Friday, January 26, 2007

New life

I really do feel as if I've been born into a new life.

An example - I've had car problems, thought they were fixed and sent a cheque along to the mechanic. Last night the car died and I thought the brakes failed that evening as I came off the motorway and I coasted to a halt on the side of the road. Obviously the problems aren't fixed at all! I got the car going again but have to fill it up with water every 15 miles (or so it seems) even though I had a new radiator fitted on Monday. Normally that kind of experience would have me halfway down a bottle of Bacardi before I'd even got my coat off or fed the cat ... but I was just grateful that I didn't cause an accident, and that it's going back to the garage on Monday.

Another example - Earlier this week my new boss spotted an error in a calculation which impacted on the bonuses being paid to the team. It wasn't my error. I'm there as his PA, not as a finance person, but I went home feeling sick with nerves. The fact that things weren't my fault hasn't stopped previous employers giving me a bollocking. My normal response would be to get drunk, so that the hangover would detract from the dressing down I'd get the following day, but I didn't - didn't get drunk, that is, and didn't get a dressing down. I went into my boss's office, shut the door, and waited for the axe to fall, but it didn't. He knew the error wasn't mine, and he wasn't about to blame me for it. He actually didn't get angry with the person who had made the mistake, just explained where he'd gone wrong and made suggestions about how to avoid similar mistakes in the future, and then he and I set about putting the situation right. What a novel experience! Not to be blamed for something I hadn't done, not to drink out of fear and anxiety, not to come out of my boss's office in tears - something that happened all too often in my last job.

I'm almost afraid to be happy in case things go wrong and I know that's silly, so I'm just going to try and relax and enjoy being who I'm meant to be - someone who enjoys her job and is valued for it, someone who has good colleagues and good friends, someone who looks forward to chatting to God every night and someone who is grateful for being sober.

If this really is my new life, long may it last!

Monday, January 15, 2007

The 8th Dwarf

When I was about 14 or 15 I took the role of Grumpy in the church pantomime of Snow White and the 7 Dwarves. As I could be very moody (and what teenager can't be?) the image stuck and my family still seem to think I'm in a bad mood whether I am or not. We live up to expectations or we live down to them. If someone expects you to be grumpy all the time and treats you like a moody so-and-so, you tend to behave like it. Well, I did/sometimes still do.

So on Monday, when I started to write this post, I could have got really grumpy in the car on the way home when I noticed rather a lot of steam coming out from under the bonnet.

I could have got really really grumpy to find that not only was there no oil, there was also no water, and neither of the warning lights had come on.

I topped up the water, and begged some oil from a kind neighbour, and smiled and was cheerful and tried not to be grumpy.

I went to the garage and bought oil for myself, and oil for the neighbour, and then went shopping. Because the neighbourhood isn't brilliant in places, you have to put a coin in the shopping trolley to release it from the rack, otherwise they get stolen, rammed into cars and shop windows, vandalised and dumped. I've long since stopped getting grumpy about never having a £1 coin for the trolley, so I have a handy little token on my car key-ring. I did my shopping, spent too much but was glad I didn't have the added expense of the bi-weekly bottle of rum any more and discovered, when I got back to the car, that the trolley token, mykey-ring, and my car key had disappeared!

Oh, lots of reasons to be grumpy! The assistant I spoke to shrugged and said that no-one had handed any keys in and turned away. I had to ask if she would consider putting my shopping somewhere safe while I looked for the keys and maybe she might like to help me look.

So ... frantic phone calls to a sister-in-law who wasn't there, a long wait outside in the cold, another trip into the store to ask if they could look again, another phone call to the sister-in-law to come and get me, tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat and the thought, 'I can't even have a drink to get over this when I finally get home ...'

And then one of the staff found my keys and all was well, and I went home and didn't drink, and was grateful, not grumpy ...

And the next day, on the way to work, the engine started pouring out steam and I panicked and drove to my friendly mechanic so that he could check if it was safe to drive, and he did a few tests and said yes, but he booked it in for Monday to run more thorough (and more expensive) checks. I got to work almost 3 hours after leaving home - 13 miles away - and I could have been grumpy but my new colleagues had seen me arrive from the window and had gone to get me a cup of coffee before I even got to my desk because they figured I'd need it. And my boss was stuck in traffic so he didn't even know I was late - although I told him when he arrived, and even then he didn't mind.

Had I been in my old job, had this all happened before I admitted I was drinking too much, I would have been grumpy about all the car problems. They would have been the final straw on top of my old crappy job, and I'd have gone home and drunk at least half a bottle of rum.

Financially I cannot afford to have car problems but that doesn't matter at the moment. Right now I am just so grateful that I didn't have an accident, that I have such kind colleagues and that I know a great mechanic who keeps my old heap of a car on the road. I am grateful that God was keeping an eye on me during the terrible wind storms that killed 13 people this week and kept me on the road safely despite all the car problems.

I feel for Grumpy, I really do. I sympathise with him and I have often been him in the past, but right now I ask myself how I can possibly be grumpy about simple mechanic things, like the car, when so much else, so many more important things, are going right?

So, if I could add another dwarf to Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Dopey, Sneezy, Sleepy and Bashful, I'd add Grateful and, much as I love Grumpy and identify with him, I think I'd rather be Grateful than Grumpy.

Whichever dwarf you are, or even if you are Snow White, have a Happy day!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


I'm not used to feeling this good, especially during the working week. I'm not used to singing along with the radio in the car on the way to work. I'm not used to voluntarily going in early and staying late.

I guess I'm not used to being happy.

So what's changed?

Basically, three things, in this order :
  1. I stopped drinking
  2. I started to pray each evening
  3. I got a new job

Seems to me that if I carry on doing the first two, and enjoying the third, I can relax and get used to being happy.

That sounds like a good and simple plan for 2007: don't drink: pray, work hard and be happy. Let's see how that works or if I manage to sabotage it somehow. I'm usually so good at sabotage but this time I think I can make it.

Friday, January 05, 2007

New job update

Happy feet? Happy everything!
This is me, skipping down the corridor of my new office!
I was looking for a new job for 8 months. I was so miserable in my last job that the only thing I had to look forward to was a drink when I got home in the evenings. It didn't matter that it made me feel thick-headed in the mornings - I felt sick at the thought of another day in the office whether I drank or not.
I realised that the amount I was drinking was making the problem worse, even if it was temporarily alleviating the symptoms, and I stopped on 1 October. I started reading the blogs of people who had also made the decision - long before I did in many cases - to stop drinking alcohol and one thing that came over loud and clear in so many of the blogs I read was the concept of turning my life over to God and accepting His will.
I always swim against the tide but, one week, when I had three interviews, all of which I thought would be good jobs, I did say to God in prayer that I would leave it up to Him which job - if any - I got. I said that I knew He would make the right choice for me and that I would accept whatever He chose for me.
Within a few days I had been offered a new job and ... see picture at the top of this blog. It was the right job. I know it's only been 4 working days, but so far I'm loving it!

And the point of this post? I guess it's that other people's experiences and advice may inform and enlighten me, and point me in the right direction, but I can only really learn from my own mistakes and experiences. I made the mistake of thinking I was in charge of my own life, but once I asked for help and guidance, I received it.
I find it hard to take advice, so I try not to give it: all I can do is share my experience of having a prayer answered when I was at the end of my endurance. I hope that others may find a way to the support they need before they reach the point I did.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

I hope your 2006 went out with a bang and that your 2007 started with one. Wait, I mean bang in the sense of the noise of fireworks, not bang in the American sense of ... oh well, either way, I hope you had a good one!

The end of 2006 was a lot more peaceful - and sober! - than the end of 2005. I had planned to spend New Year's Eve with a very good friend (unfortunately a heavy-drinking friend) with lots and lots of party food and the inevitable glass of champagne, which I knew I'd have difficulty refusing. Luckily for me - but unluckily for my friend - a severe dose of 'flu meant she spent the whole day in bed and I stayed at home, with my favourite television programmes, a glass of diet coke and my knitting! Hurrah! A sober new year!

Setting myself a target of 100 sober days in 2006 really worked for me and I'm pleased to say I made it. I've thought long and hard about what will work for me in 2007 and decided that setting a goal of staying sober just for today isn't enough. It means that if, one day, I have a drink, I'll have to go straight back to counting from day 1, and I'm far too competitive for that, so I've set myself a target of 250 sober days in 2007. 250 days is a minimum - it doesn't mean that I can stay sober until 7 September (250th day of the year!) and then go mad.

I know this is NOT the way most of you approach (not) drinking, but I know myself, and I know that I probably will manage way, way more than 250 days, but having that 'get out' clause without finding myself back at square one is what (I think) will work for me.

I'll let you know how I'm getting on, and in the meantime, I wish you all a very happy, healthy and sober 2007!