Perm and Learn.
As a young woman trips to the hairdressers were looked upon as a real luxury. I always coloured my own hair and enjoyed styling it. Thinking that I’d got this hairdressing lark sussed, I decided that it was time to give myself a home perm. They were all the fashion, but to go to the hairdresser and have a professional perm was completely out of my price range, so a home perm it was. I followed the instructions to the letter, and although I do say so myself, I made a really good job of it. So, when a close friend of mine asked if I’d give her a perm, I said, “No problem.”
I arranged to go over to her house the following Saturday evening. She was going to buy the perm and provide drinks and nibbles so that we could make an evening of it.
Saturday night came and we got started almost as soon as I walked through the door. I placed my packet of cigs and lighter on the mantlepiece next to the ashtray, while Susan filled me a large glass of cider. (My tipple of the day ) I quickly read through the instructions, took a large glug of cider and lit a ciggy. Let the hairdressing begin!
Susan and I had been good friends for years. We were the kind of friends that ‘got’ one another’s sense of humour. The more we drank the more we giggled, plus I’m sure that the fumes from the perming lotion were making me feel woozy and light headed. Then out of the corner of my eye I noticed that my cig had rolled out of the ashtray and was burning a nice hole in her beautifully polished mantlepiece. Susan’s house was a palace compared to mine, but I never envied her. I was genuinely pleased when she showed me her latest acquisitions, be it household goods or clothing.
Anyway, I was in total shock when I looked and saw the burn mark that the cigarette had left.
“Please forgive me, I’ll pay for the mantle to be re-polished,” I said franticly rubbing at the scorched wood.
Susan knew, as well as me, that I would never have the money to pay for it to be repaired. She was very gracious about it and just pushed an ornament over the burn, “There, job’s a good un!” she smiled.
I finished the perm and a full bottle of cider. In a slurred voice I told Susan to leave the perming pins in overnight and that I’d see her tomorrow morning for the big reveal.
The next day I walked over to Susan’s house, a little hung over and still remorseful over the cigarette burn. I entered the house via the back door as usual, only to be met by a red eyed Susan.
“Look at me,” she yelled! “You bloody fool, what have you done to my hair?”
What I’ve forgotten to mention, is that Susan had the most beautiful, long, golden blonde, shiny hair. (Had!) She’d put it into two plats, (two very thick, straw like plats, I have to say) and as she yelled abuse at me she bent them in the middle. They both just stayed there. She looked like a character from a cartoon, stood there with two pigtails pointing up to heaven.
I couldn’t work out what had happened, so I walked over to the kitchen bin and rummaged around until I found the instructions for the perm. All the time I was insisting that I’d followed the instructions to the letter, and it must be the product that was at fault. Reading them a little more carefully, and I have to confess, a lot more soberly, I gasped, “I was supposed to take the perming pins out and wash your hair after I’d applied the neutraliser!”
“You don’t bloody say?” Susan screamed.
That wasn’t the end of a beautiful friendship, I’m glad to say but, it came very close to being. It took months, and several trips to the hairdresser, before her hair was in anything like good condition. A word from the wise, never drink and perm!
At this point I should perhaps be telling you that my days as an amateur hairdresser were over, but alas I can’t. All of my children, and even D.H, have been victim to my non-skills. In fact D.H once had a bald patch on the back of his head the size of a fifty pence piece. I had to bribe the children not to say anything about it, fortunately we were going away on holiday so none of his work pals or our friends saw it and grassed on me.
Anyway, that was only one of many times I came a cropper due to alcohol. I think that I drank my way through the first fifteen years of marriage, and then just stopped. It wasn’t long before I’d replaced the drinking with something else, something much more harmful, but that’s another story, for another time.
I hadn’t had a drink for about ten years, plus by that time I’d started going God’s way, so all harmful substances had been given up. Then in the summer of 2010, our son and his wife came to visit. I remember it as if it was yesterday. It was a beautiful warm summer’s day, and we’d caught the bus over to the park to hear a band playing. We sat in the sunshine listening to the music. I asked if anyone would like a bottle of water from the shop.
D.H and our son asked me to get them some lagers, and my daughter-in-law asked for a soft drink. In the shop I picked up a four pack for the boys and as I did I noticed ice cold cans of G&T. I bought two. Within six weeks of drinking those two small cans of G&T, I was downing a bottle of gin a week. I would mix it with tonic water, not diet mind — it’s bad for you! (That’s irony!)
This went on for a couple of years. Not only was I drinking myself into an early grave, but I must have put on ten stone with all of that sugary tonic water and the lack of willpower drinking brings. I attended church, worked and ran a home, but the drink had a hold of me. I had become a functioning alcoholic. Then our youngest boy paid us a visit, and to cut a long story short, he told me to get a grip!
This time I didn’t stop drinking completely, but I did stop drinking G&T’s and just had the occasional glass of wine. I put myself on a healthy eating plan and started to take care about what I ate and within seven months I’d lost almost eight stone. Yippee!
Drinking or not, I knew that God loved me and had a plan for my life. But, the truth is, He had better ideas for my life than just sitting around every evening swigging gin. I never got to the ‘falling down drunk’ stage like in my younger years, except on one occasion when the family were over and the grandkids were tucked up in bed. (No drinking in front of the children!) We had put a kiddy gate on the landing to stop the children going down the stairs. With a glass of gin in one hand, I tried to open the gate with the other, then pressed the release button and pushed against the gate with all my weight. It dislodged from its fixings and crashed to the floor with me laid prostrate on top of it, one arm outstretched holding up my glass of gin like a trophy. The adults found it all very amusing – I, on the other hand, was chuffed because I hadn’t spilt a drop of gin, also that was my first glass of the evening, so it was an accident rather than a drunken stupor.
Last year I went to Cherish, a ladies Christian conference. I told myself before I went that I wouldn’t drink alcohol, and I didn’t. God really spoke to my heart at that conference. He told me to use the gift that He had given me. (Something that He’d been saying for a while, but because of fear and self doubt, I chose to ignore.) That gift was to write and that’s where ‘Annie on the Rocks’ was birthed. I came away from that weekend full of ideas and buzzing, but my drinking had taken another turn. D.H and I often go out for a meal on a Monday because it’s our day off. We regularly visited a local restaurant that gave points every time you dined. You could exchange the points for two free puddings, £5 off your bill or a bottle of wine. Well, it was a no brainer, the free wine was the best deal. Plus, I was looking after my figure, so no puddings for me, ha-ha! It never fails to amaze me how we can tell ourselves one thing is good for us and totally overlook what is bad for us. God tells us that our bodies are a temple for His Holy Spirit, my body was more like a wine vat than a temple. At first I would get the wine, drink a glass in the restaurant with our meal and take the rest of the bottle home to drink later. It wasn’t long before I was downing the whole bottle of wine in the restaurant and then buying another one on the way home. Let me tell you,Tuesday mornings at work were often very interesting!
Anyway, we have come full circle, and a year later it was back to Cherish. I was so excited, I wondered what God was going to do this year; Annie on the Rocks had been quite successful but I just knew that there was more. I’d had a stinking cold on the run up to Cherish, it was so bad that D.H didn’t think that I was well enough to attend.
“I’ll be fine,” I protested. “If I don’t make all of the meetings it doesn’t matter. I’ll get to some of them. Plus I’m staying in a beautiful hotel with room service, so if I need anything I can just order it.”
When my daughter and I arrived at the hotel, I felt really grotty. So she went to the evening meeting and I stayed in bed. She came back several hours later with a nice bottle of wine for me and some non-alcoholic drinks for her. We spent the rest of the evening talking and drinking, I downed the whole bottle of wine and fell into a deep sleep. I woke the next morning with the mother of all hangovers and couldn’t enjoy the wonderful hotel breakfast. At the meeting I felt sick, had tummy ache and was still struggling with my cold. There were seven thousand ladies at that conference, can you imagine the queues for the loos? Not good when you have a dicky tummy and the potential to throw up at any moment. I made it to the loo just in time and sat with my head in my hands. Right there in that toilet, with my knickers round my ankles and my head in my hands, God’s grace ministered to me and I knew that I’d turned a new chapter in my life with Him. You see, God doesn’t need us to be in a church service, or to be in a stadium with seven thousand women – He can deal with us wherever we are. I just wish that He’d done it in a more glamorous place for this story, but hay-ho.
I walked back to my seat next to my daughter and said, “I’m an alcoholic, will you help me to stop drinking?”
Now, I know that it is God who will get me through this, but a little help from someone close to me seemed like a good idea. We both cried, and held one another tight, and that was it. The first thing that I did when I got home was to pour all the wine we had in the house down the sink; it was liberating, even for a Yorkshire lass that can’t stand waste.
“Why are you telling us all of this Annie?” you may well be asking. Because as painful as it is, the Lord told me to! “Get it out into the open Annie.”
Some of you out there might be thinking to yourselves, two bottles of wine a week does not an alcoholic make, and you might be right, but binge drinking is no good for anyone and that’s where I was. Others might be thinking, ‘That answers a lot of questions about her,’ and maybe it does.
To say that I had an addictive personality would be the understatement of the year. You might not believe this, but I was once addicted to sparkling bottled water! But, that is all in the past and the way forward is clear and addiction free. Amen.
If you’re struggling with an addiction of any kind and want someone to talk to, get in touch, we may be able help each other.
P.S – Cherish 2017 is booked and paid for, and I can’t wait to see what He asks me to do next!