Delightful and Terrifying

Someone did say that level 3 of the counselling studies is a big step up from level 2 and they were right. The first session was to go through what’s ahead and I’m under no illusion that this will require a lot of elbow grease, but as much as my Inner Asshole Critic wants to be cruel, I’m really energised by it and eager to get stuck in. The new tutor is wonderful and the group is at first glance really great, so I feel safe in what appears to be very good company. No side conversations or whispers, just straight up LET’S GO and nail this thing together. I loved it.

Each week we do learning statements that are around our own process. The first one is a creative task – art, a collage or a poem. I’ve tried to write a poem, which I suck at, but I’m not artistic whatsoever. I don’t know if I have the cojones to actually hand it in, so my back-up will be to find images to illustrate a fierce storm and place a little ray of sunshine somewhere inside it.

767 days sober, or rather, 769 days sober and 767 days since I made the decision to stop drinking for REAL – as I’ve mentioned before, it’s the decision I celebrate but I guess I talk about it as days sober. Not that it hugely matters, it’s celebrating the same thing really, without any need to get too technical or pedantic. I feel good but also restless. I’ve not worked in a while and feel a little at sea. Not being busy isn’t such a great thing for Anna, I get lazier the less I have to do and that’s never a good look. Some things may be appearing on the horizon and I suppose I just have to trust in life’s plan for me. The right thing will appear when it is time and I am ready. I bloody hope it’s soon though because I don’t particularly enjoy feeling rudderless in this way. Probably good for me in some ways but come on, let’s get on with it now.

The recovery bonus I’ve thought the most about over the past few days and weeks is how the friendships I develop these days are so real. Perhaps it’s the absence of the low moods, anxiety and paranoia that alcohol always engulfed me in? I give of myself freely and enjoy being vulnerable, discovering that the people who turn into friends seem to like me just like Mark Darcy likes Bridget – just the way I am. As a result, and I guess this is something that encompasses my whole life in sobriety, I feel so at peace. That overwhelming feeling I always used to have of being disliked, even hated, doesn’t seem to be there anymore. It’s not as if I go around suddenly feeling super loveable or anything like that, but I guess I feel secure. The idea of being disliked doesn’t bother me anymore and when someone likes me I accept it to be true. My insecurities still exist and being Anna has never, and perhaps never will be, an entirely smooth ride, but sober I’m lightyears away from how things were. I feel more solid. Calm. Peaceful.

I don’t know if I was going anywhere with that. Maybe not. Or perhaps that was just it and doesn’t need further examination. Sober = GOOD.

Quiet weekend ahead. My bonus sons are coming over, one today and the other tomorrow, and we’re all heading for Sunday lunch at the pub where Bambino is washing dishes every Sunday. Bambino loves his step/bonus-brothers and smiled as I teased him we’ll be lording it up eating and gloating at him being stuck in the kitchen. Bambino is as usual the teenager I always expected I’d have – delightful and terrifying in equal measures. Bar for the occasional hick-up and getting in trouble, he’s stepped up with the school work and seems a lot more focused and sensible these days. Long may it last!

Gosh, I really don’t have much to say this morning except life continues to happen in the gentle rollers I’ve come to love so much. No crazy peaks or devastating lows, just contentedness and peace with the occasional mild shit storm I can handle. I like it here.

Today I’m not going to drink.

*

An unusual stillness inside

Yet in the moment fear still takes hold,

A fragile heart beating wild

Yet held together and shielded from cold.

Defying an instinct to run

Keeping sight of once impossible dreams,

Kind eyes and words that startle

No more falling apart at the seams.

Doubts mount at hurdles

An inner voice still mocking and cruel,

Then that tiny ray of hope

Surprisingly steadfast in frightening duel.

Is my place right here

Amongst those so much better than I,

Then that tiny ray whispers

Spread your wings you might find you can fly.

Legs that suddenly carry

And a mind alert and clear,

Strength from somewhere within

Unexpected but now always near.

Cautious joy and courage

In that fragile heart suddenly spring,

Once so lost and alone

A soul that now dares to sing.

A Little Odd

Level 3 of my counselling studies, here I come! First day today of the next stage and I had a better sleep than I expected – something has shifted and the nerves and fear I’ve been so used to in the past have gone AWOL. This happens more and more and it catches me off guard a little. The last time was a work dinner with Hubby’s colleagues when I only realised afterwards that something was a little odd. The odd thing was that I had been so relaxed. A little victory I guess.

So. The next stage, a new tutor and a new group of people. Sure, I’m a little jittery but not in an oh-my-God-I’m-dreading-this kind of way. Sort of positive, really, and mostly looking forward to it. Once again I’m in a situation where I expected to feel like I always used to but instead feel overwhelmingly… …normal.

This seems more and more like a needless statement because it couldn’t be further from my mind, but it still makes me so happy:

Today I’m not going to drink.

Knitting and Ghost Hunting

When I first started this blog, it was to connect with others – to share my own journey and to hear the stories of others. I was keen to find those who’d gone down this path before me and I wanted to hear how they’d fought their way through, especially that first, treacherous part. Mostly, I wanted to hear how it’d be possible for someone like me – a hopeless drunk – to break free.

I’ll tell you what I didn’t particularly want read: the words of smug sober people. I wanted to hear the stories of people just like me, not what I perceived to be bullshit pseudo joy from people claiming sobriety is the best thing in the world because A) I didn’t believe that stuff, and B) it’s not that helpful when you’re struggling and trying to find your feet in a new existence you don’t feel you belong in.

And yet… Here we are and now I’m one of those people who wax lyrical about the joys of being sober and I have no idea how to get through to Drunk Me. Or even Newly Sober Me. I can’t begin to tell you how much this infuriates me. All I have is my honesty but I don’t know if that’s enough. I don’t know what I can say to help or inspire someone who’s trying to get sober. On our way to dinner last night, Hubby and I talked about this.

But maybe it’s because that wasn’t you,” he offered. “You didn’t try for years and years, you went from drinking to not drinking, end of.

This is SORT OF true.

I think perhaps it’s because I have zero will power and zero self discipline. I simply didn’t even TRY to quit. I’m not the brave warrior who kept on trying and trying until finally it stuck, beaten down and back by relapse after relapse. I just kept drinking and drinking, breaking my own heart in the process, until I’d had enough and was so desperate to break free there was no going back. It was get sober or die. No, I didn’t have a doctor tell me that one more drink would kill me or that my organs were failing. No, I didn’t have my child taken away from me. No, I didn’t lose my job. No, my husband didn’t give me an ultimatum. I just had enough. But there wasn’t a period of trying to quit leading up to it.

Oh, I knew I had a problem alright – I went to my first AA meeting in the spring of 2007, which is when I initially had begun to get really frightened. Desperate and inconsolable, I made the call to the AA switchboard one evening. I was sitting in a pub (alone) called The Pilot just around the corner from were I lived, sobbing into wine glass number four or five and feeling helpless because I couldn’t stop drinking and was scared shitless. The next day, I went to the meeting the guy I’d spoken to had suggested and that he’d looked up for me during our conversation. In that meeting I realised and came to believe without a trace of doubt that yes, I’m an alcoholic. This is me. This is what’s happening to me. I belong here.

I was sober and went to meetings for less than a couple of weeks. I suppose whilst I didn’t try to quit or had a hundred Day 1s, you could say I had an 11-year long relapse. That’d be one way to look at it and it’s accurate. For 11 years, I kept drinking despite knowing I’m an alcoholic and that it’d eventually kill me. A person who doesn’t believe they’re in trouble doesn’t go to bed fully dressed in case this might be it and wanting to spare their young son from finding them dead and naked. Dead with clothes on seemed a little less terrible. I mean, you could call that a struggle and I don’t want you to believe I went from happily drunk to happily sober because that wasn’t the case. Yes, a lot of the time I was happy, but I’m a master of pushing negative emotion away and the deep despair was never far away.

I never attempted getting sober during those 11 years because I saw no point. I “knew” it wouldn’t be possible and I “knew” there was no way out. The idea of struggling for the rest of my life and fighting every day to stay sober scared me more than death. IT SEEMED WORSE THAN DEATH. Yes, I mean that – on my son’s life, that’s the truth. I didn’t try to quit umpteen times because I “knew” it’d be pointless and an utter waste of time. And because I “knew” it was impossible to quit, why bother?

Over the last few years of my drinking, the despair – despite my best efforts to ignore it – began to creep in more and more. I remember one particular moment so, so clearly. It would have been around 2014-2015 and a good two or three years before I stopped drinking. It was a sunny summer Sunday afternoon. I’d decided not to drink that day and when I made that decision I usually managed fine. I didn’t drink EVERY day, I’d say I averaged probably five nights per week but when I decided earlier in the day that I wouldn’t, that usually worked out fine. It was because of my husband – when he came along in 2013 there was suddenly a witness and I think he probably slowed me down. Before he came on the scene I definitely went under a few times, when I’d go for literally weeks or even months without any let-up, sniffing around morning drinking too.

Hubby came in to the kitchen where I was and slipped his arms around me.

Fancy going down to the river for a couple?” he asked.

I immediately said yes. Obviously. But on the inside I was screaming. Screaming for help, screaming in despair. Screaming of sorrow and hopelessness. Hysterical screams, like a wounded animal.

Noooooo! I can’t! I’m in trouble here! HELP ME PLEASE! I’m not like you, I have a real problem and I can’t do it!! Please help me! Don’t let me do it! Please lock me up somewhere and make them fix me! HELP ME!!

I knew I was doomed. It could never be “a couple”. I knew in that moment that Monday was beyond rescue, that the Monday I’d hoped to have (not hungover and actually being able to perform my job to an acceptable standard) was going to be another hell of alcohol withdrawal. I felt close to tears but couldn’t say anything. Why? Because if I’d said any of those things out loud, it’d mean I’d have to do something about it. And stopping drinking was worse than death, remember? So with sorrow so deep it felt like my heart was actually producing tears inside my chest, off we went and I guess outwardly I was smiling as usual. I don’t remember how that evening ended but I can almost bet you I didn’t remember it Monday morning. That much I know, because it’s never been “a couple” for me. It would have been the way it always went. “A couple” in the pub turned into four. And then I insisted on buying at least two bottles of wine on the way home, despite a very reluctant Hubby who couldn’t understand either why it was never enough for me. He might have ended up going to bed alone like he so often did, with me continuing to guzzle wine alone on the sofa and passing out there. Yuk.

Drunk Me had a really hard time with it all. I mean, the planning that goes into active addiction is a fulltime job in itself, it’s fucking exhausting. Add the hiding and sneaking. It’s unbearable and it got worse and worse until I just couldn’t do it anymore.

It’s here I’d love to be able to say “and then I saw the light and it happened in this way and here’s how it felt and what I did and then it was all OK – tadaaaaah! YOU’RE WELCOME!” but I can’t. I’m doing my best trying to work out how it really happened, what it was that made all the difference because I so desperately want to tell you. I so desperately want to show Drunk Me what Sober Me now knows.

Maybe it’s just like they say – we all have to reach our own rock bottom and that’s when it all changes, but I don’t want to believe that. I want to believe that we don’t have to. There HAS to be a way other than spending a decade (or even longer) doing something we A) really don’t want to do, and B) that’s killing us. I want to share the secret to my sobriety – my happy, joyous sobriety! – and my secret weapon but I don’t know what those are. I just know that one day I’d had it and I couldn’t go on. That screaming on the inside finally broke through and found my vocal chords. OK, so it wasn’t a scream, it was more a whisper, but still – it finally escaped my lips and speaking those words, “I need help“, was the greatest relief.

I only found the strength to speak, or whisper rather, those words when I was so desperate and so fed up with how things were that there was no other option available. I guess drinking had got to the point where the benefits just weren’t there anymore and I suspect they’d been gone for a long time. When the idea of drinks by the river on a sunny summer’s afternoon with the person you love the most in the world fills you with dread, you’re done drinking. Yet it took me a few more years even from that point.

And this unbridled joy I feel now? When did the lights come on?

Quickly! The hangovers I had were horrendous. I could barely function, could barely stay upright and every fucking day was a struggle. It was so shit I can’t begin to tell you. So even just a few days of being sober meant I felt like a million dollars compared with before. And suddenly – yes, SUDDENLY – I ended up having the best sleep in the goddamn world! Only a week or so in, I slept like a baby, compared with passing out blind drunk and get poor sleep for a few hours and waking up at 4am with sweats and palpitations. It was a different world and it happened FAST. Add to this that alcohol is a depressant so my mood lifted massively too. Gone was the low mood and the anxiety disappeared too. Sure, I still sometimes feel low and I get anxious too, but I guess what I experience now (bar for the odd sleepless night with my mind racing – this is fairly rare, however!) is what most people experience.

Maybe, if you’re someone who struggles to get sober, your drinking life is simply much nicer than what mine ended up being like? Honestly, the upsides to drinking had all but disappeared for me. And so getting sober became such a glorious, freeing relief like no other. No amount of Sauvignon Blanc has ever filled me with the peace and joy I feel these days almost on a daily basis – utter, sheer JOY!

I don’t know how else to describe it but I’ve decided to really dig right down into this spot and keep exploring and examining it until I strike gold. There just HAS to be more to this.

Getting and staying sober has simultaneously been the hardest and easiest thing I’ve ever done. But I think the hard bit was the drinking, not the sober bit.

Last night just highlighted how awesome things are now. Hubby invited me to a work dinner. A handful of people I’d met before, the others I hadn’t. There were no nerves, no awkwardness. I didn’t care if I looked silly eating or said the wrong thing. I didn’t feel anxious. Someone went to pour some wine for me, I said “not for me” and poured myself a glass of water and it didn’t feel strange and nor was there any need to explain. Once upon a time in early recovery I stressed about what to say to justify not drinking but people don’t actually give a shit and I’ve almost never been asked why. If someone does ask, I say that I don’t drink. If they ask more, I tell them I can’t control alcohol and it does nothing for me. If they were to ask further (and no one ever has, but IF someone did) I’d happily tell them I’m an addict and I quit because I can’t drink, because, uhm, I’m an addict. Quite often I go there anyway – I spell it all out loud and clear and unprompted BECAUSE I’M PROUD OF IT. It’s not dirty and I’m not ashamed of it. Or maybe it IS dirty. But I’m not ashamed. In fact, I’m so proud of my recovery that I’d happily tell the King of Sweden if he decided to ask why this little subject rejects his state controlled booze these days. Really. Anyway, it was a lovely evening. I talked happily and loudly when I had things to say, sat quietly and listened when I didn’t. Bottom line – now I’m something I never EVER was when I was drinking: I’m relaxed and at peace. And I don’t give a shit! It’s fucking magnificent.

Well. There’s so much more to say about this but I’m going to round this up for now. My head is in overdrive trying to figure all this out and what I could say to Drunk Me to see what I see now. Or to anyone who is struggling and can’t yet see or experience the joy of sobriety. All I can say is that if this hopeless, desperate, doomed drunk can feel this way, anyone can. I hate that fucking saying and Drunk Me wants to punch me in the mouth right now, but it’s true.

I’ll come back to this until I work it out somehow. Your thoughts, please. Help!

Actually, one last thing. I follow this chick called Allie Severino. She’s in this documentary series called ‘Dope Sick’ and she’s a former heroin addict who’s now helping others get clean. Yes, a kickass superhero, is Allie. She shared an article last week about sober things to do for Valentine’s day. The article was shit and listed a bunch of boring crap that would make Drunk Me keep drinking, simple as that. Allie had added her own suggestions however: ghost hunting, escape rooms and a couple of other really cool things. I told her that her suggestions were exactly what were needed and the article was shite. Again, it’s talking about sobriety in a different way – it IS fun and it IS better and we need to start advertising it in its true light. Not take up knitting or go to a museum. GO GHOST HUNTING, DAMNIT! Woohooooooooooo!

OK, now I’m done. For now. Interview today and I can’t wait. I’m good at interviews and I enjoy them, and even more so these days when I don’t need to hold still trembling hands or fret over getting there in case I keel over.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Wind Up Happily Sober

Since my last post, I’ve turned 44 and it was my third sober birthday since some time during my teens. Today I’m 754 days sober. Strictly speaking 756, but I count not from the last day I drank but from the day I made the decision to grab sobriety with both hands, which was the day after the day after. It’s the decision I celebrate milestones of, I guess, as opposed to how many days I’ve been sober. I mean, I had a pretty long stretch of 13-odd years once! Before you ask, I am referring to the fact that I got drunk for the first time when I was 13. I might have turned 14, I can’t actually remember, but it doesn’t matter.

We’re just back from a weekend in north Devon. Dreamboat Hubby whisked me away for Valentine’s and we spent most of it indoors thanks to Storm Dennis. It’s always so nice to get out of London and every time we head off somewhere I catch myself thinking “we should buy a little place here” and fantasising about a little cottage where I’ll have a studio that’s half my writer’s corner with tonnes of books and the other half set up for jewellery making where I can hammer the hell out of silver and gold and force precious metal into beautiful things. But nope, I’m just not ready to leave London. Not that I could anyway, Bambino is still at school, but even if he was up for a quieter life, I don’t think I could go all in. It’s not as if I take advantage of all London has to offer and it’s actually really rare that I head into the city for a fancy meal or the theatre, but it’s just nice to know it’s there. Where we spent the weekend – Lynmouth – is a beautiful part of the world, but oh my God, there really isn’t much to do. Again, I don’t do all that much when I’m here in TW11, but WC1 and all that jazz is nearby. It’s the idea of not having the option that sits uncomfortably I think. I’m not one to wear high heels, but I own a few pairs and I like to think I can, should the mood take me. Weird, huh?

But there we are, any time we get back home – be it from a trip to Devon or to the other side of the world – I draw a sigh of relief. Home. Right here, in this spot, is where I want to be. S’all good.

Yes, 754 days and my third birthday sober. It’s not that big a deal, really, but then I can’t sit here with a straight face and tell you it’s ever been a struggle. It was uncomfortable and really, really strange to begin with and yes, it required effort, but I don’t recall ever really struggling. Then having said that, I remember blogging once about getting home from an AA meeting early on and the pull to go and get wine from the shop on the way home was so strong I nearly fell in through the door afterwards out of sheer exhaustion. Shit, I remember now. It was like I wasn’t in charge of my own thoughts or my own body, my feet walking in directions completely independent to what I might have insisted on. I recall Bambino giving me a hug when I got in that evening and I remember feeling like I’d returned from a battle field after trying to fight a huge, fire breathing dragon with a fucking toothpick to defend myself with. So perhaps it’s not all as rose tinted and easy as it seems now. There, there, little devious mind of mine – doncha play tricks on me…

What matters, I suppose, is that I don’t have even the tiniest desire to drink. What matters is that I don’t look at those weird creatures who can moderate and control their alcohol and feel jealous. Not one bit. I thought I would, but that never happened. Perhaps in the beginning, but that disappeared pretty quickly.

Another thing that struck me, that I was thinking about on our long drive home today, was how someone might have got through to someone just like me. “Someone just like me” – in other words, your average, bog standard drunk. The idea of abstinence is the number one deterrent and this is why Smart Recovery seems to work for more people than e.g. AA or other abstinence based programs. Pretty smart, if you ask me. I didn’t go that route, but I can see why it works. Come in, friends, don’t stress about the big A, let’s just get acquainted with this lil’ ol’ issue of yours and reflect as we go along. Obviously we then discover that moderation will never, ever work in a million, gazillion years, but because we were given a bit of time and space to still lean on our crutch, it didn’t seem quite so scary. And then you drop it when you’re ready. As most do, if they stay with Smart Recovery. Someone will eventually come up with a better recovery method than what’s on offer right now and when they do, more people will recover. Offer all the routes we already know of – Smart, AA, This Naked Mind, Sinclair, whatever – but also take the best of each one and tailor it to each individual. It won’t be as hard or as messy as it seems.

Maybe that someone can be me. Or you? It’s bound to happen and it’s not far off, I don’t think. We’re learning too much about addiction to keep going with only methods that work for a minority and the growing recovery community who’ve never set foot in any rehab or AA/Smart meeting and still wind up happily sober are getting louder. I know, I’m part of a few groups like that. I’m not saying do away with AA or Smart or even the unscrupulous rehab industry (except making it accessible for everyone!!), what I’m saying is that there are many ways and we need to make some changes. Or additions, rather. Yes, additions, not changes, is what I mean. There. Done for now.

I don’t know where I’m going with this. I started to write because I had something to say about counting sober days, but that got lost quickly. My posts are always like this – I log on here thinking I have something I want to say, but then just let my mind wander and it ends up a complete mind dump. Oh well.

Busy week ahead and life has never been better. 44 is a good one, I can feel it in my bones. Speaking of bones, I ordered sole for my main course when we went out for dinner on Valentine’s Day in Lynmouth. Big fucking mistake. I don’t know how to eat fish and spent the entire meal picking bones out of my mouth. Hubby had the same thing but not the same problem. Shut up, Anna, you’ve gone hyper again.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Without a Filter

Well, that’s one stage done – level 2 of the counselling course finished and unless my portfolio comes back as a fail, that first step is now out of the way. I also had an interview for an administrator role for an organisation I would really love to be a part of, with a view to also do my counselling placement there. It’s always hard to know how it went, I find, but strangely I seem to get offered the job following what I’ve perceived as terrible interviews and when I think I’ve done really well it doesn’t seem to go that way. Yesterday I gave what I thought was a kickass interview so if this pattern is anything to go by I won’t be offered the job. We shall see.

The counselling course has been a challenge for many reasons – on the one hand it’s felt so natural and so right, only reinforcing how this is my calling, but on the other it’s pushed me so far out of my comfort zone it’s unreal. Not only has it meant finding my place within a group of people, but it’s also a group of women. I genuinely adore every single one of them but it’s really highlighted to me how I find some things really bewildering. Little tensions, little looks, little sub-groups within the group. There is nothing wrong with this, it’s just the natural dynamics of a group of people I’m sure, but it’s tricky for me to navigate.

Born as I was without a filter and with eyesight that tends to only see black and white, the nuances and layers are sometimes confusing. I lay bare how I feel without censorship and I just don’t know how to pretend to feel something I don’t. You might think me weird as fuck, but I can assure you that you’ll always know where I stand. I can’t simultaneously feel spiky towards someone and kiss their arse, but I’ve witnessed time and time again how this seems to be the case. This is probably the sort of social construct people learn and get used to through life, but for this chick who’s run away from others all her life it’s a learning curve. I’m not saying I’m better or worse than anyone else, I just find it hard to understand, that’s all. It gets me paranoid! Is it the case for me too, that someone who acts like I’m their best friend in the world to my face could make fun of me and make cutting remarks about me behind my back? How does one fit with the other? It makes me quite uneasy but I accept this all probably comes with any group of people. I just need to learn to find my feet and my footing in that setting and I’m sure I’ll learn so much from it.

7th February, 745 days sober and six days away from my 44th birthday. Jeez, 44 seems so grown-up and whilst I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, I can’t quite reconcile myself with what I perceive a 44-yearold to be. I’m not mature enough, not this/that/the other enough. I don’t mean this negatively, it’s just another confusing concept in amongst so many others. The story of my life perhaps – I can connect to feelings but so not so easily to circumstance.

Well. My sleep has returned to blissful, solid nine-hour blocks and the sun is shining here in west London. I feel peaceful and content.

No prizes for guessing what the best part is:

Today I’m not going to drink.

Scared of the Dark

Monday morning. Yes, Monday mornings are “a luxurious novelty” too, but I guess we’ve already established this.

I don’t know why, perhaps I dreamt something last night that had me travelling through the night sky above the choppy waters of the North Sea, and whilst I can remember no such journey, left with me is a strong sense of Falla this morning. Falla is the little old farmstead at the foot of a little mountain by lake Fryken that belongs to my father. It used to be home to his grandmother and her two brothers. From the age of seven, Dad lived with them there. Not because anything had happened to his own parents, my grandparents, but simply because he felt more at home there and was more attached to his grandmother than his own mother. They lived only a short distance away, at a bigger farm called Myra, which sits majestically at the edge of the deep forests and from the west wall of Falla you can see it in the distance. Dad never felt at home there. All of this is somewhat out of reach for me, no one except Mum has ever really offered me any insight and of course for Mum it’s still a bit of guess work. One of her guesses is that Grandma was perhaps a bit young and never really bonded with her eldest son, another that Grandma couldn’t handle Dad’s boisterous nature, and yet another that he just liked it better at Falla.

As do I.

I’ve thought about this a lot. I have a real attachment to the place, much more so than to Mum’s house or Dad’s house where we grew up. Sure, I look back at both with fond memories but there’s something about Falla that touches something deep in my heart that I can’t explain. Or can I? On this journey of figuring things out, some things have been harder to understand than others. For example, something I did know deep down but always refused to acknowledge was something dark that I just didn’t want to accept. Now I have. There are no clear memories, but there is emotion and there is muscle memory. I know what it was, just not exactly how or when. Or who. However, my relationship to Dad was always at the surface and therefore easier to reach and process.

At one point I lost him. Life came between us and any time with him was limited and emotionally he was ripped away by a new wife who couldn’t make room for the two children that came with the package. But I can’t put all the blame on her, besides I don’t think she’s inherently evil or anything – she’s just cold and unfeeling, most likely a product of her own upbringing and what little I know of that isn’t a nice story at all. And either way, it was up to Dad to stand up for us – the responsibility in that regard must fall to him. My whole life, it seems, I’ve wanted his attention and his approval. Whenever we do speak, on the phone or when we’re in Sweden, I speak as fast as I can and desperately try to keep him in the moment for as long as I can. I try to hold on to him, but it’s impossible. You can’t get a grip and if you do, he wriggles free. Like a slippery eel in murky water.

So perhaps for me, Falla for me is where I get to be close to Dad. It’s his favourite place, his sanctuary. It’s where his restless soul finds at least a little bit of peace. And so when I’m there, he may not sit down for long to talk to me, but I get to be close to him.

It’s become even dearer to me since Hubby came along. Before then, I always used to stay at Mum’s when we were in Sweden – I’m a scaredy-cat and no way would I stay alone at Falla. It’s a little remote, it’s quiet and, well, I’m scared of the dark. With Hubby, it’s become our place. It’s with Hubby that I’ve sat by the west wall on summer nights when it’s still light as day at midnight and gazed out over the fields, talking about life and felt at home. Dad’s attachment to Falla I guess can be explained in that for all intents and purposes it was his childhood home and where he was his happiest. When my grandparents sold Myra, the huge farm on the edge of the forest, there was never any talk of Dad buying it. When his grandmother and her two brothers were all gone, there was never any question though – Falla was his.

At my christening, Dad laughed and told his grandmother that she’d be known as “Ida” from that point onward. Her name was Anna and now there was also his daughter Anna. Me. I guess it makes sense that he insisted on naming me after the woman who raised him. Gosh, that must have stung Grandma. I do wonder what was underneath all of that. Grandma is a character and at 92 she is still sprightly, tells lots of dirty jokes and is as energetic as she always was. She lives independently on her own, goes for her walks still and doesn’t need much help except cleaning on top of the cupboards and changing curtains as her balance is dodgy and she can’t get on a stepladder anymore. The last time she did was two or three years ago, and she took a fall and injured her ribs. She was really irritated that she had to go to the hospital and when I spoke with her on the phone she was huffing and puffing and angry over all the fuss. Then she broke out in a loud cackle, that hearty and quite dirty laugh of hers.

This is the third time I’ve ever had to go to hospital. The other two they sent me home with a baby!

She’s always been a wonderful grandmother but beneath all the jokes, you can sense the tension. Grandma speaks so highly of my uncle, the younger of her two sons. With Dad she makes quite cruel jokes and will shake her head at him. She’ll say how he’s a rascal and then talk about my uncle and how kind and reliable he is. Still, they seem so close, Dad and his mother. He’s there to see her at least once a week either to have lunch or coffee. Maybe he has always tried to hold on to her the way I’ve tried to hold on to him? Maybe she’s always wriggled free? Mum has always said how Grandma never “took to” Dad, that she either wasn’t ready for motherhood or simply didn’t bond with the baby. Maybe it wasn’t just that Dad liked it better at Falla. Maybe it was just that it was there he received the unconditional love his own mother perhaps couldn’t give him? Maybe history repeats itself for reasons we can’t control. Maybe we become slippery in turn.

I really don’t know why that little red house at the foot of the mountain was on my mind this morning, but the feeling was so strong. I can conjure it all up so readily – the sound of the wind as it caresses the trees and makes the leaves tremble and that lovely and strong yet inexplicable smell of berries in the larder where no berries are ever kept. Maybe we hold on to places or things when the people we really need wriggle free and escape our grip.

Today I’m not going to drink.

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Goddamn Right, It’s a Beautiful Day

I read a post via Facebook by a lady who’s been sober four years about the many joys of a sober life. She wrote: “Saturday mornings are still a luxurious novelty to me.” I smiled and felt warm inside. I feel exactly the way she described, except it’s not just Saturday mornings – it’s every morning of the week. I suppose the gratitude is more immediate and intense on weekday mornings because that’s when my drinking would really fuck my life up. Cue the shuffling and leaning on the bed, then grab the door frame to keep steady, proceed to crouch in the shower on my unsteady legs. EURGH – I actually feel ill just thinking about it. Yuk. But yes, Saturday mornings too, absolutely. Saturdays are a completely different animal now too, just like the other six days of the week.

The ghost of Saturday mornings past:

Wake up. Have I missed the alarm? What day is it? And what the fuck did I do last night? Or say? Or write? Please God, make it so that I just passed out. Grab phone despite the acute anxiety this move entails as I don’t know what I’ll find on it. Hey, just checking the time, that’s all I’ll do. I’ll check e-mails, texts and social media once I’ve started drinking again later, I can’t fucking face it otherwise. Yes, just check the time – usually 8-ish. Glance over at Hubby. Is he angry with me? I have no idea if we’re friends right now or if we’ve had a humdinger of a row. Cautiously cosy up to him to check the waters. No, he’s gathered me up immediately in his arms. No argument, then. Oh really? He’s given me that appreciative look, blissful smile playing on his lips and his eyes have that I’m-so-in-love-with-you look, gently sparkling, narrowing a little. OK, so I must have turned into a porn star because he seems really worn out, happy and grateful. Hm, my bum doesn’t feel strange so thankfully not that or some exercise in depravity involving intimidating looking sex toys shoved in places I wouldn’t want or NEED to go non-blotto. Not going to check that damn phone for a few hours though. No idea what went on though. Who knows. I certainly don’t. I can’t remember a thing beyond 9pm.

What do you want to do today, cutie?” Hubby mumbles and strokes my cheek.

I want to do nothing. NOTHING. I feel like I’m vibrating, but not in a fun sex toy related kind of way, it’s the discomfort from drinking and I know this is going to be a fucker to get through. I’m immediately filled with dread and already frantically trying to think of something I can somehow get through, where the end destination is a pub. And then the whole charade of pretending to be nonchalant about it when we get there, like “oh, why not” when ordering a drink as if it hadn’t been the sole purpose of me leaving the house in the first place. But first get up. Bleurgh. And the whole shower ordeal too. My soul joyfully sings “coffee, coffee!” because it holds on to what coffee used to taste like in the mornings before it got like this, but I know it’ll make me feel even more rotten.

This morning:

Wake up because Hubby is planting little kisses on my forehead. It’s glorious and super irritating at the same time because I was fast asleep. Open my eyes and look into his big, blue eyes as he’s looming above me just right in my face. A little smile plays on his delicious lips. Not because I pushed him to the edge of his humanity via acts of depravity last night but because we love each other and most nights end… beautifully, shall we say. Hah! Just typing this, it strikes me how everything is just so much more better sober. Classier and more tasteful too. On rare occasions my bum might feel a bit funny but at least I always know why and nothing about it horrifies me because I no longer have a black-out alter ego instigating things I actually wouldn’t.

Good morning, gorgeous,” he whispers and kisses my forehead again, “shall I stick the coffee on?

Yes. YESSSS to coffee! God, it’s my favourite damn thing in the world. Liquid fucking Nirvana, is my morning coffee. Nice. I wonder what time it is? I’ve had a good sleep, despite this stretch of difficulty getting to sleep I’m in, and it feels like I’ve had a long lie-in. I check my phone. 7.15am. OK, cool. The first feeling to hit me is a burst of joyful energy. I mean, with super hot, gorgeous Hubby in my face as the first thing I see it’d be difficult to feel anything other than fucking awesome, but still. I bounce up, restless and keen to get moving.

What do you want to do today?” Hubby calls out from the kitchen but sets off the coffee maker the next second so the power drill noise of it grinding the beans stops me from answering straight away.

I give the duvet a good shaking out before whipping it up into the air for it to land neatly across the bed before I straighten it up and fluff the pillows. Well, let’s see. Bambino has a football game so will need to get him up by 9am. Hubby has a bodypump class booked at the gym, so I’ll go for a run then. We’ll be showered and ready to head out on adventures by midday. A long walk perhaps? Go for a drive somewhere? As I have my first mug of glorious coffee I gaze out of the window as I always do, out across the treetops. To quote one of my favourite songs: goddamn right, it’s a beautiful day.

So yes, to call Saturday mornings “a luxurious novelty” is definitely right on the money. To call every sober morning that is accurate, but I guess at the weekend I have more time to actually savour the glory of it without rushing.

So to say this is a no-brainer, really:

Today I’m not going to drink.