Monday, 22 September 2014

Week 28

Would you like a cup of tea?  Simple, straightforward? My mother generally will only have one if you're having one, which infuriates my husband.  My answer will depend on my state of mind.  As a people pleaser, I will want to have one if you're having one, so that we match and I will also want to support your generosity.  However, I will also be wary of putting you to trouble or having one on my own and therein comes a problem.  I won't actually know if I would like one because I will be torn between the two.  If completely left up to me then I would hedge my bets that the answer would end up being yes, but more than one please as one is never enough.  Tea is my early morning and end of day drink, it wakes me up to the day and settles me down at the end.  It's calming and comforting, a bit of a hug in a mug.  I find it extremely difficult to drink out of cardboard cups so struggle to take it in during the day which can then result in too much coffee.  Coffee is a different problem for me.  As a latte girl, I need a bit of substance to it, watery types don't fit and, interestingly, my preference would be to drink it continuously.  Having become much more aware of its impact especially in terms of anxiety I keep my caffeine levels in measure and decaf early and in the afternoon, when I remember.  Occasionally it will get out of hand and then a restless and sleepless night will follow with all the consequences that brings.  I've also replaced the 'pub' with the 'coffee shop'.  The place to go to escape the containment that home brings.  The place to think clearly without bounds, to relax, to find solitude, to change my surroundings and remove whatever pressure is facing me today.  You won't be surprised to know that I do most of my writing in a coffee shop.  It's a huge relief to know that my children haven't spent much of their childhoods in pubs, that they don't have conscious memories of my drinking.  Previously I thought it would be cool for them to be part of that grown up scene, to connect with the sociability and have a deeper understanding of this life.  What madness my head used to contain, what possible good could it do a child to regularly see the mess that drinking brings into the lives of supposedly grown up people.  It's a substantial part of my gratitude to AA for the change that has come to the lives of my children.  There may be cake issues to deal with but it doesn't compare to what it could have been.  I may be a bit off the wall after too much coffee and sugar but at least I have never been abusive.  My husband knows what that is like, it remains to be seen whether he will ever be able to forgive and forget, but for now my children are ignorant of that part of my life and long may that be the case.
And with that, I'm going to put the kettle on.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Week 27 - the exercise

In the rush I forgot to complete this week's exercise, so here it is:

Create a scenario that arouses real anger in a character from your book or take one of your convictions and give it to one of your characters.

Intriguingly anger is an emotion that I have spent the past few weeks looking at.  It's proposed as being one of the core emotions of a human being along with fear and love.  I didn't really see myself as angry when I first came into AA but I am starting realise how much of it I am sitting on.  Anyway on with the exercise, let's give some anger to Frankie and see how she gets on.....

Version 1:
Frankie was furious, how dare Mac accuse her of being selfish, and as for taking the family on an emotional roller-coaster, what the hell was he talking about.  She picked up the bottle of wine and flung the cork across the kitchen.  Pouring herself a large glass, her body seethed as his words rolled around her head.  He had absolutely no idea what she had gone through for him.  This was most certainly not the life she had wanted and it most certainly was not on a plate.  She took a swig from the glass, still fuming and walked into the lounge, bottle in hand.  Standing in front of the fireplace, she looked at herself in the mirror.  'Who does he think he is, talking to me like that,' she said to her reflection.  'He talks to me as if I was a 4 year old, let him talk to Finn like that but not to me, I'm not standing for it.'  Another mouthful of wine and, putting the bottle on the mantelpiece, she walked across the room.  Her head continued to pound, her breathing deepening as she paced the room.
'Never has this been about me, everything has always been for everyone else.  Moving up here, buying this house, never having a moment for myself, how could this possibly be about me.'  As the wine flowed through her, she began to calm down, each mouthful quickly followed by another, the second glass disappearing as quickly as the first.  She sat down on the sofa and pulled her knees up to her chest.  She was right, as always and one day he would see that, that much she knew.

Version 2:
This wasn't how it was supposed to be, what have I done?  I look up from the kettle and, getting a mug from the cupboard, make myself a cup of tea.  It wasn't supposed to be like this, I wasn't supposed to be on my own with a child, without a job, without a husband, why should I have this, it's not fair.

As I write this, I realise that feeling angry is hard.  I want her to storm around the room, to throw the glass, to shout at her reflection, to slam the bottle on the table and yet it's all so contained.  It's as if she can't let go.  Or, is it that I can't let go?  What am I afraid of, what will happen if the cracks appear, if the heavens opened, if the rains came down.  What will it be?  Don't get me wrong, I can be angry.  I have shouted at my children, I have stormed out of the house and while sober too.  I have been absolutely livid, unable to step back from the volume that erupts from my mouth, unable to stop myself from reacting.  But is that real anger or something else? I don't know, guess that's why I'm looking at it.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Week 27

I often share in meetings how my husband saved my life.  If I hadn't fallen head over heels in love with him and had his children, it could have all turned out very differently.  The becoming a parent isn't everybody's catalyst but it was definitely mine, in so many ways.  Physically, I was at someone else's beck and call.  My baby's sleep patterns became my sleep patterns, his feeding demands satisfied through mine; I was a reactive parent, constantly one step behind him and on the back foot from day one.  Intellectually and emotionally, life changed too.  The focus of my day was no longer my own, I had this child who was dependent on me for setting up his entire life and boy, didn't I know it.  I had always said that I wouldn't be having children, that I had no right to impose my dysfunction on anything else, how grateful I am for that change of heart.  Yet, how guilty that makes me feel too for I was definitely a stressed mother (and still am, for the time being) and they will always have that.  But they changed my drinking, it had to slow down, there were less parties, less days in the pub, less days in bed wasted.  I've only recently accepted that I chose to make the changes, that I could easily, as many others have and do, carried on and not changed.  They could be much more aware of the consequences of having an alcoholic mother and for the lack of that I am truly grateful.  It is also why I began to get sober.  I finally realised that I couldn't continue with the lack of regard for the consequences, that their dependence on me was my choice and I had to reduce the damage.  Those early days sat in AA meetings, denying myself of any worth or value, thinking I could get sober for them, that it didn't have to be about me, were incredibly painful.  Fortunately, I did accept that it had to be about me and that I could only be there for others if I looked after myself.  That, if I don't put my sobriety at the foremost of my life there will always be the risk of a relapse, and what use would I be then.  It is particularly hard at the moment, as I look at my wobbly stool, to see how my home life is causing me stress.  I find it the hardest place to be myself.  I don't know if it's because I feel so responsible or because I expect so much.  The roles of wife and mother seem to clash wildly with being me and I know that I have to change this.  It doesn't mean that I have to leave them, panic not, it does mean that work is needed to get to a better place.  Weirdly, it's made me quite broody too, maybe a desire to start again from scratch instead of fixing what's broken, to take the easier route.  What's comforting is that, as I'm working at being myself, some of my old characteristics are returning and it's dawning on me that some of the person I used to be is ok.  I have moments when my energy levels are up, I'm cracking jokes and I'm having fun again.  Only this time, I'm not feeling insecure, useless, or hiding behind a mask; I actually feel comfortable being myself and am really appreciating what I've achieved.  There are still many times when I don't but I can accept the growth, not beat myself up and choose to focus on the positive.  

Monday, 8 September 2014

Week 26

One of my favourite sayings in AA is that the programme provides a 'bridge to normal living'.  For the first few months I had no idea what was meant by this.   I didn't understand that my life could be lived any other way; I didn't understand that there were others like me and I didn't understand that I could change.  Now, while I know more, I'm beginning to understand how much more there is to know.  Initially I completely rejected the fact that I could do anything normal, I felt so far away from any perception of normality that it seemed preposterous that this could apply to me.  To be fair, I didn't want it either.  I wanted excitement, unpredictability, fun; things that I thought didn't happen to normal people.  How little I knew.  As my awareness developed I began to release that my current way of living was like standing on a penny.  That I could only do it on tiptoes and that it was no surprise that I was constantly falling off.  Also, that when I looked up from my penny, it was in the sea and, that while I could see normal living, it was a long way across the water.  Little by little, my penny grew into solid land and the sea gradually became a trickle of a stream running in front of me that I could step across.  As I sit on my front steps, in glorious sunshine, the dog at my feet, a cup of tea by my side; I am enjoying reflecting on this change.   In the past I have likened life as a recovering alcoholic to walking along a fence, precariously balanced, knowing that at any moment I could slip off and fall into the depths beyond.  Today, it feels like I'm sat on a sea wall, dangling my toes into the water below.  Let's face it, there's no point living so near the sea and not knowing how to swim.  However, there are big differences between swimming in the shallows and swimming in the deep with the sharks.   I need to develop my swimming skills as well as my sailing ones to make sure that I keep myself safe and out of harms way.  In early recovery my focus was on my drinking and the basics to stay sober.  To keep myself safe for the longer term, I need to look at all aspects of my life, to make sure that my emotional/spiritual, intellectual and physical selves are well, much like a three legged stool, all growing together so that balance is maintained.  This may prove to be the hardest journey yet and I have to ask myself if I am really up for it and the consequences that it may bring.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Week 25

People often ask me if not drinking alcohol causes problems and mostly I'm getting used to it.  The first year is a really critical one in terms of the calendar of events that an alcoholic must learn to go through; the first Christmas, the first birthday, New Year's Eve, the 6 nations, etc.  All those moments that in a previous life would have been possible sprees, opportunities to let hair down or, in my case, stressful times that I would worry about for weeks ahead and then rue for weeks afterwards.  I would consider not drinking and then decide on a drink plan to ensure that I wouldn't get drunk before failing miserably and possibly with dire consequences.  There are also events that don't happen on an annual basis such as weddings and funerals and they can cause considerable damage to an alcoholic in recovery.  It seems that I was fortunate (not that it felt like it at the time) to have my first wedding in sobriety on my 6 month birthday, not mine of course but my husband's niece.  It was preceded by the hen do which was possibly more foreboding than the wedding.  A bunch of bright young beautiful successful 30 somethings, all doomed to heighten all my shortcomings and, as we term them in AA, my 'less thans'.  By the way, we also have our 'more thans', moments when we feel holier than thou and better than everyone else, the ego coming into play and sometimes more challenging to deal with.  In the end, I sailed through both events, thanks to handing over to my HP and living in the moment.  It was fascinating watching other people drinking without envying every sip and seeing for myself the range of effects that alcohol has on people and the consequent impact on others.  The emotional nightmare who leans on everyone for support, sharing her deepest woes with complete strangers; drinking stories regaled as if they were badges of honour regardless of the trauma caused to others; people devastated by their partners behaviour; non-jokes resulting in howls of laughter.  And then, the joy of the hangover, now that was fantastic and I have to work really hard at not being holier than thou.  The downing of paracetamol, pints of water, buckets of coffee and the complete loss of a day.  It was also great to dance again and realise how much that drinking had taken away from me.
These past weeks have seen some different challenges.  For one, we have been camping and going to sleep on rough sloped ground in a gale whilst sober is a challenge I hadn't seen coming.  Likewise, sitting with friends who were sharing a bottle of one of my favourite wines was another.  The temptation to accept a sniff was overwhelming but perseverance held in and I got through it.  I had to distance myself as memories of it flooded back.  The scent of it filled my nostrils, the taste of it on both my tongue and the back of my throat bounced around my head.  Memories of how relaxed I felt after that initial sip, my body aching to feel that again.  I was practically sat on my hands during dinner, sipping at my soft drink and blanking out any discussion related to it.  Fortunately my head also tuned me into possible consequences of that sip, the heated arguments that could follow and the tension that would be unbearable.  At an AA meeting post-holiday, I likened my relationship with consequences to the ticking of terms and conditions boxes.  Every drink I take comes with my associated ticking of the box without reading the small print; I may have been fully aware of the implications but I was certainly not interested in accepting the responsibility of my actions.  Its an awful thing to write; how can I possibly not take that responsibility and yet it is the story of every addict regardless of vice.  There is a complete detachment of logical and reasonable behaviour, families and friends are caught up in the tornado whipped up by an alcoholic frenzy.   All the while, the alcoholic continues to beat themselves up, attempts to fix wrong after wrong, completely oblivious to the path of destruction lying around them.  For many, it can take years to realise and own these consequences, for some it can be too much and they will never come to terms with it.  For me, I can see what I have done but I am struggling to make appropriate amends and struggling to always change my behaviour from what is expected.  The good news is that I made it through the holidays, I felt relaxed for the most of it and I’m now using September as a refresh point.  I know my shortcomings and I am working at them, how much better can it get?