And leaves you wanting more

It’s a chilly evening,  but the lounge room is warm and clean.  The children are in bed, Lovely Husband is out at a class and I have the night to myself.  In front of me is a huge bowl of lentil soup, my favourite food in the world.

The first bite is heavenly.  Hot, spicy, creamy and thick, laced with lime and yoghurt for tang. I am perfectly satisfied, and in the very next second I feel a spike of anxiety. Eventually this bowl of soup, enormous though it is, will be gone and the pleasure will be over.  Even reminding myself that there is more soup in the pot doesn’t help, because there is no way I’ll be able to eat more.  Once this bowl of soup is done, it is done, and I am mourning its loss even as I contemplate a second spoonful.


You are, at this point, either nodding in recognition or thinking that I am entirely insane, and both are completely legitimate responses!  I laugh when I catch myself doing it now.  I used, of course, to do it with alcohol; my anxiety that there wouldn’t be enough pleasure in a bottle would almost outweigh the desire to drink it at all, which is both ludicrous and also explains part of why it is so much more peaceful not to drink it at all. I’d be watching a film, which would be coming up to the most emotional moment, but if my glass was almost empty I’d pause the narrative – and lose the tense build up – to make sure it was full again.  I couldn’t possibly lose myself in the moment if I didn’t also have that glass by my hand.

I haven’t lost any of that anxiety.  I still feel as if somehow, somewhere, I’ll hit upon a magical combination of fulfilling leisure and sensory pleasure that somehow satiates me completely and propels me into a new world.   And when I do find something that gets close – right now it’s Pretty Little Liars and knitting – I do it again and again, every evening.

Sleeves being knitted and worn at the same time

I cannot do this, in case you’re wondering

Sometimes I think that learning how to just be is the hardest thing of all.

Crisis management

(I haven’t been here for months, will you all forgive me?  Truthfully, I talk to you all in my head on a near-daily basis, so it was something of a shock to log in and discover that none of those words have made it into print. )

About two months ago, a huge stack of identical letters arrived in my mailbox, all bearing my old address.  I opened one.  It was a fine for $1100 – apparently my car registration had lapsed and I’d been driving unregistered without knowing.  $1100, and it was dated three months earlier.  My hands started to shake.  I opened another, and another, until I had a stack of fines totalling well over $10,000.  I sat on the floor because I didn’t think I could stand for a while.  There was a lot of noise in my head.

When I told Lovely Husband, he was not.  Lovely, I mean.  He was distant and then angry and then hostile and then distant again.  I cried a lot.

In the morning, I dragged Little Girl from government department to government department, trying to sort it out, and by the end of the day I thought it was under control.  I could legally drive again; some fines were paid; others were in abeyance pending review.

And then six weeks later, a police car pulled me over in the school yard, lights flashing, siren on, because there were more fines, ones I hadn’t known about, and I no longer had a licence.  Another day of sorting things out, another assurance that everything was under control.

This time, I didn’t tell Lovely Husband.

And it just kept spiralling.  I’d get a letter telling me that my payment plan was in arrears, when I didn’t have a payment plan.  I’d ring up to address one letter, and be informed that something else was now overdue and another fine levied.  Every time I got back up, another surprise would knock me down.  I no longer felt safe driving my children to school.  I dreaded opening the post.  I burst into tears several times a day, for no reason.  I snapped at my children.  I couldn’t sleep.


So I went to my GP, and I asked if he could give me anything for the anxiety.  Something very temporary, I said, and I added a caveat: I’m in recovery from a drinking problem, so I don’t want to take anything that will be problematic from an addiction point of view.

He wrote down Has a drinking problem.

No, I said.  I do not have a drinking problem.  I don’t drink.  What I have is a history of addiction, so I need help but I don’t want to risk anything potentially addictive.

I can prescribe you Diazepam, he said.  It mimics the effects of alcohol, so you’ll feel more relaxed, maybe a bit sleepy or just silly and euphoric, but like alcohol it can also exacerbate the feelings of depression if you’re struggling with that.


be happy

In the event, he instead wrote me a prescription for a series of therapy appointments, so now I’m in therapy, about which I am deeply fucking conflicted, thank you for asking, but I’m going anyway.  Report back here for my extremely interested musings on What Is Normal Mental Health Anyway.  But in the meantime, here are some things I have learned:

  2. Government departments suck
  3. I mean so do I but mostly them
  4. This whole thing has really, really sucked.  Like, I could write you an entire novel about this.  It has left such serious bruising in the tender flesh of my marriage, and I’m still working through how to deal with that and move on.  Also the original issue, re: the fines, is still at large.
  5. Doctors could maybe do with some training about non-active addiction because really?
  6. But, and this is important, I have ROCKED this shit.  That might sound ridiculous, given that I’ve just talked about bursting into tears constantly and stress-induced insomnia.  But I used all the tools I have at my disposal, doling out doses of sunshine and knitting and uplifting books like medicine.  I accepted that part of working through this was just going through it – the feelings were bad, but they were just feelings, and I sat with the anger and the terror and the sadness for a long time.  And when I could no longer function on a daily basis using my own resources, I went and asked for professional help.
  7. I see no reason at all why I would ever, ever drink again. Alcohol would have been the perfect solution to most of this situation.  But it hasn’t really been an option for me, not because of the dire consequences but because…it’s not one of my tools.  It’s not something I do.  It is astounding to me, this total absence of something that was once so important, but it is completely legitimate nonetheless.

Anyway.  So, that’s what’s happening in my life.  It’s not over.  It’s not yet a funny story from my past.  I’m not entirely sure that it won’t white-ant my marriage.  But I’m still here, and I’m still sober.

A tangle of narrow old streets that are so awful for motorists


I’ve been re-reading I Capture The Castle, have you read it?  You should.  The heroine is a delightful eighteen year old, very intelligent but unworldly, with a wonderful way of puncturing her own pretensions as soon as she writes them onto the page.  Near the crisis of the novel, she is deeply unhappy, and desperate for consolation.   She considers whether she could lose herself in good works and piety, as suggested by her only friends, and just as she thinks it’s the answer, she has a vision of the town.  A wide, straight road bypassing the centre, and then the busy part that goes right through the town itself in a

“tangle of narrow old streets that are so awful for motorists on market days, but so very, very beautiful.  Of course, what my mind’s eye was trying to tell me was that the Vicar and Miss Marcy had managed to bypass the suffering that comes to most people – he by his religion, she by her kindness to other  And ti came to me that if one does that, one is liable to miss too much along with the suffering – perhaps, in a way, life itself.”

I’m in kind of an angry, sad, despairing place at the moment, but mostly a furious one.  I am furious at the world and the ugliness of people who kick those who are down and the stupidity of those who cheer the kickers on, and encourage them, and give them the power to keep doing it.  I am furious at the quicksand that surrounds me and my girls when we try and take a step towards freedom, because it is so much effort to keep fighting for basic rights and respect over and over again.  I am terrified all the time about my life and my job and getting it wrong, and the bravest thing I do is getting up in the morning, taking a deep breath and telling myself that it’s going to work out fine.


It is possible that my mood would be improved by more cake and less hormones, but we work with what we have at the time.

But I never think about drinking.  It isn’t an option.  I want to extend Smith’s metaphor about how, instead, I have the fortitude to head into that dark tangle of streets that lead straight through the centre, and I keep going because I am brave these days.  But I am sick of my own words and my metaphors and my neat wrapped-up endings.  There isn’t a neat wrapped-up ending to this one.  It’s dark, and I can’t run my fury out, so I type type type instead, trying to distil it and whittle it down and get to the truth under the flourishes.  That’s another tangle of narrow old streets, right there.

narrow street chania

The thing about sobriety is that it doesn’t solve things because some things can’t be solved.  But the things I am unable to solve are things I wouldn’t even have confronted if I were still drinking.  I mean, I am terrified about my job because I am self-employed and flying by the skin of my teeth, and I would never have attempted that in the first place, drinking.  The things that make me angry about my relationship, or rather about relationships between men and women and the patriarchy as a whole, they’re things that I come up against because I push, now, for my own space.  I used to step aside.   They’re things in the middle of the town, awful and beautiful, and I would rather be here, in the thick of it, than taking the road around.