One year tomorrow

So, I hit one year tomorrow!! Woop woop! I’ll be at work so I’m posting a few hours early I guess. It’s hard to believe I’m at this milestone that once seemed enormously impossible, but here I am. If I can finally manage to do it after what seems like a million restarts then you can definitely do it too. Cheering for you all over here yayy!

One of the problems with not posting here as often is that so much stuff happens and I don’t know where to start when I do get round to writing. A lot has happened over the last month – some bad and some good.

A few weeks ago wordpress wished me a happy third blog anniversary. Three years! I was a bit surprised by that so I went back right to the beginning and sure enough, my first post was on December 29th 2014 when I was the tender age of 40 – and in a pretty tender state too. I was 44 at the weekend and I ended up in the same pub where I had my lapse last year. This year it was coffee and sparkling water and not a moment’s second thoughts 😀

A lot has changed and that change has taken a lot of time and perseverance. It was a gradual process and it was definitely worth it. If you’re doing dry January then hang in there if you’re wanting to speed things along or are wondering why you don’t feel awesome after a few weeks. Be patient and congratulate yourself for every win, every day, no matter how small they feel now. Over time it all adds up to something much bigger.

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas/Holiday season and a happy new year. I didn’t have much time off work so it was all very low-key which is how I prefer it. I actually ended up eating Turkish food, in a Hindu community centre, on a Christian celebration day which was pretty unplanned but it was certainly different. I had wanted to stay home, cook some nice food and chill out but my partner’s boss bought us tickets to this event which created a sense of obligation. I was a bit pissed off about it but once I got over my objections and just went with it it ended up being an interesting experience.

New year’s eve I was on night shift so I ended up spending midnight in the staff canteen with a few colleagues. When they popped open a couple of bottles of sparkly stuff I honestly didn’t bat an eyelid. I reached over for the bottle of schloer, poured myself a plastic glass of it, ate some munchies, and watched the guys get a bit flushed and silly and talk shit. Nobody commented on the fact that I wasn’t drinking or asked me why. People often care less than you think. I felt good afterwards that I wasn’t even the slightest bit tempted to drink although I was on a bit of a sugar rush, damn that stuff is sweet.

I still get reminders of why it’s best that I don’t drink. When I was setting off for work on NYE I spotted a sweet-looking couple walking hand in hand away from a local shop, carrying a single bottle of wine. My first thought was immediately ‘ONE bottle between TWO of you!? Are you fucking crazy?!’ I was reminded that my idea of stocking up for new year’s eve has always been somewhat different. I would feel nervous with less than two bottles for myself and then I’d buy far too much for anybody else that would be around – just in case, you know? Yeah, if you’re reading this then I know that you know. I’m so relieved I don’t have to think about all that stuff any more. Life is so much simpler now.

The low point of the month was when my elderly dad fell victim to some rogue builder crime. He’d agreed to have some guys clean his gutters out but they went on to do lots of unasked for work and then demanded an exorbitant sum of cash in an intimidating fashion. He handled it fairly well and they ended up getting less money than they wanted but it was still a significant amount. I wish he’d called the police sooner (he reported it after the event) but I think he was in shock and prioritising his personal safety (one old man against three scumbags).

When I found out about this I was absolutely gutted, and completely fucking livid! I really struggled to handle the anger sober. Adrenaline gets extremely uncomfortable if there’s enough of it and I was absolutely packed full of it that day. My thoughts were pretty dark when I considered what those cowardly bastards had done. I wished for a consequence-free few minutes with a baseball bat and other such violent thoughts. I’m kind of ashamed to write that but that’s how it was. Without dousing down the heated anger with booze I just had to sit and seethe and sizzle. Eventually it passed, as everything does. He’s OK and moving on from it as am I. No matter how bad we feel in the moment, everything really, really does pass – this is something I’m learning more and more in sobriety.

My college course started earlier in the month and I’m loving it. More about that later though, it’s a whole post of its own.

I haven’t been around here much but I’ll be catching up on blogs and seeing how everybody’s doing over the coming week though. I’m on the last day of a week off work and I’m going to spend the evening watching netflix and eating donuts – I’m such a rebel these days pffff!

Big sober hugs to all, have an awesome weekend 🙂 x




Contemplating milestones

Hi all. I’m still here and still sober. I’ve really been neglecting this blog but it’s mainly for the best of reasons with a light sprinkling of laziness and procrastination thrown in. I’ve recently been feeling pretty inspired and have been busy working on creative projects. I have the kind of clarity of mind and the ability to focus that has been missing for a long, long time due to my drinking. I don’t plan to waste it. I’m also busy at work, it’s silly season in retail, meh!

Now I am starting to see my one year date on the horizon. I’m not taking anything for granted but I’m also not fearful that I won’t make it. I remember when lasting three days was a struggle and when thirty seemed impossible. Now I’m feeling very fortunate that I’ve done more than ten (and a half) of those in a row.

Looking through some old notebooks I found notes making plans to do a ‘YOLS’. I’d forgotten about that. It was my discreet acronym for a year of living sober. I’m not sure when it was from but I think it may even predate this blog. I’ve evidently been thinking about this for such a long time and now, finally, I find myself contemplating this significant milestone.

I’ve previously tried to imagine this point many times. As with so many of our fears or expectations, most of what I imagined doesn’t match the reality.

I imagined that the decision whether or not to drink again at this stage would be one still based on struggle and fear. Maybe I’d want to try drinking again but I’d be too scared of it all escalating again? I thought I’d be torn – do I? Don’t I? Instead I find myself ready to renew my sober vow to myself out of excitement, curiosity and determination. Not what I was expecting but, I’ll take it!

I visualise this as being like hiking up a big mountain, it’s probably the best way to express how I’m feeling. The beginning of the hike was dreadful. Every step took a huge amount of effort. I had no idea how I was going to keep going. Everything hurt, I was unfit and ill-prepared. The summit looked a million miles away. As the days, weeks and months passed I got fitter, stronger and more experienced and the steps forward became progressively easier. It’s not all been plain sailing (or hiking). At times I felt exhausted and demotivated and wanted to just give up and slide back down the mountain. Many times I wondered if it was all really necessary or worth it. At other times I felt all pink cloudy and fired up, confidently striding onwards and upwards. It’s definitely been a mixed year.

Now, the one year summit is in sight. I’m feeling fit and strong and the final few weeks of the hike don’t intimidate me. I know there are always opportunities to slip or fall but I keep my eyes carefully on the path ahead. The idea of drinking again when I finally reach the summit now seems as crazy as doing a real hike up a mountain and then not bothering to stop and admire the view. Why on earth would I waste all that effort?

I have thought that making it to one year would somehow be the end of the process but now I suspect it’s actually going to be a new beginning. Now I’ve got to the stage where I’m spending very little mental energy on not drinking it’s all been freed up to do other stuff that I couldn’t focus on before. I’m not big on new years’ resolutions, never have been, but I’ve vowed that 2018 is the year I’m finally going to make my creative stuff pay. The quality and consistency of my work has definitely increased in the last few months.

I can feel a return of the positivity and determination that I had when I was younger. That feeling that even though stuff might be hard, I can DO shit. Also that feeling that I CAN, and WILL, find a way to make things happen, even if the HOW is not immediately obvious. There are also more frequent moments of peace and contentment, sometimes in the strangest contexts – just bog-standard ordinary moments rather than overtly ‘good’ times. I find gratitude comes easier these days and I’ve definitely noticed a general swing towards a more positive mental attitude.

I still find dealing with life and the world difficult at times. I have sensitive introvert tendencies and events often feel way too ‘in my face’ but I find that in my new clarity I can usually summon that little ounce of extra courage to get out there and attempt things in spite of my anxiety. And if something does go wrong or my mood drops then it’s easier to move through it and learn my lessons if I actually feel the difficult feelings rather than hide away from them behind the drinking.

So, next month I will be waving goodbye to my first year of sobriety and welcoming the beginning of year two with a little bit of trepidation but mostly with anticipation. I’m not sure where it will take me yet but I am sure it has to be better than where a return to drinking would lead. I still don’t say I have quit forever, it’s more a foreseeable future kind of thing. This feels too strong, too real and too hopeful to imagine wanting to let that false friend back into my life any time soon though…

I hope folks are coping well with the Christmas / holidays party onslaught. One of the good things about being an introverted hermit and working a lot over this season is that I don’t really have to deal with all that. A quiet meal with friends is hopefully as hectic as it gets for me. New years eve will be spent at work this year which I’m fine with. I’ve always found it an over-priced, over-rated and over-hyped excuse for a drunken shit-show – not that I’ve needed much excuse in the past as you all know.

Sending you all some extra sober strength to deal with the seasonal chaos and I hope you have a lovely weekend 🙂 x







Aha! moments

The last couple of days I seem to have emerged from my depression to a degree. It’s a relief. I still don’t feel 100% but I’m a lot better than I was.

I was listening to podcasts at work last weekend and during an interview I heard Paul Chek say that things in the natural world need a winter season, that it’s an important part of the cycle of living. That really struck a chord with me and got me wondering if that was what was happening when I lost all motivation and just slept or vegged out. Once I reframed the depression into a resting winter phase I stopped fighting it and worrying about it and now it seems to have lifted somewhat. Unexpected but also cool.

I love it when I hear a certain phrase or read a particular quote and it just sears through my muddled thinking with a sharp-pointed dose of utter clarity. Aha! moments. Lightning bolt moments. Whatever you want to call them. I’ve had three in the last few weeks although I can’t remember having had one for quite some time before that.

The first one also came whilst listening to a podcast. Robert Lustig M.D. was being interviewed about his latest book, The Hacking Of The American Mind. He pointed out that most people conflate the concepts of pleasure and happiness. Pleasure=happiness, right? Keep chasing the pleasure and the happiness is sure to follow, right? Marketing tells us so. Social media tells us so. Everybody and their dog is telling us so. But it’s a flawed concept.

I was stunned. How could I have got something that simple so wrong? It actually stopped me mid-lift with a dozen tins of soup at face level while I said ‘OMFG!’ out loud. Luckily nobody was around ;D

Pleasure is dopamine driven. Happiness is dependent on serotonin. This is a seriously simplified version of it of course but it serves as a basic representation of the issue at hand. Addictive and excessive pleasure chasing (booze, drugs, food, gambling etc) elevates the levels of dopamine which in turn down-regulates serotonin. So, excessive pleasure chasing actually = less happiness, not more. Of course, it’s one of those fine seesaw balances that human biology is so dependent on.

You also can’t remove the effects of dopamine and hope serotonin and happiness will soar. In his book he writes about a short-lived Parkinson’s drug trial that had this effect and some of the participants fell into severe depression or even committed suicide. Dopamine – and pleasure – is still an essential part of the balance it seems, as long as it doesn’t try to take over. It goes without saying, I’d highly recommend a read of his book. It’s written more with food in mind than alcohol but it still made total sense and I found it extremely helpful to clear up my own thinking.

The second Aha! moment was the winter phase realisation which opened this post.

The third happened a few days ago and involves quotes from The Miracle Of Mindfulness by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.

During one of my long inert phases flopped out on the sofa I was trying to observe my thinking and work out what was getting in the way of me being motivated to do anything. Any possibility I presented brought up a stream resistance and judgement which talked me out of doing anything.

Shall I do some housework? No, it’s boring and dull. Once it’s finished it’s just time to start it again; it’s pointless, there’s always more dirty laundry or dishes. I’m depressed, I want to be entertained not be slaving away.

Shall I cook some healthy food? Ugh, too much effort and what was I just saying about dirty dishes?! Takeaway is so easy and tasty, I don’t care right now if it’s healthy or not.

Shall I go for a walk? Then you’ll have to see other people. People are shit. They’re loud, inconsiderate, rude, mean etc. It’s just easier to stay home, on the sofa. I’ve got no energy anyway, balls to that.

Shall I do some creative work? I don’t know, it seems like hard work. I’ve lost my way a bit with all that. I’m not getting the results I want. It’s all too much effort, just stick Netflix back on.

Those are just a few examples. It was an eye-opener how negative and fear-based it all was. It became clear that the only place my conscious thinking mind was taking me was where I already was, sprawled out of the sofa with box sets and the cat. Fortunately I managed to switch the TV off and fire up my kindle which is when the next improvement happened.

I’ve thought I’ve known about mindfulness-of-breath meditation for many years now but one simple line in the book suddenly brought a new and deeper understanding:

‘Our breath is the bridge from our body to our mind…’ I switched from the breath just being a ‘thing’ to be used as a focus for meditation to realising that devoting a portion of my awareness to always staying aware of my breath I could also be aware of my body and of being in the present moment no matter what was happening around me. I have been doing this for a few days now, as often as possible, not just during meditation sessions. It’s making a huge difference.

The next line that made an impact seemed to provide an answer to the mental quandries I wrote about earlier, the fears and resistances that keep me from carrying out even the simplest tasks. ‘The feeling that any task is a nuisance will soon disappear if it is done in mindfulness’. Oooh! how appropriate. And it does seem to work. I’ve been making my awareness of my breathing my number one priority as much as possible and the last few days I’ve been out and about running errands, catching up on shopping and laundry, cooking healthy food, making breakthroughs and defining my creative directions. No mental pushing necessary. What a difference, it’s almost unbelieveable.

What’s odd is that I’ve had this book on my kindle for at least two years but never got round to reading it. When I was in my low moment on the sofa I talked to my version of a higher-power-thingy and asked for guidance on how to move forward and break out of this state. I have no idea why I just suddenly had the urge to read this particular book but now I’m wondering why it took me so long. I have a comedic image of my infinite-light-being-guide-whatever doing a huge long face-palm groaning, ‘It’s on your kindle dumbass!’ LOL! Oh well, better late than never.

I hope you all have a few Aha! moments of your own this weekend. Sober hugs and strength to anybody who’s struggling and wondering if it’s all worth it. It is, keep going. Keep warm and take care xx

Day 281 – Hi again

I haven’t checked in here for ages now and I just realised I didn’t make a single post in October. I hope folks are doing well and had a good sober October if they were doing that.

I’m still sober and well over nine months now so my absence wasn’t because I’d fallen off the wagon. Instead I’ve been engulfed by a dragging, lurking dark cloud of depression. I don’t know if it’s the change of season or if I’ve hit a burst of PAWS or if it’s just a longer lasting version of the on and off flat state that’s followed me around as long as I can remember.

It’s not severe. Even on my worst days I’m far from suicidal. I’m still working and doing a good impression of a person functioning in society. I just have zero motivation for anything. I’ve withdrawn socially IRL and online; I’m eating junk, sleeping lots (often unplanned and randomly on the sofa), spending whole days on netflix and neglecting my exercise, self care and creative activities.

I know what I need to do to pull out of the nosedive but I have that strange out-of-body point of view where I’m just standing by and watching myself do all the wrong things. It’s odd and frustrating and I recognise it from the many times I’ve watched myself pour glasses of wine even though I didn’t really want to and knew it was a bad idea.

The one silver lining in this very un-pink cloud I’m currently in is that I have absolutely no desire to drink. There has been none of the usual drinking debates in my mind about feeling bad anyway so I might as well drink or that drinking would help. In my more observant moments I can find a surrendered and observing attitude and although I don’t really know what current is dragging me down to this place I definitely knows it’s not due to a lack of alcohol. Alcohol is the last thing I need right now, ugh! Alcohol would just make everything worse. I know that attitude is hard to imagine for some of you in the early stages but I promise you, the shift does eventually happen.

If it gets worse or lasts too long I’ll go see my GP but for now I’m going to wait it out and see what I can learn from it. I’ve already had some shifts in awareness over the last month, mostly around what I can control and do something about and what I can’t and must let go of for my own sanity. I’ve had a lot of anger come up and out too, like a psychological puking. I’m doing a fair bit of reading during this down time too so it’s not all bad. I’ll try to check in here more often. I feel a bit better after writing this.

I hope everybody is doing ok and I’m sorry I haven’t really kept up with your blogs. I’ll try to catch up in the coming days and weeks. Sober hugs and best wishes x

Over 8 months

I passed the 8 month mark a couple of days ago but I can’t remember my day count exactly without checking my phone, which I think is a good thing. I’ve had some time off work and spent some much-needed chillout time and life/home admin tucked away in the house. It’s been an odd week or so which has provided me with quite a few small reminders about why life is better when I’m sober.

We had a sofa delivered at the beginning of the week which has ended up being a bit of a saga. The chaos started with my cat deciding to try to poop out a furball behind the front door, 5 minutes before it arrived. When I found her and she realised she was busted she legged it round the house meowing with the ‘thing’ hanging half out her butt as I ran after her with baby wipes. Yuck!

The delivery guys then arrived and got the sofa stuck in the hallway. They shoved it so hard it sheared off one side of one of the door frames with a massive ‘CRACK’ and a scattering of heavy Victorian-era plaster. I wasn’t happy but these things happen and that’s the reason companies have public liability insurance. I took photos of the damage, emailed the company and I’m now waiting for them to go through their complaints process. Unfortunately the sofa is awful. We unwrapped it and plonked excitedly on it to find it’s rock hard. My kind of sofa will let you sink in and relax. This one felt like I was perched on a horse, sitting upright to attention. It only took a couple of hours for it to make my back ache.

We decided to return it which the company fortunately allows. I had to repack it though. You know when you take something out of its original packaging and then it never fits back in quite right? Try that with a large sofa! They collected it today and I held my breath as they struggled it out through the hallway. Once they’d cleared the front door I let out a sigh of relief, too soon as it turned out because there came a big shattering clunk as they knocked off the top of one of our brick gate pillars. Seriously guys?! To be fair it was probably a bit loose. These houses were built at the turn of the last century and the front walls are getting a bit knackered in places. Even so… it’s two new repair jobs we could do without.

The drinking me would have immersed myself in a spiral of drama with each incident being the ‘justification’ for a drinking session. I was a bit stressed about it but not so much about the material stuff, more the disruption to my routine and the invasion of privacy. I can’t relax when I know strangers are going to come into the house. Now I’m not drinking I can see through the surface stress to a more balanced drama-free perspective.

There’s so much to actually be grateful for in this story if I think clearly about it. Firstly, we’re in a position to be able to afford a new sofa. Secondly, for damage to occur to my home, I need to have one, which I do. I’m grateful that it’s generally safe, warm and happy. Repacking the sofa wasn’t much fun but I’m so grateful that I have the fitness and strength to maneuvre a 43kg sofa on my own (my partner had a crazy work schedule the last couple of days so I dealt with it). I’m grateful that I’m not facing damage from hurricanes, earthquakes or bombs – just some clumsy delivery guys. You get the idea.

None of it is going to matter in a few weeks, never mind the bigger picture. Finally, I’m grateful that I’m sober and can put all this in its proper perspective. It was a small and restrictive mindset that would have manically run with these ‘nice to have’ ‘problems’ in the direction of a drinking binge. What a petty, limiting and negative way to live! I’m so glad that’s not my mindset any more. Life is far from perfect but I have so much to be grateful for.

I still have a couple of nights left of my holiday so I’m planning a seriously chilled and lazy evening. I’ll get into my PJs and sink into our comfy old worn and cracked sofa with a furry blanket, lots of hot tea and a long session of Gotham on netflix. Hell yeah ;D

Have a lovely evening whatever you get up to x

Day 230

I’m doing some long overdue painting in the house at the moment and it’s made me realise how much I’ve changed since the last time I did any around five years ago. I’m a lot fitter and stronger than before. I moved furniture, did preparation stuff, then painted a ceiling and the first coat on all four walls all in one long session. I’m also sober which was odd yesterday because I’ve always strongly equated DIY work (which I don’t particularly enjoy) with earning copious amounts of wine ‘rewards’.

Previously I would have done a few hours and then had the first glass of wine, telling myself I’d carry on working. Once the wine started to take effect I’d at least have the sense to realise I shouldn’t be climbing ladders and handling open paint cans so I’d abandon the job. I’d have sat amidst my part-finished paint job and got sloshed, telling myself I’d ‘earned’ it, that I ‘deserved’ it. This time I got into my PJs and ate the takeaway my partner bought, sat and digested whilst admiring the results for a bit and then went to bed for some much needed sleep. The bliss of crashing into bed thoroughly knackered and feeling satisfied by the day’s achievements was far sweeter than the wine could ever have been. I’m awake again before it’s light, free from a hangover and ready to carry on transforming my nest. Yeah! I’m turning into a person that gets shit done.

I’ve been remarkably free from any cravings for a few weeks now. Even the DIY association yesterday didn’t produce any cravings as such. There was a low background rumble of some sort in my consciousness. The connection had definitely stirred but it felt distant and disconnected and it didn’t form into any recognisable drinking thinking. Instead I just acknowledged it and it seeped away harmlessly, like a fart into the wind.

I’m doing a lot of reading on the subject of addiction at the moment. In the early stages I read a lot of drinking memoirs which gave me those ‘me too!’ moments and helped me to recognise that my own drinking had gone awry. Now I’m feeling more acceptance and stability in my sobriety my attention is turning to wanting to understand more about it. There are so many different models, arguments and theories surrounding addiction. I’m genuinely open and interested in all ideas and much of what I read contradicts what I’ve previously read. Disease, not disease, choice, self-medication, learning disorder, 12-step, not 12-step, neuroscience, neuropsychology, psychology etc. I can’t get enough of the learning. The concepts are slowly taking shape in my mind but I can think of a number of books that warrant a second or even third reading. I feel like my brain is waking up again.

I haven’t been online much in the last few days, I’ll sit down and catch up with blog reading over the weekend (I’m off work yay!) I guess for now I’d better put my painting pants back on and get on with it. Big hugs to anybody who’s struggling in the early days. I know how you’re feeling, keep hanging in there. At one stage I NEVER could have imagined approaching eight months but here I am. If (after what seemed like a million restarts) I can do it then you can do it too x Have a great weekend everybody 🙂




Calmer times

After my recent week of shouty outbursts I’m now pleased to report that I’m feeling much calmer in general. The colleague I swore at has not complained to management and has actually got really super-friendly and jovial with me which was not the outcome I was expecting. It’s good, but weird.

The first bite of autumn was in the air on Thursday morning when I went for an early walk in the woods. There was a gorgeous mix of a bright sunrise, dew and mist making the world look fresh, shiny and sparkling. It was blissful watching my breath in the air and walking into the sunshine.

Woodland path
Better than hiding under the duvet at 7am
woodland walk
Wakey, wakey, rise and shine
Beautiful but freaky for a raging arachnophobe

I’ve got loads queued up in my head to write but I don’t have time right now. Hopefully I’ll get round to some more writing this coming week. Just checking in really, bye for now…

Have an awesome weekend folks. Hugs x