Life on Life’s Terms

Life on life’s terms is a saying that I have learned, but am not ready yet to apply. I like to control, I realise. I don’t like to Let Go and Let God and I am definitely not very good at Easy Does It. These are sayings that I see every time I attend an AA meeting. I read them, but I am not sure I comprehend them.

With 27 days of sobriety under my belt, I learned that no matter what the affliction, the world does not stop – life goes on and if we are to survive in a world without alcohol, we need to accept life on life’s terms. It is hard.
This week, we learned that our youngest DD, whom had been diagnosed with ADHD/ODD 6 years ago, actually does not have ADHD at all, but a high functioning form of autism called Aspergers Syndrome. He is entering high school next year and we decided that since the original diagnosis was so long ago, it would be prudent to get him re-assessed, just in case there were any special considerations that he may need. What we were told was so far left field of what we were expecting, we were dumbfounded. We stood quietly as we were told that although the results of his re-assessment have to be finalised (through consultation with a panel of psychiatrists and other medical professionals), all indications point to Aspergers. The implications for him are enormous. The dreams we had for him – university, love, marriage, a family of his own, whilst not impossible, do seem further away. With a diagnosis of ADHD he had a shot at a normal life, with medication perhaps, but still a shot. We have a couple of friends with ADHD who have successful marriages and relationships. People with Aspergers are autistic. It is a form of autism that means they are lacking in social, communication and language skills. They also lack empathy, as they cannot read facial cues that let you know when someone is hurt or annoyed.
At the moment, all I can see for my DD is a life of difficulty negotiating the soft intricacies that make an intimate relationship possible. I know little of Aspergers, but what I have read has said that adults afflicted with it have difficulty maintaining long term romantic relationships and find staying in long term employment difficult due to the social skills required to maintain relationships of any kind.
Apparently, social skills therapies do help as does cognitive behavioural therapy. Obviously, these will be made available to our wonderful, beautiful DD. My heart is breaking today. I want to be one of those parents who fiercely says that their child is different and they are proud of it, but right now I can’t. I am mourning the future I saw for him. I know that there is nothing to say that he won’t have a wonderful future and find the cliched love that I want for him, but I also know that life is hard and that having a disability, no matter how mild, makes it even harder. I am mourning and for now, I am going to wallow in it.
Amongst all this, I am having to still deal with my own alcoholic demons. This is a shock that in the past would have me reaching for that glass of wine, to help ease the pain that I feel for my child. I would have been sitting in my chair, wine glass by my side, telling myself that this is okay; that we can deal with this. Together we can do anything (I felt a lot of bravado when I drank). Of course, the drunker I got, the less motivated I became to move, let alone do ‘anything’. Now, I no longer have that option. I have to face the realities of life in the cold light of sobriety. I have to admit the pain is excruciating. The noise in my head is louder than ever and I cannot say that I am not tempted to crawl into bed and opt out of my life for a while. Life on life’s terms – damn you!
I am wallowing in self pity – I know it. I know the positives in my life and the stuff for which I should be grateful, but truthfully, right now, I am not grateful. In fact, I am pretty pissed off. Does the universe imagine that I haven’t been through enough? More importantly, does the universe not think my youngest DD has been through enough? I have a thousand questions and no answers.
This may all seem a bit melodramatic to someone on the outside looking in. After all, I am lucky. I have a wonderful DH, a wonderful home with two beautiful children. The disability could be worse – it is fairly mild compared to others. Yet, I feel wretched. Luckily for me, in AA they know exactly how I feel. I sat in a meeting today listening intently as tears rolled down my face. They didn’t judge or tell me how lucky I should feel. Instead, they comforted me and told me not to be so hard on myself. They totally understood that I could just do without this unexpected turn in life. I just needed a bit more time to come to terms with my own affliction. It sounds selfish, doesn’t it? It is. Alcohol is selfish. It consumes you and seduces you into wanting it more and more, regardless of the people it is harming along the way. I just needed a bit more time to gain the energy to start living life on life’s terms.
There is a lesson here, of course, that life does go on. It doesn’t stop to let you get better. You have to negotiate, and heal, around it. You are forced to face it head on and say ‘I can do this, without alcohol, I can do this.’ I am trying, but I am not going to say that for me, right now, it isn’t hard, because it damn well is. I know that I should be saying ‘Let Go and Let God’ and perhaps that is the other lesson the universe has thrown my way. Living life on life’s terms is all about Taking it Easy, Letting Go and Letting God as well as Just for Today. Someone once said to me that God doesn’t give you anything in a day that you cannot handle, and since I am here writing this at 4:40pm, there has to be some truth to that. It doesn’t make it any easier I am afraid, but then again, I’m pretty sure no-one said it would be easy, it is just is what is – life on life’s terms.

Another day, another challenge

Today I celebrate 20 days sobriety. I use the term celebrate loosely as I am truly not in a celebratory mood. It is Friday and Friday was always settle-down-early-with-some-wine-to-kick-off-the-weekend day. I am seriously mourning that day.

The day started off well enough. Woke up, not having had a good sleep, which is becoming a real problem for me (more of that later), but I felt good. The sun was shining, no college today and all was well in the world of me. I attended an AA meeting, which was stimulating and very enriching, went to lunch with some new friends from AA who counselled me and soothed my restless soul. This day was going so damn well. I looked up at the clear blue sky and truly felt blessed. So, why, just two short hours later am I feeling so wretched? What is it about that fatal elixir that is so alluring that I would be willing to give up all this love, compassion and human-ness that I haven’t felt in so long, in a heart beat.
Wondering around the shops, where I was meant to buy fruit and vegetables for the week, and instead came home with a deck of Angel cards, my mood decidedly started to decline. What was it that brought it on? I couldn’t tell you. All I can say is that somewhere during my car ride home (all of 15 minutes’ worth), I started fantasising about a cask (classy girl, me) of white wine with ice blocks clinking the sides of the glass as I poured it in. It is hot and on especially hot days I liked to pour a big glass (and when I say big, I mean the kind of wine glass that resembles a small fish bowl) of white wine, chuck in lots of ice and sit back into my chair sipping (and when I say sipping I really mean glugging, but let’s not get hung up on technicalities here) my chardonnay (that’s what I liked to call it anyway – again, people, technicalities!) and imagine I was in a completely different life.
Of course, I wouldn’t just stop at the first glass. Actually, I couldn’t just stop at the first glass, I HAD to go on to the second, third, fourth, etcetera, etcetera. I would sit for hours, praying neither of my children would bother me (and to their credit, they rarely did), and just drink and drink. I would watch those programs of ‘Get a new life in …” and wish that was me. It didn’t occur to me to think that in fact I had done the ‘Get a new life’ thing – twice. Once with a move to the UK and now with the move here to Melbourne four years ago. Gees, someone should mention when you apply for immigration that the grass is decidedly not greener on the other side!! They should let you know that when you move thousands of kilometers around the world, your problems tend to stick to you like feathers to tar; that no matter where you try to hide, you will one day have to face your demons in order to move on. I mean, really, there should be a warning, or something!
I have not faced my demons yet. I am not really up for it, if the truth be told. I have tried to tell myself that since I am sober now, I don’t have any problems, but I know this not to be the case hence the reason for my urge to drink now. I couldn’t tell you what is pushing my button right now – walking in and facing a messy house that hasn’t been hoovered in over three weeks doesn’t help, I can tell you. Actually, on that note, I used to blame my drinking for not doing the house work. Actually, that isn’t true. I used to blame my circumstances of my life for my drinking, which had the knock on effect of leaving me too exhausted to do the housework. I can’t use that excuse anymore. The simple truth is I am bloody lazy when it comes to housework.
It’s such a bloody thankless job. You get up, make the beds, tidy the kitchen, hoover the carpets, clean the bathrooms, do the laundry, iron the laundry, pack and unpack the dishwasher ad infinitum only to have the family come home at the end of the day and mess up the kitchen, pile up the laundry, wee and god knows what else in the toilet, shower (how dare they), eat food which messes up the plates, and then to add insult to injury, they actually get into the beds that I spent a good half an hour making that morning. I mean, how much punishment is a woman supposed to take? I tell you, I give up. Correction, I gave up, long ago.
A few years ago, someone, one of those domestic goddess types (I would personally like to murder the person who coined that phrase, by the way), once told me that she doesn’t enjoy housework either but with every thing she did she imagined her family and the love she had for them. I was bemused by the correlation, but decided to try it out. I discovered that I simply don’t have that much love. Imagining that I was now not only a failure at the domestic goddess thing, I was also love-deficient for my family, I was racked with incredible guilt for days which, of course, led me to drink, drink, drink that feeling into oblivion.
So here I am, today, 20 days sober with chaos everywhere. By everywhere, I mean every-bloody-where. There are clothes on the floor in every room, dust on every floor and surface, laundry piled high, a dishwasher open waiting to unpacked, with at least two more loads waiting to be packed into it and not a single bed has been made (I mean, what’s the point really?). All this chaos would be okay if I was okay with it. But here is the kicker, I’m not. I like my world ordered and neat, but I don’t want to have to do it. Like I said, I realise that I am quite lazy when it comes to housework. In other areas, I have amazing motivation, will go to extraordinary lengths to get the job done, but housework? Housework be damned. Maybe this is why, walking into the chaos and having to face my own reality, I have the urge to drink.
So, what is it about alcohol is going to solve this problem for me? Well, it isn’t obviously. It is just an excuse – an excuse to pick up that first drink which I have been informed on good authority that if I don’t do, I will manage to keep sober and regain manageability of my life. If the truth is known I have been waiting for the domestic goddess in me to emerge. I figured that if alcohol was the reason that I had struggled so hard with this role in life, that life without it should make the role easier. I am a wife and mother and surely there should be some genetic wiring that kicks in to assist a wife and mother do what society imagines a wife and mother should do. I am pretty sure that even hard and fast feminists manage to keep their own homes in order. What is wrong with my wiring? Its apparent misplacement has really and truly annoyed me. When is the domestic gene going to come to the fore? I wonder if there is a test to see if I have it. I’m pretty sure I don’t.
I don’t even enjoy cooking. Yet, I have an ENORMOUS library of cookery books. I cannot pass a book shop without going in and either buying a self help book or more often than not, coming out with a cookery book. I never use them. I pretty much buy the same ingredients, and wing it on the night. My planning skills are not all that well honed (no time, needed to get down to the wine, you see), so I invariably forget to take meat out the freezer. This results in me defrosting it in the microwave to whines of hunger from the family, and literally throwing together something edible. My specialities are spaghetti bolognese (Mince meat, pasta sauce in a jar, an onion and pasta), Thai chicken curry (chicken pieces, onion, thai curry paste, coconut milk, frozen stir fry veg and noodles) and chilli con carne (mince meat, onions, red kidney beans in a tin, tinned diced tomatoes, chilli powder, tumeric, paprika, cumin and rice). As you can see, I’m hardly Jamie Oliver – but, you guessed it, I have three of his books and even downloaded his App to my iPhone at a cost of $7.99!
It is like if I am surrounded by all these things, I will become that which I am obviously not. Why is it that, at the age of 42, I am unable to accept this in myself. Does anyone care, really, if my house is not perfect (and by not perfect I mean a tip that people have to wade through to make it to the kitchen, but again, technicalities people)? I keep telling myself that I have yet to come across a tomb stone that reads, “Here lies Mavis who was the worst housewife you could ever meet.”, or “Here lies Jane whose cooking was really quite bland”, but for some inexplicable reason, I feel totally inadequate as a wife and mother.
I wish I could say that at least I have a career. But I simply don’t. I used one excuse after another, I now realise, not to finish any of the countless courses I embarked upon, or stay very long in any job – my record is nine months. Somewhere, in the recesses of my brain, I figured I would be a wife and mother. That is the most important job in the world, after all, isn’t it? I mean, we are nurturing the world’s future generations here, and by doing so, shaping the world’s future, aren’t we? Oh God, I’m running out of time. Our eldest DD is leaving at the end of the year and our youngest DD is 12. What shaping have I done? What have I taught them? Certainly not how to keep a clean house and cook nutritious bloody meals, that’s for sure. And yet, my quest for domestic goddess membership continues. It’s exhausting I tell you.
So, another lesson learned whilst typing this blog. I’m lazy, hate housework and am never going to be a domestic goddess. Another thing mourned. I’m wondering when I am going to allow myself to celebrate the person I am and the contribution I must make in some form to the universe. I mean, I can’t just be some drunk suburban housewife who hasn’t passed on any skills to her offspring, can I? There has to be more to life than that surely? I have to have come to the realisation of my alcoholism for some purpose, surely. I don’t want to end my journey in this realm without having made some valid contribution. I thought being a domestic goddess might validate who I am, but it isn’t working. I have to find something else and then earn enough money to hire a cleaner and someone to do the goddam ironing ūüôā
My journey continues and just for today, I will not pick up that drink!

Two weeks sobriety

Well, it has been a hectic week. I started back at college and it seems my feet haven’t touched the floor. I am at college for four days a week, one day of which is from 9am to 9pm and I am exhausted. Second year requires so much more work than I could ever have imagined. This is why I haven’t blogged as much.

I cannot believe that I have only been sober for two weeks. It feels like forever. Every morning I wake up and this ‘thing’ is with me. It feels so strange. It is like I am wearing something that doesn’t belong to me. When I am getting showered, it is with me, like a menacing ghost that aims to taunt me throughout the day; when I am getting showered, driving, talking to friends, negotiating my way through my day – taunting, taunting, taunting. I have an urge to tell everyone I meet. “Oh, did I mention I am an alcoholic?”, but it doesn’t seem right to say it. The words get stuck. I have mentioned that I have given up drinking. It irks me that people don’t seem surprised. Like the fact that I drank so heavily warranted me giving up drinking. Was it that so goddam obvious?
I telephoned my closest friend in Australia, to tell her that I needed to talk to her about something. She lives over an hour away and I didn’t want to talk about it over the phone. It took us a week to catch up. She looked at me nervously. “So, what’s up.” “I’ve realised that I’m an alcoholic,” I said, “I’ve been going to AA meetings.” (Just to add weight to my theory). She looked at me with an expression that said, “And?” “You’re not surprised.” I said, realising it hadn’t come as a shock to her. “You are my closest friend,” she said, “But you’ve always been my heavy drinking friend. I’ve always had to prepare my liver for when you come and visit.” The words shattered over me like broken glass, tiny shards piercing my body from every angle. I had no idea. Sensing my reaction, she went on to say how she had always looked forward to our ‘sessions’. That really didn’t help.
That is how this week has been. I had started to question the validity of me being an alcoholic and my membership in the AA fellowship. As if to drive the point home, life has sent me these messages, to mark the madness that had become my life. I simply had no idea that my drinking was so transparent. Of course, I have no idea why I am surprised. My friend asked me how much I drank during the week. 5-6 glasses a day I had replied (and seriously, this still does not sound that bad to me – madness, I know). This question got me thinking. I bought two 5 litre casks of wine, at least, a week. We generally socialised on the weekend, so we would always buy at least two, but somethimes three bottles of wine as well. At the very minimum we were drinking 12 litres of wine a week. I want to laugh, but I know this is no laughing matter.
In AA people who drink with the alcoholic, but who are not alcoholics themselves, are called buddy drinkers. My DH was a buddy drinker. They are not to blame for the alcoholic’s drinking or even encouraging it. Alcoholics have a way of making it okay, of convincing everyone around them, themselves included, that their drinking is not a problem and they usually do this by enlisting the active participation of someone else. For me, the manipulation of my DH into drinking with me wasn’t conscious, at least not in the beginning. We met, we shared an enjoyment of wine, we drank. However, towards the end, when he didn’t want to drink, or didn’t drink as many as I could down, I got annoyed, irritated and quite verbal. Often times I brow beat him into drinking with me. Whilst he enjoyed wine, I now know, he wasn’t enjoying how it was robbing us of a full life. He could see that it was robbing me of my soul, and he now admits that he hated that.
In fact, he put his foot down three weeks ago and said that he wanted more out of life, that he wanted to concentrate on his running and cycling and not feeling crap all the time, and as such, he was giving up drinking, at least for a month. I had said to myself that I was going to have a dry month in February (which is laughable now, I realise), so wasn’t going to give up with him as I still had a week. I was irritated that he wasn’t going to do the same, but he was adamant that there was no time like the present. The first evening came. I poured myself some wine, he had a cordial. God, I was so annoyed. I realise now that I needed him to drink with me, to make me feel okay about my own drinking. I lasted six days. On the seventh day, my first day of sobriety, I woke up, shaky inside, having had a couple of wine glasses of port, knowing that I could no longer go on like this. If I wanted ANY sense of self worth, any life, at all, I needed to change.
So, here I am two weeks on, about to attend my ninth meeting in 14 days, feeling like I have been in AA forever, but realising that I have so much to learn. I need to learn how to live life on life’s terms without the seductive anaesthesia that alcohol brought to my every day living. I totally underestimated how hard that would be. But, I have done it. I have managed, one day at a time, not to pick up that first drink for 14 days. Wow, I have not done that since 2004, when I had to stop drinking to starve myself to lose 30kgs for a holiday to Australia, from the UK. Of course, I celebrated by having a glass of champagne when I got to Australia, but that is by the by. As of today, I have been intentionally sober for 14 days and it feels good.

So much more than giving up drinking

Day 7 of sobriety, and what a week it has been. My body clearly doesn’t like this feeling. Today is Saturday and it is the first time in years I have woken up on a Saturday where I haven’t hammered the wine the night before, yet I still woke up with a dry mouth and groggy. I think my body expects to be hungover.

Actually, I prided myself on never really getting a hangover. I could clout almost two bottles of wine a night and not wake up with a hangover. Of course, I realise now that even though I didn’t have a headache, I had other signs of having a hangover – that shaky feeling you get inside your stomach, extreme tiredness, extreme moodiness, weaving through the day in a haze, just going through the motions on automatic.
I am starting to sleep better, which is a relief, although I am still waking up very tired and throughout the day there are periods when I feel I could crawl into bed and sleep for the rest of the day. Not sure if that is my body detoxing or me just being depressed. I don’t feel depressed as such, but I am incredibly weepy. I feel like I have not stopped crying for a week. I cry in the car, walking around the shops, literally anywhere, for no apparent reason. I just suddenly well up and spout out. I can’t control it, which is really bugging me. I do not like this feeling of not being in control. It is a rollercoaster of emotions. One minute, I feel empowered, like I have actually taken control of my life, rather than allowing alcohol to control me; the next minute, I am ashamed that alcohol has taken control and I feel broken.
I finally told my extended family about my affliction. My parents have been incredibly supportive, phoning me every day to see how I am. I have to fight the urge to ask them to stop checking up on me because I know that this is not what they are doing. I know that they are proud of me (although I am not sure why – their daughter is a raving alcoholic, nothing to be proud of there!) and I know that they want to support me. I told my sister-in-law, and again, received amazing support from her, which was a little surprising since in the last two years, we have had ours ups and downs. My DH told his parents and they offered their support where they could. I feel blessed, but the feeling of shame just seems to remain with me. Despite knowing that this alcoholism thing is a disease, not a moral issue, I cannot seem to shake the shame.
I keep thinking of all the things I may have achieved in the last 11 years, when my drinking really got bad. I keep thinking that at the end of this year our eldest DD is leaving home to begin the next phase of her life and I only have 12 months left with her. Why did I have to be pissed a good portion of the last 11 years? I feel like I have missed so much with her. I am grateful, though, to have come to my senses now, because at least in the next 12 months, we can create memories and do so much together. I am very proud of the person she has become – so independent, so focussed with an incredibly kind spirit. I worry about her discovery of alcohol and our seemingly genetic disposition of this disease of alcoholism. I have talked to her about it, warned her of the predisposition, but, like my dad had to be with me, I realise that this is her journey and only she can decide what path she has to take. All I know is that I will be here for her, no matter on which path she ends up.
I went to AA meetings during the week. Like any organisation, I realise that some are better run than others. I went to one meeting where I felt isolated. It was cliquey – everyone knew each other and no-one approached me as a newcomer. I walked in, listened to the stories, hung around for a little bit after the meeting and, realising no-one was going to talk to me and not having the courage to approach anyone myself, I slipped out. I didn’t walk away empty handed though. I found the stories inspiring.
The following night, I tried a different meeting. This one had a different format – more relaxed, more connected. People kept coming up to me to speak to me and when, for the first time, I stated my name and that I was an alcoholic with six days sobriety, everyone clapped. I felt like a child that says something that gets an unexpected reaction and suddenly beams with pride. I didn’t beam, because I am not proud right now, but it felt good to have the recognition of just how damn hard it was to get 6 days’ sobriety under my belt. That meeting was excellent and I am seriously considering making it my home group, despite the knowledge that we are moving 20 minutes further away at the end of this year, meaning it will be at least a 40 minute drive. It is a small price to pay for a group that seems to fit me so well.
People have been urging me to get Vitamin B injections. Apart from hating needles with a passion, I have wondered about the value in this. Many people have said that the sudden withdrawal from alcohol is a shock to the body, and since alcohol completely robs the body of vitamin B, which is why we feel so tired all the time, vitamin B tablets just aren’t absorbed quickly enough into the body. The thing is, I am just too ashamed to go to the doctor and say, I am an alcoholic and I need vitamin B injections. Last night, at an AA meeting I was at, someone spoke of alcoholics being filled with fear. I never considered myself a fearful person. I was wrong. I am so very fearful and quite anxious, I realise.
When telling my sister-in-law about my affliction, I begged her not to mention it to anyone else. I downloaded the Big Book to my iPhone so that I could listen to the teachings of AA whenever and wherever I might be, without anyone knowing what I was up to. When travelling on the train yesterday I accidentally pulled out the earplugs. “…give up the urge to drink, and resist alcohol”, the thing boomed. The train was full. I fumbled desperately for the volume, but I have set up a password on my phone and couldn’t get the volume down until I inserted the password. “Many times alcoholics…” it continued. Oh, please, God, if you are there now, please swallow me whole right now. Eventually, after what seemed like minutes, but was probably seconds, I got the thing to shut up. With still 20 minutes to go on the journey, I pushed myself right down into the seat and didn’t dare look at anyone. The shame was enormous. I felt like I had a neon sign on my head blaring “Yep, here sits the alcoholic”.
There are so many dimensions to being an alcoholic. It isn’t just a case of giving up drinking. It is so much more than that. It is like your brain and alcohol are soul mates and your brain is constantly telling you that it can’t be separated from its soul mate. For the first four days of sobriety, I didn’t have the urge to drink. I accepted I was powerless over alcohol, and I knew I couldn’t drink, even one drink. I was finding this part of alcoholism, the most important part of not drinking a breeze. Complacency is a bitch. Late on day 5, it hit me. I was wondering around the shops and started noticing all the lovely wine glasses out of which I could be drinking wine. DH and I had always said that in years to come we would treat ourselves to a set of Royal Doulton or Waterford Crystal wine glasses. At $400 for a set of four, it was a major investment. Our plan was to have 8 glasses of every type – Red wine, white wine, champagne, sherry, highball and tumbler – amounting to a total cost of $4800 or $2400 at the once a year annual sale – a lot of money on glasses. For the longest time, we had dreamed about holding really heavy, beautiful wine glasses to our lips, sipping a great red or white (we didn’t mind which) wine. On thursday, I obsessed about this. I wondered around the crystal ware shop looking at a dream that was now gone. What was the point in buying glasses that I could never use? I cried and I grieved.
This is why I say that the disease of alcoholism is so much more than giving up drinking. It feels like I have to take my brain, purge it and imprint it with something entirely different. The problem is that the brain is a resillient little bugger. It loves its relationship with alcohol and keeps making you feel that you would feel so much better if you had just that one drink. Intellectually, I know this not be the case, but emotionally, with all the fragility that I am feeling right now, it is so incredibly tempting to give in to my brain, to swathe my nerve endings and emotions with that elixir that was killing me.
People who are not alcoholics will not understand this. I did not understand this, until I realised that I am an alcoholic. When my dad gave up drinking 26 years ago, I took it for granted. In fact, I felt resentful that he hadn’t had the strength to do it earlier. As the years went by, that resentment subsided and I was just grateful that he did become sober when he did and not later, or even not at all. However, it is only now that I can appreciate just how difficult that decision must have been. Only now do I understand how difficult it is to quieten the urge; to live a life without alcohol when everywhere is littered with the stuff – like the wine and popcorn on offer at the cinema.
In the week of my sobriety – I am such a baby at this – I have come to realise that sobriety is more than not drinking. It is an evolution of the soul. Getting your mind to separate from alcohol, so that your soul, the person you have the potential to be, can come forth. For some it is a really slow process and I am wondering if that is going to be the case with me. The mourning of all the things I won’t be able to do is strong at the moment. Or rather, the mourning of all the things I can do, just not with a glass of a wine in my hand, is strong at the moment. It seems so ridiculous as I pen the words. So, I don’t have a glass of wine in my hand, I will at least remember every moment, wake up not wondering if I made an idiot of myself, but knowing that I had a great time and remembering every minute. This is what I am saying, intellectually it seems so easy, so logical, why would you not want to do it. Of course, you WANT to do it, but with alcoholics it’s the ABILITY that eludes us.
So, as I progress over the coming week, I pray for the urge to leave me. This is most alcoholics’ desire, to no longer have the urge to drink and whilst ever we don’t pick up that first drink, we will be okay and maybe, just maybe, our higher power will see fit to remove the urge and allow us to be happy without a drink in our hands.

If you don’t pick up a drink, you can’t get drunk

Early morning of Day 5 of sobriety. I slept well for the first time in almost a week. DH had given me some natural, over-the-counter sleeping tabs and perhaps that was the reason. Perhaps it was the prayer that I made to God to please give me a rest, to let my mind quieten and body to fall into a deep slumber. Whichever it was, I am grateful. However, I haven’t woken up feeling good. In fact, I have woken up feeling really grumpy and extremely weepy.

I did what I always do when I feel like that. I phoned DH, who had left early to go the gym before work, and picked a fight. He wasn’t impressed. “Why are you so irritable”, he asked, “you slept so well”. “This isn’t easy, you know,” I yelled “it’s alright for you.” He wasn’t in the mood to be charitable. “Look, I am driving, trying to hear you on speaker phone. Can we do this later?” Fine. Immediately, tears welled up in me.
Our eldest DD came to me. She was off on a school conference – an overnight stay at a university. I offered to drive her to school. “No, it’s okay. Some friends and I are meeting at the bus stop, and then walking up to school. Bye, see you tomorrow.” In an instance, she was gone. My baby all grown up and independent. I was no longer needed. My life was changing and I didn’t like it. My head kept saying that this is a good thing, but my heart, my heart seemed to be breaking. It was all going to be different now. Eldest DD would be leaving home at the end of the year, and I wouldn’t have my friend, wine, to comfort me through the loss. However would I cope?
I attended my second AA meeting last night. It was good. Same format as before, different people speaking. Each one a success story, just for today. I began to talk to other people of myself today. I feel different from everyone as I have been a part of AA since being a teenager. As soon as i mentioned my dad had been sober for 27 years, people looked at me in awe. They looked at me as if I had an inbuilt mentor. I am not sure if I liked that. I wanted this to be my journey, not be in the shadow of my dad who had made a success of his sobriety. Part of my problem is that I have always felt like I have never matched up. I wanted this to be different. But avoiding the fact that my dad has been sober all those years would be being dishonest – it is an integral part of my journey to this point. Honesty is a big thing in AA. Being honest with yourself is a huge part of your recovery. Most alcoholics have found dishonesty, either subtle or obvious, a big part of their problem.
I feel like a child. Like I have been caught doing something wrong, that I shouldn’t have been doing; that I know I shouldn’t have been doing and now I am having to pay the price. I am petrified people finding out and saying, “We knew it, I told you so” I just no longer want to be judged. AA gives me that non-judgemental forum I have so long craved. When the meetings end, I don’t want to leave, despite feeling light headed and sick in the pit of my stomach. God, I hope that feeling goes.
I was urged to attend 30 meetings in 30 days. It is impossible for me to do as I have lectures until 9pm a couple of times a week, but I have resolved to go to four a week. That means I have to attend one tonight. It means I have to go on my own. I am petrified. My third meeting and I am flying solo. AA members are meant to have sponsors. I am not sure how to go about getting one. Do I ask for one? Does someone approach me and say, “Hey, would you like a sponsor?” I feel a bit lost. I will perhaps try to hand this one over to my higher power (am also struggling with the higher power thing, but another post on that one) and see what comes along, but it is nerve-racking.
I feel overwhelmed by everything. I am struggling coming to terms with never being able to drink, with the fact that I have no control over alcohol. I have always been in control of everything (HA HA, yeah, right!). A woman approached me last night. She said to me to try not to think of it as not being in control of alcohol for the rest of my life. She said to think of it as being in control of one drink, one day at a time. She said that if I choose to not pick up the first drink, that one drink, then I can’t get drunk. It was as simple as that, she said. One drink, just for today. It sounded simple enough. Why then, dear God, am I feeling so wretched?

The Road Less Travelled

So, it is day 4 of sobriety. It feels strange. It isn’t like just giving up drinking to detox or to give your liver a break for a while. This is life changing abstinence. I have that strange feeling in the pit of my stomach that tells me nothing will be the same again. Intellectually, I know that it will not be the same and even for the better, but right now I’m not feeling great, I have to admit.

For the last two days, I have been walking around in a haze. It has been like a thick fog has clouded my brain and I have just muddled through each day on automatic. I had hoped for more energy, more sleep and a renewed sense of self, vindicating my new lifestyle choice. But no, as if to yell at me that this isn’t the way to go, my body is sluggish, my mind numb. I feel strangely emotionless, apart from the odd weepy moment when shame overwhelms me. I have always been in touch with my feelings and this new state unnerves me. My feet feel like lead – moving is hard and I have had to really resist the urge to crawl into bed, shove my head under the pillow and let the world pass me by. I hope this passes soon.
I went to my first AA meeting on Monday. My DH came with me as I just wasn’t strong enough to go on my own. I was so fearful, so ashamed. I kept asking myself how I had managed to get to the point at which I could no longer consume any alcohol. I wondered how my life had managed to be diminished so much, how I had managed to squander 11 years, not only of my life, but that of my family’s as well. We sat in the car park. I was surprised to see a sign that said ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’. I’m not sure why I was surprised. I mean, how else were newcomers to know where the meeting was, we’re not psychic! I didn’t like it. People seeing me walk through that door would know. I looked up and down the street. No-one I knew in sight. Okay, I’m going to do this.
I couldn’t move. My DH said that we didn’t have to go in, that we could come back next week. But I knew, deep down, that next week wouldn’t be any easier. I swallowed back my tears and opened the car door. We moved slowly toward the church hall, a common meeting place for AA meetings, and hesitated as we approached the person at the door. He wasn’t there to greet people, so we moved inside. Immediately a gentleman approached us: “Is this your first meeting?” Was it that obvious? “Yes”, I said, “It is MY first meeting.” I did not want my DH to be mistaken for the one with the problem. “Great to see you here,” he said, “the first one is always the hardest.” He strode off and returned to give me the welcome pack. I felt sick. I wanted to run away.
We took a seat at the back. I looked up and my heart stopped. There was someone I knew. A mom from my youngest DD’s school. Is this some cruel joke, some form of punishment? Please, God, open up a hole to swallow me now! I calculated how close I was to the door and wondered how long it would take me to slip out. My DH slipped his hand in mine and the meeting began. The woman was called upon to tell her story of alcoholism and sobriety. Please, please do not look my way, I pleaded, please! It didn’t occur to me to think that she was there for the exact same reason I was.
The meeting continued and as people spoke of their stories and their recoveries, I realised that there was an element of my drinking problem in each of them. I shared characteristics with each and everyone of these people. DH knew it too – every now and again he would pass me that look that said, “God, that’s you.” For the next one and a half hours I listened, I listened intently and I drank in what they said. I knew I wanted to get better and I knew I had to pay attention.
Of course, the AA world is not knew to me. I wonder if that will be a hinderance. I hope not. I knew the drill. I knew the serenity prayer, the AA colloquials, the routine of the evening. I felt strangely comfortable at the same time as feeling that I shouldn’t be on this side of the fence.
At the end of the evening, I wanted to make a hasty exit, but as I went to return my coffee cup, the mom from school approached me. “Is this your first meeting.” I wondered if all newcomers had a ‘rabbit in the headlight’ look about them. I nodded. Please don’t recognise me, I thought, please don’t know who I am. Actually, she didn’t. As she sat speaking to me about upcoming meetings that would be good to attend and offering to take me, I realised she hadn’t recognised me at all. I then felt guilty. This wasn’t fair that I knew who she was, but she didn’t know who I was. I came clean, and begged her not to say anything as I didn’t want the children to know. She smiled. “It is called Alcoholics Anonymous for a reason. Your secret is safe with me, as mine will be safe with you.” Instant relief and a nod to acknowledge that I realised she was right.
I left that meeting feeling strangely like I had come home. Most of my life I have felt like a round peg in a square hole and now I didn’t. I belonged. These people, in the brief moment I had talking to them, totally got me. I liked it. I felt swathed in belonging-ness. I liked it a lot!
The next day, yesterday, that feeling had gone. To distract myself, I decided that I would treat myself to a movie. Just me, on my own. I drove a fair distance to see Believe in Heaven being shown at a graceful old cinema. It was so bohemian and I loved it. I bought my ticket and went to order popcorn. There was a sign; “$10 deal, popcorn and a lovely shiraz.” You have got to be kidding me. Alcohol being sold with popcorn at the cinema? I was on my own and rather than feeling tempted, I actually felt angry. A couple of days ago, I would have gone for that option. On my own, hell yes, I deserve that treat. But, here I was staring at the sign, wondering what the world was coming to. I ordered the lemon and lime with my popcorn. The movie was pretty rubbish, but I felt proud I had overcome my first temptation and also my fear of doing things on my own. It was a good moment.
What I would like now, is to learn how to shut my mind off. Wine was great at doing that for me. Just drink until I am physically unable to hold a thought, fall into bed and sleep – bliss. I have been unable to sleep and my mind wants to explode. I have a permanent headache. This isn’t exactly the sobriety I had signed up for. I know I must persevere (perhaps I am detoxing), but it isn’t pretty, I can tell you. I feel like a train wreck!!
So, I am off to my second AA meeting, at a different venue. It is certainly a road on which I never thought I would find myself, the road definitely less travelled. It will be interesting to see where it will take me.

Powerless over Alcohol

Day 2:

I am powerless over alcohol.

No-one likes to admit this and I am no exception.

I have known, of course, for years that this is the case, but like any grieving process, I was in denial.

People who are alcoholics do grieve.  They grieve the loss of being that good time person, the life and soul of the party.  They grieve the dutch courage afforded them through that elixir their bodies so desperately crave.  They grieve being the person who cannot drink socially, having one or two drinks, and being content with that.

For me, it wasn’t being the good time person, or the dutch courage. ¬†It was the numbness it brought night after night.

If I am brutally honest, I have probably been an alcoholic since I was 14 years old, when my best friend and I snuck booze out of both of our parents’ booze cabinets, decanting them into yellow, plastic cold drink bottles, and slugging it down in her bedroom, if I recall.

It was a premeditated affair. ¬†We had been planning it for weeks. ¬†The effects were almost immediate. Within minutes I was running atop my friend’s four foot wall, yelling I wanted to die.

Alcohol has always played a part in my life. ¬†My dad, and I know he won’t mind me telling you this, is an alcoholic. ¬†His brand of alcoholism was not pleasant and had reached a particularly nasty high (or is that low) around the time I turned 15, 6 months after I had my first experiment with alcohol. ¬†Life had become pretty unbearable and I remember begging my mom to leave my dad.

She almost did, but then he convinced her that their marriage was worth saving and at 5am on the morning we were due to leave, my parents woke me to tell me that they were going to give it one more go.

I felt so betrayed.  My mom and I had planned the exit with mission impossible precison.  We had colluded to leave my dad in such a fashion that it would be too late for him to convince us, again , that he would indeed stop drinking.  Now, my mother had betrayed me.  I felt isolated, and alone.  Not the first time and certainly not the last.

Three months later, my dad gave up alcohol for good.  He joined Alcoholics Anonymous and has remained sober for the last 26 years.  He is, and always will be, an inspiration.

So it was with great shame that I came to the realisation that I indeed was also powerless over alcohol.  Deep inside, I knew of course, but I did not want to face it.  I am sure, if I am honest, that my friends and family knew it.   They never said anything, however.  On the odd occasion someone might have suggested something along those line,  I would dismiss it and tell myself that they should try walking in my shoes for just a day and see how they would feel.

Justification is a big thing in an alcoholic’s life, I have come to realise.

My confrontation of this addiction came out of the blue.

Yesterday, I was visiting a friend whom I hadn’t seen in a long while. ¬†We were talking about our lives, filling in the blanks where we had left off, about a year ago. ¬†I had mentioned a couple of times about my increase in drinking due to some stresses that had occureed in the past year.

Suddenly, my friend stopped talking, hesitated, looked at me right in the eyes and said:

Do you think you are an alcoholic?

The question slapped me right across the face. ¬†I felt my face flush. ¬†Tears immediately welled up. ¬†I stammered and then simply said, “Yes”.

Despite knowing the signs, and knowing deep down inside that I had become caught up in the grip of alcoholism, I really didn’t want anyone else to know.

I should know better, I should be able to control this monster. ¬†I had been to Al-Anon and Alateen for God’s sake. ¬†I did not belong on the other side of the fence. ¬†The shame was unbearable.

My friend is a good friend, and being a nurse, she urged me to get help.  She urged me to see my GP and to join AA, and to even see a psychiatrist if I wanted to.  I am not sure I am ready to talk to my GP as yet, but I am ready to go to AA.

I think being around people who share the same affliction may give me some comfort. ¬†If I am honest, I am scared out of my wits. ¬†I don’t want anyone else to know.and I certainly don’t want my father to know. ¬†He must know of course. ¬†He must have watched over the last 26 years, in his sobriety, saddened and powerless, as I descended further and further into the abyss of alcohol.

The shame I feel is haunting.

It must seem strange that I am blogging about this, since I have said I don’t want anyone to know. ¬†Well, strangely, this is cathartic. ¬†By ¬†writing down my thoughts, my feelings and confronting my issues via this blog, I am no longrer able to run away from them, or pretend that they don’t exist. ¬†I am able to say yes, this is my problem, no longer hiding, but standing up and saying no more will I put myself through this turmoil, no longer can I pretend that there isn’t something drastically, horribly wrong.

So, today, is day 2 of sobriety. ¬†I had planned on having some wine last night after seeing my friend, but funnily enough, it just didn’t have the allure when I got back home. ¬†So yesterday was Day 1. ¬†I will keep blogging my progress, more for myself than anyone else.

I need to do this to help me be accountable.  I hope I make it.

In AA, they have a saying:

Just for today

So, just for today, I will not drink.  Just for today, I will be strong.  Just for today, I will be grateful for my friend, who had the courage to make me confront the inevitable, and my family, who have watched helplessly as I disintegrated as a person, yet have unyieldingly stuck by me, showing me every drop of love they have every single day.  Just for today, I will find some pride and make them proud.

Just for today…

Until next time,

SHW Signature AmyG Font