What did you do last night? Spied on the neighbours, wrote about it on the internet. You?

Here I am, home at 9pm, lungs full of cigarette smoke, my mind full of nonsense and my guinness world record nails trying to tap them out on the keyboard.

I left everyone at the bar – not because I struggle with drinking or not drinking – because I struggle with talking when my mind is too busy making up its own stories for me to pay attention to people. It gets caught up creating the most wonderful inventions, only for me to realise after an hour’s silent brainstorming, that the same idea was patented many years ago and is a commonly known as “the wheel”.

As that discourse prattles on in my mind, people attempt to ask me questions, or engage my interest in a story of their own, but I only hear about a quarter of it before Homer Simpsoning my way through the rest of the conversation, my thought bubble of imagination cartooning away beside me.

Most times it doesn’t bother me. I can ignore the inside voice and its ridiculous ideas and manage to remain present throughout the evening, but occasions like tonight, I know that it’s just an uphill battle I’d be wiser to avoid.

That brings me here to the spare room, the neon-white light spilling over the keyboard, inviting insects to flit around its dangerous warmth while the cats flip about to reach them. The occasional crunch of legs and wings tells me they’re pretty good at this game. And also, gross.

The cricket-song blows through the open window, carried on the breath of a warm breeze that smells of jasmine and a distant barbecue. Their song is punctuated by the muffled laughter and shouts of people walking the street, smiling as they sip from bottles smuggled from happy hour bars.

The boom of cinema explosions burst from living room speakers, the room’s windows aglow with the shadow and shine of movie magic. Brakes squeal, gunshots ring out and men shout at each other – one-liners of corny encouragement.

The snick of cigarette lighters is followed by a gentle glow beneath verandahs as glasses clink against tables and silver bracelets ring against their companions, sliding down slender wrists to pool on the back of a hand.

The evening is alive with the sounds and smells of life being lived. There are worse ways I could spend my Friday night than chronicling them.

Life in the ghetto, or, Why is there bread in the driveway?

For two years, we lived in a block of flats tucked into one of the busiest streets in our suburb. For a time there, it was nice living here. The flats all desperately needed work done to them, but the neighbours were nice people, and we all got along, helping each other out and spending time together after work.

The blissful bubble was short-lived, however, as rent went up, many of those people were forced out, and new people came in – people so desperate for a place to live that they paid the higher rent. Nobody else would approve their rental applications.

Soon driveway cricket summer became “pretend we’re not home” winter, where you’d refuse to answer the door unless someone used the secret knock.

The junkies upstairs spent time with the junkies across the driveway, alternating between friends and enemies, depending on the drug supply. The shouts and cries of domestic disputes seeped through cracks in windows and holes punched through bedroom doors.

It got much worse after we left, with the SWAT team coming in and molotov cocktails being thrown through windows. Today though, there’s just some confused bread laying in the driveway.

Clearly, there are no ducks here. Nothing lives here by choice and aint nobody gonna fuck with a duck if it wants to leave… no, the bread is just another example of the bogan attitude that is the way of life in the ghetto; once something lands on a communal area within the bogan realm, it must either decompose on its own, get blown against the fence by the wind, or be broken down by wild animals, otherwise it remains there for all eternity (or until the landlord sends the cleaning man around to remove the shopping trolleys, broken doors, couches and mattresses).

Coming back here to visit a friend has been great. Nowadays, the flats are filled with schizophrenics going through sexual identity crises and an incest brother-sister-couple. The police have done a couple of patrols (we just assume the flats have been added to their beat) but nobody has been hurt or had anything stolen, so all in all, it seems to have been a successful stay.

 

 

How the old teaches us new tricks

My nose, re-pierced

Hello world from Sunny Melbourne!

I’m on holiday, visiting the friends and family we left behind when we moved back to my tiny home town three years ago.

It’s been a wonderful return to the city we fell in love in, filled with smiling faces and constant laughter. The kind of laughter that only comes out when you are in the company of people who feel like they have little pieces of your soul inside them. The close ones.

It’s also been a time for reflection and thinking from open car windows. I got my old nose piercing reopened yesterday. It’s been nice to realise that life isn’t as black and white as I’d always seen it. I can be both Grown Up, Responsible Bri whilst being Nose Piercing Bri. Those two people had always seemed separate entities to me and now it’s a marvel to discover that I can be all the different Bri’s, all at once. It’s so exciting to no longer be afraid of where possibilities may lead me.

The sobriety challenge hasn’t been challenging at all. I haven’t been tempted to drink, I seem to somehow be aware that I simply don’t need it. I think anxiety over an inevitable upcoming binge was something I constantly carried with me in the past, and that in itself would usually lead me to drinking. No longer experiencing that anxiety seems to be all the reward I need to keep firm in my decision to keep alcohol out of my life.

Right now, life feels like an amazing gift that I’ve only just now taken out of its box. I’m having an amazing time seeing all the cool stuff it can do.

“I won’t” – The positives of negative reinforcement

I’ve written many times of the things I will or have missed about drinking when contemplating sobriety. Today, I’d like to write about the things I won’t miss about drinking. After all, these are the things I need to remember, most of all.

To begin with, I won’t miss the hangovers that crippled me, sometimes for days, and the ensuing depression that lingered another two. From now on, every single day of the week will belong to me, to my unaffected brain.

I will no longer spend Mondays at work wanting to cry through a comedown, or staring listlessly at the computer, unable to concentrate on anything but that black mood that engulfs me.

My partner will never again be woken by me pouring another drink, then crashing into walls on my way to the bathroom, where I will throw my fingers down my throat in a vain attempt to vomit – and then drink the glass I poured.

I won’t have to shoulder the burden of guilt I feel after every binge.

I won’t miss my alarm waking me on a work day, my sandpaper eyeballs scratching against my eyelids as I weave my still-drunk way to the bathroom, to sway in the shower, holding the walls to stay upright.

I won’t miss the smell of alcohol sweat soaking into my clothing so that I avoid standing close to people all day – not the easiest task when you’re a departmental secretary, responsible for admin duties for 6 other people.

Nor will I miss that nasty film that coats my tongue and throat, despite numerous teeth-brushings and mouthwash rinses. That cloud of alcohol that hits my nose each time I breathe out, or answer the phone, reminding me of just what a failure I am.

I won’t miss the alcohol-acne that erupts on my face or the extreme sensitivity of my skin the day after drinking. My entire body feels bruised and broken, and I sweat and shiver and need a sleeping pill to knock myself out until it wears off.

I will never again speak harsh and crazy words to my partner, words he can’t even confront me about the next day because my memory was wiped out long before I uttered them.

I will never again lay my hands on another person or have to live with the flashbacks of doing so. It is still something I am unable to forgive myself for, and an image I will never erase from my memory.

Never again will I feel the need to obliterate myself from the lives of my loved ones, running both from their hurt and their anger, as well as their love and concern for a girl who doesn’t feel she deserves it.

No. From now until forever, my life will be mine. My decisions and their fallout will be decisions that I have made with the full knowledge of doing so. My relationship won’t be a rollercoaster of the deep love we share during my sober moments, which are then destroyed or halted by the alcohol dive. Instead it will be a true partnership, one where I do not need to be taken care of, or watched closely lest something go wrong.

Above all, I will finally be able to trust myself and no longer be a burden to those who care about me.

Any messes that I make in my life will not be soaked in whiskey or wine. The eradication of guilt from those moments will mean I can deal with them, instead of hiding from them.

And maybe, just maybe, without the influence of alcohol, my brain will be allowed to grow up. To learn new coping skills, to recall words, books, songs I loved but lost between the broken circuits.

From now on, I will actually live, rather than passively float to and from the shore as the lying peace of alcohol lifts me on a wave before dumping me heartlessly on dry, grating sand.

For the first time in 9 years, I will be in control of my life’s destination with no poison to influence that control.

I am more than ready to leave my past behind me. My future is finally mine.

Freshly Blessed

It was 8:20am and I had spent the past 30 minutes sipping coffee, smoking cigarettes and scrolling through Facebook in my morning Wake Up ritual.

I glanced at the clock, groaning.

“I really should leave for work”, I thought, as I logged into my WordPress account and leaned back in my chair, hoping for a little red notification symbol that told me someone had read my blog. “I’ll just have a quick look, it won’t take long” I thought, ignoring the fact that I was going to be late. Again.

To my surprise, there was more than one like, more than one comment to approve. I actually had to “see all” to see them all.

“What the crap?” I said out loud, clicking the stats bar. “141 views? WHAT?”

I took a screen shot and posted it to Facebook. “Holy crap on a stick! Before this, the most visits to my blog in one day was 42! Look at this shit!” I shouted at my friends.

That was when I noticed that I had other referrers besides Facebook. I had no idea how my blog post, written for the small handful of loyal followers I have accumulated over the past few months, could manage to garner so many views.

I clicked the Freshly Pressed button and almost fell off my chair when I saw my banner on the page. That little banner I spent hours making in Microsoft Publisher, coloured line by coloured line.

I thought that was going to be the most overwhelming part of my day, but boy was I wrong.

Instead, I have been blessed with the most supportive, encouraging and inspirational comments from complete strangers spanning all parts of the globe. And only a few weeks ago, I was feeling incredibly isolated and misunderstood.

Thank you so much to everyone who has taken the time to read, like or comment my posts. The internet can be the most magical community. It constantly reminds me that despite all of our differences, despite all of our own problems, humans can’t help but connect with and support each other when they see that someone needs help.

I didn’t think I could be more determined to succeed in my sobriety than I was when I wrote that post, but the incredible support and encouragement given to me by people I’ve only just met (and am yet to get to know!) has made me feel as though I can do anything.

Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Giving wings to this burden

“So what is it about drinking that makes you not want to stop?” asked my mental health nurse, today.

I had to think about it for awhile.

“I have no sense of time”, I replied.
“When I’m boozed, every moment is just that: a moment. Every booze night is nothing but a series of NOW with no thought about the future. I don’t get sick, I don’t get tired. I can drink beer for 20 hours and never throw up, never pass out. My body doesn’t know it should stop, my mind certainly doesn’t want to stop, and before I know it, the sun is up, I’m incoherent and the world crashes in on me again, taking me away from what is basically a magical place of No Worrying, hurling me into a place of pure self-hatred and regret”.

I lose days to drinking. The 12 – 18 hours of the drinking, plus the day or two hangover and comedown that sees me unable to move from the couch, crying at the drop of a hat.

I can’t do it any more. If I want a future, a life that is fulfilling, I just have to face the fact that it cannot involve alcohol.

I’ve made this decision on numerous occasions, but for the first time, it’s a relief. It isn’t something I feel I have to do to please others, this decision is solely for me, this time. It isn’t something I feel conflicted about. I am not sad that I will never share another wine with my mother, or drunk karaoke sing with my friends. Sure, I will miss those moments and I will struggle with them, but I’ve finally reached that place where all of that comes second to giving myself the very best chance that I have to live the life I dream about.

With any luck, my GP will prescribe me the magic no-booze pills that will help me to stay on track. If not, well, I’ll have to smack myself up the face every time I think about having a drink. I want one with every fibre of my being, but that feeling will pass. The self-hatred and disappointment of a binge is what stays with me forever.

It’s been a long and shitty road, but I’m so incredibly happy to be done with it. You cannot imagine the weight that has been lifted from my shoulders.

Onwards and upwards, amigos!