Wriggle Into It

Day 5 of lockdown and we haven’t killed each other yet! Not bad, eh!

It’s a stressful time for everyone but we are luckier than most. For now. Hubby has his job and whilst not immune to Covid-19 or emergency salary cuts, we at least know for the time being that there is still a way forward. Not how we envisaged things a few months ago, but it is there. We all have to adjust and although it’s in some ways worrying and uncomfortable, I think we just have to keep sight of what’s important here. Do I really need this thing or that? Lockdown means we’re saving over £200 per month in sushi alone and that’s when we – during our re-budgeting exercise of stripping everything back to the bone – looked at each other and had to laugh. We have our home, we can eat and we can be without clothes and eating out. We are not yet in a position where we have to choose bananas over apples or forego the nice food in favour of budget brands. It seems so obnoxious when I type it out and that’s because it is. Our scaled back budget is still more than many have. We have to restructure and it’s not without headache and worry, but there will be a way.

Tempted to drink? I can honestly say it’s never been further from my mind and I genuinely feel queasy imagining a glass of wine, but then worry and stress were never my triggers anyway, so this sort of thing means I’m probably even safer than I usually am. Good times and excitement is much more likely to wake the Beast, so it’s still sitting pretty in its cage and 795 days into recovery I still don’t take my eyes off it.

Imagine if I let it out now…. Imagine the stress. I mean, before even thinking about how it’d destroy me physically and mentally and hurt the poor sods who love me, it’d mean an expense of £1,000+ per month. Yep, that’s how much Sauvignon Blanc I used to single handedly furiously gulp my way through. And then, well, its effect on Yours Truly and those around me. Each day not only a living hell to get through but also possibly my last. I know, I know, it sounds so dramatic, but binge drinking up to three bottles of wine per day is THAT dangerous and I’m lucky that I didn’t die doing just that. Very, VERY lucky.

As it is, lockdown is pretty shit in lots of ways but even during a pandemic and uncertainty both for our and other people’s well being (and indeed lives) as well as the very real possibility that many of us could lose all we have (jobs, homes, etc), my life right in this moment is still lightyears better than my life was drinking. I don’t say that lightly.

Hubby and I get irritable as I’m sure lots of people do cooped up at home, but he’s still the person who annoys me the least in the whole world. It’d be so nice to just get out for a drive or head down to the coast or whatever. But this is OK too. We’re allowed to get out once a day for exercise and given I went for a run yesterday, we’ll walk around the park today. We’re right next to London’s second largest park and walking around it is 10 kilometres. It’s full of fallow deer, originally implanted there by Henry VIII for hunting. It’s a beautiful place and I’m so grateful it’s right on our doorstep.

So that’s what’s making me smile right now. I’m sober and even during a pandemic my life is better than it ever was when I drank. Not that I have ever failed to recognise how this is the best decision I ever made, but I hope I’ll always continue to remind myself of this.

In other news, we have joined Weight Watchers. Although they’re now calling themselves simply ‘WW’. Hubby decided he needs to lose five kilos (he doesn’t – he’s perfect just as he is) and I decided to join him. I put on quite a bit of weight when I stopped drinking, which is annoying because every other person seems to get thinner, not pile it on. I’m not unhappy with how I look – sure, I could be slimmer but it hasn’t bothered me. I run lots and have sort of seen that as a hall pass to eat what I want. It would seem I suffer from reversed body dysmorphia – in my head I’m super slim and fit and so any time I see a photo of myself I am shocked to see I’m neither. When I buy clothes I can’t be bothered to try them on in the shop so just grab whatever item of clothing I believe is my size only to later put it on (or desperately try to wiggle into it) at home and gasp in horror when I discover the damn thing will not contain me.

Same story with my weight. I have no idea what I weigh. I don’t know when I last weighed myself but I think it was when I stopped drinking so over two years ago. I think I weighed around the 70 kilo mark. Then of course I piled the weight on because I developed a sweet tooth in absence of all the sugar I usually would have got via the ocean of vino I consumed. But once I got back into exercise I thought things had levelled out and so I kind of assumed I was around that weight now. So we signed up for the WW app and of course you get asked to add your start weight and that means facing the scales. So I did.

74 MOTHERFUCKING KILOS. SEVENTY FOUR!!!!! I don’t know I weighed much more than that when I was fucking pregnant and so now the universe fucking OWES me a baby. (This time I’ll take one that is a tantrum throwing toddler because I realise I had it easy with Bambino but can we have some easy teenage years for Bairn #2, please?) BUT 74 KILOS?! Are you fucking kidding me? I stood there staring in disbelief for a good minute.  How did I not know I was this fat? The scales is the work of Satan, I knew it – had I not done that, I would still be slim and fit (at least in my head) and now instead I’m an old crone who’s let herself go. I did NOT sign up for that.

No wonder running is hard work.

So I’m definitely fat and I definitely need to perhaps not diet, but certainly rethink my truck driver style eating habits. They have a point system, which admittedly isn’t anywhere near as complicated as I initially thought, and whilst it irritates me that I can’t put lots of cinnamon buns into my face with wild abandon, it’s been a week and I can actually handle it! We started it last Sunday so tomorrow is our first weigh-in. I kinda hope I’ve lost all nine kilos I want and have it over with, but suspect The Right Way is how recovery works too – steady work with longterm gains. No fast but fickle results. Only shitter is we’d been to the Swedish shop the day before and the bowl is sitting there filled to the brim with Swedish sweets – it’s the only thing I ever stockpile and I want to put it all in my gob so badly I want to weep. They are the best sweets in the world. They are made by angels. All week it’s been sitting there. Well, I’m fucking stubborn when I want to be so I’ve not caved and besides, I don’t believe in hiding from the things you’re cutting out. Just like I know that if I can’t sit next to someone drinking wine, I’d be buggered. Just me personally. We’re all different.

So anyway. Drinking is worse than any pandemic, just in case anyone needed reminding. Recovery rocks and the best things in life are worth fighting for even when the going is tough and slow.

Today I’m not going to drink. Or eat sweets.

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Tone Down the Crazy

Day 1 of lockdown has been a pretty good day, actually. Given I was looking for work when all this kicked off (talk about screeching to a halt!), my existence hasn’t changed all that much. I’ve really realised how much I adapt and how bad it is for me to not have enough to do – I’m at my best when a million things happen at once and have tight deadlines, so you can imagine what this does to me… It ain’t good. So I’ve already been trying to get focused and productive, and today I’ve almost finished all the things I set out to do.

Bambino and I are friends again. I apologised for calling him an idiot and he apologised for being one. A big thank you to you lovely people for reminding me that teenagers can be arseholes and sometimes we’re right to yell at them. I shouldn’t swear like that and perhaps tone down the crazy but there we are. What’s done is done and I’ll try to learn from it. I don’t think I need to tell you that this would have been an absolute catastrophe of biblical measures if I was still drinking. As it was, it was a shitter but it could be dealt with, as things can when we’re sober. See? Always a win! No matter what it is, being sober always means there is at least THAT, and it’s always a glorious victory.

On my run last night I had one of those little I’m-in-love-with-humanity moments. Boris says we’re allowed out for exercise once per day – thank GOD – so off I went to run the standard loop past the university, then along the river to the lock and up the high street back home. Lovely, lovely people! So well behaved and considerate, and do you know what, it’s contagious! Be the change you want to see in the world – best advice ever. Remind me who that was? Was it Gandhi? I can’t remember but whoever it was, it’s awesome advice. And there we were. Around that 6k loop I passed probably around 20 people and like clockwork we all gave each other space by moving aside, often running out on the empty roads or cycle lanes. And everyone smiled at each other. I came home bursting with endorphins and love. Talk about a turnaround from the hell hath no fury like an angry mama situation of Sunday… Well that’s me – I’m nothing if not wildly pendulous.

Well. There was one single instance of not giving space and being considerate. On the home stretch there’s a hill and on the way down the sidewalk is really wide so you could easily pass each other without having to get into the cycle path or the road. Two little old ladies were walking together and chatting. I began to move to the edge as they were on the side furthest away from the road. So far, so good. Tried to catch my breath in order to have enough of it to gasp “good evening”. Then the silly old bats moved further apart, no thought in the world as far as a two metre distance goes. In the end I had to get right out into the road to ensure I was keeping enough distance. Felt like snapping IT’S YOU GUYS WE’RE DOING THIS FOR but forced a polite smile instead.

Careful you don’t get hit, luv,” one of them said unhelpfully.

Indeed. Silly me, eh.

The oldies don’t seem too bothered about all this, though. Do you find this? My best friend in Sweden said it’s the pensioners who are still out and about in force, lunching and socialising. That is, the people at greatest risk are the ones who seem the least fussed about it.

My grandmothers are both 92 and when I call them for a chat I usually call one after the other as otherwise they’ll get on the phone to each other and I’ll get told off for not calling the other if I called one of them. Lovingly of course, but still. It’s a bit of a lottery these days as they both have terrible hearing, plus my dad’s mum doesn’t like picking up the phone when she doesn’t recognise the number in case it’s a sales person (mine comes up as unknown) so I always try her first. This time I was in luck, she picked up just as I was about to hang up as it had been ringing forever. She told me she’d stood there for a while deciding whether to pick up but then thought it might be me as I hadn’t called for a while. Anyhoo. So I spoke with them both yesterday. Both said the same thing. Now, with almost everyone I’ve seen or spoken with since this pandemic began, there’s been stress, panic and anxiety to varying degrees. Not with my grandmothers, who, at their respectable age are pretty unlikely to get through this if they were to catch the virus – they are jointly by far the least bothered about it. And they said exactly the same thing, pretty much verbatim:

Well, can’t complain. I’ve had it pretty good, can’t ask for more. You’ve got to be content with having got to where I am.

Really not a worry in the world, it seems. And it struck me how nice it was to have that sort of outlook. Whatever will be, will be. They both said how bad it is, but just went on to express a sense of peace with the situation. One is slightly immobile due to bad balance and brittle bones – she just said, well, the people who deliver her meals and help her out are healthcare staff and they just take extra care. The other still goes out on her walks but said she is more careful. They’re aware of it and they’re doing what they can but have no fear of the unknown or the things out of their control. Perhaps that’s what the age of 92 does, perhaps you’ve reached some sort of wisdom and feel at peace with the world and life. Although I think it’s right that we’re adjusting our ways in order to manage this crisis, my grandmothers’ view on the world reminded me of this one simple device:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t control, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. 

Another thing that struck me as I spoke to them, was how these two old ladies also really demonstrated this other thing I heard or read somewhere. Can’t remember who said it but I think it’s a buddhist thing. See, so many of us will say: “PANIC! Everything’s out of control!” but the buddhist way, apparently, is to say: “CALM! Everything’s out of control!”

Well, there we are. I’ve gone from loony-tunes furious to peaceful and optimistic again. And all it took was a good run and speaking with two little old ladies.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Yet Another Way

There seems to be a huge disparity in how seriously people view this crisis. Yesterday was the first time in my life that I actually felt like slapping Bambino across the face. No, I never would. I never will. Nor have I ever. But God help me, I wanted to. I wanted to slap the stupidity out of him. Bambino at 15 years of age, seems to adopt the position of “it’s not dangerous for me so I can do what I want“. Precisely the sort of selfish, ignorant and downright dangerous attitude demonstrated by the stockpilers and that faction of society who defy the guidelines we are all asked to follow.

What’s hard about this? Stay at home. Don’t congregate with people who aren’t in your household. No non-essential errands or travel. Let’s do what we can to slow the spread of a virus that is potentially fatal for the vulnerable among us and together we’ll get through this. Capish?

Some people seem to without question follow advice and do so calmly and I consider myself to be one of them. Whilst a lot of this worries me a great deal, both for myself and loved ones and for the world at large, I have trusted the advice. We have not stockpiled and we have without grumbling followed guidelines around social distancing. No, I don’t believe I’d get anything worse than being very ill from this virus should I get it. In fact, in some ways I sort of think it’d be better to get it (because it’s likely I will at some point) and just have it over with. But that’s not what we’re trying to do here with these guidelines, right? These guidelines are designed to keep us all going and ensure that when those who are at great risk get the care and treatment they need, and the way to do that is to do our best to avoid them all getting it at once.

Mu-UUUM, it’s not gonna kill me and it’s not gonna kill you either. And [friend] doesn’t have any symptoms“, a defiant Bambino whined at me.

You’re not to go“, I told him.

He went. As he stomped down the stairs I shouted after him “YOU ARE NOT TO DO THIS” but he went ahead. I did everything except physically grab him or stand in his way. Let’s just say I broke every parenting rule in the book last night. I called my child an idiot, a twat, “because of idiots like you” and a selection of other harsh statements that rolled off my tongue. I was livid. I was literally screaming at him. I was so angry it gave me a headache, yelling at him about what these guidelines are actually about and the reason we need to follow them. I finished off with “fuck off to your room“. There you have it – and on Mother’s Day at that. A fine mum I am.

I was equally furious, but bit my tongue, when Bonus Son #2 decided to catch a cheap flight to Budapest a couple of weeks ago. You know, for a break. Their mum is a chain smoker since her teens and also suffered a collapsed lung several times in her twenties. Yet they all seem to come and go and just hey-ho, whatever like there’s nothing to worry about. The Prime Minister was telling the country that the best Mother’s Day present this year is to stay away. Nope. And even if no one in the immediate family would die of the virus, we’re still spreading it with no regard for those who might indeed fucking DIE. What is the problem?

It’ll suck horse balls not to see Bonus Sons #1 and #2 for months – of course I don’t want that – but better that, than contribute to this thing spreading faster than it needs to. And by ignoring the advice that’s what we’d do. This social distancing thing will only work if we all stick by it.

Yes, I went for a run yesterday. In the park. I can’t tell which groups of people belong to the same household so assume others were following guidelines too. We all seemed to give each other a wide berth as we passed. Where people were walking four-wide, I went over on the grass to keep my distance as I passed. Downstairs at the entrance a neighbour and I passed each other. We clocked each other coming and I motioned to her to go first whilst I stepped aside and gave her more than the advised two metres. We could still say hello and how are you. No problem. That doesn’t seem to be so difficult. Weird yes, but we understand this and why we need to do this. For all I know this lady could have a respiratory condition. For all she knows, I could. So we follow guidelines in order to protect each other.

What doesn’t work right now is hanging out with those you don’t live with. It’s shit, but we can’t invite the Bonuses to come stay. Nor can we go and see them for lunch, not that there’s anywhere open to have lunch in the first place. But surely it’s worth it if it means that we can slow the spread in order to make sure those it’ll be dangerous for get the care – or ventilators!! – they need, which they won’t if we allow this virus to explode at lightning speed and we all get sick at once.

So there was my anger and I unleashed it on Bambino. Fucking teenager. I proceeded to print out a huge fact sheet that explained in detail why these guidelines are in place and I swear to God if he displays this attitude of I’m-alright-Jack one more time I’ll go schizo.

Beyond that, to have me give a firm NO and still proceed to head out, is possibly the most defiant and disrespectful thing he’s ever done, so I’ve adjusted his world to the lifestyle to which I’d like him to get accustomed as a result. All devices gone and WiFi passwords changed. He’ll have access to his laptop to get to his school work but that’s it for the next couple of days.

Until he gets the concept, I will treat him like a toddler. Him heading over to a friend’s, could mean – if he’s already a carrier – he passes it to his friend, who passes it to his family who in turn might pass it on until it does get to someone who isn’t in the “it won’t kill me” category.

Yes, I’m stressed. Yes, I lose my mind with fury.

I can tell you one thing though. I’ve never felt more revolted at the idea of having a drink though! Imagine drinking when all this is going on. It makes me feel sick. I guess even this coronavirus shit storm can in some way show me yet another way in which I’m so unbelievably lucky to have escaped active addiction. Hallelujah.

I still believe the world will turn out a better place when all this blows over. I truly do. Some people, like stupid teenagers (who, in their defence, are wired to be selfish), are being idiots, but hopefully they’re a minority.

Well. There’s my rant. I have probably demonstrated what a shit person I really am but honesty reigns supreme here.

How’s it affecting you? Tell me what’s happening where you are?

Today I’m not going to drink.

Lots of Lime

The world is in chaos. It’s heartbreaking and it’s maddening. Still, I believe we will come through this together and that we’ll all in the end be better people in a better world. Nothing is ever worth even a single human life, but remember this – rock bottom created more champions than privilege ever did. Whatever ugliness this crisis has brought out, I truly believe the beauty of the human spirit has come out so much more. I hope that will be what we’ll remember in days to come when we talk of these dark days and say “remember when“.

light lr3

I hope you are all OK and keeping well and safe. People are still raiding supermarkets here in London and elsewhere in the UK and the consequences of this widespread fear driven behaviour are terrifying. We are adjusting to the situation as best we can. Enough loo roll to last a little bit longer and shower gel too. Running low on pasta but I have a surplus of lime.

By the way, ever the problem solver, I have come up with a procedure for wiping our tushies when we do run out of bog roll. Hubby has been laughing at me so he may not be allowed to take advantage of my brilliant plan – we’ll see who laughs then, eh! You’ll need a bucket (with a lid if possible), a towel and some bleach. Actually, we have no bleach and God knows if we can get hold of any, but it’s a best case scenario list. Other detergents might work, anything that kills bacteria. This will be a bit, uhm, shit if you don’t have cleaning products.

Anyhoo.

Cut the towel into flannel sized squares, or what the hell – get inventive! Heart shapes or whatever you want, just suggesting squares to minimise waste. When ready to wipe, keep running water to rinse out the bit of towel as you go – not pleasant and if you don’t have a sink near your throne you’ll just have to improvise here, I’m giving you the best case scenario remember. Then into the bucket which you have filled to about half with water and a good splash of bleach. Then, when the bucket is filling up a little with bleach-water soaking tushie flannels (I reckon as a rule of thumb the water should comfortably cover the flannels), put through the washing machine on max temperature.

It’ll require disinfecting the sink every time but I think the rinse-as-you-wipe element is needed unless you have a LOT of bleach. And you don’t want to have more than stains going in the washing machine, is my thinking… If you can’t disinfect the sink, I reckon straight to the bucket… Well, there it is. Not perfect but the best I’ve come up with.

Gross, I know, but needs must. What are your new hacks? Or do you have a better solution in any absence of loo roll? Who can whip up a gourmet dish using the following: sausages, mayonnaise and coriander? Given the lack of available groceries we have stuff that really doesn’t go together. And lots of lime.

………..and when life gives me lime, I still live by this joyous little phrase:

Today I’m not going to drink.

With More Caution

Crazy times… And as usual my outlook is the pendulum I normally swing back and forth on: 95% joy and optimism, 5% dread and anxiety. With the coronavirus, my view has been and I suppose still is that we’re likely to get it and it’s unlikely it’ll kill us. We take the precautions we can, although I have to say I’m pretty revolted by the fact that for some people it seems to be a new thing that you wash your hands regularly and properly with soap. But I digress. I’ve felt no overwhelming panic or raced out to get enough bog roll to build a fortress of the stuff, nor have I packed the cupboards full of flu medication. Instead I’ve happily bobbed along on my Pink Cloud and shopped the way we normally do. I’ve seen so much love and goodwill in the world and a wonderful community spirit where we club together to support and help those among us who are vulnerable. Sure, I’ve rolled my eyes at people clearing supermarket shelves of toilet roll and tinned food, but I also know we won’t run out and whilst annoying, it hasn’t riled me. But perhaps that’s because I haven’t seen the consequences of this behaviour up close and personal.

In the past couple of days, I had clearly got to the end of my 95% quota of joy. I popped to our local M&S a couple of days ago to replenish berries and fruit for smoothies and I went by the shelves where they stock loo roll – there was product and plenty of it, so I went on my merry way. We have enough of the normal supply we get (a pack of 9 rolls roughly once per week – yes, we use quite a lot and I admit I’m a very excessive bottom wiper) so I didn’t get any, just felt reassured and paid for my smoothie supplies and left. Later, when Hubby came home, my Pink Cloud started to evaporate – he was stressed and Hubby very rarely get rattled by anything. Not even ME, and that’s saying something. He seemed tired, sad and overwhelmed. He works for a global relocations company and with the current situation they’re fast approaching bedlam with 5,000+ employees unable to do anything, cashflow strangled and salaries to pay. Seeing him stressed knocked me off my cloud – if Hubby is stressed, panic is in order.

Once I’d fallen off my unicorn and my multicoloured polar bear Growzer had scuttled off, I realised my rose tinted glasses were still in the bear’s saddle bags and without them I suddenly noticed several Facebook updates from friends. Everything from expressing a wish to kill people who stockpile food and supplies to calling out for help because desperately needed medications aren’t available. Hearing about a young mum being unable to find medication for her baby made my heart sink. That’s not “a bit irritating”. That’s no longer “bloody dimwits”. That’s a potentially….. I don’t even want to spell out what that could result in. And yesterday’s trip to Sainsbury’s to buy chicken for dinner and schampoo that I’d forgotten to add to this week’s delivery was a VERY different experience than my trip to M&S the day before. Like before, I walked by the loo roll shelves just to check. Empty. Or… Wiped clean, hahr hahr. That was worrying. Same with shelves for pasta, tinned foods, UHT milk etc. Most meats gone too.

OK, so I wasn’t going to get any of that, but I could clearly see how this panic is created. Walking past yet another set of bare shelves as I looked for olive oil (another item I’d missed out on our weekly shop and we are almost out of), there was ONE bottle of cooking oil left. Sunflower oil. Normally I’d leave it and get it from elsewhere, but the panic got hold of me. What if I CAN’T? We won’t go under through a lack of olive oil, but it’d be a pain not to have it as we use it for cooking pretty much every day. So it changed my behaviour. Sorry – I changed my behaviour, I own my behaviour after all. I took the bottle because it was there and in case I can’t get hold of olive oil elsewhere. I took it, in other words, just in case. If I pop into a shop today and indeed find olive oil, I have deprived another person of that bottle of sunflower oil, and that person might really need it. And I’ll just have a spare bottle of cooking oil I could be without. Panic breeds panic and it spreads like wildfire.

The same thing happened when I was on my way out with my schampoo, might-need-it sunflower oil and chicken, I saw the shelves for medicines. Whoa! All gone. And the wave of worry came over me. We’re not ill… ….YET. But we may really need something to reduce a fever and ease a sore throat. Scary. All that was left was aspirin and throat lozenges so I got one of each. Just in case. And that makes me a person who bought medication we don’t currently need, potentially meaning that a really ill person who needs it more TODAY can’t find any.

It’s not a good feeling.

No. I’m a good person. Yes, I do what I can to ensure my family have what they need and I try not to go beyond so everyone else can do the same. But I’m sure the above is enough to make me a Selfish Dimwit. Shit behaviour usually comes from fear and that’s crappy but resenting each other won’t fix anything. So I try to accept what I can’t control and change what I can. We continue to shop for food the way we normally do and hope that we won’t be the suckers who will suddenly be without when supplies disappear. We are told there is enough for everyone. So no stockpiling. But I can absolutely understand the fear because during those few moments I felt it, and my friend’s words are as true as they always were: never assume bad intent.

This crisis has created fear which in turn has brought out the worst in some (and me too), but it’s brought out the best in so many, many more and the world continues to fill me with awe. We’ll get through this together.

How’s everyone doing? As of now, schools are mostly open here in London but some (including my son’s) partially closed due to staff shortages that are down to self isolation. People are encouraged to work from home but most things seem to be running. The advice regarding restaurants and pubs is to “avoid” so we’re not in complete lockdown yet. The streets are emptier and London’s quieter, but life hasn’t completely changed yet and we do almost everything we normally do but with more caution and avoiding big gatherings and public transport. What are things like where you are? Are you worried and/or panicked? Are you uplifted or disheartened by what you see around you? Is the world ugly or beautiful?

Today I’m not going to drink.

Lemme Tell Ya

Once in a while, a slightly sick feeling comes over me. It’s hard to dress it in words, but it’s heavy and sad, like a mixture of dread, disappointment, anxiety and sorrow. It’s not every day, far from it, and most of the time it’s just fleetingly there. When I look back over the drinking years, i.e. most of my adult life, it’s hard to work out when it was there and how often given how alcohol obviously played a HUGE part in any rotten emotions. Now, however, over two years into recovery, I can sit with my emotions and the beauty of this is that I can have a good ol’ look at them. Today, it dawned on me when this heavy sorrow comes over me – it’s when I say goodbye. It’s right there, at the end of most interactions I have, except for with Hubby and Bambino.

I cling on to those I love. Or try to, rather. I always feel every interaction ends too soon coupled with overstaying my welcome. I come away feeling stupid, feeling I said or did the wrong thing or was too unfiltered or too much or whatever else that might point to how I’m just less than. Today that feeling popped up again. When? The moment I said goodbye to Dad after speaking to him on the phone. It was a good conversation, nothing bad in there at all, yet when I came off the call I felt small, needy and stupid. I felt desperate for the conversation to continue – stay, stay, stay – and didn’t want to let him go, and when I’d had to was when this feeling descended on me.

As gloomy as this sounds, it’s a hugely positive thing to get closer to the origins for troublesome emotions. If we can find their source, we may be able to change the course they take eventually.

Sure, there are problematic feelings as far as my father goes, but in this instance it just highlighted this doom and gloom emotion that isn’t specific to him per se. The time before that? When Bonus Son #2 came to stay recently – when he left I was filled with this emotion too. Had I shown him enough how welcome and wanted he is? Had I done enough to make him comfortable? This thing I’d said or this joke I’d made, had I offended him in any way? And it also ends up with me wondering if I’d gone too far the other way – am I too much? Do I make him feel awkward because I love him so much? Do I make him cringe?

The time before that – meeting up for coffee with Wifey last week. Lovely conversation, lovely to see her. And then moments after she hugged me and left, there it was, the feeling of dread, embarrassment, sorrow and feeling stupid. And the time before that – a text message to the WhatsApp group with the people on the counselling course. I’d made a joke and then immediately was filled with dread thinking they all think I’m stupid and maybe even offensive.

When I start to decipher it that way, it’s crystal clear – with the exception of Hubby and Bambino, I get this feeling every time I’ve had any interaction with another person. In fact, I’m struggling to find instances where it hasn’t come over me. I feel dread both at what I’ve said or done in case it’s made the other person dislike me or think I’m just ridiculous, and for what I haven’t said or done but wish I had. Big or small.

And the absolute core of the emotion in all the situations where I feel it: does he/she want to get away from me as soon as possible? I want to cling on but they want to go. So looking closer at that part, why am I clinging on? Is it so I can make damn sure that I get to clarify all the things that may have come out wrong and cram in ALL the things I should say or do? Is it a matter of in my heart feeling misunderstood or a fear of being misunderstood? Desperate for people to know I mean so well and am so good? That I “know” I’m not likeable and desperate to prove there is good in me?

Who knows, but I feel I’m beginning to understand it. And that’s got to be a good thing.

In other news, I’m also beginning to accept that no one can get out of addiction until they are ready to and want to. It’s simultaneously the most beautiful and the ugliest thing about addiction – it’s possible to recover and anyone can do it, but you have to want it or you will never get there. The anger at this cruel fact is still ripping through me and I don’t at ALL want to accept it, but I can more and more see how I probably have to. And maybe all I can do is recover loudly in the hope that another Anna will have a seed planted from my testimony. So maybe all I can do is keep on sharing my story and offer a helping hand when someone wants it.

Well. Today is a good day. The sun is shining and I’m heading out for a run. A bunch of course work is out of the way and I feel happy and peaceful. I’m right where I want to be: somewhere in the mid-section of a gentle roller. No mad high, no shitty low. Just life. Perhaps even a little boring, but lemme tell ya – boring is fucking glorious too. Life on life’s terms – sign me up!

Actually, here’s a mad high for you and one that makes my heart burst with joy:

Today I’m not going to drink.

All Seemed Rosy

It’s a beautiful Monday morning here. I’m sitting here with my morning coffee and enjoying my favourite time of day, as I always do in the mornings. A bit of course work to finish and I need to get back on the job search too, but right now I’m quite preoccupied with my worry over my friend Poppy.

I guess a bit of a background summary is needed as it’s been a while since I talked about her…

We met when we worked for the same company roughly ten years ago. Poppy was Head of Business Administration, a great position that she did incredibly well, and I was PA to the director of the company. Given our roles were similar, there was a lot of overlap and through working together we got to know each other well. We clicked, and in no small part this was because we were birds of a feather. My drinking at this point of my life was at its absolute worst – it was around this time I sniffed around morning drinking and I was barely functioning. There were times when I’d rush off for my lunch break and head to the pub around the corner from the office, order a pint of lager (because it’s easier to gulp down quickly than e.g. wine) and throw this down my neck in a desperate attempt to keep at bay what felt like (and probably was) an impending fit or just collapsing. These were the days of holding the pint glass with both hands because I was shaking so hard I worried I’d knock and break off a tooth or something with the glass. It was hell.

Poppy and I became fast friends and the times we went for drinks after work were to my mind The Best. Here was someone who drank like I did and we’d normally, over the course of just a couple of hours, polish off four bottles of wine between us. I’d then head home and drink even more. Figuring out the next day how I’d got home and what I’d had to eat usually consisted of checking my phone and bag and the rubbish bin for clues.

It’s not my business to diagnose anyone, but I always saw in Poppy what is in me too. I’m sure it was also a way of projecting my own shit in order to avoid dealing with it for myself, but I know in my heart that she’s in a much worse way than she now would have me believe.

And what’s that?

Well. Poppy has taken quite some fall and the trajectory has been very steep indeed.

The company went bust and closed the office. I had since moved on to another job so it didn’t affect me, and actually for Poppy it meant a huge improvement. With the office closed but the company still maintaining a smaller operation in the UK, she was allowed to do the same job but working from home and on the same salary. Poppy moved into a lovely seafront apartment down on the coast and all seemed rosy.

First came all the injuries. She ended up falling over drunk and really hurting herself, including black eyes, at one point broke her foot, other times breaking a wrist and I believe once fracturing her ribs. Then came all the Bad People. She ended up associating with these really horrible characters who treated her poorly and abusively, but for whatever reason her self worth had plummeted to a level where she believed this was all OK. Poppy dated the sort of men you might see on the Jeremy Kyle show – I hate to sound like a snob and God knows I’m not trying to say I was ever any better, but these guys were real low lives. Scum, in fact. For whatever reason, Poppy was like a moth to the flame though, and would pursue these shit bags. And that’s when the really shitty stuff began to happen.

It coincided with the company she’d worked for from home on a great salary folded completely. Poppy had struggled for some time with depression and anxiety and ended up on medication. Her drinking was getting out of control and she was in a bad way – her son and his girlfriend (who shared the apartment with Poppy) were desperately worried and the girlfriend confided in me that they wanted to stage an intervention because they didn’t think she’d survive. I was on board (busy projecting too!) but of course it all backfired and Poppy was FURIOUS with us for suggesting there was a problem with her drinking. She read us the riot act and we shut our mouths after that.

Poppy, one of the most caring and giving people I know, pursued support worker roles and ended up taking a carer’s position as well as volunteering at a Samaritans call centre. At the call centre she got mixed up with more low level scumbags. These people make the crazies who used to appear on the Jerry Springer show appear pillars of society. Amongst them a guy she ended up hooking up with, despite how he was also sleeping with the rest of the team of women at this call centre. The first low point was a furious row where Poppy ended up slapping him across the face and he called the police. She was promptly arrested and spent the night in a cell. Everything took a real nose dive from there.

Things just seemed to go really badly in all respects and about a year ago, Poppy got caught drink driving – three times over the limit. In the morning. And she lost her job, the carer’s position for which she needed to drive. Her licence was revoked and it ended up in the local papers as these court things do, i.e. her name and her offence. Her humiliation was complete. By this point, her son and his girlfriend had moved to a different part of the country, and she decided to follow them to get away from the toxic cliques of people she’d got so entangled with and get a chance to heal.

Where she is now, the health care is better and she has better support, but Poppy is unable to work because her mental health is at rock bottom and she’s on multiple medications including antipsychotic pills. When I spoke with her yesterday, she was slurring (it was around lunchtime), kept losing her train of thought, seemed very confused, got emotional several times interspersed with giggling happily one minute and getting angry the next. She is on benefits and going bankrupt. She has no one around except her two cats because her son and girlfriend have moved out. Are they busy trying to escape aka self preserve? She is feuding with her neighbours, aggressive and nasty things happening all the time (they’re throwing dirty nappies into her garden, overturning her rubbish bin etc etc). Poppy tells me she suffers hallucinations, sees people outside her window and at the door, and recently fell out of bed because she woke up in the middle of the night because “this woman was lunging at me and I fell out of my bed as I tried to get away from her“. She has a community psychiatric nurse who comes to see her, following a crisis where her son had to wrestle her to stop her taking a bunch of pills to kill herself. Poppy is in a bad, bad way. The worst I’ve seen.

What I want to believe: the medications she’s on are doing this. It’s her fragile state of mind that’s breaking her down to this. It’s depression, anxiety and PTSD. Poppy has been through some really shitty stuff and she just needs to heal.

What I know in my gut: it’s the alcohol and everything else is a smoke screen. There has been some bad things and she’s had bad luck, but it’s the booze that’s taken her to this awful point.

It’s a long, long fall. Poppy has lost literally everything. She is frail and fragile, both mentally and physically. I’m so worried and sad for her that it breaks my heart.

What do I do? Do I accept she can only stop when she’s ready or will I sit here not too long from now and bitterly regret that I didn’t do anything to help? It’s so hard when you gently suggest removing the booze might be a good thing when Poppy is adamant that she hardly drinks at all now due to the meds. I know in my heart this isn’t true. This is at the very crux of what I’m trying to dedicate my life to now and perhaps it’s important that I’m facing this impossible situation. And it seems clearer than ever that nothing I say or do will make a difference until Poppy herself decides she’s had enough and wants to make a change.

Alcohol is a cruel fucking beast.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Strap Them On

I am having a stinker. My mood is diabolical. Restless, irritable and resentful. Poor Hubby is a saint for enduring standing in the heavy rain under my thundercloud one minute and ready to hold me tight the next. Gosh, the poor man.

Last night, trapped in this shitty mood and struggling to perk up, I used one of my go-to tools and went for a run. I didn’t feel like it, had a bit of a stomach ache and heading out felt like torture. I’ve also just bought new running shoes and even though they’re the super comfortable, awesome brand, model and size as my last pair, it’s probably not a good idea to do a long run when you first strap them on, I ended up doing a 9k loop. I just knew I needed the goodness of exercise and desperately wanted those endorphins to set me straight(er).

***Random recommendation for those of you who adore running, by the way – Hoka is an amazing running shoe! They come in all the usual descriptions with different models for road, trail, etc. They’re by the guys behind Solomon and they know what they’re doing. Designed to gently put you into the right gait and posture, they are deceptively chunky (at odds with the school of thought promoting light, barely-there shoes that promote barefoot running) but the soles are super soft and springy and they’ve made a HUGE difference and I’ll never switch brands now. I have the Hoka One One Bondi model, extra wide for my hobbit feet. They are awesome. The trainers, that is, not my big feet. My big feet are a pain in the neck and I also have bunions that are tricky. Oh, and hairy toes. Old crone feet, really. ***

Whilst my long run didn’t and hasn’t forced me back into positive, enthusiastic Anna, it did its job: it made me work at my happiness when all I wanted to do was sulk and be stationary, it forced me out of my own head and it made me feel good because I took action and resisted the instinct to be an angry slob. I guess this is my way of working a program. Perhaps I know now that giving in to instincts that tell me to run away and hide away is the wrong thing to do and that I have to run towards my fears and discomfort and face them. It ALWAYS turns out better when I do. Every goddamn time.

So with a playlist consisting of a wild concoction including everything from Motley Crue to Chaka Khan, I chugged along the 7k loop and coming up to the 5k mark where I’d usually head up the high street, I continued on towards the university which added up to 9k by the time I wobbled in through the gates to our drive way. That feels fucking good and I feel good just thinking about it now. I did something good. It was hard work but I did it. I would not have felt this good if I’d decided not to go. Running is a godsend for me, probably my most indispensable wellbeing method. Genuinely. I don’t run fast, it’s a slow and steady jog and I’ll never be an athlete, but it does so much good. It also allows me to eat like a truck driver without feeling too guilty. Balance. It’s all about balance, this recovery gig.

Hubby is working from home and has a tonne of calls so I’m going to head over to the Swedish shop and get some baking supplies, then make a huge batch of cinnamon rolls. That’s my plan for today. Job hunting and cinnamon roll baking.

I’m still in a shitty, sulky, stinky, rubbish, fuck-off mood, but that’s life and I’m going to roll with it. Imagine, just for a brief moment, if I were to drink on this mood. FUCKINELL that’d make it SO. MUCH. WORSE. I’d go from moody to full-on depressed and furious along with a dumbed-down mind and feeling physically like death and unable to move. See? It could always be worse! It would always get worse if I were to drink.

The sun will come out, tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun…..

annie

And today…

Today I’m not going to drink.

On the Coffee Table

Sometimes I need to be put back in my box and I’m lucky enough to have people around me who do just that. Not in a shut-up-you’re-an-idiot kind of way (which wouldn’t be any good for anyone in any way) but in a hm-did-you-consider-this manner. I’m also lucky enough to have patient people do this for me, because I have a tendency to get so caught up in a thought that I allow it to run away with me. Sometimes I need to be brought right back down to terra firma. OK, fine. Often.

Over the past few weeks I’ve thought so much about what the key to recovery is. It has frustrated the hell out of me, and it still IS frustrating the hell out of me. And today, something that has come up during my counselling studies time and time again popped into my mind: can it be OK not to have all the answers? Maybe this is one of those things.

  1. What I’ve been told, and also seen for myself, appears to be true: people can only get sober when they want to. When we’re ready. When we’ve had enough, whether we call it a rock bottom or “sick and tired of being sick and tired” or a turning point.
  2. We only stay sober when we live according to a new standard. We can call this working a program, be it 12 steps or just a new set of principles and values.

Yet, here I am, tearing my hair out because I want to understand how I, or anyone else, could be stuck in addiction for so long before we allowed this beautiful life to happen. I’m sitting here wondering how to help Drunk Me see the light. Maybe the truth is every bit as bleak as I may have to accept it to be: no, I couldn’t have got sober any sooner than I did. No, I couldn’t have made it before that point. No, it isn’t likely anyone else would either. If that was possible, in this world so full of amazing minds and talents, that answer would have appeared by now.

So now I’m all grumpy and muttering (even stubbed my toe on the coffee table earlier, adding to my chagrin) because addiction is so fucking ugly, senseless and boofuckinghoo. I’m torn between seeing sense – because it appears to be staring me in the face – and stubbornly stamp my feet, throw a tantrum and REFUSE to believe it.

All I have is this: I was a hopeless drunk and now I’m happily sober, something I never thought I could or would be. I’m so grateful it makes me weep, sometimes something so small as just waking up in the morning to realise I’m not hungover. That’s all it takes. I’m so full of joy and gratitude I regularly end up shedding a little tear of happiness over having my life back. But it happened when I was ready. And there probably aren’t any magical words that can be said to help Drunk Me take the leap sooner. All the Drunk Mes can only get there when they’re ready. Perhaps it’s true that all I can do is continue to share my journey like other sober folk do, and hope that one day our testimony will fall on the ears that are ready to not only hear, but believe it too. However, there were tonnes of sober people in the world when I was still drinking and hearing that stuff just put me off until… …it didn’t. Or rather, it had no impact whatsoever because I only stopped drinking when continuing drinking just got too fucking hard and not a second before that.

This literally makes me want to go on a rampage. And typing that just made me giggle because I’m such a stubborn cow. Let go and let God. Honestly. Argh.

Yes and no. I’m stubborn, probably more arrogant than I want to accept (I know best) and a whole host of other annoying things. So let’s just say I’m moodily glancing at the obvious answers (arms folded, bottom lip sticking out – every inch the petulant child) and I’ll stretch to accepting they make sense, whilst I smile a little (like a naughty child clocking where mum has hidden the cookies) glancing in the other direction because I want to believe there is more to this.

Anyway.

My anxiety seems to be a thing. A real, actual thing. This is one of those hey-what’s-happening things of my recovery, I’ve found. Just over two years ago, I started living au naturel. No booze to numb my senses half the time and send me to hell feeling low and anxious the other half. Of course with alcohol being a depressant, I did realise very quickly that without it, my emotional state was a whole different ball game. If I’m down, it’s mostly for a reason I can point at and understand. I would hate to go on any medication because the idea scares me for lots of reasons, but we can talk about that another time. Also, I’ve set out to be very patient with myself and not rush to immediately fix any unpleasant emotion – I am an addict after all and this modus operandi was what got me into all that shit to begin with.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure I’m not depressed and I say that because I’m pretty damn happy 95% of the time. But anxiety is different. Or is it? Well. Sometimes I get this overwhelming sense of ICK. A slightly sick feeling, it feels a bit like a combination of dread and disappointment. It’s almost always very fleeting and disappears quickly. On occasion it stays with me longer and those are the times that result in sleepless nights when I simply can’t slow my mind down. Some of the obsessive, unstoppable thoughts when that happens are indeed me catastrophising, but just as many aren’t – it’s just a torrent produced by a mind in overdrive. When I have those nights, my brain will serve up, yes, the horrible you-will-fail-at-everything scenarios, but also random nonsense like weighing up the pros and cons of a particular type of running shoe. I just can’t switch it off. It’s maddening.

Does it bother me? A little. Does it affect my life? Not really or at least not so much it’s causing a problem. Is it normal? I don’t freaking know! I’m still working out who this person is now that I’m sober and I feel like I have nothing to measure these feelings against. Speaking to Wifey earlier about other stuff made me realise you don’t have to have been stuck in addiction to suddenly find yourself having to figure everything out again half way through life or revise what you thought the future might hold, so that’s good news – awesome, in fact, because sometimes I feel alone and trapped in my own crazy head – but it’s still confusing. I mean, if I were to see a doctor, I honestly wouldn’t know how to answer the question of “is this normal for you?” which is often what doctors ask if you’re describing whatever symptoms. I still have no idea what’s normal for me. Finding out who I am now that I’m sober is one of the great rewards of recovery but also very, very confusing.

So that’s my Tuesday. Having to see sense and have the cojones to look at myself honestly. Not sure I’m happy with either.

This I’m fucking thrilled about though:

Today I’m not going to drink.

A Pinch of Chilli Powder

Just back from Guildford where I finally managed to catch up with Stix. She was the first admission I ever did at the rehab and one of those people I fell in love with almost at first sight. It’s a potentially tricky balancing act to cross that boundary – I was staff and she was a client – but I’m glad I trusted my instincts and kept in contact with her. We’ve been meaning to meet up for ages but every single time something has come in the way, so we were long overdue a catch-up. Stix is coming up to her one year sober and the light that came on so blindingly bright at rehab is still shining brightly – she is happily, joyfully sober and is now sponsoring others via AA, CA and NA. It’s so good to see and makes me so happy.

Once again though, the miserably low success rate of recovery was painfully clear. Out of the people Stix got to know during her stay at rehab – roughly 30 people who were there at the same time – all but TWO have relapsed. That’s a bleak number. If that’s representative at all, the failure rate for rehab (or that particular one at least) is 93%. Would you pay in excess of £10,000 for a month’s treatment on the basis that you have a 7% chance of getting well? That’s way lower than the success rate for using willpower alone, and anyone who knows anything about recovery will tell you that willpower as a tool for overcoming addiction ain’t the way to go. It’s shocking. And someone died. In fact, the guy who passed away (as a result of going on yet another bender, unsurprisingly) was the guy who was meant to be my first admission but who ended up being shipped to A&E instead. Stix came in just a day or two later and became my maiden voyage instead. Out of that particular group, out of all those people, only two of them are still sober and clean. She said a handful keep trying but the majority have just gone back to drinking and using and given up on sobriety entirely.

Hardly groundbreaking news that addicts relapse and addicts die, but fuck me – that really rammed it home for me. Something has to change. Something needs to really fucking CHANGE. It makes me fucking furious. The people who run these places will tell you that they give addicts the best possible shot at recovery when in actual fact you stand greater chance of getting sober not trying any method at ALL.

Gather ’round, people! What can we do about this? Let’s change this NOW. Someone has to. It has to be now and it has to be us. Who’s with me?

I’m recruiting one of my favourite people – I need a nickname for her but can’t come up with one. She’s Scottish, tiny, super smart, all round fucking sound, cute as a button and so lovely I want to pinch her. I’m drawing a blank here. Pinch? Because she’s small and a pinch of something is a small amount, no? Like a pinch of chilli powder though – small but packs a good punch! OK, we have a gangster name – all the nicknames I end up with sound like gangster names, have you noticed? Today we have Stix and Pinch. Fabulous!

So Pinch is a therapist and because I have no skills or qualifications to speak of I need to steal her expertise and kind of ride on her coat tails here. Pinch knows her stuff so I need to pick her clever brain and see if I can railroad her into spearheading a new addiction recovery movement. My cunning plan has officially begun, just texted her to say we need to change the world now. She’s probably rolling her eyes wondering how she can get rid of me.

Ideas? Thoughts? We know of a bunch of ways that work for people, so how do we combine it all somehow or communicate accurately to people like Drunk Me what awaits on the other side?

Today I’m not doing to drink.