Warning! Heart overload!

There are so many things about my drinking that I don’t miss. Actually, let’s rephrase: there is nothing about my drinking that I miss. One of the first things that happened when I quit was that I sleep so much better. From waking up several times with a pounding heart, I now fall asleep easily and sleep like a log until the morning. The quality of my sleep now is awesome and I wake up feeling refreshed, strong and calm. So I don’t miss the 4am waking hour I used to have when I was drinking, when I’d lie awake for what felt like ages and when my heart was furiously fighting to do its job in spite of the terrible working conditions I offered, pounding with all its might to keep my alcohol contaminated blood flowing through my veins as it should. My poor heart.

Another thing I don’t miss is the anxiety I used to feel. This is not to say I never feel anxious but rather when I do it’s not the inevitable byproduct of ingesting a depressive agent such as alcohol. It’s no longer a chemical reaction to poison but a way for my gut/soul/Higher Power/whatever to communicate that something is wrong. This also allows me to fully acknowledge and feel all emotions on their own merit as they are no longer triggered by a poison I put into my body. Last night I had awful nightmares, vivid and graphic scenarios, and I woke up almost in panic and shuffled over to hubby’s side and clung on to him. My heart was beating in that way it used to at 4am every morning, hard and fast, and I was a tightly rolled up bundle of fear and terror. Just like the Grade A hangovers I used to have all the time.

What I have the luxury of now that I’m sober, is the ability to first of all acknowledge this deep dread and anxiety for exactly what it is, and given it’s not the result of booze I can at least try to understand what it is my gut is trying to tell me. Instead of battling withdrawal, I can receive the messages my soul is sending me and try to decipher their origin and meaning. Being sober allows me to feel fully and explore every emotion. I suppose you can say it lets me be completely tuned into my emotions given I don’t via alcohol numb some and enhance others – I just feel each one exactly as they are. I’d say last night I experienced what borderline reminded me of the panic attacks I suffered over a period following the divorce from my first husband. At the time, I suppose they were my soul trying to tell me I needed to pause, breathe and reset – WARNING, beeeeeeep, beeeeep, too much, too much, WARNING, heart overload, beeeeeeep, hold up, hold up, beeeeeeep, beeeeeeeeep, slow doooooown, WARNING, immediately engage self care system, beeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!

And so instead of just riding it out I can at least attempt to unpack where all this dread and fear came from.

  1. I am sensitive to hormonal fluctuations and around my period I sometimes feel a little low. There’s one contributing factor right there.
  2. My son was heartbroken yesterday due to how his father (my ex-husband) treats him. Their relationship is buggered and it causes my son immense hurt. My sun rises and sets with my boy and when my teenager who I usually have to beg for hugs sobs in my arms as if he were a small child again, my heart breaks in thousands of little pieces. Little shards of pain that slice through my soul.

There you are. I was feeling low and hormonal (and OK, probably bad tempered too after unsuccessfully trying to pick a fight with hubby who annoyed me by, you know, breathing) and my child was hurting. Hello nightmares and palpitations!

What can we conclude? Well. Once a month I morph into an intolerable little cow with an attitude problem. My periods are beyond what I can control and until Mother Nature decides I no longer need them, they will continue to happen. I can try harder to manage my mood when those hormonal changes happen though, even if it’s as simple as telling hubby “look, I’m sorry, I feel this way, please give me some slack and I’ll make it up to you some other time“. Just give my nearest a bit of a weather warning perhaps. The situation with my son’s father is even further out of my control. I can’t control my ex’s behaviour and I can’t take away the pain it results in for my son. But again, what I do have the power to control is ME. I can try to be the best parent I can be and show my son how much I love and respect him and everything else. Be there for him and help explain how this isn’t his fault. And so on.

Yes! One more thing right there that I don’t miss about drinking. Imagine if I poured alcohol on existing period gloom and the pain I feel for my son – sweet Lord, it’d get unbearable and I’d be rendered completely unable to cope with any of it. Hubby would be faced with not only a hormonal witch but a drunk and out of control one. Plus in all the angst my son is already feeling, he’d have to see mum drunk as well. Eesh – can’t think of anything more awful, can you? I’d be no good to anyone, least of all to myself.

Back to anxiety for a brief moment – I know of course that many people suffer anxiety and how sometimes it has NO root cause, that perhaps some warning systems are too finely tuned or a little out of whack. And I don’t want to make light of that or sound flippant. I think I’m probably prone to it, couldn’t tell you if I react more strongly or am more sensitive to pain than the next person. Doesn’t matter though because as usual I can only speak for myself and my own experience.

Right, so that’s enough of a brain dump from me. Have a wonderful weekend wherever you are.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Vomit and AA Super Stars

I wonder what would happen if we made the 12 step approach to recovery undone. If we waved a magic wand and made it so that it never came to be, I wonder if we would inevitably end up with a very similar strategy based on what happens within us when we get sober. Sounds a bit ridiculous, I know.

With my first sponsor I ended up getting quite turned off, which is in a way really strange as 1) I absolutely adore her, and 2) she is living proof of how the 12 step program can work miracles. For me, she’s the sort of person I glance at and think “I’ll have what she’s having, please“. Perhaps I wasn’t ready, perhaps I was still too fresh into my sobriety to be fully open to it all – Sparks is what Willow used to call “an AA super star” by way of describing how she is very set in practicing the 12 steps and 12 traditions very strictly according to the AA way. Perhaps I wasn’t ready to be told not to question anything. Unsurprisingly, I can now see that Sparks was right in everything she said and even the things that I didn’t feel I could relate to she expressed for a good reason – to help me stay sober. I think I thought I had to accept everything as 100% true for me in every sense and so inevitably I encountered conflict almost immediately as no two people are the same. There just cannot be one size fits all to treat the human condition. So I guess I made the mistake of allowing the differences to grate on me instead of focusing on the similarities. And maybe, despite how I love Sparks to bits, she’s just not the right sponsor for me. Hey ho, always lessons to be learned, that’s half the fun, no?

Back to undoing the existing 12 step model. The reason I ask what might happen, is because now that I’ve got a few months of sobriety under my belt, I have discovered how some of these things actually happen in what seems to be an entirely organic and natural process, although as usual I can of course only speak for myself. You get to a point where you just can’t do it anymore and know it’s all a big mess, you want to live differently and you accept you can’t do it on your own. You go on to dissect your own patterns of thinking and behaviour in order to find a better way and you sincerely want to put right the hurt you have caused. When sobriety almost immediately delivers and your life experience goes from bleak and hopeless to light and joyful and you already see positive changes all around you, something almost magical (as magical as sobriety itself I suppose!) happens within and you want to share with others who suffer how there is a way to recover the person they were always meant to be and have the life of their dreams. Fuck me, I want to vomit reading that, I’m starting to sound like Sparks.

Anyway, my point is that I reckon what happened was Bill W & Co devised the steps and traditions not so much based on religion as their own recovery, because no one handed them the Big Book, right? It’s clear these dudes are Bible bashers, but remove the odd ‘God’ and ‘Higher Power’ they’re really just describing the process of recovering from alcoholism and what happens within us as we do. What do you think? This is all the stuff they concluded and so now that I have been sober using tools I’ve picked up in all sorts of places and not just in AA, I can begin to see how it all happened. Or rather, how it COULD have happened. Feel free to shout when I say stuff you think is totally wrong – I’m just letting my thoughts run wild and spill out as usual.

However, none of that matters anyway – who cares if the 12 step model was sprayed on to a wall when a unicorn did a wet fart or if it lit up across the sky when Thor smashed his hammer around – I just find it interesting and I love how sobriety allows me to discover new things almost every day. Like when I realised I was doing a bit of step 9 work when I said to my mother that I’m sorry for causing so much worry – it was specifically to do with my drinking so bang on subject and I specifically apologised for the heartache I must have caused her. Fuck me, the poor woman, I fall apart if my kid scrapes his knee, and I can only hope that my son does not in turn and passed down by me carry this most unfortunate predisposition.

When I get ready for steps 8 and 9, my son’s name will be the top name on that list even though there too I have, without using the A-word or placing too much burden on his still young shoulders, expressed sincere remorse and asked forgiveness for hurting him with my drinking. Anyway, that can be talked about more some other time, I just wanted to point out how some things kind of get triggered by sobriety and much of the stuff outlined in the 12 steps is what at least I have discovered I end up feeling anyway. And although my narcissistic brain does want me to think I’m the cleverest recovering drunk there is, I know I just cannot be alone in having this happen in this way.

So. I’m lacing up my finest 12 step shoes and off we go. Well, I’ll be lacing up my new trainers and will head to the women’s meeting and then walk back – that’ll be roughly the same distance as my normal walk around the park so a matter of two birds one stone. For those of you who aren’t members of AA, it’s normally the case that women stick with women and men with men (this reduces the potential risk of a whole new set of complications) so I’m making it easy for myself, plus I know who I want to ask. There are inevitably, as with all situations in life, people in AA you relate to and people you don’t, people you like and some who just really grate on you. People in AA are warmer and friendlier and WAY more open than any other situations I’ve found myself in, but trust me you get good’uns and bad’uns everywhere, so you don’t just grab anyone to sponsor you although I don’t know if there is some set of official guidelines for finding a sponsor. I chose Sparks because she was someone I got to know straight away, in fact the was the first person to swoop in and talk to me before she took my phone and added her number. She had the qualifications too: she was further along into her sobriety than I am and she’d done the steps. Beyond this I really like her on a personal level. She just seemed like a natural choice and I do enjoy her no-nonsense and slightly brutal approach even if I may not have been ready for it.

So yes, I do have my eye on someone (jeez, that sounds so fucking creepy!!) I’d like to speak to and see if she’s up for sponsoring me. Unless she’s an absolute twat of course, but I won’t know that unless I speak to her and if she isn’t as un-twatty as she seems I’ll just have to go back on the prowl, but that’s my criteria for having her in mind: she seems like a non-twat and I can identify with the stuff she shares.

For the purposes of this blog I’m going to call her Breeze because she’s softly spoken, comes across as gentle, always smiles (but most people in AA are very smiley) and when she shares I sometimes wonder how the hell she broke into my head and stole my thoughts. Bit like asking her out really. I’m not great like that. I’m a sunny and friendly person but a little shy with the approach so my normal strategy is to smile and hope other people make the first move when friendships are to be made. May have to put my big girl pants on here though and just do it. Chances are that she won’t burst out laughing and then mock me for even daring to THINK she’d want to be my sponsor. If she raises her hand again this evening to indicate she’s happy to speak to newcomers (which I think is the signal for being happy to be someone’s sponsor but I could be wrong – oh FUCK, what if I’m wrong and I ask her and then I’ll look really stupid and feel mortified OH SHUT THE HELL UP BRAIN!!), I’m going to do it. Oh, I am pathetic, just watch me stare at my hands in my lap for a bit and not knowing what to do when everyone else starts chatting after the meeting, feel a little silly and then just leave after talking with all the people I already know. Or I end up not going as usual.

You know, I’m really torn. On the one hand I absolutely 100% value AA so, so much and I always intend for AA to be an important and necessary part of my sobriety. Crucial and central, even. On the other I am not struggling to stay sober. I feel I need to go to stay connected and I suppose sometimes I just need to remind myself of that. Most of all, I just need to LISTEN TO THE SIMILARITIES instead of feeling frustrated any time I hear experiences that are nothing like my own and I can’t relate. But hey, it’s a journey and it’d be pretty boring if I didn’t learn stuff all the time. Long may it last!

Today I’m not going to drink.

Fascinators and Phallic Symbols

Today is the kind of day when I actually feel like drinking would be a great idea,” I said as I adjusted my fascinator.

Hubby smiled as he drove into the car park of Ascot Racecourse, kind of chuckled a “hmh!” that wasn’t in approval or disapproval but just sort of a half grunt response to acknowledge that he’d heard me. And it was only a thought but it was nice that he heard me and that helped it fade very quickly, because that’s one of my best defences: speaking it out loud. When the thought comes, I let it out. I put words to it and it goes away. Boom. I allow those thoughts when they come a’knockin’ and I deliberately invite them in. Foolish perhaps, but I feel trying to shut them out or suppress them might be worse. And voicing them to someone else, most often to hubby, makes me feel safe, it’s almost like the urge gets closed down the moment I share it (same strategy as why it’s good to share in AA meetings I guess). Fine, so I know full well that if the beast got its claws into me there’s nothing anyone else could do. If I were to decide I was going to drink, nothing would – or could – stop me. But it does help to not be alone, because alone is where the beast prefers me to be. It’s in its nature to strip all semblance of a life away from the alcoholic, isolate her, shrink her world and slowly edge her towards death. And it goes without saying that voicing a fear to someone we trust means we weaken the beast – telling someone is, I think, the best thing we can do when we’re in harm’s way. Alcohol can’t speak, of course, but if it could it’d coax us drunks in the same way an abuser would – urge us that this is our little secret, threaten us with worse if we snitch and ultimately have us believe they are our only friend and no one else would understand or believe us anyway.

So anyway, we settled on our picnic blanket and it struck me how strange this little piece of Britishness is. There we were, dressed up to the nines and having paid more than we would have for a couple of concert tickets to even be there, yet we were sitting on a picnic blanket in a car park between rows of cars and eating food and snacks and strawberries straight out of the packets. You’re not allowed to enter if the shoulder straps of your dress are not of a minimum width, but eat your lunch with plastic cutlery is no problem. But this is what you do. People around us had picnic furniture and several with table cloths and even flower vases. It’s quite lovely and a little eccentric I think, this car park picnic thing, and I do love the wonderful British people who inhabit (and allow me to inhabit too) this lovely island and partake in their quirky ways.

The thought of drinking alcohol disappeared but for a brief moment when we were on the stands ahead of a race and I thought to myself that it was hard enough to negotiate steps and lawns in high heels and felt grateful I don’t have to drink anymore. We did go three years ago, and I drank then. I don’t think I got recklessly drunk, but then I rarely did when we were out – my full-on drinking always took place at home, much in line with aforementioned dirty little secret and isolation. For that reason, I was usually extremely restless and anxious to get away in order to get on with getting sloshed, and my guess is I must have been keen to get home after a couple of hours. Not so these days though and this is one of the biggest changes for me now that I’m sober: I get to be present, I can relax in the moment and just enjoy it. No stress, no hurry. Like many other awesome benefits to sobriety, this is utterly wonderful and I always did really hate the restlessness booze filled me with – I’d go as far as to say it was unbearable.

And that brings me to the greatest thing of all – quitting drinking has given me my freedom back!

That’s not to say I never feel anxious, restless or down. I don’t like flying so feel anxious when I have to get on a plane. I get restless when I feel done with one thing and want to move on to the next, like when hubby takes an eternity to finish off a coffee after a meal – we have already spent two hours sitting here and I am all ambiance’d out, ta. I feel down when something sad happens or when something hurts. Of course I feel all those things, but I feel them when there is a reason to. When I drank I’d frequently experience those feelings almost like they were a default setting. Thank God I’m free from that and only need to feel bad when there is a reason to do so. Oh, and I get a bit sad when it’s the time of the month, I really do feel the fluctuation in hormone levels and I once ended up crying watching Friends when I had my period. But you know what I mean, don’t you? Those feelings aren’t my natural way of being. They are quite the opposite, I’ve discovered. It has really amused me to realise that I’m actually pretty calm when I used to think of myself as highly strung and antsy. Who would’ve known?

Of course you end up feeling free when you’re no longer a slave. Now I go into situations for what they are as opposed to being distracted (and stressed) by how to factor in my drinking and all that this entailed. It’s still a novelty, actually, because I catch myself feeling little hints of stress that dissolve the moment I remember I don’t have to drink anymore and it’s replaced by a sense of gratitude.

Another blogger wrote something that made me think – how us dry alcoholics can feel utterly convinced and super strong about never wanting to drink again one day, then feel like hitting the bottle the next. That’s probably the scariest thing about alcoholism as far as I’m concerned, because as I’ve bleated on about in this blog I really DO see all the benefits (and necessity, of course) of total abstinence. I also know with the rational part of my brain that alcohol does nothing for me and that I’d be better off eating dog shit if I feel like doing something both stupid and pointless. Yet, the compulsion is so strong that it still pulls at me. That’s terrifying because what in God’s name does it have on me when I honestly KNOW it does nothing for me? When I know that it’ll just go to shit if I have a drink, why does it still hold some power over me? Well, I don’t know. Do you? Any theories? It honestly is – to me – like an abusive partner. You go back time and time again, but WHY when all they do is cause you harm? It’s maddening!! All I know right now is that this thing that I don’t actually want to do is occasionally tempting, and that’s enough to respect its power massively. I guess I’ll just always have to remember the beast is much bigger than I am.

In other news, this weekend is the most important celebration of the year for us Swedes – midsummer! We mark the lightest point of the year by getting very, very drunk and dance like little frogs around a phallic symbol. This year we’re heading over to a friend of mine and will binge on various Swedish delicacies and I suppose I’ll be on water or alco-free beer. And yes – just then there was a little ping! in my head and I conjured up images of hubby and I having a midsummer celebration picnic in the park and drinking wine. The association with fun and a great time is so strong. So strong that even though I know that those images are illusions, they still have a firm hold on me.

For anyone interested in celebrating midsummer like a Swede, here’s an instruction video:

Today I’m not going to drink.

Huge Oceans of Kindness

No more hesitating. I’m going to do it! The story about Alice is still one I want to tell, but the story I have to tell first is the one about Sophie. A true story before a fictional one. And I don’t want to do it anonymously – how can I talk about removing the stigma and shame attached to alcohol abuse when I myself hide behind an alias and am still so preoccupied with what people might think that I don’t want to stand by my own freaking truth? So when I tell Sophie’s story I have to start by killing her off because this story is my own, it’s my truth and it’s my voice I want you to hear. After all, how could I ever expect to encourage others to talk openly about alcoholism and trust in me to be in their corner when I show up to the party wearing a Halloween mask? It doesn’t seem right and it’s about time I pull my own pants down.

Why don’t you?” hubby asked.

Not just about pulling my pants down, which he always approves of the dirty git, but why I don’t just slap my real name on here along with a photo where you can see more than my woolly hat and behave according to how I hand on heart feel – i.e. how I absolutely, 100% embrace the fact that I’m an alcoholic and if anyone’s got a problem with that I know with conviction that it says more about them than it does about me. After all, I’ve been open with both my family and my friends when the subject of drinking has come up – told them truthfully that I have quit drinking alcohol for the simple reason that I can’t stop when I start. So why hide here, of all places? It’s a bit ridiculous really if you think about it, not least because this is a tiny little blog in a huge ocean of others with a small handful of readers and the chances of this landing in front of my family are minuscule. I.e. a family I’m not trying to hide anything from in the first place so using an alias is actually quite ridiculous.

But! (There’s always a ‘but’, isn’t there?) How would my parents and siblings feel about having an alcoholic in the family, something so closely associated with shame and embarrassment? “Yes, this is my youngest daughter who is about to get her Phd, and this is my eldest – she’s an alcoholic.” As open minded, supportive and kind as my mother is, I just can’t exactly see her saying that with pride. Hubby himself is a good example, actually. It’s his surname I bear. An unusual one at that. And hubby happens to be on the board of a global company. Call me crazy, it won’t be the first time, but I do feel that for this reason alone I’d be best advised to be discreet about what a big, fat drunky-drunk I am. Can you see what I mean? That’s what has made me weary more than anything else, because I genuinely don’t have a problem with it for my own sake.

What if it affected you negatively?” I asked, “would you not worry about it reflecting badly on you to have people know your wife is a drunk? Wouldn’t you be embarrassed?

No,” he said without missing a beat.

Huh. Am I desperately prejudiced myself, or shockingly backwards in my thinking, in saying that if it were me I’d probably be a little concerned in that respect? Even though I personally would like to think I’d never judge, I’d be painfully aware that many others would. Hubby seemed completely unconcerned by any of that. Weirdo! Or is it because I’m so preoccupied with this that I have completely misjudged all of it? After all, every single person I have told about quitting drinking and my reasons why, has responded with nothing but kindness. And not the sort of kindness you’d expect if you were diagnosed with cancer “oh my God, you poor thing, we’re here for you and we’ll do all we can” but a more relaxed sort of kindness “oh OK, well, good for you“. An it’s-no-big-deal sort of kindness. I fully expected my father to go to town with a long lecture followed by scolding me for having sunk so low, yet instead he praised me for making such a great decision and told me he had huge respect for me. Huh. Or perhaps it’s just I’m discovering that the world – amazingly – does not revolve around me and that’s what’s actually shocking me. That friends, family and people in general, including business associates of hubby’s, don’t actually need to give it further thought than “oh“. That they don’t, in fact, gather around to discuss my many shortcomings at length. Huh.

More than anything, I need to stop worrying what people may think. This is me, this is my truth and I own it. And if those close to me feel shame for any reason, the question should be whether I want to have them near me anyway.

My name is Anna and I’m an alcoholic.

Hahaha, it’s not the most heroic outing the world has ever seen, is it? And after all that build-up it’s a bit of an anti-climax, don’t you think? Oh well, there we are. But just like the 23rd of January, it’s a START, because this is when I stop thinking about putting my little journey to good use and begin to actually DO IT. I’m not a fan of clichés or those “words of wisdom” on cheesy memes or whatever else, but there’s one I once saw in my Facebook newsfeed that I downloaded with the intention of having it printed and framed. And I think I now will, along with living according to exactly what it says:

year

Today is all I have and today I’m not going to drink.

The Man With The Perfect Bottom

For anyone who’s ever popped in and read this blog, it won’t be news that I like to reflect on alcoholism, addiction and sobriety. My guess would be that this is quite common when you start your journey to recovery, and perhaps it’s very necessary to understand what brought us to where we found ourselves with our drinking before we have a fair chance of climbing the downward spiral in the opposite direction – up.

I love AA meetings even though I haven’t been going much lately. Or at all. Maybe I’ll find one this evening? You can never have too many smiles in your life. Yes, I enjoy sitting in a room with a bunch of fellow drunks where we share our stories of where our drinking took us and what life is like now that we’re sober. I’m sitting there with my own kind knowing they are my family of sorts, these awesome people who are fucked up in the exact same way as I am. I have a multitude of amazing people around me, most of whom aren’t drunks, but as much as e.g. hubby understands that I can’t drink alcohol and pays close attention when I try to explain what it’s like, he will never be able to FEEL what I feel. See, that’s where my fellow alkies are invaluable allies, because I don’t need to say much more than “I tried to switch to beer to get less drunk” and another drunk will immediately chuckle because they know precisely what I mean about the endless (and hopeless) ways in which us alkies try to control our drinking before we eventually discover we… …can not. That’s the best thing about AA – how you can share the most ridiculous, fucked-up stuff and yet everyone around you just gets it. It’s liberating.

Hubby and I watched a program where alcoholism came up and the alcoholic in question called her addiction “the beast”. Hubby squeezed my leg and turned to me, looked at me with interest and sincerity and said “that’s what you call it“. Not a question, just stating a fact. Beautiful man. For a non-alcoholic I reckon he gets it as much as is humanly possible. He will never be able to feel what I feel, but he has listened to me and most of all, he has HEARD me. He doesn’t know the beast but he knows it exists. He has asked and asked and asked, question after question after question for me to answer, answer again, answer differently and for me to explain, explain again and explain differently. He has done all of that because he loves me and wants to understand what this is. So he may not be able to tell you EXACTLY how it feels and what happens inside of me when I take that first drink, but he knows that something does and that I can’t control it. And it’s absolutely crucial for me to have this amazing friend who takes it seriously and who tells me I’m amazing even though I’m actually incapable of controlling something he manages without second thought. It’s like me telling someone who has learnt to say ‘hello’ in Swedish that they are my hero – just one small word in a language I speak fluently without effort. We all need kindness and encouragement. I’m just incredibly lucky to marry someone who gives it so freely. So there he is on the sofa next to me and when alcoholism comes up he has something to add, something he wants to point out. Moments like that he really does make my heart soar, when he shows such eagerness to be in my corner and to be with me in this.

Can I just point out here that I am in absolute awe at my husband (in case that didn’t come across!!!!) and how he hasn’t gone crazy with all the alcoholism and sobriety stuff – the man is a saint, I’ve never known anyone with such patience. ACTUALLY, let me rephrase, because I know you read this, oh long legged one….

Gorgeous husband with the perfect bottom,

I am so grateful for you and that I get to have a best friend as amazing as you are. Thank you for not only putting up with all the crap I caused when I was drinking, but also for being so utterly willing to understand what this illness means and being so supportive in my new and sober life. Thank you for all the hours you spend talking with me and listening to me in an effort to understand what alcoholism is and how it affects me. Thank you for coming to AA meetings and for living on the Pink Cloud with me – I hope you like it here as much as I do. Thank you for having more faith in me than I ever had in myself and for making what might feel so shameful and difficult seem like the most positive thing in the world and the lightest burden to bear. 

Thank you for having such integrity and finding such perfect balance when I was still drinking – recognising that I had to come to the decision myself yet never letting me think it was OK to drink the way I did. I’m sure it was hard for you to wait for me to see the light and in some strange way I wonder if it might still be difficult now that I’m sober. Thank you for being so willing to negotiate unknown territory with me. 

Thank you most of all for hearing me and seeing me when I felt so small, for receiving me openly and warmly without judgement despite how my illness must seem so very alien to you. Thank you for making this drunk feel like a queen. Not once have I been worried about baring my soul to you because you’ve made me feel like I have nothing to be ashamed of (even though I may disagree a little..). Because of your love and support I’ve come to truly believe I can do this and that I can slay any dragon that may cross my path. 

There you are – just in case you decided to pop in here today. I love you. And I will say all these things to your lovely face before kissing you senseless. 

For now, and for here, though – thank you. 

Wifey

Let’s move on to one of the tricky bits with alcoholism and addiction right here – co-dependency. I don’t know enough about co-dependency to comment on if anyone has been co-dependent during my drinking. They say co-dependency is when your focus is the person with the problem and you spend your time and energy on them. Here’s a definition I found via Google: “excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one with an illness or addiction who requires support“. Phew, can’t say this applies to hubby but perhaps I’ll ask him. Anyway, seeing as I am now keeping on the straight and narrow the bit that worries me is actually if I am starting to become too dependent on hubby when it comes to my sobriety.

Allow me to explain.

Right, so I don’t want to drink and I’m not in any way finding sobriety a drag or particularly difficult – it just feels really, really good! But hubby is sort of my lighthouse, my rock and my compass. I worry that this isn’t good and that I need to feel secure in my sobriety on my own too. When it’s hubby I go home to every day I feel invincible but when he is away I suddenly get worried and start glancing over my shoulder. I need to get over that. Sweet Lord, I can’t let my sobriety depend on someone else. Imagine THAT burden! For hubby, obviously. Imagine feeling you can’t go away in case this messed-up little person hits the bottle? No way, José. On the one hand I think it’s healthy to be mindful of that wretched beast and be aware that it will for the rest of my days be ready to pounce, and on the other I get really pissed off that I feel more intimidated by it on my own. I shouldn’t! No one got me sober but ME. As much as I love hubby and my son and two bonus sons, no one and nothing in the world can make a drunk who still wants to drink stop guzzling. I did that myself, period. And so it follows that the only person who can make me stay sober is also… …..me. And it’s worked so far, no? It’s not just worked, it’s worked brilliantly! For God’s sake, I sit here almost every day waxing lyrical about how glorious it is to be sober.

Do I want to drink today? No. Actually, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! So why would I? I didn’t the last time hubby was away, the time before that or the time before that. I’ve not even come close those times he’s been away since The Big Day aka 23rd January 2018. The worry has made itself known, yes, but not the urge to drink. So perhaps it’s just a healthy dose of fear. See, I think fear is a good thing. Another one of Mother Nature’s ways of telling us to watch out. And that makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? I’m an alcoholic and I will always be an alcoholic, so I have no choice but to remain vigilant and note the times and situations where I may be more vulnerable than usual. I also need to remember that night on the high street when I slayed dragons. All three of them, in fact: Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer and Tesco. That was no one but me and I need to remember that! Oh, and hubby was away that time, plus it was quite early on in my sobriety.

Nothing wrong with needing other people. I just need to remind myself that as much as I need my husband and our three boys, I can also hold my own without problems.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Shake, Rattle and Deal With It

Well, at least it isn’t Monday! Short week ahead and I’m looking forward to the weekend so, so much – Dave Grohl, here we come!

Still not a fan of flying, I’ve discovered. I haven’t flown since I quit drinking as it happens – our trip to Paris was on the Eurostar – but here it is already, a faint worry and vague sense of anxiety at being trapped in a steel tube at 38,000 ft. It’s quite a lot of fun to see life unfold now that I’m sober and discover what worries and fears are actually real ones and which ones were entirely induced by the depressant that is alcohol. I’m pleased to report that I’m actually quite brave! There honestly isn’t all that much that worries me or situations I feel unable to cope with and the things that do rattle me, rattle me a hell of a lot less. Well, what do you know – turns out I probably won’t casually stroll on (or into, as it were) aforementioned steel tube with a serene smile and barely be bothered by take-off. You know how some people just sit down, peruse the newspapers or read a book and just get on with it, seemingly completely calm at any bump of turbulence. Take-off usually consists of me taking a solemn farewell of my life as an earth dweller, clinging on to hubby’s arm and crossing my fingers I’ll be unconscious by the time we suddenly take a nose dive mid-air and tumble straight into an active volcano. Something like that. Never been a fan.

But!

Bear in mind that over at least the past decade, I have probably not once flown without a hangover. This means that any time I’ve stepped on a plane I have been all the things I am when I’m hungover: anxious, nervous, uneasy, muddled, frightened, jittery and shaky. Sum total: all the times I’ve flown in recent history I’ve already felt scared and massively so! Add to that a situation where I have no control whatsoever.

This is another important thing I’ve discovered when I’ve been comparing Drunk Me and Sober Me: when I’m sober I am calm and I don’t need to be in control. Sober Me is mostly happy go lucky, chilled out and almost prefers to just hang back and see where life takes me – if anything, Sober Me LIKES just jumping off even when I don’t know what exactly is below. Screw maps and plans and just see what happens!

When I was drinking I felt so awful all the time that I needed to ensure my life was as friction free as possible for me to even get to the end of each day – it was incredibly stressful to get through those hangovers as it was. In fact, additional stress made it unbearable and I think it’d probably be fair to say that a lot of people find air travel stressful even if they don’t feel scared. When I was still drinking, getting myself to work was daunting for God’s sake. So Drunk Me needed to have things in place to make sure that I could navigate all the things I had to do by creating a path that was as stress free as possible and where everything I could control I controlled. A longer queue than I’d expected at Starbucks was enough for me to turn around as I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stand there with the shakes and feeling dizzy for more than a couple of minutes. That’s what happens when you’re so fucked it takes all you have to stay upright. With flying, this meant selecting my seat in advance, getting to the airport with plenty of time to spare, checking the weather along with flight safety statistics on various apps ahead of flying and generally have a step by step plan in my mind that so long as I rigorously followed it meant I felt a tiny bit better. Still, I was pickled with the relentless anxiety and fear of a hangover, so even if everything did go exactly to Sophie’s Plan, it was an ordeal from start to finish. And then of course, add air travel to that. See what I mean? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – being a drunk is fucking hard work. I should get some sort of award for persevering with the wine for so long, actually.

And Sober Me? As I said, I doubt I’ll step on that plane and feel completely fine with flying. I don’t like it, period. I don’t like the sensation and I don’t like being that high up in the air. I like terra firma under my hobbit feet. But when I’m not using every last bit of energy I have on fighting extreme hangover anxiety, I can focus on my breathing and remember the things about flying that make me feel OK:

  1. Turbulence is never dangerous. Ever.
  2. There is nothing Mother Nature can throw at a plane that’ll cause it to crash.
  3. Flying at those speeds the air resistance means it’s like going through thick goo but most of all AS STABLE AS THAT!
  4. A plane can glide 20 times its altitude.
  5. Air pockets are a myth, but think of the skies as the sea and waves.

Well, I suppose we all know it’s the safest way to travel, but I’ve always liked to understand WHY something is and stuff like this helps me. It does make me feel better to know that rather than “that sound is normal” I am told e.g. “that’s the sound when the wheels are pulled up“. I’m a rational creature at heart and I love understanding the ins and outs of why things are the way they are, and with flying especially this is the case. Having said that, Sober Me is way more likely to be happy with a “it’s normal” without needing to know more than Drunk Me who needed so much more reassurance.

There is a little bit of nervousness, definitely, but it’s nothing like it used to be, which was actual anxiety and fear. There is such a huge difference though, because I no longer have to control everything given I’m not in the grip of booze anxiety and therefore won’t have to see each bloody step as a huge battle, so I can just relax and get on with it. I can allow myself to feel nervous and focus on things that’ll relax me. Everything else won’t be a problem like before, because without being ravaged by booze it’s not an ordeal to 1) get up, 2) get ready, 3) check in, 4) go through security, 5) get to the gate, and so on and on and on…. Gosh, it’s SO much better to be Sober Me and I feel sorry for that sad little Drunk Me who found the simplest situations almost insurmountable at times. Fuckinell, I don’t know how I coped – I get exhausted just thinking about it.

Now when I think about it, flying this weekend is a bit like the blood test I had a couple of weeks ago. I don’t like needles. REALLY don’t like needles and never have. And here we go again: Drunk Me – in absolute bits and sometimes so hysterically scared I couldn’t do it. Sober Me: not particularly liking it but taking deep breaths, trusting the nurse and lo and behold, I got through it JUST FINE. Not liking it, but it’s no longer something I can barely cope with. I absolutely CAN cope with it. Not a fan but apart from a bit of nerves, not THAT big a deal. So I’m sure that by the time we are on the final approach to Landvetter Airport I’ll be very happy that the bit up in the air is over, but unlike when I was still drinking it won’t be a hellish experience.

When I started this blog I was terrified of sobriety and that’s what I expected to write about – my long and hard battle to live without the wine. Turns out sobriety is the best thing I ever did for myself and the only difficult part was the drinking. Who knew!! Life will always have its ups and downs but when I don’t drink I can deal with anything it throws my way. Drunk Me couldn’t. Drunk Me had to of course, but it was TOUGH. But now? Oh yeah, check me out – surviving flights, living to tell the tales of blood tests….. I’m a champ!

Today I’m not going to drink.