A Different Conversation

I recently watched the ‘Avicii: True Stories‘ documentary and there was one bit that really struck me – Avicii (or Tim, as was his real name) is talking about addiction, or, rather, his “problem” with drink and other substances and explains how he failed to connect his lifestyle with his problems. He outlines how the perception of what constitutes a problem or addiction couldn’t be reconciled with how he was living. I bloody heard myself in his words: “I didn’t drink in the morning“.

This is also highlighted in the book I’m currently reading, ‘American Drug Addict‘ by Brett Douglas. Douglas implores the reader to picture a drug addict, to conjure up the sort of person we believe this to be. He then asks us if some examples he goes on to list are in accordance with the image we’ve just thought of. Of course they are not – he lists success, a loving family, a stable background and financial security. Douglas has in this list described himself and he is, as the title of the book suggests, a drug addict. It may seem obvious but I honestly think we often need reminding that drug addiction doesn’t necessarily look the way we think it does.

Sure, the desperate soul on the park bench who’s pee’d their pants and sit there shaking with their can of strong cider is indeed a picture of addiction and drug abuse, absolutely so, but it’s ONE picture of many, many, many. And so is the wreck of a person getting nicked for stealing or prostituting to support their habit, skin ravaged from them picking at it the way meth apparently does when it makes you believe bugs live underneath it. Or something like that. Drug addiction is all these things and more. But those severe examples are just that: severe examples. Those are the pictures of the end of the journey and the ride before we get to that stage is a very long one. Those extreme examples we see, those “obvious” addicts and drunks, constitute a very tiny minority. The rest of us exist on the same train but a few coaches back perhaps. It’s just we don’t talk openly about it, those honest conversations around drugs just don’t seem to exist, so we’re left with this extremely narrow view of what a drug addict or drunk is – no wonder we’re left fumbling in the dark!

Bambino is coming up to 15 years old. Only this morning I had a conversation with him about drink and drugs. As wonderful and well meaning as my parents were, I was never able to have an open and honest conversation with them and that was mostly because we were ALL desperately ill informed about drink, drugs and their effects. My parents simply didn’t have the knowledge. Well, they had knowledge but it was wrong. They’d simply been taught wrong like the rest of us.

I was never big on drugs. In my lifetime I’d estimate I’ve smoked weed probably about 20 times. I’ve tried amphetamine, ecstacy and cocaine – each of those a handful of times and all now many years ago in my early 20s. I was never a fan of those things and they never gave any effect I liked, unlike alcohol, which, in contrast, I fell head over heels in love with obviously. Point is though, it didn’t take many puffs on a joint to realise that what I’d been told was nonsense.

Perhaps drugs propaganda is/was different in countryside Sweden around the early 90s than it is elsewhere, but what I was fed growing up was that no matter which drug – cannabis or heroin – you could get stuck from the first time. Smoking that one joint would likely lead you down the terrible path to overdosing and dying with a needle still in your arm. Of course what I, and probably lots of other young people, quickly discovered was how I didn’t get hooked at all. And it didn’t take a lot to realise that stoners are the most docile and friendly people around. Unlike, amusingly, drunk people who are a lot more prone to aggression. The scary stories about cannabis induced psychosis and a fast track to ending up a junkie simply weren’t true. So to my young mind the obvious question that formed was “well, that wasn’t true so what else isn’t????“.

The truth is, not all of us become addicts. Some of us do and it’s from the word go. Sure, many drugs ARE addictive physically no matter your predispositions be it biologically or mentally/emotionally, but there are other reasons why some of us get hooked in a way that others don’t. How I turned out to be an addict and my husband didn’t is nothing to do with whether we tried weed as teenagers. In fact, in his late teens, Hubby was a full-on stoner and regularly got high on weed – much more so than the relatively few times I smoked the stuff in my time. So why me and not him? Why can he drink a couple of glasses of wine and then be content and stop whereas with me it’s like I’ve been hit with a sledgehammer the moment I put that wineglass to my lips? Something sets us apart and it’s not about the drugs themselves – it’s about something in US.

Some people refer to this difference as an inherent inability to be content with what is. An inner turmoil perhaps. A sense of discontent, irritability and unease. Emotional pain. I do stand firm for the time being, however, until such time that I’m shown evidence to the contrary or am enlightened to see a differing perspective:  I don’t believe it’s the drugs that create addicts. Yes, you can get physically hooked on heroin from that one hit, but fact remains that if you’re not hurting inside somehow it’s unlikely you’d ever seek its relief. People can enjoy some drugs (including alcohol and cannabis, say, but even cocaine or ecstacy or LSD) without getting hooked, but some people find relief. Perhaps that’s the difference? Some find fun and/or relaxation they can take or leave, some of us find a sort of relief we then cannot bear to live without.

And so, the conversation I have with Bambino is very different from the conversation I had with my own parents when I was his age. I told him honestly that if he goes through life and occasionally smokes a bit of weed, I wouldn’t worry. Emphasis on ‘occasionally’. What I worry about is the crap that happens because the drugs that are all less harmful than alcohol are, unlike alcohol, all illegal and therefore two frightening dangers occur: 1) you don’t know what’s in it, you can never be sure of what the stuff might be laced with, and 2) the merchants and the crowd running the supply chain. I can imagine people may gasp in horror to what I just said. How could a parent have the audacity to tell a 15-yearold that they’re not that concerned about a bit of weed? Lock that evil, stupid, DANGEROUS, damaging, fucked-up woman up and throw away the key after stripping her of all rights to be a mother. Fine, I accept you may not agree with me. That’s absolutely fine.

The conversation I have with Bambino can be summed up as follows:

  • Bambino – I realise the world you live in is different from the one I lived in at your age. I think I get what it’s like to be young but I probably don’t so I need you to explain this to me. What are the pressures? What goes on? What are the situations you have to navigate that I don’t get? Educate me, please.
  • Bambino – if you occasionally smoke a spliff through your life to unwind or whatever and that’s the worst that’ll happen, I will rest easy. Just like I’ll rest easy if you throughout life have a couple of beers occasionally. If it turns into something else, something frequent and a loss of control, it’s a different conversation we need to have.
  • Bambino – you’re barely 15. You are not to touch any of these things because you’re still growing and your brain is still developing. It’s not good for you. And you’re not allowed. There will be consequences if you go and get drunk or high whilst you’re still underage. You’re still a child and that’s why you’re to refrain from doing these things.
  • Bambino – you don’t know what’s in the illegal drugs. With alcohol you can at least read the label and rely on it. Even weed could be laced with synthetic crap and you have no way of knowing. Nor can you know the strength or how you’ll react to it for that same reason.
  • Bambino – because drugs are illegal they’re controlled by dark powers. This is a crowd you are not to mix with. One step sideways and you’re in their pocket. You’re a prime target as a young drugs mule and it would only take “pass this on” and your life as you know it could be over. With drugs, there is no such thing as a free lunch. You are to always distance yourself from these crowds. And remove yourself from situations too, even when some mates are just “innocently” smoking a joint or whatever else.
  • Bambino – I love you. I don’t understand your world like you do, so help me there, OK?
  • Bambino – that horrible sinking feeling when you have to be dishonest, sneak around and hide stuff, I don’t want you to have that. Yes, there’ll be consequences like you being grounded and without your allowance etc if you mess up, but we will only have a conversation like this one: calm and reasonable where I listen to you too. I always have your back and I’m always in your corner and whatever it is I want us to be open with each other. I didn’t have that with my parents but I want that for us. Let’s trust each other.

Bambino looked at me, his huge blue eyes all serious and somber.

I want to have that relationship too.

I hugged my little monkey, who is now quite a bit taller than I am so that in order to rest my chin on his shoulder I actually ended up facing the ceiling.

Then some magical words fell out of his mouth:

I’m lucky to have a mum like you.

I suppressed a happy little sob.

No, I’m not a great mum and God knows I’ve failed Bambino in so, so many ways. But if this did some good, happy days. I don’t know how else I could approach it. Had I not been stuck in my own addiction, perhaps I could have got on a high horse and preached morality and virtuous living but given my own journey that seems really hypocritical. Perhaps it’s a huge risk to admit to your kid that you’ve fucked up beyond what they are ever likely to, but I don’t want to hide any of that from him. Hell, he’s seen me comatose drunk countless times so I find it absolutely pointless to try to present myself as some sort of role model in that regard. I think he’d lose respect for me if I did. Instead, I’m showing him I take ownership and want to have an honest conversation with him where drink and drugs are concerned.

Not so long ago, I got him a copy of ‘Drugs: Without the Hot Air‘ by professor David Nutt. It’s a factual book about all drugs, including alcohol. It goes through what they are, what they do, what the risks are and everything else you need to know. No fear mongering or horror stories, just facts. It’s the book I wish had been in existence back when I was Bambino’s age and that I wish I’d read. I hugely recommend it and I honestly believe it should be compulsory reading for every young adult.

Nutt’s book along with more information around what addiction actually is would be a very good place to start to help our young persons build better foundations. Yes, that person there on the park bench is an alcoholic, but so is that nice lady who works at the bank who is still doing a great job and whose appearance is still intact. Isn’t it funny how the main obstacle is always knowledge? And why do we withhold it? Do we worry that if we are honest, our young’uns will rush out and try lots of drugs? We already know this wouldn’t be the case as it never has been in any of the places where drugs have been decriminalised. Not once, not ever.

Am I starting to sound like I’m all for decriminalising drugs? Well… Look at Portugal… It works. Maybe they’re doing something right… After all, if we were only to look at America – 58,220 Americans died during the Vietnam war between 1955 and 1973. Compare this with 70,237 who died from a drugs overdose in 2017. Yes, you read that correctly. I need to dig out some stats for Europe at some point. However, this isn’t a problem that’s going to go away UNLESS WE CHANGE HOW WE TALK ABOUT ADDICTION. We need to get fucking honest about this. And we need to get a fucking grip and make a change so we stop thinking of addicts as only those who have visibly and obviously lost everything. The road there is fucking LONG and also, it’s not paved with good intentions. We’ve been let down and lied to. Let’s get honest. For real.

Today I’m not going to drink.

I Will Just Say This

There really isn’t that much on my mind but wanted to pop in here and give Storm a bit of TLC. Or perhaps it’s that there is SO MUCH on my mind that I just don’t know where to start? That sounds more like it, to be honest. It’s like having too much to do, peeking into my head at the moment. Or when your house is a tip (like mine is right now with kitchen renovations in full swing) and you just stare at the mess not knowing where to start. Yeah, that’s Anna’s little mind right now.

Much to sort through and process, but thankfully all positive. Not right now though. I’m just too tired.

So I will just say this. It’s Friday night and I’m home alone. There’s no one to see and there’s nowhere I have to be in the morning. If that’s not a PERFECT time to drink myself to bits I don’t know what is! But there is no part of me that wants to do that. The thought or urge was never there and even now – spurred on to think about recovery and drinking just by writing on my recovery blog – talking about it doesn’t even create a tiny little smidge of wanting to. I’m trying to visualise a favourite drinking scenario but even imagining a glass of wine doesn’t turn me on like it used to. Nope! Not a twitch. And that’s a victory. I’m watching a US documentary series called Dopesick Nation, and already looking forward to my morning run when I wake up tomorrow.

Now that’s fucking awesome. To think this old drunk would EVER feel this way. Perhaps it’ll all change and perhaps it’ll all fall apart – never, ever will I get cocky about this – but right now I’m feeling really solid in my sobriety and that’s the best feeling in the world. I’m at my most vulnerable and I feel strong. Who knows what tomorrow brings but right in this moment things are pretty lush here on the Pink Cloud, and let’s face it, this moment is all I have and all that matters right now.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Her Daddy Loves Her

Friday night and the drink in front of me is a glass of water. Dinner was a bread roll and a packet of Super Noodles. I don’t know what the “super” is doing there because they’re the student food type that you make by just pouring boiling water on them and adding a sachet of flavoured powder. These spartan living conditions as far as cooking goes are down to kitchen renovations and for the next three weeks we will be living off takeaways and things that 1) don’t need to be refrigerated, and 2) can be made using a kettle. Oh, and don’t leave much washing up. Hubby is on the other side of the world in his native New Zealand so he will thankfully miss most of the chaos. Bambino is holed up in his room with a friend and they’re watching a film and playing X-box at the same time – when it comes to screens, clearly more is more in their teenage world.

And Anna?

Anna had a stressful week. Had the most frightening experience yet at work – a client who should NOT have been admitted was admitted and it really shook me up. It was down to unfortunate events and a few things slipped through the net, like for example the fact that he is a violent schizophrenic who has been sectioned several times due to psychotic episodes and once stabbed someone. …aaaaaand so I witnessed this individual in a full blown episode of the aforementioned variety. Oh, and obviously on top of this little molotov cocktail of severe mental illness we’ve also got booze and various other drugs added to the mix. Off he went after two ambulance crews with police assistance turned up and it was the first time I actually felt really unsafe at work. As in, physically unsafe. When I stood out by the gate wearing a high vis vest to direct the approaching ambulances and police car I could see the front door move like it was vibrating as the guy was hitting and kicking it from inside in the reception area where Beethoven and the doctor on duty were doing their best to contain him.

It was frightening, unpleasant and knocked me for six. Informed Beethoven that this is not something I’m equipped to deal with and, well, I won’t. Drunk/high and irate is one thing. I can deal with verbal aggression and that sort of nonsense. Hell, I do a lot of things that I find challenging at the rehab – I’ve sat with clients who’ve been covered in their own faeces and tried to help clean them using baby wipes when they’ve come in too messed up to be able to stand in the shower. I’m a tough cookie but this I can’t do. Madness is something else. Madness is unpredictable and volatile. Beethoven patiently listened to me as I tearfully conceded that perhaps I can’t do this job if I’m expected to be able to deal with this.

No, no, no – this was an unfortunate situation and it shouldn’t have happened,” Beethoven boomed through the phone emphatically, “don’t worry, girl.

I do worry. I can’t deal with that sort of thing,” I snivelled, upset at the prospect that I’d let everyone down and most of all myself.

No one is expected to deal with that here, if I’d had even a sniff of this guy’s extensive history he would never have been admitted and he will never be admitted to any of our centres again.

Beethoven, who is a trained mental health nurse along with a bunch of other qualifications within the field, went on to explain what had gone wrong and offered some helpful tips on what to do if I were ever (although he also stressed that this should never be the case there) exposed to a situation like this again. Well. I felt a lot better after talking to him because I’d had a mini-meltdown thinking this career I’m so passionate about might be all but over.

Onwards and upwards!

Stressful week with everything going on and with Hubby so far away. Lots to organise for the kitchen stuff, but I got there in the end and today had the installers pop in to finalise everything. Wall tiles now ordered so we’re all set. I’m on top of it and it’s all going to plan.

Starting the counselling course was also overwhelming and yes, my heart nearly beat out of my chest as YEP, I had to talk in front of people. Well, I knew that was coming so accepted I had to face the fear and do it anyway. As much as I wanted to get up and leave, I stayed put and I made myself do it. And guess what? I’ll do it again. And again. And eventually it’ll begin to feel like the meditation and reflection groups I sometimes run at work, and catch a load of this – I often look forward to those these days. Thank you very much, sobriety!

This evening when I could finally draw breath and look away from all the things I had to sort out in preparation for the kitchen, I spent a few hours going over the course work and all the bits that seemed so difficult and hard to make sense of I’ve now got a grip on and completing the first couple of bits of work turned out well. I feel much calmer now, more on top of things. I don’t do well with new things because I’m such a control freak and hate not knowing everything at once, but this is something I have to manage and slowly does it. Yes, I’m looking at ME – you hear me, Anna? ONE STEP AT A TIME. EASY DOES IT. I’ll get there in the end and it would seem a week during which I’ve felt stressed and unsettled is ending with a sense of accomplishment and peace. Approaching things thoroughly and in an organised manner does that, unlike the Drunk Me approach which used to entail speeding through life like bloody Schumacher on amphetamine.

And to round up this Friday evening, Dad rang and we had a nice little chat. My inner child understands that her Daddy loves her. He may not understand addiction, or perhaps it’s that he just cannot connect addiction with his daughter, but he does love me. We didn’t speak about that, by the way, only about him off hunting in the north of Sweden this weekend and also about our new kitchen. A neutral chat, but it was just nice and lovely. It was just one of those times when I hung up really knowing I’ve got my Dad and he’s got me. It isn’t always like that, but that’s another blog post perhaps. He’s a good man, my father. Harsh sometimes and judgemental often, but his heart is in the right place underneath it all.

Recovery is fucking awesome.

Happy Friday to you all.

Today I’m not going to drink.

This Happy Blondie Love Bug

And so finally the day is here. Well, almost – tomorrow it will be. On TV just now, someone said “buckle up people, this is IT, this is life – it’s not a rehearsal” and it struck me as very fitting. Now, I could just breeze past that or pretend I was watching something ever so clever and cool but the person who said it was Caroline Manzo, who, in all fairness IS clever and cool, but the programme I am watching is most definitely not. I’m binge watching The Real Housewives of New Jersey. It’s my guilty pleasure, sue me. Those ladies sue each other a lot, as it happens.

I was going to say it isn’t that huge a deal or a life changing experience, but actually it is and I think it will be. Tomorrow is my first day on the counselling course and I’m so excited about it, so eager to get stuck in now. One of the lovely therapists at work got a little emotional talking about it, telling me it changes you forever. In a good way. Part of studying involves plenty of therapy for yourself, as well as turning yourself inside out in a group setting. As a recovering addict I reckon I have a small advantage as this is something recovery teaches us: how to be fearlessly honest, look inward and share with others what used to be our dirty, shameful secrets. See? Like the talented Laura McKowen (a writer and recovery advocate I adore – do look her up) refers to us recovering addicts: WE’RE THE LUCKIEST. I wish those words were mine, just like I wish I could be all cool and quote something other than RHONJ, but there we are. Oh, holy crap, I’m using the abbreviation for that trashy TV programme now, like some goddamn super fan?!

No, a book isn’t materialising at this present time, but here I am pursuing something I’m passionate about and interested in and this is something I could never do when I was drinking. This stuff was not possible before. Talk in front of people? Give presentations? Run a goddamn workshop? When I was drinking, the idea of any of those things would have stopped me even considering something no matter how much I’d wanted to do it. It always DID stop me. When I did my Masters, part of a unit was to give a five-minute presentation. I begged the tutor to let me do another essay instead and I kid you not – I was absolutely prepared to forsake getting the Masters and wasting all tuition fees and all the other hard work rather than stand and talk for FIVE MINUTES. Thankfully he agreed and instead I had to produce a dissertation length translation study that required pretty much the same amount of work as my actual dissertation. The prep and study for that presentation including creating the slides might have taken a couple of days, right? 

Now, my addiction hadn’t yet kicked off for real back then, so I can’t blame that entirely. I don’t even know if I can partly blame it. But I was an addict in the making, I guess, and my modus operandi was always flight as opposed to fight. Sometimes I wish that I could have got to this point back then, that it’s a shame that I had to waste such a huge chunk of my life destroying myself before I finally got to this point where I’m becoming the best Anna I can be. But I also know that perhaps it’s the fact that I did indeed sink into addiction that has made all this possible. Like Laura says – we’re the luckiest. Hell, all I need to feel deliriously happy is to wake up without a hangover. Honestly, I need little else. That’s what happens in recovery. I don’t know that I would feel so grateful for those small, simple things if I’d never lost all those years.

So imagine my joy, excitement and gratitude that I can walk into that room tomorrow for the first time and not freak out because ahead of me are things that scare me. All those things DO scare me! The idea of presentations makes me want to cry. Or be sick. Both. But here’s the strange thing – I’m looking forward to it. The voice inside me that used to yell at me to run for the hills is now roaring BRING IT ON!

I’m reminding myself that it’ll be hard. Yes, it’ll feel like a victory if I manage to introduce myself without blushing and stuttering, but chances are there’ll be plenty of steep hills. I need to remember to fight and not flee. Like recovery. One moment you feel like a champion for fighting off the Beast, the next you hit turbulence and it can seem so difficult and bleak. But we keep going. We always keep going here on the Pink Cloud. We face the fear and do it anyway.

Well. A little pep talk for myself, I guess. I’m genuinely not feeling nervous but I also know that I’m super sensitive and even the smallest set-back can send me into Miseryville so need to keep myself grounded.

Gosh, I just remembered the second time I ran the reflection group at the rehab and it went to shit – I felt like an utter failure, sat on the bed when I got home after that shift and cried me a river. As it happens, I ran the morning meditation this morning and just like I’ll cop to watching RHONJ, I’ll be honest – it wasn’t a great session. And afterwards this lovely client came and asked me genuine questions relating to what we’d discussed – relapse – and I found myself at a loss as to how to help him reframe it. That’s right, it wasn’t the best group I’ve run and it was possibly the worst advice I’ve managed to muster, and yes I felt a bit rubbish about it. The client in question is really focused on his recovery and his question was sincere and demonstrated that he is there for all the right reasons, so I was really kicking myself. Now THERE was a moment I would have loved to have something really great roll off my tongue and for him to then pass on along the lines of “when I was in rehab, this lady said…” – like you pass on AMAZING advice someone once gave you. Then for him to have “Anna got me sober” tattooed on his forearm. Jokes aside, that’s an example of me being self absorbed and hopefully you know what I mean. Bottom line is I can handle those things – I can handle BEING HUMAN!! – and I have no fucking problem whatsoever walking back in for my next shift ready to run groups and give advice as best I am able.

Actually, I’m being overly self critical now. The group was FINE. Just not the best. And as for the advice, I did my best and then suggested he go and grab Work-Hubby who was on shift with me and get his perspective. Work-Hubby has 23 years of recovery and is like a walking, talking AA meeting – full of wisdom and those 23 years of perspective to offer. So perhaps I gave really sound advice after all? I gave him my time and listened, offered whatever insight and perspective I had at my disposal and then pointed him to the best recovery badass I know. See? Perhaps I’m not so bad. And a client who discharged today gave me a big hug and told me “you’re like this happy blondie love bug“. That made me very happy. And I assume being called a “love bug” is a cute and sweet thing and doesn’t, unbeknownst to me, mean something mean or smutty! (Don’t tell me if that’s the case!)

Right. One more reunion episode – I’m on season 3 and they’re all insane – and then bed, read for a while and tomorrow a new chapter begins!

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Today I’m not going to drink.

Lasted This Long

Sometimes I have really random thoughts. As I filled up the little tank for my vape stick, I wondered what I’ll do when I get old. Old, as in when popping to the shop might be a mission because I’m frail or what have you. The vape liquid I like (menthol, melon and sorbet – yum) is slightly tricky to get hold of so I order it online, but what if I can’t do that. Would it just be easier to smoke again? Would I go back to smoking when I’ve lived so long it doesn’t matter so much anymore? The thought of Marlboro Lights Menthol crossed my mind and I imagined Old Me lighting one up whilst I sit on a porch and look out at the sea. I don’t know if my imagination placed me in my husband’s native New Zealand but that was the sort of image my brain had conjured up. Quite Waihi Beach-esque. Also, I was alone. And very, very old. Anyway, there I am smoking a cigarette. And I found myself wondering, would I pour a glass of wine too? If I get to, say, approaching 90 years old, would I pour a glass of wine? Would I then feel, heck, I’ve lasted this long, let’s live a little?

Nah. See, to my mind the two are different. This is stupid, I know, because both are ridiculous filthy habits. OK, so vaping is less harmful than smoking given vapour doesn’t contain all those toxic fumes or carcinogens, but still a bad thing to do. However, I enjoy it. And the idea of having a drink seems pointless. Why, if I’m 90 years old, would I spoil my day by fogging it up, numbing and dumbing it down, and poisoning myself in the process – and especially so if I no longer have lots of life ahead of me? Nope, I’ll smoke that cigarette if vape liquid for whatever reason isn’t available, but I want to enjoy sitting on my porch all clear and present.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with Work-Hubby once. He asked me if I would drink again if I knew I only had two weeks to live. No fucking way! Imagine that! If I had just two weeks left of this amazing life, would I want to spend those last few days on earth by being in black-out one half and feeling shit the other? Hell no. If anything, I’d consider it an even more solid case to NOT drink. But I can see where he was coming from. I think if we think of staying sober as something we have to try hard to do and our devious brains still have us believing drinking would be a reward in some way, then with just days left to live we might just go “oh, fuck it”. It’s not how I see it though. For me – and this did take hold almost straight away when I got sober – it’s a case of THANK GOD I DON’T HAVE TO DRINK ANYMORE.

Sobriety isn’t something I have to fight to maintain. Being sober and in recovery is blessed relief. It’s hard to explain and I realise I will sound like a complete hypocrite now, but it’s also the hardest thing I’ve had to do. But hear me out – it’s not the not-drinking that’s hard, it’s dealing with everything with anaesthesia that’s bloody difficult sometimes. Being me and feeling everything strongly is hard work, and when old wounds still throb and bleed, it’s sometimes unbearable. But since I realised alcohol and what I thought it gave me was a big, fat lie, the idea of drinking sort of died too.

To be clear, as always – I know I always have to remain vigilant. The Beast is in its cage, but as I’ve pointed out many times before, that cage has no lock and the Beast will only stay in it as long as I keep a watchful eye. I’m an addict. My brain is still the same one I always had. I can’t afford to forget that. Ever.

How do you see it? I suppose the question can be asked in a number of different ways but in essence: if there was no consequence, would you use/drink? I mean, like a “normie”?

I wouldn’t. We’ve talked about this before, particularly around the Naltextrone discussion, but this really fascinates me.

Today I’m not going to drink.

587 Days

I often bleat on about the endless rewards of being sober. Endless? Well, that’s what it feels like – I mention one thing and often find myself thinking of several more miraculous rewards of recovery and struggle to shut up. 587 days sober today, so can I name 587 rewards? That’s not even CLOSE to “endless”, right?

  1. Waking up without a hangover never gets old.
  2. My morning coffee tastes epic! I couldn’t drink coffee in the mornings when I was drinking because it made me feel even worse, even though I freaking LOVE coffee. Now though, it’s my favourite thing. Even as I’m going to bed the night before I’m looking forward to a clear head, strong body and non-hangover morning coffee.
  3. When I’m ill I still feel a million times better than I ever did when I was drinking. Who knew bog standard lousy could be so fucking awesome??
  4. I can with ease do things I couldn’t before. Like write this blog post – when I was drinking I was simply too foggy to form coherent thoughts or do anything that required even the tiniest bit of focus.
  5. Running is just too damn great and even when I’m not quite in the mood or I feel sluggish I can still do it. When I was drinking I’d always say I’d be happy if I could run just 5k regularly, but it was an unattainable goal as I could barely get myself out of the house, never mind run. Now, a 5k loop is my shortest run when I’m either short of time or feeling a little unwell. Yes, I can run 5k WITH EASE even when I’m feeling shit. I’ve run 5k with severe period cramps, thank you very much. Something that was once something of an impossible dream is now not just reality but something recovery has allowed me to not just do but SMASH. As I said – with ease too.
  6. I love taking care of myself – every night I wash my face and use fancy serums and creams to look after my skin. When I was drinking I’d never do this, never used to wash off my make-up.
  7. I’m able to stick with things and work steadily towards goals.
  8. I’m able to do and be my best at work and know every day on my way home that my being there made a difference. It’s really satisfying to put in a day’s good work and know in your heart you’ve done a good job.
  9. I honour my commitments. Cancelling at the last minute and being a no-show friend is a thing of the past.
  10. I’m there for others when they need me. Because I take care of myself and fulfil my own needs (be it emotional or physical via e.g. exercise) there is now enough of me to give to others.
  11. When I can’t be there for someone else, I say so. I don’t let people down like I used to.
  12. MORNINGS – I fucking LOVE mornings!!
  13. I even fucking love MONDAYS!
  14. Decisions are thought through, considered and sensibly made.
  15. I can face anything life throws at me. Things that would have been disasters before, I can deal with. Even when they ARE disasters.
  16. Being a highly sensitive person I feel everything strongly and I love that nothing now gets lost in booze fuelled numbness. Good and bad. Sure, it’s hard work feeling everything as acutely as I do, but I’m learning to love being me.
  17. I’ve discovered I have lots to give to the next person. And do.
  18. I’m no longer doing a job I’ve chosen because it’s all I can muster due to always being wrecked by hangovers. I now do something I truly believe in for a living because it’s what I want to do and working hard to carve out a REAL path in the world of addiction treatment. I’m in a job that requires a lot of me but I’m able to do it because I’m not destroyed by booze. I’m able to do it because my mind is clear and focused. Always! Every day my mind is clear. And even when I’m having a bad day, be it feeling under the weather or being sad, I can still focus. This is awesome.
  19. I look in the mirror and see a woman I love – she’s kind, she’s smart, she’s funny, she’s got a good heart, she works hard, she’s dependable, she’s a little quirky and some days she even looks quite pretty.
  20. I’m a good mother to my son. No longer do I swing on a pendulum from short tempered due to being hungover to saying yes to everything out of guilt due to being drunk. Bambino can rely on me now. Yes is yes and no is no. I deliver on my promises. He recently told me when I got stuck in traffic and was a little late picking him up that he never worried about me turning up. “I knew you’d be here because when you say you’ll do something, you do it“, he told me. I couldn’t hold back the tears of joy and embarrassed him, but I don’t care – that was quite possibly the most magical reward of recovery to date hearing my child say that. He had to wriggle free from his weepy mama.
  21. I’m a much nicer wife too. No more drunken rows I’ve somehow started but don’t remember the next morning.
  22. When my husband asked me how my day was it used to piss me off because I was an underachieving drunk and my days were often unproductive and uninspired. Now, when he asks, I’m bubbling over wanting to talk about it because what I did MATTERS and I feel so good about it.
  23. I can fulfil my potential – and I am! – now that I’m sober.
  24. I’m good at taking care of important stuff. My husband is no longer the only adult and can rely on me to share the big decisions. He can leave things to me and know I’ll sort it out.
  25. TIME! Time is on my side and there’s heaps of it! It really is staggering how much time is taken up by addiction. I have ridiculous amounts on with work and studying but I can fit so much in now that I don’t spend all my free time in that damn bottle.
  26. I don’t miss the end. At the cinema, at a show, at a concert – whatever it may be, I’m there from start to finish. Nothing is blurry or hazy. Or in black-out. I don’t have my addiction to feed so I can relax and enjoy the ride. And I do. Every. Single. Time. And the encore too.
  27. I remember what I said and did.
  28. I never have to play detective or search in the bin or go through my phone to figure out what Drunk Me did the night before.
  29. Shame is something I very rarely feel.
  30. I can – and do – look anyone in the eye and stand up for who I am, where I’ve come from, what I’ve been through and where I’m headed and I do so with pride.
  31. I mean what I say.
  32. “NO” is a great word and I use it. Often.
  33. I don’t compromise on my values or beliefs. I stand firm.
  34. I am free and have inner peace. Being free of the slavery of addiction makes me feel giddy with joy. Life is pretty stress-free even when it’s stressful.
  35. My blood pressure and resting heart rate are perfect. When I was drinking I often had very low blood pressure and a very high heart rate. I do still get palpitations on occasion but it’s rare. My ticker is very happy that I’m sober!
  36. I stand up in the shower!! When I was drinking I used to have to crouch because I was terrified of slipping and smashing my head open on the taps because I was so dizzy, weak and shaky. No more! I can fucking STAND in the shower. Sometimes I do a little wiggle to celebrate and sing too.
  37. No more mystery injuries! No more strange bruises I can’t account for.
  38. I no longer have to hide my keys from… …..myself. I never knew that weird asshole I become in black-out, but that lunatic got up to all sorts of crazy shit so I used to hide my keys from… ..er… ..her. This was to prevent her, er… me… from leaving the house in the middle of the night.
  39. I no longer have to leave notes for myself anywhere. Like “DON’T GO ON FACEBOOK” on my laptop or “DON’T CALL OR TEXT ANYONE” by my phone.
  40. Looking at my phone in the morning doesn’t fill me with dread and anxiety anymore because I know who I’ve spoken to or texted and anything I’ve said I meant. No more nasty surprises from Drunk Me.
  41. I don’t have to drink today. Feeling so free is amazing. I DON’T HAVE TO DRINK!
  42. When I go out for a drink with Hubby I don’t feel stressed because there’s no booze to stress over. I just enjoy his company and feel totally relaxed. Before I always used to feel irritable and stressy because I finished my drinks much faster and had to wait for him before getting another round.
  43. It’s no longer strange to order a soda instead of a glass of wine. Honestly, it doesn’t really occur to me anymore, whereas once upon a time that seemed inconceivable. In the beginning it was a bit weird and uncomfortable but I genuinely don’t think about it anymore. Sober is my normal now. I FUCKING LOVE THAT!!!!!!!
  44. Nervous in social situations? Me? Not one bit. I happily socialise with Hubby’s work colleagues (who I used to find intimidating – they’re all VIP of this, Chief Executive that) and get along fine with anyone it might be, prince or pauper. I got this.
  45. Scared of speaking up? Me? Not at all. I often run groups at the rehab and although it did scare me shitless in the beginning and took a long time getting over (even months in I’d have palpitations and be shaky because of nerves), I do it now without a care in the world.
  46. I can face anything – old ghosts I’m no longer scared to rumble. I can face anyone and anything. Even when I’ve fucked up or have to face fuck-ups by Drunk Me from many moons ago.
  47. I now indulge one of my passions again – reading! I’m forever reading books, just like I used to before I sank into addiction. I always have four or five on the go: one or two audiobooks I listen to in the car to and from work, then a paperback and a couple on my Kindle that I switch between in the evenings depending on what I feel like reading. My book budget is sizeable but still only a fraction of what my drinking used to cost.
  48. To date I’ve not drunk over £10,000. 19+ months of sobriety and that’s a conservative estimate. We’d probably head to the pub three or four evenings per week and have at least two rounds there, a round being roughly £15 for my large glass of wine and Hubby’s pint of cider. Two of those = £30. Then add another couple of bottles of wine I’d drink back home to perhaps max one for Hubby.
  49. Oh, and Hubby is feeling healthier too – he isn’t an addict like me, but ended up drinking a lot more than he normally would because I dragged him down with me. He now drinks the way he did before he met me: perhaps two or three nights per week and when he does it’s a couple of beers or a couple of glasses of wine. In these 19+ months I’ve seen him a little tipsy perhaps three or four times.

…speaking of which, Hubby just walked in all cute and smiley. God, I’m so into him, he’s just glorious. Beautiful, beautiful man, with the biggest heart. Me, I haven’t showered because even though I went for a long walk this morning I’m going to go for a run. Best get going. Seems I only got to less than 10% of the list but I didn’t run out of things to say about the rewards of recovery – my fingers have not once slowed down in their tapping and dancing across the keyboard – so I shall get back to this challenge another time. Perhaps see if I can list 1,000 rewards. It doesn’t strike me as hard at all, honestly, simply because there’s forever moments when I’m overcome with gratitude at the life I now have.

Here’s to another day.

Today I’m not going to drink.