Trying differently

I could feel my mood of the last few days going downhill to some possibly bad places so I decided to get off my butt and do something different. Inspired by reading some great outdoor activity posts at soberisland’s blog I pushed myself to get out and do something outdoorsy.

There’s a lovely country park that’s less than 3 miles from my house and disappointingly, I’ve probably not been more than 3 times in the decade that I’ve lived in the area. I’d wanted to do it earlier in the week but couldn’t summon the motivation to go out in the rain. When the sun appeared yesterday I decided to go for it.

It was absolutely wonderful. I ended up walking almost 4 miles through sunny woodland trails like this:

woodland

It affected me on a really deep, subtle level that I can’t quite define. It was one of those quiet, long, YES! feelings; a remembering of something essential that I hadn’t even realised I’d forgotten. At one point, I found a nice spot to take a rest and breathe in the sunshine and nature:

woodland2

I could feel my mind getting quieter and calmer whilst the damp, earthy smells and sights trickled into some inner void, filling and recharging me. I’m still stunned at the effect it’s had on me, I feel like I’ve had a total reset. I’ve been restful, focused, productive and mellow since yesterday. I’ve resolved to get out and do this at least once a week from now on. My own weekly ‘meeting’ with the healing higher power of nature. I can buy an annual car park pass that will give me access to a number of local woodlands and lakes for about the price of 10 bottles of cheap wine. What a bargain!

The Japanese have been prescribing Shinrin-Yoku or forest bathing to their stressed out city dwellers for decades. There seems to be some scientific basis to support it too. Trees release chemicals called phytoncides which are like tree essential oils. Inhaling them apparently has a number of healing benefits for your mood, energy and immune system.

I’m so happy I made myself venture out yesterday, it’s made a whole world of difference. I’m glad I tried something different.

Have a good sober day folks, and if you get the chance, go sniff a tree 😀

Coffee – moderation vs abstinence, again!

I spent most of the weekend laid out on the sofa with extreme fatigue and a headache which wasn’t much fun. I did get to have a guilt-free netflix binge though so it’s not all bad. I’ve been weaning down off my prodigious coffee intake which was probably the cause. It’s something I’ve had my head in the sand about for a while but I’ve decided it’s time to tackle it.

I know coffee has had a lot of good press. It’s rich in antioxidants and polyphenols and there have been studies that link it with the prevention of some diseases. That being said, red wine has also had some good press, and look where that got me. Coffee also definitely has a dark side with a number of negative side effects – particularly when consumed in excess and hey, this is me I’m talking about ;D

It’s particularly questionable for somebody suffering from autoimmune thyroid disease (Hashimoto’s). When I was first diagnosed, many years ago, my initial research found this out fairly quickly and I quit straight away. It was one of the combination of things that temporarily put a halt on the disease and made me feel much better.

I need to cut it out again and I’m struggling, much in the same way that I did/do with alcohol. I can list the logic and reasons for quitting – the effect on autoimmune antibody levels, the flogging of the adrenals, the effects on gut microbiome and gut lining, the possible interference with T4 to T3 conversion etc, etc… But, in the same way that knowing the health risks of drinking didn’t rein me in, it’s not stopping me from staring at the dregs in my ever-weakening cup and really, REALLY wanting ‘just one more’. Just one more – yeah, that sounds familiar.

One of the myriad of thyroid symptoms that bothers me the most is the constant tinnitus – it drives me nuts. Coffee is guaranteed to ramp this up within a few minutes. It’s not guaranteed to be a deterrent though, just like a hangover never was with alcohol.

Aarrghh! Why am I like this?! When I was feeling low over the weekend I had a niggly voice telling me that as I was feeling so crap I may as well drink, it wouldn’t make any difference. I didn’t listen but I’m feeling frustrated, grey and pissy today – to match the weather. There’s a part of me having a tantrum inside that just wants to down wine, strong black coffee and slabs of chocolate while rolling around making rude gestures at the part of me trying to sort my life out. I won’t though…

Ah, the ups and downs… Wishing you an UP day today.

 

 

Life is a seesaw

It’s been a real rollercoaster ride of ups and downs since I last posted. I’m still sober though, on day 50 now.

I had a very hard time sleeping for a few days, I worked 4 nights in a row whilst my neighbours were fitting a kitchen. Imagine you’ve just settled down in bed at 11pm, tired and ready to sleep and then then house starts vibrating and shaking with heavy drilling and hammering. Of course, that would be illegal in most places and just wouldn’t happen. Flip it 12 hours and there’s nothing you can do. It’s hell for nightshifters. It’s been a long time since I remember feeling that tired, run-down and desperate. It passed though, it always passes. Their work is finished and I’m off work for a week now so all is good again. I’m currently spending 10-12 hours in bed each night to make up for it.

I’ve also had a slightly frightening reminder about a different type of drinking trigger that affects me – being over excited about something. When I read about other people’s triggers or think about my own I tend to find that they are generally negative events such as sadness, boredom, feeling left out socially, depression or stress. For me there’s also definitely a flip side.

It’s a side of me I’ve not experienced for a long time which is in itself a mixture of good and bad. I remember many times when I’ve been gripped by the creative urge and got swept up into a hyper excited and hyperactive state. It’s the sort of feeling that makes you jump out of bed and work day and night on something. It’s amazing but it can also be frightening. I’ve had many occasions where I’ve wondered whether I was tipping over the edge into a manic state, whether I could be affected by bipolar disorder. I have sometimes ended up looking like a sugar-rushing toddler, fidgeting, pacing around, talking to myself. The end point of these hyperactive creative sessions has usually involved dousing down the feeling with large amounts of wine so I can ‘come down’ and finally sleep.

I also remember drinking heavily after finding out I’d got a job I really wanted, or after scoring a hefty freelance contract, or having met an exciting new man. These are all positive, exciting things so why did they usually result in destructive levels of drinking?

To sum it up, I think it’s just another version of being overwhelmed by strong feelings. Sometimes even extremely good feelings can get too much. For example, an orgasm feels wonderful in the moment but imagine if you got stuck in that feeling 24/7; you’d quickly become non-functioning in your daily life. It probably wouldn’t be great medically either. You can definitely have too much of a good thing.

I’m feeling reconnected to that creative ‘fire’ at the moment. It’s one of the things that got drowned out by my heavy drinking. I’m very happy that it’s back. It’s an important part of me that I don’t want to lose. Like any kind of fire I know I need to handle it with care though. It brought along the strongest craving to drink I’ve had in the last 50 days, probably the only strong craving in fact. I have been having mild ‘restless’ sort of cravings but they are few and far between and fairly easy to dismiss. Those cravings feel like they’re whispering from a distance now rather than shouting in my ear. Those cravings have become like hapless salesmen trying to sell me something crap that I don’t want. The manic high cravings are somewhat tougher. They are going to need more of my sober tools to deal with.

So although I’d say that generally, things are good at the moment, I do feel like I’m walking around on a seesaw trying to find a new balance point. Things in my life feel like they are changing and growing and it can be uncomfortable at times. I’d rather this though than continuing to tread water in a deep pool of wine.

It feels odd to be up and about on a Saturday with a full weekend stretching out before me. I’m usually just going to bed now. My partner is away visiting family so I have the house to myself to just potter. I have a few simple things in mind to do today – some drawing, gardening, a walk, some cooking, a sauna and a hot bath maybe.

I hope everybody else has a good sober weekend too. Keep going, keep sharing your journeys x

 

Life is good (in general)

It’s day 41 here – I had to find my phone to check on that. I was going to post for 5 weeks but I’ve been so busy getting into my creative work I didn’t get round to it.

Not everything is great, such is life. The company I work for has announced another large round of job cuts. My shift has survived this time but my job is definitely looking less secure each day. I’ve resolved not to worry about it. I have savings so losing my job would suck but it wouldn’t be an immediate emergency. If/when it happens I’ll worry about it then. I’ve spent far too much of my life worrying about stuff I can’t control – it never prevents anything and just wastes my time and energy.

I’m currently reading a book that is worth a mention here. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon it; maybe it was mentioned in a podcast or web article. It’s called Blessed Are The Weird by Jacob Nordby. I thought it sounded like my kind of book so I bought the kindle version and got stuck in. I’m only halfway through but I can already tell it’s one of those rare and precious gems that has the power to utterly transform a life.

Fairly close to the beginning this passage was the first of many to reach deep into my soul:

Where it all begins, I cannot say, this sense of being a stranger in a world full of people who seem to belong in it. All I know is that some of us are not like the others – something in us doesn’t fit.

Well hellloooo! The gems just keep coming:

The problem is the numbing.

The problem is that we have forgotten how to make our own lives works of art and we cannot seem to find enough ways to gorge ourselves to fill the aching sense of emptiness this leaves behind. Because we don’t know how to fill up the space of our lives with ourselves, we turn that job over to others and then wonder why we are never satisfied.

Does that sound familiar at all?

There is also a beautiful quote from the poet Mia Hollow:

Every now and again, you will feel a dull ache in your soul. A gentle humming around your heart. A longing for something without a name. If I ever told you to obey anything, this would be it. Listen to the call of your authentic self; that part of you that lives just outside your own skin. Let it have its way with you. I have died a hundred times trying to ignore it.

And I have drunk a hundred times (and the rest) trying to ignore the dull ache, and shoehorn myself into the socially agreed version of an acceptable life, career, drinking habits etc…

The book addresses many of the recurring issues that I struggle with myself and regularly read among other sober bloggers. A feeling of never quite finding our place in the world, social awkwardness, the tendency to isolate or that feeling of having missed the point somehow. I’ve always had a feeling of there being ‘something more’. On the very rare occasions I have voiced this I’ve often been made to feel ungrateful because although my life has had its fair share of ups and downs it has (in general) not been so bad. It’s not been bad enough to ‘justify’ developing a drinking problem, according to some.

I was tucked up in bed last night, reading in utter amazement as the book basically spelled out the story of my life. I realised that the lack of connection to my deeper creative soul is a big part of what I’ve been trying to drink away. Over time I became so disconnected that I couldn’t even remember what it was I was missing but I kept drinking anyway.

I was thinking about that illusory first drink and its misleading buzz that we chase over and over. It’s just a poor photocopy of the magic that we have forgotten can be found within – a photocopy degraded a thousand times. The magic is never going to be found in the drink, it’s all within ourselves and we all have it in our own ways. It’s the magic that we saw everywhere in the world as children but lost as we grew up. The hard part is remembering and reconnecting 😦

So, as you can probably tell, I’m quite excited about it all. I’d go as far as to say I think this book is going to do more to cement in some core foundations of sobriety than the many books I have read about quitting drinking.

I’m still running with the poetry that keeps popping into my mind. I’m going to combine it with the visuals that are forming too. It looks like illustrated poetry is going to be my ‘thing’. I’d never have predicted it but the more I focus on it the more I can feel the magic creeping back into life and the joy and excitement growing. I’ve been so busy and uplifted by turning towards these wonderful new things that I’ve gone long stretches of time forgetting that I’ve turned away from drinking. This definitely feels like a breakthrough in the right direction.

The sun is shining here even though it’s still cold. I love those first few times of feeling sunshine on my face after a long, dark winter. Gratitude for the small things feels good 🙂

I hope you’re having a good week so far. Hugs to anybody struggling, keep going and keep writing – it doesn’t matter whether you’re on one year or one day, your sharing will be helping somebody out there x

4 weeks

It’s been a good week in general. There was one notable incident that affected me to a surprising degree. It happened at work. I’d just arrived and went to join a few of my colleagues already sitting in the canteen. I usually just quietly drink my pre-work coffee and stay on the periphery of canteen conversations but this one was – unknown to my colleagues – like a kick in the guts.

One woman – who I’ll call Pat – was fuming about the destruction that addiction causes. Her daughter’s fiance had been taking money from her to pay important bills and to put away to save for their upcoming wedding. Instead, he’d secretly been gambling it all. Her daughter had finally found a scary letter informing them of their large arrears. The fiance had been intercepting all demand letters for months but this one escaped him. She also found out that the wedding money had been lost too. Her hard-earned sense of having things under control has been yanked out from under her and her very young daughter’s feet. The resulting fallout has fractured the whole family in heartbreaking and near-violent ways.

Pat says she would understand if her daughter ended up taking him back but doesn’t think they should get married so soon. I said it was probably not a good idea to get married at all. It changes things in legal and financial liability ways. I was sad for her daughter and depressed for myself as it’s advice I’ve also had to follow 😦

Pat then went on to say she had hoped that her daughter had moved out from the shadow of addiction when she left home. She described her husband as an obviously physically addicted but ‘functioning’ alcoholic.

I had to be so careful what I said in that context and so was unable to say anything but general thoughts and sympathies. Really though, I had SO much to say about both revelations but I had to swallow it all so as not to out myself. It was really uncomfortable. As I went out to start working I felt tight-chested and had a lump in my throat like I was going to cry. I felt spacey and a bit anxious. Fighting to keep my face neutral and choking on things unsaid actually made me feel ill. I had to deep breathe and try to get into the rhythm of my job which ironically had taken me to the booze department first. After an hour or so I felt ok but I was still shocked by the effect it had had on me and sad for their family.

On a more positive note, I’m still feeling completely different than I can ever remember feeling – in a good way. I’ve been trying to put my finger on it and I think it boils down to my motivation having switched positions from being mainly extrinsic to intrinsic.

I’ve long been fascinated by the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. For so long my reasons to not drink have been purely extrinsic or external. What damage was I doing to my health? What life events was I missing out on? What would other people think of me? What was it doing to my finances? How shit was I going to feel later? etc… There’s nothing wrong with any of these external motivations and many are helpful in the bigger motivational picture. What I struggle with is the fact that they are all things I would run away from. They’re like a horde of scary spectres chasing me down the street, taunting me with all the bad juju they will unleash if I don’t stay sober. I’m no ultra-marathon runner – there’s only so far I can run before I fall.

So if we don’t want to be running away from, what’s the other option?

Moving towards. I’m going to drop the running bit, my knees can’t take it 😉 This is where I’m less clear and I’m struggling to describe it.

I guess one good example is in day counting. Something about it has always felt awkward to me. I would check my day counting app more than once a day, as if to reassure myself. I would cling to each day and it would feel like a weapon of sorts. A collection of days would come together to form a shield I could brandish at the chasing spectres. Each day also sometimes felt like a tiny, insignificant step on a never-ending journey. I couldn’t see where the journey was going but I needed some sense of going somewhere, of control, achievement, or proof.

This time it feels different. I sometimes don’t check my app and have gone more than one day not really aware of which day I was on – because I haven’t even thought about it. I’m not trying to prove anything to the outside world any more, it’s more of a quiet acceptance and feeling good in this day without looking too far ahead. It’s moving towards the good things. More peace, more health, more gratitude etc. It’s acting out of love rather than fear. It’s a quiet internal motivation that shines upwards and outwards from the centre of my being rather than an oppressive motivation that pushes inwards and downwards from the outside.

As for how the switch was made, I guess it has something to do with my surrendering 4 weeks ago. I’ve joked to myself that the real me must have been abducted by aliens and this new me has been dropped in her place. Yeah, I watch too much Star Trek.

It has spread out beyond just drinking. My diet is much better. I’ve figured out a major food irritant and have gone from having constant gut pain needing painkillers just to function to absolutely zero pain. It’s such a massive leap in my quality of life just from making some simple but consistent food (and drink) choices. My level of general self-care has improved enormously. I’m seeing consistency instead of chaos. I feel so much better.

Of course, I know from past experience not to be complacent. My gratitude for today is for all the good things that are happening. Tomorrow is a new day where anything could happen.

Sending out some supportive sober gratitude vibes to you all. I hope you all have a good sober weekend.

Day 21

So I made it to 3 weeks this time, yayy! I’m still feeling my newly discovered inner resolve and haven’t thought much about drinking over the last week.

I had a really disturbing drinking dream yesterday though. I had gone to visit an old friend and her partner and we’d arranged to go out. Then things become a bit unclear because the dream cuts to me knocking on the door to hurry them up so we can go out but it’s actually 8am Sunday morning and I’m drunk with an almost finished bottle of wine in my hand. She’s all sleepy and in her PJs and I felt really embarrassed and ashamed. I think I had a blackout in a dream!! Then I wanted to get away from there urgently and was debating how dangerous it would be to drive but she was telling me to come inside the house. That’s all I can remember.

For the first few moments after I woke up I was still feeling the shame, anxiety and extreme disappointment – I felt like I was going to cry. I can’t tell you how happy I was when I realised I was still sober and it had all been a bad dream 😀

Happy sober Friday folks x

 

The persistent poet

A few days ago I was sitting at my laptop trying to finish some artwork in progress. I felt distracted, restless, slightly bored and knew I was forcing myself in the wrong direction for that moment. I gave up and ended up pacing around in an all too familiar void.

What happened next was strange. I seem to have a mysterious persistent poet hiding somewhere inside me and it started poking snippets of poetry in to my consciousness. I have no idea where this comes from. I’ve had creative thoughts and ambitions in art, music, photography and some forms of writing but never poetry. If you’ve been reading my ramblings for a while you may remember my sweary ditty An ode to sparkling water. This is something I’ve never taken seriously though.

In my current spirit of surrender I decided to go with it. I plonked down on the sofa with a pot of coffee and a cheap sketchbook and pencil and then poetry just poured out of me for the next 3 hours along with scribbled ‘shorthand’ versions of accompanying illustrations. I wrote whole poems, small sections and rough ideas too – all on the subject of drinking and recovery. Huh?!

Here’s a sample:

Hangover Grey

The sun shines bright, what a beautiful day

But under the duvet your world is grey

Wake up! Let’s go!

You can’t! You know

The nauseas seeps and sadness creeps

You’re here again, you said you wouldn’t

Just one glass! But then you couldn’t

It’s every time, why can’t you stop?

It’s no holds barred once that cork pops

Anxiety grips your pounding chest

What happened last night? Was I a mess?

Your clammy head can’t face the dread

You burrow deeper into bed

It’s the weekend friend, let’s go and play

Ugh! Not today

Please go away

I know bugger all about poetry but I quite like it. Maybe I have the start of a new sober hobby or project? When the urge pops up I won’t fight it, I’ll run with it and see what happens.

Has anybody else had something like this pop up unexpectedly in early sobriety? It’s very odd.