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!

The Fort

1280px-Ambleteuse_fort_mahon11th April 2018

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?

Last night my dad and his twin brother, who was visiting him, came over to my house for dinner. Before they came, Dad calls me and awkwardly says, “Your uncle wasn’t sure if it is ok to bring some wine over this evening, so I said I’d check?”.

I laughed and said, “It’s fine, of course I don’t mind him bringing wine to drink!”
“We just wanted to check, I didn’t want to make anything hard for you.”

This is from father who has said several times these past 12 sober months, “So, are you still not drinking? We have wine if you want any”. The dad who gave me a birthday card when I was 6 months sober, that had a picture of a beautiful woman clutching champagne with the caption, “Gluten free, dairy free, I love the champagne diet!”.

It felt kind of weird that he was asking whether they could bring booze- like, did they fear I was going to start foaming at the mouth at the sight of a glass of Merlot? Come on, I have made it through nearly a year, which has included numerous booze-centric black-tie events, my first sober holiday (at 100 days sober…. that was TOUGH), first sober birthday (easy), first sober Christmas (a bit harder), New Year (easy), first sober evenings after the stress of children’s birthday parties (OMG don’t even ask how hard that was). But it was sweet that he’s catching on to the fact that sobriety is important to me.

It’s funny, we spoke about my sobriety quite a bit last night. I offered them some AF beers which my husband had in the larder. When they asked if he’s cut down “in sympathy”, I said, not really, I think he chooses AF beer 90% of time to be healthier too, but that he is a “successful moderator”, unlike me. “What do you mean?”, they asked. I explained that if I were to start attempting to drink just a couple of glasses of wine a week, I would be in constant inner turmoil, arguing with myself about wanting more wine, and probably ultimately slipping back to my old ways. So, I explained, I’m much happier and healthier teetotal. My dad said, “That’s exactly what smoking was like for me”.

That is the frankest talk I’ve had about my drinking with Dad, or Mum. I wrote my first, very honest, blog post in December at 8 months sober (The Silence of the Drinkers, see below), and posted it on Facebook for all to see when my best friends told me my honesty might help others. I’m British, so, you know, I’ll happily write a dead honest blog post about my alcohol problem, then give a radio interview in which I freely discuss how drinking whilst on antidepressants led to me unraveling, oh- and I gave a national magazine interview. But ….. a face-to-face conversation with my parents about addiction recovery? Dude. That would just be TOO AWKWARD!

So anyway, Dad caught up, perhaps a little too late, with the fact that the whole ‘giving up wine’ thing was actually quite a big deal for me. He’s realised (hopefully) that it’s not appropriate to give weird not even funny wine-joke birthday cards or keep offering me wine at dinner. Because it’s about me saving my life. About me saving ACTUAL years of my life (I read recently that people with alcohol abuse disorder die on average 20 years sooner). But possibly more importantly, it’s saving today. Tomorrow. Next week. I’m really living, not sleepwalking. I’m making the most of the time with my children while they are little. I’ll remember it. I’m daring to make plans and dream of a more exciting career.

Wine was in the way of everything I wanted. I built a pillow fort around my life with it. Every evening I disappeared into the fort. No pain or problems were permitted in my perfect pillow fort, no fucking way! Gradually the fort stopped working: pain was leaking in through gaps, and the failing fort was slowly generating its own bouquet of dull red pain. Then one day I woke and looked at my fort.

It was a cage. I’d built a cage, not a fort.

 

Setting Concrete

0301060002-01-Cement-paste-setting-time-in-bowl_46596839_xxl7th April 2018

Woop, excited, guys! I’m sat on a train into central London with Husband and Mr. Nearly 13. We are going to see the Royal Opera House’s production of Coraline, based on that super-freaky kid’s film from a few years ago, where the little girl gets invited through a hole in the wall in her new bedroom by “the Other Mother”, who seems better than her actual mother, except for the fact that she has buttons for eyes, and an obsession with sewing buttons on Coraline’s eyes too…. nightmarish!

So, with under 3 weeks to go until my first sobriety birthday, I’ve been reflecting on the place that I was at, this time last year. I had just finished weaning myself off the antidepressant Sertraline (Zoloft), which I had been taking since December 2015 for postnatal depression (the GP specifically pointing out that I COULD drink alcohol whilst taking Sertraline). My drinking seemed to spiral out of control while I was on Sertraline, as did my eating. I was dazed and forgetful, and had no willpower- I couldn’t organise a shopping list let alone a sobriety plan.

This time last year I weighed 25lbs more than I do now; I didn’t recognise the bloated middle-aged woman in the mirror (I was only 36). On 5th April 2017 my 35-year-old best friend from school told me that the pain from her suspected slipped disc was, in fact, secondary breast cancer metastases in her bones. And so, she and her husband reentered the world of cancer treatment, a world they desperately hoped they had left behind back in 2014 when she completed her primary breast cancer treatment. This time, they would not be leaving it, for secondary cancer can be stalled and treated, but not cured.

As I watched my friend and her husband’s plans to start a family end forever, just as it seemed within reach, I felt my resolve for sobriety strengthen, setting like concrete. After stop-start sobriety and increasingly erratic behaviour since January 2017, I knew my drinking days were numbered. Then I thought, my dearest friends have no choice but to endure secondary cancer. The least I can do is stop drinking. I also recognised that, if I kept drinking, I would end up destroying myself. Because if you are addicted to alcohol – if you have no “off switch” – when times get rough – that’s what happens.

I could get sober and support her and become a better mother and wife and human, or I could keep drinking and be no use to anyone.

It’s been quite a year since then.

I hope Coraline the Opera doesn’t give me nightmares….bookings-lavender