Gutsy Assumptions and Waffle

I won’t lie – there was part of me that hoped (fine – believed) that I’d come away from today’s meeting with a clearer path ahead and some paid hours for whatever bit-jobs the rehab centre might offer. What I come away with is something much more positive that further reinforces some of the things sobriety has been teaching me all along: 1) work is required, 2) easy does it, and 3) progress not perfection. Whilst that might all sound a little muddled, those are probably the most important lessons I’ve learned over these eight months – EIGHT MONTHS!!!!! – I’ve been sober.

OK, let’s stop right there and please can I have a huge hallelujah because I hit eight months this last Sunday, all together now: HALLELUJAH! It’s my blog and I brag if I want to. There, done – patting myself on the back and smiling smugly – and let’s move on.

Back to the task at hand, which is to stay sober and recover who I am meant to be and do all I can to become the very best version of me. Going to see the manager and one of the senior recovery workers at this rehab is part of all of that as I work out whether my little place in this world might be to pay it forward. As I told them during our conversation, I wonder if this is a very natural part of getting sober. Every goddamn morning when I have my coffee I’m filled with such gratitude for feeling healthy and strong – or free from crippling hangovers, rather – that it makes me tearful. Yes, it’d seem that Sober Me is the kind of unbearable twat who will watch the sunrise and cry tears of joy. I cringe just writing that, but it’s true and no wonder! I feel like I imagine that paralysed dude did when Jesus told him to take his bed and go – suddenly he has the use of his legs again! And much like walking to him must have felt like all his dreams coming true, living without drinking and all the crap it brings is for me nothing short of a miracle. So yes, morning coffee and sunrises do strike me as wondrous and magical – every time.

Gosh, do I waffle!

Where were we? Oh yes, a natural part of getting sober! I reckon it’s probably a very natural reaction to want to pass on the gift of sobriety. All the things I wish I could have told and shown Drunk Me. I want to look after that Anna who felt so hopeless and alone in her addiction, hiding in plain sight as she struggled to hold together some semblance of a life. I feel genuinely heartbroken for those who are still trapped by their addictions and, perhaps like me at one point, don’t see a way out. Beyond all of that, the subject of addiction and how our brains get highjacked fascinates me enormously. Who knows, perhaps when I’ve been sober eight years – gutsy assumption, eh! – it’ll be a different story and I’ll find myself doing something completely different altogether, but all I have is NOW and this feels right. But this is where these sobriety lessons I mentioned earlier come in and Full Throttle Anna – my default setting drunk OR sober – has to switch gears and accept that hey, easy does it. This is in absolute conflict with every fibre of my being and it’s so fucking good for me for that very reason. Slow down, girl. It’s early days. Get that hobbit foot in the door, peek in through the gap. You don’t even know what’s in there, easy now and take it as it comes.

I’ve plunged head first into this, that and what-the-fuck all my life – packed one thing in and thrown myself into the next without much thought except wanting to get away from the last one – and in sobriety I’m suddenly discovering that it’s not the world that has to adapt to me, it’s the other freaking way around. What the hell is up with THAT? I thought the deal was that it’s all about me, me, ME?? Jeez.

Take running. Just a few weeks ago, running for just three minutes was pure torture and the first time the app told me to run for five minutes at a time (it’s a running app that builds up to 10k) I didn’t manage to do it the first time. Gasping for air, I had to stop and walk as I only managed four minutes. Full Throttle Anna obviously expected to be Mo Farah from the word go and it turned out I wasn’t, because even Mo fucking Farah didn’t win any gold medals without effort and it turns out I’m only human too. Anyway. Then last week, a couple of days before my brother and nephews arrived, the app told me to warm up for five minutes and then run for 25 whole minutes in one go. AND I DID. And fuck me, it felt GOOD! For the first time in years, I experienced that amazing feeling again when it feels good to run. I was knackered towards the end, but there was definitely a bit there during the first half of it when it was pure enjoyment. And it’s because I’m working at it. I’m building up little by little. The gym is a shit storm every time and God knows if I’ll ever enjoy it, but the running is beginning to feel really, really good. I can tell my body is getting stronger – because I’ve worked at it and I continue to do so.

That’s the key to everything now: I have to work at it. My sobriety and running are two examples – both fairly new and I’m not about to proclaim myself a sobriety guru any more than I’m ready to run the New York marathon. One step at a time, though. And why not aim high? Ambitions aren’t the same as arrogance. I may be on the Pink Cloud still and I do feel quite confident (simply because I don’t want to drink) but don’t take that to mean I believe I have this sussed – I’m forever glancing over my shoulder. And it’ll forever mean work. This thing too, about potentially finding a place where I can prove myself useful within the field of addiction and recovery. Work. And work. And then work. That may sound like a hard slog but don’t forget that with it I get sunrises that make me tearful and feeling good when I run.

So here we are and easy does it. First off, I need a year of sobriety under my belt. This makes sense for lots of reasons, not least because the longer we remain sober the less likely we are to fall back (the brain pathways end up doing lots of clever stuff in the first year or so, which also helps strengthen our resolve) but also I suspect a year does show commitment and a good amount of…. ..yep – work. I guess it’s sort of proving ourselves. I mean, stopping drinking isn’t all that bad. It’s the staying stopped that’s the real bitch and you need a decent stretch of sobriety to gauge how you’re doing so I suppose a year does seem like a sensible goal post initially. Secondly, it’s also a matter of me working out where I’ll fit in (or indeed, if I’ll fit in at all!) and so it looks as though the best place to start is by volunteering. Now that I don’t have any drinking to lie about, hide and maintain, I stuck with the honest approach and outlined what I consider realistic to give and that would at a glance be afternoons after work and the odd Saturday. Every other Saturday perhaps. It’d be silly to over promise, and I’m not willing to compromise too much time with hubby and Bambino. I need to get a DBS check but that’s a formality I suppose and I don’t have a criminal record so should be straight forward, and then we’ll go from there. Where or what I’m sure will become clear eventually. And that’s cool.

I feel hopeful. I’m going in to this for the right reasons and I’m willing to do the work. I’m still me and always will be, so absolutely there is part of me who wants to either have it all now or at least have a clear outline so I’ll at least know WHEN I’ll have it all, but strangely I’m finding that Sober Me is actually very, very OK with this. The reason? Perhaps it’s because Sober Me is discovering that those things we have to work for are worth so much more. Even more shocking, Sober Me seems to enjoy having to work to get what she wants. Fuckinell, this is worse than the fucking tears at the fucking sunrise, what’s the world coming to??! You know, I would always have told you I was good at the sprint but not the marathon (and I think this is always going to be true to some extent) but then Sober Me showed up and it turns out I’m learning to like the continuous effort of working towards a goal. Or working to maintain something that is valuable – like my sobriety.

When I was told about the one year of sobriety they like to see before taking people on, I wanted to say “OK, great, see you then“, smile arrogantly in a David Brent-esque manner, give them a wink and a hand gesture illustrating double barrels, but I’m not THAT cocky. I don’t take a single day sober for granted because whilst drinking to me right now is still as appealing as eating dog shit, I also know that addiction is a fucking sly and cunning beast that I’ll never be safe from. Not completely anyway. I forced that beast into a cage but it doesn’t have a lock and I can never forget that, nor look away for too long. So I feel HOPEFUL I will get to the 23rd January next year and be able to say I’m one year sober. I hope I will. Wouldn’t that be something?

Easy does it. Frustrates the fuck out of me, but does me a world of good.

Today I’m not going to drink.

work

Eyeball Deep In Denial

As I continue my inventory of my past and survey my experiences and people I’ve known, I stumble across my last e-mail exchange with a friend I’ve previously referred to on here as Linda, which of course isn’t her real name. I much prefer the monikers I come up with, so from now on I’ll call her Tumbler. This is a reference to her pouring the largest amount of whisky I’ve ever seen anyone drink from a tumbler. I’m never been a whisky drinker but it’s usually a shot of, say, 25ml right? Tumbler poured aaaaaall the way to the top as you would a glass of water. Just like my glasses of wine were more like pint glasses, but THAT part I conveniently ignored and focused instead on how she poured all that whisky. Fuck me. Ridiculous, isn’t it?

Our last e-mails are from April 2014. As I more and more discover is the case, my alcoholic, eyeball deep in denial brain has added its own spin on what we said to each other in terms of what was stored in my memory.

This is how my alkie brain would have me think back on it:

Tumbler tells me about two serious relapses, one during which she nearly died due to taking strong painkillers with all the booze and another where she got locked up at a psychiatric ward.

This is what is actually said and the bit that my denial has stripped from my conscious is that she, the alkie, is deeply worried about ME. I mean, what the hell? I’m FIIIIIIIINE! Someone had posted something alcohol related on my Facebook page, I think it was champagne glasses and “cheers to you!” for some reason – not sure what the context was and my birthday is in February so can’t have been that. Anyway. Tumbler had taken it upon herself to comment that I should NOT have alcohol to celebrate and also then went on to contact the person who’d posted the champagne comment (who was a mutual friend) to say she shouldn’t post stuff like that because I, Anna, was sinking deeper and deeper into alcoholism. Now this was of course totally true! It takes one to know one, and just like I can spot a fellow problem drinker, Tumbler had sniffed me out like a blood hound. So it was me who started the exchange. It’s fascinating to read now. It makes me cringe and it makes me squirm. I was SO ready to speak with Tumbler about HER problems but was still entrenched in my stubborn denial and belief that I just binged a little too much. OK, deep down I knew – of course I did – but I pushed all of that away so deep down I was able to ignore it. And of course felt really offended that she would think I was in trouble! Perhaps I also conveniently forgot that just like she confided in me, I also confided in her and perhaps my tongue had loosened given we were both drunk during some conversations. Me in London, she in Florida.

Here it is, and I’m so ashamed of it I can barely make myself put it here, but this is the Era of Brutal Honesty. I’ve left out the irrelevant bits, where we talk about our kids and work and stuff, only leaving the booze related conversation. Read and weep!

Anna to Tumbler:

I don’t know how to interpret your comment on my Facebook, that I actually removed – I got a couple of messages asking me if I’m OK, not because of the post itself but because of your comment, kind of “what does she mean?”. So I suppose I’m asking you! 🙂 Was just wondering what you hinted at that is “off the wall” and/or what it is about me that “needs to be straightened out”?

Tumbler to Anna:

I’m surprised my comments on your Facebook are so sensitive. It also worries me as it feels as though you’re constantly trying to protect yourself from other people worrying about you. But we ARE worried about you. You have said yourself that you have no breaks.

Anna to Tumbler:

I think, hand on heart, that I’m generally sensitive to criticism which isn’t a great quality to have. My spontaneous reaction if anything is questioned, regardless how tactfully, is to get my heckles up. Well, before I have thought it through anyway. When someone asked if I was OK, I thought perhaps I’d posted something when I’ve been drunk and you’d got worried for that reason – THAT would be the only thing I’d be sensitive to. Do you see what I mean? In the moment I wondered so I asked and underlined that everything’s fine. And I don’t blame you, just so you know! After all, no breaks.

Tumbler to Anna:

I know full well that you have to hide the boozing in order not to be exposed to the wrong people, that’s what I had to do for many years. And this worry that you’ve written something on FB when drunk I also recognise fully, there’s a fear there. I am so glad I openly went out on FB about my addiction because no one can use it against me today.

But I have recently had two serious relapses. I’d been drinking one evening but felt I hadn’t had enough and because I didn’t have the energy or ability to get more alcohol I decided to munch my Oxycodone, a narcotic medication my spine doctor prescribes so I’ll be able to get to sleep. It’s for my chronic ache and I take one pill every evening. This evening I took several and it ended in me not breathing. Luckily D was at home, he’d just got back from a trip. He discovered I wasn’t breathing and did First Aid until the ambulance arrived. I have no memory of what happened between when I took the pills and waking up in the ambulance. Had to stay at hospital for three days and D was busy covering up what had happened as he had to get our staff to take my shifts. :/

Just three weeks later I’d drunk so much D ended up calling the police who took me to the psych ward. He didn’t think I’d go voluntarily and I was furious as three police officers came to get me and handcuffed me. So I was at the psych ward for three days and D had to once again ask our staff to cover my shifts as well as hiding from everyone what had actually happened. After the first day when I was battling the hangover I had a really fun time. A woman in her 60s was admitted on the Sunday, a nurse who was under too much stress and had herself decided to get admitted. She and I found each other straight away and on the Sunday evening we sat there with gossip magazines in our laps, talked about celebrities and giggled like little girls. Lol. She was sad when I was discharged quickly, which happened because I had gone with the police voluntarily. If I’d resisted, the American law concerning arrest for drunk and disorderly behaviour had applied and they’d been able to keep me in for longer.

Oh well, that’s that and I’m over it. Now I feel great and working as usual. I don’t know if D is over that I stopped breathing, it must have been traumatic for him. His second wife passed away from a painkiller overdose and D was the one who found her dead. That’s what played out in his mind so it was a big shock. Truth is I would be dead now if D hadn’t been home that evening.

Just short of two weeks after this exchange, Tumbler drank herself to death on her 48th birthday. I was in contact with her husband, D, some weeks later and he confirmed it was an echo of the other episode she’d told me about and she’d again taken Oxycodone. Only this time he wasn’t around to save her. What I need to point out here is that at a party or in a bar isn’t where an alcoholic is in the most danger. We’re in the most danger when we’re home alone. 

With this, I want to show how I just refused to acknowledge my problem and my absolutely crippling fear that people would see or know. How my brain has catalogued this last exchange with Tumbler is also shocking evidence of the power of denial when you compare it with what was actually said here. Without reading through our exchange, I would have probably told you – thinking I was being honest because that’s what denial does too, it makes us believe in this alternate reality – would be that I was worried about my alkie mate. Nope. My alkie friend was worried about HER alkie friend: ME.

It’s so sad, what a waste of a life. Also heard of someone else, a boy I knew in my teens, who passed away last year. Apparently his drug and alcohol fuelled psychotic episodes had reached a point where armed police would have to chase him down. 42 at the time, leaving behind a son who must now be into his 20s. It’s so utterly tragic. Tumbler had two sons, both now in their early 30s I think. It’s hard to think about. I know Bambino will have to bury me one day, but I don’t want that to be after having found me sprawled in the hallway having choked on my own vomit. Anything other than a self inflicted death like that. If I can’t give him anything else, I want to give him a mother who discovered she could save herself and showed some strength. He deserved – like all children do – to have that all along, but I cannot change the past. I can change my path though and I hope I’ll always stay on this beautiful, sober and infinitely healthier course.

This turned very sad, which isn’t my mood today at all. In fact I’m really excited because my brother D and two of my nephews (D has four boys, four beautiful blond clones) arrive tomorrow. Due to a case of slight miscommunication – aka me not listening properly due to being too caught up in myself – it turns out hubby needs his fancy A5 Sport Audi and I will now collect my three Swedes in my battered old Mini. This will add half an hour to the journey as my car doesn’t like speeds over 60mph. Quite different in fancy Audi that is smooth and steady as a blue whale at 80mph (OK, and sometimes beyond). And comfortable too. My Mini is NOT comfortable. But hey, it’ll be fun and luckily they’ll be travelling light. I measured the boot and D reassured me they won’t have any more than can fit, which is basically a toiletry bag. Anyway. I’ve booked a bunch of stuff and can’t wait to have them over – it’s a first for my brother D (and for his sons too) who’s avoided my home town of Londres due to an intense dislike of chaos and lots of people…! Bit like his sister really – sometimes I do wonder what possessed me to desert the stillness of the nature and vast forests of Värmland for the madness of this town, but strangely it became HOME from the word go. Well, I will do my best to show D his sister’s idea of home as gently as I can without missing out on the must-see tourist parts. I don’t know how gently you can introduce Piccadilly Circus or Covent Garden but I’m sure it’ll work out fine.

Sobriety has not curbed my time optimism and as usual I’d gone and planned and committed to more than today can possibly contain, including a chat with the manager at a recovery facility – unfortunately I had to cancel but was able to reschedule. It really irks me to cancel stuff now that I’m sober. ‘Cancel’ was my middle name when I was an active alcoholic and I am loathe to do it now, but I also need to accept that when there are reasons other than drinking getting in the way, cancelling on occasion is actually completely acceptable. It just really didn’t sit right with me, but again I have to remember that being sober doesn’t – and won’t ever – mean I’m always going to do everything 100% right and be perfect. It’s called LIFE.

Today I’m not going to drink.

232 Days

I have nothing to say. Nothing at all. 232 days. Nothing spontaneously springs to mind around sobriety that I need to tell you.

When I scroll through various sobriety forums and Facebook groups, it’s really interesting to see how different people have different experiences and I often see myself in many of those who are more newly sober than I am. Makes sense given I’m still fairly early on in my journey and it wasn’t long ago that I stood in that spot. Quite often I smile when I read victorious exclamations and determined conviction from someone who’s been sober for, say, a couple of weeks. No, not smile as in scoff. I mean smile as in it makes me happy and I remember how it felt. How you are so overcome with gratitude and filled with awe at the life you have suddenly been given back that you just KNOW in your heart you will never drink again. For me this was of course when I went to lots of AA meetings and I got SO pissed off when the old timers would dismiss me in a you’ll-soon-see sort of manner. I was made to feel that this was wrong and only the Pink Cloud that I’d soon fall down from. I think I’m still on it. Perhaps I’m a little less evangelical now that the honeymoon period draws to a close and I also don’t feel tearful with joy every morning in the absence of that dreaded hangover that was my companion for so long, but it didn’t suddenly get difficult or dreary. Sure, once I came back to earth a little, I discovered that on occasion I’ll end up feeling down and all of those other less than amazing feelings that are part and parcel of being a human being, but it’s still not the hard slog that was described to me.

So you have those who at least seem to have effected that change in their thinking and genuinely no longer want to drink. But then you also have the people who clearly still do and therefore are desperate to moderate and really seem down about it all, and no wonder. No amount of will power and no amount of AA meetings and AA friends will help diddly squat if you still view alcohol as something that provides any kind of positive attribute. Only when you truly see alcohol for what it is and what it does for you personally do you have a chance – this is my absolute belief. Actually, I should rephrase “what it does for you” – only when you truly see what alcohol FAILS to do for you do you have a chance. Again, however, I can only speak for myself but this was what kept me firmly trapped. I held on to the belief that alcohol could do for me what it seems to do for non-alcoholics and wanted it to be part of my life too as a little golden edge, as we say in Sweden. Guldkant på tillvaron – adding a golden edge to life (roughly translated anyway) – that’s how I saw it and what I believed it could be. I saw booze as glitter you pour on to life to enhance and accentuate its brilliance. I’d see friends enjoy a couple of beers, laugh and enjoy the evening, and I wanted that too. Only I can’t because with the first something in me comes to life and this is ironic in the extreme because the thing that comes to life wants me dead. For me booze isn’t glitter – it’s napalm.

To be fair, I don’t think anyone can ever be in control of alcohol but I will concede that there are some of us – those of us who are alcoholics – who fare especially badly if we drink. I certainly don’t need to do any more “research” to establish that I can’t drink alcohol!

Anyway, even regardless of how long ago we made a decision to live a better life, there seems to be two distinct camps: those who punch the sky in a winner’s gesture because they truly feel drinking is pointless and they are free, and those who still yearn for that drink and feel miserable because each day is a fight to be sober. The more I learn about alcohol and addiction, the clearer it becomes that so long as we feel we have a reason to drink and that alcohol will give us some sort of benefit we will find it a miserable sacrifice to stop drinking. And that’s the bottom line for me – I reached a point where I truly felt I no longer had to. The truth was staring me in the face and I knew that booze only ever lands me in a stinking pile of shit. No glitter in sight, for me it was all an illusion and a pack of sweet lies that alcohol had me believing for the longest time. So stopping drinking for me is – so far at least – freedom. Refraining from doing something you no longer want to do isn’t hard at all, is it? I think I wrote earlier on in my sobriety that drinking seemed about as appealing as eating a pile of dog shit, and it is still true. At the same time I know how sneaky, cunning and baffling alcohol addiction is so there is no part of me that feels I can ever declare myself safe. In that sense, yes, it’s a day at a time, but it’s not a struggle in the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other kind of way either. It just is. It’s life.

Right. Bit of a waffle but Wednesday is never my best day.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Elton John and the Hardest Word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today I’m not going to drink.

Beats and Board Roles

You know when something happens at the right time? When you randomly happen to perhaps read something that is exactly what you need at that precise time? This morning someone on This Naked Mind Facebook group put up screen grabs showing the dramatic change to her resting heart rate now that she is alcohol free (or “AF” as everyone in the group puts it – I see that and think “As Fuck” but I’m getting used to it). It’s stuff like this that really brings it home how alcohol really does wreck our health. And no, I am not referring to you lucky lot who can enjoy it in a manner that can be considered normal, although in all fairness if you guys did cut alcohol out there’d probably be a little improvement in heart health for you too! In only a couple of months, this lady’s resting heart rate had gone from 66 beats per minute to 58! Given my night of palpitations and how my heart was on my mind, this was very well timed.

I do wonder now how my own heart health has improved. It obviously has, I know that, because I no longer experience palpitations during the day like I used to and only very rarely at night. It’s happened on one or two occasions, but still you can’t compare it to how I used to be when I was drinking. It would be so cool to see the graph tracking my heart then and now like this woman could though. See a line over the weeks and months showing how her heart is now so much happier.

If only I’d been able to stick to something, but that was of course the one thing boozing didn’t allow me to do. I’ll say it again: being a drunk is a full time job. It’s like with any other job really, only this one will eventually take over your whole life – it is quite literally the job you have to sacrifice everything else for: interests, friends, family, etc. You just cannot commit to anything else because alcohol demands ALL of you. You might be able to take up a hobby for a while, but you can never give it much time because, well, you already have your work duties to take care of, and using this metaphor those duties consist of ensuring there is a supply of alcohol you then consume in order to get yourself unconscious. How’s that for a career, eh? Perhaps I wasn’t the Oprah Winfrey of boozing, but I was definitely at CEO level with a bunch of non-executive board roles on my CV too – easy. The dedication us drunks demonstrate when it comes to drinking is astonishing and it’s no exaggeration to suggest that if I’d shown the same determination in a different career I may very well have gone pretty far because if you work as hard as I did to drink you almost can’t fail – trust me. I’d suggest this is true for any drunk worth their salt because being an alcoholic requires unyielding, relentless, hard graft.

But when I drank, drinking was of course – as it tends to be when you’re an alcoholic – my main mission whether I realised it at the time or not, and I simply therefore had no capacity or room for anything else. This includes continuing to use the fitness watch I got a couple of summers ago, and for that reason I don’t now have a record of how my resting heart rate might have changed like this lady on the Facebook group. Bit of a shame because it’d be really nice to see actually! As I said, I already KNOW that my whole freaking body is thanking me and given this heart of mine is in said body, I also know it feels better than it used to when I was keeping the vineyards of Marlborough New Zealand in business. Hm, perhaps now that I’m on such a good track I need to start wearing that watch again (especially as there are now runs and workouts to track too!) and use it to highlight how much good I’m doing myself now. Shame, it would have been good to see it in black and white, just like it’s good to see the selfies taken at each month milestone, but there we are. It’s not crucial, just sometimes nice to see hard evidence that confirms something you already know.

Sobriety – I hope – will now allow me freedom to not only pursue but also stick with all these good things, whatever they may be. I also hope that I will always be mindful of how my heart is happier now even though I don’t have any graphs to show the difference, but having said that, perhaps the palpitations I had the other night have the same purpose as those nightmares I now have sometimes – on occasion I’ve dreamt that I’m drinking again. Then I wake up and in that first second of disorientation I still have the horrible feeling of defeat of the dream but then realise it wasn’t real. Waking up from a dream like that gives me all this renewed hope and strength that I will remain sober.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Bambi In the Zone

OK, now where did THAT come from? Yep, still getting used to feeling what I’m feeling without anaesthesia and last night out of nowhere I’m suddenly having weird dreams and waking up with heart palpitations. I suppose you could say that when it comes to doing life now that I’m sober, I’m a little bit like Bambi on that dang ice trying to figure it all out, almost fascinated by my own lack of balance. I never find it slippery in the places I expect to and go flying at times I expect to have a good grip. In this case of a bad night, if I’d never taken the plunge in to alcoholism, perhaps it’d be nothing more than righty-oh, just a shit night and nothing else to think about. Slept badly, s’all. Instead, here I am on high alert and a little perplexed as to why my heart suddenly decides to engage in a furious tango in the small hours. One of my greatest fears is suffering mental ill health and given depression and alcoholism appear to like each others’ company, I am forever twitching those curtains in case the big D is lurking around outside, waiting to be invited to the party.

All I try to do is allow what I feel to be, well, felt. I don’t have a metal detector or a body scanner, nor do I ask to search bags – all emotions are welcome, even if they’re carrying explosives.

Do I feel low? Nope. Do I feel inexplicably sad or anxious? No, can’t say that I do. Yes, there is a restlessness and sense of frustration, impatience I guess to get STARTED. Or rather, I feel frustrated that I’m not already GOING! I want it all NOW! I’m ready to go but I don’t quite know where, all dressed up for the party but where the hell is it?! But how else could I possibly feel? I spent over a decade having to focus on just getting through the day and trust me, even since I have worked part time it’s been a freaking challenge. There just isn’t that energy to spend on the motions you go through when it takes all your might to stay upright and make it seem like you are functioning. Well, we all know now that I didn’t fucking function at ALL, but even so. Now I get that bit for free, because keeping upright isn’t difficult – I wake up feeling strong and healthy and it’d actually require more effort to stay in bed when my whole body is filled with this lust for life and wants to move, work, feel, BE. Case in point – waking early at the weekend and exhausted, jet lagged hubby mumbling I should just stay in bed and snooze with him for a while longer, but just HAVING to bounce up because I am alive. I’m ALIVE! Isn’t that just the most magnificent thing? That morning coffee, man – it still gets me feeling delirious with happiness, I swear. Well, there was no bouncing up this morning because I slept badly and my heart was being a dickhead, but even when I’m tired and it’s hard to get up I’m still light years away from what my mornings used to be. And the morning coffee still tasted like heaven.

Where am I going with this? Perhaps I’m trying to show that I’m actually going through a learning curve, that I’m learning to live again and getting used to feeling the stuff you do when you’re human. And that includes – does it? I don’t know – sleeping badly once in a while. Being sober has brought with it that I take my new, full of energy self – yes, even today because by the time I’d had my morning coffee I felt awake and ready to go – to work. Now I’m one of you! I’m there for the hours required to do a job. And it turns out that when I’m not fighting to get through the day, what I get paid for is about as challenging as pushing a pile of papers back and forth across my desk. This is, in fact, pretty much what I do. There is at least one source of my frustration. I just know I can do more, give more. I’m actually pretty awesome. Yesterday the other desk in the office had to be cleared and I sorted it all and wiped all of that corner down so it’d be clear, clean and inviting – I felt more productive than I have in years. My lovely bosses called me a star and yes, I’m very efficient with a cloth when I get in the zone, but FUCKINELL I CAN DO SO MUCH MORE!! This isn’t their fault, obviously – they are, as I say, lovely – but I need to do something because I can be a star with more than a cloth. I know I can.

Now, now, now – this is my nature. And my nature hasn’t always proved to place me in the best of situations, nor make particularly good choices. Right now I’m Bambi, slipping around in my life and working out how to do this thing. It makes me giggle as often as it makes me furrow my brow. Maybe I just need to stick with this, frustrating as it is, and allow myself to truly get well before I throw myself head first into something else. Just breathe for a while and let these positive changes happen steadily and become my new normal little by little. Hell, I’ve gone from “suicidal drinking” (yes, it’s a thing) to being sober and from struggling to stand up to getting into running again and joining the gym. Fuck me, I know I should just slow down a little and take a look around me. Let this stick. You know, just weeks into sobriety I was feeling on top of the world, much like the newly converted – I saw the light and I was in Nirvana – and I “knew” I never wanted to drink again and sink back into active addiction. I felt brave, I felt confident and I felt so fucking cocky I may as well have pranced around in a peacock headpiece for my own little carnival, steel drums and all. I was so high on excitement at feeling so good again that I think I probably expected that OK, that’s that, done, box ticked, now what? Next!

Not quite like that. Yes, it’s incredible to find yourself in sobriety and I wish everyone could feel the joy I feel now, but sobriety for me also means I now have to get used to navigating this life that’s been returned to me. It’s all positive, of course it is, but it’s still down to me to make it work, whether it’s a bad night’s sleep or discovering that my body is getting stronger when I run and work out. Dimples incorporated what she called “a LITTLE run” last time I saw her – this particular circuit consisted of running around the block and then two other exercises back at her gym that I’ve already forgotten the names of but involved getting my feet in these hanging contraptions and attempting to get my body to obey with fairly disappointing results. She ran with me and it took it out of me completely to just run (OK, fine, slowly JOG) around the block which took roughly 4 minutes – hardly a marathon, is it? – a total of just three times. Dimples chatted away merrily and there wasn’t even a hint of breathlessness or rosy cheeks beyond her usual healthy complexion. Me? I was beetroot red with sweat pouring off me, gasping for breath and unable to speak. Like with everything else right now, I have to work at it and I have to make it work. It won’t happen unless I do it over and over and push myself. I have two sessions left with Dimples and then I’ll be flying solo. With the rest there’s just me. Well, I have hubby and I have friends, but when it comes down to the wire it’s ME who has to do all of this and figure out how to do life again.

Sure, I’m over analysing a lot – in some ways I feel like a baby, wide eyed observing the colourful objects in a mobile over my cot, marvelling at shapes and patterns that I’m seeing for the first time. With this bad night’s sleep too – like when a baby suddenly is frightened by the vacuum cleaner, it’s all new and unfamiliar. And then, you learn. Little by little. Perhaps that’s what I need to focus on, just allowing all this to take the time it takes.

decision

Today I’m not going to drink.

 

 

Sandra Bullock’s Smile

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m an alcoholic.

Excuse me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today I’m not going to drink.

Tiny Splinters

I think I’ve been hiding a little behind my alcoholism. Needless to say, being an active alcoholic means your world shrinks and the booze renders you pretty useless – or at least this was the case for me. No way was I able to achieve anything I wanted when I was forever trapped in a vicious circle of being hammered, being destroyed by hangovers or busy planning my next drink. Round and round I went and there was no fourth option, just going around that vicious spiral deeper and deeper until I was so exhausted I couldn’t do it anymore. Yes, drinking meant I couldn’t keep fit – how could I possibly attempt going for a run (or even a walk) when I felt so ill I couldn’t even stand up? How could I possibly string a sentence together, never mind write a book, when even making a doctor’s appointment was more than my fuzzy head could cope with (dial, speak… …no)? Getting out to see friends was akin to swimming with sharks without the damn cage and don’t get me started on jewellery making – why don’t YOU try to solder a small piece of metal and balance a tiny solder splinter on a tiny, almost invisible seam when you have the shakes and are so hungover it’s even affecting your eyesight? Oh, and add a blow torch and acid just for fun. Besides, you would have to be upright so it’s a moot point anyway. Hell, even walking down the road to buy some milk represented an insurmountable challenge most of the time, as did getting the mail from the postboxes on the ground floor and taking the rubbish out.

Luckily I’d got to the point where I realised that it was the booze that made everything this way. Oh, I know, crazy isn’t it? Like it’d be anything else, but a drunkard’s logic alongside furious denial is a very powerful thing. I knew it had in earnest begun its final descent and had isolated me as well as removed all my chances of being the person I’m meant to be. I could see that. I understood that my drinking was holding me back in every way possible. Of course this wasn’t always the case – at one point I was more receptive to the possibility that I might suffer from a mental disorder than consider my drinking as a possible reason why I couldn’t leave the house. Such are the workings of a drunkard’s mind. But eventually I was just at a point where the real culprit was staring me in the face.

Once I truly accepted that my drinking was causing me all manner of harm – and don’t get me wrong, I thank higher powers every fucking day that I did get to that point – I think I also found myself a nice little hiding place. Haven’t pursued my writing in a serious manner? Well, I’m an alcoholic! How could I? Unproductive at work? Well, I got here, didn’t I? Despite a hangover caused by two and a half bottles of wine last night, I made it in so just get off my back, alright? Unfit and given up on the running? Who could possibly do exercise when actively exercising their right to be a drunk? As shitty as it is to be a drunk, it did give me a solid reason I could point to from inside my victim cocoon and blame for all my shortcomings and failures.

See? Being a drunk has its advantages too, and in my case it gave me a nice little one stop shop of excuses that I could hide behind. Poor me, right? And there was also a big part of me that, once I got to my turning point and wanted to get out of that damn bottle, thought everything would just magically fall into place once I’d rid myself of the juice. I think I kind of thought I’d suddenly shine at work. And why not? It’s not rocket science and everything I need to do I could do in my sleep. No tasks are challenging and whilst I was still drinking that was probably a really good thing as it allowed me to focus on just surviving each fucking day without attempting to do anything more complicated than add up some invoices. So I had some idea that once I was sober I’d be a super star and it’d all be magnificent. Well, at any rate that I’d do a low level job brilliantly if that makes sense. Truth is that I’m probably doing an even worse job than before! I’ve not shone one bit – if anything, being sober has done nothing but underline to me how utterly pointless my job is. Of course it was only ever meant to be a Plan B that was meant to sit alongside my Actual Passions (writing and jewellery making) and bring in some money whilst I pursued those, and for a Plan B it’s in truth really fabulous: it’s local, the hours fit perfectly and I work for lovely people. But…. It just feels like a waste of time and the sad reality is that I’m doing a really shockingly bad job. Even sober and therefore at my full wits, I can’t seem to give it any of the energy or clarity of mind I’m now enjoying. It’s not fair on the people I work for and it’s not fair on myself either.

One of the bloggers I follow – Acquiescent Soul – recently expressed how he’s gone from hopeless and sad to frustrated and angry. Although I can’t say I feel angry, I definitely feel frustrated and as I commented to AS I could probably advise myself too: use it as a springboard to find that Real Purpose. It’s always easier to fix other people’s problems than your own, simply because you can see the issue and point at it but you’re not the one who actually has to do the work, but I realised when I typed my comment to his last blog post that what I was saying was as much to myself as it was to him.

With risk of sounding like I’m obsessed with Dimples, the personal trainer with whom I’m having a few sessions to get me started on getting fit, but she said something that really sums a lot of it up: “Your body isn’t Amazon Prime. Don’t expect it to turn up in two days.” Something like that. But that goes not only for getting fit, it goes for everything I might want to achieve. It’s relevant as hell, because I think on some level I did sort of expect life in general now that I’m sober to have that Amazon Prime-esque slant to it.

Quitting drinking doesn’t mean I’ll automatically go and collect the Nobel Prize for Literature any more than it’ll mean I can suddenly run 10k in under an hour the next morning. Work is required. I have to write the first sentence and many thousands to follow it before I can even have shot at getting published, there has to be A Book and that book needs to be written. If I want to be the author, I have to be the person writing it and that includes the first sentence, the thousands to follow and probably blood, sweat and tears being part of the process too.

Getting physically fit now that my body is no longer ravaged by alcohol also requires work. Nope, I couldn’t fit into my skinny jeans after my second session with Dimples but I swear to God there was part of me that fully expected I’d be at least able to pull them up over my hips. Ridiculous, isn’t it? But nope, I have to work and I have to work hard. My first couple of runs were SHITE. I have the 10k app because this is the distance I want to regularly jog, and each run is so far a mixture of walking and running. The first time, still in Amazon Prime mode, I’d selected Week 5. Oh yeah. Walk one minute, run for five. Couldn’t do it. I haven’t gone back to Week 1 – because I just fucking won’t, OK? – but did rewind to Week 3: walk 90 seconds, run 90 seconds, walk 3 minutes, run 3 minutes and then repeat. This I could do. Quite hard the first time but the next easier. A lot easier, even. It’s happening – I am getting fitter and stronger but I’m not getting it for free and nor am I getting it fast. It feels fucking good though and worth every last aching, sweating muscle burn.

Dad turns 70 in September and my brother, golden boy D, has made him a hunting knife. Dad is big on hunting and he collects hunting knives – the handmade, perfectly crafted and often quite ornate ones that you don’t find south of a few thousand krona. And D wanted this sister of his to make the holder for the belt in silver. And I have! It’s not as perfect as the knife and its sheath but it’s handmade by me and I didn’t have to keep re-doing the soldering as I was steady and focused enough to get it right the first time I aimed the blow torch at the silver pieces I needed to fuse together.

And my Plan B job is never going to be fulfilling unless I make it so. I’m in touch with an addiction support charity and will see if one of their administration roles might work. It’s volunteering and would require one day per week. This would probably work with my current job as my employers previously were happy with me doing my jewellery course one day per week. Start on that basis and then who knows what might open up for me once I have my foot in the door of a building I’m keen to enter? I want to pay it forward, this gift of sobriety. Sure, I’m still new-ish on this journey and much work is ahead of me when it comes to ME – a whole lifetime of work, no doubt – but if I can in any way use all those years of heavy drinking to reach others and perhaps even be that one person who really gets what they’re going through or be of help in some other way, then hey – that’d be one of my greatest achievements.

Bottom line is that quitting drinking isn’t enough to make everything the way it should be or to get me on fast forward to everything I want to do and achieve, but it allows me to take the first step, write the first sentence, show up for the things I want to show up for, hold steady when soldering metal and, well, get GOING. I can begin to put the work in now, towards whatever it may be. Drinking kept me down and I knew that, but the lesson is realising that sobriety won’t in itself pull me up – it will just allow for me building enough muscle to get myself out of the pit, but that is really a miracle in its own right to be honest. I suppose it’s called freedom.

first step

Funny…. It’s been flickering around somewhere in the periphery, just little glimmers of what my book might be, but I see it more and more now. Perhaps my voice belongs with those others who account for a life wasted drinking and living once again in sobriety? Maybe that’s the book I am meant to write? I’m sure Alice will patiently wait, my main character whom despite drinking I’ve spent so much time, love and energy carefully crafting. She’ll understand. As long as John doesn’t go and die, he’s well into his 80s and I need him in the story. Hah. Enough.

Today I’m not going to drink.

A String of Gems and Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today I’m not going to drink.

Choke Holds and Limitations

Phew – I think I’m nearly there now. I was really nervous this time because it was all stacked against me: home alone, a great mood, feeling awesome mentally and physically too, and two days off which meant the nights before would have been an “excellent” time to chug wine. And I didn’t. I fucking didn’t. I’m so relieved I feel a little tearful, actually. Cherokee checked in on me last night and like I said to her on the message string, it’s absolutely terrifying how my alcoholic brain still has a grip on me. And it’s not a loose grip either, it’s a choke hold and claws that tear into my throat. What’s terrifying is that I know there are only shitty consequences to drinking, and what’s more, it brings nothing positive with it. Beyond that, I don’t actually want to!! I don’t want to drink, I don’t want to sit home alone completely hammered and I certainly don’t want to ruin this sober life I am building for myself. How is it, that this awful thing that I know would kill me, still is something I have to be so weary of? But in a way this is probably a good thing, that I keep this awareness and my wits about me, that I accept I’ll never be completely safe.

Have another session with the lovely Dimples today, which I’m sure will be worse than the hottest part of hell given I’m achy from the session two days ago but I’m looking forward to it. Working out feels really good. At the time, I get to several points during the workouts when I genuinely think I’m just going to have to give up, but then Dimples magically manages to push me and afterwards I feel like a super woman. Oh, I know – a personal trainer is indulgent on a grand scale but I can tell you right now that had I joined a gym and gone solo it would have been a maiden voyage and nothing beyond. With Dimples I have the luxury of her telling and showing me what to do, combined with her expertise in how to build a good gym session. Being faced with gym facilities without this would have been pointless. Plus, had I been in a gym on my own doing the circuits Dimples put me through last time I would have packed it in after the two. I certainly wouldn’t have attempted that shit storm called burpees more than the once, that’s for sure. So it’s an education for me, pushing beyond my self perceived limitations. This is what I needed to discover – how to put myself through my paces and stretch beyond where my body might start to complain.

I am desperately unfit though and my impatient nature does mean I half expect (oh, who am I kidding – I completely expected it!!) to see significant results after just three sessions, but life is now teaching me a whole new approach. Sobriety and fitness are similar in that respect – neither is easy (or quick), but if I keep at it my life will be rich beyond my dreams and the results will be amazing. I just can’t snap my fingers, do the plank for half a minute and expect that to be all the work that was required. And as much as I do enviously glance at Dimples and note how toned and fit she is, I also remind myself that she works at it. Perhaps she is one of those fortunate people who gets a lot for free, but her arms don’t look the way they do because she sits on her arse all day. And she doesn’t have good skin because she chain smokes either. Dimples is toned and fit and healthy because she works at it and takes care of herself so how in God’s name could I expect to, after half a life time of smoking and heavy drinking, rock up for a training session and walk out an hour later looking like Dimples? This will, like sobriety, require my commitment and lots of dedication. And I owe this to myself.

But here we are and there was something I very nearly forgot – yesterday was my 7 months anniversary. Well, 7 with a little slip, let’s keep this honest shall we? My slip was just before my 6 months and it pisses me off, but there is always a lesson and I suppose it just really showed me (once again) how alcohol does absolutely nothing for me. This week was a little scary but I think I just need to sometimes also give myself a little credit and recognise that I can actually do this. I can’t master burpees yet, but I will hopefully get to a point where I can get my body to obey there too.

I’ve got this. So tell me, when do you feel fearful of the Beast getting to you? Do you ever end up in the sort of perfect storm that two nights this week presented me with? I.e. your combination of triggers thrown at you all at once? I’d love to know.

Today I’m not going to drink.