worrying has always been a favourite hobby of mine. I watch my children for it like a hawk, trying to spot introspection and tummy aches for no reason. luckily they are on the whole remarkably resilient little creatures.
the antidotes to worrying often carry greater risks than the worry itself. as a teenager I used food as an antidote, mainlining chocolate Hobnobs (ack ack ack). then alcohol proved a far more powerful hammer, able to knock down any fragile wall inside me against it without a thought, until the antidote became the poison I was fighting.
and now in my twelfth month of sobriety the worry snake is winding back around me. tightening its coils, making sure of its grip.
I worry that this sobriety, so hard fought for, can slip through my fingers in a trice. in the last week or so there have been more frequent than usual fleeting thoughts of alcohol when I am in a stressful situation. it is as if the approaching anniversary of my sobriety has opened the door a crack so these thoughts can return, like the souls of the dead returning to their homes for one night on All Hallows Eve.
I bat these thoughts away like the pesky gnats they are. if they persist I get down my shotgun. In Michelle’s words in my go-to post on relapse:
‘I remember when I was a kid, I read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ‘Little House on the Prairie’, and I was terrified at the part when the pack of wolves surrounded the house, silent and watchful. Laura’s father sat up all night, a shotgun on his lap, while the family slept. He was the only thing standing between the wolves and the whole life he had built up there on the prairie. Every single thing that he loved, and which meant something to him, was in that house. He knew that he couldn’t let even one of those animals in; if he did, it was all over.’
So, that’s how I think, sometimes. Sometimes I remind myself that the wolves are out there, circling and watching, waiting for me to be weak or sad or vulnerable. To lay down my weapon, lower my defenses, get complacent and lazy and arrogant and careless. Then they can look for a way in. All that stands between them and my kids, my husband, my writing, my life, is me. I can’t afford to let even one of those wolves in, not even once.
What do I do if one gets too close to the house? Well, I take it down. I don’t fire a warning shot, or shoot to hurt or even maim. I have done this too many times now to play that game – I know full well that I have to shoot to kill. And after nine-plus years of the wolves trying to get in to my life from time to time, I am a damn good shot. I get ‘em between the eyes, every single time.’
she’s a grand writer, Michelle!
I worry mostly that the person I am becoming, without alcohol, will still not be enough. that I am not enough of a mother, a wife, a worker. I worry that I am filling out these roles inadequately and the irony is that I KNOW, I KNOW that the worrying is what MAKES me inadequate at these roles. that the introspection reaches a critical point after which it just becomes another burden to carry and I long, oh how I long, to set it down like a heavy rock and just walk away. because right now it feels like daily life is like wading through a Rotoruan mud pool.
an example of this is my current progress on the UFYD challenge. last week’s total was a measly 4 hours (running total over 6 weeks: 47.5 hours.) this was due primarily to long-arranged social commitments over the weekend which were a complete blast 🙂 but then the contrast this week at re-addressing some fairly nasty issues is leaving me reeling.
so, I scrabble in the now near empty locker for worry antidotes old and new.
alcohol: not there any more.
food is now in a bottle marked ‘use with caution’. I spent so long fighting that one that anything more than a couple of biscuits seems impossible to take. I had a really tough meeting yesterday afternoon and promised myself a food treat afterwards. went to local cafe: all slices of cake looked too enormous. went to Waitrose bakery counter and the almond croissants seemed nearly as big as my head. eventually ended up with a single wrapped flapjack, approximately 1.5 inches by 2 inches. because that was all I wanted. I suppose I should be grateful for that hard-won moderation but sometimes I wish that the old binging still worked for me, in the same way I think sometimes that I wish I thought booze would still hit the button. to have the sweet illusion at least that it will cure my ills. too late. that train has left.
running still works for me. and am very conscious that have not run for a week due to injury and that if I had I might be easy breezy right now. and if you are fed up of me bemoaning my frazzledness and then saying… ah, haven’t run for a bit…whoops.…then hit me over the head with a blog shovel and depart. you’d be justified, tbh.
but…I think I need more. that I need something else to take me out of my own head for a bit. or do I? do I just need to get more used to living there?
as you can tell I am in typical anniversary panic mode! in preparation for Year Two of sobriety have recently bought a couple of books by Guy Hettelhack: ‘First Year Sobriety’ and ‘Second Year Sobriety’.
am working my way through the former and can’t recommend it highly enough. it summarises much of my experience in the last year in a way that would have been really helpful to have had earlier in the journey. it uses the experiences and stories of others in recovery to illustrate common experiences in the first year. it is very loosely 12 step based but not to an extent that put me off, as a non-AA member. it is particularly good on the topic of witnessing our feelings, rather than believing that we are our feelings. Here is a passage I found particularly helpful:
‘As we allow ourselves to witness our feelings, rather than identify completely with them, we seem eventually to become aware of a deeper ‘river’ beneath all our surface emotional turmoil – a sort of calm, reliable, deep flow of serenity that doesn’t go away, no matter what’s happening back up there at the surface. We learn, in fact, that we can always come back to this subterranean flow for sustenance and direction and peace. Making contact with this river seems to be an organic consequence of sobriety. We seem to give ourselves the best chance of sensing it as we allow ourselves to experience feelings without judging them, allow what we feel to come out, whether in a trickle or a torrent – all the while hanging on to our decision that, no matter what, we don’t have to pick up a drug or a drink.
This river of serenity seems to make itself felt, too, when we reinforce our decision not to drink or drug by doing something we know from experience is positive, such as going to a Twelve Step meeting, making a phone call to another recovering person, or doing something else we know will reinforce our decision to stay sober. We learn from all of this to ‘hang on’, so that we can truly ‘let go’ of feelings that seem to assail us, to seem as if they would put us under. We learn they don’t have to. We’ve got options – not the least of which is simply waiting until whatever feeling that’s tormenting us passes.’
putting down the worry rock. actually bloody doing something instead of Googling ‘serenity’, ffs. so I am doing something – have taken a big step and made an appointment with a therapist. guess what, the local therapists that appeal to me are in great demand, so I won’t have an appointment for another six weeks or so – but the appointment is made. and in the meantime I am letting time pass and do its healing work upon me.
a while ago I went for a walk beside a river at a time when I was in great turmoil. and I looked down into it and saw a trout, lazily facing into the current, moving gently from side to side. stable, perfectly in equilibrium with its environment.
here’s what rivers look like in my part of the world:
looking for my serenity river. trying not to clog up the flow of it with worrying.
have a peaceful day, my lovelies. will you sit by the river with me for a while?
my 200th blog post, wow! never, ever thought I’d be here. 25 days to go to one year.