…There is magic in the details.

I’ve been living in this fog for a while now, how long I’m not really sure. I open my eyes and still don’t feel as though I’m seeing. I walk around and still can’t feel my feet touching ground. People I love talk to me and I watch their lips move and their faces change and their words and affections bounce off me like I have my own invisible shield.

I go for long walks and take deep breaths, counting to three, holding my nose, sustaining release. I hold onto the man I love but my heart is still empty and aching, I cannot hold him close enough…I feel I could crush his bones into mine and still feel this distance.

I stare into the mirror and I laugh emptily at this face I don’t recognise. My voice rings like a song too far out of reach to make out words.

What is happening to me?

I go to social events and wait for something, anything. I drink heavily in the hope that something is going to jolt me back into my body and I am bitterly disappointed. Instead the poison I keep deep down inside of me rises up like it usually does when I drink and I spit it all out over anyone close to me, I push them away, I scream, I try and make them hurt because I can. It isn’t fair that these people can just go through life as though nothing is wrong; sit there laughing and joking and drinking as though the world is theirs to leisurely walk through without a care. I hate everyone. Get away from me.

 My jealousy over normalcy eats me up from the inside and I am left with only ashes and the same old fog of the day before; and the day before that, and the day before that.

I’m lying in the spare room bed because I’m afraid my thumping heart will disturb my partner. My heart beat is frightening me and it’s slowly getting faster and my spine is aching. I feel as though the world is ending even though nothing in the ordinary magnolia walls reflects this feeling of impending apocalypse and every breath feels like it might catch halfway up my windpipe and be my last. Tears prick my eyes; hot and heavy tears and I blink trying to keep them at bay but before I know it I am flooding. The flood lasts for hours and hours, accompanied by my thudding heart and ragged breaths and I find myself praying for this all to end. I don’t think I can live in this fog anymore, a world away from any real sense of connection.

The sun has risen and I am still crying, I find myself muttering to myself to just stop. Stop this; but I can’t. Stop it. Stop IT!

Eventually I am dry and nothing more can be rung from me. I arise and put my body into the shower. I am exhausted and trembling. I sit on the sofa and stare out of the window for a few hours then pick up my phone and without thinking about what I am doing I call the doctors…and listen to it ring. Eventually a female answers and I open my throat and thick words crackle out of me “Yes, hi. I’d like an appointment please…I…I think I need help”.

That day is ingrained into my soul like no other. I remember it so vividly as those that preceded it fade into nothing. It’s like a burning beacon in my memory. Booking the appointment and then getting dressed, walking down the road to the doctors as though I was being followed. I was desperate. I remember how desperate I was like an echo in the heart. I remember sitting in the chair opposite my GP and plead with silent eyes for an answer. The GP nodded and looked at some of my previous history, asked about my family; asked about me. I told and I didn’t lie. With a bobbing head he hands me a prescription and a form to fill in for the mental health referral team.

My first week on anti-depressants was an odd one. At first I was on a little bit of a high. When I got home from the doctors surgery I remember a huge sense of relief. I’d done it, I had realised I have a problem and I had actually made the first step towards getting help and not told any lies. The act of actually looking the issue straight in the face had started me on a path to recovery I would only later truly comprehend but after years of denial this first step felt like a huge leap.

I knew I shouldn’t drink on anti-depressants so this was also one of the first steps to addressing my alcohol problem…

I took the pills. I took one a day and I really looked inwards into myself for a few weeks. The fifth day I could almost feel chemicals in my brain adjusting, it was almost like a headache that isn’t quite painful. I was distant but different to the distance I had grown used to, it was lighter, less dense. I didn’t tell anyone but I would sometimes find conversations difficult and my clumsiness became a source of amusement for me and my partner who knew what I was going through. People would speak and I would process before responding, then when I did respond it was almost a surprise to me and I would laugh; the words almost floating in front of my eyes in the air.

I slept better. The internal monologue I had been carrying had been dulled to a murmur and was easier to ignore, or rather I just didn’t have the energy to care.

I couldn’t tell what was the pills and what was ‘me’. Am I doing this? Am I making this happen or is this the medication? I didn’t care at this point. Something was happening. That was all I needed; change.

I spent two weeks sleeping, processing, adapting. Like a new born who needs to tread life softly, delicately for fear I would break apart and drift into the atmosphere.

Finally after approximately three weeks I started to feel more human, less conscious of what was going on in my brain. Only this time the fog had dissipated and I had been so pre-occupied and fascinated with my internal goings on that I didn’t even notice. I looked with my eyes and they could see. I went for walks and I saw the shapes and colours that make up the world around me and I was in them. I looked at my partner and saw his face and his smile and felt something inside me wake up.

One day I went for a walk and looked at the leaves on the ground and burst into tears. They were wonderful! My dog gave me a confused look and I cried and laughed because I could see the leaves and I could see their colours and that was wonderful.

I went for my first social outing since ‘that day’ at the doctors and my partner held my hand under the table, knowing I was suffering badly with social anxiety, knowing I would struggle when people asked why I wasn’t drinking. We had discussed it and I wasn’t ready to tell people what I was going through, it felt private. It felt almost sore, like if I spoke of it to anyone else it would start hurting me again. I made it through but not without being asked if I was pregnant; amusing but not the truth.

I sometimes wonder If I hadn’t gone on medication and if I hadn’t gone to the doctor for help that day, would I still have eventually reached the conclusion that sobriety was the answer for me? I don’t know. I am glad for that day though. I look back and I am so thankful that I didn’t stay lost in that fog and allow myself to disappear completely.

Eventually my sense of self and of where I sat within reality re-aligned. The stronger I grew the easier it was to open up to those close to me and for me to be more honest with myself and others.

The most wonderful thing though was that along the way I rediscovered my ability to see all the magic there is in the world, the magic in the details. The blue of the veins under my skin, the soft kind brown of my partners eyes, the feeling of my feet stood solid on the ground, the sound as a laugh breaks free from my chest and goes ringing into the air as a reminder of joy; startling and brilliant.

For so long it was closed off to me, hidden by the fog. Depression was like having all my nerve ends severed, it felt like ‘nothing’ like I was completely empty. Alcohol unleashed the worst of me at myself and those I loved. Both were entwined in each other and moulding my life into something painful to endure…

…but I got out…How long had I been there? My memories are sometimes difficult to retrieve and I have lost days, weeks.

…But I got out. I am here. I am present.

….”sobriety is boring”

It’s a Saturday day time and I am bored. I have the whole day to myself…and I don’t know what to do with it. 

What do people do, who don’t spend the whole weekend being hungover?

I didn’t realise I spent so many of my days off hungover. I don’t miss the hangover but I’ve hit a new obstacle in my sobriety journey. So, I don’t stay out all night until 4am (carrying a pumpkin and trying to climb into the house via the window) and I don’t subsequently spend the whole of the next day alternating between lying on the bathroom tiles and eating every brand of crisps I can get a hold of that are ‘beef’ flavoured. 

I’m bored. Sobriety is boring.

I find myself relating to Memes on Facebook “ALCOHOL – because no great story started with a salad!”. Maybe they are right. Maybe I am fighting a losing battle. Maybe life IS boring without alcohol. 

Only that can’t be the answer because alcohol is making me fucking miserable. It used to be fun, until it wasn’t. Now I can’t remember the last time it was fun. So what now?

The answer was in my past. Way way way back to a girl who hung out in her purple bedroom in a yellow paint stained dressing gown.

Once upon a time I was too young to drink. That’s right, I had lived quite a number of years happily booze free and not even realising I was supposedly “missing out”. Interesting. 

I didn’t have friends back then. I had paint brushes, books, long walks in the woods just daydreaming to myself, I made maps of imaginary worlds, wrote stories, I sang songs and lived a full existence and never once felt bored. That was what was different about me to my siblings…I always knew how to keep myself busy and happy.

One hangover free Saturday I went into town and without really thinking about it I bought myself a drawing pad and some graphite pencils. I took myself home and I plonked my bum down and I sat for a few hours with some music on and just drew…for hours. Hours and hours. In fact I sat drawing for pretty much the entire day. It was awesome. Why had I stopped doing this? Look at me, drawing, no hangover with breath that tastes like a pack of fags and 15 cans of Stella! Once my drawing was complete I was pretty impressed to see that I didn’t suck, I still had some ability and more importantly the process took me completely out of my own head. I wasn’t bored. I was strangely at peace and I had something to show for it.

Well, things just got interesting.

I bought paints. Oil paints. I used to paint like a maniac when I was a kid. Art had been one of my favourite subjects, I had the coolest art teacher at school who used to put her hair up with a pencil and would encourage my weird obsession with bird skeletons and allow me to fly my arty ‘freak’ flag as much as I pleased.

What else could I do? Hello pandoras box. I HAVE SO MUCH FREE TIME! I COULD DO ANYTHING!

I spy an old beat up guitar in the spare room and decide to have a go. I had an ex boyfriend who used to play and I would watch, head tilted to one side, secretly logging in my brain so I could have a go myself in private. I’d dabbled over the years, occasionally got really wasted and played a few songs badly at an open mic or a friends party. I never remembered playing though…I had always got way too drunk and then the next day would feel ashamed.

I’m going to learn and I’m going to perform -sober!

…and I did! The first time I signed up to play an open mic and I was sober was literally the most terrifying experience of my life. No social lubricant, no tingly sense of alcohol induced confidence. Just an overwhelming and LOUD sense of clarity. I remember getting up and the lights were in my eyes and the words to the song completely left my brain…I made a joke on the mic and I fumbled my way through a song. I heard every mistake and felt every stumble…but at the end people were clapping, my heart was thumping and I knew it wasn’t perfect but I did it! I don’t think anyone knew how much of a big deal this was for me to have done it without alcohol but secretly inside I felt wonderful. I have conquered a fear.

The more I did things that scared the living be-jesus out of me the less afraid I felt. The more my willpower grew. It was getting easier to say ‘no’ to booze and to the negative habits in my life and instead saying ‘yes’ to the so called ‘scary stuff’, the stuff I wanted to do but was to afraid I wasn’t good enough. I remember being drunk at open mics and watching girls sing and feeling that sting of jealousy that I couldn’t do that.

Well now that’s me. I’m THAT girl!

Since my decision to not let sobriety be boring or to hold me back I’ve been WAY more productive and fearless. I spent the majority of my twenties ‘living for the weekend’ and thinking that the fun was at the bottom of a wine bottle, that I missed out on so much. I had forgot all the things that used to make me happy organically and left behind that girl in the yellow dressing gown. I kept trying to be someone I wasn’t and it eventually made me very unhappy. Now I feel more myself than ever and actually proud of the person I am. Being a party girl made me despise myself, being an arty girl gives me all sorts of self love.

I don’t know about you but I don’t think that sounds boring at all. I think the stigma that sobriety is “boring” can stick itself up its own arse.

…NURTURE (part 1)

Just your usual working class home

Woodchip paper, yellow cigarette ceilings

a can of Stella perched precarious on the ironing board

heaving beats permeate between the walls

and she cries silent tears onto creased up clothes

 

The price she paid for passion watches from the floor

at a loss as to the cause

dirty hands rip holes in walls

how is it that you feel so alone

are we not enough to stem the flow?

 

Migraine dreams consume my nights

when the giants return to claim my sight

and tear my brain from within its cage

cast it forth in hollow rage

yes still it’s not my place to cry

still I cannot ask her why

 

I learned what it was to suppress

to keep the bird within my chest

and release only once it’s crazed

you can’t return from such a blaze

as she set fires to loves that she had lost

I nurtured fire of my own

and kept them warm

and burnt myself from the inside out

 

Growing pains now turned to aches

and there is soil beneath my nails

as I claw my way through – all that dirt

I piled on top of ancient hurt

and try to pull out roots to consume

So, I can heal

So, we can heal

 

She is not to blame

and neither are we

We are just by products

Walking circles

Making spirals to a deeper feeling

for a deeper meaning

behind all

this

loss

 

 

…10 things I learnt in 1 years sobriety!

Yeah, that’s right. I am writing a LIST!

It’s time for a little break from the intensity of my previous posts. My journey to sobriety hasn’t just been sobbing on shower floors whilst my dog licks my feet; although that did happen more than I like to admit.

I have learnt a lot but that would be a tedious and Long list and ain’t nobody got time for that.

So, here are just 10 things I have learnt this year of being a ‘no booze Hughes’.

  1. Drunk people will treat you like you are drunk, even though you really, really aren’t.
  2. Your breath will smell nicer. Fact.
  3. SOME PEOPLE WON’T SUPPORT YOU! That’s ok, just cut the fuckers out like you should have done years ago. Sobriety is SO much easier when your friends are behind you.
  4. Drunk people are very annoying. Be patient. They know not what they do.
  5. YOU WILL HAVE MORE MONEY!!!! That’s right. you WILL be richer. No more buying rounds to expect them in return. All of those diet cokes will pay off and you can buy a MacBook and start a blog like me!
  6. When you’ve spent most of your youth going from hangover to hangover and then suddenly take that element away; you will discover you have so much free time. You will rediscover some long lost passions. Art, music, writing. That is pretty damn cool.
  7. You will go to the pub and someone will ask if they can buy you a beer. You will decline politely and explain that you don’t drink. They will then nod and smile and proceed to justify their own drinking habits to you. Like your sobriety is making them feel judged and they feel the need to explain themselves. I’m not judging you. I didn’t call you an alcoholic. I would just like a Diet Coke please. Thanks.
  8. PEOPLE WILL ASK IF YOU ARE PREGNANT!!! No! I am NOT pregnant.
  9. Your bed sheets smell nicer. Because you no longer wrap you’re cigarette smelling, beery body into it. It’s the small things.
  10. No matter how hard it will be, the pay off is so unbelievably worth it. For each hard day, each awkward social occasion, each emotional curve ball, every single time you get through it without reaching for a boozy answer you will feel stronger and prouder. The self worth you’ve been lacking for so many years of self abuse will be your reward. You deserve to be happy. You got this kid.

There you have it!

Leave me a lovely comment of any benefits of a booze free life you’ve experienced if ya like! I am always chasing silver linings.

…dancing in nightclubs, SOBER!

I’m sat in front of my dressing table staring at my face. My eyes are big and watery, only one with mascara on, the other bare. My partner comes into the room to check on my progress asking how long it will be until I’m ready and I smile weakly and tell him it won’t be long. He leaves with a worried look and I continue staring into the mirror.

We are meant to be going out tonight. A social occasion where the drinks will be flowing and there are going to be people there I don’t want to see. I don’t want to see them because the last time we all interacted I got completely out of my mind wasted and made a scene. I haven’t seen them since and I know tonight won’t be any different. I can feel a pit in the hollow of my stomach that is a warning I’ve felt before and completely ignored.

I don’t want to go.

I’m not a good person.

I don’t want to go.

They won’t want me there.

Nobody ever wants me there.

I will ruin the night for everyone.

I feel ugly and awkward. My arms are too long and my hair won’t sit how I want it to. I can feel tears forming but I blink hard to keep them at bay. I know exactly what will happen. That pit is there for a reason and I know I shouldn’t go tonight, I know that if I drink it’s going to end badly because I feel bad, everything inside of my body is screaming at me not to do this. I want to take this dress off, and wipe my face clean and get into my pyjamas and cry and watch a film and not talk to anyone.

I ignore it.

Instead I put mascara on my second eye and allow my stomach to churn away.

I am quiet on the walk, my partner is animated trying to help my mood and I try and fake it to cover how I’m feeling.

When we arrive the group are sat shouting over the bar music at each other and smiling, drinks on the table and an air of the night having got off to a good start. They spy us coming in and wave us over. I can feel their eyes on me. I imagine what they are thinking. “Oh not her again”. “Why is she here?” I try and make myself look small, apologetic for existing.

My partner asks what I want and I order a Stella Artois with blackcurrant. My usual poison. The only way I am going to get through this is to not be present; I need to get drunk right now. I can’t stand my own thoughts and I don’t know how I am going to talk to these people, my friends.

I drink half my pint quickly and start to feel the warmth gradually wash the negative monologue away. When my partner is distracted I excuse myself to go to the toilet but instead I got to the bar and order a secret shot of Sambuca to hurry the process along. I’m too aware of myself and my thoughts still. It won’t be ok until I am drunk.

When I return I am well oiled. I have loud conversations, I gesticulate wildly and I am the biggest participator in any debates. I am sparkling. Look at me go. Eyes are on me and I have an acid tongue and quick wit. My social inhibitions stripped and a new version of myself born out of  a shot glass.

I keep making secret trips to the bar to keep clarity at bay. And gradually I slip away from myself and become consumed in a black hole. There are vague flickers throughout.

Flicker; I’m crying. Flicker; I am on the floor and my knees are bloodied. Flicker; I am screaming at a friend. Flicker; I am telling secrets to strangers. Then I disappears into the darkness.

….

When I awake it’s with a jolt of pain and a dry mouth. I am on the spare room floor fully clothed and I have no idea how I got here. The contents of my handbag are all over the floor and my breath is fire.

My partner comes into the room with a look in his eyes. I have seen it before. I start to sob as he asks me what I remember which isn’t very much. He won’t say it but I know he is disappointed in me.

I wish I hadn’t gone out. I knew it was a mistake. The warning signs were all there I just don’t know how to listen to them. I should be able to go out and socialise with friends without doing this. Why don’t other people end up like this? What is wrong with me?

A small voice inside of me says “You need to stop drinking…you know you do” and I shake my head thinking “but why should I?”

..What is wrong with me?

Once upon a time I was a young girl with horrific social anxiety who just did not fit in. I didn’t fit in with peers at school, I was raised a Jehovah ’s Witness from a young age but I didn’t fit in with the other kids there either. Most of my time was spent in quiet, in my purple bedroom, reading books, writing in my journal, drawing pictures and carving out a world made from my imagination. I liked being alone in my own company. People weren’t my friends. I didn’t know how to have friends. I was the weird kid. I was the girl who didn’t have a Dad, I wore my hair in a side pony tail, had bushy eyebrows and I didn’t know how to talk to people.

Eventually after years of being home schooled my need for social companionship arose and I asked my Mum if I could go back into school. I did and it was hard, and I was still classed as an ‘odd’ girl but there was a desire in me to have friends. I did make friends eventually and I would do what most people do in their early teens and adjust and sculpt my personality so that I would be more ‘appealing’ to my peers. Not too drastically but I would lie or cover up certain aspects of my past in order to avoid awkward questions or to scare people away. I felt that some elements of my upbringing were shameful or unpleasant. So I hid them.

It wasn’t long before I started to lead a double life. A Jehovah’s Witness girl should be chaste, modest, not succumb to excesses of any kind. I was torn between my love of my parents and their wishes for me to remain within the religion and my own need to stretch myself out, to explore my burgeoning womanhood and to experience life without those limitations. I would lie and sneak out of the house to meet friends and drink beers in the park under summer night skies. I had my first boyfriend, who would help me explore my sexual side, who would delight in being my biggest secret.

Later when I was old enough to get away with looking old enough to drink, I would have a favourite pub. Me and my college friends would spend most of our weekends there and dance on tables, sing karaoke songs and my new boyfriend would insist I watch him win games of pool.

I found alcohol broke through some of those social insecurities that would still threaten to overwhelm me, where self-doubt and anxiety would whisper sour nothings in my ear. I could be bold and brash and loud and dance all night and not be that girl who was bound to the confines of her safe purple bedroom. I also didn’t know when to stop, throwing up as early as nine at night into gutters whilst the current boyfriend patted my back and waited for it to subside, whilst friends the following day would reassure me that it “happens to everyone”, binge drinking is cool. Being the girl that gets a little too wasted and lives to tell the tale, covered in thick eyeliner and shoeless walking through damp 4am streets, means you are really living. “You’re just making up for lost time babe”.

It wasn’t a problem. If it was a problem then everyone was guilty.

This phase spilled over into my twenties…and the alcohol excess became an everyday occurrence. I was the ‘yes’ girl; if there was a party, night out, or an excuse to drink I would be there. Whisky into lattes and drinking at 9am to recover from the come down of the night before. The party must not stop! I must always be having fun, or be seen to be having fun and that means drinking. All – of – the – time. I was stick thin and would forget to eat, choosing to suppress my appetite with alcohol instead, if I threw up halfway through the night it just meant there was room for more, not a reason to stop.  I would wake up in strange houses surrounded by strangers and do the walk of shame proud to have another story to tell my more conservative friends.

The party can’t last forever though, and before long it became something I did because I didn’t know what else to do. Go from hangover to hangover and wait for the next thing to come along where I could lose myself. Pretty soon I lost all sense of worth as those who had left the party moved on to more substantial things in their lives…and I was left behind still trying to hold on to something empty.

After I decided to go sober one of my biggest obstacles was the uprising of social anxiety that came with the clarity. I would have full blown panic attacks at the thought of going out with friends and having to explain to them that I don’t drink anymore. How would they react? Would I be able to stay strong enough to abstain? How do I let go of my insecurities enough to enjoy life with a clear mind when most of my life has been clouded by booze.

In the beginning it was hard. Some people didn’t understand my reasons. I often had the sentence “but you’re so fun when you drink? Can you not just cut down?” or “Go on, just have a couple!” flung my way, as though my issues with alcohol had been blown out of proportion. A part of me believes those comments stem from a fear of putting their own habits under a microscope but that’s for another blog…

I learned how to listen to my mind and my body and say ‘no’ when I knew I would struggle with anxiety when asked to certain events or occasions. I didn’t want to say no to everything though and allow my social anxiety to rule over my life completely so as long as I felt up to it I did go out. I went out and every single time I got through a night and didn’t drink I would go home feeling stronger, feeling more and more like this would get easier. I started being more candid and open about my sobriety decision and about my struggles with anxiety and found that in being truthful and open people would be a lot more understanding and supportive. I stopped giving a crap about what others thought and started caring more about how I felt.

It felt good.

A big breakthrough came after a few months of sober nights out. I was in the darkest dirtiest nightclub in town. This was the kind of nightclub people claim they can’t enter unless completely wasted and here I was paying entry about to enter the belly of the beast; completely sober! It was my boyfriend’s birthday and this was where we were ending up. The first thing I realised was how badly the place smelt…it’s strange what passes your senses by when you’re tippled. I walked around and watched people dancing and shaking their hair with abandon and felt increasingly self-conscious.

They are going to know I am not like them. They’re all going to know I am not drunk.

My friends grab my hands and drag me to the dance floor and I start to dance whilst watching the people around me.

My limbs are stiff and I am hyper aware of everything. I must look so unnatural and the urge to start laughing is strong.

Eventually as some songs I actually like play, I loosen up, realising that not a single person here cares about me, or notices that I am not drunk like them. I feel elated when a drunk guy with no top on throws his arms around me yelling something unintelligible,  which I interpret as drunken encouragement to enjoy the song. I feel elated. I am dancing with abandon. Nobody cares about me. Everyone here is treating me like I am drunk and I’m not. I am really, really sober. Look at me go!

I drive home because I can. My partner is drunk and throwing his slurry affection my way and in my chest my heart thumps as I realise I’ve made a major breakthrough. I’m not afraid of sobriety anymore. I can go out until 4am and dance and talk rubbish like any other person and still hold on to myself. This is huge. This is life changing. I can’t believe it.

I still can’t believe it.

I have had some amazing nights in this year of sobriety. And have noticed a huge difference in my anxiety levels. I’ve noticed I do still need some alone time, to have a ‘purple bedroom’ day and store up my energy for social occasions BUT I can have both. I can be both girls without losing myself.

….and it’s bloody magic.

 

 

 

 

 

…the weight of a heart…

I’m sat in the living room at my Grandparents house. The TV is on but I’m not really paying attention. My Nanna is sat in her usual chair and my Grandad sprawled out on the sofa. We are sat in silence and I am deafened.

It’s the first time I have been here since I found out Nanna was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. I found out in a phone call. We’ve briefly touched on it. My Nan and I talk, she speaks in clipped abrupt sentences and there is an anger I have never seen in her before. Her language used to be long and fluid, coloured by inner smiles and delivered with heart. Whenever I think of her there is always softness, kindness, a patience that has never ending depths. I sit and I ask mundane questions and I’m not sure what to say, and I’m afraid of the wrong words said in the wrong way. For some reason I feel so much distance between us and I have no idea how to reach across to her. I want to cry, and to hold her and to tell her I love her, I want to ask the hardest deepest questions and delve into what this all means but I can’t. We dance around the subject for a while then sit and watch the TV and I am yearning for something I can’t place. 

I am so aware. I can feel my whole body. I can feel them sat near me and I can feel – her. I can feel her brain. I can hear my breath in my ears. I can feel my heart beating and there’s a knot in the pit of my stomach making me want to run. I wonder what she’s thinking. I’m too afraid of what the answer would be. This is new for me. Nannas house has changed from a second home to a strange place of uncertain grounds and listening walls. I need to leave. I need to leave right now. 

I have the dog with me. He needs a walk. I tell them I’m going out for a walk which is fine. I leave the house and step outside and it’s a clear night. There are a few stars out and as soon as I step into the night air I release a huge breath I didn’t realise I had been holding.

I don’t know where I am going but I find myself outside a shop. I tie the dog to a post outside and walk in and buy four flavoured cider drinks. I figured the fruity ones don’t smell as strong so it will be easier to disguise. I make this decision without even processing it. I buy a pack of ten cigarettes and a lighter and I walk towards the park. 

My mind is still very sharp yet distant from me. My legs take me to the park and I find a bench looking into a field. I can see everything in fine details. Blades of grass, individual leaves. The sky is so big and I feel so lonely. My heart feels dull and I think I might cry but my face is dry. I wish I would cry but it doesn’t happen.

 The Dog is happy sniffing around the unfamiliar area. I open my first flavoured cider and I drink half of it in one go and light a cigarette. I sit there and stare at the sky. I drink my cider and I smoke cigarettes one after the other until the sharp edges become blurred. I can feel my thoughts slowly get foggier.

I have no idea how long I’ve been sat here but my ciders are gone and so have all my cigarettes. I make the walk home, not really feeling my feet touching ground. I walk into the house and they are exactly as I left them. They ask if I enjoyed the walk and I smile and nod and give them a kiss and sit back down.

Everything is exactly as I left it, only now I am calm. Now I am numb. The blur is bliss. I allow the evening to wash me away…

The next day I awake and I feel dull and grey. I head to the kitchen and Nanna and I make small talk but there is a tension and I am not sure If it’s my fault or not. The fog is no longer the warm fog of the booze and is instead a heavy thudding cloud formed by the aftermath of my evening bench session. I taste of cigarettes, a flashback of an old habit everyone thinks I’ve left behind. I think she knows but she doesn’t say anything. I can still sense anger inside of her and later that day as we say our goodbyes it’s as though we are two strangers.

In the evening I drive home and I start to cry – Slow and heavy tears. They roll down my cheeks and into my lap and all I want to do is drive back and pour my heart out and explain to her everything she has ever meant to me; but I don’t. I carry on driving and hope someone will meet me for a drink when I get home. 

Quite some time has passed since that particular visit.

I recall how much I struggled with clarity back then, how I was afraid to be alone in my own head; afraid to feel anything in it’s pure form. I had a way of supressing any negative emotions or experiences to “put on a brave face”.

I was known as the ‘happy one’; the one in the family who seemed to go untouched by all the madness and tragedy, the one who would comfort and make everyone laugh when, ultimately I made myself an emotional cage. You see, I thought I was helping the ones I loved by being the ‘ok’ one, that because we had endured so many issues such as suicide, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia that I had an obligation to have it all together. So that was my act. That was what I would project. I would be the light relief because I couldn’t stand the thought of adding to the pain.

Alcohol went from being something I would indulge in when in a social situation; to something I would do in secret, something I could hide within. The sharp realities of life don’t hurt as much when they are dulled by a head too oiled with Stella Artois and black.

I did not handle the news of my Nanna’s mortality very well. She was one of the few constants I’d had throughout my life and I couldn’t ever imagine a world where that would no longer be true. And it broke something inside of me, and eventually all that suppressed poison would come spilling out.

A few months later

After I had been sober for a few months I decided to address how I felt about it and really embrace whatever came with that. Instead of reaching for something to dull the aches I allowed myself to experience them fully and it was almost fascinating, liberating! It hurt, and I was confused and there was an inner child in me that wanted someone to come along and fix it, take the bad stuff away. I finally cried, processed things and I called her more often. I talked to her about my own depression and my journey going sober…and that distance between us slowly grew smaller. The more I shared and opened up the more she did and that’s what I needed. I needed to know I could be there even in the smallest of ways for her, make her laugh, make her smile, talk about happy memories because there were so many!

I went to see her and I asked the big questions, I asked what I wanted to know and it was not always easy to hear because what she is going through is something I can’t understand. Not fully. I can understand anger, frustration, disappointment, hopelessness and the need to try and protect the ones we care about from pain, which is something her and I have in common. Even though she was the one with cancer all she seemed to care about was the welfare of all of us! I don’t know what it’s like to truly look my own mortality in the face. Her journey is her journey and there are some parts of it I can’t understand but at least now I am of sound mind enough to show her my love; because there is so much of it.

It’s interesting how many of us reach for a bottle to dull ourselves to pain. When you have a hard day, do you not have a few glasses of wine to ‘take the edge off’. The end of the week is celebrated in a crescendo of excess in order to reward ourselves for getting by one more week. How easy is it for us all to self medicate believing that our tipsy state is preferred to the rawness of a clear mind? Wether you have a problem with alcohol or not I bet most people can relate in some form to the phrase “drown out your sorrows”.

How many people can’t do or say some things unless lubricated with booze? Performing, admissions of love, sharing truths, dancing with abandon?

I am learning now it’s ok to feel all of it. The highs and the lows. There is a sense of freedom in knowing I am brave enough now to be alone with my own thoughts…

As for Nanna…

We had that talk. I put my head in her lap and I sobbed like a little girl and she stroked my hair and for a moment she was my Nanna and I was her Grandchild. I told her I loved her and that she was more important and special to me than she would ever really know. We laughed over old memories. I made her re-tell all the children’s stories she invented for bed times; better than any Enid Blyton or Roald Dahl because it was her voice and she made the words magic. Finally. That was what I needed. That was what I had been yearning for.

When I drove home that night I cried. This time I cried because my heart was full.

One year sober…

When I wake it’s suddenly as though I’ve been dropped into a bath full of ice. My eyes are stuck together and hard to open. Razor blades and cut glass press against the sides of my head and breathing is hard. Really hard. I fall out of sheets that smell like a twenty pack of Lambert and Butler and crawl into the bathroom, pull myself on trembling arms up to the sink and stare into the mirror. A girl with black red rimmed eyes stares at me. She has white blotchy skin and dry lips. Her hair is stuck together in clumps around her head and eyeliner tracks down her face and into the lines of her frown. I move my hands to my face and she does the same. Thats not me. She isn’t me. I don’t know that girl.

I pull the shower chord and lay my trembling naked body onto the cold tiles and let the drops hammer their disgust into me. I just want to feel clean. A razor stabs my eyes and peppers them with black spots as a memory of me screaming and crying at a faceless man, flashes my temples and I know I am going to throw up. I don’t have the strength to get up and go to the toilet and there isn’t time anyway so its hurtles out of me in waves and down the drain. I am exhausted. I am disgusting. 

I start to cry softly because it hurts. Then my whole body convulses as self loathing takes control and I am truly sobbing. I am sobbing as though I might die. I think I want to die. 

“I can’t do this anymore…” I sob into the tiles. “I just can’t do this anymore…”

….and you didn’t.

It’s been a year since that day, it’s been a year alcohol free; completely. I can’t believe those memories are mine. I can’t believe that was me…but it was. I am not her now but she is still a part of me and I guess she always will be. My alcoholism feels like it happened to someone else now which is why it’s easier to refer to it in the third person…I can’t narrate it anymore from my own perspective but I sure as hell remember her…

I thought when I got to this stage that I would be overwhelmingly jubilant…and I’m not. Don’t get me wrong I am really fricken proud of myself; but it’s way more complicated than that…

…it turns out I have a lot to say about alcohol; and my relationship with it. And about alcohol in general I guess.

I have re-written this three times now. I tried being light and breezy. I attempted the odd joke and to sound like someone you might relate to or want to be friends with. The truth is, that even though the joy of my sobriety is very much prevalent currently, the memory of this day is more important to me than the need to be ‘likeable’ in my first ever blog.

It was not that long ago that I genuinely didn’t see the point in being alive.

I have done everything in my power to turn that around. And succeeded. It wasn’t always easy though. Thats why I couldn’t start this blog easy breezy because my journey to sobriety didn’t start that way…it started with pain, and self loathing and an absolute yearning to change.

The joy came later.

This blog is where I can overspill. I do so much now to channel my emotions rather than douse them in 8% lager but it’s still not enough! It’s as though sobriety has opened the flood gates and now I can’t stop talking! I can’t stop sharing! I have too much to say!!

I’m going to be realistic about this guys. Yes, I will tackle various aspects of living a booze free life and some of that will be joyful and whimsical but not all of it. Otherwise it just won’t be a true reflection of the struggles you face trying to achieve the joy.

It is worth it though. Stick with me and I will show you how worth it.