Friday, 13 May 2016

Meeting Annie

Regular readers of this blog, or Annie's blog (A Dappled Path) will know that yesterday we arranged to meet I.R.L, as my kids would say (in real life).

I was really nervous.

I got married before the days of internet dating, when we still did things like introduce single friends to each other at dinner parties (how quaint!), but I imagine it's a similar feeling....

....You read someone's profile, you e-mail them for ages, you exchange secrets, hopes and fears. You think you're going to really, really like each other, but - deep down - you're terrified that you'll see them and immediately think oh no! Not my cup of tea at all. Totally not what I was expecting. Beam me up, Scotty!

I've never seen a photo of Annie, but we'd e-mailed each other describing our outfits, and arranged to meet under the clock in Charing Cross Station - just like in a cheesy romance.

And, you know what? Even if Annie had turned up disguised as Wonder Woman (which she didn't, by the way) I would have recognised her.

This lady walked towards me, and she looked just like her blog - all gorgeous and honest and hopeful, and a little bit scared.

And we hugged.

Then we walked. Over Hungerford bridge and alongside the river, in the sunshine. I find it easier to talk honestly when I'm walking (it's a great way to get teenagers to open up, by the way. Take them for a walk). And we talked. For hours.

And I realised that all Annie needs is faith. Faith that the field on the other side of the obstacle course filled with fluffy bunnies does exist (see my post: The Obstacle Course which I wrote for Annie back in September). And faith that she can make it there.

The problem is that when you've done hundreds of Day Ones you start to lose confidence in your ability to get any further. You re-inforce the feeling in your subconscious that it's all too difficult. That you're just not strong enough.

I told Annie about a friend of mine who recently completed her PhD. She said that initially she was terrified. It all looked too hard. Impossible. Insurmountable.

Then, someone told her not to think about the whole project, but to break it up into tiny individual tasks, and to just do one of those each day.

So that's what she did. And she kept going, until one day she realised that she'd nearly finished her whole dissertation! And that buoyed her up with so much confidence that she sailed through to the end with panache.

Quitting booze is the same.

If you think about the whole thing, it paralyses you. Annie would get through a few days then, usually on a Friday, panic about the idea about doing it forever, and feel that it was too hard. Impossible. Insurmountable. So she'd have a drink. And another one. You know the story.

"Break it down into tiny, individual bits," I said. "It's only two hours per day that you find really hard - 7pm - 9pm. So just focus on how to get through those two hours.

"Write a list of things that you can do that hold no associations with drinking, and will keep your mind (and, ideally, hands) occupied. Walking the dog, blogging, playing the piano, or the cello.

"Explain to the rest of the family that for the next three months you need those hours in the evening to yourself, and they'll have to learn to cook (or at least re-heat) their own suppers!

"Then, when you start really, really wanting a drink, look at your list and do one of those things until you feel better. If you're still feeling edgy at 9pm, just go to bed early.

"You can do two hours, can't you? That's all you have to do - one hundred times. Then it'll all start getting easier. And I know that one hundred sounds like a big number, but it's only one school term. And think how quickly one school term goes!"

I hope I helped. She seemed happy to have a plan, along with her weekly counselling sessions and AA meetings.

I found this quote for you, Annie:

My personal definition of confidence is to keep believing that the stars in the solar system are actually watching and applauding you. (Johnnie Dent Jr)

And they are watching and applauding, and so are all of us!

Annie and I are meeting again at the end of the summer holidays to celebrate her 100 days. Whoop whoop!

You know what? The sobersphere is great, but nothing beats being able to look into someone's eyes or sharing a great big hug. I.R.L.

Love to you all, especially beautiful Annie.

SM x


  1. I believe in guardian angels. People who come in to our lives to help us with a particular phase or task. Sometimes they stay forever, sometimes just until their work is done. I think you are Annie's guardian angel.

    1. you are kind, but I'm just a raddled, retired old soak ;-)

  2. Thank you. I absolutely loved meeting you. Annie x

  3. This is so lovely, I can't wait to hear how great Annie will feel after 100 days!

  4. What a beautiful post. I'm so happy you two got to meet! xo

  5. So glad you met one another, hugs to you both. Annie, it takes a few false starts but you will get there. It's like starting up the old lawnmower at the beginning of spring. You have to pull the choke out, pull the cord over and over like a mad woman, flood the engine, wait for it to empty, try again, it will turn over a bit then conk out then, after a few coughs it's off purring away and making the lawn all stripy and Wimbledonesque (I have gotten so into gardening since giving up drinking that I have begun fantasising I am Gertrude Jekyll)

  6. So true about how to look at forever. If I think about the vast oceans of time that I will never have a martini again, I get very nervous. So I think about today and only today. I know that my plan is forever but I don't have to keep taking my mind that far away.

  7. Lovely story to share, I look forward to the next chapter.

  8. Very heart warming, cyber hugs to you all. X

  9. This was a great post for me to read today. As I sit at Day 20, Day 100 seems so far and with an upcoming family vacation in between. I will break down that vacation into bite size bits and get through it!

  10. Good luck to Annie. I think we are all terrified of the word 'forever' and your advice of dealing with little bits rather than the whole is really helpful. 'Forever' is still scary - so will be please just to get through 131 days. (I had to go back and count up - think that's progress?)

  11. Good luck to Annie. I think we are all terrified of the word 'forever' and your advice of dealing with little bits rather than the whole is really helpful. 'Forever' is still scary - so will be please just to get through 131 days. (I had to go back and count up - think that's progress?)

  12. Hi SM, that's wonderful that you and Annie had such a good time. I am so jealous!! I wish I could meet you and all my sober blogging friends. Sadly, I'm too far away :(
    Forever scared me for a long time. Then I decided not to think about it and concentrate on one day at a time. And I find myself at day 174! Now it doesn't scare me so much. I really hope Annie finds her way. A x