Seven years of sobriety…

Many people have the perception that alcoholics are bums living on the street, drinking alcohol from a paper bag, begging for money at robots, aimlessly walking around with no purpose. This is so far off the mark…

Alcoholics thrive in families, working environments, social gatherings, homes, isolated or otherwise. They are normal people; there is nothing bad about them except an obsessive nature to have a drink or thinking of consuming more alcohol. They were once social drinkers; could have fun without getting drunk but due to having perfected the art of drinking, they excelled to a level of compulsive and addictive drinking.

Family genes play a substantial role in addiction. Many vow never to drink like their alcoholic mom or dad, yet they are unable to prevent it from happening as they believe they have it under control or can stop at any point. Willpower does not exist in addiction, it may work for other people, but it certainly doesn’t work for those with addictive personalities and obsessive disorders.

I learnt this the hard way through my own drinking. I wished to be one of those ladies who nursed a glass of wine the entire evening, chatting and looking chic. Sadly, I passed that stage a long time ago, having progressed to a master’s degree in drinking. I would consume the entire bottle and calculate how to get the next. Brendan Behan said, “One drink is too many and a thousand not enough,” is how I summed my addiction.

Alcoholics can go for days without drinking. This was me. I was a binge drinker. I waited the entire week for Friday to roll around for the party to start. Once lit, I continued until Sunday morning when my body was soaked in alcohol, too sick to get out of bed. I sustained many blackouts, unable to piece together the events of the weekend, too afraid to ask others to fill in the blanks for fear of the worse. Shame and remorse, my constant companions. I promised God countless times that if He could just get me through the pain and discomfort, that I’d stop drinking. But these were empty promises because when the weekend arrived, I was cracking open a bottle; and the cycle commenced.

Heavy drinkers know they have a problem, people convey it to them, yet they deny they are alcoholics. I knew my drinking was out of control, yet couldn’t contain it through sheer willpower, cutting back or wishing it away. I tried everything possible to get rid of the addiction, but nothing worked. I researched the AA, called them anonymously, wanting to find out how they managed to keep members sober. The lady replied, “Meetings and living life one day at a time,” and still I wasn’t close to the answer.

They say the most courageous act for an alcoholic is to own up to their addiction. As much as I couldn’t fathom that I was an alcoholic, I couldn’t deny I had a severe drinking problem. I built up the courage to go to my first AA meeting, fearful of what to expect, unsure if I would survive one. Yet the group was friendly, warm and put me at ease. They said “keep coming back” at the end of the meeting and though I had no intention of returning, I found myself going back and haven’t stopped attending meetings.

In addiction one needs to surrender before rehabilitation takes place. I couldn’t admit that I was an alcoholic even when I was sitting in meetings. Only once I was able to take off the mask, learnt to let go of the shame, got down on my knees and asked God to take the obsession of alcohol away, was when the miracle happened. I was able to admit I was an alcoholic for the first time and a mountain lifted off me. No longer was I held captive by alcohol, I felt alive for the first time in my life and there was a glimmer of hope I was going to make it.

AA is not a religious program, but members forge a belief in a power greater than themselves. I was never close to my religion and still don’t feel a connection to it. When I joined the AA, I learnt through fellow members and my sponsor that I needed to put my trust in a Higher Power. I battled with this as I didn’t have a relationship with God. He was only called upon when I was in trouble, so how was I going to befriend Him now? But I had no alternative, only He could quiet the fears and cravings I felt during my first year. The more I asked, the more I received, the more I prayed, the more serenity flowed. I found I was becoming spiritual, that I had a belief that anything was possible because I was staying sober, building confidence and positive changes were transpiring.

A recovered alcoholic prospers in a supportive and loving environment. My husband and children accepted that I needed to attend meetings to maintain sobriety. They afforded me the space to find myself, to make the necessary changes to live a balanced life. They loved me unconditionally and continue to support me every step of the way. My sponsor was instrumental in my recovery. She listened to my fears, freely gave advice, taught me how to place trust in God. I have many AA friends who have turned into an extended family due to the close bond we share. A small circle of friends keep me grounded and make me smile.

One day at a time turned into seven years and I am immensely grateful to have been afforded a second chance to get it right. I no longer live in fear or shame. I’ve blossomed in sobriety, fell in love with exercising, developed an assurance about myself and am passionate about the life I lead. God has become the best friend I always longed for,  opened countless doors, believes in me when I forget to and only wants the best for me.

Impossible doesn’t exist in my vocabulary, for I know I am capable of so much more than I thought possible.

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Family and Friends at my Thanksgiving 🙂

Forty and Fabulous Party…

I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do for my fortieth birthday and two things came to mind – music and dancing. Neil and I loved clubbing in our hey-day and music remains a constant in our lives.

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An idea was brewing in my mind to throw a club party with a DJ on the decks, in the confines of my home surrounded by family and friends. The more I pondered over it, the more it felt right in my soul and that’s when the planning process took off.

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My party planner, Candice Sonnenberg was instrumental in bringing my idea to life. We spent countless hours going through the finer details on how I wanted the party to unfold. Nothing phased her and I knew my party was in great hands.

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As the big day drew closer, my home was a hive of activity. I was lucky to have my Mom and Sister arrive in Cape Town to assist me with the party. I know I certainly would not have been able to cope without their help.

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On the big day, all I pretty much did was get my hair and make-up done. Yet this ate much of my time and when I got home, my ordinary garage was transformed into a plush club. I was bubbling with excitement, everything was falling into place and I could not wait for the evening to begin.

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I changed and got ready for my party. Very soon, guests started trickling in. Colleagues from work, running buddies and long standing friends took time out to spend the evening with me.

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Announcements started promptly at 8pm. The MC was my work colleague, Evadne who had us in stitches. Neil was called upon to say a few words and everybody sang Happy Birthday. I was handed the mike and I spoke for some time. There was so much I wanted to say, so many people in my life who helped me along my journey, who meant so much to me and assisted to make the evening possible. My wish was for guests to eat, drink, be merry and let their hair down.

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After a successful speech, the party went into full force. The DJ played some awesome beats and we got down and danced the night away.

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My party was everything and more I could have hoped for. I thank God for gracing me with another year, for the opportunity to spend it with the ones I hold dear to my heart, for helping me to embrace my forties and to look forward to the next chapter in my life 🙂

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Week Seven

Recovery after Bunion Surgery

Finally the day of my appointment with my Doctor arrived and I was in high spirits – even though I had butterflies fluttering around in my tummy, I was eager to hear what the next phase in my recovery would entail.

Upon examining my feet, Dr Hastings indicated he was very happy with the healing process. He gave me the greatest news ever – that I could go ahead and fling those ghastly moon boots into the deepest ocean – okay I’m exaggerating here, but that’s what I imagined when he said I no longer needed to wear them *DOUBLE YAY*. He added that I could resume my normal activities – walking, gyming, driving – everything except running.

Next was my appointment with the Physiotherapist and she showed me a few exercises to perform to strengthen my big toes. Then came the moment of truth – whether my feet were strong enough to walk on as no pressure has been applied over the past seven weeks. She helped me off the bed and onto my feet and slowly led me by the hand to roll my feet and walk. I took small steps along the corridor and *drum roll* – NO PAIN – my smile was brighter than the sun!!! She commended how good my feet looked – although warning it was imperative that I perform the exercises daily.

Driving home with Neil felt like I had received an early Christmas gift and got exactly what I hoped for:-). Finally, I was given the go-ahead to walk in normal shoes – okay broad toe-box shoes – at this stage I really don’t care whether they are fashionable, as long as they’re comfortable. The very first thing I did when I got home was hop into the shower – standing on my own feet, water cascading over me, revelling in the longest shower I could stretch! I had dreamed of this moment for months and now that it was transpiring – I was in heaven! I truly appreciate my feet far more now and fully comprehend how simple pleasures can easily disappear from our lives in an instant without us knowing how lucky we are to have the privilege of our limbs or precious bodies.

I was over the moon to resume my normal activities and I went out of my way to ensure that my family celebrated a wonderful Christmas. I prepared as many dishes as I could before the big day to save time and not stress myself out. Even though I found it tough standing on my feet all the time, it was great being able to take care of my family and present them with a delicious Christmas meal with all the fan-fare. My friend Kim joined us and it was lovely having her at our table on one of the most delightful days of the year. Family and friends – the best blessings one could ask for:-).

As Christmas came and went and after eating far too much – I knew it was time to whip myself into shape. Over the past seven weeks, as much as I’ve tried to eat healthy during the course of the week, all the special outings Neil and I undertook over the weekends had cushioned me with unwanted weight. I was struggling to fit into my clothes and the moment of reckoning had arrived to resume an exercise routine.

On Saturday, Neil and I visited the gym eager to burn the excess kilograms. I could cycle, utilise the elliptical trainer, lift weights and swim. When I hopped onto the stationery bicycle, I was cautious not to hurt my feet and placed the level on one and set the time limit to ten minutes. When I finally reached ten minutes – I was flustered and sweating bullets! I couldn’t believe how unfit I’d become, considering I was training for a marathon and had built a huge fitness base before my op. It dawned on me that I was going to have to start from the very beginning and it would take considerable patience and dedication to get myself back on the road to fitness *sigh*.

On the same day I attended a talk by US Romance Author, Natasha Boyd on her journey into self-publishing. I belong to the Romance Writers Organisation of South Africa (ROSA) a group on Facebook which provides a platform for Romance Readers and Writers to communicate, promote their work and review books. I reviewed an anthology by Angéle Wells and Phoenix Kelly “Taking Pleasure Seriously” and was blown away by their writing abilities. Angéle organised this initiative and I decided to attend the event even though I was nowhere close to publishing a book or even writing my first novel.

We met at the Aquarium, amongst the hustle and bustle of tourists in Cape Town, in a conference venue, aptly titled the “Tranquillity Room”. In the back drop was a massive glass panel filled with humungous fish swimming in a merry go round. Only a few writers were present, from the introductions made, everyone was published or self-published writers. Natasha Boyd was warm and friendly and proceeded with her talk on her journey into writing and her great success within a short span of time, the pitfalls of signing with publishing companies who bind you to strict contracts, the advantages and disadvantages of utilising an Agent to market your work, etc. It was a real eye-opener realising that even though a writer has written a marvellous book, the struggles they face in getting their work published and receiving their worth. Natasha Boyd has written two romance novels, and her third “Eversea” was self-published and she conveyed her sentiments on this initiative.

Natasha Boyd gave freely of her time with no compensation made as she was on a visit with her family in Cape Town. It was wonderful sitting with a group of seasoned writers discussing our passions especially in a genre we all love. Even though I felt like a complete novice in their company, it was great to get out again and mingle with other writers, networking and learning as much as I can from the industry and the secrets to their success.

This week was everything and more than I ever expected! Not only have my feet shaped up nicely – I have been able to resume almost all of my former activities:-). I truly feel as if the recovery period was a blessing in disguise. It allowed me the space and time to find myself, to open my soul to new endeavours (meditation), to read to my hearts’ content, to focus 100% on my writing passion, enabling me to meet new writers and broaden my contacts while committing to a genre I adore – ROMANCE. The highlight of this phase was most definitely bonding with my family – a priceless treasure – and I was fortunate enough to be afforded with their unconditional love and care:-).

I want to take this opportunity and thank all my amazing friends – you know who you are – who came out week after week to check up on me, all the messages and calls, I truly appreciated each and every one and I will not forget who walked into my life and left footprints on my heart:-). This might be the end of my bunion recovery updates – however the Sweet Life of Sumi Singh will continue to deliver bigger and better happenings in 2015. I hope you stay with me for the ride…

Week Three – Recovery after Bunion Surgery…

The week started off rather quietly. I was becoming more and more frustrated having to remain in bed all the time, keeping my feet elevated. I was in pain with my left foot again, finishing my medication rather quickly which saw me sleeping the time away. However, I had an appointment with my Doctor this week to remove the casts which kept my spirits up.

When Thursday arrived, I was beaming with delight. Finally, I had the opportunity to wear normal clothing and I donned a polka dot skirt with a black t-shirt, to match the colour of the moon boots (of course) and I was oh so ready to see Dr Hastings. It felt GOOD sitting in the car with Neil driving to the hospital, taking in the sights and sounds of normal living – things so many of us take for granted on a daily basis.

I must admit, I felt somewhat self-conscious jumping out of the car with my moon boots for I knew everyone would be staring, but I soon got used to the glares and progressed to the consulting room with Neil firmly holding my hand to steady me. I didn’t need to use the crutches any longer for I’ve learnt to manoeuvre around nicely on the boots.

When the time arrived to head into the consulting room, I became antsy wondering how he was going to remove the casts, for adjacent to me were pliers and a drill and I was starting to flip out. However, I was assured by his Secretary that they would not be needed – phew *sigh of relief*. The whole process didn’t take too long for Dr Hastings isn’t much of a small-talker – so I had to prod him with questions as he proceeded to snip the bandages across my ankles with scissors and pulled off the casts rather gently revealing my new feet!!!

My, was I surprised to see them again – and WOW did they look different!!! They were super-straight and looked oh so nice:). Yes, there were stitches on the sides where they operated – but my toes were upright. Before my op, my second toe always hugged the big toe, and now although they were somewhat swollen, they were far apart – and most importantly – the bunions have vanished. I couldn’t believe how astounding his handiwork was!

Doctor Hastings placed a small dressing over the stitches and put my feet in stilts with metal on the sides to protect them. I still needed to wear the boots for the next four weeks which would allow a bit more movement however, I still needed to rest and take the weight off them to heal. He warned that I needed to take good care of my feet, to watch where I walked and not bump them for they weren’t strong enough.

I was pretty pleased with the outcome of the surgery and was happy as a lark when I headed home to show my feet off to my daughters. However, my joy was short-lived for I struggled to sleep through the night. I was completely conscious of my feet now with the tiny stilts covering them and was petrified I would knock them as I tossed and turned in bed.

The next day saw me walking around in the boots much easier though – now at least I could venture to the kitchen and lounge areas – no more meals in the room and no need to be confined to the bed for long hours – yippee:). Now I could  watch my favourite soapie, Isidingo whilst enjoying supper with the family – awesome:).

I asked Neil to move my laptop to my study – I found that writing on the bed and taking naps didn’t work well as I was tired all the time. Now I schedule time for writing and only sit for a limited period before I take a walk and rest up.

My dear friend Kim came over on Saturday and we schmoozed over tea for hours. It was lovely catching up, discussing running and training for the upcoming Two Oceans Half Marathon. It feels surreal not being part of the group in training, but one that I’ve accepted. It’s so lovely listening to how well the newbies are coming along training for their very first 21km race. Kim sparkles in her role as mentor, guiding so many of them, I am always in awe of her dedication and passion for running.

In the evening, Neil suggested we head to the beach to watch the sun setting. I couldn’t contain myself for we were going to buy take out from Simply Asia and head to Bloubergstrand:). It was heavenly – we sat in the car, eating, chatting, laughing and of course viewing a perfect sun falling into the sparkling sea – what a magnificent way to end the evening:).

So to sum up this week, I would say it was rather eventful. Staying at home most of the time can be such a bore, but when you have wonderful moments like these – it makes it all worth while. The LOVE I feel for my family and friends are cemented now more than ever before. Their unconditional love shines brightly over me, touching me so deeply – for I see clearly now who would move mountains for me – and I truly know they would:).

Week Two – Recovery after Bunion Surgery…

As much as I’ve tried to remain positive this week, it’s been quite a struggle to stay upbeat all the time. Waking up late on a Monday morning is GLORIOUS – FINALLY one is afforded the opportunity of staying home legally from work whilst everyone else is battling the traffic and stressing over the amount of work they have. But not me – I had time to rest when I wanted to, write when I felt like and then rest some more for the hell of it:)

But the feel good moment soon lost its sparkle when Tuesday rolled in. The hours seemed to drag on and boredom kicked in realising I was doing the same thing over and over. I was frustrating myself attempting to tidy up my room, finally coming to the realisation I cannot do much without putting pressure on my feet. A hopeless waste of time, I tell you.

My pain seems to be concentrated to my left foot. A throbbing searing pain that seems to intensify as time goes by. I take the recommended dosage of medication every six hours which causes intense drowsiness where I’m floating in and out of dreamland. All this sleeping during the course of the day tends to mess up my sleeping patterns in the evening – which sees me waking up at ridiculous hours of the morning, twiddling my thumbs, thinking what I could do to keep busy without waking Neil.

The bandages on my feet will hopefully be removed on 21/11 and to say I’m counting the days would be an understatement. It feels like I have permanent boots on which makes me look like an Eskimo in summer! Also placing the duvet over my feet at night feels as if they are slowly suffocating. Sleeping in the same position has been tough to work around; I just cannot seem to get comfortable. However, it amazes me the way the body can adapt to your circumstances and you somehow find a way of sleeping through the discomfort.

I was lucky to receive visits from two of my dear friends this week. One of them being, Naomi Williams. We met a few years ago at my Running Club where she was the Coach. I learnt so much from her when I was breaking into running. She always had an abundance of patience, listening to my woes, encouraging me to never give up and offering support when injuries got the better of me. She has been my running Mentor, having coached me on my very first Two Oceans Half Marathon. We would meet up every weekend at the crack of dawn, clocking in the distance, whilst chatting about life. Even though I was injured leading up to that particular race, I still managed to compete in it by following the run/walk approach Naomi recommended and it was mind-blowing crossing the finish line of my very first 21km race!!! She’s currently training for the upcoming Two Oceans Ultra and Comrades marathons and I just love sitting in her company listening to her strategies in tackling these mammoth races. What shines within her is her utter humbleness amongst all her achievements. She has an INCREDIBLE determination to succeed in everything she puts her mind to without the  motivation of others, a striking quality I admire tremendously. I cannot wait to be fully recovered to start training with her again in the future:).

Then my dear friend Heide Seiler came by to see me. I have known Heide for the past four years – which doesn’t seem long – but she’s made a profound impact in my life. I have never quite met anyone like her before – so full of love, kindness, understanding, tolerance, humbleness, the list goes on and on. She came into my life at a time when I needed her most – she helped me overcome so many issues for which I will forever be grateful for. She travels frequently to Germany, and when she’s away there’s such a void and I cannot help but miss her terribly. But when she returns, it’s as if she never left, for we catch up exactly where we left off! And even though she’s much older than me – I so love the wisdom she brings to the friendship. I learn so much from her on a daily basis, brimming with happiness coming out of our lengthy discussions about life. There are just some people in this world who truly fills your soul with contentment and she happens to be one of those special people:).

The upside of this week is that I managed to read a novel and write a few blog posts. I always struggle when it comes to writing fiction – I belong to the West Coast Writer’s Circle as well as a Small Writer’s Group. The goal is to write enough stories to keep me going next year and I haven’t even made a dent thus far!!! Writing is ridiculously tough – coming up with characters, plots, settings and satisfying endings is always challenging in the beginning … but once everything falls into place and the story takes flight, that’s when adrenalin sets in and you understand why you have a calling to be a Writer in the first place. I do so hope I get to that happy place again … soon.

So to sum my week up – I would say staying in bed all the time sucks – big time – but having a loving family who takes care of your every whim is priceless. In today’s world where life is super-busy, having friends find time in their hectic schedules to actually come by and visit you is the delectable icing and sweetest cherry on the cake for me. You fill me up with joy, help me feel special and lift my spirits in ways I can never quite repay. I truly love my family and friends…

It feels good to be home…

The moment I set foot at home and jumped (okay maybe jumped is not the appropriate word here!) GOT into my own bed – everything felt somehow better. Neil and I swapped sides which allowed easy access to the loo. I’m feeling much stronger on my legs than when I returned from the hospital and getting the knack of walking around in the moon boots (okay they’re still hideous) but at least I can steady myself on them and manoeuvre my way around with the trusty crutches.

The downside is having to elevate my feet all the time. It’s extremely uncomfortable to lay in the same position during the course of the day and still hope to get a good night’s sleep. When I eventually get some shut eye, it’s only for a few hours before I’m restless and sitting up again.

Right now, going to the toilet appears to be the highlight of my day:). At least I get to leave the confines of my bed and while away time on the toilet – reading a magazine of course. I even managed to give myself a wash from the hand basin in the children’s bathroom, which is kudos to me:). I feel exceedingly guilty that my family have to take on my responsibilities together with their own – so helping myself in small ways helps me to feel good and improves my independence.

On Saturday, my friend Kim came round to visit and I was over the moon. She is a running friend and when we get to talking about running, there’s no stopping us! I miss running with her, all the fantastic training runs we shared together and all the wonderful races we competed in. We were all set to run the Cape Town marathon before injury side-lined me. If fate had not stepped in, we would have conquered the marathon and would be focussing on the next big race. I revealed to her that I was more determined than ever now to run another marathon (which would be my first) for it was ripped from my hands like a coveted sweet stolen from a kid!

I further disclosed that when I was fully recovered, I wanted to train for more marathons – eventually leading up to the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon and setting my sights on the mother of all races… Comrades!!! I never in a million years thought I would ever consider training for a marathon, let alone Ultra or even Comrades for I never was one of those ambitious athletes, always sticking to my comfort zone – that being 21km races. But once the seed was planted by our Coach to test your limits and train for a marathon – a force overtook me. Initially I was terrified as to whether I had what it took to run the distance and whether my body would cope with the pressures it brought along. But as the training progressed and longer distances were introduced, I found I myself becoming stronger and fitter as my body grew accustomed to pushing limits it never knew existed. Running truly is a mind sport – what the mind conceives, the body can achieve. Unfortunately, due to circumstances out of my control, I had to pull out of the marathon. That is when tough decisions had to be made to lay off running and sort out my injuries and bunions once and for all. I really do believe I’ll come back stronger than before – for I WANT it so much more.

So Kim reminds me of my future goals and she truly is one of the best runners’ to train with. She has tons of experience when it comes to running – she eats, sleeps and breathes running. I admire her ability to place her own goals aside to help others – to nurture newbies on the road, to motivate us when we struggle with poor performance and pathetic times – she always has our best interests at heart. She will always hold a very special place in my soul and gives me renewed hope that we will run those epic races together and nothing would bring me more joy:).

Then my dear friend Jaya came by in the evening and when we get to chatting, the hours just while away. We share such a rich history together – having been friends since high school. We are of the same age, share similar interests such as fashion, music, dancing, health, writing, the list goes on and on. A striking quality that shines brightly within her is all the LOVE she  freely shares with those around her. She’s also the ultimate nurturer, going out of her way to care for those around her, especially when they need it most. I have learnt so much from her during the years, valuable lessons that have improved my relationships with family members and friends. It felt so good talking about life, hiccups at work and upcoming holidays.

The next day saw Jaya dropping by preparing a full Sunday lunch for us – on the Menu was Rice, Chicken Curry, Raso, Squash with Creamed Sweetcorn and a delicious salad. Mmm it was yummy, just as a home cooked Sunday meal is supposed to be. Neil dished up a huge plateful for me and I’m embarrassed to say to that I gobbled it all down – licking my lips with satisfaction. All I could do for the rest of the afternoon was laze around on the bed with my tummy protruding out of my PJ’s:).

Normally Sunday evenings is a hive of activity in the Singh residence – which usually sees me whipping up lunches for the following day, scurrying to pack the washing away, taking out clothing for work and school, attire for exercising, the list goes and on. But not this Sunday – whilst everyone was frantically getting things done, I was sitting and watching a movie with not a care in the world. Watching movies is a luxury to me, for I never had the time amongst the gazillion things that needed to be done.

I now have all the time in the world to relax, surf the internet, watch reality series like the Kardashians and finally watch all those PVR movies my kids have been recording for rainy days. Yip, this lazing around is going to do me the world of good – no traffic, no work stress, time to reflect, visits to be enjoyed, books to be read and stories to be written. So the Lesson learnt today – appreciate the setbacks, for if they didn’t happen – you might not have seen the silver lining…