What’s in a Name?

“You should start a blog,” said my well-meaning husband and friends, as with some regularity my interest would be seized by a question or subject and I would plunge deep into a rabbit hole, all the while eagerly regaling any who would listen with what I discovered. For years, I thought about doing so. I have actually started one or two and their inaugural posts drift through cyberspace in lonely isolation. 

There are many reasons that I was never able to get a blog or writing practice going, chief among them of course that what unclaimed time I had was given over to drinking wine or recovering from drinking wine (or cocktails sometimes because we moms deserve to kick our heels up, right?) When I did contemplate putting fingers to keyboard my thoughts and ideas seemed to scatter in dozens of different directions and I could neither marshal them nor pick a thread to follow. I had so many ideas, and so much I wanted to think and talk about, but I couldn’t find my voice and I didn’t have the discipline to look for it. 

My most-often cited stumbling block, though, was a title. “I don’t know what to call it,” I would lament, palms outspread. “It needs to be about something and it feels like it’s all been said before and better than I could anyway. All the good ideas are gone.” Who knew that what I was missing all along and in so many ways was sobriety. I have so much more time. I have (some, more) clarity. I have so much to say, and I see now that what I needed was not discipline* but hope.

When I started Storm in a New Cup 59 days ago I felt as though I was lost at sea. The waves seemed to be crashing down on me faster than I could catch my breath and it was all I could do to keep my head above water. I had no time for joy or even fun and I didn’t believe that it would ever get better, because I knew it was me. I was the sea and the waves and the storm and yet I had no control over any of it. Our home was chaotic (our home is still chaotic) and I was crushed by the feeling that I was responsible for everything and everyone. If my husband was tired or out of sorts or my kids were unhappy or fighting or acting out I felt on some level an absolute conviction that it was utterly and entirely my fault. 

In desperation I had stopped drinking five days earlier, not so much because I understood that the drinking was the problem, I see now, but because I felt I could not keep on riding the storm as I was – I was never going to figure out how to fix myself and my marriage and life itself unless I made the only change I could (finally) think of. (You have to be on top of your game to save the world, baby.) 

With the fledgling clarity of 64 days sober I am still at sea, and the waves still come (all the f**ng time,) but there is space between them, and better – so much, much better – than that, I know that I am not the storm. I am not in charge of the sea, and although waves and weather will come, they will also pass. I don’t know what the shore looks like, or whether I will ever even get there but finally, finally I feel like I can swim. 

All this by way of saying I have changed my blog’s name to better reflect what it is that I am doing here: no longer trying to be the weather or control the sea but learning to accept it and embrace it, and find my joy where I am. I am so looking forward to figuring out what I want to fill this beautiful, new sober life with. 

I am so proud of this blog. For the longest time I felt as though I wasn’t making anything but babies and dinner (which, while I am proud of those too, are not mine.) To be honest, I don’t know whether I have anything to say that hasn’t been said before, or if I can say it in way that will bring value to anyone but me, but at last I am making something of my own. It feels wonderful.

*Perhaps. This is a whole blog post – or blog – of its own.

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Hot Cross… Me

I am tucked up in our air-conditioned bedroom on freshly washed sheets, after a sublime massage, and… I am pissed. Really full of anger. I can feel my mouth pouting and I am glaring and I am trying to laugh at how ridiculous it is, but I can’t even manage that. I’m mad that even as relaxed and tired as I was, I can’t fall asleep. I’m mad about a couple of family issues that I can’t solve or even particularly help and are threatening to cause disruption in our lives. I’m mad about the demented shit show that American political life seems to have devolved into. I’m mad that I have spent 59 days wrestling my bottle-of-red habit to the ground and now I have to do the same with my 58-day-old bar-of-Lindt habit and I am chubby and my clothes don’t fit me and I am SICK of my clothes not fitting me and I LOVE chocolate and giving things up feels so hard and tiring. 

Instead of lying here stewing about all of that I decided to write this, and particularly to identify some things to be grateful about. 

My head is clear enough to recognize what I am feeling and name it: anger. 

If I am not free from shame (who among us, right?) I am at least not buckling under the weight of it as I was 59 days ago, and I do not have to be ashamed of this anger. I don’t have to defend it, or justify it or vanquish it because it doesn’t mean that I am an awful or mean or weak person, and I can type that and really feel it to be true (mostly. Who… etc.). 

I didn’t use the stresses of today as an excuse to get drunk and belligerent – or emotional and sorry for myself – and so be overwhelmed by this emotion and potentially take some self-righteous ill-advised drunken action that would have made things worse, and made these not-my-problems my problems. 

I am tucked up in an air-conditioned bedroom in the middle of a heatwave, on clean sheets. 

This community and platform exists, and contrary to all of my expectations when I started it, I have created a “proper,” real live blog and been able to write this (possibly, hopefully) somewhat coherent post and one way or another it has helped me ride out this wave. I’m not even really pouting any more. 

I am grateful for the people who read and the people who comment and the people who write their blogs. You help in so many, many ways. 

Tomorrow will be the 59th morning that I have woken up without a hangover and even if I am underslept (and probably still a bit crabby) that is so much better than the way I woke up all the mornings before that.

A lot to be grateful for, it turns out! xx

A Bitter Bottom – Call It What You Will

SoberMummy’s new post was unexpectedly provoking for me. Quite shortly after I started this blog I wrote that I was wrestling with the concepts of alcoholic and alcoholism, but I did not really draw any conclusions then and, as my reaction to SM’s friend made clear this morning, I have not yet come to terms. I have been kind of mulling over another post following on from the first one about this, and this morning I was all fired up and ready to go. I realised, though, that I was not responding from a healthy place. 

I do believe that there is a lot of work to be done – for myself and in wider discussion – on this important and extremely complex subject, but one of the things that I have been thinking about today is how important it is to tread with care and kindness around matters of identity. How personal, and sacred, our identities are to us, yet they exist almost by definition in the collective. If I am to claim (or reject) alcoholic as part of my own identity, I necessarily enter a shared a space, about which many other people have deep feelings and beliefs.  

The second reason I realised I was not ready to weigh in here is my very personal and emotional response to the post. I believe that I was insanely lucky to come to sobriety when and how I did. By grace, my drinking has been without obvious or evidently irreparable consequences. No dui’s, no great physical harm to myself and none to my kids, and my marriage has survived despite my neglect and selfishness. Indeed, in these (still) early days of my new life and as I begin to reckon with my past, my husband’s love and steadfastness are gifts whose magnitude and generosity I can hardly bear to contemplate. 

Before I stopped drinking my thinking went along the lines of, “As long as I don’t get to the point of being an actual alcoholic, I won’t have to stop completely. Forever. How awful that must be.” Today I saw clearly how dangerous this is. On some secretsecretsecret level, I have been telling myself that I stopped in time. I stopped before I became an alcoholic. All these weeks of doing all this work of not drinking and I have been holding open a little escape hatch. I’ve been setting myself up to fail. 

What I am sitting with tonight is this. Whether or not I claim this identity, however complex and nuanced it is, it is not one of degree. I was bad enough. I was sad enough. I was sick enough. I was hurting myself and my family enough and enough was too, too much. 

I intended including the story of my “bottom” moment in this post (hence its title) as part of the process of really cementing for myself what my drinking was like and why this fragile sobriety is so precious and utterly essential to the life I want for myself and my family, but I have run out of day and steam. I need to do it, and I think I need to post it here as I don’t seem to have quite got the hang of being totally honest with myself, but it will keep for another day. Today is day 57, and I am so very grateful to be here. 

Truckin’

Day 52 – still here! I started feeling a bit of… guilt, I guess, or maybe embarrassment, that I am not blogging more frequently or abounding with the insights and energy that others seem to be at this stage of early sobriety, but then I realized that is a bit ridiculous. It doesn’t matter what my sobriety looks like for now, as long as I keep doing it – that is, not drinking – and so far that is going just fine. I am working hard to prioritize my sleep (at this stage my need for sleep!) and, as we decided not to put the kids in any kind of summer camp this year I am also full (FULL!)-time parenting three very energetic little boys. I am struggling with a bit of brain fog, which I hoped would have lifted more by now but under the circumstances perhaps just a function of not having enough time and head space to really organize my thoughts. If I am honest (and isn’t that why we are here?!) I have been giving my sugar dragon its head for too long and with too much abandon, and that is probably also taking a toll on my energy levels, mental health and waistline (ffs!). Onward…

Ah, Friday

Today is another milestone – 40 days since my last drink. This is the second-longest period of abstinence ever in my adult life, and by some margin the longest of intentional sobriety. (I was af for 87 days in 2015 as part of a paleo/whole30 lifestyle reset but that was all about getting fit and healthy and had nothing to do with my relationship with alcohol, which was clearly not a problem. At all. I just happened to count every single day that I didn’t drink, and then remember the count for two years because… Well, you know.)

So here I am! I feel pretty good. I am less anxious and my emotions are more stable. My thoughts (and my skin! Ha!) are much clearer and I have quite a bit more energy. My sleep issues have not resolved and I am beginning to accept that I may have to take further steps to improve things on that front. My therapist is fairly strongly of the opinion that I would benefit from a regimen of antidepressants and/or anti-anxiety medication but I am reluctant. I am trying to think clearly and honestly about my reasons, and when I get a chance may try to hammer them out in a post: perhaps someone reading has thoughts/experience on the matter and would be willing to weigh in. I think at this stage my chief objection is that I have only just begun to feel that I am truly “at the wheel,” if that makes sense, and I am not ready to relinquish this newfound sense of control (also something I would like to come back to, as the control I have gained through surrender has been a profound and unexpected shift for which I am deeply grateful.) I recognize that there is place for nuance here, but I think I am only just beginning to reckon with how much of an impact alcohol had on my behavior and personality and emotional landscape and I don’t really want to introduce another mind-altering substance until I have a proper handle on who I am. In any case, although inadequate sleep is definitely impacting me, it’s not a new problem – the hideous 3am wake ups were one of the things that motivated me to make this change – and underslept beats the pants off underslept and hungover, it turns out.

I’m sitting in the car park of the railway station waiting for my husband’s train and I’ve run out of time. I’ll try to come back to this tonight. Leaving aside all of the other aspects of this journey I do not know how I found the time to drink the way I did.

**Saturday** Day 41 is begun! I should probably wrap this up anyway as it’s getting a bit long. On reflection, I found the time to drink because I was resigned to not achieving or creating anything beyond the minimum required to get three little boys and a household through the day. (Not nothing, I’ll grant, but a level of “rolling down the hill” is possible that doesn’t demand a lot of brainpower.)

I just want to share this one last thing because it was so affirming and perfectly timed. It will be a good moment to come back to and may hopefully even encourage someone else!

(*Tuesday* I have woken up in the middle of the night thinking about this post. There was a great, valuable lesson for me in what I had posted but it used details about other people’s drinking which, even in this anonymous setting, I do not feel good about. We’re all on our own journeys. I was around people drinking and I was jealous, and then I was beautifully reminded that it is not the elixir of relaxation and happiness it appears to be. I’m grateful for that.)

Saturday morning, and I am so happy and grateful not to be hungover or scheming and wondering how early we can start drinking again. Have a wonderful sober weekend! x