk.

Yep, trägen vinner indeed and I’m enjoying it. It’s a good thing and SO much more satisfying to work hard and chip away at something little by little, than a mad hit-or-miss smash and then nothing. It just feels really good when things come together if you’ve had to really work for it. Just like recovery, really.

Today I’m not going to drink.

In This Space

Today is a day off. Worked Monday but then two days off ahead of Thursday and Friday. A slow and leisurely week by any standard. And here is another reward of sobriety – even a day like today when I’ve been fairly unproductive, if you compare it to when I was drinking it’s been positively hectic. A day off these days isn’t another day I’ve called in sick because I’m too fucked to stand up. A day off now is a day when I wake full of energy and get out for a long walk or a run, make breakfast and then lunch for a trio of teenagers (one mine, two borrowed), do some writing and generally do what days off are for: recharging my batteries. A day off is no longer a drawn-out panic attack during which I worry I might have a seizure or my heart will pack in. Instead it’s time to pay attention to self care and what needs to be done at home. No palpitations, no shakes, no regret, no shame – just inner peace and contentment.

Really, it’s a bog standard day. Nothing spectacular. No major achievements. But no disasters either. Just… ….life as life sometimes is, perhaps even a little boring.

It’s in this space I’m learning to love to be. This space where I feel content even when the world around me isn’t full of fireworks or unspeakable doom. Just life the way it is when not very much happens at all. I like it. Apart from a long walk and acting as a chef and waitress for the three teens, I’ve done fuck-all. I’ve mostly been reading random stuff on my phone, watched some TV and read a book. Prepared for my packed lunches. I’ve been a total couch potato, actually, and that’s cool. Haven’t even showered yet.

and that’s cool. It’s perfectly acceptable to slow down sometimes and not do anything at all. Well, I think it is anyway.

I was going to take a photo of my feet on the opposite armrest of the sofa, but I need a pedicure and also the sofa cushion has a stain, I realise now, and I’m too shallow to TRULY show what a slob I am today. I’m not one for Instagram-filtering my world but I do have SOME standards.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Even On a Bad Day

What a lovely surprise! I didn’t realise he was from around here, but at tonight’s AA meeting there was a rehab alumni. Quite possibly one of those “hopeless cases” back then – out of every cohort of roughly 20 people, only two or three seem to stick with it and at first glance he might not have been the horse to bet on. Back then, about six months ago, he was drinking around the clock combined with a coke habit and had not gone a day without using or drinking since his teens. Had the scars to prove it too. And here we are on a balmy London summer’s eve at a meeting and I’m chatting away with a super smart, bright-eyed and all round great guy who so far is rocking recovery and has come so far from that spot he was in. He looked so well and I told him.

I feel well!” he smiled. “Even on a bad day I don’t want to drink, I never want to go back there.

It’s a miracle every time. It’s a miracle when someone fights their way back into life and the frighteningly bad odds also remind me that it requires a lot of work. It’s not luck of the draw because recovery rarely lands in your lap – it’ll push you to your limits and then further still, but it is absolutely possible. Hell, here I am and who would have ever thought THAT? Not me, that’s for sure and yet here we are.

Do you know what else is a miracle? I collected my 18-month chip this evening. Strictly speaking it’s 18 1/2 months, but hey, I was away on the 23rd July. And there were no other recovery birthdays in the meeting today beyond my 18 months. Obviously there would have been people there who have been sober for much, much longer than I have, but tonight I was the last to collect a chip! Fancy that! My recovery chip was the one at the end, the longest time out of all of us who collected a chip today! WHOA! Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, y’all.

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No, 18 months isn’t very long but that felt really, really good. A year and a half ago I was so proud to get my 24-hour chip, the chip that signified to me that I was going to get serious about this sober malarkey, that first little step on my journey. I was even prouder to stand up and go and collect my 1-month chip when that time came. Back then I’d look to those collecting their 1-year chips and so on – yes, at those also collecting 18-month chips too! – and hope with all my might that this would eventually also be me. And this evening it was. Today this is me and it feels amazing.

The chair was about figuring out how to live sober, amongst other things. How to live life without our crutch and numbing agent. The lady told us how nervous she was and kept losing the thread, so when I shared I told her this is exactly me but how I too now find it so miraculous that I can speak up and tell my story. I shared how I could relate to learning to live not necessarily sober, but essentially learning to be ME.

What inspired me the most however, was seeing the guy who was at the rehab when I first started there, who’d been in such a bad way when he came in. I remember him talking at the time about how shaky he felt about leaving and how he worried about how he’d fare back in the world again. And now look! Wow. What inspired me was to see him look so well and how his eyes sparkled when he talked about his wife and kids and the holiday they were going on. It’s good stuff, that – chatting about how great this old life actually can be when we’re free and at peace, no longer slaves to our addictions.

So here’s to another day sober! Long may it continue. God willing.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Take a Deep Dive

Well, hello there, you unexpected little beauty of a recovery perk! Just as I was beginning to think sobriety couldn’t possibly send any more rewards into my life, another little surprising yet very welcome little twist to this tale materialises. Oh, I know I’m a shallow creature but this is so cool! I have a tan! An actual, golden tan! I have white bits and everything! And I haven’t spent any more time in the sun than any previous year either, yet I’m covered in freckles and a healthy brown glow. Thank you, sober life! Thank you once again – this totally rocks!

Alright, alright, it’s not a SUPER tan and no one’s going to rush to their nearest tanning shop and ask for “an Anna”, but for someone as pale as I am this is the Rolls Royce of skin tone!

Tanned Anna

Last summer, my first one sober since my early teens, we went to Lipari (an island off Sicily) and sure I caught the sun, but THIS? Yippie! People even commented at work today – I have never EVER had that before. Is it connected to the non-drinking? Must be! All of a sudden I do remember reading about this, I believe it was “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober” by Catherine Gray, and she mentioned that she would get a lovely tan once she’d got sober. I probably thought ‘meh’ at the time but it turns out to be true. Last summer I was six months in, so perhaps now at 18+ months my body has further recovered and this is a lovely sign of health? I’d like to think so. What else could it possibly be? I’m absolutely convinced this is recovery delivering once again.

Superficial – yes. With or without a summer tan, what matters the most is of course what happens inside and now there’s stuff to work on. Being in Sweden was glorious and we had an amazing couple of weeks by any measure. Yet again, sobriety meant that I didn’t spent half of it black-out drunk and the other half sluggish and hungover, so we did lots of stuff and I was – as I am these days – an active participant in my own life. You can’t buy this stuff! Did I mention I’m so grateful I could fucking weep (and sometimes do) that I’m sober? Oh, I did, did I? Incessantly? Well, here we go again because this stuff is fucking magical, I tell ya. It makes my heart swell of gratitude at how wonderful my life is now that I’m in recovery. It’s a miracle. Every single day. Every goddamn minute.

BUT. Back to the land of the midnight sun for a moment…

Being in Sweden also fills me with such sadness and sorrow it almost destroys me. I was really struggling because instead of living with that hole in my heart and accepting it whilst I’m sober, grateful and content, it began hurting so much I began to worry about my state of mind. In recovery I’ve learnt that one of my most powerful tools is to ask for help. Most of the time, just voicing and putting words on what I’m feeling does the job. And so, I told Hubby one evening when we were in bed that I was struggling. It just helps me process things in the safety of knowing he knows. By verbalising shitty stuff I’m protecting myself from that old foe isolation.

On this blog I am only telling MY story, so details will have to be omitted, but there’s stuff I need to figure out in order to be able to visit my loved ones without hurting so much it threatens to break me. I need to find a way of acceptance and a way to feel the peace I do here safely with the North Sea as my buffer. 18+ months into recovery I’ve come (I think) a long way to understand why my life took the turns it did and how it is that I ended up an addict, but there’s only so far I can go and I think I’m ready for someone to hold up a mirror to help me figure some of this deeper stuff out.

Yep, I’m ready for therapy. I think now is a good time to take a deep dive into that scary void in my heart. The time is now. Also very timely as I’m beginning my studies to become a counsellor in September and in order to do this you have to have therapy yourself – two birds, one stone. Funny how life works out sometimes, it really is perfectly timed. Also, I don’t know that I would have benefitted as much early on in recovery as I believe I will at this point, now that I have a clear mind and have got used to feeling all the feels.

It makes sense, I guess. Some things have been buried so deep that it’s taken all these 18+ months for them to reach the surface, and I’m ready to deal with it all and face it. This is what we do on the Pink Cloud. All I know is that sadness consumed me at times when we were in Sweden and that it was like turning a leaf over once I was back on these shores. It was almost instant how I felt at peace and my usual positive self again. It scared me how I got overwhelmed by all these emotions, how low and lost I felt. The contrast was staggering. When the plane took off over a landscape of vast forests and lakes, I still felt full of sorrow, yet just a few hours later when I cuddled up with Hubby in our own bed in our home in west London I was back to happy Anna who knew she was HOME. Yep, plenty of stuff to dig into.

It’s fine that it hurts. It’s fine that it makes me sad. But it’s not fine that it destroys me and it’s not fine if it makes me hesitate to go back to the place where so many of my loved ones are. So I need to find a way to redress the balance as it’s currently out of whack.

So that’s where I’m at. Any thoughts on therapy, anyone? Personal experience?

Today I’m not going to drink.