Just Like She Sang

This is such a lovely sight to be met by when I walk out of the bedroom in the morning when it’s still dark:

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I really don’t want to take it down, but we’re well into 2020 now with Christmas well and truly behind us. There’s just something so warm and cosy about Christmas lights and seeing our lovely tree first thing in the morning when it’s still dark and it lends a warm glow to the house fills me with peace. I get all jingle-bellsy, snowy, starry, sledgeridey, candlelighty and cinnamony inside walking into the living room when the tree is there. Well, we’re past the darkest time of the year so I guess it’s time to make room for longer, lighter days again.

Oh well.

It’s study on the schedule for Anna today. Exam on Tuesday. And today is run day. My last few runs have been really hard work – sometimes I feel strong and like I could go on and on, other times it’s a hard slog and everything feels out of synch. It’s been the “other times” sort of runs lately. For a while there was a real difference depending on what time of day I’d head out – I really want to be the first-thing-in-the-morning runner, but that seems to be when my energy stores are at their lowest ebb. Mornings are my favourite time of day, I’ve always been an early riser and love the quiet just before the world comes to life. It’s a lovely time of day to run for that reason too when it’s just me and newspaper deliveries along the high street, but it’s rarely worked for me. I seem to have much more strength in the evenings, quite late too – my best, longest and fastest runs tend to be the ones I head out on around 7pm.

As for today, I guess I’ll go whenever I get that urge and my legs feel just like Ida sang about in her summer song: full of running. I don’t think there are many Swedes reading this blog so you may not know who Ida is. She is the rascal Emil’s little sister, in the story by Astrid Lindgren, the Swedish children’s book author who also gave us Pippi Longstocking. Ida sings about how she’s bringing about summer – she makes the flowers bloom, she makes the fields green, the children are filled with summer and their legs are filled with a jittery energy and wanting to run. Perhaps quite fitting that this popped into my head just as I’m making my peace with getting rid of the Christmas tree – time now to look forward to lighter days eventually morphing into summer. Hoping my legs will be full of the urge to run today.

I guess in a way, all of the above – whether it’s feeling all sledgeridey or with legs wanting to run – points to feeling everything fully. Yep. That’s sobriety for you. I was normally a pretty happy bunny even back when I drank (although you could argue I was just very skilled at pushing all negative emotions back and down), but I suppose the main difference is I can just stay in those moments now – act on them and participate, as opposed to just noting a happy little feeling as I gazed out through the bars of the cage of my addiction. I’d often dream of running but of course as I sank deeper and deeper into a sea of Sauvignon Blanc, this was one of the first things I lost in the wreckage. I mean, imagine being able to head out for an hour-long run in the park the day after guzzling three bottles of wine and smoking two packets of cigarettes – not gonna happen, is it? So running, something I adore and a hugely important aspect of my happiness, was something of a distant dream back then. Bleurgh – I sure don’t miss those days.

I’m not going anywhere with this but even when I sit here and like now, just let whatever is floating around in my head spill out over the keyboard, it all just shows me over and over again how my life is what it is now for one reason only: I’m sober. I love it. I love being free. Need to collect a parcel later – and I can! I will! I’ll just head out and walk there, it’s just around the corner. So simple, no? Yet this would be precisely the sort of thing that would present an absolute ordeal when I was drinking. In fact, I’d struggle to, at least until I’d begun drinking again because I’d be too weak and shaky to trust my legs to carry me there and back and too worried that I’d collapse in the street. Yuk! What a sorry existence that was. It honestly makes me shudder.

And instead I sit here now with legs that often feel full of a jittery urge to run, just like Ida sang in the song that encapsulates my childhood summers.

Thank God for today. I’m so grateful I get to have this life.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Exactly That Way

My laziest day sober is still better than my most productive day when I drank, just like my worst day sober is better than my best day drunk. I’ve not slept well over the past few days, starting with the essay related sleepless night Sunday. Of course, when I get something in my head – like “shit, I won’t be able to sleep” – it goes exactly that way. I get increasingly sleepy reading my book, then turn the lights off and my brain decides to run a showreel of all the things I could possibly feel stressed about, both real and less so. I’ve no doubt this will pass, these things always do, but clearly I’ve been tired as a result. Got up early as usual and then went for a run, but then couldn’t get my arse in gear with anything else. Decided to read some theory for the counselling course and made the mistake of doing so lying in bed. Within ten minutes my eyelids were heavy and I went out like a light, slept solidly for over two hours. Not too sure this will help me go to sleep tonight but hey.

In other news, I’m clean and sober and still in love with life.

I sometimes talk about what keeps me sober (like not wanting to drink, hah!) and know I’ve mentioned AA before and how this didn’t quite turn out to be my path and the reasons why it wasn’t the right fit. For some, working the 12 steps is what keeps them sober and one of my favourite bloggers – bgddyjim – just posted about how it works HERE. Do read it – it might just be the right path for you too (or it might not be!) but he breaks it down and explains it in a way that cuts through to the bare bones of it. Here’s how it works in SIMPLE terms. I love how he says it’s simple, but it’s not easy. I smiled reading it, often wondering if it’s my ego that has me reluctant still, but whatever way you look at it, it’s a beautiful insight into recovery the way it works for him. And when someone talks about recovery in such an inspiring way, that’s the effect it has – here’s me reading it and not particularly being sold 100% on AA, yet finding myself thinking “wow! He’s got it!“…. Besides, the more we know and hear of how others have found their way, the more it shows us how very possible it is that we can too, so regardless of what you may personally believe, head over there now!

Oh, and he’s also the blogger who told me when I was all brand new to recovery and trying to make sense of it all, about the “gentle rollers” I’d eventually experience. He was right about that. What else might he be right about? Go read.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Shaking So Hard

Another day, another reward of recovery.

It’s no big deal. Really, it isn’t. Most people do this many times over – through school, university, work, etc. Not this one, though. I’ve run away from stuff like this my whole life and if there’s been one thing I’ve worried about with this counselling course, it was this. And by worry I don’t mean “oh shit, that’ll be hard to do” but “oh shit, this might be what has me packing it in altogether because I can’t face it“.

My worst fear: being in front of people. Being the centre of attention. I’ve never done it. I managed to do my degrees by convincing – no, BEGGING – tutors to let me do additional written work instead. Had they said no, I would have walked away even for the sake of standing up in front of a class for a few minutes. I can’t exaggerate how hard this is for me, I can’t accurately put into words how impossibly difficult I find it. And when I first heard of these exercises called “goldfish bowls” I genuinely felt it might just be the thing that has me give in to that impulse to stand up, apologise to the others on the course and to the tutor and then leave to never come back. Honestly. I’m not being dramatic, I’ve always found it that difficult. Actually, I’ve found it impossible – I’ve always refused to do it.

And so today, the tutor told us we’re going to do these exercises and because there’s no escaping it, I jumped in. I spent the hours between saying I’d do it (in the morning) until when the time came (in the afternoon) feeling lightheaded. I couldn’t speak. During lunch I sat with the girls and listened to them talk about their kids and couldn’t say a word, hoping they wouldn’t notice if I just smiled and nodded.

Perhaps it’s because I’m learning to be me. Or even who I am. Maybe I even had me all wrong. Like with the recorded session just before the Christmas break, it wasn’t so bad. The recorded session didn’t fill me with the same dread, but this was similar in that I think I actually experienced what normal people experience. Yes, I was nervous, but not the crippling, debilitating fear that sees me shaking so hard I can’t function. It was OK. I feel I steal so much time in the group endlessly bemoaning my anxiety and feeling so terrified in these instances – and the girls are so lovely and kind about it – and I feel quite stupid now. At the same time, words can’t describe what a monumental victory this was for me. It was huge. This thing I did today, I never thought I’d be able to do. I’ve passed up on so many things because of this precise thing. I’ve made a little pact with myself that I won’t badger the others with that though, except Wifey. Perhaps now I can relax a little.

But again – and here I can go on as much as I like – this was so massive for me. I’m sitting here having faced something that scares me perhaps more than most other things. Being in recovery means I can start to become the person I was perhaps meant to be and whilst I doubt I’ll ever pursue public speaking, I no longer have to be held back because I’m guzzling a poison that stops me from really living. It’s so stupid in a way, having wasted so many years and only well into my 40s working out who I am and what I can achieve.

This was no big thing, I get that. But it was big for me. I never thought I could. But I did. And no one died.

And now I can let go of the idea that if there’s a big presentation to do it’ll mean I have to jack it all in. Perhaps now I can allow myself to believe I can do that too?

Oh, and those girls said some things that were so nice I thought I’d cry. They said I’m calm. CALM! Of all fucking things. I told you they’re lovely and kind. I will however do them a favour now and stop being a drama queen. Anxiety – been there, done that. Enough now. Next. Goldfish bowl experience numero uno done. I can do that again. Maybe I’m not the shittest person in the world after all.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Dracula and Freud

What a waste of high emotion that was!

The emotion: a sleepless night due to palpitations and high levels of stress that had my mind go into overdrive and no matter what I did – read a book, cuddle up closer to Hubby and counting his breaths or heart beats – I couldn’t slow it down. I agonised and catastrophised for hours. I was distracted even before we went to bed, continuously glancing at my phone and getting more and more stressed over each comment as they trickled into the WhatsApp group for the people on the counselling course. As I lay there awake with my heart racing in the small hours, the essay had grown in my head to something insurmountably difficult and complex and I convinced myself I can’t even account for the basics of the theories I need to cover. What about this? And that? And here’s this thing. Word count, can we go over at ALL? Do we count the sub-headings? Instructions in the course handbook? Shit, I never even knew there was such a thing! What fucking handbook? That was just the START of it, friends – once I was in full flow panic I also managed to convince myself I’ll not only fail the whole damn course but everyone including the tutor hate me as well.

The actual situation: dip our toes in the basics of a couple of schools of thought and outline the main concepts as well as reflecting on ourselves.

The reality: I spent two hours last Thursday spewing a bunch of waffle out as it popped into my head. Even if it was all shit (and mostly it was) it felt good to have at least written something. This morning I spent three hours rewriting aforementioned waffle, worked my way through all the points to cover and was done with it. Five hours of not particularly taxing work and stuff I know and understand BECAUSE THIS IS JUST THE FUCKING BASICS. There is no “analyse Bram Stoker’s Dracula using Freudian theory“, which is actually precisely what I wrote an essay on nearly 20 years ago at uni. I kid you not. This was just outlining basic concepts – just go over what they are and what they mean, no deep analysis or application. Nothing mind bending or you-need-a-PhD-to-grasp-this difficult.

The outcome: It’s not the best essay I’ve written, far from it, but the format is completely nuts – rather than a question/issue to ponder, discuss and argue, it’s a series of questions and points to cover. Like an exam but with quotes. I did what I could with it. I don’t know if it’ll pass but it’s done and that was it. Five hours’ work and I nearly had a fucking stroke over it.

….and what if I fail? Well, then I get to re-do it. With feedback from the tutor on where I went wrong. So even if it’s as terrible as my Arsehole Inner Critic would have me believe, it won’t mean I fail the course. Sure, that’d knock my confidence a little and it’d be a ball ache to have to do another essay, but hey – five hours! Even if a revision would mean TEN hours, that’s just one day.

Conclusion: chill the fuck out, Anna!

See what I mean? I get caught up in my own head, which at times like these is like a cross between One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Star Wars. Oh well. Done now.

I’m bat shit crazy but at least I’m sober. Hah! I win.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Actually Really Predictable

Yep, this may very well turn into a really boring blog – not that I’m saying it was super interesting to begin with, just that if I am to write every day as opposed to when I really have something to say… ..well, I don’t want this to be the place where I account for the weather in London or how my evening run went and felt. As it happens, it’s been pretty grey today and my run was shit. Ran with Hubby and on the home stretch I just gave up for no real reason. Hubby kept on and I was going to walk, but then pulled myself together and ran an extra little loop. The obsessive compulsive side of me doesn’t want to think of this as A run as there was half a minute of me walking there towards the end, but if I ignore that I did the 5k minimum which is sort of my benchmark now. Closer to six actually. Scraping the barrel here, as you can see, and yes, I’m just writing for the sake of it.

But still clean and sober and that’s still a goddamn miracle every single day. Like now, for example, another prime instance of when drinking would make everything really shit. One of the essays is due on Tuesday and there’s been silly amounts of confusion around what we’re meant to be doing. Nope, not just me being stressy – everyone seems to have been in a right old flap about it. And I guess I was in a pretty bad mood today given an episode of Bambino being a wayward teenager this weekend too. If I was still drinking all this would equate to an absolute horror show. Well, I’d probably be dead for starters and that’d DEFINITELY be shit. For me, anyway. But failing death, I’d be beside myself with anxiety, dread and despair because that’s what booze does to me. Oh, it’s not unique for me – it’s a freaking depressant so that bit is actually really predictable. What I’m saying is, I’m stressed about an essay that’s become way more complicated than it needs to be and angry and upset with Bambino with accompanying doubts as to my ability (or lack thereof, rather) as a parent.

Point is, I can deal with bumps in the road when I’m not destroyed by Chateau Blotto. Whatever might be going on in my life – happy or sad or mad or bad – alcohol makes it worse. Happy gets less happy and sad/mad/bad becomes unbearably hard to deal with. Sober, life still gets a bit meh sometimes and sometimes there’s stress or what have you, but I can deal with it and it always passes. Tuesday will come and go and the essay related stress will end with it. Bambino will be OK too. Had I still been drinking (and alive), the essay wouldn’t happen at all because I wouldn’t be able to do the course in the first place and poor Bambino wouldn’t have a mother capable of calmly navigating rough patches. So yes, on balance I guess I’m living life – and mostly my best one – on life’s terms and I can handle it. No running or hiding. Bring it.

As for boring – sometimes life is that way too. And that’s OK.

Today I’m not going to drink.

On Top of His Lungs

What better time to have a little rant than a Saturday morning? Well, here’s something that really gets my goat… This article appeared in my newsfeed on LinkedIn today:

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Whilst I am SO excited that the tide is turning on alcohol, this lethal yet utterly pointless drug that causes untold harm to MILLIONS upon MILLIONS, we really do need to get a goddamn grip and change how we talk about this. This article does indeed highlight the many benefits of ditching the booze but look at the fucking title!! Before we even go to read the damn thing, we’ve been told that life (or even a teeny, tiny month) without booze is something to SURVIVE. Something to struggle through, something that’s difficult and something to battle as we’re going without.

Let me tell you something and do bear with me as I’m so wound up I have smoke coming out of my ears. Listen close, friends.

I spent nearly 15 years of my life trapped in addiction, in a destructive cycle of alcohol abuse so severe that, had I not got out of it, I have no doubt I’d be six feet under by now. Each day was a struggle and a hardship to suffer through. Crouching each morning in the shower because my legs could barely keep me upright was a feat of survival. As was simple things like answering the phone, walking to the bathroom and trying to function at all. I struggled to have conversations because I was so fucked. Some days I couldn’t leave the house and when I did it was to get more wine despite the fact that I was close to collapsing in the street because I was so weak and shaking so hard. Yet I dragged myself to the shops. It was a living nightmare. One particularly bleak time I was so wobbly I had to stop, clutching the bag containing two more bottles of wine to my chest and wondering how I’d be able to walk the remaining 50 yards to my front door. That time I honestly thought I’d have to open one bottle right there, in full view of passing cars, buses and people in the street, and take a swig. Not because of the enjoyable taste of Sauvignon Blanc but because my heart felt like it was packing in and my legs were buckling at the knees and I was trying to SURVIVE.

When I drank, I’d go to bed fully clothed when my husband was away with work. Why? Because I knew in my heart that, going the way I was, I wasn’t long for this world and during my very lowest, most desperate and distraught points of this slavery, I figured it’d be slightly less terrible for my young son to find me dead in the morning with clothes on than discovering his mother dead and naked. I was nothing if not a considerate drunk. That, my friends, is survival. Knowing you’re going to die and having made your peace with it whilst you do your best to make your departure less traumatic for those poor souls who love you.

Crouching in the shower is survival. Avoiding morning coffee (my FAVOURITE thing!) because it makes you even dizzier is survival. Isolating is survival. Retreating from those who love and care about you because they might force you to give up the poison that’s killing you is survival. Choosing drinking alone and avoiding spending time with the people who mean the world to you is survival. Forcing yourself to believe that what you saw in your mother’s eyes, when she last asked about your drinking, wasn’t sorrow is survival. Ignoring your loved ones’ heartbreak is survival. Fighting each day to get home in the afternoon so you can drink again is survival.

I used to secretly fantasise that something terrible would happen. I used to secretly wish it would. Not so bad I’d die, but bad enough that I’d be exposed and forced out of this hell. That I’d crash my car in the morning and be made to do a breathalyser, because you can be sure I was still way over the limit. Or that I’d collapse in the street and be taken to hospital, then they’d discover my organs were failing due to alcohol abuse and I’d be MADE to come off the booze. Everyone would make me and I’d have no say in the matter and in too bad a way to argue, lying there in a hospital bed with tubes going in and out of me. Having my loved ones see how bad it was, this hell I’d been so trapped and alone in, and forced into rehab.

That’s not a life, that’s survival. Life with alcohol was a matter of survival in treacherous conditions on a knife’s edge.

It strikes me as crazy now, but I suspect there are so many people just like me who are so scared of getting sober. Because despite all of the above, what scared me even more than dying was living sober. OK, so I’m an alcoholic and I accept it’s different for those of you who can “enjoy” alcohol and control your intake, but I can only account for my own experience with it. This is the saddest part and it was true for me: most alcoholics would rather die than get sober. AND THEY DO. I had accepted it was killing me. I knew where I was headed and I’d made my peace with it because the alternative – getting sober – seemed so impossible, unobtainable and… ……worse. I thought, genuinely, that getting sober would be worse than the pitiful existence I found myself in.

This is the madness of it and what makes me so angry now. Coming up to two years sober, is my life a matter of survival? Is being sober all about having a way to survive without alcohol?

Why didn’t I know what I know now? How could I – because I’m not stupid and nor are you – have been so completely hoodwinked and fooled into thinking sobriety was the hard part you’d have to SURVIVE? I can’t even begin to tell you how angry it makes me! I want to go back in time and give that hopeless, drunk Anna a big hug and show her the truth. I want to show her she’s been lied to and deceived by booze. I want to show her the life that’s waiting for her. But no one told me it’d be like this. At best, I thought life might improve in some ways but would ultimately be a pretty drab and colourless existence.

Living sober isn’t about survival. Living sober is freedom. It’s LIVING.

I wake up and I’m struck by the absence of dread and anxiety. I didn’t do anything last night that I can’t remember. There are no conversations that are a blank to me. I did nothing I have to be ashamed of. I wake up with a clear head and my heart is beating steadily and strongly, my breathing deep and peaceful, not shallow and frantic as my heart is beating out of my chest like it used to. I’m not sweating or shaking. I get out of bed and my legs can carry me, I’m not having to lean on the bed to steady myself or carefully taking small steps and shuffle, all the while I’m leaning on the bed until I’ve got around it and reach the doorframe which I grab to keep steady next. My morning coffee tastes EPIC and I can stand up in the shower. I’m healthy and strong and when I go for a run I sometimes fail to hold back the wide grin I can’t suppress when I get overcome with joy and gratitude at the wonderful feeling of strength as my feet pound the ground in steady strides. I can pursue things I’m good at, enjoy and feel passionate about, as opposed to finding the path of least resistance by working a job I could do in my sleep just so I can keep on drinking. I can deliver on promises and I’m present in every moment.

Even such a simple thing as walking down the stairs – once a terrifying ordeal on shaky and jerky legs. I even RUN down, sometimes taking two steps in one BECAUSE I FUCKING CAN GODDAMNIT!

Shame and anxiety don’t live here anymore. Sometimes that’s strange and I am absolutely aware of their absence, which hits me every morning. Sometimes it makes me cry of joy. Waking up and realising I’m free. They’re not here. It’s still strange but it’s the most incredible happiness I experience in those moments. Like I’m a little lost there for a moment, like “hey, where did everybody go?“. And then it hits me: I’m free.

Life without alcohol isn’t something I survive – it’s the most amazing existence filled with joy and gratitude and excitement. Suddenly I have oceans of time! I never understood how time consuming drinking was. From the moment I got home from work until I got to bed, I did nothing but drink. No seeing friends, no going out, no running, no nothing. Now I’m studying, running regularly, seeing friends, spending time with my loved ones and writing and lots of other things and still I have quiet moments just like this one.

But even for those who don’t have a problem with alcohol, removing it will only ever mean reward. It’s a poison, for God’s sake! Even if you’re one of those strange creatures who drink in moderation, you’re bound to see obvious perks of a sober life immediately. You’ll save a bit of money, you’ll feel better overall and you’ll also look better. But back to that shitty title of the article above, the one that wants you to believe it’s hard to survive without alcohol – what in your life will be worse once you remove the booze?

See, this is one of the things that kept me trapped for so long. I honestly thought everything would get really shitty and dull. When I stopped, we had three PRIME drinking occasions already booked and so in my mind I’d sort of decided that I’d be allowed to drink for those, because how do you SURVIVE the following sober???

  1. A weekend in Paris for Hubby’s birthday.
  2. A Foo Fighters concert in Gothenburg with a bunch of my friends.
  3. A holiday to Lipari.

Surely impossible. That’s what I thought and, as I said, I’d kind of resigned myself to how I’d HAVE TO drink for those at least. Not that I ever thought I’d be able to live without alcohol, but on the off chance that I might make it, I’d be giving myself a hall pass for those three things.

But then something magical happened…..

I saw Paris! I actually experienced Paris. Bouncing up early and strolling through this beautiful city with Hubby. I wasn’t consumed with where to get alcohol, ensuring there’d be enough (and there’s NEVER enough because I’m an alcoholic!) or end up in black-out and missing the whole break. Instead I enjoyed every moment, took it all in and loved every second.

Foo Fighters are fucking AMAZING live! I was totally present in the moment and utterly loved it. Sang along and felt alive. Had I been drinking it would have been stressful because fetching more drinks at an arena concert is a ball ache. Plus I would have left half way through because once the Beast gets its claws into me everything else around in me is just in the way, including the talented Dave Grohl. And my Hubby. And the friends in Sweden I so rarely see. ALL of it. I would have missed that brilliant concert. Instead I didn’t – I was there. REALLY there.

And don’t fucking get me started on the island of Lipari….. Getting on a flight isn’t traumatic because I’m not overcome with fear and anxiety due to a severe hangover. Nothing is a struggle and getting there was just fun in itself! Landing in Sicily and travelling across the island with a singing taxi driver who loudly sang ‘No Woman No Cry‘ at top of his lungs yet spoke not a word of English. We sang along. Heading over on a little ferry and arriving on this beautiful little Aeolian island off Sicily. So picturesque and so…. Italian! Strolling through the little streets and along the little harbour without a care in the world and without having to be stressed and/or feeling shit due to booze with my gorgeous husband. And have you ever tasted really great food without spoiling the taste with ethanol?! OK, so I’m a pasta fanatic, but even so. Jeez, it was something else.

Yes, I “survived” all of those. Yes, I’m being sarcastic. Getting through those things drinking would have been a case of trying to survive them. Experiencing those things sober was just living. It was a matter of living my best life, actually. And that’s the lie of alcohol vs sobriety. And I get so wound up every time I see a stupid title like the one above. Sobriety isn’t something to survive. Sobriety is living life just the way it is.

We really do need to change how we talk about this.

Well, that’s me done – think that’s enough of a furious rant on this fine Saturday morning!

Today I’m not going to drink. Because…. why in God’s name would I??

 

 

Words in Cotton Wool

It’s a very windy day here in west London and I’m thoroughly enjoying the whining sound of the gusts as they tear through the tree tops outside our front windows. Running will have to be an evening project today and along the streets – I had a mad run through the park a couple of weeks ago when it was just like this and at one particularly exposed spot I had to stop because I was actually being thrown around by the strength of the wind. It was raining hard too that day and I guess my cue to give up was seeing other people, who’d been equally foolish heading out in that weather, taking shelter near big trees as the wind and rain whipped mercilessly at the park.

I’m just finishing off what’s still not a great essay but it’s a matter of forcing myself to write rather than coming up with things to say. I can’t speak for the others of course, but I figure we all have the basics and could easily account for most of the required theory and its concepts. The problem is how the essay is structured – it looks nothing like the kind I used to write at university. Back then, both during my degree and for my Masters too (aren’t I just such a bloody clever clogs, hahr-dee-hahr), we’d be given a selection of essay questions for whatever unit to choose from. Each would pose an issue to consider using whatever theory or school of thought and on occasion there’d be a little instruction to go with it to ensure we understood the direction. This thing is two pages of instruction with a bunch of sub-sections that have a specified theory to cover, a word count and also how many quotes to include. It’s either aimed at someone who doesn’t know how to write an essay or too complicated for me. I suspect it’s the former because you can do this course without having been to uni. But oh my Lord, the panic it has caused!

Oh well. It’s almost out of the way and I can’t say I’ve given it much effort – I spent a couple of hours yesterday and it’ll take me less than an hour to finish it off today. It’s a load of drivel – a bunch of pretty sentences that make it sound like I’m saying something clever but it’s just waffle, honestly. Once I have it all spewed out, I’ll go back and tidy and tighten it up to something I can hand in without blushing. I keep saying I’ll have it done today (and even told Hubby I needed to have today home solo to have peace and quiet to get on with it, effectively preventing him from being here even though it’d been nicer for him to work from home) but I’m sure that any good work I do on it will happen sometime late on Monday, the day before it’s due. I’m still me, you know.

This blog is about recovery and on that score I’m still clean and sober. I’m coming up to two years of sobriety and at this point in time I have no real fear of slipping. This has been the case since I stopped, really. Whilst I don’t ever want to allow myself to become complacent or cocky, I was so DONE with drinking that recovery has largely been one huge sigh of relief. That’s overwhelmingly the overriding sense I’ve had the whole time: thank God I don’t have to drink anymore. Thank God!

AA was never quite for me, and at this stage I’ve not been to a meeting since I collected my 18-month chip back in July. Before then, I was never a frequent flyer either, but it’s definitely a part of my toolkit, just not a major one. I’m sure I’ll head to the occasional meeting in the future too. And I do want that chip signifying two years. I think the main reason I’ve not found AA meetings particularly helpful is how I always come away feeling fearful – a mixture of being ashamed and a little scared – when in fact what I feel so much more is pride and courage. Again though, it’s very useful to be reminded of the pitfalls of getting cocky and I honestly don’t want that. What a shitter it’d be if I suddenly got so cock sure I’d decide to have a drink “in case I can handle it” suddenly. But then, why would I be tempted to do something I know for sure does nothing for me. I think that’s the point – alcohol holds no temptation. For it to tempt me, it’d have to have some sort of benefit and it just doesn’t. I don’t really believe I could suddenly go from feeling this way to a u-turn where I begin to think of alcohol as rewarding. But who knows. I guess I’ll keep on glancing over at the cage in which the Beast is still sitting pretty, knowing it has no lock.

What I do find inspiring are the various sobriety and addiction forums I often check in on, as well as the blogosphere – it’s here and in those I hear the voices I relate to and draw strength from. Something came up only yesterday in one of the forums, a discussion that does pop up from time to time, namely, how to get through alcohol withdrawal.

Someone had posted how they were trying once again to get off the booze but were suffering really bad physical abstinence with shakes, feeling weak and “like my body is shutting down“. They went on to say how they in the end had to resort to taking a drink to get through it and put to the group whether anyone had experience of “successfully tapering off”. I felt compelled to answer. Partly because alcohol withdrawal, when severe, can be freaking dangerous (yes, you COULD die from it – it’s that serious) and partly because the proposition of tapering off is to my mind just nuts.

Think about it. If you end up in a position where you suffer withdrawal as serious as this person described – “like my body is shutting down” – this, I think, might just suggest that your drinking poses a little more than A Problem. It points to a serious issue, no? You don’t, I don’t think anyway, get to that state by just over indulging or partying a little too hard. To end up with alcohol withdrawal severe enough for you to fear you’re body is about to give up, I’d be as bold as suggest it’s because you’ve lost control completely. It says to me that you cannot control alcohol. It says to me alcohol controls YOU. It tells me you’re one of US. Sorry, but it does.

And what is tapering off? What would this involve and require? It is by its very nature an exercise of control, and, more than that, it’s an exercise of moderation. And if you were in any way, shape or fashion capable of controlling alcohol or moderating your intake, I’d say it’d be fucking unlikely you’d find yourself in a position of severe withdrawal in the first place.

I say this because I attempted this more times than I could count. OK, so thinking back on this actually makes me chuckle. Right, pull yourself together, Anna. So I’d be feeling like death and indeed like my body was giving up on me (which it may well have been in many of those instances) and knew that the only thing that’d possibly pull me back from the brink would be a drink. For those of you who are blissfully unaware of the horrors of alcohol withdrawal, it’s terrifying to go through. You are shaking so bad you can’t stand up, much less walk. Even taking that drink is hellishly difficult because you’re in such a bad way you can barely put the glass to your lips even holding it with both hands. Don’t get me started on getting to where you have the booze and pouring it in the first place. Anyway. Add palpitations and going from sweating profusely to shivering. Or both at once. Add feeling dizzy and unsteady and like you’re about to pass out. And the terror knowing it might not be passing out you’ll end up doing, but rather have a fit or just fucking die there and then. I can’t find words awful enough to describe how horrible alcohol withdrawal is. It’s fucking AWFUL.

My friend Tumbler, whom I’ve mentioned before, used to taper off. She had a method for coming off the booze. Tumbler, by the way, if you don’t recall reading about her before on here, died from her alcohol abuse on her 48th birthday. It’s nearly six years ago, as it happens, April 2014. Jesus, that makes me feel so sad thinking of her and how much time has passed. Another needless death because of this shitty poison that has no benefits. Tumbler was all the things the best people are – intelligent, funny, smart, insightful, reflective, creative, passionate, driven…. …just a total waste of an incredible woman who had so much to give. A travesty.

So anyway. She once described to me (to help me) how she’d do this tapering off booze. It went something like two beers in the morning, then two more around lunch and two in the evening. Then the next day one each time. And hey presto, job done! Only it never worked and now she’s dead. So I don’t think we could ever argue that this tapering off thing is a sensible strategy for someone who can’t control booze.

And just like Tumbler, I have to testify it never worked for me either. Why? Because when I take a drink, I ignite a series of events I cannot control. If I start, I can’t stop. I never could. Ever, ever, EVER. My attempts at tapering off just resulted in me drinking from the morning on those occasions. Again, I’m sitting here chuckling sadly at the madness of it. Did I ever truly think I’d be having that one beer and stop? I don’t know – I honestly can’t tell you whether there was any part of me that believed it’d work. That’s neither here nor there though, it doesn’t matter what I believed because it never worked.

Therefore, I didn’t bother wrapping my words in cotton wool. I told this person they should immediately contact their doctor and get help – IF they were determined and wanted to get away from the booze. I told them what I know about alcohol withdrawal (you know, you could DIE and stuff) and to be safe. My heart took a happy little leap when this person messaged me this morning to say they were going on a supervised medical detox. Thank God. I responded by truthfully telling them how this made me very happy and I hope they want it enough to make this the only time. Because if you really want it, you only have to go through it once.

Well. This is a blog about recovery and sobriety and all that this involves and I felt I wanted to steer it back to that given how writing every day now means I get side tracked quite a lot. Today’s advice: get help if you suffer bad withdrawal from alcohol. It ain’t safe to do this on your own. It’s also much harder, if not to say impossible. The same is true for stopping regardless of withdrawal – find your tribe. Alone I’m nothing but together we’re everything. Trust me. Don’t do this alone.

Today I’m not going to drink.

By the Way

I think I mentioned it in my previous blog post, but this truly was the most relaxing and peaceful Christmas I think I’ve ever had. Honestly, I think it’s the first time I genuinely feel rested and recharged going into a new year and it’s such a good feeling. Instead of spending the first day of 2020 with a stinking hangover, I enjoyed the last day before going back to “normal life” with Hubby and Bambino, starting the day with a run in the park – it’s the loop we call “the ferns” where you cut right through the park’s middle all the way through a large area that’s covered in, you guessed it, ferns. We then headed out for a drive and got some food shopping done, then spent the afternoon and evening binge watching true crime documentaries on Netflix and Hayu – over this break we’ve got through heaps of those. Just cuddled up on the sofa, Hubby and I. It’s been pure bliss.

And today, it’s back to aforementioned “normal life”. I spent a couple of hours this morning writing the first half of the essay that’s due next week. I listened intently to my Inner Critic (who’s an absolute asshole, by the way) and felt I’d produced a pile of shit but Wifey (who’s on the same course) reassured me I’m all good so I’ve put it to the side for a few hours and will finish it off later.

I find blog posts like this one really boring, by the way – “my day’s been good, first I did this, then I did that” – and feel like I have nothing much to say and only sitting here typing this because I’m going to stick to my only new year’s resolution and spend an hour per day writing, be it blogging or booking. Perhaps that’s actually a sign of life being really good? Perhaps I’m in the midst of a gentle roller? That’s got to be good news. No manic high, no devastating low. I started out a little bleurgh, in all fairness. I always leave academic work to the last minute. During university, I don’t think I ever started an essay or studying for an exam until the night before. That’s right – not the DAY before. The NIGHT before. I’d get going at what would normally be bedtime, stay up until I was finished (which at uni meant all night as university work is kinda serious and you can’t just scribble down some random shite) and hand it in. This isn’t university and the work is therefore lighter in nature. I don’t know that I’d say it’s easier, but most definitely lighter. So anyway, I was getting a bit unsettled about this essay and didn’t at all feel like making a dent in it today.

Good news though – after a couple of hours of writing and looking through the books I’ve read for quotes to illustrate my points, I’m half way through it. And Wifey says what I’ve written is OK. This is EXTRAORDINARILY good for Yours Truly. Five days before deadline I’m half way done and I’ve also done something else I never did at uni – I’ve actually been a steady Eddie with the coursework and have done a lot of reading. So sitting down this morning, I found I’m on pretty solid ground and the main ball ache was just to flick through my books to dig out a few quotes. Unheard of, but perhaps this is how Sober Me studies?

So yes, started out a bit antsy but now calm and feeling pretty good about it.

Hubby went back to work and I actually felt quite sad seeing him off after our long, relaxing break. Having said that, it’s been the same for him and he has for the first time in years had the chance to rest and unwind, which he desperately needed with his already demanding job having involved insane amounts of pressure last year. This year won’t be any different for him, but all the more awesome that he had a chance to chill for a couple of weeks.

2020 has started out quietly, happily and steadily. I like it. It doesn’t make for an interesting blog post, though! Sorry ’bout that.

Today I’m not going to drink.

A Pretty Sweet Spot

Welcome 2020 – I am starting this new year and new decade how I intend to go on: present in the moment and free of the shackles of alcohol abuse. Whilst it was very cute to watch Hubby when he got a little carried away with the Bailey’s as we approached midnight, I’m so glad that wasn’t me. Of course, he only got a little tipsy as he can handle booze in a way that is completely alien to me so the comparison is unfair – had it been me, I would have been comatose. I would have been leglessly drunk at midnight and too preoccupied with guzzling more-more-more to take in the moment and reflect, and I would have begun the new year and new decade in black-out. So thank God for that! And here I sit now, feeling healthy, clear and content – just peaceful and happy and looking forward to the day ahead. No hangover anxiety or shakes.

My only resolution is to spend more time writing, even if it’s blogging and little else. You have to start somewhere and sober the time is NOW, not tomorrow or next Monday. That’s such a blessing. I’m not sitting here with a bunch of goals I dread getting started on because they’ll require more effort than I feel able to give, I’m already in a pretty sweet spot and the changes I want to bring about aren’t huge or difficult – because I’m sober most of what I want is absolutely within my reach.

Time to reach out with both hands and grab it all.

Today I’m not going to drink.