Tag Archives: family

Coping with life’s ups and downs

Wow. It’s been a long time since my last post. I seem to have got out of the habit of blogging recently but rest assured I’m still here – sober, drinking tea and eating ice cream.

My life got a bit crazy at the end of May, when I found out I needed major surgery to remove an ovarian tumour. I’d been admitted to hospital with unexplained, excruciating stomach pains. (I’m no wimp but I’ve not known pain like it). A scan revealed a cyst the size of a large orange. Although ovarian cysts aren’t that unusual – and most are totally benign – the doctors weren’t sure about mine.

I was told countless times that it was very, very unlikely to be cancerous. But it’s hard not to be scared when you’re allocated a cancer support nurse and talked through exactly what will happen if the results aren’t good.

When I first stopped drinking I often wondered how I’d cope in future if something very bad were to happen. Were there exceptional circumstances in which it was ok to relapse? Perhaps if something happened to my family, or my house burnt down? What if I found out I only had a few days left on the planet. Would it be ok then?

Well I’m pleased to say a brush with cancer didn’t rock my sober boat. And that’s all it was, thank goodness. A near miss. The results were all totally clear. It’s hard to describe what a relief that news was. I’ve been left with a great big ugly scar up the front of my stomach and I’ve lost an ovary. But that’s all. And that seems a pretty good outcome in the grand scheme of things.

In the run up to the operation, drinking didn’t really cross my mind. Once or twice I did think ‘this would be a good excuse for a relapse’, but I didn’t feel that pull to drink. Besides, I had so much other stuff to do – like move house. I was warned that post op I’d need six weeks off work, lots of rest and I wasn’t to lift anything heavy. So all of a sudden there was a real rush to get as much done as possible before life was put on hold for a bit. It was incredibly stressful at the time but looking back I think being busy was a good thing; the night before the op I was up late cramming my belongings into boxes.

My family were brilliant during this time and so were my friends. I was lucky to have lots of visitors both times I was in hospital. Surprisingly, many of the people who came were actually friends I felt I’d drifted apart from, because of being sober and not going out as much.

Before the op I did wonder if my drinking history had played a part in my illness. I guess I’ll never really know the answer so there’s probably no point dwelling on it. In hospital it was comforting to be sober – I had to fill out countless pre op questionnaires and it was very satisfying to answer the ‘how much do you drink?’ question with a big fat zero. Post op I feel that by being sober I’ve given my body the best chance of healing properly.

It’s exactly six weeks since my surgery now and I thought I’d have written about all of this a lot sooner, but somehow I just didn’t. I guess sobriety isn’t dominating my life in the way it once did. Does that make me sound complacent? I hope not – I think it’s a good thing. Sobriety is a bit like driving; it’s hard at the beginning but you get better with practice. I don’t feel like a learner driver anymore, but I know I’ll always need to keep my eyes on the road.

I was catching up on some episodes of the Bubble Hour yesterday and it was just so lovely and familiar and comforting that it prompted me to write this. The awesome thing about the sober blogosphere is that it’s always there, just waiting for when you need it. And I definitely still need people in my life who get what it’s like not to be able to drink normally.

A few days with family

So after making the big Not Drinking announcement on Sunday, it wasn’t really mentioned again, not in any significant way. Still, something felt different and I can’t really explain why. I felt a bit antsyWhen I go back to my parents I usually feel like I’m escaping for a bit, like I’m on holiday. They live in the middle of nowhere, on the edge of a farm. The house is surrounded by fields, woods and a lake. There are horses, pigs, sheep and some very free range hens who wander all over the place. You can’t get a decent mobile phone signal. Their internet connection is really slow. Normally I like all of this. But this time I felt a bit too removed from the safe, sober bubble I’ve created in my normal, day-to-day life.

Will this feeling change over time? I hope so.

In other ways, the trip home was a success. Not drinking changed my behaviour and I felt more ‘present’, if that makes sense. I wasn’t obsessing about how much wine I had left in my glass, which meant I could focus more on everyone else. I was more patient with my sister and her idiot boyfriend. I didn’t need to make crafty suggestions like “let’s sit outside before dinner” which actually meant “let’s have a few beers before we eat”.

I didn’t spend hours upstairs in my room drinking on my own. Even typing that sentence makes me feel a bit sad. Who goes home to visit family only to shut themselves away? In recent years I started bringing my own supply of alcohol home with me and at the time it honestly seemed like the logical thing to do: if I had my own supply then it didn’t matter how much I drank with everyone else. I didn’t need to worry if my glass wasn’t refilled at dinner.

Sad isn’t it? That’s not even the worst part. My own, personal supply would nearly always run out. Not having a car and with no shops nearby, this would leave me with no option but to steal some from the wine cupboard. It didn’t matter what it was. I’d pour it into a glass and run upstairs with it, instantly feeling better because I knew it was there if I needed it. What kind of 29-year-old does that? I can’t believe I never got caught.

So… in summary, a tricky few days. I wanted to drink more than I have at any other point during the last 32 days. But I didn’t. At times it felt like it would be easier just to start drinking again. I must keep reminding myself that’s not actually true. It’s just the little voice in my head, the alcoholic devil on my shoulder trying to trip me up.