have been thinking about cycles and patterns as I move through the tail end of my first year sober. this time is coinciding for me with the dog days of the English summer. when the dusty nettles and brambles loom high and the thoughts of school shoe shopping become unavoidable.

one pattern I see, as time goes on, is that of followers to my blog. I have a little squeak of pleasure when I get notification of a new follower, sometimes but not always turning to annoyance when I see it is someone trying to increase the traffic to their own blog selling something. (is there anything one can do with these people, by the way? can one block them, somehow? it is like litter on my blog lawn. bah.)

but the other new followers – sometimes they have a blog of their own, which is lovely. and I usually pop over to see them, sometimes follow them myself in due course (I cannot follow everybody! I do allegedly have a real life to lead!) but of course there is absolutely no obligation to blog, or to comment. and some people never do.

and I wonder sometimes how all these quiet folk are doing, the ones who never speak in class, or call attention to themselves. the ones for whom following a blog is a huge step towards recovery. to be reaching out, touching hands with this community.

and I also wonder, more sadly, about the missing in action commenters and bloggers. the ones whose voices have stilled. some I know are checking in occasionally to the soberverse, breezing through to a chorus of grateful welcomes like a student returning from a gap year. “yes! nothing new to say, but still sober! all amazing!” and then they are gone again until the next time. and I am always so delighted to see them, and fret occasionally that I spend too much time in the sobersphere. which is bollocks, obv. getting sober is like being a parent, as Paul says. not only in that there is no finish line, but also that there is no one right way to do it.

but the others: oh, the others. you are of whom I am thinking on this Monday morning, if you are reading this – having popped in, or followed and never commented, or chatted here before – and if you have gone back out, and don’t know how to find your way back…

because the sad truth is that relapse is a frighteningly frequent occurrence. one statistic I read recently is that 90% of those trying to get sober relapse at least once during the first four years. and that is terrifying. far worse even than the chances of surviving flying bombers in the Second World War. and I know a major reason that I have avoided it myself (so far, she says, realistically) is by reading the heart-rending stories of those who have relapsed and implored me not to.

and I don’t have a magic wand. I wish I did. the twin swords of information and support are all I have. I hope that by being here, and typing out how much better my life is now, I can be one of the multitude of pinpricks of light in the darkness. so perhaps some of you can head your planes home, and land safely one more time. get home to your new lives.

the title and image of this post is taken from the poem ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ by Keats, a story of a knight enslaved by a beautiful and cruel lady. a lady without pity. a lady who destroys, because it is her nature to destroy.

‘And there she lulled me asleep
And there I dreamed – Ah! woe betide! –
The latest dream I ever dreamt
On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried – ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!’

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill’s side.’

whether you are still in the cavern, or fighting your way out, or resting on your laurels after a noble battle – I wish you warmth, and comfort, and joy, and freedom from enchantment.

stay here, warriors. keep away from La Belle Dame.

70 days to go to one year.