A Big Spatula

Two magical things happened today. Both made me cry.

1. I did something I never thought I could do.

I did a presentation. I was so scared I couldn’t breathe, even though I spoke for less than 15 minutes and it was over Zoom. Hubby was apparently watching me through the glass panes on the living room door and took the below photo (had I known I would have gone loco in a supreme way, haha!). Yes, that’s a bucket, because I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t vomit. It also didn’t help it was 30 degrees and the sun is on the double windows all day – had a fan on full blast and tried to close the thin curtains but was still sweating like crazy. And the stress of it all… Let’s just say I had a meltdown leading up to it. I was paired up with a course mate so my bit was only going to take 7-ish minutes. He’d reassured me that if I freaked he’d just take over. It didn’t turn out that way. His wifi gave up and so I did almost the whole thing, bar for the couple of minutes he managed to get back on before once again getting disconnected. Well. I knew what’d happen (except for my team mate falling off Zoom) and I lived. But it was still something I did for the first time and something I’ve been too terrified to do in all my 44 years. I’ve turned down jobs because of it and at uni I convinced tutors to give me extra written work to escape having to talk in front of people.

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Despite nearly giving up and running away – old habits die hard – it all worked out. And in amongst all the dread, fear and anxiety that had me under siege, several of the lovely people I’m studying with had sent little messages because they know I struggle so much with this and they therefore knew I was in bits over it. In a way, I think the universe had my back, along with the lovely group I’m with. Had this been in the classroom I’m not sure I’d got myself there. I’d like to think so but the panic and terror I felt was over doing it over Zoom so God knows.

I lived. And it was OK.

2. Someone handed me their heart to hold. 

Bloody hell, I make it all sound so dramatic, don’t I? But these miracles happened for one reason only: I am sober. An old friend reached out because she is struggling like I did. I read the message in the car and a couple of tears trickled down my cheeks. A mixture of love, gratitude, admiration and sorrow. Love and gratitude because I feel honoured to be the person she feels she can approach. Admiration because I know only warriors can summon this kind of courage. Sorrow because she is hurting in this way. But there is also another couple of components in that mixture: hope and excitement because I know that there is a way out and I know what awaits her on the other side when she finds it.

Despite all I know about addiction and all the fellow addicts I have met along the way, perhaps old stereotypes live somewhere in my subconscious. Must be, because I found myself thinking oh my God, HER? But she’s so TOGETHER and SMART and all these other incredible things. Isn’t that crazy, that even now, this can even enter my mind? It’s one of the shitty things about addiction – we think there is something wrong with us, that we ended up this way because we are terrible or “less than” people somehow. Absolutely that was my first thought when I went to AA meetings. Almost exactly the words my own father said to me once when we talked about it.

But you’re so SMART!

I replied. Said I’ll always stand with her. Always be here for her. I don’t know where it will go or what she will choose and that’s not my business anyway. She hasn’t said “I’m an alcoholic” and so I’ll just honestly and openly share whatever she may ask about and point her to all sources of help I know of. AA of course and everywhere else I’ve found members of my tribe. Whether she wants to stop or cut down or just air her secret, I’ll stand by and hold her heart with steady and safe hands. I will share my stuff if she asks me to and I won’t decide for her what her path is. That’s what my tribe has taught me and I will do my best to honour this.

It’s magical.

I didn’t know who to turn to. And whilst it’s not everyone’s choice to be loud about their recovery in the way I’ve chosen to be, this is precisely why I am. I don’t care if the world judges me for being open or if anyone wants to attach stigma to addiction or shame me. One person overheard (or saw, rather, via Facebook) and that’s all that matters. That’s all that’ll ever matter.

Now for the questions, dear tribe of sober warriors – what do you do when someone asks for help? I’m guessing just being there will make a difference (carrying this around is hell, as we all know so being able to talk to someone obviously lightens the load a little). I will suggest AA because regardless of whether it’s the right path in the end for that person, it’s a bloody great start. I don’t want to overwhelm her – Christ, she’s just opened the lid a little so I don’t think going in and stirring a big spatula around is the right strategy – and I don’t want her to feel she has to adopt a label or be pushed into any promises or rules or commitments. I want to show her I’ll just walk beside her when she wants me to, no strings attached. What do you think?

Today I’m not going to drink.

13 thoughts on “A Big Spatula

  1. I think reading about it is a good thing to suggest. Give her some of the easy read and totally honest (but not scary) literature recommendations such as Catherine Gray’s. .. the unbelievable joy. I think that takes the pressure off but allows you to process how it related to you. I never did AA so I can’t comment but I think it would’ve scared me to go, especially straight off. I wasn’t really ready to as admit I had a problem at that stage. Get her to follow some of the blogs on here and read what a few of us have said. She might be able to connect with that. You are a brilliant person to support her and walk along side her.

    Huge congrats on that presentation. You should be so proud of yourself. Really. That’s feeling the fear and doing it anyway in its truest sense. Just awesome. Xxx

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    1. I agree. I shared my story with her and suggested finding the women in our tribe who she may relate to. I suggested AA is worth a try but keep in mind no matter if she meets dogmatic people the advice is to “take what works, leave the rest” (I think many get put off feeling they have to accept EVERYTHING) etc. She’s incredible – had got herself to a doctor and clinic two days later and all I can say is WOW!! So I have so much hope and is in absolute awe at her bravery – the desire to get out seems to be 100% there, and that is such a good sign. I have said to her I’m here and will do all I can, that she can always come to me, but also said I won’t bombard her or be “on her case”. So I’m keeping myself in check as best I can! Thanks for your input, agree with all you say. xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Congrats!? That is so great. I experienced a similar victory when I gave a presentation to my team last summer. On the sober friend note, I would just be there, listen. I don’t know if I would recommend AA; let your friend ask you about it (everyone has heard of AA, and if they’re curious, they will bring it up as a possible treatment strategy). Big congrats again!

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  3. Congratulations! 👏👏 I agree with Claire – AA may be too much – direct her to books, blogs, podcasts and let her know you’re there for her – she’s lucky to have such a thoughtful caring friend xx

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  4. Congratulations with the presentation achievement! Being there with you, I have the exact same thing; I actually have a position where I do have to do some kind of public speaking, but the times I have wiggled myself out of it because of the terror that completely takes over my body and mind…

    For your question: I am 8 months sober now. In 2016 I went to AA twice, never to go back again. and although recognising in hindsight these visits have been part of a growing awareness of my problematic drinking, I also feel it has set me back in addressing it simultaneously. I do write this with all respect and admiration for everyone for whom AA is helpful, but it made me feel disempowered, I couldn’t relate to any of its teachings and it actually made me feel I didn’t have a problem.

    To submit to a higher power, feeling helpless, having defects of character removed etc. felt as far away from who I am that I ran away from it as quickly as I could. AA were the others, not me.

    The feeling that there were other people out there was important though, but I found that years later by reading books (as mentioned The Unexpected Joy…), your blog and others and initially somewhat through an online self-help free forum/programme where I could talk with others who were either quitting alcohol or reducing their intake (in Dutch, I live in the Netherlands).

    And finally, your friendship and closeness to her: fact she has opened up to you, trusts you and is able to talk with you will be the most important first step of all.

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  5. i have to agree with the above comments. I was adamantly against meetings when i was first considering that MAYBE i had a problem…and it took everything i had to go to a few meetings. I was very stubborn/fragile and even the mere suggestion of AA made me upset. in other words, i had to choose it myself. And i can say, while it wasn’t as bad as i thought, i stopped going after only a few weeks and did the next 10 months on my own. Reading- yes. watching some movies- yes. But mainly just being there to talk, answer questions, listen, and letting a person know that you will support whatever decision they make because every journey is different….theres no straight lines. Big hugs and congrats on the meeting- growth!!!

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