Dreaming in Blue

This morning I woke up with the sense of impending doom; that familiar feeling of: ‘Oh God, what have I done now?!’ I was achy, anxious, had a throbbing headache and was tangled in a mix of emotions – fear, guilt, remorse – that were making my heart cartwheel.  This lasted approximately 10 seconds, followed by a wave of relief when I realised – it was just a dream. 

These “dreams” – or night terrors as I can only best describe them – are not uncommon and have crept up on me on countless occasions as I battle the demons that lay in my subconscious mind. Without sounding like a broken record, 4 weeks ago I put the bottle down for good and my intention is to never pick it up again – unless that be to pour the contents down the sink, or pass willingly to a sane, ‘one-glass-will-suffice’ friend. I’ve been here a million times (most instances recorded in the last year) and after the passing of the first couple of weeks, sleep takes me to a crazy, frightening fantasy, which is so real that I live every single moment. 

Throughout my life I’ve had vivid (and frankly bizarre) dreams, but I’ve always put that down to having a pretty active imagination. During my first year of A-Levels (when shit got real) and thereafter (Uni exams, first interviews, work pressure etc.), dreams would transcend into experiences of being caught up in tsunamis and plane crashes (two of my biggest fears). Since alcohol has become a “thing”, however, my nightmares now consist of 2 scenarios: 1) I’m pissed and in a panic as  I try to find more wine – willing to crawl over broken glass to get it; and 2) I’ve woken up in a place that drink has led me too (more often than not, the house of that screaming, drunk psychopath who N introduced me to), it’s chaotic, filthy, noisy, and I’m practically shaking with fear.

According to experts, these occurrence of “drink” and “drug” dreams is a known phenomenon among people in recovery. There’s one argument which  suggests that they are a sign of our mind readying itself for change, but still very little is known from a scientific standpoint about their prevalence, whether they subside with time in recovery, and (most importantly) their relation to relapse risk. For anyone who hasn’t experienced substance abuse first hand, the solution to avoiding a relapse is easy: just don’t pick up. The reality is, it is so much more complex than that;  you are always at risk because you’ve spent years conditioning yourself into believing that drink is the only way to cope. The beginning is always the most difficult time because you’re still reeling from the mess you’ve made in the short period of time you were drinking, you hate yourself, and your body is in a constant state of anxiety. 

Having that dream last night has put me in a pretty lousy mood all day and the “drying out” anxieties have started to rear their nasty little heads. Pretty much like the way a hangover makes you feel. I know that I’m still fragile, so perhaps these horrendous dreams are just my mind’s way of keeping me in check and to remind me of why it’s so important to keep being kind to myself and to stay strong – because the alternative is a pretty dark place.

Recovery Round-Up: Week 3

New beginnings, overdue catch-ups, babies, and nighttime munchies

Even though I started my recovery over 3 weeks ago, this is the first week where I’ve managed to get some sense of normality and stability back in my life. 3 weeks ago I was 4 days into recovery, down to 2% lagers and spent my Sunday laid out on J’s couch watching re-runs of The Big Bang Theory; then not sleeping because my anxieties were causing me to be in a constant state of panic. I hadn’t had a drop of wine in 2 days – and I was miserable.

In recovery, one of the things they tell you to do is to keep a journal and make a note of all the positives that have happened to you that day. While this is something that my eternal-pessimist mind doesn’t do naturally, I have been trying but find that I never look back on each individual day. For me, a weekly re-cap is better, because if I’m feeling like shit on a Sunday, I can reflect on all the good that happened in the past week (hopefully) and then start Monday on a more positive footing.

So here goes…top 4 things of my third week dry:

Putting down roots and being myself

On Monday I moved house. It’s a house share in a town that I am familiar with, is close to family, friends and easily accessible to all my workers and support centres. I’ve been pretty lucky, all things considering. 3 months ago I was living in temporary accommodation on the outskirts of Bradford, dreading where the hell my £250 Housing Allowance would get me. Now, I’m back living the suburban dream, in a quiet, tree lined street, with a garden, greenhouse, and two pretty sound housemates. More importantly, I feel safe – which I don’t think I’ve 100% felt since the back-end of 2017.

Furthermore, I’m doing this on my own. I was thinking the other night that not since I first went to Uni 13 years ago, have I ever lived on my own – and by that I mean not living with friends, family or boyfriends, or anyone that I didn’t already have some kind of link to. I’m living on my terms, and it feels good.

On the subject of “new beginnings”, I’ve been told twice by two separate people who I’ve known for a long time, that (in not so many words), that they’re learning to know the real me, with one even adding that even in the past when I’ve been sober, they never really felt they knew the real me. I have become more honest and accepting on my situation and issues, but maybe this is the actual turning point that sets the foundations for the rest of my life. I hope so.

Being present – and nice to be around

Heart racing chats on Monday, Tuesday cruising and lunching with A, lunch date planning with FJ, and Saturday night Chinese and telly night with T. I get so damn caught up with how lonely I am, but (looking back at the week on a whole) it’s clear that I am so fortunate to have such an amazing set of friends around me. Yes, my drinking and lack of responsibility hurts people and makes them take a step back when I relapse, but ultimately they’re all still in the wings, waiting for me to grasp the bull by the horns (so to speak) and drag myself back to where I left off. I’m so lucky, and I’m sorry to say that I have spent most of my life not being grateful for that. 

A few of them thought I was dead this time. It makes me feel sick to the stomach to think that I put them through that.

My best friend and her husband make beautiful human beings

I haven’t seen W since November 2017. She’d come to stay with me after I was found and brought home. We went to a castle, had afternoon tea, and watched Beauty and the Beast – all the while I had 2 bottles of wine stashed in my Hunters’. After that, I descended into more chaos which resulted in me being stripped of bridesmaid duties at her wedding last year, and subsequently, not been able to be there for her while she was expecting her first child. That girl has been there for me every step of the way, but I couldn’t even get myself together to be apart the 2 most important moments in her life.

Bridges are being built, but I know that I have a lot of proving to do before she can trust me again and we can start the rebuilding of our friendship.

I literally burst into tears this morning when I saw the first picture of her beautiful little girl who was born a few days ago. If this isn’t a good-enough reason to get better, I don’t know what is.

The sweet, sweet taste of success

Unfortunately this has nothing to do with a man bringing me breakfast in bed. No, this is something that has become commonplace in my recovery journey and an occurrence that I have come to regard as a positive sign: unconscious eating of chocolate in the middle of the night.

I shit you not. I literally wake up in, sleep walk my way to where I stow the bounty, and eat a packet of biscuits, a whole bar of Dairy Milk, or sometimes (most times…), both. Back in April (having had a week long lapse) I thought I’d reached a whole new low when I woke up to find I’d somehow face planted a snickers during the night; but no, that was only the beginning. Yesterday I woke up next to my empty biscuit tin, apparently having eaten half a packet of chocolate digestives in the wee hours. It wasn’t until I got to the bathroom that I realised I’d missed one – it had melted and stuck to my pyjama top. Classy.

There’s definitely something in craving sugar when you give up the sauce, and while it’s not great, it is just temporary. For that, I’m embracing waking up to my body, clothes and bed sheets bearing the shameful, sticky mess from the night before…it means that my recovery is in full swing. 

I like myself – but only when I’m perfect

Starting my Mindfulness course again yesterday was harder than expected…who knew how difficult it would be to practice meditation with a whirlwind of emotions and worries whizzing around your head?! One good thing that did come out of the 2 hours sessions, however, (aside from spending most of the time on my back on a yoga mat, swaddled in a softer than soft throw) was hearing this quote:

“I like myself – but only when I’m perfect”

It stopped me dead. Actually made something in my head click (something that doesn’t happen as often as it should). 

Despite having the notes section of my phone literally bursting with inspirational quotes that I’ve picked up along the way (you get A LOT of these in recovery), this one really struck a chord. 

It’s pretty much what my head has been telling me all my life:

you’ll be better if you lose weight and get your hair done

you’ll be happy only when you’ve not touched a drop of booze or smoked a single fag for a whole year

and my personal favourite…

be on £30k by the time you’re 30 – if you don’t, you’ve failed’. 

In fact, I just smoked a cigarette, had my last drink 16 days ago (following my millionth failed attempt at sobriety), have roots that couldn’t even pass as a balayage, am up a dress size since Spain 2017 and I’m now a thirty-something receiving pittance from Universal Credit per month (because being a hard-working, educated individual qualifies you for fuck all when you go through a rough patch).

To sum it up, I’ve never liked myself that much because I’ve never achieved my unattainable ideal of perfection. Which is why I got in this goddamn mess in the first place – I drink when I don’t like myself and I don’t like myself when I’m not perfect. The only thing I’ve ever been “perfect” at is being an alcoholic – and making an absolute catastrophic mess of everything. To be honest, I’m surprised Echo Falls never headhunted me for the position of Global Head of Wine Tasting (‘I can’t feel my face and I left my dignity at the door – it’s perfect!’).

Ironically, 2 years ago, I’d been sober for almost 3 years and had it pretty good, but I can’t say I even liked myself then. Not really, anyway. 

Despite everything, today I’m pretty OK. Yes, things are still mad. Yes, I’ve got myself in a bit of a pickle (understatement of the year) – but I’m getting myself out. ME. I’m doing this – no one else – and for that, I’m pretty chuffed with myself. While I can’t say that I can now skip past the wine shop at the top of the road, hollering: ‘look at meeee! I’m freeeee!’, or not have those days when I batter myself for being so bloody shit at life. I can remember the quote and try to focus on the positives (rather than the negatives) every day, just to remind myself there’s at least something likeable about me – regardless of what’s going on and how un-perfect I am. 

If I don’t, there’s always another rock bottom to hit – and I don’t fancy going there. No ta.