Love letter to wine 

I never thought we’d be at the point where I’d be writing a letter to you, over two years after our love affair ended. Time has given me a new perspective, I guess, and shown me how strong I can be without you. I thought I needed you by my side always; it turns out I don’t.

In the beginning, our love was pure, fun. You offered me a way to come out of my shell, showed me joy that I thought I was lacking. We had some good times, GREAT times, even. We could hang out with friends together and smugly enjoy the unique relationship we had. We’d stay up all night, laughing and giggling while surrounded by good company. Memories of these nights meant I stayed with you far longer than I should have done. I hoped that we could go back to those days, before it all went toxic and sour. I know now I can never go back.

Because eventually, your hold on me was so strong that my friends were just a distraction from the relationship of you and I. You made sure I was alone. My reliance on you grew, and my obsession with you was all consuming. While initially you had soothed my insecurities, and drowned my fears, soon you allowed them to grow and engulf me. My solution became my biggest problem, and yet I had no idea how to fix it; so I drank it away, and choked back the poison. The fun  had ended long ago. I was trapped in an endless cycle of needing you, wanting you, feverishly devouring every bit of you, only to hate you and hate myself. I feared myself, when I was with you. I feared you, and your grip of control on me.

I tried to break up with you, many times, before it eventually stuck. Each time you whispered in my ear reasons I should stick it out. That I needed you. That no one really understood the good thing we had going. That my life would be awful without you as a crutch. That it really wasn’t as bad as I thought, and one more time for old times sake wouldn’t hurt. At one time, you were my sole confidant, my only friend. You skewed my perspective so much that I didn’t see how fucked up that was. Although I couldn’t see it at the time, you were my only priority and consumed my daily thoughts. I got through the days on autopilot until we could be together again, until I could pour my first glass and feel your warmth envelope me.

I gained unexplained bruises because of you; my face and body changed because of the damage you were doing. More than once I was so physically ill I thought I could die. I lied and stole, cheated and spewed hateful words, that no amount of pretending it didn’t happen would ever take back. My demeanour changed, I grew afraid of everything. The only light at the end of the tunnel was you, despite the fact that you were making my world so small and dark. The Fear you instilled in me still visits sometimes in dreams, and each time I wake, shaking and confused. Terrified. And still, I stayed. Because you were right; I couldn’t handle life without you.

Except I could; I am. And though it took a while to see, I’ve blossomed and grown in leaps now I’ve cut you out of my life. No longer do I hide from the world; I’m like a new flower, stretching to greet the sun. This hasn’t been an easy road, to get here. But the road you wanted me on would have was me to absolute ruin. Of that, I am certain. It was hideous enough, our twisted entanglement, and would only have got worse.

I know I’ve seen a darkness to you that many won’t – they will be able to savour you, and enjoy you for the casual release you are. I realise not all your relationships will be like ours was. But I know also that your grasp will tether others to you, and you will set out to destroy them too. I can see the signs in others, and I hold my breath – for a minute, I am back there myself. I know too well though that they need to see it for what it is themselves; I cannot help with a problem they don’t see. I hope they find the strength to leave you behind too. I hope one day, people can see how I’ve moved on and realise happiness is possible, without you tainting it. That living is so much more than chasing the next buzz, the next drink.

I’m even grateful to you, in a funny way. Despite the misery you brought, you have also blessed my life with wonderful people. They are in recovery from you too, and had we not got to the point we did, I would never have met them. I would never have tried to become a better person. I would not now be so grateful for my life today, or the memories I make and remember. I wouldn’t be present. I wouldn’t have tried to make amends, or admit my wrongs. Gf

So, here we are. I did the typical things one does after a difficult break up – tears were shed, I was angry at the world, I grieved and yearned for you. I even got the post break up haircut. And now, I see I never really needed you. You certainly did not enrich my life. And I don’t now. As fun as it was occasionally, I can proudly say I’m glad i feel I never need you again. Though you still enrich my kitchen, you will never consume my heart.

It’s not you, it’s me. Goodbye.

Advertisements

Recovering

I’ve talked here briefly about how I’ve had a difficult time recently, with anxiety and depression. It’s caused set backs, and difficulties, and I lost quite a lot of weight (when I didn’t really need to). I spoke to my doctor a few times and we’ve sorted out medication, and tweaked a few other things too.

After a few stops and starts, I’m in the process of healing, rather that just licking my wounds. I can tell I’m getting better! I cannot express how relieved I am to write those words. I think if you’ve experienced mental illness repeatedly, you always doubt if you will get better from each episode. Or if each new bout is just a new normal, and that your personality has forever been changed since the last bout. 

I feel better than I have in a long time. I’m not bouncing out of bed, or singing with the birds or anything. I’m still anxious at times, and have moments of bleakness or irritability. Who isn’t, right? But I’m excited about things, things that I thought I’d maybe never enjoy again.

I’m writing again, for a start. It’s not life changing, or ever going to be a career for me but I enjoy doing it. I’m thinking of starting fiction again, and maybe poetry too. I used to love those too, a lifetime ago. And I think I should give it a go again.

I’m motivated. I’ve cleaned, scrubbed, sorted and organised, and been more productive in the last few weeks than I probably have the last few years. And my god I feel better for it! I’m taking pride in keeping things tidy, of being organised. While I’ll never be thrilled at the prospect of housework, I’m cracking on and doing it – and more so than just the basics. We are even talking about doing some minor redecoration and I’m so excited – the thought alone of the change, effort and mess involved would have had me reeling.

And I’m back in my little kitchen again. I love to cook, usually. Feeding people and making them happy is a great feeling; pottering about trying new things was my happy place. I love watching cookery programmes, reading recipes, browsing spices and new ingredients to me. Until this latest bout, where I lost all enthusiasm for food – I couldn’t bring myself to eat, or keep food down I was so anxious. So the fact I’m cooking, and eating again means I’m definitely doing better. I haven’t put much weight back on, but I’m a little softer around the edges and eating in a healthy way.

I guess the main thing is that I feel able to do things again. For a while, everything felt so overwhelming that I thought I was suffocating. Even doing nothing felt impossibly hard, and going through the motions of life was all I could manage, in an anxious, panicked robotic motion. I couldn’t relax, or take pleasure in anything; I’m so thrilled now to be finding snippets of joy, no matter how small the pieces. And because I’m not choking on the tiniest of things, I’m able to be more productive with my days than I think I ever have been (it’s difficult to know whether I’ve always had underlying anxiety, or was just drunk/hungover. Could be both, neither or none. The main thing is I’m not like that today).

Dare I say, I’m even smiling at my bad days, or dips in mood, because for the first time in a bloody long time I can feel confident that it’s JUST A BAD DAY. And it will lift, and get easier. A bad day doesn’t make a bad life – seems to obvious but impossible to see when you’re stuck in the mire.

The only thing to be anxious about now is how I’ll be when I come off this medication… I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, and just enjoy today instead. 

To the struggling drinkers…

I see you. I know that you try to hide it but I understand the anguish underneath your front. You’re not alone in this. You are never alone in this. This is written as I remember the times that I’ve found hardest, and so directed at no one in particular – though if it helps, I’m glad.

To the drinker trying to figure out if they have a problem, or are having a hard time – hi, I see you there. Things are tough, and self medicating, or hiding,  with alcohol might feel like the answer. I can’t tell you if you’ve a problem or not, but I can tell you I’m here to listen, if ever you need. Only you can decide that. I can tell you that generally, if you are considering if you’re drinking is a problem it probably is. I can tell you that it will start to get better, if you open your heart and share what’s on your mind. You are not alone.

To the person hungover, or going through withdrawal. Hi, I see you. My heart goes out to you – this can be the worse feeling in the world. I want you to know that support is out there, please use it. That shaking feeling, the sweats, The Fear, the craving already hitting even as you’re vomiting up the drinks of yesterday – I understand. I’ve been there. You are worth getting better, you are worth recovery. You are not alone.

To the person who has recently relapsed – hi. I see you. You haven’t let anyone down, this is a fight for survival against a powerful and cunning disease. It’s ok. You can still do this. Let me help you now the paths got tough – we aren’t meant to hike this trek alone. Reach out, talk to me, hit a meeting. Don’t be angry at yourself – your previous sober count isn’t wasted. This is so fucking tough, but pick yourself up and let’s get on track again. Forgive yourself, and move on – don’t dwell on it. I believe you can do this, even if you don’t believe in yourself right now. You are not alone.

To the person in long term recovery, wondering what their role in life, recovery and the universe is – hi. I see you. This journey is still challenging, no matter how many years in and when the ‘recovery’ medals shine has maybe dimmed. Some things get easier, some get harder. I can tell you your voice still matters – your story is powerful and the wisdom you’ve figured out on the way here is invaluable. Your contribution is huge, and you are helping others just by being here. You will inspire so many without knowing, and I’m proud of you, and to know you. Life is still tough, but look at how far you’ve come in dealing with it! Amazing. It will get easier and the hard times will pass. You are not alone.

To the person who is hiding a slip, or relapse, in fear. Hi, I see you there. You’ve nothing to fear, this is a judgement free zone. We’ve all made mistakes, and this illness is powerful – for some relapse is part of the journey. Remember you need to be open and honest to be authentic, and for us to help you through this time. My heart is open to you. You are not alone.

To the person who is testing how the word ‘alcoholic’ tastes in your mouth – hi, I see you. It might seem bitter to swallow now but I promise it is so much better than any alcohol you’ve drowned in before. This acceptance could be the first day of your best life, if you want. I know how terrifying, and overwhelming this feels. I know the thought alone makes you want to grab a drink. I know you wonder how you could ever enjoy life sober. You can, you can do this, and I’m here for whenever you need. You are not alone.

To the person who knows they desperately need to stop drinking, but doesn’t feel ready. Hi, I see you there. I can’t decide when the party stops for you – but at some point every drinker takes their last drink. I hope to God yours is because you’ve chosen to stop. Just do one thing for me, please – write down the five worst experiences that you’ve had due to drink. Sometimes this is frightening enough to realise we have crashed to our bottom but have been numb to the impact. You are not alone.

To the person doubting the sincerity of those in recovery – hi, I see you there. This might feel a little bit ‘much’ at times, and the phrases used might seem alien. But I can promise you that the kindness offered is meant – because the people that offer it have been in your position too. And it left such a healing on their hearts that they desperately want to pass it on, and help someone they recognise the pain in. You might feel no one understands, but trust me when I say these people do. Listen to the feelings, and the relatable parts. If you listen, it can help you. You are not alone.

To the person approaching a sober milestone but feeling flat and deflated – I see you. Birthdays are tough, and a complete head fuck at times. It’s ok to find them hard. Do what you need to to get through them, and know that I’m proud of you for doing that. You are valued, and doing amazing things. If it’s too tough remember, it’s just one day – and you can get through another. You are not alone.

There are so many more stories, and people, and experiences that I can’t begin to share. I’ve been most of these people, at one time or another, and so I get it. No matter what stage of drinking, or recovery you are, it can feel impossibly tough. Wherever you are at, remember it’s always a ‘we’ thing. We need you, you need us and together we help each other along. If you need help or support, reach out. If you think a member of our team might be struggling, reach out to them first. Check in with one another. Because without each other, we’ve got nothing to keep us on this road.

Does sober = sombre?

I admit it – this was my thinking initially. People who were sober, or simply not drinking, were a mystery to me. And obviously, they must be dull. What kind of life would they lead?! Drinking was a warm cushion to celebrate with, gossip over, dance the night away with, commiserate to. Most pinnacle moments or emotions involved at least a drink or two. Alcohol made me happy, confident and there was no better feeling than a warm buzz. 

Until, suddenly, it wasn’t anymore. And the sweet intoxicating nectar became a poison, meaning my nights now involved black outs, tears, many an ugly scene and words spat that could never be unsaid. Vomit, piss, tears, a mess of bodily fluids. I was tumbling down the rabbit hole, and so deep I couldn’t see the way out. I knew I’d fall further, but I didn’t know how far away my rock bottom was.

While I was in active addiction, people who could go about their daily lives without needing to drink were perplexing to me. An absolute mystery. And in early sobriety, perhaps more so. I hadn’t realised the full extent of its hold over me, it realised that my perception of alcohol and drinking was beyond warped. How could people go to a bar and order a lime and soda so naturally? How could people be thrilled to meet and chat over coffee, rather than wine? How did people not drink at least a bottle of wine with their meal at a restaurant?! These things were infathamable to me. I had more chance of understanding quantum physics, than the sort of thought process these dullards had.

Today, I’m happy to not drink, and know what situations I can handle and which ones I need to avoid. I barely think of it, and I can socialise with relative confidence (with a sober plan in case I struggle of course). I realise that obsessing over alcohol – whether it be the time to drink, the units measured, or how to limit my drinking to appear ‘normal’ – is not a usual way to look at life. And that waking with a daily hangover and hazy recollections of every evening is not the ideal lifestyle of a normal drinker either.

But in early sobriety too, I figured that once I had figured my sobriety out (physical and emotional) that life would be a sea of calm and I would instinctively know how to handle its difficulties, because, you know, serenity. I would glide through antagonising situations with a beatific smile on my face, and graciously always be the better person. I would instinctively know the right way to be, say, behave, even when provoked.

HA!

Nope. Life is still hard, I can still be an unreasonable twat, and my shit still stinks. Today has been a truly testing day, aemotional rollercoaster of manipulation and I still barely know how to hold myself. I lack the instinct to do the right thing, and sometimes do a) the worst thing because I’ve focussed on the wrong side of a problem or b) nothing at all, which can sometimes be worse than a bad reaction.

I guess what I’m trying to say is – sober is not sombre, but it’s also not always rainbows or butterflies. And it’s not supposed to be, because that’s LIFE. Everyone faces challenges, adversity and hideous situations at times, as well as moments of heart stopping moments of joy, where your cheeks hurt from how wide you’re smiling. If you get sober expecting to see miracles after, you need to remember that the gift of sobriety is your miracle. 

Am I a better person now, overall? I think so. I have better relationships now, and my priorities are obviously shifted back to where they always should have been. I can be relied upon, generally, and I’m less of a flake. I’m more honest and open. 

But life is still a struggle at times, as it is for us all, addicts or not. I’m just glad that today, I won’t use this tough day as a reason to justify a drink. 

Two years of sobriety, three of friendship.

A lot can happen in two years, and it feels like everything in my life has changed for the better since I quit drinking (for the countless time) two years ago. On 29th June, I celebrated two years of continuous sobriety. And I am so overwhelmed as I type that, I don’t even know where to begin. So I want to talk about the way a person can make such an impact on your life, you know that you are forever changed. This is why I will always try to pay it forwards.

I first admitted to someone (other than my drunken rejection in a mirror, that is) that I was an alcoholic, in May 2014. Just after Peaches Geldof was found dead, of a suspected but unconfirmed overdose. By chance, I chatted to a stranger on Twitter, who supported my unpopular viewpoint that someone cannot just escape the cruel crutch of addiction because they happen to have become a mother. My son was four months old, so I related to it on a personal level – my drinking was getting out of hand. We chatted privately, and shared stories – she was recently sober, I knew I had to be. I envied her strength, and her emotional maturity. She was smart, kind, and unbelievable empathetic and understanding. I wanted to be her; I wanted what she had worked so hard to already achieve.

I joined sober twitter, found the recovery posse. But slipped and slid into the bottom of numerous wine bottles, many times. At first I admitted relapses, then I pretended I was still sober, before disappearing altogether. I couldn’t stay in the circle, as much as they loved and welcomed me each time. I felt shit, and like I would never be able to do as they did, enjoy life sober, be a better person. I even mentally mocked some of their sage advice and wisdom – if I told myself it was all a bit hippy and insincere, I could justify my drinking more. I was lost, bitter and twisted with jealousy – so better pour another drink, to drown out my voices of self loathing.

Meanwhile, my new twitter stranger had become a friend. She remained supportive, and offered advice and love. Encouraged me, but offered some much needed hard truths. We exchanged numbers, though I didn’t ever think I would use it. After all, I didn’t NEED anyone to stop me drinking, I could regulate, right? Wrong. She continued to check in, even when I isolated myself into hiding. I don’t think she has ever once given up on me, or judged me for my many wrongs.

So. That night, two years ago. I was newly pregnant, and had found a way to justify a drink – just a small one, mind. My husband was away fishing, so he would never know. But I couldn’t stop. I was feverish with want for more drink, even after wasting myself on my late father in laws whiskey. I sobbed, full of self pity and remorse, and all manner of ills. I didn’t know what to do. All I knew was that I was petrified, I’d majorly fucked up and I would again if I didn’t take a step.

I called my twitter friend, and finally did the one thing she’d always reassured me I could – I reached out. In tears, drunk, slurring and snotting. And she listened, and reassured, and chatted to me for four hours, into the early hours – despite my probably not making sense. She offered her story, and shared her experience and I hung on to every relatable word. Without a second thought, she happily offered four hours of her time. Despite the fact that I was on such a fast train to relapse, so she knew that there was every chance I would still continue to drink. Despite she had to get up super early to drop her young son to school. Despite not being well herself, and desperately needing to rest. She promised to call the next day, and when we finally ended the call I cried again – but from sheer relief and gratitude.

She called, as promised, and sympathised with how rotten I was feeling (I hope you will never experience the horror of hangovers and morning sickness combined. It feels as repugnant as it is morally). She’d looked up AA meetings close to me, told me times. She listened patiently to my excuses and just said ‘you said yourself – what you are doing isn’t working. You need to try. Please.’ And I did. Partly because I knew she was right, and partly because I couldn’t bear the thought of letting her down, after all her kindness. I wanted to be like her.

The AA meetings didn’t stick (more on that another time), but my commitment to sobriety did. I read books, blogs, engaged fully and truthfully in the sober community. I listened to shares on YouTube, podcasts. Anything related to alcoholism, and recovery, oI immersed myself in. My friend sent books she thought I might like, complete with her own careful notes jotted inside. She sent cards to let me know she was thinking of me. She continued to support me, check in. And our friendship became more even as I became more sober – I could offer back kindness as she encountered tough times too. I can honestly say that I can’t think of a single time since I’ve known her where I haven’t spoke to her about anything going on with me – even an insignificant trifle (as we know they can sometimes leave the biggest ripples if we dwell on them).

I’ve said before that this lady saved my life that night – and I truly believe she did. I believe we were supposed to meet, as fiercely as I know she believes in me. We have many things in common, and strange coincidences (one being that her literal birthday is the day after my own). The friendship we have made, and the truths we have shared are of the most precious things I have.

So, what happened to this lady, you might ask? We are still close, and I treasure her. We’ve still never met in person, though I believe that will change one day. We talk a few times a week in the phone, and have helped each other out in numerous ways over our friendship together. I am not exaggerating when I say I consider her one of my best friends, and that our bond will always be something I will cherish. And two days ago, she gave me one of the greatest gifts I have ever received, a coin whose significance might not be realised unless you just know – a coin that I have smothered in happy, grateful and heartfelt tears – her own two year sobriety chip. 

Thank you. Thank you. Xxx

Hello darkness, my old friend…

It’s been a while, I know. I haven’t been well, and so I’ve been focussing on trying to get better and work my way through the ‘blah’. I struggle with depression (general and post natal) and anxiety, and it’s been giving me a kicking lately. I’ll be fine (I’ve survived my worst days, after all) but it’s an uphill battle some days. I have medication and action plans in place, and support systems a-go-go, so I’m hoping that the future will be less bleak. Anyhoo. Not the most uplifting start, is it?! 

I’ve wanted to write, but simply haven’t. Haven’t been able. Haven’t had the words, the focus, the commitment. I’ve abandoned posts after starting, because I know that a) it’s not really been that good and b) I couldn’t care less. I find it difficult to just ‘be’ in these times, let alone gain enjoyment or pleasure (I don’t even know what I enjoy anymore). So I gave up the half hearted attempts in the hope it would come.  Or that I’d at least stop worrying about it.

And then so much has happened, so many awful and heartbreaking things that any writing I considered seemed so silly and insignificant. My stuff is tiny, and I have faith in time that it will be better. That I will be better. While I’m trying to rebuild my world, I know some are facing things that are inconceivably hard, unfair,  heartbreaking, and feel that their world is crumbling around them. And again, I have no words.

I’d love to be able to wave a magic wand and make everything ok. To help pick the pieces up for people, to lighten their load and suffering. But sometimes it’s impossible because there is nothing you can do to make it better. It simply is that shit, and life can be very cruel. Just existing in this world is exhausting sometimes, and extremely difficult. 
The only thing I can think to do, is to pray for those hurting, show love and kindness. To be there when needed, and to try and let others know that I’m thinking of them during a terrible time for them. It’s not much, but it’s all I can think to do. And if everyone in the world did that, maybe it would be a better place. And to those that I know are having a hard time, know that I carry you and yours in my heart, always.

Love and acceptance 

If you follow me on twitter, you’ll know that I’ve been venturing out with a few mum friends I know. Once a month, we go to the little community cinema and catch a film, and then head out for a drink and catch up. Sometimes we grab a bite to eat before hand, and it’s really lovely.

This may sound very usual, and basic socialising, but for me it’s been a big deal. The first time I went, was the first time I ever headed out sober without my husband. It was the first time I walked into a pub alone, in the evening hours. And the first time I went to meet and socialise with friends I was still getting to know, all without the comforting buzzy blanket of alcohol.

**Now, let me be clear and say I only took these steps because I felt confident in the company I was with, where I was going, and I had planned escape routes. Ie, I made it work for me without feeling I was compromising my sobriety, or opening it up to tests or vulnerabilities. Please do not do this if you feel it will be triggering in any way – sobriety first, always. Do what works for you.**

So. I’ve done this a few times, and always have been sure to have a taxi booked home an hour after the film finishes – gives me enough time to join them for a (soft) drink after, and I can leave before another bottle of wine is suggested, or before anyone starts getting a little tipsy.  I’ve really enjoyed it, it’s been my monthly moment of sanity with friends. I am me, not mummy. 

And I’ve realised that I’m learning it all again, as a sober person, and it’s tricky at times. I’m learning how to socialise, how to make and instigate conversation, how to just be. I’m not always confident on what to say, or what an appropriate reaction is. Even body language is hard for me to sometimes read and offer appropriately, because I’ve always been too buzzed to really worry or pay attention previously. Or made sure I’m with people way drunker than I, who wouldn’t notice or care whatever I said or did. I feel like a teenager again, all awkward and learning how to navigate social niceties and friendships. Because I care deeply about getting it right; I like these women, I don’t want to cock it up in some way.

Anyway, my main mum friend (whose first name is actually the name of a festive liquor, I shit you not – Alanis would have a field day with that, I’m sure) came over on Friday and it was so great to see her, and have the kids play together. We got chatting and I decided to tell her, shaking and stuttering over my words. Why I don’t drink, why I leave at 10:30 on the dot like Cinderella, why I must seem a bit weird about it all when gently questioned.

She was wonderfully kind, and supportive, and gave me a huge hug. Then said ‘I wish you hadn’t worried about this – it’s not a big deal. We are here for you whenever you need’. It’s not a big deal. Because it isn’t, to anyone that matters. I build it up in my head to be something that’s huge, and a deal breaker (and it IS huge in my world, rightly so) when in reality to her it was as though I’d explained I get bad PMT, or ingrowing  toenails. Because she cares about me, my well being, my happiness, and understands that comes without alcohol – but there is no issue for her at all. It’s a path she will gladly hold my hand as I walk it, and support in any way, but it doesn’t alter her perception of me, or her judgement in choosing me as a friend.

More and more I’m finding that by being open about it, the response is far different to what I anticipated. I’ve people quietly championing my corner, and supporting me by just being alongside me as I trudge on. Never questioning, never judging, just unwaveringly rooting for me. And while they’ll never understand like my recovery angels, they are trying to, and offering what little they can to help. I feel very lucky, and full of gratitude. Sometimes, experiences in recovery have opened my eyes to how beautiful and accepting people can be, and that in itself is a huge blessing.