A String of Gems and Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today I’m not going to drink.

A Self Centered Pity Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today I’m not going to drink.

Guerrilla Tactics

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

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

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

jaws

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve got this.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Cautious Confidence and Sweat

Can I just start with a warning today – this post will doubtlessly contain incessant bragging and is really just a huge exercise in attention seeking. And I don’t give a shit, I am THAT proud of myself!

We did it! 26 miles/42 kilometres along the south coast from Brighton to Eastbourne on the hottest day of the year, conquering the Seven Sisters, who, by the way, are fucking BITCHES. I swear, if I’d known how bad those hills would be I don’t know if I’d bothered even if I hadn’t hiked 20 miles already by the time we got to them. Oh, who am I kidding, as exhausting and difficult those last six miles were, I am so, so happy we managed to do it and yes, I’d do it again. I kind of feel about this like I do about childbirth – fucking painful and in the moment you make a solemn vow to never EVER do it again but then… ….you totally would and then you totally do. Well, I only gave birth the once because life’s plan for me didn’t involve bearing more children, but you know what I mean – it was never the fear of giving birth that was the reason I only did it the once. And as much as I thought I’d collapse when we finally reached the top of Beachy Head, the last huge hill before it was finally over, and we just had that last downhill stretch to Eastbourne, I knew I’d do this all over again as soon as I stepped over the finish line with aching hips and feet.

I’m not going to ever lie here on this blog, remember, so as tempting as it is to say WHOAAAAA what a champion I am I’ll be honest and tell you that the last couple of inclines my husband was pretty much pulling me. There. It was 100% much, much harder than I thought and those last six miles with steep inclines nearly did me in. Weirdly it was the last mile which was only downhill that was the worst and I actually thought I might not make it, I was THAT exhausted and felt like I was going to collapse. I’ve never been in a situation before when I’ve been so physically spent that it’s literally been a case of putting one foot in front of the other – that was all I was thinking during that last mile: one more, one more, and again, one more…. Also, I’m no good with heat as it is and sweat like a truck driver at the tiniest hint of sun, but this was something else. Without the heat, I know my hips and feet would have ached just as much but the heat was brutal. It might not have been any easier in more tolerable temperatures or even a bit of wind or shade, but fuck me that heat was vicious!

Thought the start photo was funny – check out Miss Contrary in the bottom right corner refusing to wear the green top. When I stand out it’s rarely for the right reasons, but hey ho. It wasn’t refusal so much as a matter of comfort though and had it not been so goddamn hot I would have happily worn the thick race day top. My friend Cherokee (who regularly does crazy shit like marathons and various long terrain races) had warned me against anything with seams, so my trusty super thin and seamless blue top it had to be. Unlucky for you, I have also hidden hubby’s gorgeous face just like I do with any photos I add here that happen to have friends or family in them. He probably wouldn’t mind, in fact he’ll probably ask me why I’ve done that and might even be a little offended, but he hasn’t asked to have his beautiful face displayed on this blog so unless he takes issue he’ll remain anonymous. He’s also on a plane to Prague with work as I write this so I can’t ask him anyway. I suppose you’ll just have to trust me when I say he was carved by angels.

OK, that’s it, I’m done and I’m sorry if that was all a bit obnoxious!

Sooooo…. Drinking. I’m not drinking. 167 days. I look at that number and find it quite unbelievable. I just don’t know if I ever TRULY believed I could do it. I know it’ll never be a case of “oh, I’m cured now!” and I’ll have to stay on task for the rest of my days, but whatever happens in the future I can still go back to this day and see those digits knowing it happened. And where are we right now? Not struggling but yes, I absolutely do feel like having a drink now and again. Not every day and it’s only been two occasions that I can think of when I was close to actually choosing death over life – OK, now I sound like a real drama queen, but that’s where drinking will take me because I’m an alcoholic and can’t drink like “normal people”. It’d be silly, or even dangerous, for me to think of it in any other way. I was killing myself the way I was going, period. So yes, two occasions when I very nearly did or at the very least REALLY wanted to. But I’m still sober and that feels really awesome.

I’ve learnt so much about myself over these five and a half months and I’m so grateful I got to that stage when I knew I wanted to change before it got much worse or had been too late. Don’t ever think I don’t know how lucky I am. Who knows what irreversible damage I’ve already done – I dread to think what I put my body through and every time I feel my heart beating hard, especially on the rare occasion that I have palpitations, I whisper ‘I’m sorry’ and hope to God I haven’t broken it. And those poor organs who had to battle so hard to cope with the poison in my blood stream. I did often have an ache in my lower back, which I assume might have been my kidneys. Any blood tests I had, including the one I had done in spring with a few months of sobriety in the bag, always showed good liver function (which drunky-drunk here always took for a green light to continue) but I don’t know how much of the story a blood test can tell. Probably very little. I simply don’t know if I stopped in time or if there’ll be a price to pay, but even if it turns out I left it too late to change my course I still know I’ll be better placed to pay my dues sober, whatever they may be. Sorry, that sounds very glum but I don’t want to minimise how serious alcoholism is or what it does. Sobriety, however, cannot be overestimated and no matter what the future holds I know that so long as I stay sober I can continue to recover the person I was always meant to be and even take a good shot at stuff like dreams and ambitions, YAY! Not a bad deal, is it?

Oh, another thing that just dawned on me is that this week is probably more of a risk zone for me than others as hubby is away. Because we’ve had a super busy summer so far and always something going on, I just haven’t had time to dread him being away and perhaps that’s why that devilish ping! with accompanying illusions of wine hasn’t popped into my head. Well, it isn’t there, or at least not yet.

Should it be hard to resist it if it does happen? So let’s break it down. I think sobriety so far hasn’t felt difficult because I just haven’t wanted to drink. Even on those two occasions I can think of when the urge got quite strong I can’t say it was a battle to the death to get through it. Mostly there is no will power required whatsoever, which is entirely logical given you don’t need any to avoid doing something you don’t want to do anyway. And I know I don’t want to drink. I can’t think of a single benefit drinking would give me, not a one. Dragging my fat arse over those last hills Saturday just gone took all my might though. The fucking will power I had to use to get through those last few miles was an enormous effort and a case of genuinely not wanting to go on coupled with doubting I’d be able to. So I keep thinking that if my brain goes ping! it really shouldn’t be difficult. On Saturday I knew I wanted to finish, I wanted that achievement and sense of accomplishment. After fighting those last miles I knew that finishing would feel SO good. So there was a reason to go against what I really wanted to do – give up – and go on. I have no reason to drink. Literally nothing at all. Mm…. See, I’m getting quite scared just writing this and perhaps it’s myself I’m trying to convince more than tell anyone reading this how pointless drinking is. I suppose if anything it shows the ugly and devious nature of alcoholism, how even when booze brings you nothing but harm and misery we still go on drinking.

I feel cautiously confident though. My hips are very sore and right now my 90-yearold grandmothers are both more sprightly and agile than I am, but I feel good and aching hips are better than aching kidneys – holy crap, I can’t even believe I typed that just now as if you could ever compare! Sober Me is who I want to be. I want to be the Anna who lives her life fully, not Drunk Me. It’s Sober Me standing there exhausted at the finish line with hubby. Drunk Me could never feel as good as that chick, much less do that. There – no contest.

Today, God willing, I am not going to drink.

Butterflies in Mordor

My bad mood and terrible sleep now combine to a headache that I just cannot seem to shift. At home, what should only have been a calm discussion between my son and I culminated in a screaming match during which I totally lost control, resulting in us once again hugging each other an hour later and both in tears. Moments like that I wouldn’t even argue if someone told me I’m too rubbish to be called a mother and from now on only be referred to as Gestation Facility as pregnancy seems at times to be the only thing I did somewhat well and without completely fucking up. Not proud of myself at all. And when it comes to arguing, the apple has fallen so close to the tree I’m not sure it’s even detached from its branch – my son is a master wordsmith and I’m pretty sure he could make a brick bleed out of frustration alone if he set his mind to it. When we finally managed to TALK and were friends again, he gave me a lopsided smile and said:

You and I are like the butterfly effect.

I think there’s a film with that title but haven’t seen it and I had actually no idea what this means. It sort of sounds like something bittersweet though, has a sadness and a sense of fragile beauty to it somehow.

If it’s at precisely the right moment in precisely the right place, it’s enough that a butterfly flaps its wings to start a hurricane,” he told me.

There is no better way to describe us when we clash. The actual issue drowns almost immediately as we both spin furiously out of control and get caught up in frustration and anger to the point that we’re lying there on the battle ground in our own blood not knowing what we’re meant to be fighting for but that we didn’t want the other hurt. There is no one who can push my buttons like he can, no one who can make me angrier, but as I told him, this is because there is no one I love as much as I love him. There’s a Swedish saying that goes “den man älskar agar man” which basically means that we hurt the ones we love. It makes sense I suppose, just like no one can make us hurt more than the ones we love. Entirely logical even though it doesn’t make it easier. Luckily, butterflies and hurricanes aside, we seem to be able to express love as well as anger so we always end up in a good place but I really am disappointed with myself for losing control like that – it’s my damn job to hold it together. Bambino is a teenager and it’s HIS job to be rebellious and difficult, not mine.

Well. Today is a new day and I can’t change what’s been, so as with much else I can just try harder to learn from past mistakes and try harder to be better than before. If I keep focusing on how much I’ve fucked up in the past – even yesterday – I’ll just end up feeling like shit. I need to remember my fuck-ups as a motivation to do better, but not focus on them. Sometimes a fine line and a hard balance to keep, don’t you agree? However, Rome wasn’t built in one day and I do give myself some slack given I’m basically re-learning how to do life now that I’m sober. It’s quite mad to think that for over a decade there are very few experiences I went through, very few situations I faced and very few decisions I made without either being drunk or hungover. For example I can’t honestly tell you if I have even been in a job interview without battling a hangover – that would have been the sort of thing I would have wanted to avoid having a hangover for but rarely succeeded, if ever. So this life thing? It’s kinda new.

With the sleeping – or the lack thereof – this week, I’m going to have to get this back to normal. Well, back to my new, sober normal obviously as the sleep I was getting when I was drinking was terrible. We have a marathon length hike on Saturday across the south coast so to rock up in Brighton Saturday morning with a headache from sleeping badly would not be fantastic. I know there are natural remedies you can take to get you relaxed but for someone who spent years poisoning herself I am surprisingly reluctant to take pills or supplements that alter the way I feel. Even the prescription medicine I have to combat the pain for fibroids I don’t take unless it’s so bad I can’t cope. Why? Because I believe it’s always better to allow your body to feel what it’s meant to be feeling even if it’s pain. Isn’t that the funniest thing you’ve ever heard coming from a DRUNK?!?!?! I know, I’m fucking hilarious. But it’s all true. Yet another example that highlights, I suppose, how brainwashed we are when it comes to booze. Pain relief? No thanks, I don’t like to put stuff into my body that isn’t natural. A large glass of a substance that kills more people than any other drug AND as a cherry on top is proven to increase your risk of getting a whole variety of cancers? Oh, yes please!

You know, I think you could write a whole book on the madness of alcohol brainwashing alone. A trilogy, even, showing how the power of booze makes Mordor seem like Disneyland.

Back to my shitty week though. About three weeks into my sobriety it was my birthday and then Valentine’s Day. On the latter we ended up having a puncture, so there we were in the freezing cold and being whipped by sideways rain with me trying to hold an umbrella that was about as effective as a napkin and hubby on all fours trying to change the damn tyre. It was not the best half hour and we were both chilled to the bone by the time we were seated. I told my sponsor about it when I saw her the following day and she exclaimed “oh my God, and you still didn’t drink! That’s what I call a result!“. This is one of the things in AA that I’ve probably struggled with the most, i.e. the idea that we drink to overcome hardship or difficult feelings. Or indeed that all addiction comes from a void inside somehow. You know, this could all be true, and I won’t deny that the “restlessness, discontent and irritability” I first heard described by my awesome Willow as a root cause for alcoholism has played heavily on my mind during this staggeringly crappy week I’m having. It makes me shit myself to think that how I’ve been feeling this week might come from within, that this is just what it’s going to be like to be me from now on and these previous five-plus sober months was just a bit of a joke. Right in this moment I honestly couldn’t tell you for sure what I believe, so the jury is out on that score, but any time I’m stressed or feeling glum – and this applies to when I was drinking too – I don’t particularly want to drink. Last night was massively stressful and upsetting and the idea of a drink could not have been further from my mind beyond consciously thinking to myself before bed that thank God I’m not drinking and how much more stressful and upsetting it had been if I were. So to be honest, if I need to spend the rest of my days as grumpy as I’ve been this week, it might be a really excellent way to stay sober.

Don’t get me wrong, when I was drinking a bad mood didn’t always stop me and I have drunk on every goddamn mood a human being could possibly have because, well, I’m an alcoholic. My greatest trigger, however, is a good mood and/or great things happening. You wouldn’t think it reading my blog this week, but I’m actually a pretty happy bunny most of the time, and with a good mood making me want to drink… ..let’s say I’ve done a lot of celebrating in my time. So my first sponsor’s insistence on how ALL drunks ALWAYS drink because of negative emotions made it hard for me to really get on board with it. I think it just took me a while to realise and accept that, well, no actually – she is describing her own experience and perspective and I’m not less of a drunk just because my experience doesn’t exactly match hers. I’m a drunk too, you ignorant cow! #drunktoo

So here we are and in 48 hours from now we’ll probably be about a third of the way from Brighton to Eastbourne. How hard can it be? I have two nights ahead, both of which I pray to God will give me some quality sleep although these hills look fairly harmless, don’t you think?

7

I think it could so easily turn into a vicious circle. Last night I really wanted to sleep, and needed it. And there I was, worried the night would be as bad as the one before and sure enough, the moment I let worry into my mind I was fucked and even though it wasn’t anywhere near as awful as the previous night it still took me forever to get to sleep. So I need a really great way of getting myself into the sleep zone this evening.

If anyone has any really great ways of laying the foundations to a wonderful night’s sleep, please let me know.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Worry Clouds and Melon Sorbet

The first thing sobriety changed for the better for me almost immediately was my sleep. From terrible sleeping patterns with waking up several times with the sweats and palpitations, it was only a few days in that I ended up falling asleep quickly (although to be fair, when I was drinking I’d be out like a light) and then sleep solidly until morning. Because being sober is a change for me, I’ve taken pleasure in noting all changes and even when I’ve felt bad for whatever reason I’ve enjoyed being able to experience my emotions completely as they are without anaesthesia. Even when I’ve felt really crappy it’s been a positive thing to just be faced with the actual crap, as opposed to a big, wet cluster fuck of wine soaked mess that may or may not contain an actual message from my soul. Plus I used to be too fucked from either being too drunk or too hungover to begin to untangle it anyway. Goes without saying that no matter what I’m feeling, when those emotions come along I’m awake, alert and ready to take them on no matter what they’re bringing me.

And here’s where I want to salute Mother Nature again for equipping me with this excellent survival system – all our senses are there to keep us alive! Even fear is our friend, if you think about it, Mother Nature’s genius way of letting us know that we need to watch out. And so I think of feelings as my subconscious sending me signals. Feeling good = keep doing that! Feeling bad = hm, let’s have a look at what’s going wrong here shall we?

This week has been quite crappy so far. I’ve been irritable and unsettled. Some I’ve assumed to be the work of hormones given I do get a bit down when Auntie Flo pays a visit, but this is worse than I usually get. I’ve slept badly over the past few nights. Not as badly as I did when I was drinking, but much worse than at any other point during these blissful five-plus months of sweet sobriety. Nightmares, lying awake, having trouble going to sleep. Can I just say though, that even when I’m feeling off and sleep badly, I still get to wake up without a hangover so even after a night of bad sleep I’m feeling miles better than I did during the Drunken Years. Either way, it’s been horrible lying there in the dark, unable to get comfortable, my jaw clenched and thoughts spinning webs of worry and anxiety. My jaw is cramping and achy – it’s where I carry stress. Some people carry it in their shoulders, for me it’s in my jaw.

Because I get to feel properly for the first time since I was actually in my late twenties, I don’t know what to make of it and it really frightens me. This isn’t a chemically induced alco dip. This is the stuff I’m feeling and I can’t immediately see any logical reason. Oh yeah, and there it is – my heart is beating faster than normal too. Hello palpitations, long time no see, how’ya been? What if I’m now plunging into depression or anxiety, or, heaven forbid, both? I’ve not been sober long enough before to truly feel everything so now that I do it can be overwhelming. What is this? Is it anxiety? Is it a lurking depression? The rational part of me kicks in and I decide I can only begin to understand this by spending some time with ME. Hubby is also tossing and turning, plus we went to bed pissed off with each other so his tossing is of the exaggerated kind – it’s like trying to fall asleep in a bouncy castle loaded with toddlers. When I’m confident he’s finally gone to sleep, I get up as quietly as I can, picking up my trackie bottoms and tank top from the floor and take them with me as I tip-toe out of the bedroom. I only put them on when I’m in the living room. And there I sit, at 1.30am, vaping and wishing I could make myself some coffee, giving my soul a private audience and waiting for it to help me understand what it’s trying to tell me.

Except the occasional breath that tastes of melon sorbet and menthol, I focus on my breathing and although it’s dark I close my eyes as an invitation to my mind to serve up any stresses I need to deal with. What are the images? What are the emotions? What am I so in knots about? Most of all I try to figure out what I’m feeling just sitting there alone in the middle of the night with only myself for company, doing nothing but breathing. I figure if I discover it’s uncomfortable I’m in trouble. What if it’s being me that’s uncomfortable and has me in this state? What then? I feel a little tearful at the thought but I know that I need to face this head on and if I can stare down the beast I can bloody search within myself for the cause of pain if I have to. So I do. For someone who has always detested any new age hippy-dippy shit I’m not exactly good at this but do my best. Inhale, exhale, fill my chest and then let it sink back – over and over until my mind agrees to focus on this only. I like it. It’s relaxing and it feels good. I go on to “think through” my whole body – this is quite funny because it’s something my childhood friend M sort of taught me. She used to get stoned and then do this as a way to relax her whole body and then claimed it was like she was in some sort of trance like state. I’ve never been much for drugs and so didn’t join in when it came to weed, but this little procedure of hers did stay with me. I start from the bottom up: I think of my toes, each one in turn and what they look like, the position they’re in, both visualise and feel each part and then the same thing throughout my entire body moving up through my feet, legs and so on. It doesn’t send me into a different dimension (possibly because I’m not stoned) but it does do the trick and I can finally feel my jaw relax and the tension in me lift.

When I’ve untied mind from being bundled up in a tight and whirring tangle of anxiety, the spikes go from struggling to buzz and strike at me all at once and all my worries and fears are just floating around me in separate little clouds, I can calmly examine them one by one. They don’t feel so charged and prickly anymore because I’ve given them this audience and each will have their turn instead of trying to shoot and crackle their way into my conscious that’s been locked down by anxiety.

Yup, there’s stuff in one in particular that hurts no matter how I turn it over. I feel the bumps and lumps and discover I can’t heal this pain or change it. This can only be lived through but I do reluctantly realise I have to be less selfish and that some of the angst I feel comes from putting myself first and losing sight of what’s important. Chuck in a little forgiveness and the tangle is less severe. The little cloud of worry still hovers around me and will continue to do so, possibly for a very, very long time and maybe even forever, but if I can reel myself back in like this once in a while and regain my focus on what matters it’s going to be much easier. I find a number of other little clouds that are just pathetic. The sort of clouds that have formed because I’ve just fucking lost another few marbles – stuff I’ve ended up worrying about for no apparent reason and even if there was reason to worry there’s nothing I can do about it. Those clouds I need to figure out what to do with – how to stop wasting energy worrying about stuff I can do literally fuck all about. Answers on a postcard please. With the rest of the little clouds that patiently wait there as they’re hovering around me, it’s mostly a case of acknowledging them and trying to be really fucking zen about it. Genuinely try to give each problem a little score or label to indicate how real and important it is and my level of power to change it.

So nothing has changed, really. It’s in the middle of the night and I’ve just sat on my own in a dark room with nothing but my breathing for company. But my thoughts, or my worry clouds rather, have calmed down because I gave them my full attention and that made them stop shooting lightning all over my mind like the little drama queens that they are.

I quietly and carefully creep back into bed. I don’t cuddle up to hubby because I’m still pissed off with him and at this point he is to my mind the one of us who was more of a dick last night. I may engage in the odd little spell of meditation but I’m still me and right now he’s a git. And that’s OK. My thoughts have quietened, worry and stress at least temporarily lifted and clouds dispersed for now. And I can finally sleep.

Oh, I’m still having a shitty week. But hey, that’s cool too. At least I know what I’m feeling, what I’m ACTUALLY feeling and not a haze of booze depression or paranoia. All home grown worry clouds here, folks! Au natural!

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.

Love and Burning Ears

154 days. There you go – your sure fire way of knowing I don’t really have much to say today. But hey, no matter the amount of days, so long as that number is anything other than zero it’s worth mentioning and I feel good. It feels good to say it, to hear it, to type it and to read it. I like looking at it. It’s mine and it’s probably one of a very small number of things I’ve had to work hard for.

So I’ve put out a few hooks now, in my quest to turn a decade destroying myself and hurting those who love me into something positive and fruitful. I almost feel a bit sheepish for being so lucky when I don’t actually deserve any of it – my friends and family haven’t showed me anything other than love, kindness and…….

………holy moly, talk about ears burning! I was interrupted by a phone call and it was one of my brothers, D, completely out of the blue in the middle of the day which first made me think something bad had happened. See, sometimes I’m a real pessimist. He’s not been to visit me at all over these 23 years I’ve now lived in the UK, mostly because I live in London and he can’t stand crowds and the stress of a big city. Bit like me really – don’t ask me why I decided to live in one of the biggest cities on the planet. And he is coming to see us! Plan is to fly over with his eldest two, who are both in their early teens like my son. D has four sons and the youngest two will stay put with mum. In September! It made me so happy my voice nearly broke, which I tried my best to hide as we exchanged our customary good natured insults.

Well, if my sister can stop drinking, I guess I can get to London,” D told me and I could hear the smile in his voice.

Yes,” I agreed, “shows you anything is possible, doesn’t it?

Day 154 was already pretty great but now it’s turned goddamn AWESOME!

So what I was about to write when D’s ears started to burn and he interrupted me, was that my friends and family have showed me nothing but love, kindness and support since I quit drinking. Not everyone is as lucky and honestly I didn’t expect to be. Part of me worried that some might feel ashamed of me (but perhaps some do and only hide it from me), get angry or what have you. SAYING I’m an alcoholic seemed worse than the fact that I already knew I was one 100%. Funny, isn’t it? That’s one of the things I’d really like to change. There are people who don’t have huge reservoirs of love like I do, big families or friends who will stand by them and offer support. There are people who either never had any of that or lost it. Or don’t have it for a myriad of other reasons. What if I can be there and offer that kindness and understanding for just one person? AA in all its glory and all of us there supporting each other, but I want to do more. My “day job” is as a PA but although I work for lovely people and don’t hate what I do, what does it REALLY matter? What if I could put that energy towards working in a capacity that in some way contributes to helping other alcoholics and addicts? I’m realising more for each day that this may just be why I was put here. Writing and silversmithing are my passions, but perhaps this is also part of my purpose here on earth?

Not just to be there for others – we do that in AA on a daily basis – but actively work in the field of recovery in whatever shape it could be. I need to figure out where and how to start but as usual I think asking questions is a pretty decent starting point, so that’s what I’m doing. Lots of them.

Thank you, God, for letting me wake up again sober and live through another day without having to drink. And thanks for the glorious summer weather too, you really are quite the artist when you shroud this island in its best finery.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Smack Bang

It’s probably lucky that I didn’t realise at the time that one of my sobriety milestones would land smack bang on Midsummer – I wonder now if that might have put me off. I knew of course that ALL big celebrations from then on would hopefully be sober for me, but to have a sobriety anniversary on the day of the biggest celebration in the Swedish calendar? No thank you. Or nej tack, as it were. One year we went to Hyde Park where lots of frog dancing, garland wearing and very drunk Swedes congregate – and we drank a lot of wine. Last year we went to stay at a little farm in Somerset – and drank a lot of wine. Other years we’ve done other things – and drunk a lot of wine. The activity in question might have changed but the drinking hasn’t. But here I am and I’m still sober. Five months and two days. Hurrah!

We went to see the most Swedish friend I’ve ever had. She takes all Swedish traditions super seriously and is ultra patriotic, it’s quite lovely actually and especially for me who hasn’t been all that bothered over the now 23 years I’ve lived away from the country where I grew up. Don’t get me wrong, I love the country I came from and I still get tearful when I hear any opening verses to traditional Swedish songs be it Lucia or Christmas or Midsummer, but my friend E goes all in. There was pickled herring, cured salmon, new potatoes dressed with dill, a sandwich cake (actually made by me – super proud!), meatballs and everything else you can expect on a smörgåsbord, followed by cinnamon rolls with the coffee afterwards. Bubbly and Swedish Rekorderlig cider for the adults except of course me. No worries.

As with most people, I’ve told E that I’ve quit drinking. I didn’t have to tell the story from the beginning because she and I shared a flat for a while and she is therefore more than well acquainted with my former drinking habits. Beyond hubby, she’s probably the friend who has seen the most, so I didn’t really have to explain why except my intention is to stay sober and there is no middle way for me.

Not even half a glass though?” she asked, but then immediately noted that I shook my head and concluded “no, soft drink for you then!” and it was no big deal.

This does highlight one of the difficulties with alcoholism – because it’s something the vast majority knows how to handle and control, it’s harder to explain that it’s the first drink I can’t have and not the sixth or seventh (or tenth and eleventh). E has never had issues with drinking and I’ve both known her to have one or two glasses of wine and stop there, or go on a bender and finish the night at 4am with tequila shots. But it’s her own choice and I suppose it’s then quite hard for her to understand how it isn’t mine and never has been or can be. She’s great though and she would never suggest that half a glass of Prosecco if she thought it was anything other than a case of moderation.

Way back when, in what feels like a different time but then again I suppose it was, E and I ended up getting an apartment together because we both ended up going through a crisis each at exactly the same time: my first marriage ended (very, very badly) and hers too (also very, very badly). Two heartbroken little Swedes shacked up together to try to piece their lives together again and I guess it was all quite sad but I look back on that time with huge affection. Having said that, it might have been easier for me – I was the one to leave after finally having tried all I could to save a marriage that was rotten almost from the start, but E had a huge shock having thought hers was happy only to discover that her husband had flown in a mistress from abroad every time E was away with work. She expected kids to be next, and I guess that’s what she got although it wasn’t a baby and instead a Portuguese 19-yearold. For me, it was like turning the page and I felt like a new person the moment I finally left my awful marriage behind. I felt, despite the stress and worry over divorce and childcare arrangements, happy and content again after a couple of years of misery and MAN did I celebrate! It was wine every night and it was during this period my alcoholism really kicked off.

I do believe us alcoholics have the unfortunate combo of what AA refers to as “a physical allergy and mental obsession” so I suppose I must have been that way wired and inclined all along, but this was when it properly took hold of me – it would have sooner or later, and this just happened to be when everything came together in a perfect storm in a wine glass. A year of drinking every day of the week and I had scared myself badly – I remember the morning vividly, despite the fact that I would have been hungover beyond belief. I walked into the kitchen and on the worktop were three wine bottles. Two empty and about a fifth left in the third. I’d been home alone. There were little instances like that, little steps, a steady progression: the first time I realised the next day that I’d polished off a whole bottle of wine on my own, then one and a half, then two…. When I stood there and surveyed those three bottles, I listened more attentively to the warning bells inside of me. I contacted AA and went to a meeting the same day.

Since then, those first AA meetings I went to, I’ve known I’m an alcoholic. All the things were true for me, most of all “one drink is too many, twenty aren’t enough” and I sat there wide eyed in those meetings and knew it was me. But perhaps I wasn’t ready. Clearly I wasn’t. Perhaps I needed to reach my rock bottom of drinking.

You know, I realise that for people who read this blog, it might appear that I’ve just quit drinking and whoop-dee-dooooooo I’m reaching the milestones one by one and it’s just plain sailing with no relapse in sight. Perhaps I should have been clearer on this point. I went to my first AA meeting the same day that I walked into the kitchen and saw those three bottles. That was May 2007. My relapse lasted nearly 11 years. Just in case anyone pops in here and gets the impression that I’ve quit, done so easily (which, THIS TIME, it’s mostly been to be fair) and never been tempted. I’m tempted all the fucking time and although I’ve now been sober over five months it’s been a long time coming!! And when I slipped it turned into over a decade of drinking to oblivion, until I had regular back cramps (my kidneys, I guess) and had got to a point where I was struggling to even do a very easy part time job. So this isn’t my first attempt. I made countless promises to myself over that decade but couldn’t keep a single one of them. In the end I was so destroyed by booze I was exhausted by it all, couldn’t do it anymore and finally I knew one evening that I was done with it. Thank God I got to that point, that something clicked in me and I knew I wanted out. If I hadn’t I don’t think I’d be far off the near-end stages of alcoholism because the merry-go-round only spins faster and faster and when it has started to shrink your world for real it all happens with frightening speed. So, there we are, if anyone wondered.

Funny – it only really dawned on me now that I was writing about my friend E that it occurred to me to go back all those years. Haha, how stupid am I?? I’ve even said occasionally how I thought this blog would document a struggle to get sober with slips at every turn. How conveniently I’ve somehow blocked out that I had a slip that lasted nearly 11 years! Perhaps I could call myself a veteran after all? And that decade long relapse was HARD AS FUCK. I honestly don’t know how I did it, I look back on it and wonder how I even managed to stay upright. Absolutely everything was hard work, something as nice as meeting up with friends required enormous effort! How the fuck did I do it? Never mind being a mother, going to work and everything else. Beats me.

Anyway. Here we are now and I’m no longer destroying my life and the lives of those who love me by drinking myself into an early grave. It’s been five months and two days and I still feel so, so good about this. I will never take my sobriety for granted and I will protect it like a mama grizzly bear protects her cubs. It’s the most important thing in my life because without it, there IS no life.

What’s YOUR journey? Was there a journey before? One so far back you have almost forgotten about it?

Today I’m not going to drink.

Many Little Streams

Because this whole alcoholism and sobriety stuff really interests me, not least because I am a drunk who has stopped drinking, I’ve been reading a lot of books on the subject and a watched a smattering of documentaries too. I’m sure if I developed another disease or condition I’d be keen to learn as much as I could about that too, so I don’t consider it at all strange that I’m devouring all perspectives and opinions I can get my hands on. The book that has resonated with me the most has got to be Allen Carr’s ‘The Easy Way to Stop Drinking‘.

The title itself is probably enough for many to immediately dismiss it as another quack theory designed to fill us drunks with false hope and therefore not worth the paper it’s printed on, but this book really reinforced how I feel. It’s in that way quite similar to ‘The Naked Mind‘, and aspires to show us how we have been brainwashed from birth and I would suggest that anyone who wants to hold on to the view that sobriety is difficult steers well clear of both books as there is a palpable risk they’ll change the way you view alcohol forever. And why take the chance if you feel you already have the answers you feel you need? In that case, don’t read them. For me personally, reading them was like putting into words how I have felt since I stopped, namely how I for the life of me now cannot name one single benefit of drinking alcohol and how I’ve sat in AA meetings with my chin on the floor listening to people state how sobriety is so tough. My own journey has been the very opposite and it was only days into not drinking that I discovered that the tough bit was the drinking.

But as with anything to do with the human condition, I don’t believe there is a one size fits all and perhaps that’s where I’m the most at odds with AA and its teachings. I value many things about AA but the very notion that “it works if you work it” makes me squirm. Of course it bloody does! And I can therefore, just like AA, claim I have a method that comes with a 100% success rate IF YOU WORK IT. Here it is and it’s totally free of charge: don’t drink alcohol. There. One instruction only and I promise you you’ll achieve sobriety so long as you work it. You’re welcome. Oh, that doesn’t work, you say? Well. There is nothing wrong with my method! And I told you it works if you work it. The instruction is very clear and you CANNOT fail if you just follow it. Well, then there must be something wrong with YOU! What if I were a doctor and you came to me with a troublesome infection, and I prescribed you something for it? You take the medication but the infection doesn’t go away. I prescribe you another batch. Infection comes back. More medication. Ad infinitum. Would you be filled with confidence that I know what I’m doing if I then told you that the medication works? Didn’t think so.

No, that sort of approach I think does more harm than good.

As for my own sobriety I can tell you this. Tomorrow it’s five months of not drinking and I feel absolutely fucking awesome! I don’t like calling it “giving up drinking” simply because I’ve not given anything up. Quite to the contrary, I have just rid myself of something that only brought a whole bunch of negativity with it. I won’t lie – I’ve had lots of fun with alcohol as part of the picture but all of that fun was in spite of the booze, not because of it. AA was a good anchor at the beginning and I intend to keep its benefits to my sobriety in my tool kit, 100%. Easyway and The Naked Mind two other sources that I read at precisely the right time in my sobriety, just as I’d discovered some of my own truths and they further cemented exactly how I feel about booze. Then there is a multitude of other books, documentaries and, perhaps most importantly, blogs I’ve been absorbing like a sponge, all these little streams that together create a huge flood wave of thinking around alcoholism and sobriety that is benefiting me massively.

Sure, I occasionally get that ping! at the back of my mind when a lifetime of brainwashing makes itself known and I have those images of alcohol and what I was taught my whole life that it represents: celebration and a good time. Of course that happens, how could it not? So far, it seems to help to just reel myself back in and remind myself that it’s all an illusion and think back on my drinking and what it was actually like. Guzzle a box of wine and catapult myself right into black-out home alone. Oh yeah, some celebration! What I want to point out though is that the pull of the beast is strong, but how it’s perhaps a little misunderstood. Or wrongly perceived, rather – that it’s not there because of a bunch of flaws in ME but because I’ve been brainwashed into thinking that this thing brings me good stuff. Having said that, I clearly react to alcohol in a way that some people (aka non-alcoholics) don’t, so I do also believe that SOMETHING is different in my wiring but one doesn’t have to exclude the other. Example – I could be allergic to kiwi fruit, like my kiwi husband quite ironically is. So I could be brainwashed into thinking that eating kiwi fruit will bring me benefits at the same time as I react to it in an unfortunate way that non-kiwi fruit allergic people would. As if poor hubby believed eating kiwi fruit would sprinkle glitter on life and insist on eating it in spite of his allergic reaction. That’s what alcoholism is for me – this thing I react so badly to but drank because I thought it put a sparkle on life.

Another voice in the huge flood wave of thoughts that I’ve enjoyed hearing is Russell Brand and his thoughts around recovery. I’d say Brand’s views appear to be very in line with the AA way but his approach is more straight forward, plus of course he has an engaging way with words that I believe is easier to relate to than the now somewhat dated voice of the Big Book. Besides, when it comes to the 12 steps I do firmly believe we would all be better off for doing them and Brand has a really excellent way of interpreting the program – some people might hate his way but I like it a lot, he strikes a chord for me and when he sells spirituality I find myself opening my purse, not holding it more tightly. Uhm, that sounded a bit dirty but it wasn’t meant to, sorry. Either way, I pick bits here and there from him too, as I do with AA, Easyway, blogs and the rest.

That all got a bit waffly, I realise that. But perhaps it illustrates how I view alcoholism and sobriety when it comes to myself, how I’m finding truth in a whole bunch of places and figuring out what works for me at the same time as I accept that it’s not going to be the same for everyone. To be honest I don’t give a shit if you follow this method or that, whether you go to AA meetings everyday or keep sober by doing cartwheels around the house each morning – whatever works for you is bloody perfect!

Today it’s 150 days of sobriety and tomorrow it’ll be five months – I’m pleased as punch! I think when I first quit, if I’d realised my five month anniversary would fall on midsummer – by far the biggest (and wettest!!) celebration in the Swedish calendar, I would have groaned with despair. Now? No biggie. Alcohol brings me nothing but crap, remember? It’s a shift in my thinking that’s happened during these almost five months of sobriety and I do hope my brain doesn’t get tricked back into thinking booze brings positives. Always easy? No. But it’s not exactly hard to be present, alive and feeling physically and mentally well and strong. Life will serve up its usual greatness and the occasional curve balls, but whatever happens I know it’s infinitely better and I’m much better placed to cope with it all when I don’t poison myself.

Today I’m not going to have a drink.