I remember it well 

This last fortnight has felt hard, at times. The whole house has been ill with a hideous cold thing, the kids have both had birthdays in the midst of the snot, and we are transitioning a very indignant lady into her cot, as opposed to co-sleeping in our bed. All of which feels harder when you are grumpy, feel rotten and are extremely tired. In recovery, you look for potential triggers that may try to unbalance you, and a common one is H.A.L.T. – hungry, angry, lonely, tired. Which is very apt, and accurate, but pretty much daily life with two small children anyway!

So, I was expecting to find my sobriety tested. It never goes away, you see, the little wicked whisper that wonders if it was really all that bad, you’ve surely proven you haven’t a problem with alcohol because you’ve given it up for 19 months! That alone practically deserves a toast! No need to be over dramatic about these things, it was all fine! The little needling thoughts, that make a point to stab deep, then recede quicker than the wine that used to disappear down my neck. It never fully goes away.

So as I was savouring my first shower alone in about ten days, I started to remind myself of why and when I realised I had an alcohol problem (initially, that’s how I referred to it. That or problem drinking, because, obviously, I wasn’t an alcoholic.) And I thought I’d share here, in the hope that I can always re-read this, or that someone who may be questioning themselves can. As I’ve had a bit more time to think with a clear head about my drinking, I’ve realised that I’d been behaving in alcoholic ways as long as I’ve been drinking – far earlier than it became truly problematic.

So. Obsessing about drinking, and amounts etc was pretty much a normal, daily thought process for me. The time I could open or buy a bottle (or two), and the rules that I adhered to to make sure this was socially acceptable. Remembering which shop I had visited the day before, so I could alternate with the other. How I would justify the need to consume as much as I planned to (good day, bad day, stressful day, celebrating something, date night, commiserating, I needed to unwind, it’s my one vice, I’ve earned this by working so hard, I’m cooking with it and it’s a shame to leave the bottle to sour, it’s a Monday and everyone hates Mondays.. you get the idea. Obviously bullshit, but still to my wine craved mind it was hugely necessary). The rituals and planning that went into my drinking, and the effort taken to justify it is exhausting to think about.

But also, my fevered interest in how other people were drinking, and their habits. Counting units and drinks consumed by others, to make sure I could keep to a ‘normal’ level publicly, but secretly ordering a chaser to drink at the bar, while buying the round. Being genuinely astounded when meeting for a coffee meant meeting for an actual coffee, because surely drinking and socialising went hand in hand?! And then being equally shocked that it was possible to have an enjoyable time without alcohol (but also being careful not to make such sober plans again). Making sure my friends and ex partners were heavy drinkers too, so my behaviour wouldn’t be out of place, or the worst in the room. Being ironically disapproving of people who repeatedly got drunk (ha!) because they obviously must have a problem. But not me, guv. I’ve no problem, because I haven’t what they’ve done. Of course, I then became the person that I was carefully measuring my acceptable drinking yardstick against, and so instead I found an obvious fix – no drinking outside the home. That way I couldn’t embarrass myself in front of anyone, no one would see how much I was actually drinking, and I would know that I’d made it home safely and without incident because I would already be at home! How I congratulated myself with my clever, cunning plan. It never occurred to me to stop drinking. If I had a social engagement, I would be sure to drink enough to keep my buzz, but not any more than that, and console myself that I had a bottle waiting for me at home. 

The angst and jittery feeling I would get if my acceptable time to open a bottle came and went without being able to. The panic of knowing I would usually be a few glasses in, and the rage I would feel at how unjust and unfair it was that I wasn’t. Resentment simmering towards whatever person or situation was depriving me of my intense relationship with Malbec. Having to be careful not to gulp the first glass too fast, despite how much I needed to, because I needed to offer an appearance of ‘normal’ drinking. Or, buying a miniature bottle that I could neck on the way home secretly, but being sure to pour a glass from the acceptable bottle swiftly when I got home so my husband wouldn’t smell my deceit on my breath.

And then, the feeling that however much I drank, it would never be enough, could never be enough. I’ve stayed up late into the night drinking alone, choosing to drunkenly stay in a morose state of drinking cooking wine rather than go to bed with my husband. Feeling depressed, lonely, and sobbing to myself while desperately trying to find someone I could call or Facebook message so I felt less alone. Finding anything that I could drink, and sometimes hiding the evidence (topping up spirits with water, hiding empty bottles, pretending that I’d cooked with the Japanese rice wine). Other times I couldn’t be bothered.

And the cold hand of terror that would grip the following morning as I tried to piece together what I had done, said, who is spoken to. What conversations I’d had. The feeling of despair and utter shame, self loathing. That was worse than any of my many instances of alcohol poisoning. Feeling like I was worthless, with nothing to offer, and then isolating myself from anyone I had spoken to out of sheer embarrrassment. Knowing that I was living a car crash, but unable to climb out of the wreckage.

You might be reading this and wondering how on earth I didn’t realise I was an alcoholic. It’s as obvious as the Sun in the sky. Right? But it’s not that simple. When you’re in an active addiction, your thoughts are not your own. Everything revolves around the next hit, the next binge. You’ll be morose, and promise never to drink again – it has to stop – but know that you’ll be nursing a drink later on. Maybe that week, or month, or day, but either way there will be another drink. Life becomes full of empty bottles, empty words, empty apologies and even emptier actions. You’ll aim to drown these feelings, sink them so far into oblivion that you won’t worry. But of course, that won’t work. Deep down, I knew this wasn’t normal. I would drunkenly assess my swaying self in the mirror, and tell myself that I was nothing more than a worthless alcoholic. That I needed to stop, I was being unfair. And I meant it, at the time – as much as you can mean anything when there’s too much blood in your alcohol stream, that is.

I would fill in alcohol questionnaires on the AA website and then feel resigned at the inevitable outcome. I’d test the waters with my GP, but lie about the amounts. I almost wanted someone to tell me, make the decision for me. Of course I was an alcoholic. And I’d deal with it, I really would, after I’d drank whatever was left in the house. That way, I’d have nothing to tempt me tomorrow. It’s simple maths, and common sense really. 

It’s an exhausting way to live. And yet, the cycle continued, for almost 6 years more before I finally stopped, and got serious. I could go on, but this is already a long post. If anyone reading this is affected by its content, please reach out to someone. There’s support out there, and it gets so much better. I’m always available to help.

Accelerate; brake

At the grand age of 31, I am learning to drive! I first started 18months ago, when pregnant with C (and when I started this sober stretch). It’s been on and off, but I’ve recently started back up again with a new instructor, and have been doing a 2-3 hour lesson a week.

I enjoy it. I love to learn. I love the quiet time. I love the feeling of doing something just for me, away from the house, the kids, the work.

But.

It’s showing me the harder and less favourable sides of my personality too. I’m incredibly frustrated with myself if I make a (what I perceive) to be a silly mistake. I can then get distracted because I’m too busy dwelling on that mistake. I get flustered when I’m embarrassed (from making a mistake). I procrastinate a lot (from changing address on my licence, to booking my tests, to actually revising for said tests). I’m very hard on myself, and will quietly brood about a bad lesson for ages, even if I’ve had some really positive aspects to it.

My last lesson was one such example. Previously, my instructor and I had discussed that if this lesson went well, and I drove consistently, we would be heading to the city in which I’d be taking my test to practice test routes. This is a big deal, as I live in the country and so this signifies a huge step in terms of progress and my driving ability. 

So of course… I stalled, holding up traffic. I rolled back, I attempted some things at the wrong speed, or gear. And then mentally fell apart as I knew I was messing up the basics, which we’ve covered often and I’ve done well at. Needless to say, the decision was taken to delay our city driving (which I completely understand, and appreciate his decisions. I trust his judgement and know I am learning well overall with him). And I was gutted. I haven’t written this before because I was ashamed, embarrassed and disappointed with myself. Ah, self flagellation, we meet again.

Once again, I’m trying to learn from this experience and not get hung up. There’s positives here, and were in my lesson too – my approach and perspective needs to change. Because I

  • Didn’t give up, or throw my toys out of the pram. I continued to try, and owned my errors and reasons why
  • Didn’t get angry, or turn into a spiky, defensive ball
  • Listened to and accepted criticism
  • Actually aced a number of manoeuvres (reverse bay parking, parallel parking, reversing around a corner and 3 point turn)
  • Was honest about my feelings 
  • Booked three lessons in advance, and asked for advice on how to improve
  • Thanked my instructor for his patience, time and honesty, and reiterated that I feel I learn well with his teaching.

These may seem like small things. But it’s a huge leap forwards in terms of how I would have handled it two years ago, in active addiction. So, there is no such thing as a bad lesson, as I’m showing progress each week, even if it’s personal growth rather than driving ability. And I remind myself that each lesson is a step towards a goal that I will achieve, no matter how long it takes me. I’m not giving up.

And it’s the same with life – sometimes you take a step back, or stumble, or take an unexpected turn. Sometimes we go back on ourselves and need to pick ourselves up, refocus, take smaller steps. But that’s ok too, as long as you keep moving. The trip from A to Z might sound easy, but there’s still a whole number of stops and letters as part of that journey.

Birthdays

It was recently my birthday and I had a wonderful few days. I was especially thrilled to be able to finally feel I was in my thirties (I turned 31). I’ll pause here so anyone younger can gasp in horror, and anyone older can eye roll indulgently.

The truth is, I didn’t think I’d ever be celebrating. I thought I’d be dead before thirty. And while this all sounds very melodramatic, I was certain of it. 

Last year, I was asked what I’d be doing to mark the big ‘3-0’, and given that I was hugely pregnant, live a considerable distance away from my family and also that I wasn’t drinking (they thought for pregnancy only), I managed to escape a big party. In reality,  I didn’t want to plan anything because I was still sure I was on borrowed time. I was expecting something to happen that would mean I shuffled off my mortal coil before the big day. A killer hangover from my drinking days.

How I survived some of my binges, I’m not sure. Not only the sheer amount of alcohol consumed, but the reckless behaviour and silly, dangerous decisions that went along with it. I’m incredibly lucky that no real harm ever came to me, or others around me. I thought the alcohol poisoning alone might finish me off a few times. Rode it out at home, alone, rather than visit the hospital, as that way it meant I didn’t have a serious drinking problem! See, I’m absolutely fine! Shaking, hot flashes, puking purple, then green, unable to keep fluids down, head and eyes hurting so much I could hardly move. Hallucinations, drifting in and out of heavy sleep, groggy, praying that if this is it can I please go soon, so I don’t have to get through much more. It took a week to get through one such instance, and probably meant I set a milestone for sobriety at that time. Not that I wanted that, mind. I was waiting to feel gingerly ok for the next drink.

My husband has since told me there are a few times he sat next to me the whole night after I (inevitably) blacked out, too frightened to sleep for fear of what he might wake up to. Wondering at what point he needed to call for medical help, and hating that my inebriated behaviour that night could be his last memory of me. 

And then, I stopped drinking. After many false starts, many relapses, many false promises. Baby steps, a day at a time, started to add up. I started to understand the importance of emotional sobriety too, and working towards that. Surrounded myself online with people that inspired me, that made me want to be better, that had their shit together enough to own it, mistakes and all. I still surround myself with these, my people, my posse, and love them deeply. I couldn’t do it alone.

The feeling of dying before thirty didn’t pass though. Instead, I became more certain – the drunken fear became a real one, as I realised that the abuse I’d subjected my body to must come with  some consequences. I fretted about links to cancer, and convinced myself it would happen. I deserved something to happen. I should have a consequence for my drinking days.

Incidentally, my thirtieth came and went, with only a few contractions to mar it. And then I gave birth, and had my hands full with not a lot of time for melancholic indulgence.

I thought about it this year, though. Only in passing, and shared with my husband. Didn’t dwell. Because really, all we ever really have, is the moment we’re in, here and now. We can do our best to look after ourselves, of course, but anything can happen at any point to anyone (whether we consider it fair, or not). 

It’s another reminder for me that it’s so important I keep it in the now. Today is a gift – I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. So, enjoy, no projecting to the future. And just take it a day at a time. It is what it is. What will be will be. Let’s just try to enjoy the ride, shall we?

Learning to love my face…

And other body parts. And my soul, and personality too, of course, but my god we’d be here all day. So we’ll stick with my glorious mug, and it’s features.

Generally, I’m the most content I’ve been with myself and appearance for a long time. I used to pore over my reflection, with a list of faults and flaws and feel disgusted. Tears of revulsion, forever self conscious. Full mask of make up at all times, immaculate outfit, I even had plastic surgery (ten points to whoever guesses the procedure!)  I thought everyone could see the gargoyle that I was convinced I was, and of course this added to crippling low self esteem, self doubt and awful self worth. Which went on to fuel a love of alcohol… and we all know how that turned out.

But lately, I’ve felt settled with how I look. I can see myself, in all its glory (?) and be ok with it. There’s still bits I’d rather were different, but overall I’m happy with my lot. I’ll leave the house cosmetic free, and happily lay on the war paint at other times, but I don’t feel it’s necessary to do it. I don’t obsess, or feel ill, or hate myself anymore. 

Then occasionally, I’ll be taken aback by a photograph, or reflection, and think ‘man. I look so old/tired/hideous.’ Pretty standard stuff, I know, and a beauty regime of three hours broken sleep a night plus a vat of caffeine each morning does not hasten a glowing complexion or fabulous all natural appearance. I know this. I know I’m getting older, too, and I’m usually thrilled and excited by this (given I genuinely never thought I’d see in thirty, every day is a blessing to be thankful for).

But still. I scrolled my instagram feed and literally froze. I look old. Tired. Haggered, even.  Bad photo…? Perhaps. But I also know my skin is changing, I’ve wrinkles and deepening lines, and let’s not talk about the many strands of glitter that spout from my aging scalp (why are they coarse too? Different colour is fine, but a different texture too?! Come onnnn!)

And I realised, it’s not really that I’m sad to be getting older, or looking older. Not really. It’s a reminder that I’ve wasted so many years of my life – literally pissed them away. And spent them being so unhappy – with myself, my relationships, with every car crash situation I veered into drunkenly. I didn’t make the most of my younger years, at all. And I now wear my resentments on my face, seemingly – I have more frown lines than l have laughter lines. My face is settling into a rather stern, worried expression. Which again, makes me a little sad. I spent many years worrying, anxious, sneering and cross. It feels like I am literally wearing the hangover from those days.

So. I am not wallowing in this revelation. Or making silly resolutions or booking madcap treatments. I may treat myself to a fancier face cream/moisturiser/sun block, and dye my hair. But mainly, I’m resolved to laugh more. To smile more, to make sure that the next set of wrinkles and lines are a result of the happiness I feel. Bring on the crows feet from laughing so hard I can’t breathe, from squinting at the sun going down, from smiling at my blessings in life (of which I have many). Let my face, body and soul free of worry and frowns! I’ve always believed the happiest people are the most attractive, and I’m determined to wear my joy for life with pride. I have years to live, make the most of and enjoy, and I’m hopeful that will reflect as I get older. I am lucky enough to love, and be loved. I’m content. 

And in the meantime, there’s always make up and a bloody good filter on an off day.

Let’s start with coffee…

Is there a better thing than a perfect cup of coffee? I only started drinking it after the birth of my first born, blearily blinking at the boxes in the cupboards, praying for something to keep me awake, fire up my brain, remove the mombie curse. It didn’t work, of course, but a love affair began nonetheless. Now, we have a minimum stock level for the house (also frozen peas. Everything else is negotiable, but there must be at least two bags/tins of both). As always, I’m spiralling off subject. Please, sit and have coffee. Let’s talk.

So, I finally started a blog! Thanks for visiting. Whether it’s curiosity, a search error, a pity search (bless her), a sneaky spy or because you’re genuinely interested, I thank you. I’ve no idea what I’ll mainly use this for, but I haven’t written in such a long time and I feel now is the right time. There’s something so soothing about writing – it helps get me out of myself. I can be self indulgent on a page, rather than in my own head! 

So. I’m a thirty something wife, mother, daughter, dog mom, alcoholic. I wear all these titles with pride, but some fit better than others. I’m still learning to style some, and have yet to find the perfect footwear to help me tie it all together and pull it off. I also know there’s a bit part for me in life that’s missing, just out of reach. I’m learning the lines and the steps but not sure what play I’m in. I’m sure it will all come together eventually. 

I’m still figuring out what I enjoy. I don’t really have hobbies, as such. I used to have lots, and a huge amount of interests too but they were all linked into a reason/excuse to drink. And so here we are. I enjoy cooking, reading, and long walks in the forest. I love to feel the rain on my face, hear the crackle of twigs beneath my feet, and see nothing but woodland and moss. Or toss pebbles into the sea, collecting stones with my son so we can paint them later (of course, we never do. They live in a bucket and he screams bloody murder if they are removed for longer than five seconds). I am usually on a tightrope of procrastination and cramming so much into my day I can barely breathe. I juggle – people, chores, needs, wants – daily, mostly unsuccessfully. I suspect all of us feel we are falling short there, or dropping the balls often.

But this, this little corner of the internet, is one less procrastination. One less promise uttered but never kept. I’ve stopped talking about blogging and started, with one little step – this. And all great things (and mediocre things, to be truthful) begin with one little step forward. Let’s see how far these tired feet can carry me.