Past the quarter century

Today is day 26 so I passed a quarter of the way towards finishing the 100 day challenge. That still seems like such a long way off and I’m trying to think only one day at a time.

I’ve had a couple of difficult moments this week. I had some really sudden and strong wine cravings. I really wanted to grab a bottle of wine on more than one occasion but I didn’t. Last night I was pacing round the house with that familiar looming ’emptiness that needs filling’ feeling. It didn’t help that I had a stomping coffee-reducing headache. I just felt bored and ‘blah’ but instead of drinking I watched a ton of House of Cards on netflix and it got me through. I’m fortunately back to feeling better about it all today and glad that I didn’t give in to the cravings.

I’m really appreciating getting back to that sober state where shit gets done. I’ve done so much stuff around the house and garden; nothing big and dramatic but lots of little bits that slowly add up to noticeable improvements. When I allow drink into my life I tend to spend a lot of time being drunk, lazy and doing bugger all around the house. Then I suddenly look around and think, OMG I need to blitz and stagger around trying to catch up with myself. I think I get more done the slow and steady way but I also completely accept that I’m never going to have a ‘show home’ 😉

I feel like things are getting a bit harder now. The initial novelty and elation of the first few weeks has passed but the ease and bigger rewards that are promised further down the line still seem a world away. It feels like I’m entering some sort of limbo state that has to be waded through for now. I’m trying to think about interesting and positive options that could open up with a sober future. These thoughts at least combat the fear and negativity future thoughts. Mostly I’m just trying to stay present and to deal with the day ahead.

I’m going to try to do some creative stuff today as well as ‘useful’ stuff. Taking time out for creativity is an important part of my self-pampering which I’ve let slip a bit the last few days. I was considering going out to do some shopping but I actually don’t really feel like it so I won’t. There’s nothing I need urgently and I’m a reluctant shopper at the best of times. I think it would be more useful to wait until I’m more in the mood for it later in the week.

The sun has just come out here which will help to boost my mood. Have a lovely sober Monday everybody. Love and hugs to anybody who’s struggling x

An interesting week

So I’m on day 10 and feeling pretty good at the moment. It’s been an interesting week with lots happening.

I discovered that the intense gut pain I’ve been getting is being triggered by chocolate. Booooo! Not impressed by that. Milk chocolate is definitely setting it off, I’ve just eaten some very dark chocolate and I’m hoping that’s not going to have me getting the pain killers out soon, fingers crossed.

If I have to close the door on chocolate I have however, opened a new door on plantains. I’ve been meaning to try them for a while and I’m so glad I did. I’ve blended one with eggs to make grain-free pancakes and I’ve sliced and fried some with bacon and ghee. It’s great! I stay full for hours after a plantain breakfast and it’s always good to find another option for gluten-free carbs.

I’ve really kick started the process of clearing out my house and minimising my possessions. I’m on a bit of a minimalist trip at the moment which has been coming for years. I’ve felt dragged down by too much ‘stuff’ for ages and I’ve finally reached the point where I’m doing something about it. I’ve got a ton of listings on ebay but I don’t really like what’s happened to ebay in recent years. It’s now set up so that sellers have very little protection and buyers can really take the piss and commit fraud in so many ways. Don’t even get me started on the people that win your auctions and then just disappear without paying. Grrrr. Still, it’s clearing space in my home (and therefore my psyche) and I’m getting some half-decent cash for stuff so it’s win, win in many ways.

Yesterday was a bit of a smack round the head here in the UK. As you’ve no doubt heard by now the UK voted to leave the EU. As one of the 48% who voted to stay in the EU I’m now stunned and pissed off and getting involuntarily dragged onto the economic rollercoaster ride that’s been triggered by the referendum result. What very modest investments I have are tracking the FTSE 100 so have therefore taken it ‘where the sun don’t shine’ for the last couple of days – scuse my pissed off phrasing. I don’t know if my comfortably affordable mortgage is going to shoot up, my taxes shoot up or what?! What really gets my goat is we’ve now got people in the news saying they regret voting out, that they didn’t really think we’d leave, that their vote would really count. Seriously?! I had more logical reasoning and awareness when I was pissed as a fart. It was a referendum run on lies, manipulation and playing on people’s fear and intolerance. Ugh. Anyway, end of political rant. I’m just going to have to take what comes and deal with it in the moment, which is all we can do in life generally really.

I feel better for venting that!  I’m working the next 4 nights so probably won’t get round to writing much. Have a lovely sober weekend everybody, sending strength and hugs to anybody struggling XO

Time to get my shit together

It’s hard to believe it’s been a month since my last post. I’ve been avoiding my blog as I’ve not been in a good place or state and didn’t want to write about a series of depressing backslides and fails.

I’m feeling bashed and beaten up enough to come crawling back here to try to get my shit together and get back into building some sober time.

I spent this hungover morning reading the first few chapter of The sober revolution – by Lucy Rocca and Sarah Turner. I’m finding it a great read so far, consistently punctuated by my weary nods of recognition.

The denial needs to end and the acceptance and real commitment needs to begin. I’m trying again…

5 weeks and a day and thoughts about ‘normal’

A while ago I was listening to a dharmapunx podcast and the teacher was talking about how our wanting to escape from everyday reality was influenced by the perspective from which we perceived our ‘normal’ state.

If we’re in a dreadful situation where we’re suffering, in pain or frightened then we look longingly at the idea of getting back to ‘normal’. As a good example he spoke about his excruciating experience of waiting for a kidney stone to pass.

If we’re in a great situation such as being on holiday, partying, or maybe feeling the rush of success or love, then we look grudgingly at the idea of getting back to ‘normal’.

Both ‘normals’ are of course the same thing, just our attitude to them is different.

It sounds so simple and obvious but it’s one of those things that no matter how much we think about it, it is so difficult for it to sink in. Then every so often we get an example or a lesson to remind us. I think this is what my last week has been all about…

First I had a cold. It was fairly mild but still crappy. Then I got a bout of hideous back pain at the base of my back. I was in the sort of pain that just leaves you helpless and surrendered, too scared to move because it brings on the searing hot poker sensation. It was fortunately mostly over in about 3 days. I have a bit of lingering pain when I sit but nothing too bad. The day I started to feel relief from the back pain I woke up with a banging headache and I felt generally awful – very much like a hangover. An hour after I woke I puked my guts out without warning for no obvious reason and then was left with an all-day headache.

Ok universe – I get the message! ‘Normal’ hasn’t looked and felt so damn gorgeous in a long time 🙂 I’ll try to remember to appreciate my everyday, calm, peaceful, pain-free (almost), secure and ‘normal’ moments without trying to escape. I know I’ll forget. The memory of the pain and suffering will trickle away like sand through my fingers and the perspective from which I look at ‘normal’ will begin to shift. I’ll try to remember though, I’ll really try – particularly if I’m thinking of trying to escape.

Not drinking feels good at the moment. I’m thinking about it less obsessively now. I know that that can change at any time so I’m not taking it for granted. I’m appreciating the easier sober moments, hours and days, and observing that they are gradually becoming far more frequent than the craving and psychologically wrestling, conflicted moments. I’m feeling some hope that something is somehow shifting in me on a deeper level but I’m not really sure just yet…

Hugs and strength to anybody who’s struggling and have a lovely sober Sunday night x

 

Checking in

Wow, it’s been ages since I posted. My poor little blog has been neglected recently. I’m still reading other blogs but not spending much time on my own so I thought it was time to check in here.

I’m still a work in progress. I’m booze-free for a large majority of the time but I have been slipping up from time to time. I seem to have gone into a pattern of 2-3 weeks off and then a slip up. I’m not beating myself up about it and it’s leading to a new and subtle learning process. I’m not trying harder, I’m trying differently.

I’m practicing ongoing mindfulness as much as possible. Through this I’m really noticing the change in the quality of my life experience after each slip. I’m gently watching the physical slump and the mental agitation of a hangover. I’m patiently being aware of the mild but definite anxiety and depression after my increasingly rare drinks. By taking the self-berating out of it and just watching the process without judgement something different seems to be happening.

I’m feeling a growing aversion to drinking that is coming from somewhere deep inside. It feels like a small green shoot that has the potential to grow into something big and strong. It’s growing naturally without any should’s or criticisms or health fears or presentations of logical reasons why it must happen. The dry periods are getting easier and longer and the time between having a drink and then noticing how shit it really is and pushing it away again is getting shorter. This feels like progress of a different kind than I’ve had before using more of a ‘grit my teeth’ approach.

I’ve been making some changes in my general life too. My artwork is still going well and I’m making progress there. I also stumbled on a small kindle book called Miss Minimalist by Francine Jay. It really connected with me on a deep level. It’s all about simple and frugal living and not getting bogged down by the stuff we own, or by the wanting to own.

I could totally relate to the description of feeling suffocated by having too much stuff and being disorganised in general. It sparked a huge de-clutter and so far 3 full car boots have gone off to charity shops and the tip. There’s still more to go but it’s stuff I need to go through more slowly or digitise or sell. Each car load out felt like a weight was being lifted from my shoulders and it put me in the best most upbeat mood I can remember for a long time that didn’t involve some sort of substance use. It felt like that blessed relief you get post-constipation but on a bigger, life level 😀

I’ve also decided to train as a counsellor. It’s something that has been in the back of my mind for a long time. Nothing is going to happen in a hurry. I’ve missed the start dates of the courses in my local college. I don’t think I can start until January next year and after that it looks like about 6 years of part-time study. I’m not a big planner for the future but I know I don’t want to still be stacking shelves in 10 years, never mind the physical wear and tear it brings. A combination of artwork and counselling seems like a realistic way to work into my later life if necessary.

Well, that quick check in turned into quite a long post after all. It’s time for another cup of tea and to download some bubble hour and Buddhism podcasts for my coming 3 nights at work. I hope you all have a lovely weekend filled with as many peaceful, simple and gratitude-filled moments as possible x

An important conversation

Something lovely happened last night. I had a long phone call with an old friend who I’ve known since starting college together at sixteen (25 years now, blimey!). We don’t get together that often because we live in different parts of the country but even if it’s been ages, when we get together we just pick up as if we saw each other last week.

During the phone call I told her about not drinking and about some of my recent drinking scenarios and the feelings that they brought up. I even went as far as to tell her I think it was time I admitted I had a problem. I’ve talked to her in the past about my mounting concerns about drinking so it wasn’t really dropping a bombshell but it still felt really huge to actually be saying that to somebody.

She was fantastic. The conversation didn’t skip a beat. There was no awkward silence, no OMG WTF! moment, no ‘you don’t really have a problem’ moment – just total support and acceptance.

We went on to talk about the psychological addiction and how it’s the more ‘hidden’ side of alcoholism rather than the outward measure of how many units are drunk. I told her I recently drank a wine box in two evenings because I somehow had to keep going back for more, because it was there calling to me. She admitted she’s slipped into daily drinking – just one or two – but still, frequently daily. She told me she could so easily slip into a state where she has a problem too and is trying to cut down and find other ways to relax at the end of the working day. We talked about her problems too. She has major self-esteem issues, has had a fairly recent bereavement and a history of codependent behaviour leading to horrendous experiences due to unfortunate choices of husbands or partners.

I felt calm and happy after the conversation. I’m so grateful that I have somebody with whom I can discuss real life shit – warts and all – and be part of a friendship that offers mutual support and acceptance.

She’s a health professional and I have a hunch she may enjoy some of the the secular buddhism podcasts that blend spirituality with psychology and neuroscience approaches. I’m going to find a basic ipod on ebay and load it with this sort of podcasts and post it to her as a gift with the invitation to delete them all and fill it with whatever she feels like if what I send doesn’t resonate. We all have our own paths after all…

1 week and feeling grateful

It’s day 7 and I’ve been feeling grateful today. It’s a gentle and peaceful feeling, a whole world away from the crappy hangover I had last week.

I was grateful for the whingy-growl complaints from my cat when I pulled out the clump of grass seeds that had got planted into her tail. She wasn’t really restrained – just a one-armed lift – and could easily have scratched or shoved her way out of it but she didn’t. I felt loved and trusted by the little critter. The purring over reward treats was even sweeter.

I felt grateful during my morning coffee out in the garden, listening to the birds singing, smelling the fresh dampness everywhere and seeing the new tomatoes and cucumbers on the plants I’m caring for.

I even felt grateful for my aching feet. I appreciated the fact that I have the strength and health to be on them for 10 hours. The feeling of the cool morning air on my flip flopped tootsies after being stuffed into hot, heavy work shoes was wonderful.

I’ve had a long, undisturbed sleep and have woken up feeling good. I’m even appreciating the clean, sharp hunger I’m feeling because it’s an honest request from my body for nourishment rather than a chemically imbalanced, hung over scream for something to stuff down to take away the pain.

Simple, peaceful, grateful. I think they are my words for today. Now, it’s time for a nice sausage and ketchup sandwich 🙂

I hope everybody’s day brings lots to be grateful for too.

Still here

I thought it was time I updated here, it’s been quite a while. I’ve been absent for a few reasons, some good, some not so good. I’ve still been reading other blogs at times and still am so appreciative of the courage and honesty displayed there even though I’ve been silent about it.

I’ve been spending any spare time on my artwork and am now soooo close to having a full enough portfolio of illustrations to start approaching people to kick off my goal of making a living from it. So that is definitely good.

My drinking has been on again, off again, going round in circles. I’ve sometimes been off for as long as 3 weeks but just keep slipping back into it. Each time I end up drinking again I seem to just push it a little harder which is obviously such a bad sign. It’s not normal or healthy to know that a full bottle of wine just isn’t going to be enough. I usually buy some cans of cider or beer *for my partner* at the same time as the wine and end up starting on that too.

I’m sick and tired, depressed and have little energy at the moment. It’s day one and I’m trying again.

I’ve been doing a lot of meditation and listening to buddhism podcasts. I love the teaching of Josh Korda from dharmapunx. Something about his talks really resonate on a deep level. It’s increasingly becoming clear to me that the low-level feelings of discomfort and alienation that I can’t ever remember not feeling is the core problem. I’ve come to the conclusion that my spiritual work and my sobriety work are inextricably linked. After reflecting on this I changed the sub-header of this blog from ‘Drinking less and living more’ to ‘Drinking less and waking up’.

Hugs to all, whatever day you’re on, I hope it’s a good one for you x

Day 45 – Feeling much better today

I’m in a much better place today which is good. Maybe it’s because my back is feeling a lot better? Last night at work wasn’t too bad either. I’m nicely tired and just having a quick check-in online before I go to bed. My lovely cat is sprawled out on my legs and the house is quiet so I’m enjoying the peaceful moment. (*Edit* I should have kept my mouth shut, a few minutes after writing this my neighbour has just started some sort of random banging DIY noise – bugger!)

I decided to try a Beck’s blue alcohol-free beer this morning, mainly out of curiosity rather than any diversionary tactic. I know this is probably a fairly divisive issue – whether to drink ‘faux’ alcoholic drinks and I think I’d probably steer clear if I were having heavy cravings. Despite being in a bad place for a couple of days I’m not actually having much more than passing thoughts about drinking. I’ve accepted that I have some work to do on myself and my life and I know deep down that drinking won’t help sort anything out.

During a conversation a couple of days ago I referred to alcohol as my default coping mechanism which is actually a real misnomer. It could be more appropriately called a numbing mechanism, or a running away and hiding mechanism but a coping mechanism? – NO! I realise that there’s absolutely zero coping going on under the influence of alcohol – quite the opposite in fact.

Anyway, back to the alcohol-free beer… it tastes sort of like lager but it’s got an odd aftertaste. I can’t say it’s really doing much for me to be honest. There’s a certain ‘ritual’ satisfaction of opening a bottle and having a drink. I can imagine it might be good in a socialising situation where you don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb or answer lots of questions about not drinking – I’d guess that most drinkers wouldn’t register its alcohol-free status at a casual glance. It may even be nice very chilled on an occasional hot sunny afternoon in a beer garden. I don’t think it’ll become a regular after-work treat though – a nice hot chocolate or sparkling water based mocktail seems to hit the spot better.

I’m looking forward to a bit of reading and hopefully a decent amount of sleep now. Night night, have a lovely day 🙂

Day 39 – The morning after an intense experience

It’s been a few days since I last posted. I’ve been busy working and trying to get enough sleep which is always a challenge for day-sleepers. I’m still not drinking and life is generally ticking along OK.

I haven’t been online for a few days so I’ve been catching up with blogs posts from the blogs I’m following. This post at stopwineingstartliving really resonated with me this morning. I like the concept of there being no ‘decision’ to make about whether to drink or not which effectively removes the internal debate and the tiring, obsessive thought processes that go with the decision. It is something I have thankfully started to experience. I’m into my 6th week of being sober now and yesterday I passed yet another Tuesday morning (Friday night equivalent) without cracking open the red or even wasting one second of my night considering it as a possibility. Tuesday was peaceful and lazy after some long, heavy nights at work. And then, suddenly, it wasn’t…

I was reminded of another one of the reasons I have had in the past for drinking. I’m not sure how to describe it really. The most obvious description would be a ‘manic’ episode but I hate the potential mental health assumptions that that label brings. It’s something I’ve experienced from time to time for as long as I can remember so it doesn’t scare me but what I have usually done is douse it down with a heavy dose of booze.

It’s a high energy state that I feel physically and mentally. It’s certainly not how you’d expect to feel after having been awake for almost 24 hours, including a heavy 10 hour shift at work. I’m struggling with the words here but this music video with the crackling blue flashes, flames and intensity is probably a good way to start – and heck, what an awesome voice.

The physical side of it manifests as an extreme restlessness that makes me want to do something like one of the following;

  • Run extremely fast for a long time
  • Have exhaustingly intense sex
  • Dance and get very sweaty and go into a shamanic trance-dance sort of altered state
  • Drive fast with very loud music playing
  • Do some martial arts
  • Drink heavily, preferably heavy red wine

You get the general idea. As I have injured knees, don’t always have the option of great sex, don’t go clubbing any more, drive a 1 litre eco car and have an issue with fuckwits driving dangerously you can see that the only option has most often been to crack open a bottle. Last night none of the above were an option.

Then there’s the psychological side of the experience. Racing thoughts and ideas with the inability to just ‘switch off’ my head. The thoughts aren’t sinister or dangerous and are often quite useful in the form of creative ideas, but they’re relentless and it can get a bit much after a while. A few glasses of red starts to slow them down usually, but nope, that still wasn’t an option last night.

I considered getting out of bed and pondered what I could do but then had a novel idea – I could just stay with the experience and not try to avoid it. Feel the feelings and think the thoughts and not worry about getting to sleep – I’m not working again until the weekend and I have no appointments or commitments to get to. So there I was, fidgeting around in bed with my eyes wide open but sort of ‘watching’ myself do it as well – if that makes any sense?

Taking on an attitude of mindfulness and acceptance turned an uncomfortable situation into something better. I still wasn’t exactly relaxed but some of the edge had gone from the experience. I thought about so many areas of my life and tried to follow where my thoughts were going with total self-honesty. I thought about my employment, my finances, my growing feeling of having a lack of options in life. I thought about my doubts about my relationship and what this could mean for the future. I thought about mistakes I’d made in the past and pondered why I’d made them. In short, I thought about a hell of a lot of stuff which was quite uncomfortable in parts but way more valuable that drowning out the process with alcohol. At some point I fell asleep, and slept for almost 12 hours.

One thing I learned from last night is that I’ve only just really begun to build a sense of identity in the last few years leading up to my 40s. I think I’ve lived most of my adult life without having any strong sense of who I am and where I’m at – I’ve generally just floated along allowing my surroundings and the people in it to shape me, rather than defining myself. Alcohol has played its part by squashing down the seeking, doubting and questioning side of me. If in doubt, or uncomfortable, or confused, or bored, or restless – then drink.

I believe that there’s a part of us, deep inside that knows what we need from life and has the answers to all our questions. It’s very difficult to hear though, like a tiny voice lost in the cacophony of the noise of our lives. I think that the more extreme psychological events such as depression, panic attacks or manic episodes come from somewhere deep in our subconscious as a wake-up call or a plea to be listened to. Now that alcohol is out of the way for the foreseeable future I’m really ready to listen, I’m really trying.

Today I’ve felt a bit flat and surprisingly tired given how long I slept for. I’ve been for a big walk in the winter sunshine which has made me feel better. I’ve pootled about in some charity shops and managed to find some very new-looking jeans to see me through the interim stage until I lose a few more pounds. I’m now going to curl up and have a snooze for a few hours because that feels like the best thing to be doing right now. My cat agrees with me and is already fast asleep curled up at the end of the bed – bless her!