Admiring Satan’s Ass

The sobriety section of my bookshelf is continually expanding and so far it contains bleak and often shocking tales of look-how-I-fucked-my-life-up and triumphant how-I-broke-free battle cries but most often a combination of the two. I suppose either on its own would be a pretty boring story, right? What’s so spectacular about light if it’s all you’ve ever known? Only someone who’s truly experienced darkness can convincingly preach about how magnificent life in the light truly is. And if darkness is the perpetual state of all you know and the light has never fallen on you, well that’s terrible in itself but as far as stories go that wouldn’t be particularly interesting either! Well, I think that’s how I view it because personally I find it quite uninspiring to be told how to quit smoking by someone who’s never touched a cigarette. Or listen to how great it is to be slim by someone who’s never been fat or yo-yo dieted. Darkness and light are dependent on each other and we can’t truly know one without the other, not REALLY. In my view anyway.

So here’s my boozy sobriety bookshelf to date:

Blackout: Trying to Remember the Things I Drank to Forget – Sarah Hepola

Mother’s Ruin – Nicola Barry

Drunk Mom – Jowita Bydlowska

The Easy Way to Stop Drinking – Allen Carr

Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions – Russell Brand

This Naked Mind – Annie Grace

Så Som Jag Minns Det – Mikael Persbrandt

Alcohol Lied to Me – Craig Beck

AnsvarsFULL – Camilla Kuylenstierna

Mrs D is Going Without – Lotta Dunn

The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober – Catherine Gray

För Mycket Av Allt – Sanna Bråding

I’ve probably forgotten at least a couple but it gives you an idea. Personal journeys mixed with those stories that offer clear cut advice and/or instructions on how to break free from alcohol addiction. My favourites have got to be Russell Brand’s and Annie Grace’s books – this is quite funny as Brand is very much a spiritual 12-stepper and Grace is more in line with the we’ve-been-brainwashed school of thought as first pioneered by Carr. My least favourite is Bråding but now that I list both most and least favourites I discover that it seems to be a matter of who I personally like more than how much what they say resonates with me. Well. People buy people, I suppose. Plus Bråding’s story is – beyond how I find her an utterly annoying and self promoting attention seeker – probably also the one I can relate to the least. So is Persbrandt’s – these two are both Swedish actors, by the way – but I like the guy and he doesn’t seem quite so self absorbed and needy, he just puts it out there and it ain’t pretty. I don’t like it when people try to put lipstick on a pig, I wanna see that damn swine in all its gory non-glory. Just like I fucking LOVE and admire the hell out of people who own their shit even when it stinks worse than Satan’s ass.

story

I suppose my bookshelf further goes to show just how immeasurably important it has been for me to read other people’s stories, perspectives, views and experiences of alcoholism during my sober journey. I suspect I will never tire of this and luckily I will probably never run out of stories given there are countless alcoholics and all our stories are as individual as we are. That’s the law of circumstance.

And of course you have a plethora of blogs as wide and colourful as you can imagine (and then some), and I think I’ve just scratched the surface. In this sphere you find those kindred spirits I consider my comrades, those I chat with at the water cooler as we’re all slinging on our swords and shields in preparation for the day ahead. Well. Some of us are on the Pink Cloud and don’t have to swing that sword much, and some of us fight furiously from the moment we wake up and of course some of us who fall not just between those two camps but even further out on each side too. You can always be sure there are people you can learn something from and even when you hear stories that don’t look very similar to your own, you’re bound to be surprised, inspired and a little bit wiser. And sometimes sad too. Yes, AND hopeless and angry and frustrated and when you do it’s usually because you have had your own fill of it and only know it too well. I very rarely come away feeling nothing though, that’s for certain. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that’s never happened.

So there you are. Feel free to browse my ever growing book shelf and do let me know which must-reads I’ve missed out on that you have on yours. I have a life time of sobriety ahead of me so there is no problem if I end up with a reading list that in itself is long enough to be a book.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Like I’ve Been There Before

Blue skies, sunshine and even in this polluted city the air feels crisp and fresh this morning. I wish all days could be an autumn day like this. I’m sure old London town will get its usual large share of rain through the autumn months and so all the more reason to acknowledge and feel grateful for days like this.

One of the best things as well as probably the most powerful tool in staying sober, second only to a sincere wish to stop drinking, has been for me the opportunity to hear and read about other people’s experiences on this journey. Whether it’s the bloggers I follow (many of whom I have come to genuinely care for and think of as friends), people in AA or everyone on various forums and Facebook groups, they are all helping this old drunk stay on a better path. They might not know it but even when our stories, thoughts and experiences are complete opposites, they are a massive part of my sobriety. I want to scoop you all up, hug you and tell you how much I love you for what you bring to my life because it’s more than I can begin to tell you. You’re like perfect autumn days.

I’m lucky of course, in that I have a strong (amazing, even) support network consisting of friends and family, but no one can understand an addict like another addict. It’s absolutely priceless, in my view, to be able to share with people who themselves have been in your position even if it’s a slightly different kind of beast they are fighting. Sure, my amazing hubby DOES understand that alcohol does something terrifying and dark to me but he will never, EVER know what it feels like – how could he? It’d be the same if someone said to me “hey Anna, I can’t make myself stop running into this brick wall over and over even though it hurts me“. I’d like to think I am empathetic and open minded but unless I’ve had the same or a similar compulsion myself, how in God’s name could I truly GET what that’s like? So if you do – God forbid – ever find yourself in a place where alcohol or whatever it may be is dragging you under, please, as soon as you find a little strength go and seek out those who have gone through or are going through the same thing. There is strength in numbers.

Not everyone is blessed with the support I have. Not only is my husband quite extraordinary in how he has made it his mission to try to come to grips with understanding alcoholism and addictions in order to understand how I might feel and have gone through, I also have friends who show the same, unflinching courage and a family where no one has made me feel ashamed even once. I wish everyone could have exactly all of that and I hope you all do. I suspect not everyone does though, and in those instances it’s even more crucial I believe, to find your brothers and sisters in arms. If you like me are married to someone who will do anything to support you, have friends like Cherokee and a family showing you unconditional love and support that’s awesome – CONGRATULATIONS! – but even then I would strongly recommend expanding that safety net to include people who are in the same boat as you.

So there you have it, Anna’s tool box for recovery:

  1. A wish to stop drinking.
  2. A stellar support network that will spring to action when you ask for help.
  3. Your own kind – those who fight or have fought the same battle.
  4. Finding your feet and patience when you do – this too shall pass.
  5. Learn all you can.
  6. Pay it forward – refer to #3.

Looking at it, that bears echos of AA’s 12 steps but then I suspect no matter the label the approach might roughly remain the same. Logical, really: accept there’s a problem, ask for help, figure out its nature, find others who experience the same struggle, learn a better way, go on to help others in turn. Gosh, that does make it sound easy and it really isn’t, plus I don’t believe two people will ever tell exactly the same story but that’s of course the whole reason why it helps me to hear and read LOTS of stories from LOTS of people.

Another thing when it comes to alcoholism that I think is important to remember is that booze is different things to different people. My ex-sponsor was adamant that every alcoholic without exception drinks to numb pain and as much as I tried I couldn’t ever say this was truly the case for me. For me, stopping drinking was possible and really, the only way I could see, once it became clear that it did nothing for me. I thought it made everything even MORE fun and lovely and great. However, if alcohol had been my crutch and I’d used it to cope or to numb pain (much in the way my ex-sponsor described) then I would imagine it would have been a very different story when it comes to stopping. If the benefit of it is there… It scares me to think about it if I’m honest. Even if we all probably know on a rational level that alcohol doesn’t fix any problem and actually does the very opposite, it doesn’t really matter if there is relief IN ANY WAY. Shiiiiiiiit…. Perhaps it works in the same way though. For me, wanting to stop came when I knew whatever perceived “fun” had long gone, and so perhaps for someone who drinks to numb pain that desire to stop happens when it becomes clear the booze doesn’t give relief anymore. Regardless though, if you surround yourselves with people who are also fighting alcoholism and addiction, there will be someone who will have gone through something similar to you.

Go find those friends. Now. You’ll thank me in the morning.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Elton John and the Hardest Word

Monday! I started by applying for a job with an addiction centre that hubby had happened across somehow. I just know I can be of much more use in a role I actually really care about because it’s closer to my heart. Or very close to my heart, full stop. I’m also in touch with an addiction charity as another way in would be to volunteer, but given I don’t have a money tree in the garden to pick shiny, new £50 notes off, the paid option would be much more viable. Or viable, full stop.

Got up early today. Hubby was leaving for Amsterdam and had to get out of bed at 4am and whilst I snoozed when he was in the shower, I found myself being unable to get back to sleep and got up just minutes after he left. By 6am I was showered, dressed and ready so spent the morning on the sofa drinking coffee and reading the news about the Swedish election. And so now, at 10.24, it feels like the afternoon and I’m a little spaced. In a really good mood though! Hold up….. Oh, hell no, not THAT again. You know, I’m so aware of it that even on a day like this when I actually feel really confident I won’t drink and don’t have the slightest little urge to do so, I am still conscious of the worry hubby might feel. Like this morning on my way in. I went to Sainsbury’s and picked up my usual smoothie and a couple of pretzels, carbs and fruit sugar to keep me fuelled up until the afternoon. Noticed they also had my favourite beef jerky – sweet and hot – and because they always run out, I picked up the whole lot. Nine bags. It all came to £21-something. And I almost felt a need to let hubby know exactly what I’d bought, because I wonder what his first thought would be otherwise seeing that transaction on a day he’s not going to be home. 20-odd quid would also be what a box of wine, a bottle of soda and some Dioralyte would set me back.

It’s the kind of transaction that sets off warning bells and I should know because I’m a cunning alkie who would – if I were indeed getting booze – prefer to pay cash and thereby be more likely to get away with it given the bank statement wouldn’t have quite so many damning entries on it. Or perhaps hubby doesn’t register these things at all and it’s just me who is really aware of it because I used to take such care and go to such lengths to disguise what I was up to. After all, when I talk to the people around me it’s rarely the things I thought they noticed that they tell me about now. Bullock, for example, didn’t at all reflect over how I drank two large glasses of wine when she drank one (which is the bit I remember stressing over and wanted to find a way around) but instead wondered why I was so keen to get rid of her when we left the pub (I didn’t want her to see that I was getting wine to drink at home). So who knows.

If I were to take a photo of my bag full of beef jerky and send to him, he’d probably feel bad for me and tell me I don’t need to do that. But I also don’t want him to worry. How do you fill the people who love you and worry about you with confidence after a life hiding, sneaking around, down-playing and lying about your drinking? It would seem this, like so much else, will take time. And to be fair, it makes me feel safe that everyone around me knows.

It’s a different feeling when you say goodbye to your friends at the pub and they have no idea you’re not heading home and going to bed like they are. Well, you are, but you’re making a stop to get more booze first and you can only pray that blacked-out you end up in bed at some point not too far north of midnight if there’s work the next day. It’s a helpless and hopeless spot to be in, to stand there and say goodnight to friends when they don’t know this, wanting to ask for help but not knowing how. It’s fucking heartbreaking to walk off from your friends, with urgency in your steps towards your own destruction, quite literally death defying determination to do something you actually don’t want to do but can’t stop yourself from doing. I can’t even begin to tell you how frightening that is, to feel the excitement at getting away to get drinking for real after the social warm-up at the same time as you’re filled with sorrow, fear and desperation, and wishing as you’re blinking back the tears that you could just say that one little word – help. Elton John, talented as he is, has it all wrong – ‘sorry’ isn’t the hardest word at all, ‘help’ is. Ask any addict.

But I did ask for help. FINALLY. After years of being scared I eventually ended up being so terrified I had no other choice but to reach out. And thankfully they all listened. Hubby, my friends and family – and let’s not forget the friends I’ve made e.g. via AA and This Naked Mind groups – form a safety net. I don’t even need them to do anything, not so far anyway, it’s just the security and safety I feel in them knowing. Alcohol is of course FURIOUS with me for snitching to everyone, because it’s harder to control me and abuse me when it’s no longer “our little secret”. For me, alcoholism has been exactly like an abusive relationship – your abuser always wants to isolate you and that’s what alcohol does too. Harder now when everyone around me know what’s up – hell, I’ve made it really difficult for myself to fall back and it’d get ever so awkward and difficult with all the questions! Well – that was really my intention anyway, to put down anchors and build walls before I get to a stage (if we ever truly do, that is) where I feel totally confident I’ll never drink again.

Yup, it’s tough shit, but here’s the good news, and I say this to all of you who may still be summoning up all your might and speak that little word – just short of eight months in, still quite new to fitness and still figuring out how to live life on life’s terms, I already have too much to lose. Life, already, has turned too magnificent to throw away. Last night hubby and I went for a run. Sure, I’m still building up but I ran for 20 minutes and then another couple of bursts of around five minutes each. That’s half an hour! And it’s not long ago that I struggled to keep going for three minutes. It’s still torture, sure, and sometimes I begin to feel overwhelmed doing this thing called living, but fuck me is it all worth it!

It’s important to remember though, that I had all of this before I sank into alcoholism on a big scale. The morning coffee would have tasted great, running would have felt awesome and my friends and family were as wonderful then as they are now, so it’s not like realising all these things now is suddenly a guarantee that I won’t drink again. I did it before, remember? I threw precisely all of that away. But maybe now, after wrecking myself the way I did with drinking, these are no longer things I take for granted and that’s why my morning coffee is enough to make me lyrical and beginning to feel physically strong gets me tearful with gratitude. This, I need to remember, if I get to a point where I just take it for granted again. Right now though, in this moment, it’s extraordinary to me that I find myself here – sober and counting all these blessings – and I don’t want to give it up again. For what? What good did drinking ever do for me? Uhm… Not a fucking thing.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Sandra Bullock’s Smile

It’s interesting – almost intriguing – for me to hear from those around me what they did see or notice when I was drinking. I met up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time Friday. I’m going to call her Bullock because she resembles Sandra Bullock quite a lot and for a long time I couldn’t for the life of me figure out who she reminded me of but then it dawned on me that she has the exact same features as that wonderful actress. Anyway. We were both going to the gym Friday morning (I work every other day when the people I work for are away so Friday was a day off) and decided to meet up afterwards for some light lunch and coffee. I’ve not seen Bullock since before I quit drinking. We don’t know each other that well but if feels like we do – perhaps it’s because we’re both immigrants and have our native Sweden in common that has meant there is an immediate connection, I don’t know. She’s one of those real salt of the earth people, perhaps that’s why I always liked her so much. Natural, open, genuine – you know, the sort of qualities you’d list as desirable traits in friends.

I mentioned the gym? Can you tell I feel ever so smug and virtuous? I do. I feel like super woman! I still have a few sessions left with Dimples but have now officially signed up with the lycra inferno just down the road, the same gym that hubby goes to, and Friday before meeting with Bullock I had the free PT session they give you when you part with your bank details. A young stack of muscle mass took me through a bunch of stuff but I missed Dimples. Unfair, I know, because you’re never going to have the same quality of instruction in a gym as you do when you have a PT focused on you, the whole you and nothing but you. I shouldn’t complain, and how much fun would it have been for a dude half my age trying to come up with some exercises for an old drunk? He did seem quite amused but at least he didn’t try to make me do burpees.

Yes, I am feeling VERY happy about this life decision of mine to get fit, healthy and strong. And so obviously I’m keen to talk about it, and especially so when Bullock herself had been to the gym Friday morning. It just didn’t seem right to just say I’ve decided to get fit – even though of course that IS true. It doesn’t tell the whole story. So we chatted away about getting into fitness for a while.

It’s been a strange year, in a good way,” I told her, stirring my coffee as I paused and wondered if there is no other way to drop the A-bomb than dropping it and realised there isn’t, “I quit drinking alcohol, which is a biggie for me.

That’s great,” Bullock said and smiled her identical-to-Sandra-Bullock smile, “what made you decide that?

Spit it out, Anna. What are you going to say, girl? The truth or some half baked nonsense about a health kick? Come on, now! Big girl pants pulled up, now go!

I’m an alcoholic.

Excuse me?

I’m an alcoholic,” I repeated and smiled.

Huh?” Bullock went and leaned a little closer, perhaps her hearing is as terrible as mine but in that cafe the acoustics are terrible so it’s probably hard to hear anyway.

I’m an AL-CO-HO-LIC,” I said and emphasised each syllable.

Oh,” Bullock replied, looked at me and smiled, “wow, I didn’t know that.

Well, how could she? Again I was met with the same response I’ve had over and over and over – kindness, sometimes a bit of surprise and interest. It was quite literally as though I’d just told her I have a bit of a cold – the experssion on her face was friendly concern. Just a statement of fact that didn’t warrant a huge reaction, just an acknowledgment that it’s serious but not met with a shock horror reaction. And then Bullock told me, equally matter-of-factly, about a battle of hers.

It’s funny, isn’t it?” she mused, “You just never know what people go through or who hides what.

True. You wouldn’t know from looking at Bullock that she fought the battle she told me about. It just goes to show how democratic these things are. And it makes me think of the tattoo someone in my family told me they’d get – a tattoo of a tree with a deep set of roots to illustrate how you don’t know what’s underneath given you just see the tree and not its roots.

You know, I was thinking about the last time we saw each other on my way here and wondered if you noticed at the time,” I said.

The last time we met up was at the pub and I was so aware of it at the time, just like I always was when I drank socially. I ordered a large glass of wine, Bullock ordered a small one. And then I ordered another when she was still working on hers. A large glass of wine in the UK is 250ml, a small 125ml. So I had four times the amount she did that time and remember feeling funny about it, as I always did in those situations. I’ll say it again – it’s no fun drinking with non-alkies when you’re an alkie, it’s fucking hard work and fills you with anxiety and stress.

No, I don’t remember thinking that,” Bullock told me inbetween mouthfuls of her eggs on toast, “but I did wonder what was going on when you were so keen for me to leave when you needed to pop in to the shop afterwards.

Lightbulb. THAT part I’d forgotten all about but suddenly remembered when she mentioned it. Yes, I needed to get a box of wine and I didn’t want her to see. And I remember her being hard to get rid of as we were both heading in the same direction home from the high street. I kept trying to say goodbye and Bullock kept saying she didn’t mind waiting when I popped in to get whatever I needed to get.

I remember now,” I said, winced at the shame of it and chuckled, “I needed to get wine and didn’t want you to know.

That makes sense now,” Bullock agreed, “it did seem like you didn’t want me to see what you were buying but I just didn’t understand what it was all about.

So she’d noticed something was off but not the bit I thought she may have paid attention to. It’s both interesting and cringe worthy to talk openly about these things now. The good thing about it is that I can now explain to people around me what was at the root of my strange behaviour. Like my sister-in-law M when we had the conversation and she could tell me what they’d seen, thought and suspected. It’s a weight off my shoulders, not only that I no longer have to drink but more importantly that I no longer have to hide, sneak around, manipulate and lie. Thank God for that, because it doesn’t feel good to do any of those things.

Has anyone else had these conversations with friends and/or family? Open discussions about what was going on and how it felt and was perceived for you and for them?

Today I’m not going to drink.

A String of Gems and Hope

It really feels like the last week of summer, and I suppose it is. There has been a definite turn in the weather and now with the August Bank Holiday weekend and Notting Hill carnival behind us, autumn is right on the doorstep. This is fine by me – I love autumn. Over sized scarves and sweaters, dark evenings, candle light and hot drinks spiced with cinnamon. Hah! That last bit was interesting as I suppose I would normally have mentioned mulled wine and had to think for a second there about what I might be drinking this first sober autumn I have ahead of me. Well. There’s alcohol free mulled wine should I feel like it, but I suspect as with regular wine I won’t be interested in the alcohol free version. Yep, summer is over and it’s a grey Tuesday here in London with the temperature just nudging 20 degrees. No more tank tops and shorts – it’s back to long sleeves and jeans.

But what a summer! Actually – what a YEAR it’s been so far, and I still have my favourite season and Christmas to look forward to!

2018 started off the way my years normally do: with a severe hangover. Some years I’ve attempted a dry January (and to be fair, mostly managed just fine) but this year I didn’t even consider it. Monday 22nd January I called in sick because I was so hungover I couldn’t move. That evening I acknowledged I was in serious trouble and finally reached out to my husband and spelled it out: I AM AN ALCOHOLIC, I CAN’T GO ON LIKE THIS AND I AM FRIGHTENED. 23rd January my decision was made – I knew I wanted and needed to get sober and sort my life out. And I’ve done my best. I’ve not done a perfect job but where I am compared with where I was going is a miracle. (Oh, I bloody HATE it when sober folk yap on about miracles but this is probably why. No two ways about it – the way I drank and the sheer quantities of wine I put away amounted to “suicidal drinking”. Yes, that’s a thing). So whilst the year did begin with monstrous drinking, I gave myself the best gift: sobriety and a shot at life again.

And 2018 has been a string of magical gems that I have been present for: Ronnie Scott’s, friends over from Sweden, Paris, Foo Fighters in Gothenburg, the Mighty Hike, Lipari, Sweden…. Pretty amazing. To just think I initially thought I’d enjoy life less without the chance to poison myself and actively working to shorten my life whilst hurting my loved ones in the process. Yes, it’s madness, it’s all fucking madness.

Yesterday hubby and I went for a walk around the park. I was tired due to the world’s most uncomfortable bed at a little hotel in the Chilterns where I took hubby for a little getaway. But off we went. We did both comment during our walk that we were walking faster than usual. Hubby had a sore back and hasn’t been allowed much exercise so the last time he came with me on a walk was back in July before our holidays. Normally it takes us one hour and 35-37 minutes, around the inner perimeter of the park which is exactly 10k. 1.31! Felt awesome! Walked fast enough to get a tiny bit breathless and sweaty. Must be the work of Dimples and getting back into running – I’m getting stronger! I must be! And make no mistake – I’m getting stronger because I am able to be the person I was always meant to be, and that person loves being active and feeling strong. I don’t know if I agree with Dimples when she says I “look strong” during the exercise sessions but I am absolutely starting to feel it. As it happens she is away for a week so no sessions until next week now, but I have contacted the gym and will be signing up this week so that by the time our last sessions are done I’ll seamlessly be working out solo too.

If you’d told me last year at this point that I would go on to enjoy all these things booze free and then sign up for the gym too, I’m not sure I would have believed you. I would have wanted it to be true, definitely, but I doubt I would have had the courage to actually believe it. Hopelessness in the face of alcoholism would have made it all seem so far fetched. Like a utopia, almost. And yet it isn’t. Perhaps I’m not free yet, perhaps I’ll never be fully free but I’ll happily settle for what I have now. My addiction has been forced into a cage and that’s amazing, but I’ll just have to accept that I can’t look away for too long because the cage has no lock. But I can live with that. If that’s as free as I can ever get, it’s still a win.

Progress, not perfection, as they say. But this IS perfection as far as I’m concerned. Every last minute that I’m sober is perfection.

Today I’m not going to drink.

A Self Centered Pity Party

Holy crap – welcome, folks, to Anxietyville! It’s not a fantastic place to be but is where I have spent much of the past three nights. I’m not letting it get the better of me, and besides, a good mood is my trigger rather than feeling on edge so perhaps I’m safer than ever?

My son has a complicated relationship with his father. I don’t want to go into detail because again I don’t want to put anyone in an awkward situation if this blog ever did wind up in front of people I’m actually writing about and so I want to keep it as anonymous as I can and disguise everyone as best I can, and ideally beyond recognition. At the very least, I don’t want to air anyone else’s dirty laundry, just my own. So, suffice to say it’s been a difficult year and a half during which my heart has ached for Bambino. It would seem they are now finding their way back to each other and whilst this is freaking amazing news, it also fills me with dread because it would take so little for it all to fall apart again. I don’t think my ex-husband would disagree if I do say openly here that I’m not his favourite person and he therefore refuses to speak to me. This is OK, of course, but does make things slightly tricky if we’re now approaching a situation where we are co-parenting again. So anyway, Bambino spent the night at his dad’s for the first time since January 2017 and they had planned quality time together Monday, after which Bambino was meant to come home. I got a text in the afternoon saying he was going to stay another couple of nights.

I really have to rein myself in – this is a good thing! A really GREAT thing, even. But his text had tinges of what didn’t sound like Bambino and I had a real battle on my hands staying calm and telling myself all was well. In the end he did call me and I was reassured he was fine and it was nothing at all like the sinister scenarios that my mind cooked up. Still. My 13-yearold sends brief text messages to inform me he’s not coming home. If he stays the night at a friend’s place I won’t allow him unless I am in touch with the adult(s) in charge. OK, it’s his father, but even so, this doesn’t sit well with me but I guess I just have to suck it up. He’s coming home today, or at least that’s what he told me yesterday, and I do hope this is the start of spending time regularly at his dad’s again. A fractured relationship with a parent can fuck us up endlessly and it’s the last thing I want for my son. Says the alcoholic. But you know what I mean. This is a real test for me and I am doing my very best to let it go, hold back and focus on what’s important here. This I am obviously much better placed to do sober (just imagine what pouring wine on this would be like) and any anxiety I feel is totally irrelevant. I think it’s true what they say in AA, how us alkies are incredibly self centred – Drunk Me certainly is – and this is a fine example of a situation where I have to give myself a slap across the face and grow some balls. This is not about me or how I feel. Not one bit.

Hubby is still away and this morning I really, really missed him when I had my morning coffee. This is our little morning ritual, see. Whoever’s getting in the shower first sticks it on, by the time we’ve both showered it’s brewed and ready and we have our little morning chat on the sofa. It’s not like it’s ever been a case of agreeing to do this, it’s just what we do and this morning when I sat there on my own in my empty home I really wished hubby could have been there.

OK, that’s enough now – I’ve had my pity party, so let’s move on!

I’m really keen to put my drinking to good use. I mean, it did me no good whatsoever, so it’d seem like a waste to have fought as hard as I did to drink for no reason. Yes, being an active alcoholic is really, really tough – I know I’ve said this a hundred times, but I can’t stress it enough – and I have nothing to show for it. What I do have is the gift of sobriety that I intend to hold on to with all I have, and I feel such a strong desire to reach out and help other alcoholics who are still suffering. I know there has to be a place for me there, that perhaps I can just reach that ONE person and show that I know what it’s like to be there but also that there’s a way out. This is something I need to pursue, whilst never losing sight of the work I will have to continue to do myself to remain sober and have the life that I want.

And life really is so amazing when I don’t poison myself. No black-outs that I have to figure out like a detective, no days wasted to crippling hangovers and no alcohol induced anxiety or low moods. Now I’m just my usual delightful hurricane of emotions but sober I can bloody deal with them. Please, never let me lose sight of this, never let me lose my grip.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Jack’s Fractured House

Two posts in a day! See? When I’m ME and full of energy and have a clear mind, I have fucking LOTS to say! This is in spite of what might have turned into a terrible night’s sleep, but it would seem I am actually getting quite good at handling my feelings.

We went to bed as usual and cuddled up with hubby snoozing against my shoulder as I read for a while. The sleep wave came as it normally does when I read and I put my Kindle away, removed my glasses, checked my alarm was set and turned off the light. Snuggled in to warm hubby and that was that. Only it wasn’t. Perhaps it was a bit of anxiety at flying solo when he is away this week coupled in with a tinge of worry over Bambino spending the night at his dad’s given they have a fractured relationship and I wasn’t sure how it would go. Lay awake for a while but realised that my thoughts and emotions weren’t about to slow down, so fumbled in the dark for my glasses and Kindle and my dressing gown and went into the livingroom. And there I stayed, reading on the sofa until I was confident my mind had got back to the appropriate speed limits. And then that really was that and despite it being 1am by the time I came back to bed I did sleep those few hours soundly until my alarm went as usual at 6am. Feel quite proud of that, actually – I just accepted it for what it was (speeding thoughts and emotions) and dealt with it, just read my book until they were done. Yay!

The book I was reading (and finished) was ‘I’ll Stop Tomorrow’ by Paul Campbell, by the way, and I might talk about that some other time. Heavily leaning on AA and its philosophy and it did highlight some stuff I really don’t agree with as well as outline lots of stuff I do, so I’ll come back to it I’m sure.

Did I mention I joined a sobriety Facebook group? Yes I did, it’s the group for The Naked Mind for those who use this as part of their toolkit in getting sober and it’s super interesting to read posts and comments from others who are kicking the booze. There’s a good mixture – you have the alcoholics like me who sank quite far, you have some alcoholics who sank deeper and some who didn’t sink very far at all, you have those who drank “a bit too much” and really the whole register down to those who are only quitting temporarily for a health kick. Today someone asked how much we used to drink before we quit. Now, THAT is a question I am hesitant to answer!

I’ve been open on this blog when it comes to the amounts I used to drink of course, but even here I often hesitate and wonder if it’s such a good idea because I don’t know who you are who’s reading this, much less your situation. What if you’re me of, say, a few years ago? And what if, when I say I drank on average two and a half bottles of wine per day, you look at this and it’s more than you drink? And what if you look at this and take it to mean you don’t have a problem because just LOOK at how much Anna used to drink! I’m nowhere near as bad as that! That must mean I’m Just Fine. Tricky one, isn’t it? So I said exactly that, that I didn’t want to say in case me of yesteryear might see it and deduct she’s absolutely fine when in fact she might not be fine at all? Honesty in all its glory but what if that honesty could cause harm? Then again, whilst my amount of booze might fill one person with comfort that they’re not so bad, it might signal to another that oh shit, I drink more than Anna and she feels SHE has a problem. Damn, where does that leave me?! Swings and roundabouts I suppose.

Perhaps this is only interesting for me but it made me think about whether I spill all the beans, and when and where it is safe to do so. It’d be really shitty if I was the reason a budding alcoholic sank much further, so if you are me of yesteryear can I just say this: if you regularly drink more than you intended and find you can’t stop once you take that first drink…. Well…. I think we all deep down know when our drinking is a problem, a developing problem or anything else that isn’t quite “normal” but if that does apply to you, then perhaps have a little.. ….THINK, as Aretha Franklin puts it. And may she rest in peace – what a sad loss for the world but nowhere near as tragic as those amazing talents who left us too soon because booze and drugs. Sweet Lord, I am really preaching today!

I have two Aretha Franklin songs on the playlist I’ve put together for running. ‘Think’ is indeed one but this is my favourite, I can’t get enough of it – if I am at home I can’t stop myself from singing along and dancing and if I’m out on a run it puts a spring in my step:

Thoughts and emotions are welcome here and today I’m not going to drink.

Guerrilla Tactics

It’s a beautiful Monday morning and London seems to be going in to that seam between summer and autumn with a freshness to the air that feels so good after the humidity of the past months. Still humid and a little muggy and I sweated a freaking ocean on my run yesterday. When I say ‘run’ I refer to the total of 12 minutes I actually jogged. Have a 10k app that is supposed to get me up to speed again. Or not speed perhaps, just get me to a state where I can chug along 10k without having to stop jogging and walk. All in good time. But yes, a gloriously beautiful morning here.

You could say that where I am right now is like the scene from Jaws, think it’s the first one with that woman swimming along and you hear the ominous music that signals the approach of Sharkie-doo with the camera shot zooming in on her from deep in the water below:

  1. Beautiful day.
  2. I feel rested, content and happy.
  3. Add feeling of additional physical wellness due to PT sessions and getting back into running.
  4. I have tomorrow off – albeit standard August procedure, not my Drunkard’s Planning.
  5. Hubby is at Heathrow about to board a flight to the States.

jaws

Oh yeah, I’m that chick in the water and Sharkie-doodle-doo is lurking in the depths below. Do I trust in strength I want to believe I have? Or do I ask for help? I didn’t fucking plan to develop alcoholism! If it had been part of the plan I wouldn’t have moved abroad, because right about now it would be really good to speak the following words:

  1. Hey Mum, I’m OK so don’t worry, but today is a tight spot for me so I’m staying with you for a few days until hubby’s back. 
  2. Dad! How’s it going? Let’s go moose spotting and don’t drop me home until after 11pm because I’ll never want to start drinking that late. 
  3. Hi there brother D, I’m sorry to do this to you but I’m not home dry yet so I’m going to camp out in your spare room. Thanks. 
  4. Cherokee, I feel a tad wobbly so would you mind babysitting me? Yep, I know, ridiculous but all I need is just your presence and we’ll have a nice time I promise.

Well. Those luxuries are far away and so I’ll just have to make do with the anchors I do have and I feel cautiously confident it’ll be fine. There are people I can reach out to here too should I need it, but it never hurts to have a plan and I do. Groceries arrive between 3 and 4pm (can’t be drunk). Window man is over at 5pm to measure everything up (can’t be bloody pissed for that, now can I?). Going for a 10k walk (not possible even with the THOUGHT of booze in my head because the only place I’ll walk then is the fucking store).

The heaviest anchor is Bambino, who is arriving back today after staying at his dad’s last night. I’ve been as open as I can with him and have explained everything except the A-word and just a couple of days ago I received a hug from him with the words “you’re doing well, Mum, I’m proud of you“. It was after I’d been for a gym session and walked back in, and I can promise you that he wasn’t referring to how many squats I’d done. My kid is over-joyed because I’ve quit drinking – if I then decide to take up knitting or train spotting he doesn’t give a honking hoot about. I don’t even think he’d care if I decided to join the circus so long as I’m sober. He might not spell it out but it was me quitting drinking that he meant and nothing else. In a way that makes me want to punch myself in the face. No 13-yearold should ever have to tell their goddamn parent they’re proud of them for not getting smashed on a daily basis anymore. But there we are, I can’t change any of that now, but what I can do is continue to show my boy that I want to be the best I can be and that I’m working hard at this. For all my failures and everything I’ve fucked up, this is my little chance to show him I can do and be better. Not even this rotten drunk would get drunk in front of Bambino now. Not behind his back either. Never again. For such a skinny little twig he is the heaviest anchor of them all.

I’ll be honest, there is no ping! in my head. I’ve felt like this every time hubby’s been away though. We talked about it last night, how I’ve felt a bit vulnerable each time he’s gone away with work but how it’s been fine in the end. Reality has never lived up to my worries beforehand. It rarely does, right? Perhaps it’s a good thing though, to worry like this? I’m going to see it that way I think, that it’s positive that I’m aware of the fact that this is really my weakest point – solitude and a good mood – and I’m just getting myself a little worked up but that the sense of vulnerability is actually serving me well. The Beast doesn’t fight fair, it’s all guerrilla and surprise tactics, but it’s always harder for it to get me when I’m anticipating an attack. The Beast would be much more likely to get me when I don’t expect it. See? I’ve got this.

I’ve been nervous before when hubby’s gone but when push has come to shove it’s actually been fine. That’s the thing with worrying. Like when I have to have a needle. It’s the size of Burj Khalifa in my head but then turns out it’s no big deal at all. Someone said that worrying is like a rocking chair: it’ll keep you occupied but won’t get you anywhere. Well, that makes worrying seem really pointless, but I’m going to stick my neck out and say that when it comes to alcoholism it’s actually another tool. OK, hopefully I’ll always discover that hey, I was fine in the end and any worry I felt was totally needless, but better that than getting ambushed by a monster that doesn’t play fair.

There’s one thing I’m really determined to get right, and again hubby and I spoke about it last night. As much as it’s OK to need those around you, I can’t bloody make my sobriety hang on other people. Hubby is my bestie and I have this whole army of amazing friends and a kick-ass family, but THIS IS MY FIGHT. They can come watch and they can cheer me on and even wipe my brow and hand me a bottle of water, but I can’t remove my gloves or flee from the ring if they leave the arena. I have to keep fighting even when the whole crowd is cheering on my opponent. Go Sauvignon Blanc! Finish her! Even then I have to fight. So me being sober today has to come from me. I have to focus on that I don’t want to drink and not worry because I’m flying solo for a few short days. No, I can’t go and stay at Mum’s, nor can I have a babysitter. I just have to pull on my big girl pants and show who’s boss.

Most of all, I’m reminding myself why I don’t want to drink. I’m forcing myself to in my head list positive things that drinking would bring – there aren’t any, only lots of bad shit. Nothing else.

I’ve got this.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Trolls and Sunlight

Hello, Wednesday. I’m trying my best to like you but the truth is I’ve always found you dull and you always seem to drag. Sorry.

Since our trip to Sweden I’ve had a little exchange with Cherokee. She’s my best friend and really the female version of hubby – makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? I told her so and she agreed that to be likened to my hubby is praise of the highest order. And yes, I’m so fortunate to have such awesome people as my sidekicks and cheerleaders, I think my journey would have been very different had I been surrounded by arseholes. I know of other people who do not enjoy the luxury of a rock solid support network like I do, and it frightens me to think where I’d be without that. Where I’d be if I were in a situation where those who are meant to love and support me actually didn’t just not support me but actually made it all harder. So I have the utmost respect for those friends who do all this having to swim against the current – that’s heroism on a fucking grand scale. Getting sober is hard enough even when friends and family have your back, you don’t need them stabbing you in it, let me tell ya. I’m very, very fortunate. And until we all are as fortunate as this, I am going to make it my mission to contribute to the conversation around alcoholism and addiction. I think the more we can bring it out into the light, the better a chance we all have to recover.

Cherokee put it so poetically that it actually pissed me off. Bloody HELL, does she HAVE to be so fucking fabulous at fucking everything? Writing is MY thing! And there she goes, penning a few lines that were so perfect I was seething with envy at her talent with words and at the same time admiring her massively for being so clever. She’s awesome. And I’d totally tell her if she had loo roll stuck to her shoe. That’s how much I love her – her many talents, her wit, her intelligence and her beauty only make me admire her. Envious, yes, and I’ve copied her since around 1989, but it’s – I’d like to think anyway – a good sort of envy. Seeing her succeed makes me genuinely happy. I think that’s a sign of when you’ve put someone on a pedestal for the right reasons, which I believe I have when I ponder the very tall ones I’ve placed hubby and Cherokee on. Two people I admire and look up to, yet feel secure and safe around because I know they love me just the way I am and therefore there is nothing I need to prove. I just get to be me. That’s kinda nice.

But anyway. What she wrote.

So we were discussing where I’m at and how I’m now in the midst of a tsunami of emotion following so many years of alcohol abuse and numbing everything I feel, and also about how to set boundaries and change our thought patterns. Cherokee gave me a little crash course in “the power of not giving a fuck” (there are some great books with titles roughly along those lines – I did read one called ‘Fuck It’ a long time ago and thoroughly recommend it, I’m going to dig it out and read it again now that I’m sober) and examples of her own baggage and how she’s learnt to give fewer fucks in some situations. We talked about Project P and my goal to let this go and set new boundaries, and that’s when Cherokee reminded me of the trolls. So she is Swedish like me and still lives where we both grew up, in a part of the world that’s dense with vast forests and where the folklore is crammed full with trolls and mystical beings of the woods. And so she likened issues and thinking we need to face and deal with to just that, trolls.

troll

You know what to do, don’t you?” Cherokee wrote, “You put the trolls right out in the sunlight because that makes them burst, and then when you’ve exposed them you might find they’re nothing but little grey stones that you can throw into the Thames.

I quite literally couldn’t put it better myself and did read those lines wishing it was me who had written those words. I’d forgotten all about those stories about trolls and how you kill them. But perhaps it’s proof that I am not, after all, a troll myself because I spent a lot of time in the sun over our holidays and despite putting on weight that may have something to do with all those cannolis in Italy, I didn’t burst. I say this because Mum has always referred to me as her “troll baby“. Another myth found right there in the folklore. How the trolls sneak into your home at night and replace your human baby with one of their own. Can’t blame Mum though. I was three weeks early yet clocked in at a solid four kilos, was born on a Friday the 13th (no joke) and I also had a thick mop of long black hair that stood on end like a mohican. Hah! I named my best friend Cherokee but when I was brand new it was actually me who looked like a red indian. Anyway, I’d like to think Mum says it in an affectionate sort of way. Although…. She has different ringtones on her phone and the one she has for me is the sound of a dog barking.

Where were we? Seems we’ve dealt with praising hubby, reflected on the awesomeness of Cherokee and established that I’m probably not a troll because I withstood direct sunlight. Good.

I think I’ve mentioned this book before, but I will mention it again, as well as recommend it to anyone who wants to re-frame what alcohol means to them: ‘The Naked Mind‘. It’s really just a better written version of Allen Carr’s ‘The Easy Way to Stop Drinking‘ and absolutely fabulous. I read it a few months into my sobriety along with Carr’s book and they really did cement what I’d come to believe and feel when it comes to booze. 100% part of my tool kit. And what’s even more fabulous is that there is a website as well as a Facebook group you can join (I’ve joined both) and discuss and share with others in the same (or similar) boat along with giving each other support. These two books are important to me because they punch holes in a lot of the stuff we’ve all been brainwashed into thinking around alcohol and exposes booze for what it really is – a foul tasting poison.

Well, as with AA, I can’t say I blindly just go with Carr’s or the Naked’s philosophy but just like AA those form part of the perspective I am developing when it comes to drinking and my own experience. One doesn’t exclude the other. For example, these two books seem to advocate a view that is in direct odds with AA’s stance on what an alcoholic is and seem to suggest there is nothing that is different in or with the alcoholic, and here I lean much more towards AA’s view. I do honestly believe there IS something that sets us alcoholics apart, that there is some sort of fundamental reason why we react differently to alcohol than the non-alcoholic does. But again, this doesn’t matter and I will probably always continue to absorb all I can learn around alcoholism and addiction and nod when I agree and shake my head when I don’t.

OK, that’s enough for now. Sexy hubby, amazing Cherokee, trolls and books. That’s not so bad for boring Wednesday.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Escaping Everest

Ah, and so back down to earth with a nice little thud – hello, Monday. I think being in Sweden rumbled me a lot more than I expected it to, so it’s good to be back. I sometimes forget that it’s the place where I grew up that creates a lot of sadness and pain in me and so each time I am there I’m a bit overwhelmed by it, it’s not a new Sober Me thing – it’s always been that way but perhaps it was more intense this time because I can fucking feel everything! I never saw moving away as escaping but perhaps that’s what I did and as much as I love it there, I need to keep a safe distance and it’s good to have the North Sea as a barrier sometimes. Regardless, I can shut it away in a box on the other side of that puddle or I deal with it and have it over with. I suspect the latter would be the healthier option. Being back in London does mean my emotions are still like live wires that fizz and crackle but being home means I’m slowly returning to a better balance. All in good time. That doesn’t mean I’m going to slow down, it just means I need to deal with one thing at a time and in the right order. Changes are coming, and I am changing. I have already changed so much by just being present and with the light back on. Alive, I suppose. Still, there is much to be done and I will just have to tackle each little mountain one by one. No Everest in there. Or perhaps one, but I have it all mapped out so I don’t think there’s anything about the climb that’ll catch me off guard and it’s always getting back down that’s much harder. The others nice and challenging in a good way, much like the Mighty Hike. Time to get on with it.

Today I’m not going to drink.