Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Birthday Wall of Grief

It’s my birthday this week. The week I tend to think of more as Achilles Heel week. Please-pass-the-Kryptonite week. Do-not-pass-go-do-not-collect-£200-week.

You get the idea.

Birthdays have changed for me. I celebrated my last one at 26. After that most of them were spent indoors until around 30. Even when I was out in the world again I just couldn’t face them. I have never really looked backwards and wondered what the years I spent housebound would have been like had I not lived them that way. Or the years I was out in the world but too frightened to interact with people properly. I shut those thought away in a box marked do not touch. Stuck a load of fragile stickers on them and stayed facing firmly forwards.

I think I got worried that because I just had not begun to tackle them at all then the wall of grief would hit me. Since I’m intolerant to unhappiness the way everyone seems to be intolerant to wheat these days I thought no. Best leave it alone.

Did you know about the wall of grief? The wall of grief is weird. It’s a part of recovery no one talks about because it really is so odd. In recovery grief is an absolute f*cker. Basically for every bit of big, significant progress made, grief sits just around the corner, waiting.

Say you’ve learned how to walk again. Or stand. Or dress yourself. The grief kicks in for the years you did not. That’s okay because these things are really big to learn so the pay-off is massive. But the smaller, more imperceptible pieces of progress. Learning to talk to people, socialising. Being okay with being in a room of people and staying there. The grief that comes with this progress is quite frightening.

When you’ve stopped surviving life by purely doing the basics. Stopped making excuses about why you won’t stall progress anymore. When you just get on with it, regardless of the fear and just sort your sh*t out and become the person you know you are supposed to be? Then the grief is a total motherf*cker. Because you know the years you didn’t do it will never be retrieved. And you know you cannot change that fact. And it brings with it a feeling of helplessness like no other. Just for a little while.

Some people are so scared of the wall of grief that they refuse to make any progress in recovery at all. I don’t blame them. At the time it’s so big and scary and strong it feels like it will never go away.

It does. I mean, it comes back again when another milestone is reached. But it dissipates and the progress it leaves behind is worth it.

I’ve avoided celebrating my birthday for years. I’ve felt like I was so happy everyday that it wasn’t worth sacrificing the general happiness for the specific grief. Then last year something very, very bad happened on my Birthday. And I knew it wasn’t a coincidence that it happened on the one day I felt vulnerable out of the entire year. And I realised what a waste it was, to avoid the birthday wall of grief. That if I just tackled it once and sat with it. Sat with the years that I didn’t get to have. Sat with the life that I didn’t experience. The years that did give me the tools to live the years to come in a way I could never have dreamed possible before this.

I wouldn’t change a minute of them. I wouldn’t change the perspective they enabled me to carve out for anything. Truly. But it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have liked to have had my twenties properly. And my early thirties to be honest. it doesn’t mean I don’t have this grief sat around the corner waiting to come and find me when I finally open up to the possibility of these years and where they could have taken me.

And it is an embarrassing thing to admit. and grief does seem too strong a word when I think about people in actual grief and what they go through. But when people do email me and talk about the fear and the emotional breaking-down that comes with progress in any type of recovery, wall of grief is the most effective description I have found. It’s important people know it is not just them that it hits. So important that we know unequivocably that none of us are experiencing anything weird and exclusive only to us. That it is normal. That it is just a part of getting better and that it will be okay.

So. Monday. Birthday. The day I finally deal with the years that did not go quite to plan, but made me who I am now. And maybe it won’t be quite as bad and scary as I think it going to be actually. And even if it is I know it will go away and leave more than it’s taken, because I’ve learned that’s what the wall of grief does. And maybe if I do it you will too?



Recovering versus Recovered

There are few things that make me want to swallow my own face with boredom more than the ridiculous, totally unnecessary, inane whining that goes on in Recovery Circles between those who describe themselves as a Recovering Alcoholic, and those who call themselves Recovered.

Only in those circles. Obviously. No one else could care less. Because it’s the epitome of a First World Problem. And it makes us all look like idiots. So let’s stop it now. Please.

It is entirely possible for a person to fully, permanently recover from alcohol addiction.  And truly that type of person could not give a f*ck what people refer to them as. They are far too busy actively living the life they didn’t have when they were drinking.

But it’s also not nice that there are so many people wandering around with the assumed knowledge that they will never be free from addiction to alcohol. Or recovered, if you like. So for the sake of the people who believe everything they are told? Here’s the other side:

I am recovered because I will never drink again. Because I put the drink down and didn’t pick it up for a long time. And during that time I re-learned my approach to everything. To reset my reactions to people and places and situations and yes, especially myself. For a very long time indeed I did this and practised it when I didn’t want to. And it was a massive pain in the arse at first. And it felt totally impossible. Then it felt slightly less impossible. Then it felt possibly doable.

Now it is done.

I don’t think about drinking. I don’t think about lack of drinking. I don’t need it in any situation. I don’t crave it physically or long for it emotionally. There is no lack. I moved on. I can’t take my recovery any further because I’ve gone beyond it. Never need to be re examined. I’m rock solid in it. I will never drink again.

It’s over.

Am I fully recovered from my years being physically disabled?


How do I know that? Because of the hours and hours every day I have to put into consciously bridging my brain and my body. My body doesn’t know how to rest during sleep unless I give it detailed instructions every night. It doesn’t know how to wake up properly unless I remind it every day. How to walk, how to stand, how to hold things. I have to incrementally give it pointers throughout the day, gentle nudges so it knows what it is doing and how to do it efficiently.

I have learned that if I do this then my body works just as well as anyone else’s. I have also learned that it will not happen on its own. That if I do not make this my priority every day then there are consequences. As time goes on I get better and better at reminding my body how to work, but I have never moved beyond it. I will be in recovery until the day my brain and body can figure this out for themselves like they used to before the age of 26. It could happen. I have quite a strong background in doing the strongly improbable.

It’s no hardship. All I have to do is follow a set of instructions and I am well. Very well. Arrogantly well some might say. Just not arrogant enough to believe I’m recovered. Because I know what recovered is. And it’s not this. But because of both these scenarios? My life has given me the physical proof of the difference between recovered and recovering.

Anyone can be fully recovered from alcoholism. Not all of us know the feeling-place between a work in progress and a finished result. And once we do know it? We can’t un-know it. Ever. Regardless of what anyone tries to tell us to the contrary.

So those of us who do know this? We owe it to the rest to give as much advice as there are hours in the day. Advice and practical guidance to help those anyone’s get there. And those who speak in doubt from a place of un-knowing owe it to all of us to shut the f*ck up with the whining like b*tches and listen long enough to give themselves a chance at being recovered instead.

We all have the same amount of hours in the day. Life is very equal opportunities like that. We all get 24 of them, irrespective of age, finances, sex or creed. We can all learn to utilise every minute of them to work for our recovery, or against it. I spend quite a lot of my hours ensuring my body can function properly so I can do the other things I love doing. I spend zero of those hours shoring up my sobriety. I probably used to spend those hours drinking and whining like a little b *tch about my life instead.

I like it this way better. I like it so much that I don’t give a f*ck what you call it. I just think you should join me here.

If you’ve got the time for it then so do I.