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

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

160 days

I’m over five months sober now. Crikey! I had a week or so of feeling really blah, just uninspired and restless. I was mourning the pink cloud days and getting into a bit of an ‘Is this it?’ sort of slump. One day I was feeling particularly scattered, frustrated and cranky so I did my self-care duty and went to the woods for a walk.

I’d been sitting on my butt for a couple of days and my right hip felt tight and painful. I started slowly and concentrated on the beautiful surroundings. Gradually my mood improved and I remembered how much I need physical activity to feel good. Once I got warmed up, I really got going. I was yomping along in a really strange mood that I can’t quite describe. I think ‘fierce’ is the best word for how I felt. It just crept up on me. I made sure I put on a friendly smile whenever I passed somebody in an attempt to not look weird or scary. I probably shouldn’t have worried though. I’ve been repeatedly told that I look sweet, innocent and even angelic (huh?) No matter what darkness is stirring on the inside, on the outside I apparently look about as badass as Bambi.

That fierce, determined feeling seems to have stuck around to a degree. I’ve been looking forwards and getting fired up by lots of creative ideas and life possibilities. I have a sense of being ready to open up and explore, to grab hold of life in a way I never could while drinking. The balance seems to have tipped even more away from the ‘look what I’m giving up’ thoughts towards the ‘holy shit, look what I’m getting!’ thoughts. I appreciate the shift very much and I hope it continues. I also accept that it may not. I’ll make the most of it for now.

I’ve set up a separate blog for my illustrated poems and other creative sobriety-related stuff. I want to keep it completely separate from here. This blog is more my personal warts and all, let it all hang out kind of space. The other one is going to be more of an inspirational quotes, ideas and resources spot. I’m still not ready to go loud and proud so I’m writing it under a pseudonym and the artwork is different enough from my more commercially aimed work that I won’t ‘out’ myself (I hope). If you’ve enjoyed the bits of poetry I’ve posted here then come and visit at relightinglife.com. That’s the only time I’ll link to it and I definitely won’t be linking from there to here. Yup, separate it is.

I now have that wonderfully, thoroughly tired feeling that only physical exertion can bring. I walked almost 9 miles this morning. My legs are aching and I’m hearing my bed calling my name. I wonder if I can managed an episode of Game of Thrones before I fall asleep? I’m going to try 🙂

I hope you’ve all had a good week and wishing you a lovely weekend whatever you’re up to. Love and sober hugs x

 

Why not today?

This morning I got home after work with an aching shoulder and the feeling that I may be heading ino a stomach bug. It was a long, hard night. People were cranky and arguing and the manager moped around with a face like a slapped arse. Maybe the heat is getting to everybody? I don’t know. Despite this, the poetry muse decided to make an appearance. Seriously?! Now?! I know better than to ignore it so I got a pen and pad and off I went.

Last night I was thinking loads about a few of the recent blogs posts I’ve read. Some were from new people contemplating the possibility of quitting.  Some were from the newly sober and doubt-ridden and some from people returning for another sobriety attempt. I think this poem was inspired by you and is for you all. It’s quite long and gets a little dark but as I still have no idea where it comes from, you can complain to whoever is pushing these words into my head ;D


Why not today?

You are going to quit, just not today

What’s the rush? you think

Maybe tomorrow? I hear you say

Wolfie gives me a big sly wink

Or maybe next week? There’s an idea

One last weekend to riot

It’s a busy month, my friends are all here

Maybe next month? Then I’ll be quiet

You don’t think it wise to hurry and push

Life is for living you know

There’s always next year, what’s the big rush?

You’re still only young, time will go slow

Without your permission the years jump ahead

Plans fall apart, dreams fade and die

Yeah, I’ll quit soon, you repeatedly said

Why not today? You glower and sigh

Maybe next decade? That will be time

to slow down and settle myself

Yes, later you say. And then I’ll be fine

I still have my money, my mind and my health

Later creeps in, as quick as a flash

Breaking your body and dimming your sight

The life in your veins a dwindling stash

You’re starting to fear that long dark night

You can’t quit now! You need your best friend

The one that’s two-faced and sold you all lies

Who’s going to comfort me, right till the end?

The one that hid truth and stifled the cries

of your heart in the dark, it’s magic unfound

Your true life unlived, your time has run out

Too many laters, much skirting around

the issue at hand. Too much fear and doubt

I’m leaving you now, the false friend decides

so many will follow you here

My next victim waits for their fantasy ride

Hoping to take away all pain and fear

So long, no hard feelings, it was just a con

but maybe it’s still not too late?

For your heart to flourish and sing its song

For your eyes to open and soul to wake

So scream and shout, grieve and cry

then cast it out, don’t allow it to take

and more of your life, it’s time to fly

So, why not today? It’s worth a try


 

I’ve taken some oregano oil and some grapefruit seed extract which are truly two of the most challenging flavours on the face of the earth. They are both reputed to be potently anti-bacterial, anti-viral and hopefully anti-spending my day puking with my face in the toilet. Fingers crossed! I’m off to bed.

Have a good day folks 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

 

Creeping up on 100

I’m in the final hour of day 95 so I’m coming close to 100 alcohol-free days for only the second time in my adult life. I feel different this time around. Last time I was holding on by my fingertips, doubting, bargaining, second guessing and slipping slowly toward my eventual relapse. This time I feel more sure and accepting of my choice and have a sense of determination to keep going. There are no guarantees of course but it does feel like I’m in a better place than before.

I was starting to feel psychologically stronger a week on from the crash but today ended up being another hassle filled shit storm. What I thought would be a routine visit from an insurance inspector turned into an unexpected and dreaded financial punch in the face – he wrote off my car as a total loss. This has multiplied my original loss expectations by 10 so it’s gone from an annoying amount to a fairly hefty financial hit. Fuck 😦 I’m now simultaneously arranging for my crashed car to be taken away, sorting a hire car and trying to buy a replacement car. Way too much car hassle for my liking.

This past week, for fairly obvious reasons, I’ve been reflecting a lot about how little control we have over some things in life. No matter how carefully we drive, somebody else might carelessly crash into us. No matter how hard we work for our money, how thriftily we make purchases or respectfully care for our belongings, somebody else might trash or steal them. It’s not just the material ‘stuff’ either. No matter how courageously we build our self esteem it could be trampled by a thoughtless word or deed. No matter how much effort we put into our creations they could be dismissed as rubbish. No matter how much we love somebody they could be taken away. No matter how much we hope to live, our body might fail…

You get the picture… I need to zen the fuck out, this way anxiety (and other bad head-stuff) lies… It’s all adding up to that horrible angsty, cranky, want to crawl out of my skin and switch off my brain feeling that is exactly the sort of feeling I used to try to douse with drink. I’m not going there though, I know it won’t help. Deep breaths and serenity prayer sort of thoughts are the way forward tonight.

Sorry to keep sharing doom and gloom, hopefully the sun will shine again soon but this is where I’m at for now. I could be better but I know I could also be far worse. It’ll pass.

Some other interesting sobriety-related stuff also happened this week but I’m too tired to keep writing now. More later…

Take care, sending sober vibes and hugs x