Second time lucky

IMG_20180601_180711If you’re stopping by for the first time- welcome! I’m so excited you found my little sobriety blog. Check out the “Who am I?” page from the drop-down menu if you like. I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments or questions. You can comment on blogposts, or email me at ultravioletsobriety@outlook.com .

Yesterday I went to my local town street festival with my husband, Mr. 5 and Miss Nearly 3. I anticipated a bit of FOMO, on account of the street festival street-drinking. A day when drinking in the high street is deemed socially acceptable, with local rock bands playing? “COOL!”, a little part of me still thinks.

At 13 months sober, I am entering the zone of the Second Times. Second sober boozy streetfest. Second sober start of summer BBQs. Second sober summer holiday. It’s obvious, but I’ll say it: second times are easier. Fact.

Do you know what was hard? Not Christmas at 8 months sober, although I’m not saying it was easy. No. – first sober JANUARY AND FEBRUARY. Fuccccck. That caught me off guard. I was 8-10 months sober then, and I’d been on a self-righteous high from my lovely first dry Xmas and New Year. Published a dramatic “coming out” post on Christmas Eve (The Silence of the Drinkers), off the back of which I did a local radio interview and national magazine interview about addiction and sobriety. Read: NO GOING BACK (it’s one thing to have a secret drinking problem. It’s another to tell the world about your recovery, then to start drinking again). Going public about recovery is the ultimate insurance against relapse- for me, at least. I care too much what people think of me to drink ever again now. But, I realised, first sober January and February was even harder than the party season. Why? Because January and February are grey and boring! I used to just keep the party season going.

So, tomorrow is my SECOND sober DOUBLE children’s birthday party: the Decade Twins AKA Mr Nearly 13 and Miss Nearly 3. Yep, they are turning (you guessed it, Einstein) 13 and 3.

A third birthday is big. It’s the first year the child has serious expectations of their big day. So even though it’s my second sober double birthday, I’m still having a big “why the fuck did these children have to fall out of my vagina on the exact same date 10 years apart” freak out. It’s like they are May flies, hatching out on a specific day of the season (they were both due in May but were 8 days late).

Last year we just tagged Miss 2’s birthday party onto Mr 12’s. This year it’s more the other way round, with him having a smaller gathering with some friends at the cinema next weekend.

So I am sat here, catching myself heaping pressure on myself to make it all perfect and lovely and I’m so freaked out about whether the parents of Miss 3’s best friend who we don’t know that well might judge our messy and very non-show-homey house and the mould on our bathroom ceiling and the clutter everywhere (their house is perfect and huge and in the rich part of town). Then I ruminate further about the fact that all my friends have perfect huge houses in the rich part of town and I think how I’m failing at my life and fear I’m letting my family down by being neither a perfect housewife OR a high-flying career woman…. just a part time music teacher who is disorganised at both work and home.

Ugh.

What a pile of shit!

This is the truth: black-and-white thinking can go fuck itself. Comparing myself to others can go fuck itself. The truth is also this: although my bathroom ceiling is mouldy and my house is messy, I live a life of relative privilege and ease. I never have to worry about my children going hungry. They always have an (albeit slightly mouldy) roof above their heads. They have piano lessons and trumpet lessons and theatre trips.

But – most importantly – they have me. Sober. Emotionally available. Dependable.

I’m doing my best here.

I’m 13 months sober and I won’t drink today. I won’t drink tomorrow. Even though my children’s parties are my worst stress trigger.

I’ll be sober and I won’t make a dick of myself and I’ll remember it all – every last precious sober moment.

Let it go, let it go! 🎶

cofIf you’re stopping by for the first time- welcome! I’m so excited you found my little sobriety blog. Check out the “Who am I?” page from the drop-down menu if you like. I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments or questions. You can comment on blogposts, or email me at ultravioletsobriety@outlook.com .

I’m sat writing this in bed at 6.45am on Saturday, 13 months sober TODAY I just noticed. I’m gladly sacrificing my one weekly ‘lie-in’ (OK, I am lying in, but not sleeping). My husband and I get one lie-in each at the weekend, the other getting up at the usual daily 6.20am as dictated by our sweet, noisy, ever-reliable alarm clocks, Miss Nearly 3 and Mr. 5.

Two nights ago, I spent a couple of hours undertaking the type of task that I used to hate, but I now relish- emptying bags of all the clothes that my eldest, Mr. Nearly 13, has ever worn (that Mr. 5 is yet to grow into). These bags are labeled with things like “Boys’ clothes aged 6-7”, but invariably have a total mixture of sizes inside, because “Old Me” didn’t give a crap about cataloguing outgrown clothes. Admin tasks that made life easier for “Future Me” were not on any kind of priority list. In fact, sorting out piles of clothes would probably have required a glass of wine, because I loved wine. And hated any domestic task. So why the hell shouldn’t an empowered grown-up sip wine decadently whilst sorting laundry / loading the dishwasher / doing a tax return?

Digression. Sorry. I loved to use alcohol to take the edge off anything I didn’t want to do, or I felt stressed about. It started at university. A glass of wine while writing essays, to relax me enough to stop me rewriting every sentence 10 times until ‘perfect’, which was unfeasible because I left the work until the last minute after ensuring I’d researched thoroughly and gathered my resources. It worked- I got a First in my degree.

Back to the children’s clothes. I recently bought vacuum packs. I sorted all the clothes carefully into their correct sizes, packed them in the bags and got a childish thrill sucking the air out through the nozzle with the vacuum cleaner. I was so excited at how much the big bulky bags of coats and trousers reduced down to solid heavy lumps! I made my husband come and see! He raised his eyebrows at me, amused by my joy over my unlikely new hobby of sucking air out of clothes. Luckily Mr. Nearly 13 shared my vacuum-packing joy, so I felt a bit less of a twat.

While I was sorting through all the clothes my eldest baby had ever worn, I felt something sad and happy and tender flickering inside me. I held up certain T-shirts, reliving a specific memory or occasion of my boy, aged 7…. aged 9….. aged 10 ….. Was he really that little when he wore this brown and blue stripy one, I thought, surely that was only months ago?! And just as a small river of loss starts flowing through me, I think how, in 2 years, or 4 years, or 5, we’ll reopen the airless bag, and my Mr. 5 will be wearing these T-shirts. Possibly with less enthusiasm than he currently holds for his brother’s old clothes (at 5, he gets a thrill from knowing he’s wearing what belonged to his brother! At what age do hand-me-downs lose novelty value?!).

It occurred to me that, while drinking, I never wanted to touch, look at, or even consider the existence of my river of loss- that same river of loss that runs within ALL parents from the moment we pee on a stick …. until we die. As Elizabeth Lesser writes in her book “Broken Open”, “When you parent you fall in love with a person who is always changing into someone else, and who you know will leave you.” When I read this the other day, I thought, YES! This sums up exactly what I’m learning to accept. It has hit me this year as my eldest is entering adolescence (I’m still in denial about the smaller ones ever growing up though, obviously. It’s hard to imagine not being needed so desperately when you’re in the midst of potty-training and endless bedtime stories).

The past year I’ve caught myself crying numerous times at the thought that my first baby will probably leave home in 5.5 years for university / life. Crying at the knowledge that, currently, he is pretty much my favourite person to hang out with, watching films, cooking together, laughing about the younger ones’ cuteness and funny ways. And I’m one of his. He’s nearly my height (I’m threatening to start wearing 6 inch heels soon when he overtakes) and his feet are bigger than mine, but he’ll snuggle up to me like he always did when we watch TV, except now there’s hardly enough space for all the elbows and knees to curl up next to me on the small sofa. But I know the closeness of this relationship is on a timer. It has to be. It’s the natural law of things. I will and MUST let go of and lose my little best bud.

He’s got a light fuzz on his upper lip and his dad is buying him a shaver for his upcoming birthday. His speaking voice sounds lower suddenly, although he’s still singing as head chorister in church.  He looks like an almost-teenager in real life, but in photos, he still looks like my little boy- it’s as if the adolescent, adult elements of his person are something you can only sense in his ACTUAL presence, and cannot be captured on camera yet.

I feel impending loss. I love seeing him grow into a young man, and I’m incredibly proud of him and grateful for him, but I am also grieving for the littler, squeaky-voiced version of him that no longer exists, except for in pictures and in my memory. The days of bedtime songs and stories are over, but he still likes me to say goodnight and turn out his light. We are in the dusk of his childhood. I suppose he knows it too.

While sorting the little T-shirts that once seemed like big T-shirts, I thought about how much, for me, drinking was about the denial of the ongoing beautiful loss that is parenting, and the smaller weekly loss that was sending my eldest son to his dad’s for the weekend when he was younger:

As much as I missed him, the missing was balanced in equal part with looking forward to the opportunity to go out and party, i.e. getting wasted on the Friday nights he wasn’t here. Not having to wait to open wine after work. Heading to the pub at Saturday lunchtime, because- why not?

Now I walk past his empty bedroom on the alternate weekends that he’s at his dad’s, and loss jumps unbidden into my throat… I hate knowing his bed is cold and empty, duvet and pyjamas lying rumpled as he left them Friday morning before school, rather than wrapped around him in his sweaty preteen sleep.

And suddenly I know this truth: I didn’t used to feel a guilty joy that he was away BECAUSE I could go out drinking. I WENT OUT DRINKING because he was away. And I didn’t want to be sad. I didn’t want to witness my feelings of loss. But to NOT witness the pain and loss of our children growing up and away from us is to do our love for them and THEIR love for us a disservice.

See the scissors below? The midwife gave these to my husband to cut the umbilical cord when Mr. 5 was born. I thought we’d lost them. But he took them out of his bedside cabinet to show me just as I started writing this post. Funny. I’m sat writing about metaphorically cutting the cord as a parent, and he happens to show me the scissors with which he LITERALLY cut our son’s umbilical cord. I haven’t seen this little pair of scissors in the past 5 years.

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Let us not trivialise or anaesthetise our parenting. Parenting is a painfully beautiful process of letting go of our children. Parenting is the delicate and awesome extrication of one body and soul from our own.

Lesser describes parenting as “a career with the crazy-making job requirement of simultaneously surrendering to and letting go of someone you love, over and over and over again”.

And so when it gets painful? We keep going. We keep on not drinking, if drinking fucks us up. We keep loving. We surrender. We let go. And repeat. For the rest of our lives.

 

 

 

 

 

The Raincloud

IMG_20180519_142310If you’re stopping by for the first time- welcome! I’m so excited you found my little sobriety blog. Check out the “Who am I?” page from the drop-down menu if you like. I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments or questions. You can comment on blogposts, or email me at ultravioletsobriety@outlook.com .

Today I may be breaking one of my own rules: to only blog content that I feel serves a positive purpose. To only post uplifting stuff.

I’m struggling today. Not struggling with sobriety per se, just… struggling.

I cannot write when I feel depressed. I can’t find the words… but I’m going to try to push through the process.

After having been approached by a few old friends/ acquaintances for support and advice on sobriety recently, I was feeling pretty good about myself, like I was able to do something meaningful by listening to them and giving gentle suggestions about quitting booze etc. Now I feel like a fraud.

I am lying on my bed, looking out at the bright blue sky and intense sunshine. I can hear my children squealing and playing downstairs, having fun with their daddy, who is always solid as a rock, even though he went out drinking with friends last night (a rare occurrence- he rarely drinks now I’m sober).

So, I’m lying here on the bed, and it’s as if I have a black raincloud above me, raining just on me, invisible to everyone else. It started to chase me on Thursday, while I was out at a beautiful park with my beautiful daughter running around in front of me. Suddenly it was just there. An ugly cartoon-like cloud, dark and heavy, raining black, sticky tar onto my skin. I cannot seem to wash it off.

I didn’t go swimming with my family this morning, as I chose to spend 2 hours trying to pick songs for a recital I’m meant to be giving in a few months with a friend. This should have been fun “me time”, making time for singing, what used to be my career and dream- something I never find time to do these days. I spent lots of time trying out different songs, listening to new repertoire on YouTube.

Nothing was working for me. I felt disappointed and disillusioned…. like I’d wasted my time, and concerned I’ll be letting this friend down if I don’t pick music quickly. My family returned and I moped around while they made lunch, unable to pick what food to eat because I don’t feel like I have the energy to choose. I put some salad on a plate but then gave up eating it, ate a spoonful of peanut butter and came up here to bed to try to have a nap.

So, thanks for reading this total non-event of a post, detailing my current black mood.

I’ve been looking forward to the weekend all week.
But now I can’t be in the same room as my family.
Because I don’t want them to have to touch this black sticky tar all over my soul.

Eat, drink, be … recovered

IMG_20180514_190938If you’re stopping by for the first time- welcome! I’m so excited you found my little sobriety blog. Check out the “Who am I?” page from the drop-down menu if you like. I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments or questions. You can comment on blogposts, or email me at ultravioletsobriety@outlook.com .

Alright, so, today I’ve been mulling over just how much recovering from alcohol abuse disorder has shed light on my old eating disorder.

One of the hardest parts of overcoming the E.D. to which my life became tethered throughout my late teens and early twenties was my deep confusion, guilt and frustration about it. I felt like a totally failed feminist and intellectual. How had I elevated controlling my weight to such a level of significance that it dominated my thoughts, day in, day out? I recognised that this pursuit of thinness was ‘shallow’, and wanted to be rid of the ridiculous, time-wasting obsession.

Thinness absolutely was NOT worth the amount of mental, emotional and physical energy it was stealing from me. I longed to accept my natural body shape and weight. Why couldn’t I?

I wish someone had explained to me then (hnmmmm…. why didn’t they?):

EXTREME DIETING IS AN ADDICTION.

As is binge-eating, obsession over numbers (on the scale, on food packaging, on the treadmill)- all these things are terribly addictive because they do WHAT ALL ADDICTIONS DO: they create a cocoon, a feeling of safety, in which you can hide from trauma and stress. You might be hungry, but that heavy millstone of self-hatred is infinitely lightened, because you will WEIGH LESS tomorrow- you can tuck yourself into a safe ball within that boring little fact for years on MISERABLE years, believe me.

Like ALL addictions, we realise too late that the comforting pillow fort that we have built for ourselves is no fort at all. It’s a prison cell. And so we begin scratching around in the dark, desperately searching for the key, so we can escape the barren cage of numbers. We don’t know what the key looks or feels like – no-one does – because it’s different for each person. And because our world is made entirely of numbers and measurements / glasses of wine /- enter whatever addiction you have – by this point, we often miss the key, even as it dangles on a chain before us.

I can’t help wondering if my E.D. recovery might have been swifter or  less confusing if I’d been educated about the nature of addiction…. perhaps I could at least have forgiven myself for it sooner. Who knows.

Time for dinner.

 

“I’M IN RECOVERY” What does that even mean?

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If you’re stopping by for the first time- welcome! I’m so excited you found my little sobriety blog. Check out the “Who am I?” page from the drop-down menu if you like. I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments or questions. You can comment on blogposts, or email me at ultravioletsobriety@outlook.com .

18 months ago, when I first dipped my toe into the sea of the sobriety social media scene, I observed people writing things like, “I’ve been in recovery for 10 years”.

This used to puzzle me. When I first gave up alcohol 12.5 months ago (it was not the first time I’d given up, but it was the LAST time I’d have to), I looked at online sober buddies with 60 days or – reverent gasp! – 6 months sobriety under their belts, and thought, WOW. They have it all worked out now. If you can weather out 2 months or more of beating down intense cravings, surely you feel so amazing and refreshed and gorgeous and slim and sparkly and rightly PROUD of yourself, then surely you’ll never be tempted to drink again. And I’m sure I’ve read that physical addiction to booze is all detoxed away in the first 10 days, right?

So… why DO sober people say they are “in recovery”, even after the initial hanging-on-to-cliff-edge-of-sobriety-by-your-bleeding-fingernails part is over? Aren’t they just milking the whole “recovery” thing? Is it really necessary to string this thing out and label ourselves as having an ongoing condition? We have a disease FOREVER! God, how awful, I thought. Can I face shedding my party girl clothes and assuming this depressing identity?

Well, in truth, I DON’T relate to the label “alcoholic” (can we all agree that labeling people is generally unhelpful?). I can admit that I was ‘alcoholic’ when I was in active addiction. I accept that any addiction lies dormant and can be easily awoken by reusing the substance. The same goes for my dormant nicotine addiction and to some extent, eating disorder (there’s a reason I don’t partake in fasting even though I’ve read of its great health benefits).

But I digress- being in recovery, 12 months later? Yes, I am very much still in RECOVERY from alcohol abuse, I see that now. I’m 37, and I’ve relied on alcohol and other addictions to feel safe, and to numb and silence every wave of fear and sadness that ever entered my adult life, so, for circa 20 years. In a way it was linked to perfectionism- negative stuff was not allowed in here! This person has to be shiny and perfect and happy! Of course it didn’t work, and I oscillated wildly back and forth between thriving and unraveling through my adult years.

Finally removing the omnipresent anaesthetic from my life was perhaps the emotional equivalent of getting one’s hearing back after 20 years of deafness. Everything was too loud (literally, even my hearing became very sensitive), too close, too bright, too MUCH. I longed to turn down the volume on life for about 5 months. I worried I had irrevocably damaged my brain, and would live in sensory overload forever.

Mercifully, that phase ended, and these days I can report only an expected level of overwhelm, considering my 3 noisy children and job as a music teacher, although I do suspect that I’ve always suffered a slight sensory processing overload since childhood, and that alcohol was something I instinctively used to soothe this with.

But now I know – seriously- it takes more than a  few sober months to fully recover from 20 years of denying the existence of sadness and fear.

The RECOVERY part is this: learning new, non-destructive ways of processing the inevitable difficulties that surface in our lives. From the regular, everyday challenges, like getting 3 children out of the door by 8.15am with all their shoes on and bags packed without screaming or potty training mishaps, through to devastating moments where the earth falls from beneath your feet- receiving terrible news about loved ones’ health, grieving lost relationships, or the unexpected loss of a job.

Riding life’s most violent storms, whilst ‘in recovery’: sober, naked in the rain and thunder with no shield of oblivion, is HARD. But the difference is this: in sobriety, you have hold of the sail and the ship’s wheel.

So…. you won’t sink.

And every storm ends.

Let’s just keep going. We WILL reach the shore.

Gran’s Funeral

IMG_20180510_183102If you’re stopping by for the first time- welcome! I’m so excited you found my little sobriety blog. Check out the “Who am I?” page from the drop-down menu if you like. I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments or questions. You can comment on blogposts, or email me at ultravioletsobriety@outlook.com .

It was my Gran’s funeral yesterday. It was… really great. I know that’s a weird thing to say, but it was. I suppose we’re allowed to enjoy a funeral when someone’s had an excellent innings and there’s no elements of tragedy.

I’m really proud of myself for planning it and executing some nice details like putting up a big montage picture frame etc at the wake. And also I gave the main eulogy, and didn’t cry, even drew a few fond chuckles from the congregation with the anecdotes.

A couple of weeks ago my mum said to me, “don’t worry, we won’t ask you to SING, remember when you sang at your Aunt’s funeral and started crying?” (for the record, I sang the whole solo verse I was meant to and only broke down in the last phrase). Then my dad said after gran’s funeral, “very well done, I was very concerned that you’d get too emotional”.

Wtf is it with my parents’ terror of me, God forbid, CRYING whilst talking/singing at a funeral. We went to an African friend’s funeral recently where his sisters were literally on the floor wailing by his coffin. Surely crying is totally THE THING to do at a funeral.
So despite myself, I felt partly victorious that I’d proven my parents “wrong”, by not crying at the funeral. In fact, my husband said it was my dad who looked on the verge of tears during his bible reading.

I know, I know- what we all know is this is about THEIR fears, not really about ME. They also forget just how much of my time professionally is spent talking or singing in front of people (and often singing at funerals, usually of strangers, though), so it’s all in a day’s work. I’m just reflecting on how much my parents’ fear of showing emotion in public has affected me, and I’m actively forgiving them and LETTING GO of it.

I’m also reflecting on how this day would have gone if it had been 14 months ago, when I was still drinking. I would have used the whole “stress” of firstly the last few weeks of Gran’s life, and then the funeral planning, as an excuse to drink even more than usual. I would have been hungover at the funeral. I would have had the best part of a bottle of wine at the wake (at which no-one else was even drinking except my husband, uncle and brother had one beer each), and probably would have exploded in anger when my dad praised my eulogy-giving in his slightly back-handed way. I probably would have gone off on one at him and told him that his critically high standards were the cause of me being such a fuck-up (I basically told him this one evening just before I stopped drinking when he observed that my friend had gained weight, I told him his tendency to make this kind of comment lead to me having an eating disorder, and forced him to let me out of his car about 5 miles’ walk from town)…

But yesterday, I just smiled, said, “well, I’m more resilient than you know”, and there was no bitterness.

I witnessed all sorts of trauma evidently bubbling up for my mum in the days leading up to the funeral- she made all sorts of bitter comments about her mother (Gran had a pretty rocky road, mental health-wise, which certainly  took its toll on me after she made an exceptionally dramatic suicide attempt when I was 11 [let’s just say, it made national news], but I expect more so for my mother, who actually…. had her as a mother). I realised how grateful I am to be in a generation where therapy is destigmatised to a great degree. I suddenly thought, “my God, you’ve never spoken about this before, have you?”, as my mother started saying unpleasant things about Gran. I found it unpleasant and traumatic to hear, but so grateful I was able to listen to her respectfully rather than cut her down and getting upset, as I certainly would have done whilst drinking.

When I did part of “May cause Miracles” just before I quit drinking, one of the main fears I wrote down was, “that I’ll lose someone I love, and I won’t cope”. But I am coping. Boom.

My First Birthday

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If you’re stopping by for the first time- welcome! I’m so excited you found my little sobriety blog. Check out the “Who am I?” page from the drop-down menu if you like. I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments or questions. You can comment on blogposts, or email me at ultravioletsobriety@outlook.com .

So, what’s new? It’s my birthday! Like, my sobriety birthday. On 26th April 2017 I drank the last bottle of wine ever! Or rather, 3/4 of one, because I spilt the last glass of wine I intended to drink in my hair. I’m not even sure how I managed that. Super-classy! I took it as a sign that quitting was the right decision.

I hoped the Big Quit would be ‘for good’ …. but purposefully chose not to examine how much I believed this was possible, because I had very little self-belief at that point.

To mark 365 days since then I wanted to post a lovely eloquent blog post about what “recovery” from addiction means to me, what I’ve gained, learned, blah blah blah. But my efforts just gave birth incoherent ramblings about gratitude and addiction. Watch this space, though.

So I’m just going to say this- yesterday my therapist told me that the scores from my obligatory weekly anxiety/depression questionnaires put me, for the first time in the many months since we started, on the cusp of “recovery” from anxiety and depression. I don’t think that’s coincidental.

I’m feeling quite emotional today about my achievement. 365 days of choosing not to check out of my life! 365 days of figuring out how to JUST BE, even when I don’t feel like it. 365 days of swinging back and forth between feeling like an awkward adolescent and a buttoned up grandmother. 365 days of liking myself more and more despite feeling like a total moose in social situations! Yay!