A challenging week

I still have the feeling that I’m experiencing life as if through an amplifier turned up to 11. What is strange is that I think it’s starting to become normalised. Humans do have an uncanny ability to normalise the most remarkable things which is both good and bad. On the negative side we can convert excessive drinking (and the resulting suffering) into our social normal. On a more positive note we can also begin to normalise our experiences of living sober. It doesn’t just apply to substance abuse problems either. When I look back at what I managed to normalise during various jobs, living arrangements and relationships I can’t believe I ever tolerated some of it. I’m sure most of you also have those sorts of memories that you look back on in disbelief with a small shake of your head. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I find it comforting to know that no matter how scared and avoidant of change we are when it does inevitably happen we have far more capacity to adapt and roll with it than many of us give ourselves credit for.

It’s been a strange week in my world. I went to my Auntie’s funeral on Wednesday. I wasn’t close to her, having only seen her maybe twice in the last two decades but I was sad for my uncle and that side of the family. I saw one cousin who I hadn’t seen for probably three decades and probably won’t for the next three, or the next funeral maybe. Another cousin was pleasant and polite but there is no connection whatsoever. The third cousin is the only one I really like and it was nice to see him, the last time being at my mum’s funeral over a decade ago. It made me a bit sad about the distance between us all. As you can tell, we’re not a close family, never have been really. I’ve always really envied warm and close families that love spending time together.

Spending time with family in this way has often been a huge trigger making me want to douse down the awkwardness, sadness and confusion that it brings. As that is not an option now I was left to see and feel it all rather than get that squirrelly, squirmy feeling of ‘OMG! Let me out!! Let the drinking begin…’ In a way this is the easier option. Instead of running in psychological circles until the discomfort headlights well and truly stop me in my tracks I was observing the situation for what it was, right from the beginning.

I also realised this week that my thinking when facing difficult situations has become brutally pragmatic in some ways. I don’t know if I was always like this or if this is a new development within sobriety. When we filed into the chapel for the funeral I couldn’t help wondering about what my dad was thinking. He’s in his 80s now and has openly talked with me about his uncertainty about how many years he has left. His funeral will take place in the same chapel when the time comes. That must have been an odd thought for him. I didn’t say anything though, some things are best left unsaid.

I also realised that sayings such as ‘blood is thicker than water’ are a load of balls. Just because I may have more DNA in common with one person than another it doesn’t mean there will automatically be any sort of bond. I think it’s up to us to choose the people we consider to be our family, or maybe tribe is a more appropriate word? I envy people that can honestly say their family is their true family, that seems like a beautiful thing looking in from the outside. I am also realising that it’s not a disaster or a failure on my part that my family doesn’t work like that. I’m respectfully detaching from the sadness and guilt this has caused me over the years. There’s no way I would have found that perspective with the wine countdown echoing through my skull or once the numbness sloshed its way through my veins.

The funeral was packed and we ended up having to stand at the back of the chapel. My auntie was a retired teacher and was always active socially in the local community. From overheard conversations I realised that some of the mourners were her former pupils. I can’t imagine making that much of a contribution and impression on life that so many people would turn up to my funeral. I realised that if I died I doubt my mourners wouldn’t even fill the front pews. This was also food for many challenging thoughts as you can probably imagine. I think my perspective on mourners for my death will be consistent with my thoughts on friends and ‘family’ during my life – quality not quantity.

Reading this back it does seem like a fairly dark post on the surface but it doesn’t feel that way. Some of these realisations have provided a sort of relief and freedom. What could have been a situation that weighed me down ended up providing an unexpectedly light and positive shift in my perspective. Seeing true reality rather than a distorted and numbed version of it is infinitely better, even though it can be tough in the moment.

Wishing you all a good ending to your week. Best wishes and hugs x

6 months and a week

I was going to post last week to mark 6 months but things ended up getting hectic for various reasons and I didn’t get round to it. Better late than never though.

I was wondering if things would shift and feel different at this landmark and they have, but unfortunately I can’t say it’s all in a good way. At this point my mind is not as focused on not drinking to the exclusion of other thoughts. In a way this is good; I’m feeling more secure in my sobriety and less of my mental energy is required to sustain it. The bad side is that this energy is now freed up to focus on other stuff and the other stuff is often the stuff I was drinking to avoid thinking about in the first place. Damn!

I’m at a stage in my life where I’m beginning to feel comfortable in my skin and in the way I am. I spend many happy hours chilling out at home with my creative work, reading, sofa cuddling with my cat and/or fella and various other simple, sober pursuits. My inner and home landscapes are becoming generally calm. Where it goes wrong is when I leave my solitude and sanctuary and step out the front door.

I’ve always felt like I somehow landed on the wrong planet. Other than the occasional blessed weirdos that I’ve been honoured to find as friends I find little to relate to in what most people (and society in general) seem to consider normal, admirable or fun. And is it me or do so many people seem angry and cranky when they’re out and about? Maybe I’m focusing on the wrong things and tending to see the negative stuff. I know that a bias toward paying attention to threatening or aggressive events is a deeply ingrained survival instinct but it really got to me yesterday.

I got up in the early hours and spent a few hours reading on the sofa with the cat. Then I headed out to the country park for a walk and some berry foraging. This was all pleasant and good. On the way home I went to do some grocery shopping and things went downhill.

On my way into the shop car park I would usually go straight ahead but I noticed that area looked particularly busy and there were some spaces to the left so as a last split-second decision I turned left instead. It was so quick a decision I didn’t have chance to indicate which I admit was my bad. People not indicating is a real peeve for me and I’ve quietly cursed people often enough for not doing it. The one extremely rare time I don’t do it there is of course somebody there that felt the need to bellow abuse at me through our open windows. I guess that’s some sort of annoying karma in action.

I tried to shake that off, did my shopping and headed home. On the way I had a near miss on a roundabout which would have been an action replay of my recent crash. Somebody cut me up trying to overtake from the wrong lane. Luckily (?) it was a real lad-racer type who accelerated so fast he got past in time but I was so fucking pissed off and shaken up. I couldn’t wait to just get home, close the front door of my sanctuary and shut out the world for the rest of the day.

A hand-delivered information sheet from the local police was waiting for me at home. There have been a spate of local burglaries and I was informed that my home is considered at heightened risk of being broken into. FFS! Talk about bad timing 😦 The whole sequence of events just left me feeling a bit raw, overly sensitive, exposed and psychologically slapped around. Without the option to do the crap ‘too drunk to care’ thing I’m feeling some low-level but nagging anxiety creeping in at the moment. I’m breathing and watching, and eating too many doughnuts… it’ll pass.

It wasn’t all bad. I had a pleasant chat about blackberry locations with a man waiting for his sweet granddaughter who felt the need to pick up every stray branch she passed. There were friendly smiles and hellos from other walkers (and their dogs). There was sunshine and refreshing breezes. There were abundant blackberries and elderberries to pick. There was the meditative task of stripping elderberries from the branches while sitting in the garden. I know there is a lot of good in the world too, it’s just sometimes hard to notice the quieter whisper amid the noise, stress and chaos.

So, my 6 months post turned out not to be overly celebratory but I guess it’s just where I’m at for the moment. Wishing everybody a lovely sober and un-stressful weekend whatever you get up to x

Approaching six months

I’m still doing ok here as I approach the six months mark although I had the most intense craving I’ve had for a while pop up last week after a stressful visit to the vet. My usually mellow cat turns into a yowling four-legged freak-out on vet day so it’s hard work. While we were in the waiting room a tiny, cute puppy went in to have a microchip fitted and its screeching yelps of pain could probably have been heard from the car park. The poor thing was shaking like a leaf when it came out. Distressed animals stress me out too. In the car on the way home I said to my partner, ‘I could really handle a glass (bottle) of wine right now.’ He looked shocked and told me not to say that. I wasn’t going to do it, I knew that, but it’s obviously still an association I haven’t broken.

I’ve been thinking a lot about work matters recently. I’m still experimenting with my commercially-aimed illustration work but I’m beginning to suspect that making a success of that still won’t provide enough meaning, purpose and fulfilment in the long term. Earning an income that way would of course be an improvement on my current job. I could work from home, do fun, creative stuff, not commute, not have to be polite to customers who are being assholes etc. It’s still a goal but I also have some other ideas about what that could be combined with in the future…

I’ve been considering training as a counsellor for a while now. I keep looking at the courses, pondering and then filing it away in the back of my mind. It’s a long process which would take a few years and a few thousand pounds but I’m fortunate that I could afford to pay for it slowly over that time. It’s general counsellor training but there would be an option to specialise in addiction counselling later on. Maybe if that were combined with qualifications in mindfulness-based stress reduction, CBT and other such things I could become somebody who helps people to find their way out of addiction? It’s an exciting thought, scary too. I can see meaning and purpose down that route but I don’t know if I’m the right person to be doing it.

A few weeks ago I wrote that poem called ‘Why not today?’ Maybe it’s time to stop putting this on the back burner? I’m going to fill in the college application form this week and get the process started. The course doesn’t start until January 2018 when I will hopefully be hitting one year sober. I love the thought of studying again too. I loved my student days the first time round and I loved the atmosphere back when I did some tertiary college lecturing too. Yayy!! It’s exciting 🙂

I worked last night so now I’m nicely tired and ready for bed soon. Sober hugs and strength to all 🙂 x

140 days – mixed times

It’s been a fairly mixed couple of weeks since I last posted. My health scare turned out ok – not entirely good, but nothing too serious. There’s nothing like it for getting your healthy motivation on though. I ate really well and did anything else I could think of to be good to my body. Since getting my test results that has slacked off somewhat. Isn’t that so often the way it goes?

I did have a week off coffee and sugar and felt a lot better for it. I’m plagued by the daily dragging fatigue that Hashimoto’s brings. Without these two things in my diet the fatigue definitely eases a bit and becomes less hard-edged. You know the classic scene in a zombie movie where the new zombie sits up in its grave, jaw dropping and looking oddly surprised that it’s upright and alive? That should give you a good impression of what I usually feel like waking up. During that week I actually felt something close to a normal (?) sort of waking up sleepiness. The coffee and sweeties have both crept back in but the experiment has given me something to think about.

I also hit another happy milestone since my last post – I lost a stone (14lbs/6.35kg). Not in two weeks obviously but it’s been creeping off slowly over the last few months – and creeping back on, and off again and round in a few circles, as it does. My super healthy living around my health scare seems to have kick started it again. A couple of pounds have crept back on but I’m still in a much better place than I have been for years. I feel sluggish and rubbish after eating lots of junk for the last 3 days, it’s time to eat clean again and feel better. I don’t want to backslide all the way back up the scale again, or feel like an overfed sugar-crashing slug.

Being sober is becoming normalised now and something I’m not thinking about so much. My thinking about not drinking has lessened and doesn’t take up such a large percentage of my days now. Some days I don’t even think about it at all. Many days I’m not sure what my day count is. I have had a few moments where I can clearly identify what I would previously have called a craving and set off down the path of drinking thoughts. Now I realise that I’m feeling a bit ‘off’ somehow – bored, restless, anxious, unfocussed, cranky, fearful etc but my brain is becoming less likely to skip straight to the ‘DRINK!’ to make it ok phase and instead stays longer with the uncomfortable feelings. This means I’m feeling a fair bit of discomfort at the moment but I wouldn’t swap it for where I started from.

I miss my pink cloud days but I do appreciate that what I’m feeling is real. Life feels dull, ploddy, scattered and uninspired at times but I can accept that because that’s just the way life works, and I know that at other times it can also feel wonderful.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend x

 

123 days

I was tempted to use the title, as easy as 123 but as you know, it hasn’t always been easy to get to this point. It’s 4 months! It sounds odd to say it, slightly surreal but also very, very real.

I’m feeling fortunate that at the moment it’s taking zero willpower to not drink. I just don’t want to. When I think about a large glass (bottle) of red I get a strange cognitive disconnect. When I imagine smoking a cigarette after 16 years it just seems absurd and unrealistic. I can feel a similar attitude developing in connection with alcohol but it’s still vague and a far weaker internal reaction. Hopefully this will get stronger over time.

Some niggly health issues have escalated, prompting me to get my butt off to my doctor. I’ve had some blood tests and am waiting for the results and a hospital appointment for a scan. My gut feeling is that it’s not a worst case scenario, but there’s always that horrible ‘What if?’ fear lurking deep down. The waiting is the worst part. It’s good meditation fodder along the lines of ‘This is happening, it’s my reality, it’s pointless trying to hide, run away, numb out etc’.

I’m currently about 22 hours into a water fast and feeling fairly good. It’s purely for healing and spiritual reasons and nothing to do with weight loss. It’s something I turn to when I am having health issues or feel like I need to hit the reset button. Previously my longest fast was 5 days when I was having pretty bad skin and gut problems. It helped those but didn’t do my thyroid any favours so I stick to 3 days or less now. I’m aiming for 48 hours but will adjust either way depending on how I feel. Strangely, it has coincided with ramadan and I remember doing some fasting this time last year too. Ironically my muslim-raised partner is not.

I also need to say, if you have any struggles with an eating disorder or think of it as a weight-loss plan, please don’t go there – it’s not a one size fits all kind of thing.

Fasting has long been considered a natural healing practice. Animals do it instinctively, humans tend not to. Huge amounts of our energy is used up digesting our food and processing anything undesirable which realistically includes a lot of the ingredients (and chemicals) in our modern processed foods. It takes a fair few hours without food to ramp up our natural process of autophagy allowing the body to focus more exclusively on its healing and eliminating/detoxing processes.

When I think about the logic of fasting I have a mental image of a factory. Imagine the production lines constantly running, the workers are all focussed there and completely ignore the building that houses them. Over time, the building gets dirty and falls into disrepair because nobody has done any cleaning or maintenance. Fasting seems like stopping the production lines to allow all the workers to spend a couple of days doing this essential work.

It’s going to be a quiet couple of days which I’m really happy about. I’ll do lots of reading, meditation, thinking, drawing, some very gentle yoga – all the peaceful and relaxing stuff. Despite the ups and downs, uncertainties and pain, I’m feeling pretty grateful and focussed at the moment. Last week was scattered and grumpy, next week… who knows, but I’m confident it’ll be a sober one ;D

Wishing you all a good sober week x

 

Day 111 – a new record

As of yesterday I entered the new unexplored territory of my longest sober stretch. I drank on day 110 of my previous attempt.

I feel very different this time. Although I’m feeling unmotivated, unfocussed and unproductive in general at the moment my commitment to staying sober is one of the few things that feels fairly simple and stable. I’m amazed to find myself thinking of sobriety as an anchor whilst everything else is floating and chaotic. I was NOT expecting that but I’m not complaining.

I’m quite fascinated by the concept of decision fatigue. The idea that we only have the capacity for a certain amount of decisions each day makes sense to me. My capacity for decisions seems to have hit the floor. One moment I’m thinking ‘Maybe I’ll write something?’ but I can’t pin down a topic or wrestle my rambling thoughts into any sort of order. Next moment I’m thinking ‘Maybe I’ll do some art?’ but I can’t decide which project to work on. Same with reading, cooking, housework, to-do list and well, pretty much everything at the moment. Then I’m getting frustrated that I’m not really achieving anything with my days which starts off a whole cycle of thoughts about what I’m hoping to achieve in life. I don’t want to stack shelves forever but I don’t seem to be making any progress toward any of my other plans. Meh! At least I’m not wasting my days being hung over or poisoning myself.

Today I’m thinking of doing a mood board. I did plenty of those as a graphic designer but I’ve never done one for personal reasons. Apparently our subconscious can be more readily influenced by images that any amount of talking to ourselves (which I do quite often). I could tell myself that I wish to stay fit and healthy enough to enjoy the outdoors or I could find a picture of a mature lady looking perky mid-hike in a glorious landscape. I could tell myself all about the many benefits of decluttering or I could find a pleasing image of a clean and simple interior. I could ponder how much I want to improve my photography or I could find some stunningly inspirational images to whet my appetite. You get the general idea. I’m frustratingly scattered at the moment but I think I can handle pootling around online looking for nice pictures.

Have a good weekend you lovely sober folks 🙂 x

Day 103

I’m on 103 days now which is one week away from my longest ever adult sober period. Although the last couple of weeks post-crash haven’t been easy they been a valuable learning experience. Time has applied its miraculous balm, giving me the peace and perspective to reflect clearly on recent events.

I’m beginning to see deeper nuances within my definition of sobriety. I’m visualising them as a series of threads, each one representing one of the myths I have used as an excuse to drink. Some of these threads are becoming increasingly frayed or have already been broken in my mind. Some of them still need attacking with a sharp mental knife.

For example, the fact that I had no desire to drink after my crash is a promising sign that I’m seeing through the myth of alcohol as a way of coping with a traumatic experience. Unfortunately the thread that pulls me toward a drink when I sit out in the sun is definitely still stronger. I’m sure if you’re reading this you can think of a list of your own threads. Maybe the one that craves wine to round out a good meal? How about the one that says you need a drink to relax at the end of a long day at work? I’m hoping that as the various threads break, the bigger tapestry of alcohol craving will begin to unravel. We’ll see…

I recently had a strange alcohol-related experience during a meal with some friends. Out of the four of us at our table only one person ordered alcohol. Two were driving, one was me so that just left my friend who had a beer with his curry. There was a special offer in the restaurant that night and plenty of people were there to eat and get drunk on the cheap. Booze was definitely flowing at many of the other tables. At the end of our meal a waiter suddenly appeared with unsolicited alcohol. His tray held two shots of Baileys (for the ladies) and two shots of brandy (for the guys). I just shook my head and held my hands up to signal a firm but polite ‘NO!’ but he did put the other three drinks on the table. Only one and a bit of the drinks ended up getting drunk.

How inappropriate was that?! WTF! I’m just glad it wasn’t a glass of red coming at me. We went for a stroll after dinner and I brought it up for discussion. Everybody agreed that it was a major error in judgement from what is otherwise a lovely place to eat.

I managed to get back out into the woods today. I didn’t make it last week and I really missed it. It’s definitely become a much-needed part of my sober toolbox. The trees are out in blossom at the moment and the sweet, woody smell is divine. I did a fairly long walk and came home feeling good.

My car admin is still in progress. I have received a surprisingly fair insurance valuation so I’m just waiting for the payment to process so I can get my new(er) car next week. I can’t wait. I’m currently in a hire car which I’m not keen on. I don’t like having responsibility for an expensive car that isn’t mine. I have that niggling feeling that if somebody even farts near it there’ll be some sort of surcharge involved. It’s also bugging my sciatica which isn’t good.

I hope you lovely folks are having a good sober week. Hugs and sober vibes to anybody who’s struggling at the moment x