587 Days

I often bleat on about the endless rewards of being sober. Endless? Well, that’s what it feels like – I mention one thing and often find myself thinking of several more miraculous rewards of recovery and struggle to shut up. 587 days sober today, so can I name 587 rewards? That’s not even CLOSE to “endless”, right?

  1. Waking up without a hangover never gets old.
  2. My morning coffee tastes epic! I couldn’t drink coffee in the mornings when I was drinking because it made me feel even worse, even though I freaking LOVE coffee. Now though, it’s my favourite thing. Even as I’m going to bed the night before I’m looking forward to a clear head, strong body and non-hangover morning coffee.
  3. When I’m ill I still feel a million times better than I ever did when I was drinking. Who knew bog standard lousy could be so fucking awesome??
  4. I can with ease do things I couldn’t before. Like write this blog post – when I was drinking I was simply too foggy to form coherent thoughts or do anything that required even the tiniest bit of focus.
  5. Running is just too damn great and even when I’m not quite in the mood or I feel sluggish I can still do it. When I was drinking I’d always say I’d be happy if I could run just 5k regularly, but it was an unattainable goal as I could barely get myself out of the house, never mind run. Now, a 5k loop is my shortest run when I’m either short of time or feeling a little unwell. Yes, I can run 5k WITH EASE even when I’m feeling shit. I’ve run 5k with severe period cramps, thank you very much. Something that was once something of an impossible dream is now not just reality but something recovery has allowed me to not just do but SMASH. As I said – with ease too.
  6. I love taking care of myself – every night I wash my face and use fancy serums and creams to look after my skin. When I was drinking I’d never do this, never used to wash off my make-up.
  7. I’m able to stick with things and work steadily towards goals.
  8. I’m able to do and be my best at work and know every day on my way home that my being there made a difference. It’s really satisfying to put in a day’s good work and know in your heart you’ve done a good job.
  9. I honour my commitments. Cancelling at the last minute and being a no-show friend is a thing of the past.
  10. I’m there for others when they need me. Because I take care of myself and fulfil my own needs (be it emotional or physical via e.g. exercise) there is now enough of me to give to others.
  11. When I can’t be there for someone else, I say so. I don’t let people down like I used to.
  12. MORNINGS – I fucking LOVE mornings!!
  13. I even fucking love MONDAYS!
  14. Decisions are thought through, considered and sensibly made.
  15. I can face anything life throws at me. Things that would have been disasters before, I can deal with. Even when they ARE disasters.
  16. Being a highly sensitive person I feel everything strongly and I love that nothing now gets lost in booze fuelled numbness. Good and bad. Sure, it’s hard work feeling everything as acutely as I do, but I’m learning to love being me.
  17. I’ve discovered I have lots to give to the next person. And do.
  18. I’m no longer doing a job I’ve chosen because it’s all I can muster due to always being wrecked by hangovers. I now do something I truly believe in for a living because it’s what I want to do and working hard to carve out a REAL path in the world of addiction treatment. I’m in a job that requires a lot of me but I’m able to do it because I’m not destroyed by booze. I’m able to do it because my mind is clear and focused. Always! Every day my mind is clear. And even when I’m having a bad day, be it feeling under the weather or being sad, I can still focus. This is awesome.
  19. I look in the mirror and see a woman I love – she’s kind, she’s smart, she’s funny, she’s got a good heart, she works hard, she’s dependable, she’s a little quirky and some days she even looks quite pretty.
  20. I’m a good mother to my son. No longer do I swing on a pendulum from short tempered due to being hungover to saying yes to everything out of guilt due to being drunk. Bambino can rely on me now. Yes is yes and no is no. I deliver on my promises. He recently told me when I got stuck in traffic and was a little late picking him up that he never worried about me turning up. “I knew you’d be here because when you say you’ll do something, you do it“, he told me. I couldn’t hold back the tears of joy and embarrassed him, but I don’t care – that was quite possibly the most magical reward of recovery to date hearing my child say that. He had to wriggle free from his weepy mama.
  21. I’m a much nicer wife too. No more drunken rows I’ve somehow started but don’t remember the next morning.
  22. When my husband asked me how my day was it used to piss me off because I was an underachieving drunk and my days were often unproductive and uninspired. Now, when he asks, I’m bubbling over wanting to talk about it because what I did MATTERS and I feel so good about it.
  23. I can fulfil my potential – and I am! – now that I’m sober.
  24. I’m good at taking care of important stuff. My husband is no longer the only adult and can rely on me to share the big decisions. He can leave things to me and know I’ll sort it out.
  25. TIME! Time is on my side and there’s heaps of it! It really is staggering how much time is taken up by addiction. I have ridiculous amounts on with work and studying but I can fit so much in now that I don’t spend all my free time in that damn bottle.
  26. I don’t miss the end. At the cinema, at a show, at a concert – whatever it may be, I’m there from start to finish. Nothing is blurry or hazy. Or in black-out. I don’t have my addiction to feed so I can relax and enjoy the ride. And I do. Every. Single. Time. And the encore too.
  27. I remember what I said and did.
  28. I never have to play detective or search in the bin or go through my phone to figure out what Drunk Me did the night before.
  29. Shame is something I very rarely feel.
  30. I can – and do – look anyone in the eye and stand up for who I am, where I’ve come from, what I’ve been through and where I’m headed and I do so with pride.
  31. I mean what I say.
  32. “NO” is a great word and I use it. Often.
  33. I don’t compromise on my values or beliefs. I stand firm.
  34. I am free and have inner peace. Being free of the slavery of addiction makes me feel giddy with joy. Life is pretty stress-free even when it’s stressful.
  35. My blood pressure and resting heart rate are perfect. When I was drinking I often had very low blood pressure and a very high heart rate. I do still get palpitations on occasion but it’s rare. My ticker is very happy that I’m sober!
  36. I stand up in the shower!! When I was drinking I used to have to crouch because I was terrified of slipping and smashing my head open on the taps because I was so dizzy, weak and shaky. No more! I can fucking STAND in the shower. Sometimes I do a little wiggle to celebrate and sing too.
  37. No more mystery injuries! No more strange bruises I can’t account for.
  38. I no longer have to hide my keys from… …..myself. I never knew that weird asshole I become in black-out, but that lunatic got up to all sorts of crazy shit so I used to hide my keys from… ..er… ..her. This was to prevent her, er… me… from leaving the house in the middle of the night.
  39. I no longer have to leave notes for myself anywhere. Like “DON’T GO ON FACEBOOK” on my laptop or “DON’T CALL OR TEXT ANYONE” by my phone.
  40. Looking at my phone in the morning doesn’t fill me with dread and anxiety anymore because I know who I’ve spoken to or texted and anything I’ve said I meant. No more nasty surprises from Drunk Me.
  41. I don’t have to drink today. Feeling so free is amazing. I DON’T HAVE TO DRINK!
  42. When I go out for a drink with Hubby I don’t feel stressed because there’s no booze to stress over. I just enjoy his company and feel totally relaxed. Before I always used to feel irritable and stressy because I finished my drinks much faster and had to wait for him before getting another round.
  43. It’s no longer strange to order a soda instead of a glass of wine. Honestly, it doesn’t really occur to me anymore, whereas once upon a time that seemed inconceivable. In the beginning it was a bit weird and uncomfortable but I genuinely don’t think about it anymore. Sober is my normal now. I FUCKING LOVE THAT!!!!!!!
  44. Nervous in social situations? Me? Not one bit. I happily socialise with Hubby’s work colleagues (who I used to find intimidating – they’re all VIP of this, Chief Executive that) and get along fine with anyone it might be, prince or pauper. I got this.
  45. Scared of speaking up? Me? Not at all. I often run groups at the rehab and although it did scare me shitless in the beginning and took a long time getting over (even months in I’d have palpitations and be shaky because of nerves), I do it now without a care in the world.
  46. I can face anything – old ghosts I’m no longer scared to rumble. I can face anyone and anything. Even when I’ve fucked up or have to face fuck-ups by Drunk Me from many moons ago.
  47. I now indulge one of my passions again – reading! I’m forever reading books, just like I used to before I sank into addiction. I always have four or five on the go: one or two audiobooks I listen to in the car to and from work, then a paperback and a couple on my Kindle that I switch between in the evenings depending on what I feel like reading. My book budget is sizeable but still only a fraction of what my drinking used to cost.
  48. To date I’ve not drunk over £10,000. 19+ months of sobriety and that’s a conservative estimate. We’d probably head to the pub three or four evenings per week and have at least two rounds there, a round being roughly £15 for my large glass of wine and Hubby’s pint of cider. Two of those = £30. Then add another couple of bottles of wine I’d drink back home to perhaps max one for Hubby.
  49. Oh, and Hubby is feeling healthier too – he isn’t an addict like me, but ended up drinking a lot more than he normally would because I dragged him down with me. He now drinks the way he did before he met me: perhaps two or three nights per week and when he does it’s a couple of beers or a couple of glasses of wine. In these 19+ months I’ve seen him a little tipsy perhaps three or four times.

…speaking of which, Hubby just walked in all cute and smiley. God, I’m so into him, he’s just glorious. Beautiful, beautiful man, with the biggest heart. Me, I haven’t showered because even though I went for a long walk this morning I’m going to go for a run. Best get going. Seems I only got to less than 10% of the list but I didn’t run out of things to say about the rewards of recovery – my fingers have not once slowed down in their tapping and dancing across the keyboard – so I shall get back to this challenge another time. Perhaps see if I can list 1,000 rewards. It doesn’t strike me as hard at all, honestly, simply because there’s forever moments when I’m overcome with gratitude at the life I now have.

Here’s to another day.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Even On a Bad Day

What a lovely surprise! I didn’t realise he was from around here, but at tonight’s AA meeting there was a rehab alumni. Quite possibly one of those “hopeless cases” back then – out of every cohort of roughly 20 people, only two or three seem to stick with it and at first glance he might not have been the horse to bet on. Back then, about six months ago, he was drinking around the clock combined with a coke habit and had not gone a day without using or drinking since his teens. Had the scars to prove it too. And here we are on a balmy London summer’s eve at a meeting and I’m chatting away with a super smart, bright-eyed and all round great guy who so far is rocking recovery and has come so far from that spot he was in. He looked so well and I told him.

I feel well!” he smiled. “Even on a bad day I don’t want to drink, I never want to go back there.

It’s a miracle every time. It’s a miracle when someone fights their way back into life and the frighteningly bad odds also remind me that it requires a lot of work. It’s not luck of the draw because recovery rarely lands in your lap – it’ll push you to your limits and then further still, but it is absolutely possible. Hell, here I am and who would have ever thought THAT? Not me, that’s for sure and yet here we are.

Do you know what else is a miracle? I collected my 18-month chip this evening. Strictly speaking it’s 18 1/2 months, but hey, I was away on the 23rd July. And there were no other recovery birthdays in the meeting today beyond my 18 months. Obviously there would have been people there who have been sober for much, much longer than I have, but tonight I was the last to collect a chip! Fancy that! My recovery chip was the one at the end, the longest time out of all of us who collected a chip today! WHOA! Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, y’all.


No, 18 months isn’t very long but that felt really, really good. A year and a half ago I was so proud to get my 24-hour chip, the chip that signified to me that I was going to get serious about this sober malarkey, that first little step on my journey. I was even prouder to stand up and go and collect my 1-month chip when that time came. Back then I’d look to those collecting their 1-year chips and so on – yes, at those also collecting 18-month chips too! – and hope with all my might that this would eventually also be me. And this evening it was. Today this is me and it feels amazing.

The chair was about figuring out how to live sober, amongst other things. How to live life without our crutch and numbing agent. The lady told us how nervous she was and kept losing the thread, so when I shared I told her this is exactly me but how I too now find it so miraculous that I can speak up and tell my story. I shared how I could relate to learning to live not necessarily sober, but essentially learning to be ME.

What inspired me the most however, was seeing the guy who was at the rehab when I first started there, who’d been in such a bad way when he came in. I remember him talking at the time about how shaky he felt about leaving and how he worried about how he’d fare back in the world again. And now look! Wow. What inspired me was to see him look so well and how his eyes sparkled when he talked about his wife and kids and the holiday they were going on. It’s good stuff, that – chatting about how great this old life actually can be when we’re free and at peace, no longer slaves to our addictions.

So here’s to another day sober! Long may it continue. God willing.

Today I’m not going to drink.

There – I Said It

And so he came back. A boy who checked into the rehab with his longterm addiction as baggage along with some paraphernalia we had to confiscate. I say ‘boy’, because even though he is in his late 20s, his drug use began in his teens and so he’s never had the opportunity to grow up and find out who he is. He is a little lost. I walked up to him and gave him a hug and he awkwardly returned it as I put my arms around his slender shoulders. In the few weeks since he discharged early, he’s gone back to using and was zonked, his head dipping as we admitted him, eyes rolling back. But despite the deadly grip of his addiction, in his beautiful, dark blue eyes there is a stubborn light that first appeared during his first stay. It was still there and I saw it.

On his first admission he’d been in a bad way and spent the first few nights in hospital, but a few days later as the drugs wore off, that light came on. I see it all the time but in this boy it was startling because he has been ravaged by drugs. He was getting his sparkle back and all of a sudden it was there. Even now, after falling off the wagon, that little light was still there. It’s come on and it’s refusing to go away. It fills me with hope. Somewhere, deep down, it’s taken hold and even if he relapses many times over, I believe it’ll defiantly keen on shining until he is ready to break free. I don’t know what it is about this boy, because in may ways you may think of him as a hopeless case, but I think it’s that light that I’m so convinced I can still see. It came on during his first stay and it refuses to die, I know it. It’s there, in his beautiful eyes. His pin prick pupils may tell the story of a devastating opioid addiction, but they also betray that will to break free that he might not even know he possesses. YET.

Stuff like that fills me with hope.

Then there’s everyone else too. I love my flock. Some want it and are ready, others still have some “research” to do but I consider myself so privileged to do what I do regardless of when recovery takes hold for someone. They’re all miracles.

As for me, I’m steadily rediscovering who Anna is. Like that boy, I was so lost for so long and it’s only now that I’m figuring out who I really am. Stopping drinking was just a small part of it. Rewind 18 months and I would have told you that drinking was the problem. Stop drinking – problem solved! Not so much, it turns out. Now I know that drinking wasn’t my problem at all. Drinking was my attempt to solve the problem. Gosh, it’s requiring so much work and digging I’m starting to feel like an archaeologist as I continue to explore and excavate the darkest corners of my soul. It takes time. Each little artefact has to be carefully extracted, painstakingly brushed off and deciphered. Go in too hard or too fast and you may clumsily destroy some of it. Little by little, piece by piece. All in good time.

It’s with a sense of inner peace – I know, right?! – and cautious joy I sit here on the couch this morning. In roughly 36 hours, I’ll be sitting with Hubby on the deck by the west wall of Falla and gazing out over the fields. I’ve sat there many times blurred and obliterated by booze, but these days I’m present and able to absorb those magical summer evenings in their fullness. Just like I’ll sit there in the mornings with a cup of coffee and feel full of life, not full of death due to all the poison I guzzled the night before. That’s magic. Magic in its purest, most divine form. May I make a recommendation? Recovery! It’s really fucking special, lemme tell ya. God willing, long may it continue. I can honestly say I’ve never been happier.

Yep, life on the Pink Cloud continues to be pretty damn spectacular. I get to work in the addiction treatment industry alongside kickass colleagues and clients, all of whom I learn so much from every single day. I’ve enrolled for a three-year course to become a counsellor, which is the area that tickles me the most. Who knows where it’ll lead or even if it works out, but right now I’m exactly where I want to be and heading in the direction I want to be going.

Today I am grateful that:

  1. I woke up without a hangover.
  2. I don’t have to drink today, thank God.
  3. I have a wonderful son, an amazing husband and two lovely bonus sons.
  4. My family is a great – if a little nutty – bunch.
  5. My friends are literally the best people on the planet.
  6. I get to do something I truly believe in and feel passionate about for a living.
  7. I am healthy and strong, and capable of so much more than I sometimes give myself credit for. There – I said it.

Most of all I am grateful that:

Today I’m not going to drink.

The Lights Were On.. …dimly

My inner bully/tormentor/scoffer/mocker is dying to tear into me about my silly accent, my crooked teeth, my impossible-to-style Lion King hair and a whole world of other ridiculous things, but guess what? I’m not listening. This is me. Whilst I’ve always deep down liked ME, I’ve always gone around assuming the rest of the world doesn’t. Any time I walk into a room, my (poorly tuned) gut instinct tells me everyone is immediately repulsed by me and hates me. And of course for that very reason, I used to escape and hide away, usually deep into a bottle of wine. Or three. But no longer! The drinking was one thing, learning new ways is another. It isn’t something you can suddenly let go of in an instant, but I’m getting there and I’m getting there because I’m sober. Figures, I suppose, given booze is a powerful depressant!

So here’s my chat with the lovely Norah Ginty.

About Norah Ginty:

“Integrity, honesty, passion, belief – core values of mine which I integrate in all aspects of my life. I support women on their alcohol free journey utilising my history in hypnotherapy and life coaching qualifications. I have an ongoing passion towards personal and professional development, to not only coach people towards alcohol freedom, but to tackle the stigma attached to alcohol in our society so people can make changes more easily and quickly.”

Norah’s website: http://www.norahginty.com

You can also find Norah on Facebook via her groups ‘Becoming Alcohol Free‘ and ‘Norah Ginty Hypnotherapy Care‘.

Today I’m not going to drink.

I Knew He Knew

Well, there’s a first time for everything and whilst my heart was beating wildly and my palms were clammy, it would seem I survived. Again. I was having a video recorded chat with the lovely Norah Ginty and whilst I don’t remember everything I said – this seems to happen when I go into panic mode; I blab on and on but don’t have a clue afterwards what I said or how in God’s name it came out or across – I probably did better than my inner self-bullying tyrant would have me believe. Oh no, I don’t think I did great, but I did it. I’m hardly going to be an inspirational or expert speaker the first time, right? I gave it my best shot and that’s OK. I don’t know if I’ll be able to bring myself to watch it once it’s been published, but so what if I look like an absolute fool? Telling my story that way, just like telling my story in a meeting or on this blog, might just help someone else, it might just help another Anna.

What I do remember are Norah’s questions and how I after our chat thought lots more about what she’d asked. There’s just so much to say about all the wonderful things that happen when we get sober. It also struck me that I probably blogged a lot more about my drinking when I took my first, tentative steps into my recovery, whereas these days I mostly harp on about life as it is now: oh, glorious sobriety! Whilst I do so passionately want to show just how life changing and magical recovery can be, it struck me that sometimes it might just be handy to remind ourselves of not just the Pink Cloud with all its rewards that we live on now, but also consider the hell in which we used to be trapped.

So I decided to consider Norah’s questions here too.

What was your relationship with alcohol?

It was always chaotic. From when I first tried alcohol as a teenager, I was always the one to get the most hammered the fastest. No brakes. My view of alcohol, which probably stems from my upbringing, was that it’s closely linked to celebration. No one in my family ever drank excessively and alcohol was only ever present on special occasions and in moderation. I’ve never witnessed either of my parents drunk or out of control. Alcohol, in my world, was something you sprinkle on life as an enhancing glitter. Strangely, even as I reached the deepest lows of my addiction, this is how I saw it – even as I was drinking on my own into black-out on a daily basis, alcohol to me was a silver lining. Crazy, isn’t it?

And so when my first marriage crashed and I went through a thoroughly shitty time and messy divorce, I didn’t drink at all. In fact, I was always scared to touch a drop if I felt unhappy in some way because I used to believe that alcohol enhances everything we feel. Therefore, if I felt down, I’d steer clear of the stuff because I was terrified – given I feel everything so strongly – that it’d make me feel even worse. Now that’s true of course, I had that bit correctly: alcohol is a depressant which will indeed make anything shit even shittier. I was just wrong about it enhancing joy, because, uh, it’s a depressant. I kinda missed that bit. Anyhow, once I was through the worst and the divorce shit storm had subsided, I was happy again. And what do I do when a good mood hits? I go for the bottle.

As I described my relationship to Norah, it was like dating the wrong person. You see them through rose tinted glasses and have them on a pedestal. You want desperately to see them in a certain, shimmery way, like your heroic knight in shining armour. You forgive anything and everything. Over and over. But they’re the devil in disguise. They mistreat you and they’re bad for you. Yet you stubbornly hold on to that dreamy image you’ve created, even though it bears no resemblance to reality. That was me and alcohol. It was toxic.

How much did you drink?

I’m always a little hesitant to answer this question. Not because I want to hide anything, but because I keep thinking that if Drunk Me of some years ago heard me state an amount, it might be turned into “oohhh that’s more than I drink so then I must be OK“. See, I always took comfort in anyone who drank more than me, used it as a way of further cementing my denial and convince myself I didn’t have a problem. It was just that in the end I no longer knew anyone who drank as much as I did. In fact, the one person – whom I’ve nicknamed Tumbler on this blog when I’ve written about her – who drank more than I did and had sunk further than I had, drank herself to death in 2014. And then there was one. Me. I had no one else to point to in order to make myself believe I wasn’t so bad because I no longer knew anyone who drank more than I did.

Yes, I drank stupid amounts, but you can drink a lot less and still be an addict or a problem drinker. You can drink more than I did and not sink as low, just like you can drink less and sink as deep or deeper still. Ignore the quantities – we’re all different and tolerance is individual. Only you know, but whatever you do – please don’t take my drinking levels as some sort of evidence to show you’re OK. Maybe you are – great. Just sayin’. Either way, Norah asked and so I answered.

It may have started out quite innocently, me drinking a couple of glasses of wine in the evenings because I felt so happy and free and content with my new life. However, cue my no-brakes default setting and it transformed into something else entirely with alarming speed. Within just a few months, a couple of glasses of wine had turned into a bottle, which then turned into a bottle and a bit, which turned into a bottle and a half, which turned into two bottles and then into nearly three. This still fascinates me a little. Yes, it accelerated quickly into insane amounts, but over my 12-13 years of heavy drinking, it didn’t really go beyond. I sort of think you continuously go faster and harder, but my consumption seemed to stay at this level and up to when I stopped I remained steadily at a daily average of two and a half to three bottles. I’m not sure why, but perhaps it stayed that way because I always worked and was therefore unable to drink during the day? Well, I did slip under a few times and I have no doubt I would eventually have stayed under, but I wonder if work is what stopped me from full on chronic drinking. I sort of consider it chronic though, there was NOTHING normal about the way I drank, it was more that I couldn’t drink around the clock due to commitments.

Remember one thing, though. Remember YET. I couldn’t drink around the clock YET. It was heading that way. Always just a matter of YET. Don’t forget that.

Describe your last hangover.

This is the thing – it wasn’t an epic crash or a horror story. It was a hangover like hundreds – thousands! – like it. It was a Monday like so many others. I woke up feeling like death and could barely stand up. I don’t think I’d drunk any more or any less than usual the Sunday evening before. Sometimes, though, my hangovers would be particularly severe. I just knew there was no way I’d be able to get myself into work so I waited until Hubby had gone off to work and called in sick. As with every other hangover, everything was horrifically uncomfortable: I couldn’t stand, couldn’t eat or do anything, yet lying down was equally nightmarish with my racing heart, sweats and body shakes. There’d come a time somewhere half way through the afternoon when I’d begin to feel a little better, and this was no exception, so by the time Hubby got home I’d managed to shower.

I never said to him I’d stayed home but I had that sinking feeling in my gut because I knew he could tell. Lying feels like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders and it was crushing me. Along with the anxiety and depressed mood brought on by alcohol, I felt utterly awful. Dishonesty isolates you and by not being truthful, I was emotionally isolating myself from Hubby, my best friend. But I knew he knew. My heart was churning and I felt so utterly hopeless and alone.

Then, at bedtime, we were lying in bed facing each other, chatting about the day as we always do. I knew it was coming and sure enough, it did.

Anna, can you tell me something?” Hubby asked as he stroked my cheek and teased away a stray strand of my hair from my face.

Yes,” I whispered and felt the tears already burning in my eyes.

Did you get yourself to work today?

There it was and I felt the same way I did on the only occasion I stole something – a chocolate bar at the age of 10 – and got caught. A little bit like the world fell apart. I’d been found out. My dirty, shameful secret exposed. But much, much stronger than that was a sudden sense of relief. And perhaps a tiny little bit of hope. An inner voice was suddenly shouting, no – SCREAMING at me: “SAY IT! SAY IT NOW! JUST ONE LITTLE WORD! ASK FOR HELP! THIS IS IT – SAY IT!!” And so I did.

No,” I said softly, choking a little, “I didn’t. I don’t know what to do. I need help. I’m scared of where this is taking me.

Hubby pulled me into his arms, held me tightly as I sobbed, kissed the top of my head and whispered gently into my hair:

Anna, you’re already there.

That was the most heartbreaking moment of my life, yet it was – even though it didn’t feel like it at the time – by far the greatest. It was the moment when my life began to change and instead of working so hard to kill myself I instead began to fight furiously to get well. It could just as easily have slipped me by and all could have been lost. In all likelihood, everything WOULD have been lost. But a small question, at precisely the right moment, gave me the chance to ask for help. If Hubby hadn’t asked, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have.

I’d given up, you see. I didn’t see a way out and had made my peace with the fact that I would continue the way I was, which I knew was killing me. I used to fantasise about something terrible happening. That I’d either crash my car or I’d collapse in the street. Something terrible enough that I’d be exposed and forced to get help. Isn’t that just so heartbreakingly sad? It seemed easier, and more plausible, to me to crash hard and therefore have the decision to seek help made for me forcibly than to ask for help. I didn’t know how to. I didn’t see a way out. Welcome to addiction, my friends. It ain’t a kind place. Luckily it didn’t have to get to a crash or death. It ended up with a loving husband who happened to put out a life line at the exact moment I was ready to reach for it. Had he not asked me, I shudder to think where it might have progressed to.

What made you stop?

Easy. Obviously my exit out of hell was presented to me in that moment by my beautiful husband, but it only worked because I was ready. I’d fucking had it. I was exhausted. It’s fucking hard work being a drunk. I was done. I couldn’t go on. It was do or die.

What did your first few weeks of sobriety look like? How did you break the habit?

It was strange to come home and not pour a glass of wine. It was strange and unfamiliar and yes, I’ll say it, uncomfortable. I wanted to get sober more than anything else, but I won’t lie – it was really, really odd! Over the first few weeks I went to AA meetings regularly and Hubby and I would also go for long drives. But habits are just habits and I can’t say it was horrendously difficult because it wasn’t. It was just a little strange to begin with, that’s all. Soon enough, however, new habits formed and I rediscovered my love of running. Suddenly what had initially appeared as endlessly long evenings without wine were filled with GOOD STUFF. Exercise, quality time, cooking really lovely food, long walks and so on.

…and eventually, I didn’t even notice it anymore. 

My worst drinking sessions would occur when Hubby was away. Home alone and unchecked, I’d guzzle with even more abandon. I’d even book days off in advance to facilitate my suicidal drinking. (Yes, suicidal drinking is a THING – drinking the amounts I did falls into this category you see, something I learned since I got sober but in all honesty even when I was actively drinking I did know it’d kill me). To begin with, the first few times Hubby travelled after I got sober I was absolutely terrified. And super aware of the peril I found myself in. But then eventually, I didn’t have to be so terrified anymore. And then… …eventually came a time when I’d be home alone and it’d only occur to me as I crawled into bed that this used to be when I went for it, yet it had gone unnoticed. Sweet, sweet victory. Have faith, it does get easier. Not only that – it gets easy, full stop. Not only easy – it gets freaking AMAZING.

What were the first rewards sobriety brought?

I could wax lyrical about how my life has changed, but let’s stick with the very immediate rewards – I can bleat on about the many joys of being sober in other blog posts.

First thing was sleep. Holy cannoli, sweet, sweet sleep! From not having slept well for over a decade and lying awake each morning at 4am with palpitations, sweats, shakes, anxiety and crippling fear, I suddenly slept like a baby. Blissful, uninterrupted quality sleep. Solid blocks of eight hours’ shut-eye. Fuck me – it was like winning jackpot! Not to mention waking up feeling rested and refreshed.

Also an immediate reward was waking up feeling WELL – my mind clear and steady on my feet. Absolute game changer. And no wonder! If you’ve spent over a decade waking up feeling like death, feeling alive is going to be pretty glorious, right? It’s heavenly.

I guess the third immediate reward would be to say that I started to get ME back. It was like someone had switched the lights on and the world was suddenly full of colour again. Amazing stuff. I could suddenly form coherent thoughts and felt so much clearer.

…and those, remember, are just the very immediate rewards that my recovery brought to me. If I were to list all the amazing, magical ways in which my life has changed since I got sober, this list would never end. Mark my words.

To conclude…

There was one thing that wasn’t covered that I thought about lots afterwards and it’s probably the one thing I want to convey to all other Annas out there, to anyone else who is still trapped in their addiction: don’t be scared! You’ve been lied to! Sobriety isn’t a boring or bland place to be. Your fix fixes nothing, it only makes everything worse. Remember the illusion I was under too? That alcohol would somehow enhance happy feelings? Lies! Pure, barefaced lies! Life might not always be ponies and rainbows, but it’s SO much better when we don’t poison ourselves.

When I stopped drinking, we already had several things booked: a long weekend in Paris, a trip to Gothenburg to see Foo Fighters live and a summer break to Lipari. That, along with our usual summer trip to Sweden and other things like Ascot and a bunch of other things that had to me previously been Prime Drinking Occasions. I dreaded every single one of those, thinking it’d all be really shit. I mean, who goes to Paris and doesn’t drink Chateau Blotto? Who the fuck goes to a Foo Fighters concert SOBER? Who sits on a sea view balcony gazing out over the picturesque harbour of a beautiful Aeolian island without a bottle of wine (or three)? And how in God’s name do you enjoy one of those Scandinavian summer nights when the sun never sets sitting at the west wall of Falla without several sauvs enhancing the moment? ME. I do all of that, and if you won’t believe anything else I say, please do try to believe this: all of those things are so much better without booze. None boring. All just so much better because I was present and could enjoy all of it fully.

Well, I’ve gone on for long enough. I’ll leave it there. Except to say I’m today going to be around a bully again and so my focus will be extra focused on one little line: “give me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change”. I can only change myself. So I will take deep breaths, let things go and not allow other people’s imbalance and chaos get under my skin. Not something I find easy, but I will try once again – not my circus, not my monkeys.

Today I’m not going to drink.

My Time In Captivity

Here’s the deal: I don’t want to drink. Not “I know I shouldn’t” or “I know I can’t” – I don’t WANT to. Fair do’s, as my kiwi husband might say, the ‘shouldn’t‘ and the ‘can’t‘ are absolutely true – I shouldn’t drink and I can’t drink, but that never was and never will be enough to keep me sober.

I don’t want to drink and I genuinely believe this is the only reason I am sober today because if my brain told me otherwise, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’d be pouring that huge glass of wine, soda water and ice right this minute. In fact, I might already be on my second. Well, I hadn’t quite sunk to morning drinking when I stopped drinking 511 days ago, but it was heading that way so although I don’t know where I’d be had I not stopped I can only really say this with certainty: right now I’d either be drinking or I’d have made plans for drinking later on. Fact remains though, that the reason I’m not drinking this morning or planning to guzzle Sauvignon Blanc later is solely because I have no desire to. I don’t want to drink.

Since February, I work at a rehab as those of you who know me will know. This springs purely from a desire to help others find this amazing gift I was given and get a shot at reclaiming their lives, but more importantly, themselves. Even 511 days later, on this five hundred and eleventh morning, I still wake up and feel tearful of joy and gratitude that I once again begin a new day without a hangover and the crippling hell of active addiction. Yes, I’m a little nuts, but out of these 511 mornings I’d hazard a guess and say I’ve cried tears of joy at least one hundred times. On my five hundred and eleventh morning sober my morning coffee tastes epic. On my five hundred and eleventh morning I am steady on my feet and my mind is clear.

I imagine this gratitude comes from my time in captivity. Would I feel this grateful and amazed at just waking up in the morning if I hadn’t been trapped for so long? Would standing up in the shower strike me as so wondrous if I’d been able to do it all along? Call me crazy, but I doubt it. By the way – sometimes I cry of joy in the shower too, simply because I no longer have to crouch. I can freaking STAND in the shower! Hallelujah! And so I consider myself very, very lucky. Lucky to be an addict, lucky to be an alkie. Perhaps my appreciation for those small, simple things in life – even the fact that I’m breathing – and the joy I feel is this strong and overwhelming because I so very nearly threw it all away. It makes sense, no? If you’ve been confined to a wheelchair for years and years, of course having the use of your legs again will seem more of a miracle and something to be thankful for than it would if you’d always been able to.

When we overcome something terrible, I believe it’s a human reaction to want to pass on the gift and help others. I know what that captivity feels like, I know how it feels to be stuck in the hell of addiction and not seeing the way out. But I found a way out and so when I see someone else who is suffering, all I want to do is let them know that no matter how impossible and unlikely it may seem, they can find their way out too. Take any charity, any foundation – almost always founded and run by those who have themselves been through it, no matter what it is. I only have to look around me at my colleagues – the few who aren’t themselves in recovery were lashed by addiction having either grown up with parents who were addicts or had to stand by as a partner or sibling went through it. Every single one of us, regardless of how addiction affected us – directly or indirectly – is at the rehab for one reason only: because we so desperately want to help illuminate that elusive pathway out of hell and reassure those who suffer that it IS there and can be found.

At the rehab, we work with the 12-step program. I attended AA meetings during my first two, three months of recovery but it hasn’t quite been my path. As I mentioned, I am sober today because it’s what I want more than anything else. Or rather, I’m sober today because I don’t want to drink. To my mind, why would I need to go to meetings to stop me doing something I don’t want to do in the first place? But here’s the scary bit: almost every time someone relapses the immediate response is “they stopped working the program“. The philosophy goes that you have to attend meetings and practice the 12 steps in all your affairs and it’s what keeps you sober. I want to be clear though – nowhere does it state in AA literature (as far as I’m aware anyway) that it is the only way to get sober and you’re encouraged to “take what works, leave the rest“. Healthy approach, if you ask me. And I guess that’s what I’ve done. And to be even clearer, I absolutely love AA – if it saves just one poor soul from the deep abyss of alcoholism and addiction, then it’s thumbs up from me. AA, CA, NA and all the other As do save hundreds of thousands of us. Millions. As far as I’m concerned, if you keep sober by running naked around your house at dawn each day – keep doing that.

Through my recovery, I’ve sometimes felt prickly at those words. “They stopped working the program“. It gets me prickly because I don’t seem to be “doing it” in the straight-up AA way. But when I put my toys back into my pram and quieten my obstinate inner child, I realise that I’m absolutely working a program. Or THE program, even:

  1. I admitted defeat and accepted I was powerless in the face of addiction.
  2. I wanted to find a different way of life.
  3. I asked for help.
  4. I looked inward and took stock of my life and what’s fucked me up.
  5. I honestly and sincerely laid those things that fucked me up bare.
  6. I resolved to face them all and work through them.
  7. I set out to turn resentment to forgiveness, anger to love, and fear to faith.
  8. I felt a desire to put right the harm I’d done.
  9. I acknowledged, took responsibility and asked forgiveness.
  10. I keep a close eye on myself and correct myself when resentment, anger and fear threaten to engulf me.
  11. I practice mindfulness.
  12. I put my heart and soul into helping other addicts find their way to recovery.

Bill W would be pleased, I reckon, and you don’t need to attend meetings to live your life according to these principles. It makes me chuckle, because it’s almost like I’ve gone and 12-stepped in spite of myself. Nice work, Bill W – you got me! I’m glad though, I just needed to see it for myself and reframe how I think around what it means to work a/the program. It kinda happened organically. I’m not saying I’m a genius but then neither was good ol’ Bill W. Bill W was simply just like me – a drunk, who practiced a new way of life that kept him in balance. And sober. And that’s really what I’ve come to believe recovery is all about: balance. It goes without saying that we’re much more vulnerable to harm, be it addiction or any destructive behaviour at all, if we are broken or carry resentments. Sometimes we just have a deadness inside, a void, a hole in our heart or whatever other way you want to use to describe it. Sometimes there’s just this restlessness and discontent that can only be stilled with drugs – until we find a better way of keeping ourselves balanced.

No, I don’t want to drink on this fine day. Call me cocky, but I wouldn’t drink if you offered me £1,000,000 to do so. Well. I wouldn’t agree to kill myself for £1,000,000 either and that’s what drinking would mean for me because I’m an alcoholic and I can’t drink the way you can. You get my drift though. I don’t want to drink and at this moment in time there is nothing, NOTHING, that could make me. But don’t be fooled, I am always vigilant – that’s where the mindfulness comes in, see – as I still have the brain that threw me into captivity to start with.

What I wanted to get at, although it seems it took me a while to get to the point, is that I do work a program. No, I don’t go to AA meetings very often but I spend a huge part of my waking hours focused on recovery – both my own and that of others around me. I share – here, at home, with friends, at work – and stay open and honest. And I try my damned hardest to pass on this beautiful, magical gift. Some of us get put off by AA and I have to admit this has at times been me too, but then I remind myself that we’re all just doing the same thing – trying to find that balance and work on our recovery. If we do it in a certain order of steps or affirmations or rituals is irrelevant. The 12 steps I believe is something that almost comes naturally when we get sober – when we remove the anaesthesia all our emotions come flooding back and we have no choice but to learn how to deal with them. And I reckon that’s what Bill W did. And how helpful of him to cobble together a guide to give us a nudge in the right direction in case we’re a little lost initially. Personally, I think everyone – addict or otherwise – would be better off going about our lives that way.

It’s all about balance.

Today I’m not going to drink.

13 Minutes Past Midnight

Burning the midnight oil here… Worked the late shift at the rehab and have to get up at 5am to do the early one tomorrow. My sister and her boyfriend are on their way here, having landed with a late flight in from Gothenburg – I guess they can now officially be called The Two Doctors given they both now have their PhDs. Fuck me, imagine their future children! Those will be some seriously cute braniacs. They’re staying for a couple of nights before relocating to a hotel more centrally, so I’m bunking up with Bambino who under duress agreed to house me on the sofa bed in his room. It’s uncomfortable as hell so God knows if I’ll get any sleep at all of the, at a guess, maximum of three I might get. Then a full-on shift tomorrow with three discharges and the usual madness!

I suppose the normal expectation in this scenario would be to complain?


See, this is freaking awesome! OK, so having The Two Doctors over is obviously awesome, but I don’t even mean that! I am referring to how I can do all this because I’m sober! I’m not passed out, black-out drunk. I can get in the car and safely collect them from the station. I’ll no doubt be super tired tomorrow but my head will be clear, my body will feel steady and I’ll be able to function to full capacity albeit probably a little wired and spent. Whoop-dee-do! And I continue to be reliable, steady Anna when I’m sober, which is fucking amazing. I can be the person to say “I’ll come get you” and deliver. I can do all this around an exhausting and demanding job, having also cleaned the apartment and before today’s shift having made a yummy quiche they can have tomorrow when I’m at work. From scratch, I hasten to add, seeing as I’m in full swing bragging mode. Yep, the pastry and everything. Given I’m not busy spinning around the Drinking Hell Trifecta (i.e. in a loop of 1. battling a vicious hangover, 2. planning my drinking, or 3. being black-out drunk), I’ve organised everything properly so that everything will run smoothly.

Well. Thought it was well worth pointing out once again how amazing it is to be sober and the countless gifts that sobriety brings me.

Please God, never let me fall back. Please help me remain on this path.

…I suppose it’s a little early to say this at 13 minutes past midnight but there we are:

Today I’m not going to drink.


Here On This Bed

Resentments – wow, do I have them! Whilst I mostly feel at peace these days and much more able to accept and let things go, there is one big hurdle I have yet to overcome. Because I feel it’s right to tell only my own story, it’s hard to process my number one resentment on this blog as any detail would mean I expose other people’s stories and those are not for me to tell. I suppose the details aren’t that important as far as a blog about recovery goes – it’s how I deal with it that’s important, and talking about this needs no intricate detail.

Most of the time, I don’t think of it and I can’t say it affects my life on a day to day basis. My resentment lives in the place where I still find myself this morning: in Sweden. Not exactly in this very spot – I’m propped up against pillows on the bed in our top floor hotel room in the capital and gazing out across the roof tops of Stockholm. My Big Resentment lives approximately 300 miles from here, deep in the forests near Sweden’s western border to Norway, so I’m still quite some distance away. Still, it cuts so deep that only the mention of a name and a comment one person made nearly two years ago (!!) has me thrown right into irritability, restlessness and discontentment. Sound familiar?

So, I have two choices:

  1. Push it back down and numb myself.
  2. Lift it up, pull it out with all its roots and inspect it closely.

Well. As dictated by law here on the Pink Cloud, it is against the rules to sweep things under the rug. In Sweden we sometimes say “don’t wake a hibernating bear” but on the Pink Cloud that’s exactly what we do. In fact, I’m going to rock up at the cave and poke that damn grizzly with a big stick and see what happens.

As big resentments often do, my Big Resentment dates back many, many years. I wasn’t the only casualty, in fact someone dear suffered much more. I think all of us in that particular constellation suffered greatly, and perhaps most of all the person who still has the ability spring up from the past and knock me sideways by the mere mention of their name. It has doubtlessly shaped who I am and my behaviour as I’ve gone through life. In many ways I present the behaviour of codependence in how I have always been a yes-sayer and bent over backwards to keep the peace no matter how much it has cost me emotionally. Smooth over, forgive when I actually cannot, smile when I want to cry and forever an attitude of “if you’re fine, I’m fine“. Except I never was. It was never, ever FINE.

On the subject of codependency, when it comes to this I’m that Adult Child. My emotional growth in this aspect was stunted and I’m still that eight-yearold girl who just desperately wants to be loved and for you to see how good and kind she is. It’s no exaggeration to say I’m still her and if you weren’t able to grow from that place, it sends after shocks across the surface like rings on the water throughout your life. I have a steadfast belief that love will be taken away from me. You may love me right now, but actually you just think you do and once you realise I’m not worthy – as you eventually will – you’ll walk away and I’ll be all alone. I still have to really fight to make myself believe that e.g. Hubby actually DOES love me as deeply as he says he does and isn’t planning on divorcing me. My immediate thought when he was super tired last night was that he is going off me, that he’s finally discovered I’m not very sexy or beautiful or attractive at all. Impending doom at every turn. A text message an hour after he left for work this morning saying he misses me doesn’t have the same impact at all – I’m simply not wired to believe someone could love me enough (or that I’m lovable enough, rather) to miss me after just an hour. When he tells me he thinks I’m pretty I am convinced there’s something wrong with him, that he’s deluded somehow but will soon realise I’m Shrek. When Hubby says something nice about me, the eight-yearold girl I still am inside nods knowingly because she knows it isn’t true. It’s crazy shit.

So how do I get past this? My Big Resentment is in the past but also lives on. It’s insane that 35 years later, I can sit here on this bed in this hotel room and feel prickly and full of anger. BECAUSE OF THE MENTION OF HER NAME AND A COMMENT SHE MADE TWO YEARS AGO. I feel wronged. I want vengeance! Justice! But what would change? What would it change if that person knocked on the door here and now? If she walked in, sat down and told me she’s sorry. If she told me she had me wrong all along and has now put everything right so the rest of the world knows it too? What would that change? Would I be able to let it go then? This is what we want, isn’t it? When we feel wronged we want vindication somehow, no? That angry, bitter, resentful part of me wants her sucker punched into submission – humiliated, shamed, reduced to rubble and exposed.

Uhm… Whoops! …I see it now that I actually typed it out that in my moments of resentment I want her to feel the way she always made me feel. Wow, Anna. Time for a change perhaps? The saying goes that resentment is like drinking poison hoping the other person will die. That’s precisely what this is. Oh, and what I indeed did for all those years – drank poison and only hurting myself as a result.

Why is approval so crucial for me? Why do I fall apart like I do when someone doesn’t think I’m the best thing since they discovered how to make coffee? I’d use the sliced bread metaphor but I’m watching my carbs at the moment and I love coffee so much more. Something broke in me all those years ago and there is still a gaping hole in my heart that I never managed to fill, despite many valiant attempts. My modus operandi all this time has been to laugh it off, pretend I don’t care and that it doesn’t bother me. If you’re fine, I’m fine. It seems I need to accept that this hole in my heart is there and instead of living like it isn’t I have to learn to find a new way. It’s nuts to allow this to consume me like it has over these past three days when in fact NOTHING HAPPENED. Just the mention of a name and a comment. Stuff I knew anyway, yet it brought it all back.

Maybe my Big Resentment needs a new home. It’s better to have that little hole in my heart than fill it with stuff that doesn’t belong there, right?

Perhaps my Big Resentment can live right here? In room 1025 at Clarion Hotel Sign in Stockholm. I’m sitting here with it right now, feeling it all and trying to see it clearly. Perhaps I’ll even visit. But it can’t keep living in me like it has. Yes, this can be its new home and I’m going to try to walk out in an hour and say my goodbyes. I absolutely HAVE TO let this go. I don’t need to forget and I don’t have to forgive either, but I can decide who and what I allow into my life and to what degree. Feeling consumed by resentment for three days just because I was reminded of her is fucking nuts.

We stayed with one of my best childhood friends on their beautiful island in the archipelago and I need to remember what she said instead, even though my brain is wired to only absorb only the things that confirm I’m unlovable: “Imagine how she must feel inside, she’s broken“. M said it and squeezed my hand. Wise words. And I know they’re true. Happy, content people don’t behave like this person does. And I guess most of all I pity my Big Resentment, because when I detangle it all I see a very small person who is scared. Perhaps she’s the biggest victim of us all. So I can in a way choose, I suppose – do I go through life broken too, or do I try to heal?

It’s there, it all happened. But it’s not happening anymore. I’m not brainy like Einstein, talented like Toni Morrison or beautiful like Cameron Diaz, but I’m absolutely, 100% good enough, and worthy and deserving of love as much as the next person. I have lots to offer and at the age of 43 and sober it’s time to let go. Yes, there’s a hole in my heart but it’ll only stay that way if I insist on forcing shit into it that doesn’t belong there.

So long, Big Resentment. I’m sorry for my part. Enjoy the room upgrade. I’ll see you when I see you and do stay in touch because you’re part of me after all, but let’s enjoy a healthier relationship from now on. You can’t live in my heart rent free anymore, go find yourself a job. Arrivederci.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Night, Night Darling

Something I think we – we, the addicts – sometimes forget, is how we’re not the only ones who are in recovery. Addiction is like a bomb, and although it’s us addicts who are hit with the explosion, our loved ones are hit too with the shrapnel and total devastation of our demise. Yes, it takes courage and strength to battle our way through recovery, but our loved ones also have to recover if we’re lucky enough to still have them stand by us. They have to learn to trust us again. Or our ability to stay sober/clean, rather. They may – quite rightly – be filled with anger, resentment, sadness and bitterness and the road back can be a long and arduous one for them too.

Only a few weeks back, Hubby had a wobble. There I was, 15-odd months sober and not a care in the world, bobbing along nicely on my Pink Cloud and filled with gratitude. It didn’t even occur to me until he told me days later how it had looked to him.

Here’s what happened in my world:

Sunday. Hubby gets on flight to Dubai for work, leaving mid-morning. I go for a long walk around the park. Back home and much of the day still ahead of me. Baked some cinnamon rolls. Blogged. Spent some time reading. Cleaned the apartment. Time dragged and I was bored silly. Quite randomly decided that I’d hit up an AA meeting – there’s one a few hundred yards down the road on Sunday evenings that I used to go to early on in recovery. So off I go. Realised half way down I had no cash and in meetings you usually put a few coins in a cup that’s passed around. Went to the cash point. Withdrew £100 as I needed cash for the cleaner too – two birds, one stone. Went into the kebab shop, which was the only place open on Sunday evening, and bought a bottle of water in order to get some change. Went to the meeting, then home. Had some missed calls from Hubby, three in fact, and he’d texted several times too asking if I’m OK. Of course I am! Gosh, what a Mother Hen he can be! Cute, really. Speak with him as I crawl into bed with a book. I do notice that he sounds a bit worried but he can be like that, bless him – he always wants to look after me so I put it down to him just being this glorious, loving husband that he is. Night, night darling.

Here’s what happened in Hubby’s world:

Off to Dubai. Text Wifey to let her know landed safely. Text her again in taxi to let her know en route to hotel. Call her to let her know at hotel safely. Twice, no reply. Another text to check she’s OK. Try calling again an hour later. Goes to answer machine again. She is home alone, Bambino at his dad’s. Uhm, what’s this? She’s taken cash out. And cannot be reached. Now, this used to mean one thing only – when I was home alone I’d usually take the opportunity to drink myself to pieces. Hated my wine purchases showing up on the statement so would always get cash out. And of course I knew I’d be slurring so I’d switch my phone off, normally text Hubby to say I’m having an early night so he wouldn’t worry.

Of course I was fine and still very much sober. But this illustrates how Hubby still worries. I can’t forget that, WE – we, the addicts – can’t forget that. We have to be mindful of those poor souls whose hearts we inhabit and how they need time too. I had to remind myself of this as my immediate reaction when Hubby days later told me he’d thought I’d fallen off the wagon was annoyance – just because drinking at this point in time couldn’t be further from my mind, Hubby still has to learn to trust this new existence too. In a way, he is still held hostage by my addiction. I kissed him a million times over, thanked him for loving me so much and swore to be careful with his heart. And next time, hopefully I’ll be more aware of how it might look in his world and ping him a text before I fall off the radar for a while!

There is also Bambino. Don’t get me wrong, I know in my heart that he is thrilled to bits that Mum is sober and I’ll never underestimate how much my sobriety and fight to remain in recovery means in his world. That does make me a hero and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for my child. However! Never EVER can I lose sight of what that little heart of his might feel every day before he comes home. Perhaps that stone of dread and anxiety still hangs there until the very moment he walks through the door and can see Mum is still sober? Perhaps he still worries and dreads what sort of state I might be in? I may be sober and currently confident in terms of my recovery, but I’ve done so much damage and Bambino might always have that worry as a result. Who knows? Maybe one day he’ll tell me and do you know what? If he one day has some choice words for me, no matter how much they’ll hurt I’ll give him my full attention. Period.

Yes, recovery is a scary and difficult battle. Yes, we are absolutely heroes for battling the Beast. But we also HAVE TO remember we aren’t the only victims. Our loved ones are also on this journey with us and they may very well have every bit as much of a fight on their hands, and of this we must be mindful and respectful.

So today, what I’m the most grateful for are my two boys – Hubby and Bambino – who still somehow deem me worthy of their love despite the devastation I’ve caused through my addiction. Thank God. May they learn to trust my strength as I continue on my journey and one day feel at peace. It’s my responsibility to fight with all my might to show them this. I know they trust in me, but some wounds take a while to heal and until they do I’ll be the best nurse I know how. One day at a time.

Today I’m not going to drink.

That Goddamn Bottle

Something curious happened.

We were talking about you earlier and everyone was saying that we just can’t imagine you drinking.

I must have jumped, as if someone had prodded me with a stick. Startled, but absolutely delighted, I looked up from what I was doing. The client whose medication I was administering sat on the chair and was smiling at me, an alkie like myself, waiting for me to put her lunchtime batch of detox pills into the little paper cup. She has eyes the colour of the sky on a summer’s day – that solid, light blue – and they were sparkling like eyes do when we’re coming back to life from active addiction. She, like so many others, is again a bright and bubbly individual and already so far removed from the tired and wrecked person who was admitted to the rehab only a week or two ago. It’s a beautiful thing when we begin to recover who we really are. Sobriety does this and it’s fucking awesome.

It was off the back of the morning relaxation group I’d run. The topic had been “say when” and holding boundaries, and I’d shared a little (to prompt discussion) about what my life used to look like when I was drinking. I told the group how I’d say yes to everything and then be too fucked to follow through. I set this in contrast to how I can now say yes and deliver on my promises. Or say no and draw the line. It’s good stuff, that! It was a really great session and many people added stories and insights of their own. I love my tribe and I almost feel a little guilty because I reap so many rewards from working at the rehab – it’s an absolute privilege to be around these fine folk who are in recovery just like I am. I may be getting paid to support THEM, but I’m on the same journey – albeit a little further along – and they help me too. More than they know.

Oh my God – really?” I asked, a little bewildered.

Hell, I have trouble myself sometimes to really believe I’m without the wine now. Being a lush, wine glass forever in hand, was my identity for so long that to hear someone say they couldn’t imagine it really threw me. A good friend of mine, who of course knew me all along and therefore more than familiar with Drunk Me, said the very opposite when I first got sober, namely “Anna, I can’t imagine you without wine!” and laughed. And here’s now someone, or several people actually given they’d apparently talked about me, who can’t actually imagine me as anything other than the person I am now – Sober Me.

Absolutely, we can’t imagine it!” she emphasised and smiled even wider.

I’ve only known you sober too, I can’t imagine you with wine either,” I told her truthfully.

Hah! Just check that awful photo on there, it’s horrible,” she replied and rolled her eyes.

She was referring to the photo on her MAR chart, the medication record we keep for each client. On each one we staple a print-out of the client’s photo, just another safety measure to ensure nothing gets mixed up and the right client gets the right meds. I flipped it over and we both had a look.

Mm, you do look a little tipsy here! Were you drunk when you came in?” I asked.

No! Just really hungover. I missed a trick there, everyone else is saying they drank right up to the last minute,” she chuckled.

Oh God, that’s so funny, I know exactly what you mean! I was looking for this particular bottle of wine the last time I drank and couldn’t bloody find it but I knew it was somewhere,” I said, “then a few weeks sober I realised it was in the wine rack! That really pissed me off at the time because it was like oh, I should have drunk that and now I’d missed out! Isn’t that crazy?” I added and couldn’t help but laugh.

Exactly!” she agreed.

Well, I suppose you’re getting the best value seeing as you didn’t spend the first 24 hours coming right and could just get right in,” I told her and raised a knowing eyebrow, “but yes, I know where you’re coming from. It’s like that, isn’t it? Drink the last drop.

Well. Just one of many, many little conversations that take place at the rehab but one that happened to contain the best compliment I’ve had in a while. SHE COULDN’T IMAGINE DRUNK ME! That’s fanfuckingtastic, no? It’s the same for me though and just as I told her, I can’t quite imagine this lady – who is so perky, smart and articulate – as a drunken mess either. But that’s what we both used to be, a hot mess, and it was pretty cool – one hot mess to another, seeing the other right there in that moment as the opposite of that and the only (very small) difference being that I happen to be a little further along.

Gosh, I remember that wine bottle so well and how I searched for it high and low during one of my last drinking sessions. Ironically, it was right there in the wine rack. Only a raging alcoholic wouldn’t think to look there. Putting bottles in the wine rack was something I never did because, uh, WHY exactly? Right into the fridge to chill and rip into straight away. I never understood wine racks, they always seemed like unnecessary faff to me. Keep the juice handy, I say. But yes, it pissed me off at the time that there it was, that last bottle I should have poured down my neck. I felt deprived! I was going to have that goddamn bottle and there it was again, having fucking hid from me the fucking thing and now laughing in my face! Naaah-nah-nah, naaah-nah! Fuckery.

Now when I think about it, it illustrates something important – namely, how when I was in active addiction it was always a case of tomorrow. I’ll stop after THIS one. Always ‘tomorrow’, never ‘today’. Sobriety is NOW. We can only recover when we go for it, not when we’re putting it off for another time or delaying so we can have another drink. I think Hubby had that bottle – in his normal way of course: it found its way into the fridge and he would have had it one glass at a time over several days – but with hindsight I wish I’d kept it as a reminder. The bottle of wine I never drank. The best bottle.

Today I’m not going to drink.