Fascinators and Phallic Symbols

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today I’m not going to drink.

Red Ends and Good Weeks

Can’t say I lived by that meme yesterday, i.e. the one that says “in a year from now you’ll wish you’d started today”. Got home and quickly abandoned our low carb plan by pushing two doughnuts into my face, but then headed out on my usual walk in the park. OK, it’ll sound a bit daft now, after my doughnut confession, but WHY am I just getting fatter? Alright, not fat, I’m not obese, but I am definitely on the squidgy side of medium and steadily growing it would seem. I calculated when I quit drinking that based on conservative estimations I had cut out 8,000 calories per week. Probably more, but I based this on what I’d drink on a Good Week. For anyone who is here for the first time, I should probably point out that 13 bottles of Sauvignon (at 600 calories a pop) in one week wasn’t unusual for this particular drunk, nor was it as bad as it ever got. A Bad Week would be every single night and not remembering the last evening I’d been sober. Those happened too, although for the sake of being fair to myself, I’d say five nights per week was probably an accurate average.

You know those tests you can do with a bunch of questions to see if your drinking is a problem or damaging your health? When I drank I avoided those partly because I didn’t like the answer and partly because I knew that answer already. Now, however, when I’m approaching five months sober, I completed one via a Swedish news site and I went with absolute honesty and accuracy based on my drinking habits before I quit.

al

I’ll assist with the translation. It says “here is your alcohol profile” with a cheerful little exclamation mark at the end and then a little sub caption that reads “you drink a lot and often, so your alcohol consumption is dangerous for you“. Then we obviously have that lovely colour coded scale. Unsurprisingly I am right at the red end, the black arrow box with “du” (‘you‘) as far into the red as you can go and “farligt” means dangerous. Not that I need an online test to tell me that I was killing myself – I know that now and I knew it then. I do wonder how many alcoholics who haven’t yet reached the stage I did, do these tests, end up somewhere around the middle which says “warning” and take it as reassurance? I reckon an addict will only take comfort in not being at the Really Bad End. I definitely behaved in that way and I had people I’d point to as a way of illustrating that THEY had problems and were worse than I was so that must mean I was Just Fine. Elaine* both drank and smoked more than I did, which was reassuring and allowed me to stay in deep denial. Linda* was also someone who was much further down into the bottle than I was, usually drinking a bottle of whisky before she even got to lunchtime – Linda was a full-on alcoholic, in the stages where you just kind of expect the worst. And sure enough, on her 48th birthday Linda drank herself to death. The urn containing her ashes was buried in water, in a little cove off the coast of Florida, where she lived. And Elaine? Well, I discovered I actually drank more, so really, I ran out of People Worse Than I Am to point out. In the end I could only point at myself. That’s a scary place to be, when you no longer know anyone who drinks more than you do.

Needless to say there are countless wonderful byproducts of sobriety and the universe delivers almost instantly with the amazing feeling of waking up without a hangover. I swear, quitting drinking is well worth it for that alone. I can – and often do – wax lyrical about how fantastic it is so be sober, but I do also try to always remind myself what drinking was like. I never want to allow myself to forget how awful it truly was so nestling here among my odes to sobriety those awful snap shots will always be found. Another anchor to hold me in place I suppose.

But back to the endless joys of being sober! When I first quit drinking I discovered I had a sweet tooth, and since I bid adieu to the Sauvignon Blanc you can often find me ordering dessert as well as eating chocolate, which I didn’t even realise I like! And cookies too. What the hell! Still, I figured with all the wine calories absent, I’d still slim down without lifting a finger. Not so. Instead I got fat. For fuck’s sake, what’s up with THAT? Luckily I love walking, ideally with either music in my ears or an audio book, plus we live 200 yards from a massive park, so I set as a goal to go for a brisk walk most days of the week for a minimum of one hour. Said and done, although most of my walks are around the inner perimeter of the whole park which is a total of 10k and takes one hour and forty minutes. A Good Week is, as with the drinking, if I do it five of the seven days every week and I do AT LEAST THAT. Just like with the drinking, it’s at least five evenings per week. OK, so I’ve not made any effort to cut down on sweets, but shouldn’t all that walking have paid off by now? Clearly not, and my backside probably affects the tide by now. But hey, my eyes are brighter and my skin has a glow again, so I’d rather be a little cuddlier than remain a haggard looking drunk. You are what you drink.

Perhaps I should get going on the running again. It’s just such a drag to get started and especially when you’re carrying a bit of extra ‘bendy flesh’ as I like to call it. As much as I know all the walking does me a world of good – endorphins ROCK! – I now have about 20 pairs of eyewateringly expensive  pairs of jeans in my wardrobe that I can’t get into. I don’t consider myself fat, but I’m starting to feel uncomfortable so want to do something about it and running used to be one of my favourite things during those months here and there when I got really into it. Those tended to be periods when I hardly ever drank because obviously you can’t (not me, anyway) do exercise at that rate and drink the way I did. I shouldn’t actually say it’s a ‘drag’ to get started – it really isn’t. When I start, it only takes three-ish weeks before I can hobble around a decent 5k-loop, and three-ish weeks isn’t exactly a long time now is it? All goes back to how I am an absolute quitter and put my nose up at anything I’m not a total wizard at from the word go. But as with the jewellery, here’s another thing to keep me more centered than my natural balance allows, and I’ll build up slowly. There should be a goal. 10k?

Today I’m not going to drink.

* Linda and Elaine are not their real names – I never name anyone here, everyone I write about gets a nickname and I avoid any detail that would make them identifiable in the EXTREMELY unlikely event that someone they know reads this blog. 

Huge Oceans of Kindness

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

Why don’t you?” hubby asked.

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

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

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

No,” he said without missing a beat.

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

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

My name is Anna and I’m an alcoholic.

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

year

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

Take Me To the River

Hmm… I wonder if this would be how a non-alcoholic feels when they are having a drink? As per previous posts, I discovered non-alcoholic beer, but although I did expect to be able to get it in the UK, I wasn’t expecting pubs to serve them – I just didn’t think it’d be a thing here. Turns out not only do they actually have my favourite non-alco beer but they serve it at our favourite pub – Heineken, and with a reassuring “max 0.05% alcohol” at that.

Yesterday was precisely the sort of Sunday afternoon that seems to be tailor made for sitting on the wall by the river having a drink. We have done this before since I quit drinking and I usually get a pint of soda water with fresh lime and this has been absolutely fine of course, but it’s really nice to have an alternative given how it turns out I actually really like beer. It’s funny – the idea of alcohol free wine makes me feel a bit sick, yet wine was what I always drank. Very rarely would I order a pint of lager when I was in full-on active alkie mode, yet suddenly now as a sober alcoholic I’m finding that it’s my favourite drink. If it turned out I reacted badly to caffeine, presumably I’d want to drink decaf coffee, right? It’d seem strange in the same way to go from a coffee drinker to decaf tea or quit tea and start drinking decaf coffee as an alternative?! This switch to beer amuses me a little. But hey, as Willow put it, ANYTHING alcohol free is great, so who cares if I drink beer or unicorn tears so long as I remain sober.

You might all think I’m really foolish for having something that tastes like the real thing, that it might be really risky for a drunk like me to drink non-alcoholic beer, that it’s too close a shave. And who knows. I can tell you that it’s not in any way triggered any desire in me to drink alcohol, but hey, I’ve made a vow of honesty on this blog though so you’ll be the first to know if anything changes on that score. Besides, I have felt the urge on a handful of occasions and it’s not something I’m ashamed to admit, so there we are.

Whilst it hasn’t made me want to drink, something interesting does happen when I have non-alcoholic beer, and it sort of cements for me that AA’s take on what alcoholism is for me: a physical allergy and a mental obsession. If you at any point end up thinking ‘oh, hell no, girl!‘ reading this, feel free to point it out. I have experienced this a few times now – each time I’ve had the non-alco golden nectar that is – and it’s made me feel happy and free each time. It’s sort of proved that part of the problem is definitely physical, that there is indeed something to do with how I’m wired and what happens when the booze hits my blood stream. I’ve observed it keenly each time this has happened and I take it as evidence that I am indeed an alcoholic. Well – if hardcore alcohol abuse stretching over a decade wasn’t enough to show I’m a fully fledged drunky-drunk-drunk.

So there we are, in the afternoon sunshine, sitting on the wall by the river outside the pub where we met just over five years ago and where we celebrated getting hitched last year. We must have sat in this spot hundreds of times over these five years, drinking and chatting, gazing out over the river and generally appreciating being alive. Being sober, this has not changed and to be honest, the absence of booze has only made it all better. Anyway, there we are – hubby with a pint of cider and me with a bottle of Heineken non-alcoholic beer, and this is where my addiction makes itself known. We had two drinks. I find myself taking several big gulps and the taste is gorgeous – I’m diving into a fizzy wave of lager. A few puffs on my e-cigarette and then I lift the bottle to my lips again, greedily drinking more beer down and really enjoying it but I also notice that once I’m no longer thirsty, that the old craving that comes to life when I take a drink.. …doesn’t. And with it, there is no violent force that has me lifting the bottle again and again. When we leave, hubby has finished his two pints and I have left the second bottle with a third left in it.

With the first, there was the definite pang of joy at having a drink – something making itself known in me that is entirely separate from other feelings and specific to the drink, and the old beast is growling contentedly. The mental obsession comes alive immediately, it’s insane how it’s absolutely instantaneous. But there’s no alcohol, so there is nothing to grab on to. Nothing ignites. Nothing awakens. I’m still me. Just me. And I notice the shift in my mind there too. It sounds mad, I know, but I could quite literally feel myself go from a slight sense of euphoria – lift the bottle, lift it again – to a MEH that despite being a ‘meh‘ doesn’t feel deflated or sad, just neutral. And whereas alcohol would trigger the rest of the mayhem that’d usually follow, my mind and body chained together in a death dance, now that the very substance I seem to react so badly to isn’t in my system so it’d appear the gig is cancelled. Nothing in my blood stream, nothing to tickle the receptors in my brain. I’m still here, right here. I imagine it’s my brain making the connection like a heroin addict’s mind might react to the sensation of a needle, but without the physical reaction in hot pursuit, what is there? Nothing. A big, fat nothing. Just me, my life, my mind – the present moment. The lack of a physical reaction – despite me describing it as ‘meh‘ – isn’t a disappointment, it’s a relief. It’s really nice to just sit there on the wall in the evening sunshine and enjoy a beer. Absolutely lovely.

And given how hubby doesn’t turn into a restless ghoul when he drinks stuff that does contain alcohol, I wonder if how I feel when I drink non-alcoholic beer (or anything non-alcoholic for that matter) is how someone who isn’t a drunk feels when they have a drink. I have some, and then it’s enough. I have no compulsion whatsoever to guzzle the rest of it and rush off to get another. I’m done now, that’ll be all, thanks. Do I sit there when that ‘meh‘ happens, wishing the physical reaction would follow? No. Do I wish there was real alcohol in my glass or bottle? No. All I feel is relief that I don’t have to be pulled into that terrifying carousel again, that spins me into a place I don’t want to be and where I have no control over what happens next. It’s complete and blissful relief. This must be it – I have watched others with such fascination in the past, how they could just stop drinking when I found I couldn’t. I just tried to imagine what that would feel like but couldn’t.

It wasn’t even towards the end of my drinking that I’d have that first drink and amongst the euphoria there’d also be a vague but distinct sense of overwhelming sadness. A sense of defeat, knowing when I put the wine glass to my lips I’d set it all in motion again and be unable to stop. That’s fucking terrifying. And I think it is the absence of that defeat that fills me with such joy. I suppose it’s called freedom. Freedom to choose, freedom to feel, freedom to be present and freedom to live. And that’s what I want. It’s how I always want to feel – free to walk away when I’ve had enough, not be slave to something dark and sinister that I can’t control and that will slowly kill me. I close my eyes and smile, saying a silent prayer of gratitude for this life I was once given but now fully can receive. I realise also that it isn’t alcohol that’s the ‘real thing‘ – it’s anything but.

For that, and countless other reasons, I’m not going to drink today.

All That Jazz

I just hopped over to one of my favourite blogs – LoveOverWine – and her last post really jumped out at me. What I love about this blog is the honesty, which is actually a basic requirement for holding my attention to be fair, be it here in the blogosphere or in that crazy world called reality. This particular post was about how perhaps sometimes we feel we need to portray something other than the true picture but how she was always determined to tell it like it is. This we definitely have in common, because for me too, this is the place where I’ve sworn I’ll never try to sugar coat anything. She describes how, when she first got sober, needed to hear that others had struggled too, really see how gritty and awful recovery can be and understand she wasn’t alone. I can completely relate because I regularly read from a bunch of other writers about their journeys. For me, it’s like a virtual AA meeting, really – here we are, a bunch of drunks, sharing our experiences and hopes and fears.

And I will never lie here. If I relapse and wake up in the morning to discover I’ve done a whole bunch of fucked up shit in black-out, I’ll be sure to tell you every last little shameful details. Deal? Good. Glad we cleared that up. My honesty is as important to me as my sobriety – the two go hand in hand because they HAVE TO.

As such, this blog was an anchor I put down solely for the intention of holding myself accountable. I figured it would be difficult and I never once expected anything other than documenting a long series of relapses and starting over. Every goddamn time I’ve written the number of days, then weeks and now months I’ve been sober, I’ve been painfully aware that I may end up saying those things again. Like Blue, who picked up her two-month sobriety chip the evening I got one for one month, only to collect the chip for 24 hours when I’d got to two months. I one hundred gazillion billion percent expected this to be the case for me, and hand on heart could I tell you now that I believe that today will be the one and only time I say I’ve been sober 136 days? No. Hell no. And that scares the living crap out of me. Don’t get me wrong – apart from my son and husband always being happy and healthy, my highest wish is to remain this way, but I also know that the odds are stacked against me and you only have to briefly scan statistics to realise that. OK, that does seem really depressing, doesn’t it? It’s not. It just means I will never take my sobriety for granted or become complacent. I may not have to live my life with my sword drawn, but you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll always keep it nearby.

And as for now? I’m happy. I’m sober. For 136 days I’ve not had a drink. 136 mornings I’ve woken up with a clear mind and a body that feels healthy and strong. 136 days of feeling grateful for the life I have and am no longer destroying. So it’s very far from doom and gloom, actually. It’s a sense of joy and freedom so intense I get tearful just thinking about it. I’m fucking lucky, that’s for certain. Whatever happens, the only day I have any power over is today. One day at a time.

How much did they know? Family, friends, colleagues – the people in my life who don’t actually live with me. How much did they see? How much did they notice? The pain and hurt I have caused my child can never be forgiven and my husband’s heart must have ached too, but I will go back to the two that I love the most another time. What about the people in my life who might see me occasionally but not every day? Who did I fool and who saw right through me?

I’m a bloodhound when it comes to sniffing out my own kind – I swear I can spot another alcoholic a mile off. It takes one to know one. But how far can you pull the wool over a non-alcoholic’s eyes, I wonder? I honestly couldn’t tell you. I do know that my family noticed I drank too much – little comments here and there, a little look in someone’s eye that could have been concern or a product of my paranoia altogether. We went to Edinburgh for my 39th birthday and I spoke with one of my brothers who’d called to say happy birthday. He rounded off with “go easy with the booze“. Fuck, that pissed me off! HOW DARE HE! That’s the reaction of a drunk who knows she’s a drunk because if I hadn’t known I had a drinking problem I wouldn’t have reacted and instead just laughed and told him to piss off. And I also followed the Drunkard’s Text Book after this: I either made jokes about drinking or I went to great lengths to “prove” he was wrong. I know several people right now who still do this, who are still at the “laughing it off” stage or so deep in denial they can’t see the bar for the bottles (see what I did there?).

Hand on heart, if I were to ask the same brother now that I no longer drink he could say one of two things and I’d be equally surprised:

  1. Yes, Sophie, we all know and we’ve all been worried to death about you. We know you’ve nearly gone under with your drinking and we had talked about doing an intervention.
  2. No, we just thought you over indulged on holiday maybe. We thought you just had a few too many occasionally but we never imagined you could be an alcoholic.

I honestly have no idea how much they figured out. I suspect it might be more along the lines of #2, simply because if I knew one of them drank between two and three bottles of wine most days of the week I would be dragging them kicking and screaming to the nearest rehab – no way would I allow them to kill themselves the way I was killing myself and I would do everything in my power no matter how uncomfortable to help. No way would I, if I thought or knew someone in my family or one of my friends drank the way I did, just cautiously tell them to “go easy”. So from that I think it’s probably quite clear that they had no idea I was in such trouble. Hell, even my husband would probably have said at the time that yes, I drank too much but I wasn’t an alcoholic. But even from him – as much as I hate to admit it – I managed to hide, anything from claiming to be on my second drink when it was actually my fourth to in other ways try to minimise any concern he expressed. However, my guess is everyone else just thought I liked my drink a bit too much but never JUST how much. So perhaps I had them fooled. Well done, me.

It’s not that hard though, right? When we’re in Sweden, I can cling on to that it’s HOLIDAY and therefore completely normal to drink every day. Or someone comes to visit, then it’s also HOLIDAY and of course we drink every day. Or have a drink with mates on a Tuesday. They don’t know that when I’m with them I drink both fewer drinks and more slowly than all other days because I know I can’t lose control, but all I want is to get away so I can drink PROPERLY. I wonder how this looks and sounds to non-drunks but I can tell you that I can’t remember if I ever went to the pub with friends without drinking more – a LOT more – once I got home. ALONE. I think I even tried to make people think I was a bit of a lightweight. If I’d been out with a colleague for drinks, for example. I’d stay for maybe three glasses of wine, but then drink up to two bottles more when I got home. Of course the next day the colleague in question would feel OK but I would be a hungover wreck. “Oh yeah, I get really bad hangovers,” would be my standard reply when in fact the amount I had drunk would be enough to drown a horse. And how could anyone I see on holiday ever have reason to believe that I’d drink just as much any day during the year?

And then the shakes. I had an explanation for that too, which is PARTLY true. I do have a condition called Essential Tremor, inherited from my father and paternal grandmother. Completely harmless (grandma is 90 and fit as a fiddle, albeit a very shaky fiddle) but it means you tremble, most noticeably your hands. Add severe alcohol abuse a la Sophie and I’d sometimes be so bad I could barely walk and even have jerky head movements. Jesus, there were times I couldn’t trust my legs and so didn’t leave the house. ALL because of the condition, you understand, nothing at all to do with me drinking wine like it was some sort of competition.

I was also a master at planning my drinking. You have to be when you’re an alcoholic because your greatest fear is running out of booze – the thought is enormously stressful – so I always ensured I had a plan. This got a little trickier any time we were in Sweden, where you can’t buy alcohol in the supermarket or any corner shop – it is state controlled and there’s only one place to buy it. I’m from a small town, so of course there is only the one branch. So Drunk Me was faced with potential small town gossip because everyone knows everyone and you really couldn’t go in every day and buy boxes of wine without setting the jungle drums off (or rather, warning bells – quite rightly). So I’d rotate between my home town and a couple others to make my insane consumption seem less outrageous. Being a drunk is really like a military operation that you have to execute in minute detail and I had it down to a T. At least I thought I was being very clever at the time but as I said, I wonder now if anyone ever bought my bullshit or if I was the only person I managed to fool.

It also, I believe, comes down to what we think an alcoholic is. I suppose all I can say is that the only thing that stands between myself and that poor soul on the park bench who has lost everything is ONE DRINK. I am only ever one drink away. Perhaps I should make it my life’s mission to educate people on alcohol abuse. I think because of all the misconceptions we have and because alcohol actually is something MOST people can handle without problems, us alcoholics sink much further before we get help. It is seen as shameful and dirty, and so it follows that it’s something that’s fucking shit to cop to. And it does break my heart a little. All the things I wanted to do and to be, including an awesome mother to my son. Wasted. Literally, WASTED.

Gosh, this turned fucking glum, didn’t it? Sorry’bout that. Allow me to clarify.

I am very lucky, I know this. I can look my son in the eye and do my best to show him I am trying – he may tell you in the future that mum was drunk a lot but perhaps he’ll also say he is proud of her for fighting her way out of this. Oh fuck it, I can’t write anything that makes that part OK because it never will be, but perhaps you know what I mean. Late shall the sinners awaken, and all that jazz. Still lucky. I got out before I’d fucked my health. I quit before my husband’s life got unbearable. And I am strong. I will never for a moment think I’m stronger than the beast, but I have to believe I can do this. There has to be a part of me that is allowed to hope I will only say I’m 136 days sober this once and that the number will only ever grow.

What gives me hope and fills me with joy is how good it feels to be sober. I couldn’t tell you even one aspect of my life that hasn’t got even better without alcohol. Not a one. I can’t say I’m struggling and I can’t say I’ve overcome huge obstacles. Not yet, anyway.

Today I’m not going to drink.

The Man With The Perfect Bottom

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

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

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

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

Gorgeous husband with the perfect bottom,

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

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

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

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

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

Wifey

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

Allow me to explain.

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

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

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

Today I’m not going to drink.

The Big Day

The 23rd of January is my important date and the one I count from when I refer to my sobriety. It’s not the last day I drank or the first day I was sober but the day I put my big hobbit foot down and screamed ENOUGH! Well, not screamed. I decided and I was determined. I went online and found an AA meeting. It was an open one, which I took to be beautiful serendipity because I needed poor hubby to get help in understanding what alcoholism is. He was working in town that day so I collected him at the train station and drove like a formula one driver to the meeting – hubby had quite literally five minutes to process that we were going to an AA meeting. But that is the day that is meaningful to me. The last day I drank was actually 21st of January and the first day being sober was therefore the 22nd. But it’s the 23rd that counts as The Big Day for me.

Today it’s 127 days and I look in amazement at that number. Fuck me, isn’t that just so lovely? I’ve been an active participant in my own life all of those days, all 127 of them! I’ve not blacked out, I’ve not been numbed by booze and I’ve not behaved in a way that was painful or embarrassing to look back on. I’ve lived 127 days in sharp focus and glorious technicolour! 23rd of January 2018 is a very, very important day for me.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Thunderclouds and Lie-ins

Friday. Bank holiday weekend. Early summer. That’s a really nice combo, isn’t it? In many ways it’s just about the loveliest time of the year. Whilst it would have been nice to check the weather app and see a great, big sun for the coming few days, it still feels like a mini holiday, which I suppose it is. Instead of a sun there are thunderclouds so our plans to head down to the coast and walk the Seven Sisters were quickly scuppered, so it might be the sort of break used to shorten the to-do list.

What I’m looking forward to the most is sleeping in. I’m an early bird and it’s rare to catch me snoozing much beyond 7.30am even when I don’t need to get up, but I’ve been really tired this week and struggled to get out of bed. Perhaps my body needs more sleep than I’m currently letting it have? I’ve probably gone to sleep by midnight most nights after reading for a while, and that’s slightly later than normal but due to us now getting addicted to The Crown (we binge watched Game of Thrones from the beginning in February and March so needed a new series), so after my long walks and dinner it seems to get late much quicker. I get up at 6.30am but it’s been torture and this morning I stood in the shower and felt like I had a headache from being so sleepy, but once I was out it had lifted. So that’s one thing I’m really looking forward to – a little lie-in tomorrow morning and just enjoying coffee and breakfast in our dressing gowns and no morning rush whatsoever.

Next weekend is the one I am REALLY looking forward to though! I’ve downloaded lots of Foo Fighters on iTunes so will have Dave Grohl & Co in my ears on my walks between now and when we’ll see them live Tuesday 5th June in Gothenburg. I’ve never been much of a concert kinda gal, and I would probably have told you I don’t like concerts but I know now that this was because of drinking. Concerts, like so much else, really gets in the way of drinking. And so I didn’t like them! Now… Well… Now I’m beginning to look forward to seeing a freaking awesome band live and being able to fully take in the moments without wine stress! I know I sound like a goddamn sobriety preacher but I can’t begin to tell you how colourful and amazing my life has become. That’s saying something, because even when I dulled it all down by throwing a heavy, wine soaked blanket over it, I thought it was pretty awesome. Now? Pinch me!

Of course it’s also our first wedding anniversary so I’ve bought hubby presents and a card to congratulate him on putting up with me. The following day it’s our five years together anniversary. I’m so, so lucky. Hubby is the most wonderful person I have ever met – frighteningly intelligent, loving, kind, sweet, caring, genuine, funny, sharp, a little crazy, quite clumsy, sexy, empathic, generous, very nosy and he is on a superficial level the most attractive man I’ve ever laid eyes on. Inside out the most glorious person. Oh, and his kisses are the stuff fairytales are made of. And he has a very lovely bottom. What can I say, he is an amazing man and one of the best things I ever did was to put a ring on it. Yay me!

So that’s it from me for now. Hope you’ll have a really nice weekend wherever you are.

I’m now 122 days sober and today I’m not going to drink.

A Light Drizzle

Such a perfect day, drink sangria in the park…..

I’m sure Lou Reed doesn’t mind if I don’t and go with coffee instead. I would have said some sort of iced fruit smoothie but it’s raining and not very warm so more of a hot drink kind of day.  And it’s not a particularly perfect one. Bambino has something called a “school to school referral”. This is not a scholarship for outstanding academic progress. Nor is it a program for schools to send their brightest, best behaved and highest achieving pupils to other schools as an example of excellence. The goddamn little apple of my eye can’t make his peace with the fact that school is for learning and instead treats it as a social club as well as some sort of test environment for various pranks. Some of his pranks are both clever and hilarious and I have had to stifle giggles in many a meeting with headteachers, but obviously he can’t know that – instead I am Angry Mama and doing my best to remove privileges and have long talks with the little criminal so that he might eventually understand that he needs to clean up his act. So frustrating! He’s such a smart and charming kid and when we talk he really gets it, yet he does a 180 the moment he saunters through the school gates and morphs into a freaking gangster.

And it’s raining. But that’s OK, means the park won’t be quite so dry and as long as it’s not heaving down later it’s usually quite nice to walk or run in a light drizzle.

But apart from my wayward son giving me the occasional headache, life’s pretty good. A delivery parcel full of more silver and some tools I needed is waiting for me to collect tomorrow and the glass beads a friend sent me arrived – I have no idea if it’ll work trying to bezel set glass beads but think it might look amazing. Or, there’s a reason why I’ve only ever seen glass beads wrapped in silver wire or with drilled holes threaded on to a string or some kind. Maybe it won’t work at all but I’m going to give it a try. My friend went to a course where they create patterns in glass that you melt in some sort of kiln and these little blobs are the spillage apparently. Well. Some are very small and possibly quite fiddly to bezel set given I don’t use ready made cups but instead create everything from scratch, but I’m going to give it a good shot.

glass

It’s really just a fairly ordinary Thursday, except that ordinarily my naughty child would be going to his school and not some place else as a sanction for bad behaviour. Still, perhaps it’s a case of boys will be boys and testing boundaries. Kid’s got a good heart and I’m pretty sure he’ll turn out just fine. He has always been exuberant and his joyfulness and energy just sometimes bubble over. It’s actually one of the most beautiful things about him, his joie de vivre and glint in his eye. He just needs to learn to shut the fuck up in lessons and stealing a remote for the teacher’s powerpoint presentation and shuffling back and forth and ruining the whole lesson probably wasn’t the best idea either. Ah well, he’ll come right eventually, the rat bag.

In just over a week’s time it’s our first wedding anniversary and we’re heading off for a few days – I can’t wait. This summer I’ve so been looking forward to is really happening now! Then it’s the Foo Fighters concert. Then Ascot, which I’m sure will be as much fun sober. Probably a lot more fun actually, given I won’t have to stress about where my next glass of wine is coming from – life tends to be like that now, I get to be fully present and soak it all up. It’s cool. Then in July we are off to Lipari and I’m so excited about that I might pee myself! It will be fucking glorious to be present for THAT one, folks! Wake up and take in sights, sounds, smells… See and enjoy being there, enjoy good food – come on, you can’t go wrong in Italy! Actually, I said that about France, that you couldn’t possibly go wrong, yet I had the worst steak tartar in the history of mankind at a bistro in Montmartre. I am SO looking forward to Italy though and especially eating lots of Italian food!!! Construct a mini conveyor belt to my mouth and just ensure the pasta is coming without interruption for the duration of our stay. AND THANK GOD I DON’T HAVE TO DRINK WHEN WE GET THERE – that’s the best thing of all. After Lipari, a short side step home to London only to re-pack our bags and join Bambino in Sweden where he will head off to without us the day after school breaks up for the summer holidays. He had the choice to come with us to Lipari but apparently he can’t think of anything worse than having to spend ten days with us, so he is off to grandparents, uncles, his auntie and gang of cousins instead.

Fuck me, I just realised there’s so much to be happy about!! Perhaps it is a perfect day after all. Just I’m not going to drink sangria in the park later, just walk.

Today I’m not going to drink.

The Whole World Is Shooting Up

Yesterday I was so grumpy I couldn’t make myself write. I suppose I could have forced myself but I had nothing to say except BLEURGH. Luckily my bad moods never last long, nor are they especially frequent – I’m probably just your average, fallible human being – and so this morning I woke up happy again. The best medicine for me is always a long walk (or a long run depending on how fit I am – which right now is not very!) and it normally just takes that ten-kilometre loop around the park for me to feel like myself again. Last week I was a bit mopey because I missed hubby, and yesterday work was getting me down. Pretty normal stuff I’d say, if I were to diagnose my state of mind.

Sobriety has brought me back to myself, and with it, my brain which now functions the way it does when all its wires aren’t disconnected and tangled up from a hangover. I’ve discovered I’m actually pretty sharp when I don’t anaesthetize my thinking capacity with vino. So it turns out that my job is something I could do in my sleep and it’s all pretty pointless. I am torn between yearning to do something that fires me up  and just appreciating how lovely my job is. I should just use it for what it was only ever intended for – a Plan B to bring in some money whilst I pursue my real passions, writing and turning metal into jewellery – but it’s actually quite soul destroying to spend your days feeling like you’re wasting your life on something that is utterly meaningless. Hah!! Says the woman who has wasted many more hours destroying herself with drink. Even now that I’m sober, I’m quicker to point at other problems and forget momentarily that I’ve solved the main one and all I should do now is figure out how I spread these damn wings of mine!

It is now 119 days, which translates to three months and 29 days and that tomorrow is my four-month anniversary of being sober. It has not been without its pitfalls but I also can’t say it’s been tough. The thought of having a drink pops into my head every now and then, most recently yesterday evening when I was out for my walk. Towards the end of my route is a cricket pitch and players and spectators were congregating at the little club house in the evening sun, spilling out over the path and grass with pints of beer and glasses of Pimms. It’s a lovely image, no? Except I’m an alcoholic so for me it would be nothing like that, but even so – it looked absolutely lovely! But that was it, just a fleeting thought and I don’t think there’s anything strange about that. After all, I live in a country where the majority of the population drinks alcohol and where booze is considered a normal part of life, so it’d actually be really weird if I never thought about alcohol. My point is that of course it pops into my head, sometimes quite randomly, but I know that I can’t drink and that’s that. I’m not upset about it either. Sure – wouldn’t it be nice if I were just like most other people and could enjoy alcohol, but I can’t. I’m also not 5’11 and skinny (or 17 years old) so being a supermodel isn’t an option, but I’m not upset about that either. It is what it is.

In the beginning it was harder. I still wouldn’t say hard. Just harder than now that it’s reasonably easy. I had a near-miss one evening when I walked home from an AA meeting and there was another evening further into my sobriety when the thought took hold and I felt like I wanted to drink, but those two episodes each lasted perhaps five minutes. You know, I’d love to be one of those brave people who fight to the death to stay sober and I want to be the woman who can show you that fuckinell look what I just overcame, but I can’t sit here and tell you with a straight face that I’ve struggled. Not even a tiny bit. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not making light of those who struggle and fight every day to stay sober. I admire those alcoholics more than I can tell you and it’s their courage and strength I’d love to say I have, but I don’t. As in, I’d feel really accomplished could I sit here and write on this blog how I battled through another day. Does that make sense? I just wanted to clarify as I just read back and realised “I’d love to be one of those brave people” could be easily misconstrued and seem like I was being really ignorant and flippant.

Alcoholism is an absolute evil, as is any addiction. Boozing however, I think is particularly lurid because at least with bitches like heroin you have the rest of the world completely on your side when you try to fight her, whereas the only people in my life who are teetotals like me are Willow (who, by the way, I know through AA) and my friend L’s husband. My dad told me a couple of days ago how happy it makes him that I’ve quit drinking and in his next text message he tells me he has poured a whisky ready to watch the ice hockey.

…….oh, Sweden are world champions again by the way! Yay the blond boys! Actually, I don’t care all that much, but with such a poor soccer team I’m willing to take a win where I can…….

Anyway, do you see what I mean? With alcohol you’re trying to claw yourself out of the shameful, dirty and stigmatised hole of being a shitty drunk, and offering you a hand is the rest of the world whilst they hold a glass of wine in the other. Isn’t that just fucking mad?!

It doesn’t bother me, thank God. I say ‘thank God’ because I don’t know what I’d do if it did – alcohol is EVERYWHERE! My beautiful husband I have no doubt would pledge to quit drinking too if I needed him to (in fact, that beautiful soul has asked more than once if I need him to abstain), which makes me luckier than most, but it just doesn’t make a difference. In fact, I actually really enjoy going to the pub with him and sitting on the wall by the river outside the pub where we met nearly five years ago is no less magical just because there’s just soda in my glass. It’s MORE magical to be honest, just like everything else in my life is so much better now that I’m not drinking. I’m not on edge because I finished my glass before he’s even half way through his, I can just sit there and feel absolutely calm and content. I am not calm and content when I drink. Like with Sweden’s ice hockey team, another win. But stay with me here and picture this: a heroin addict trying to get clean and literally the whole fucking world is shooting up, can’t even switch on the TV without seeing commercials for it, much less go out for a meal and don’t even get me started on birthdays, Christmas and weddings! So never underestimate the insidious nature of alcohol addiction.

I’m not saying it’d be any easier to fight off heroin. To my knowledge I don’t know anyone addicted to it and have no real insight into what it means to get clean, but from what little I do know it appears to be a million times worse than alcohol. But I’m not trying to establish what the worst addictive substance is, I’m just trying to show that as far as addictions go, alcohol is a sneaky fucker and you can’t get away from it. You could possibly try to engineer an existence where you only spend time with other people in AA, but that’d be pretty restrictive and as lovely as AA people are, enclosing yourself in an AA cocoon would hardly be a life, would it? What’s a life if you are not free and able to enjoy it? Jeez Sophie, you’re waffling on a bit now. Sorry. Sum total is that alcohol is everywhere, and if you happen to be the recovering alcohol who cannot be around alcohol you’re in fucking trouble. Phoenix is one of those. She told of her 19-yearold son who keeps booze at home and it “speaks” to her. Fuck me. Hats off to Phoenix. I haven’t been to an AA meeting since I collected my two-month chip so I couldn’t tell you if Phoenix is still sober but when I last saw here it’d been 14 years so I’m going to assume she’ll keep on the right track. Imagine that – feel the pull when alcohol is in your vicinity. How she’s done what she’s done I’ll never understand.

Then there’s me who can bring hubby’s pint glass to my nose and enjoy the smell of beer. I never thought about it before I quit drinking but I like the smell of beer. A little unexpected because I was never a big beer drinker. Of course I’ve done the classic drunkard thing of switching booze, so there have been patches when I’ve bought beer rather than wine with the brilliant idea that it’s weaker and therefore will solve the problem, but my drink of choice has always been Sauvignon Blanc. Plus given the amounts I had to drink, I was also aware that beer gets you fat. Not particularly bothered about organ failure but oh my freaking Lord please don’t let me get fat! Ah, the logic of a drunk. So anyway, booze doesn’t bother me and it sure as hell doesn’t speak to me. Beer smells nice but it doesn’t make me more likely to pick up that drink.

I have no conclusions to draw from any of this, it’s just another brain dump from me in an attempt to find some sense in what alcoholism is to me and how I find being a recovering alcoholic. I still only know what I’ve known these almost four months I’ve been sober: I’m an alcoholic and I’m enjoying sobriety. I don’t want to drink again and the world is a pretty spectacular place to be.

Today I’m not going to drink.