No, not today

Grant me the fucking serenity!

It’s coming up to 4am, it’s broad daylight and if I had trouble getting to sleep as it was, it’s bloody hopeless now. It’s crazy, because here I am, in my favourite spot on the planet and where my soul is most at peace … usually. Not this time. It’s like my entire being is in uproar and I have already decided that tomorrow I am calling in sick. I did it the second to last Friday of the counselling course – called in sick. OK, so I did have a blistering headache and it was just the afternoon I sacked off, but a headache never stopped me before – if I have a pulse, I turn up. I don’t have the course or work tomorrow, what I am calling in sick to is anything anyone may suggest we do tomorrow. Or today, rather.

I need to be a little mindful of how I put all of this. Partly because this could be read by anyone, so therefore a bit of a respect is in order so I don’t go and hurt people whilst I hold court here with no one else being able to give their view (or defence). Mostly, though, because this is a blog about recovery from addiction, I don’t want to send any reader into a real state of worry that I am in the middle of an almighty relapse. So without further ado, let’s establish some ground rules:

  1. My words, my view, my perspective. Not gospel. Just Anna’s musings. Through Anna’s eyes.
  2. As shit as I feel right now, I swear on Bambino’s life that I’d rather eat vomit than take a drink or anything else that might alter how I feel.

All good? OK, great.

I feel like I’m breaking. I wouldn’t call it a breakdown (she says immediately after calling it “breaking” – go figure), but I am definitely at a stage where I really have had my fill. I was buckling around the course, I was buckling at home and now I’m fucking buckling here at Falla too – of all fucking places. The ONE place in the world where my heart can truly beat unhurried.

So in my life, I appear to have a small selection of people who I feel less than good around. Half the time I can’t even pinpoint why but it’s as if the air changes when I’m around them. I’m not stupid enough to believe this is all to do with them – yeah, I’m looking at ME – but something has to change here. Change them? Again, not stupid enough. So that leaves moi. I need to change how I go about this and how I navigate people who, for whatever reason to do with me or them, leave me feeling shit.

I haven’t slept but given it’s 4am, I guess the evening I just sat through is strictly speaking yesterday (and how I wish I could just leave it there – in goddamn yesterday – and let this day I’ve just stayed awake into be a new day). And whilst I did speak up for bloody once, it was utterly pointless and only proved to me that my previous modus operandi – il silenzio – sometimes actually is the best way forward. I learned the skill of staying silent many moons ago and I learned it for good reason. Isn’t that so irritating? All this work I’ve been doing to “get over” it and be more vocal. Maybe I had it right all along? Whatever defence mechanisms we do have, we normally developed because at some point and in some way they worked.

It’s a mantra I often repeat to myself and I’ve repeated it many times here on this blog too: not my circus, not my monkeys. Really, this is just a variation of the part of the Serenity Prayer that tells me to accept the things I cannot change. “Things” most definitely includes other people. Another way of saying it is “don’t argue with stupid”. And yet another: “don’t wrestle with a pig, you’ll get muddy and what’s worse is the pig likes it”.

It’s quite simple when I break it all down: I can’t let things go.

Nope. Totally hopeless at it. I suck. Whoever or whatever drags in a stink that pollutes the air and for some reason I can’t fucking walk away. Oh no, I stay and inhale it until I’m choking on the fumes. Then, whilst retching, I probably thank them for it too. Or apologise. Or both. Then I bend over. You get the gist. It’s pathetic, really. I take shit I shouldn’t without protest.

Even simpler: I’m a push over who can’t let things go.

Fear also captures me in an ice cold grip. Last-night-but-still-today-for-me-who-hasn’t-gone-to-bed-yet was a prime example. I sit at a table and listen to bullshit. Hurtful and unfair bullshit. When I can’t take it anymore, I attempt Operation Speak One’s Mind. With devastating results. Boom goes my heart and suddenly I am shaking so bad I can’t even keep my voice steady – same old story – and nearly fainted too. Revert to standard procedure: shrink and go mute.

Simpler still: I am a scaredy-cat who can’t speak her truth, who then gets pushed over and can’t let things go.

Time for a reality check, no?

The bullshit? Yep, as far as I’m concerned that’s what it is. Bullshit of the highest order. I doubt the sources feel that way, but their truth isn’t mine and how they feel is nothing to do with me. Did I say anything I now regret? Nope. Ah, see, one of the wonderful things about sobriety – I very rarely these days have to spend my time wallowing in shame and regret. I spoke my fucking mind and said my peace. Well, some of it, before I felt too faint to continue. But this is progress because at least I didn’t just sit there listening to what I consider bullshit. This is good.

I don’t have to agree. I even managed to pipe up so I am not guilty of giving the impression I did either.

Now for the clincher. Do the bullshitters have to agree with me? Hm…. Is this where the shoe pinches, as we say here in Sweden? This may cut closer to the bone than I like to admit. I recently felt taken advantage of and part of my gripe was that the would-be-advantage-taker never gave any impression that they knew they had, much less acknowledged it or – God forbid – said “hey, I’m sorry“. And so I have to ask myself why I can’t believe, think and feel what I do without someone else’s approval?

Oh fuck, it’s THAT simple: I am a scaredy-cat who can’t speak her truth, who then gets pushed over and can’t let things go unless someone validates her perspective.

How fucking irritating.

Next stop, Sweet Oblivion! ALL CHANGE!

Maybe this will have to be a case of fake it til’ I make it, but this can’t go on. It’d seem I’ve lived my entire life based on other people’s approval, and what’s worse, it’s often people I don’t even particularly like. Even then, I let it crush me. No, I’m not even exaggerating here – it CRUSHES me. Like it crushed me tonight or yesterday or whatever this twilight zone now is. 4.30am. Hubby and I had a few games of Yatzee (Falla tradition) even though it was midnight by the time we got back here. By 1am we were in bed. I spent a good couple of hours further attempting to switch my brain off by reading but by 3.30am I gave up because I couldn’t. So I went downstairs, cried for a while and then came on here to pour my thoughts out in a further attempt at getting them to disperse a little. Well, it does help to turn thoughts into words, I’ve done it since I first learned to write. The books too – it was all I wanted and I pestered every adult in my vicinity to read to me endlessly until I cracked reading myself a couple of years before I went to school.

My mother is a teacher and she had no idea. Random fact about me, see. I started school and she had no idea I could already read fluently. No, I’m not some kind of genius, apparently it’s not that uncommon that kids crack the code themselves the way that I did. I’d like to think I’m special, alas … #annafunfacts

Sorry, lost the thread there, where were we?

Oh yes, learning to let go and my various attempts at stilling my mind.

You know how some people just let things wash over them. Like water off a duck’s back, is that the saying? You know what I mean. How do they do it?

I do have some ideas to try though, whilst embarking on my journey to Sweet Oblivion:

  1. Crushing words or event.
  2. Ask myself if I genuinely care about this thing or this person.
  3. Not my circus, not my monkeys or does this stray clown indeed belong to my circus?
  4. Act accordingly – let other circus be the other circus or get my clowns back in line.
  5. I can disagree without beating others into agreeing with my point of view.
  6. Let the things and people who truly matter be and feel the way they do. I don’t have to embrace the things I find hard to stomach.
  7. Let the fuck GO.

You know, even writing it, I don’t believe it. I’m not at my best when I’m sleep deprived and this holiday is getting stupid now, I’ve slept so incredibly badly. I don’t believe in the above but I know it’s how I would like to operate so that’s what I’m going to try harder at.

Starting today. I’m going to call in sick. Actually, hold up! No, that’s not it. I’m going to do what the hell I like. With Hubby. Maybe dad, who will no doubt turn up and let’s face it, even though I’ve had to concede he is a regular human being with flaws, he’s still on a pedestal in many ways and along with Hubby and Bambino he is one of a VERY select few I can stand to be around no matter my mood. All others needn’t bother. I don’t care if my heart actually beats itself out of my chest and hops away across the fields surrounding Falla, I will reply with this entire sentence:

No“.

No calling in sick. No excuses. Just a ‘no’. Well, I guess there’s no need to be a complete arsehole. Maybe I’ll extend it to “no, not today“. But if I want to be able to sleep soundly and not sit here at Falla – on holy ground as far as I’m concerned, which is what makes this even more infuriating – battling anxiety, dread and sorrow because of the opinions of people I wouldn’t actually ask for advice, then something has to fucking give. I mean, that’s so fucked up I don’t even know where to begin. Or actually, I have to stop giving. Stop being pushed over. Stop letting the air around me get polluted. Or rather, I need to stop staying with it. Walk away. LET GO.

Am I angry? Yes. I’ve been angry a lot over these past two months. Like I said, I’ve been buckling. Is it anyone’s fault but my own? Nope. And so can anyone else fix it for me? Hardly.

The simplest thing of all: this scaredy-cat needs to summon the courage to change the things she can.

Wow. 5am. This is now my favourite time of day, but it bloody helps if I have slept and of course I haven’t on this occasion. I do like this though, in a way, despite feeling so distraught just an hour ago. When I look out of the window I can see a couple of deer on the field outside. And here I am, sitting in the same spot that the Anna of Falla before me, dad’s grandmother, used to sit in. Slightly different as dad has renovated since then, but the kitchen table is pretty much in the same spot and I always sit in what used to be her spot. Funny how I just realised that, it was never deliberate, I just let my tired and wired mind travel back and remembered that. I have quite chunky black rimmed glasses too.

I do wonder what she would make of it all. This family is certainly full of stories and secrets that we seem to like keeping hidden. Problem is I can’t stand that. I can’t stand it but end up in a self enforced cage of silence that closes in on me and crushes me.

I don’t even know where to start. But maybe I’ve come face to face a little bit with some of the reasons why I buckle at speaking my mind. And I don’t fucking like it – never did – so it needs to change. Silence and escaping may have worked at some points but no longer.

Probably best if I get some sleep or I’ll end up telling people to fuck off and that won’t be ideal either. With some sleep maybe I can just go with the full sentence of “no” – that would be a good start.

Over and out.

Anna of Falla

That’s a Gift

She is wise, my friend Lady Berocca. So is my friend Pants-Over-Tights.

Life continues to be a journey of lessons and my lessons continue to land on me like manna from heaven. That’s what those lessons truly are – precious gifts – even if it sometimes feels like it’s bricks crashing into me in a not very manna-like manner at all.

Well, this lesson is around friendship. And I have realised I can probably be a very scary friend, simply because when I love people (and I love easily and freely), I am pretty quick to place them on pedestals. I mean, come on, that’s not a place to be AT ALL. Imagine being my friend and the recipient of this, the unbearable pressure of being labelled PERFECT. For a while I thought “oh hell NO!” and gasped in horror at the possibility that I may subject those I hold dear to the devastatingly high standards my Inner Tyrant has me failing against all the time. What if this is what I do to those I love? Setting them up to fail every time? Now, that’s a terrifying thought.

I guess this lesson landed on me with the impact of aforementioned brick crashing down on me from a great height. Someone fell off their pedestal, let me down and I’ve been so ANGRY. I’ve felt used, taken advantage of and actually mistreated. Oh yes, I’ve been a black ball of resentment.

Can I not accept friends as humans every bit as flawed as I am? Am I collecting perfect, faultless, godlike robots?

No, I’m not. I don’t consider the two friends mentioned above as perfect. I absolutely accept they have flaws and shortcomings as part of who they are, and I wouldn’t have them any other way. And that’s what I’ve been pondering and I think the answer is the one I keep coming back to again and again: boundaries.

On Anna Island there is a drawbridge and I’m in charge of it. But the likes of Lady Berocca, Pants-Over-Tights, Lopez, Cherokee, Sunbeam and those other souls don’t just NOT wreak havoc once they’ve trundled across the drawbridge, they usually bring a gift. It’s a two-way street. None of them have to arrive with gifts, obviously. They can rock up and be shitty and moody and grumpy or whatever state they may be in. The point is, I can rock up at their islands in the same way – just as I am and whatever it is I’m feeling. That’s friendship, no? Good days and bad days. For better and for worse. Solid.

Therein lies the difference. And that’s where what felt like a brick turned into manna.

Lady Berocca described it so well and I think it’s actually a skill: “I am careful with where I place my trust and know how far I’m willing to go“. Pants-Over-Tights drew my attention to how it’s not me who has to change (except for bloody letting this go!) and how … yes, the street analogy again … my side of the street is clean and that’s a good thing.

And so the manna that fell from heaven: not my circus, not my monkeys. Once bitten, twice shy. Can I look at how I navigated what set this lesson in motion with a sense of integrity and knowing I did what was right? Yes, absolutely. Is it my responsibility to harbour anger because of someone else’s choices? Nah.

Oh hell no!

Hand on heart, I’m still pissed off. I’m still pissed off because it hurt. But as I emerge from my slowly dissipating ball of resentment (it’s kind of grey-is now), I am an experience richer and that’s a gift.

Today I’m not going to drink.

This was Everest

Well, here we are – we didn’t die again. Please make a note, Brain, because my hope is you’ll cling on to this simple fact and thereby making the next time just a smidge easier for me to get through. Yep, workshop presentation is over with. Yep, it was every bit as hard to do as I knew it would be. Did I back down? No. Hand on heart though, I very nearly buckled and had this gone on for a sustained length of time – and I am not being dramatic or exaggerating here – I would have got ill. This was about as much as I was able to take, but I went into it knowing this and did all I could to mitigate and unleash damage control in terms of my mental health and well being.

I guess I focused on the things in this cluster-fuck situation that I had some level of control over. I began studying the subject in goddamn January and read five books cover to cover. I spent time researching and endless hours thinking about what exercises and examples might help bring the theory to life so that I wouldn’t bore my peers stupid. I was open with my partner – even apologetic as I felt like a burden, that she’d been lumbered with someone who is as terrified of speaking in front of people as I am. I was apologetic because in no way, shape or form did I underestimate how much this required of me. With hindsight, I’m annoyed that I did because I wasn’t a burden. I was the bloody opposite but that’s all I’ll say on that.

Oh, I know the whole group is in the same boat. For that reason I feel bad even saying I feel this terrible about all this. I appreciate most of us get nervous to some degree. For me, this was Everest. It took me until the evening of the following day to begin to feel human again and the palpitations finally began to subside.

Bear with me, there is an upside! No, really, a big one too!

FOUR huge take-aways and things I’ve learnt…

First off, I did this thing I’ve avoided my entire life. I’ve said no to jobs because of this. I was quite prepared to walk away from my degree and later on also my Masters, had the tutors not caved in to me begging to submit a written piece of work instead. Oh yes, all the way to here I’ve managed to wiggle out of this. And then found my path with the counselling and there was no more running and hiding. So really, I had a total of 19 minutes of presenting experience accumulated over the past year from two mini-presentations going in this time! Hah! And as we have already established: I didn’t die. Don’t get me wrong, I did freeze and I did splutter and forgot to say half the things I’d wanted to say. But this fucker was two and a half hours and I talked solidly for the first half. The presentation won’t win any awards, but I did it, I survived and it was good enough. That’s all it needed to be. Victory. Oh, and I didn’t throw up OR faint. Double victory.

Secondly, look how recovery delivers again and again – make no mistake, this is ONLY possible because I’m sober. Pursuing counselling is only possible because I’m sober. And so many other things. My 10k run yesterday and my normal 5k loop today – I mean, back during the Dark Years I could barely leave the house. Everything I have, I have because I got out of hell. (And no, I don’t consider myself “cured” or “safe” or any of those things – my recovery will always be a work in progress. Just sayin’).

Thirdly, my modus operandi worked as well as I could have hoped. I knew my stuff inside out and when I realised I was so panicked I couldn’t read my notes, I was able to improvise and just speak looking at the bullet point slides. I can’t control the panic much beyond grounding and breathing techniques, but I could at least make sure I wasn’t going to struggle with what to say.

And fourth – huge lesson. My father has throughout my life said “you have to stop being so blue-eyed“. Well, I am blue-eyed, but by this he’s referring to my naivety. I trust very readily and expect the best of everyone until they literally stab me in the back, but even then I’m quite willing to consider it might have been an accident. Or rather, feel bad that my back is making a mess of their knife. You get the drift. Being too trusting/naive ties in with some of what we presented but I won’t bore you with that here except to say that I am. And so it has happened many times that I get used, taken advantage of, chewed up and spit out. Lesson: that’s on me. It doesn’t make it OK but it’s not the job of others to babysit me and ensure I only agree to give what I am able to without being shortchanged. So this has left me reviewing the drawbridge policy for Anna Island. I can’t bloody well get annoyed with it becoming a shit place to be if I willingly lower the drawbridge at all times. My bad. My side of the street is clean but I will think twice before I cross to sweep up on the other side in the future. That’s a perfect petri dish for resentment to grow and multiply, which will only hurt others as well as me. It serves no one. I’m kind and I’m honest and I care about others. That’s all well and good. The problem arises when I then stand there on my island and find it’s been looted and all the flowerbeds have been trampled. My bad. So I am checking over the drawbridge and the ol’ boundaries.

With all that in mind, and knowing there’ll be another workshop in the second year, I feel quite hopeful for what’s ahead.

So after a bit of a cleaning-up effort here on Anna Island, things are well in the world again.

Very ready for the summer break and looking forward to those summer evenings by the west wall of Falla when the sun barely sets.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Before and since

I would imagine most of us who are in recovery from addiction have heard this little phrase bandied about:

The best thing about recovery is that all your feelings come back. The worst thing about recovery is that all your feelings come back“.

You know, I do believe that there is a greater design, a greater power, a force bigger than we are that nudges us in the right direction at the right time. I do feel that way right now. This 45-yearold woman can face what a little girl could not and it seems to me that how the pieces are falling into place one by one like a giant jigsaw puzzle is happening for a reason.

And so recently I reached out to my beautiful mother because there is a part of the story that I needed her input to untangle. Or rather, I needed to know if what I’ve carried with me all of my life was only something borne out of my own imagination somehow. I have agonised over this for many, many years. Well, not the years I fended off pain by drowning it in a sea of Sauvignon Blanc, but all others before and since.

She stepped up. I don’t know why I even hesitated now, because it seems so obvious that of course that’s what she’d immediately do. Perhaps I worried it’d be too much, too hurtful, too harrowing. I’d do anything for Bambino. I would go to my own death for him. I guess what I for some insane reason totally missed is that mum is my mum. I’m her child. She would do anything for me. Probably go to her own death, so of course she’d make a goddamn phone call. I texted her and within 10 seconds she rang. I specifically said to have a think about it but 10 seconds is all it took.

And then there was peace. Now I know. Well, I think for now I know all I need to know. That hole in my heart makes sense and things can be put to rest. Simply because a mother’s intuition was in tune with what I knew in my bones. And again that thing happened. That thing that happened in recovery. When you speak your truth and suddenly there are other voices: “me too”. Once again, I’m not alone.

Don’t you just hate it when you read something that seems really cryptic and think to yourself “goddamn it, just spit it out! What are you saying?” – I get it. But here’s the deal: there is nothing to spit out. There is just something I know in my soul and in every fibre of my being, but where memories would normally be there is a blank space. Nothing. Not even a fragment. At 45, however, I think I may have found peace simply because I now know I wasn’t alone and that what I knew to be true wasn’t just in my head because I’m weird or bad somehow. And whilst that still leaves that blank space, I can make my peace with that.

Other than that, I have hit my usual “spring slump” that I always got at school and university, and now during these studies too. I’m just DONE and need a break. It does take a lot out of me, mostly so the actual course and getting together as a group every Friday. I’m not a fan of groups on a good day, but here there’s 20 of us and this counselling journey is pretty intense, so whilst there isn’t actually a single person I dislike – there’s a handful of people who have become good friends, another handful I kinda like, a sprinkling of people I don’t mind and yet another few I don’t have any view of at all – it takes more energy from me than I like. But that’s something else to figure out I suppose. Or do I need to? Do I need to iron out why I’m not that much of a flock animal? Is this something to fix? Or is it absolutely OK to be a solitary soul who likes the quiet life? If it ain’t broken…

What possibly needs fixing is how I let things follow me around stay in my head rent free in some situations. Why? Pointless. Sometimes it just comes down to asking myself “is this someone who is important to me?” and if the answer is no, then why in God’s name do I allow myself to feel bad?

As for the course though, We have five more sessions before the summer break. Then 35 more over the second year. 40 more occasions. Absolutely fine. I can do 40 more. One at a time. And then – all being well – I’ll have a diploma saying I can do this thing that I love for a living. In exchange for 40 hits of dread and the jitters? That doesn’t seem so bad.

Because that’s the thing. Anxiety – or FEAR, more accurately – has been my companion for all these 45 years. Everything I do, I do in a state of varying degrees of being scared. I remember a few months into the pandemic, Hubby turned to me and said no one he knows was as calm about the whole thing as I was. At the time it struck me as strange, that I – Miss Scared All the Time – not only could be perceived that way, but more so, that I actually was. Am.

I’ve thought about this quite a lot lately, actually. And it dawned on me that if you really think about it, it makes perfect fucking sense! Of course I’m better equipped than non-anxious, non-scared people to deal with a pandemic and all these lockdowns. I BLOODY KNOW THIS! This is how I have lived my entire goddamn life! A constant threat, impending doom just around the corner, the never absent feeling (that feels like premonition) that something really terrible is about to happen to me or, most of the time, to the people I love. And now there’s a threat called Covid. Hey, first of all it’s a freaking relief to know what the threat IS! That alone is a huge bonus. And then, to put to this solitary, introverted creature to stay in my house? Perfect! And don’t get me started on strict rules and restrictions (everything tightly controlled and ordered)…

I love it when things make sense and this does. An actual threat isn’t all that troublesome for me because I’ve operated under threat my whole life.

And that’s not to minimise the pandemic and all the terrible things that have happened in its wake. I’m just saying I now understand that it’s not that I’m weirdly stronger than I thought – I’m just doing what I’ve been doing all along. I know this. I’ve got this. I can handle this. But OK, as for strong – that I am. You can’t survive under threat for as long as I have unless you’re pretty robust. Funny how I used to see myself as weak. Stupid, really, because I’m anything but.

In other news we are selling our apartment and have our eye on a lovely house that is literally across the road. We are waiting for news as we speak. Maybe visualisation is a powerful thing, in my mind our morning coffee in the garden there is so vivid I feel like it’s real. If it falls through, there’ll be another garden. And having morning coffee here, in our beautiful home that I love so much, sitting on our bright turquoise sofa, isn’t anything short of fantastic either. So what will be, will be.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Like Waking Up

Today is 3 years and 2 months sober. Well – strictly speaking it’s 3 years, 2 months and 2 days, but as I have mentioned many times before I count from the day I made the decision to stop drinking. That was two days after my last drink. I only realised because I was on the phone to Dad and he made a silly joke about avoiding Corona virus but quite likes Corona beer.

In other news, all is well and there really isn’t much to report. I honestly think I end up doing so much processing because of the counselling course, that I have less to spill on these pages. At one point, this was my main outlet and I blogged almost every day. So it’s a little sparse when it comes to blogging, but this is still my favourite place to pour out and dissect my thoughts.

I guess I’m in the midst of a “gentle roller”, as bgddyjim once described it. No extreme hills with highs or lows, just contentment and predictability in a comfortable middle gear. I love it. It’s nice, it’s peaceful and it’s pleasant. Gosh, when I was trapped in addiction, this very place was what I feared the most. Jeez, if only I’d known how great this middle ground is and I might have reached for it sooner.

Oh, and I now have a hearing aid! I can HEAR properly again and I now realise just how much I was struggling – it’s crazy! I knew I was struggling, obviously, but it’s only now that I can really hear properly that it’s so clear just how bad it really was. It’s glorious and I was so happy I ended up blubbing a little when the audiologist fitted it. I’d been told it might not work because the problem was something with the middle ear – I didn’t quite understand it, but I was told at one point that there was a possibility I’d just have to live with it, so for it to work was a massive relief. I mean, I’m a trainee counsellor. Kinda need my hearing. So thank God for that!

Hah! Getting my hearing back is a bit similar to getting sober and getting my life back. Suddenly something you may at one point have taken for granted seems like the most precious, wondrous gift in the world. Like standing up in the shower. Like waking up with a clear head. Like feeling well. Like not regretting yesterday.

It’s a good day to be alive. I am so grateful. For sobriety. For hearing. For all that is in my life.

Today I’m not going to drink.

I Can Only Hope

Time for a check-in? Just a bit of measuring and evaluating, I guess. I AM FINE. What is it they say again? Frustrated, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional? Can’t remember but it’s anything but “fine”. But I am, honestly – fine, as in the traditional sense of the word. OK. Alright. Or “consistent pains and aches” as my dad would put it. I guess I’m somewhere in the middle and that’s fine by me. It’s a fine place to be, actually. My life really isn’t so extreme anymore, my emotions don’t quite reach the levels of a hurricane that often in sobriety. Sure, sometimes I hit a bump in the road and some weeks ago I really did work through some deep rooted stuff, but things just don’t seem to get so dramatic anymore. I deal with things now and I suppose that’s why nothing really gets amplified or catastrophic in the same way things used to. Oh, and not guzzling a depressant obviously helps. More than helps. It’s fair to say this is what’s made all the difference – if there was ever any doubt, I mean.

It’s actually half term here in the UK, so Bambino has been around the entire time. His dad’s a tutor, so he has cleverly been staying with him during the weeks when he has school, given dad can help him out much better than I can. So I have, during this pandemic, become the weekend parent.

Bambino and I seem to have trust. I’d say we always did, but I’m also aware that Bambino himself may carefully weigh up what he tells me. My own parents had NO CLUE WHATSOEVER what went on for me during my teenage years and they were most definitely not confidantes, but I suspect at least dad would claim I told him everything. And I bloody didn’t. I was uber-careful of sticking within limits of what I shared with him, always ensuring I’d score enough points for honesty but not accrue too many can’t-be-forgiven penalties. So I guess I have to at least consider the possibility that there is more to Bambino’s world than he lets me in on. But yes, I feel good about our relationship.

In particular, I feel good about our open conversations about drugs. I nearly wrote “drugs and alcohol”, but given I feel the distinction is inaccurate (and even dangerous), when I say “drugs” it includes all the things that alter our minds in a big way, from cannabis and alcohol all the way up (or down) to heroin and the other nasties.

Mum, are you glad I don’t hang out with [P] anymore?” Bambino asked as I took him over to his dad’s the other day to pick up some things he needed.

Uhm … I guess so, but I do feel sad for him and worry about him“, I answered truthfully. “I feel bad for him and know he’s in trouble that isn’t his fault, but I guess I would worry more about you if you were around those things he gets up to. So in a way I’m glad you’re not around him, but I’m also heartbroken for him“, I added.

P used to be Bambino’s best mate. I love the kid. I have a genuine soft spot for him and I really do adore him. I saw so many good things in him, and the rescuer in me came out in full force but P had (has) a tricky home life and it seems like everyone has failed him. We took him to Sweden with us a couple of summers back. Part of me really wanted P to feel welcome and wanted and it broke my heart when we dropped him back home with his parents and witnessed how they barely acknowledged him. His mum went to give me a hug, then Bambino, then just glanced at her son with a curt “hello“. Had it been me who hadn’t seen Bambino for over two weeks, I would have charged at him like a loon on amphetamines and thrown my arms around my baby. P’s dad didn’t say a word to him. It broke my heart. And it made me sad and angry. So I threw my arms around P where he stood with his bags outside the home where it seemed as though he hadn’t been missed at all.

Thanks for coming with us, I loved getting to look after you“, I said loud and clear more for P’s parents benefit than maybe P himself. “Come over this weekend, because I’ll miss you as soon as we get home“.

The anger was boiling in me. Why did I have to make a show of emphasising how loveable this boy is? And how valuable and important? But that was what I was attempting to do. Show these fucktards that what this kid needs is love and appreciation and attention. It angers and saddens me that not all children get treated in that way. It’s their right.

He’s dealing now“, Bambino continued.

And so my heart broke again. Bambino himself chose not to be around P much anymore outside of school out of worry about the people P hangs around with. Bambino calls them “work men“, which I believe is code for gang-related stuff. P smoked weed every day at that point, roughly two years ago, and Bambino had smoked with him on a number of occasions. According to Bambino, he was put off by how P was always “messed up”, that it was constant as opposed to the occasional giggle. And fast forward to today and it would now seem that my worry about P is materialising. I had some hope that things would come right, but there was a part of me that worried P would wind up as a headline in some form if he continued the way he was going. For all the wrong reasons. So it turns out he now deals drugs and according to Bambino it’s mostly weed, but a full time gig. Bambino went on to describe how P uses Instagram to also goad other dealers on his patch and how this behaviour in particular may end up getting him into really bad situations. Even I understand that it isn’t a good idea to jab people like that.

That can’t be a good idea“, I said and glanced over at Bambino.

No!” he exclaimed. “He’s going to get himself stabbed. I don’t know why he does it. He seems to think it’s funny“.

So. What? He deals all the time? Like this is his job now?

Yeah. He uses his Insta-stories to sell“, Bambino went on and then went on to describe how the set-up works. “So you have the people who grow it out in the countryside. They get young kids and pay them lots of money to get on a train and pick up a supply. Then they deliver it to the level above P. P buys a monthly stash and then makes a profit from selling it on to people like me“.

OK, at this point the voice in my head is asking me why it is that Bambino understands and knows the operation so well. Is he part of it? That question does poke at me, but I force it back into the dark corners of my conscious.

People like you?

Well, yeah. The people who smoke now and again“.

And do you?

Not very often. But I was stoned that time last month when you asked me, it was [O]’s birthday and we got stoned“.

It’s your eyes. It’s quite obvious with you“.

I know“, Bambino conceded and chuckled.

He has huge eyes and they are a startlingly light ice blue, so it’s really obvious when his pupils don’t look like you’d expect. Plus he gets quite obviously zonked too. He’s naturally quite an energetic and alert creature, so when he’s stoned it’s quite a contrast and, as I said, pretty damn obvious. And thank God, I don’t often see him that way. When he gets in after seeing friends we always chat for a while so I always have a good take on how he appears to be, anxiously looking for signs of booze or whatever else.

Well, you know where I stand, right?” I asked, with my heart in my throat as usual.

Mum, I hardly ever smoke. I don’t want to mess up school. And I’m not going to mess up my life“.

I don’t know how reassured I feel, but I do trust Bambino. And as crazy as it may sound, if it’s a matter of once in a blue moon in a typical teenage way, then I’ll rest somewhat easy I guess. Maybe I’m deluded, but I feel I can’t shield Bambino from it all. We’ve had enough conversations around the odd giggle vs regular use, and I can only hope that he makes good choices. But yes, there is also a big part of me that is horrified at the idea that my 16-yearold does this, even if it’s within what might be considered what can be expected or what ‘reasonable limits’ may be.

As for P, the sad story seems to continue. I don’t imagine that underworld of drug dealing is every bit as sinister as I imagine or believe it to be, but I do think he is now in the pocket of the wrong people. And I don’t believe it’s all that easy to get out of that pocket. I mean, to begin with, you’d know enough to be a risk, right? And I am under the impression that in these circles, you end up doing things that ensnare you to the point where you can’t walk away and will be implicated.

And there we have it. A boy so loveable, genuine and kind. Who just hasn’t received the love he was worthy of. Who had difficulties no one cared to deal with.

Another dilemma. Do I do anything? I had to swear of course to Bambino – as always – that I will keep what he tells me to myself. But what if this was my kid? And another mum knew the trouble he was in. And never told me. I guess the main thing is I don’t believe P’s parents would help him. I’ve seen them in action. What do you do? What can you do? Part of me wants to directly reach out to P and let him know he can always talk to me, but there is so much the boy needs. He needs someone to invest effort in his journey towards adulthood and building a worthwhile life for himself. No one seems to have ever done that, and now he’s found a way for himself that he has happened upon due to the lack of care and guidance.

It breaks my heart and I keep imagining his face, how sad he looked when we dropped him back with his parents after that summer holiday and no one ran to hug and welcome him home. When I threw my arms around him in the vain hope he’d feel a tiny bit of love, a tiny bit loved.

It’s a cruel world. No, I can’t rescue P. I don’t see how. I don’t know what I can do that wouldn’t make it worse for him. To step in and shake things up would also need an on-going effort to help him find a better way, and I don’t have the power to do that.

So that’s been on my mind a lot this week.

Other than that, I am … fine. The studies are steadily progressing, as is the client work on my placement. I wouldn’t say I’m a kickass counsellor yet, but it feels like things are definitely going in the right direction and I feel less of the ol’ impostor syndrome now. I suppose I’m beginning to really find my feet.

Yes, I’m fine.

Today I’m not going to drink.

So Simple, Right?

Now, here’s a novel idea: how about not just quitting this ridiculous struggle to bend myself into whatever shape I think others will like me in, but actually be a little more discerning as to whether other people’s shapes actually suit ME?

That got lost there for a while, I think. And with the recent witch hunt shenanigans that I refused to have any part in, it dawned on me that there are things I don’t bloody need! I took a little look around me, or rather, around the selection of people I call friends. Old ones and new. I took my time to think of each person in my life and as I focused on them, I paid attention to what happened inside me. Who gave me that feeling of warmth and love, and who left me with that slightly uncomfortable feeling I sometimes think of as dread? And it was pretty interesting. Enlightening, even.

Take for example Cherokee, my best friend since around 1989 when she first strutted into my world wearing harem pants and batman shoes. There it was immediately, the warm, nectary, golden feeling. I trust her, I love her, I admire her and I’d go through hell and high water for her. Take a newer friend, Pocahontas, who I can’t even say I know all that well yet. Yup, a good feeling right there in my core. She feels real to me and there is no ick there whatsoever. Berocca (I call her that because she’s like a vitamin boost – always sensible and balanced), same thing, a fairly new friend but someone who has grown to be important and whom I value very much. Golden. Batgirl (because she’s a superhero) too. And so I went on. For the majority, there was gold and warmth. But for a handful, there was the ick.

The difference was this: the golden crew all had in common that I trust them to speak their mind and I trust their honesty. The ick lot have in common that they will bend into shapes they think will please me. Much like I’ve operated too for such a long time. I don’t fucking like that! Isn’t that the greatest irony EVER?? I don’t like it when people suck up to me, because as much as we try, something always seeps through. The incongruence is impossible to miss, even though it only makes itself known as a weird gut feeling that is too vague to put into words. Gendlin calls it a “felt sense” and Doyle calls it “knowing”. It exists in the body and it’s always right. I really believe that.

What in God’s name is happening to me? Have I really, within the space of just a couple of weeks, rid myself of feeling scared of what other people may think of me AND decided to be a little picky with upon whom I place the precious crown of my friendship? Did I just grow a goddamn backbone?

It’d seem so.

The weirdest thing of all is that once I felt that inner shift just over a week ago, when something heavy just fell away from my shoulders, it required no effort whatsoever to keep my integrity intact. Someone came to me and it felt insincere. I put my boundary down for them, nice and clear but most of all with kindness. There was no need to bark or bite. I simply stated where I stood without having to be aggressive – in fact, I did it gently and lovingly – and it caused no friction or awkwardness whatsoever. And I realised that this is what the golden ones do. And that’s why I trust them. I always feel clear and safe. They don’t act incongruously. They act with integrity and they uphold their truth. So simple, right? And yet it’s only now that I somehow really feel I can do so too.

The ick lot leave me feeling unsettled. Often very subtly – I can’t quite put my finger on why, but something just doesn’t feel right. I just sense something’s off.

I’ve never sucked up to anyone deliberately. Hell, so long as people don’t treat me downright poorly, I feel so grateful and relieved I turn into a contortionist to please them. Even when it isn’t right for me. Even when it means I give more than I have. Hallelujah, what a relief it is to realise all this.

And so now I’ve installed a drawbridge for my castle and I will only lower it for the true souls. No one else will be granted entry. And I shall not request entry to castles I don’t actually want to enter, unlike before when I have gone there because I was invited and didn’t have the vagina to say thanks, but no thanks.

No doubt there is a lot more work ahead, but things have really fallen into place lately.

Best thing of all?

Today I’m not going to drink.

Go and Sell Ice Cream

Glennon Doyle (whom I’m a little obsessed with lately!) describes her emotions as deliveries. I think of mine in a similar way: a knock on the door. Over the past three years I have made it my mission to always sit with my emotions when they come, knowing there is something they are telling me. When Doyle talks about deliveries, she describes how she takes a moment to figure out what to do with them: always open the parcel of course, but then the choice is whether to keep it, return it or exchange it. Whilst the metaphor is similar enough, it describes it all more clearly. Many a recovering addict can probably relate to this, I imagine. After all, there is that saying about recovery and our emotions we may have heard bandied around:

The best thing about recovery is that all your emotions come back. The worst thing about recovery is that all your emotions come back.

My emotions sometimes feel like a bunch of out-of-control and sugar loaded toddlers. They don’t queue up nicely, they don’t keep quiet when someone else is talking and they haven’t yet developed any sense of controlling their urges, wants or needs. Me, me, me! All at once.

But I let them be that way and I let them in. Sometimes I may sigh and point to the sign saying “one at a time, please” but I know they rarely care, so in they all rush at once and whilst I often do wish they’d calm the fuck down so I can focus properly, I accept that this is still something they’re learning. So I try to be patient and let them lead.

Hm… Does this point to me being the toddler when it comes to emotion? Perhaps. After all, it took me to my 40s to listen to them, so I guess in many ways I’m quite new to this. It’s been three years. Just three years. After a lifetime of ignoring them, keeping the door firmly closed (and locked) whilst I sat in another room and turned up the volume on the TV to drown out the incessant knocking, ringing the doorbell and calling for my attention. The TV being the bottle, I suppose. And it always worked. My entire adult life, I never felt a thing in its true form.

And now it’s different. A good different. But absolutely – I am learning.

So last week was incredibly difficult. I was so triggered and the delivery of emotions that I forced myself to open the door to, required what felt like all I had to sit with. With Doyle’s philosophy in mind, I did eventually come to a decision as to what I wanted to do. I’m not keeping it. But I’m not sending it back either. This is an exchange job. There were some things worth keeping here. So I’m now left with what did fit and have made some adjustments.

I’ve spent my life trying to be invisible. Indeed it was always my favourite idea of what a super power would be. If you don’t have the actual super power, the next best thing would be to somehow make yourself small and blend into the background. Attention in any form, I positively HATE. Good or bad. I’d rather eat my own head than have people see me, hear me. ….know me. Yuk! Too painful and too scary. And even now, three years down the line, I was carrying this around.

It didn’t fit.

I’ve made connections and appear to have people around me that are… …friends. I know, crazy! These strange creatures seem to insist they like me. I mean, what is up with that? I mean, I love them, but that’s hardly new – I fall in love with other souls freely, easily and quickly. It takes little more than a smile and a small, kind gesture for me to declare I’m yours forever. Perhaps it’s relief, because I have always carried with me how people must hate me on sight and so when they don’t I’m filled with such relief and gratitude I immediately serve up my entire heart on a silver platter for them to do with as they please. I know, I know – it’s fucked up.

And so, I’ve learnt two things in just this past week:

  1. Never again will I agree when I don’t.
  2. Never again will I try to make someone else agree when they don’t.

See? These are basics I may have otherwise learnt a long time ago, but even now – three years into recovery – my old survival methods still linger. Point is though, bending myself into whatever shape will make me fade into the wallpaper or ignoring what I actually feel in order to be invisible, is uncomfortable. Too uncomfortable. So I won’t do that anymore. Even when it draws attention to me and makes other people dislike me. Bottom line – I’m not selling ice cream. Who was it, who said that? I think it may have been Obama but I could be wrong. It was something about integrity and being true to your beliefs, something about how you’ll always upset someone when you stand up for yourself, and if you want everyone to like you then you should just go and sell ice cream. Oh, I can’t remember exactly, but along those lines.

Does this even make any sense? Hah! Does it even need to? It’s my blog and I cry if I want to.

Well, something happened and emotions ran high. I discovered to my horror that not only did I disagree with the majority, I actually felt – and strongly too – that what had upset what appeared to be EVERYONE, I actually thought was right. Or more right. Or WHATEVER. It doesn’t matter. I felt sick. I tried to blend into the background, didn’t speak up, felt I couldn’t speak up and guess what? It didn’t feel good. But then I grew a vagina and stuck my neck out. Oh, nothing too controversial, but I did what I believe was the right thing – but more importantly, FELT like the right thing – and stood up for what I believed.

I didn’t die. Just like I haven’t died doing any of the other things over the past three years that I’ve found terrifying. Felt the fear and did it anyway.

I’m sure it did put me in the less likeable category for some people. But do you know what? That’s OK. It’s more than OK. It’s what I think. It’s how I feel. Staying quiet may keep the attention away from me and agreeing when I don’t may mean people don’t get annoyed with me. But that’d be hiding the real me and what in God’s name is that going to do? No good whatsoever. And I also believe this terror I feel is so fucking misplaced anyway. Do I really expect people to be so rotten they can’t handle a different point of view? That’s the bit I’m sending back. Would I end a friendship because a friend doesn’t think or feel exactly the way I do? No. Obvs. Sure, there are dealbreakers – I would absolutely find it hard to see past some things (like racism, meanness, unfairness, etc) but generally I am more than happy to throw my love at people even if they do vote for a different party or listen to 80s music. So what?

There were some serious triggers that came my way and I regretted opening the door this time. I wanted to throw it all away and ignore it. But I’m not doing that anymore. I’m saying goodbye to the always agreeing meek Anna and hello to a grown ass woman with integrity. Stockholm wasn’t built in one day but I’m working on it. Hard. And that feels good. It feels right. Something shifted inside and it was a blessed relief. It was a tough lesson to learn, but I am grateful. This delivery was a gift.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Dishcloths and cheetahs

Hah! Forcing out a little blog post on my 3rd soberversary clearly sparked off the need I seemed to have lost there for a while to process everything here on this blog. Or maybe there is suddenly more to process again.

I can say one thing for sure. I have not been here in a while. Not ‘here’ as in on this blog, but ‘here’ as in feeling so awful I want to crawl out of my own skin. Genuinely – this state is so familiar, I know it so well, yet it’s been so long it’s almost a shock to the system to feel so shit I have actually lost my appetite. The last time I felt like this was around the time when I left my ex-husband. The constant churning heart, the heavy stone of dread and fear in my chest. If I were to create a visual of what I’m feeling it’d be a wrung-out dishcloth.

Seeing as this is a public sphere, I can’t really go into much detail. My LinkedIn page points to this blog and I don’t hide it generally either so there are people I know IRL who may pop in here on occasion. Therefore I have to be a little mindful of what exactly I spill on these pages. It rattles me a little as I much prefer to just pour it out, but I guess I can honestly outline what ails without implicating anyone or anything.

Let’s see…

So. Shitstorm of a week. Truly. Whilst I’m still not entirely clear on how much these emotions are anchored in the here and now vs the result of old wounds, what I can say is this: I’m fucking TRIGGERED. You know, this comes up quite a lot in the counselling training. Triggers. When people talk about feeling triggered, I normally just kind of understand what this means but rarely do I feel it myself. There isn’t all that much that gets me this off balance. Roll on this Shitstorm Week however and I am once again that little girl who got bullied to shreds, who tried so hard to be invisible and who couldn’t speak her truth. Hello, my old friend.

There appears to be a witch hunt going on. Someone said or did something and the lynch mob is after blood. Burn the witch! Burn the witch! All that’s missing are a few pitchforks and a bonfire, honestly. Me? Fucking terrified of saying what I actually think, given I am not in the slightest bit – not one iota – upset with whatever this Mysterious Someone said or did. What I am upset about is the essence of what they said or did. It would appear this Mysterious Someone has made a valid point. The situation is a little bit like if you had a cheating spouse. You know something is off, you can sense it. So you go and check their phone. There it is. They’ve fucked up. Or fucked someone they shouldn’t have. Hey! Spousy Dear! What’s going on here? And then the argument instead turns to how you invaded their privacy. What I’m actually interested in – and upset about – is the state of the marriage. Surely that’s the actual issue? No? That’s where we appear to be. The Mysterious Someone may not have gone about things in the best way but they appear to be pointing at something much more important. But no. Burn the witch! Burn the witch!

I don’t like to stick my neck out at the best of times. Hell, I feel uncomfortable when surrounded by people who adore me – because as much as I love humanity and connection, I find humans quite exhausting – so I don’t feel thrilled at the prospect of speaking my mind on THIS. At all.

Perhaps this can be a practice run?

Hey you! What’s up with this? Here are some questions. Clarify please. I’m not at all opposed to cutting a few corners given the circumstances but be upfront about it please. Ta. As for the rest of ya – let’s get these things solved first, shall we, and then if you really do need to draw blood… ..have some of mine because I happen to agree with the Mysterious Someone. Something’s clearly amiss and whilst it may very well be understandable, let’s be open and honest about it. I’m sure most people will be flexible but no one likes to be lied to or deceived.

I got a letter from our broadband provider this week. They are hiking up the cost but I still have the same service and the same TV channels. They inform me of this and give me the reasons why. Great – thank you. And then it’s up to me, because lo and behold I’m an adult, to say OK fine or no way I ain’t having that and I’m off! Easy, no?

We’re in a pandemic. And we have Brexit too to contend with. I understand that ordering things that I regularly order from Sweden will now take longer and also cost a little more. No problem.

What I don’t like is being told I’m buying five apples at the same price as before if I’m actually just being given four. Don’t pass off four apples as five, for fuck’s sake. Tell me there are four. Then I can decide for myself whether I want to pay what I did before despite having one apple less now.

Let’s solve the problem. What IS the problem? And then once we have clarified (and hopefully solved) it, then by all means have a good ol’ debate around who dunnit. Until such time – fuck off.

No, I won’t say that. Certainly not using that kind of language. I suspect I will sit there quietly hoping no one will notice I’m even there. Do what I absolutely have to and pray for it to be over. It’s pushing too many buttons and brushing against too many wounds.

It’s a really, really shit week and OH EHM GEE do I have stuff to work through. I have certainly learnt what it feels like to be triggered, to be sent right back to a very, very painful place and feel all the emotions in the here and now. Holy cannoli. But this is how I live now. To quite the wonderful Glennon Doyle: “I’m a goddamn cheetah” and “I can do hard things”. When my emotions come a’knockin’ I will do what I’ve done for the last three years: open the door.

This too shall pass. Here I grow again.

Today I’m not going to drink.