645 Days

All right, enough of the whining now. Decision made – I’m moving on! My goal remains the same, I am just rerouting my path to divert from Bully-Face. Some things are OK, some things are not and if I remain in a situation I find horrid and unjust, then I’m sending the message that it’s OK. So many people around me – most, in fact, in this particular constellation that encompasses Bully-Face – also feel there are things that are unacceptable, but I honestly feel that doing nothing in my case is paramount to being culpable when it comes to adding fuel to an environment that isn’t what it should be. Nah, not for me. I didn’t get sober to be treated badly.

With that burden lifted, the world is a bright and happy place to be again. Nothing worse than agonising over decisions and feeling down trodden, so I’m glad that this little shitter of a patch did what most shit-patches do: it passed. Things always do. I’m feeling solid still in my recovery so none of this had me feeling like I wanted to pour wine on it (besides, a good mood is my biggest trigger anyway), but it’s still worth taking a moment to point out how much shittier it would have turned out if I had! That’s certainly one lesson my addiction taught me – there is no problem alcohol can’t make worse! Being sober and at my full faculties, I can deal with life’s little curveballs. And so here we are on this lovely Wednesday and my heart is as full of sunshine as the beautiful autumn day outside. So enough of all that whining, and thank you all who commented and offered words of wisdom – it’s much appreciated and I took it all on board.

Hm, wasn’t sure what to say beyond that just now so just checked my sobriety app – 645 days today. One year, nine months and one week. Who would’ve thought? Not me, that’s for sure. In fact, had you told me just two years ago that this would be me I would probably have laughed in your face, then cried bitter tears once alone because the hell of my addiction felt so inescapable and hopeless. Fuck me, I struggle to believe that figure when I look at it. 645. Six four five. Me! I did that. Anna, the wine guzzling binge-drinker with almost daily black-outs. I did that. Sweet Jesus, I love my life, so here’s to many, many more days just like today to add to that figure, one day at a time.

Today I’m not going to drink.

My Part of the Deal

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change – now, this is what I’m busy trying to figure out in terms of Bully-Face. The courage to change the things I can – do I remain in Bully-Face’s path for the sake of working towards a goal or do I remove myself from the situation? The wisdom to understand the difference – I think in this situation I’m clear on what this means: I can’t change the behaviour of other people but I can choose whether I subject myself to it.

So I have tried to formulate the brand new Anna’s Plan. Question one, which determines the answers to the others, is whether Bully-Face is to be considered an unavoidable evil on a particular part of my journey or totally intolerable, insufferable and unacceptable. The answer changes on a daily basis, largely determined by Bully-Face’s mood. As soon as I had finished Friday’s blog post, I got cut down to size again and spent the last few hours of the day fighting to hold back the tears. Collapsed in Hubby’s arms as soon as I saw him and once again I have spent the weekend dreading Monday. This pisses me off because I love Mondays and I love where I’m headed. It’s not right, but is it worth it? Can I steel myself knowing this is just for a while and not forever? Will these shitty Fridays and dreaded Mondays all be worthwhile and something I’ll one day look back on and be grateful I persevered and suffered through because where it’ll hopefully take me?

See, this is where I get really selfish. I didn’t fucking turn my life around to feel shit because of another person’s fragile ego and unpredictable temperament. I wasted too much time destroying myself and I’ll be damned if I allow someone else to do so now that I have my life back. I’m fiercely protective of my life and well being these days.

Friday, when I actually felt as happy and positive as I usually do, I got shot down in a spectacular manner. I’m not being dramatic or engaging in self pity when I say it was downright cruel. Part of me can’t believe it’s intentional, I prefer to think I’m just not important enough in Bully-Face’s estimation for them to even consider how I might feel. No, I don’t think it was on purpose but it was fucking thoughtless and bloody stupid, that’s for sure.

Here’s what I can do: I can remove myself from the equation and I can make sure I don’t treat other people in that manner. I can focus on being honest and kind, deliver on my promises and honour my commitments. How other people choose to conduct themselves is none of my business and I refuse to go on feeling this way. I’ve not deserved it and I’m not prepared to keep putting up with it. As much as it stings and as much as this has all really upset and saddened me, this is where it ends. I will hold up my part of the deal and then we’re quits. Thank you and so long.

This means a bunch of sub-questions now that I’ve concluded that the answer to the first one is a resounding NO. Nothing will be worth being treated like that and if this particular part of the journey means I have to accept being bullied then I’m going to have to find a different route, even if it’s a bit of a detour. End of story. It’s just not good enough. Good – now for the follow-on pickles I need to figure out as a result. A bit of a ball ache really, but I’m sober and I’m in a good place and I can ride this storm out too. Hell, if this is the worst coming my way in the year of the Lord 2019 I’ve had a pretty smooth flight! A wonderful benefit of recovery – I can deal with shitty stuff and it doesn’t break me.

In many ways it’s a good thing, I guess this wasn’t God’s plan for me in this instance and so I’m getting my map and compass out to see which way to go. It’ll come good. Besides, I love and value myself too much to allow this. If a friend told me they were in this position I’d immediately reassure them it’s not OK and to get out of it pronto. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to accept yourself as deserving of the same but I’m working on it. If I knew in my heart I’d somehow caused this situation or deserved it somehow, perhaps it’d be an easier pill to swallow but that’s just not the case. This isn’t about me and just like I wouldn’t expect a friend (or ANYONE!) to accept that kind of treatment, I won’t accept it for myself either.

Any way I go, in honouring commitments and holding up my part of the deal, there may be one more weekend filled with anxiety at the idea of another Monday but after that… …no more.

I’ll figure it out, and the best part of it all is that:

Today I’m not going to drink.

A Slug On Valium

Yay, Friday!

Once upon a time, Fridays were lovely for the simple reason that two days off at the weekend meant the shame didn’t feel quite so suffocating. What I mean is, it’s easier to write off a Saturday or Sunday if you’re unproductive because heeeeey it’s the weekend! Harder on a weekday to feel good about operating at 10% of your capacity whilst fighting to get through the day. I suppose weekends were less guilt ridden than the working week. Think about it – during the last couple of years of my drinking I worked for the nicest bosses I’ve ever had, genuinely lovely people whom I adored, yet I performed at my absolute worst and was as productive as a slug on Valium. That means a fairly large scoop of shame and guilt on a daily basis. No one wants to be THAT person but I was and it wasn’t nice. The weekend were a respite however, because at the weekend it’s acceptable to be lazy and not achieve very much.

At this present time, Fridays are still lovely. Lovelier. Ahead of me I don’t have two days of consequence free(‘er) drinking, but instead our lovely Friday tradition where Hubby and I go for a run together – always the same loop and always together. That’s how my weekends start now and it’s fabulous. The rest of them we do what we feel like – we might rush around like blue-arsed flies and accomplish lots or we may binge watch Netflix and not move from the couch all day. All guilt free! I guess there’s less of a contrast between the weekdays and the weekends now because I’m not in that thick fog anymore. Here I am, Friday morning and my desk is pretty clear because I’ve worked hard all week and have got everything done. I’m on top of everything, unlike back in the drinking days when I was forever anticipating mistakes and sloppiness to blow up in my face at every turn. It’s nice to feel like this. No stress, just contentment knowing I’ve done good.

Bully-Face has been tolerable this week, which means I hopefully won’t leave later like I did last Friday with a sick feeling in my gut. Either they feel bad, knowing deep down they went too far and pulled back a little, or it’s my new approach. My strategy is this: I am polite, positive and cooperative. I do what I’m asked to the best of my ability. What I don’t do is engage in anything else – any time Bully-Face begins a conversation that isn’t about work, I find a way to disengage quickly without appearing rude. I don’t pander to Bully-Face’s ego but I’m respectful and approachable. This is probably how normal people act all the time but for me it take effort to fine tune as I have no boundaries or filters. It seems to be working. So far, so good.

And so the therapy. I’ve gone four times now and there are already things that make perfect sense but that I never thought of before. Like, why am I such a cow in the mornings? No, honestly. I wake up super happy and I love mornings, but I quickly get prickly if my dream boat husband offers to make some coffee. I always used to think it was all about me just liking things Anna’s Way and that I’m just really inflexible and controlling. We even laugh at it, dismissing it as “Anna’s Morning Grump” when in fact mornings are my favourite time of day. It didn’t take a lot of digging to discover that what it comes down to is how I can’t stand having people do things for me. It makes me feel indebted. I’m such a shitty and undeserving person anyway, so in my fucked-up brain when my loving husband makes me coffee it further emphasises how I don’t deserve him.

Same thing when someone on the counselling course gave me a little gift earlier in the week. I’d commented the week before that I used to have a bunch of those textile shopper bags you can get for 50p but never used them so threw them out, yet now I need one with the books and folders for the course that don’t fit in my handbag. Well, this lovely woman had some bags at home and brought one in for me. Printed on it was the logo for an addiction charity. “I thought you’d like this one”, she told me. What a sweet thing to do! I felt overwhelmed at the gesture and it made my day, but what my brain immediately did was begin to work out how I can reciprocate.

Love to me, it would seem, is a little transactional. It’s as though I can’t accept being shown love or kindness unless I’ve earned it and of course in my own head I haven’t. Ever. I don’t know if this is correct, I’ve certainly never thought of it that way but it would make sense as I’m not at ALL grumpy in the mornings – mornings are the BEST! – but get spiky and irritable when e.g. Hubby tries to do something nice for me. I was going to say how stupid it is, but actually more accurate would be fascinating, isn’t it? Well, I think so. Not that I think I, Anna, am interesting or fascinating per se, but how what our emotions can be so out of sync with what we actually think and believe. I.e. I have never consciously thought “oh no, don’t like being shown love or kindness” – I’ve only ever thought “I like things MY way“. However, thinking about it now, I realise it DOES make me seriously uncomfortable, with a handful of exceptions.

Well. There we are. It’s Friday, I’m happy and I’m doing what I can to figure everything out, be it bullies, myself or where I’m headed.

Today I’m not going to drink.

When the Wheels Come Off

Many moons (and moods) ago, I may have mentioned there’s a bully in my life. At the time, I put it down to it’s-probably-just-me. In some ways, I’m the perfect target – because I’m on my recovery journey and therefore always trying to look inward for answers when I feel like shit, I did this even when I felt positively victimised by Bully-Face, figuring it was probably my stuff and not theirs. I’m also a highly sensitive soul who’ll immediately absorb and then in my own mind magnify any hint that I might be less than. This shit was getting to me and under my skin but I fought like a madwoman to let it be, pass and go.

Last week it surfaced again. Belittling comments, snide remarks, insults disguised as jokes and unnecessary digs about my ability (or, rather, the lack thereof). As usual, I did my best to seek truth in these statements instead of feeling angry and resentful. This time I cannot. In fact, I spent the whole 50 minutes of last week’s therapy session (yes, I’m in therapy now, but more of that some other time) talking about Bully-Face. In other words, Bully-Face didn’t just make me feel like crap last week, they cost me £80 too! Something’s not right in that equation. My counsellor asked precisely the right question: “when have you felt like this before?

When have I, indeed?

I don’t know who might read this, but given I send my thoughts out into the blogosphere I have to be a little careful in what I disclose. Let’s just say I had another bully in my life for a while, and the modus operandi is stunningly similar.

A bully needs you to always be in one of two states: in total adoration and gratitude or in the dog house. Ignoring a bully rarely works, I’ve found. Ignoring them means you don’t suck up to them and nor do you fear them and they can’t live with that. This is when they have to FIND reasons for you to get back in one of those boxes – they’ll either turn on the charm or they’ll invent a reason to shoot you down. It’s maddening. In the past I was once thrown out of my own home for buying the wrong shape bread roll. Yep, ANY reason will do so long as it lands you in the shit. Of course this ping-pong between extremes leaves everyone concerned exhausted, mostly because it’s fucking tiring. Being on high alert in a situation where the shape of a bread roll results in eviction eventually wears very thin, but this is precisely what a bully wants because when you’re forever terrified of getting things wrong, all they have to do is utter one teeny, tiny little kind word for you to experience such relief you end up feeling giddy with joy.

It sounds nuts when you outline it like that, doesn’t it? Well, it IS. But it doesn’t happen just like that. It builds up over time. Just like domestic violence does. Few victims will tell you their perpetrator punched them in the face on the first date. A bully operates in a similar fashion and it goes something like this: charm offensive extraordinaire until you trust them, then a few little digs to see if they have you where they want you. If not, more charm. Try again with a few gentle stabs somewhere sensitive. Bingo. In the beginning, the little digs and stabs come as a shock because they were so charming, right? So you end up feeling utterly crushed that someone you have grown to trust and respect said or did whatever it was. Ultimately, if the bully has done a good job, you blame yourself. Once you’re at their mercy, you find yourself at the other end of the spectrum: their treatment of you is so poor and so shocking that when they finally say or do something that isn’t fucking terrible, you feel grateful. This is the way of the bully. You’re welcome.

At least I can better understand why it is that Bully-Face du jour gets to me the way they do. Is Bully-Face someone I like, respect and admire? Nope. Quite the opposite. In fact, more than anything else I pity Bully-Face. It takes a very broken and fragile person to behave the way they do and I know in my heart it isn’t about me. I just happen to get in the way.

Bottom line is I dreaded today. My whole weekend was interspersed by worry and anxiety about today. Of course things are rarely as bad as we expect them to be when we allow anxiety to get a hold of us, but I refuse to put up with this. I just won’t do it. So things may change a little around here. I’m going to keep on trying to do and be my best, keep out of Bully-Face’s way and keep my nose clean. If I end up in a situation as ridiculous as the one I found myself in Friday, I will speak up even if it kills me. Bully-Face isn’t important in any way, shape or form to me and others can see through it too. No more trying to go out of my way to help. I will do what’s required of me to the best of my ability and that’s it. I’ve handed Bully-Face the proverbial rope. I can see this car crash a mile off and I don’t intend to be anywhere near it when the wheels come off.

Fuck that shit. Strategy Keep Nose Clean and Keep Self Out of Way is the way forward. If that fails I’m outta there. End of story.

Wanna hear the good bit? No matter how wound up I feel, however angry or pissed off, I ain’t pouring wine on this. I may have felt uneasy and resentful because of Bully-Face over these past few days and spent £80 on it too, but here it is: it’s shitty and I’m still sober = I win.

Today I’m not going to drink.

I Was Worried About You

Can I just share a little victory at 627 days sober, please? One year, eight months and 19 days sober, my husband just said to me this morning: “I was worried about you“.

I haven’t heard him say these words in a very long time, you see. At one point he said them quite frequently. Usually it’d be when he was travelling and I was home alone, typically when I was drinking myself to pieces and deliberately switched my phone off so he wouldn’t hear me slur. I’d normally text him and say I was having an early night but I don’t think he ever believed me and quite rightly too as it was never the truth. I made myself unavailable so I could guzzle wine and he was probably worried sick every time, not knowing what state I might get myself into.

And now? Today? What were those words about?

Sober Me loves running and I took the opportunity this rainy Saturday morning to head to the park after we’d had some coffee. The light drizzle was wonderful – just the right amount of rain to make for a pleasant run. Towards the other end of the park I had really hit my stride. My body felt strong and my breathing came easy. Sometimes it’s just perfect and it just works. So I decided to extend the usual loop and as a result I was out for longer than I usually am and Hubby ended up wondering where I’d gone to when I wasn’t back in 45 minutes or so like I usually am.

That’s what made Hubby worry about me this morning. And it dawned on me what a huge contrast this makes to what he used to worry about.

I adore being the kind of woman who worries her husband because she went for a longer run in the park than usual. I’m sitting here with a smile on my face and feeling so incredibly grateful that I get to be that woman now. That I finally get to be ME.

Today I’m not going to drink.