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

 

 

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Day 19 – almost 3 weeks

Things are going well at the moment. I’m still sleeping phenomenal amounts but it’s quite enjoyable, particularly as I’ve now got 9 days off work.

Something interesting happened last night, my partner came home with a bottle of red wine. When he first walked in my eyes fixed immediately on the bottle in shock. ‘How could he?!’ was my first thought but I stayed calm and asked if the bottle was for me. It turned out that a work colleague had given it to him to thank him for something. I asked if he minded me putting it at the back of the pantry and forgetting about it and he was fine with this. Drama and upset averted, that’s exactly what I did.

I’m quite proud of my calm response to this but what I’m more happy about is that it actually wasn’t that big a deal. During previous attempts that could easily have sent me off the rails but this time it didn’t really hold much appeal. That’s a pleasant surprise and a good sign I think.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about a strange conversation I had with my dad a while ago. I can’t remember the context exactly but I think we were talking about weight gain and bingeing on too many christmas munchies. At one point he said ‘At least we don’t binge drink eh?’ I was speechless for a second or so but I quickly moved on to avoid being given away by my silence.

I’ve had very mixed feelings about this moment. Part of me is happy that he doesn’t have any idea about my drinking. I’m lucky that my dad is a slightly old fashioned but lovely man who has always tried to do his best for me, and views me through idealistic eyes. Part of me is also sad that he doesn’t really, truly know me at all. I don’t know how many years he has left but I don’t want to taint them with the knowledge that his ‘sweet’ daughter actually has a seriously dark side that has rarely met a drink or drug she didn’t like. It does make me sad that I’m hiding away a big chunk of my true nature though 😦

To finish on a lighter note, I also discovered that classic disco music combined with rebounding is a pretty effective antidote to those restless/craving moments and I can feel yet another snooze coming on Zzzz

Have a good sober day x

Day 12

I had to check my day counting app to find out how many days I am at. In previous attempts to quit I’ve often found the first couple of weeks to be the easier, gentler part of the process and I’m having a similar experience again. Apart from my 2-day headache and some occasional fleeting thoughts about wine it has been pretty uneventful during the last 12 days.

To me, early sobriety often feels like the feeling you get when you slip into clean, fresh cotton sheets. It’s a rest and respite, a break from the self-abuse, breathing space for my poor knackered body. The struggle comes for me when the sober sheets have become crumpled, sweaty and covered in cat hairs. The doubts and bargaining come a few weeks in when the novelty has worn off. I guess I’ve had enough attempts over the last 2 years to know this about myself by now.

Yesterday I went shopping in town which I always find exhausting. Busy places just drain my energy. When I got home I had an aimless, tired but restless feeling. I didn’t know what to do with myself and felt too flat to do anything productive but I was thinking I shouldn’t really go to bed. I recognised it as exactly the kind of feeling I would spend an afternoon into evening drinking away. To hell with shoulds/shouldn’ts, I went to bed and ended up sleeping until midnight and then I got up and fell asleep on the sofa again about 3 hours later. I can hardly believe how much I’ve slept this time around.

I’ve been trying to look after myself a bit better. I bought a rebounder and I absolutely love it. I’ve only skipped a day if I feel ill or am in pain and all other days I’ve thoroughly enjoyed bouncing around and getting a sweat on. Apparently there are huge amounts of lymph channels within the liver and as rebounding is supposed to be great for moving the lymph it figures that it may be good for helping my poor liver to detox and recover from any booze damage. I also bought a hard skin remover for my feet. I’m not generally one for buying beauty gadgets but I realised my feet made a hard tapping noise when I hit them with my finger nails (nice!!), and the hard skin is getting painful 😦

There’s something I’ve been meaning to mention for a while now. I’m unable to leave a comment on blogspot blogs. When I go there and try to use my wordpress ID it looks like it’s accepting it but when the comment is previewed it’s defaulting to an old google ID that I don’t even remember setting up. I’m looking for a way around this but I just wanted to let my blogger using visitors know that I’m not ignoring you. I really appreciate the comments and support that come from you and I’m sorry I can’t reciprocate at the moment. Does anybody else have the same problem or know a way around this?

I think it’s time to go and supervise some cat chaos. I can hear my cat growling and screeching through the cat flap at a visitor trying to make friends with her. It’s a daily ritual at the moment.

Strength and hugs to anybody struggling, have a good, sober day folks 🙂 x

 

Day 31 – A month done, cravings beaten and some plans

I’ve not been home from work for long and I’m celebrating finishing my working ‘week’ and a month of not drinking – with a nice mug of hot chocolate.

It’s been a mixed week. I’ve eaten far too much after allowing my birthday eating to go on for 2 whole days and have put back on 3 of the 4lbs I’ve lost. Hey ho, I’m going easy on myself, there’s only so much I can tackle at once.

I also had a bad craving session a couple of days ago. This ties in with the plans I’ve made for my creative/professional future. I decided to take a leap and spend a fair amount on some software to build apps. I’m going to try to build and publish some apps for android, apple etc and have it all planned out – in theory. I ended up spending about 4 hours messing about with my computer trying to get this stuff to work. There was a scary moment when I thought I may have wasted my money as I didn’t think it was going to work without me spending a huge amount more but in the end I have managed to get it set up and ready to go. Once I got it set up I was happy with what I’d achieved but after a quick look at the software I realised I have a huge learning curve ahead to even begin to make my plans happen.

I find messing about with tech really quite stressful – it’s actually the main reason I drifted away from a good career and now do unskilled work. I’m prepared to do this because I can do it at my own pace, I find my chosen subject matter really interesting and I really do want something better for my future. I learned it’s also a bit of a trigger point for me too.

I walked away from my computer pretty exhausted and wasn’t quite sure what to do next. You know the feeling when you want food but you don’t know what you fancy? I had that feeling about what to do next. It doesn’t happen to me very often so I find it really disorientating. There was nothing I wanted to do other than sit down and ‘reward’ myself for persevering with the software or ‘unwind’ from the stress with a mahoosive glass of red wine. Wolfie had crept up silently behind me and well and truly bitten me on the ass 😦 It came from nowhere and was shocking in its intensity.

I started up the Xbox and got busy shooting things and a little while later all the cravings had passed. I’ve been fine since then, no repeat attacks and I’m really glad I didn’t give in. I can now sit here and appreciate everything that a month off has given me.

My cat has just returned home from whatever cat business she was off doing. She’s pleased to see me and we’ve had a little furry, purring cuddle. I’ve fed her and am about to spend some time playing with her – I think she misses me when I’m off out at work all night. I’ve enjoyed my hot chocolate and I’m going to cook something nice for my dinner (breakfast to everybody else). There’s a little bit of sunshine peeking into my part of the world and I’m at a really good bit in the book I’m reading so I’m looking forward to a read tucked up in bed before I sleep. It’s the simple, gentle pleasures I’m learning to appreciate at the moment. I’m realising I’ve severely underrated them for most of my life.

Night night, have a good Tuesday whatever you’re up to.

Day 26 – Sober birthday done

Yesterday was my birthday and I had lots of nice things to eat – but I didn’t drink yayy!

I had a disgustingly indulgent birthday breakfast when I got home from work in the morning – a scone with jam and clotted cream, a piece of chocolate cake and a cup of hot chocolate too. After a bit of sleep I went out for a lovely curry in the evening.

There were 5 of us and nobody drank alcohol. 3 were driving (including a friend I haven’t seen for a while who is also having a dry January), I was not drinking and the one left didn’t bother because he had to get up for work this morning. My partner had a coke and the rest of us shared 2 big bottles of sparkling water so it was easy not to drink in the end.

Now the sober birthday is under my belt the next big thing I have looming is my first ever as an adult sober holiday towards the end of February. I’ve got to admit to having a few doubts about that but I’m up for the challenge.

Day 22 – weird dreams, more self-analysis and one reason why I think I started drinking

I don’t know what is going on with my dreams but it’s all getting seriously weird. I vaguely remember reading somewhere recently that alcohol depletes vitamin B12 and a shortage of B12 leads to poor dream recall. That fits, I’ve rarely remembered my dreams for years. In the last 22 days I’ve remember quite a few – vividly!

Yesterday I was throwing some sort of family party on a houseboat which involved my rampantly anti-drugs 80-something father smoking hash in a bong – the absolute and total horror!!! Today it got even stranger. I was with one of my historically hard-drinking-buddies in some sort of foreign package holiday scenario – lots of sunshine, outdoor bars and people partying. I had a craving for a nice cold pint of lager but resisted. Then I swallowed a pill that a total stranger just popped into my mouth. WTF?! I haven’t taken anything recreational in pill form since my twenties and even then I was always very, very cautious and would absolutely never in a million years just pop an unknown pill from a random stranger. Just what is going on in my head at night? (well, day actually – I’m a day-sleeper because of my job). Unbelieveable! I really don’t know what to make of that.

On a less weird note, I’ve woken up to find I’ve had some traffic to my blog and even some followers. My heart is warmed and I’m far more touched than is probably cool in this situation, but that’s me, about as ‘uncool’ and socially clueless as it gets by ‘normal’ standards 😀 I’ve become aware I’m writing the blog in a sort of diary form, not really reaching out in any way or getting involved in any of the other blogs I read. This is not because I don’t want to I just find it excruciatingly difficult to connect to people. I’m like this in real life and it seems I’m the same online. I’ve even clicked on ‘leave a comment’ a few times and sat starting at the empty comment box like a rabbit in headlights and eventually just given up and left. I’m also highly self-conscious about the fact that for some reason I’m finding it reasonably easy to abstain when others are really struggling. I’m paranoid about coming across as smug because that’s the last thing I want. I can relate to so many of the struggles that I read about – they just happened to me before I started this blog.

I’m pretty sure this is learned behaviour that stems from my childhood experiences. This is a subject I’m utterly and painfully uncomfortable writing about – even on an anonymous blog – which I why I think that I have to. I also think it goes some way to explaining how I fell in love with alcohol. I don’t really know how to start this and it’s probably not going to read that coherently because my thoughts squirm around when I try to pin them down, but here goes…

I’m not a fan of labels. I don’t want to be labelled as I don’t like the assumptions that so frequently go with them. Having said that, I’ve been given a few over the years – sometimes viciously and slyly stuck somewhere up my mid-back where I can’t see them – the ‘kick me’ joke style – and sometimes with the best of intentions. I’ve tried to peel them all off, roll them into a small ball and flick them as far away as possible. The collection I’ve had include:

Freak, weirdo, misfit, loner, loser, geek, boring, clueless, ugly, other, stoner, pisshead, quirky, chicken, brave, beautiful, different, maverick, radical, sensitive, gifted, creative, funny etc.

I’ve included positive labels too even though they’re not the ones that started me drinking. No matter how many people have given me negative labels I’ve never lost my belief in the existence of people that would – and have – given me good ones, they’re out there but there’s just not as many of them. I fear and dislike closed-mindedness, closed-heartedness, meanness of spirit and people (including myself) being judgemental. Even though in my more compassionate moments I try to remember that most mean behaviour is motivated by fear more than anything else I also have slowly, over many years and incidents been conditioned to expect the worst from people.

To cut a very long story short I’d summarise it as follows. I have always been a misfit and an outsider. I was bullied the whole way through school and spent most of my childhood in such a state of anxiety that the adrenaline and nausea would be pumping from a few seconds after waking, the whole day would be torture and I’d be miserable and exhausted by the end of each day. I wasn’t totally alone, there were always 1 or 2 people that would recognise my ‘otherness’ and be drawn to it. There was fortunately always a small lifeline of friendship to keep me sane but in the main I can honestly say I feel like my life started the day I left school.

On top of that there were also other ‘unpredictable shit happens’ life events in my early childhood that took away any sense of financial security and even the security that a parent would stay alive (redundancy and serious parental illness). I remember feeling that no matter where I looked, there was nothing solid to hold on to. When I hear people talk about the joy of carefree and golden childhood days I just can’t connect to that concept. I visualise it as being like a fairground house of horrors with the floor moving around and scary shit jumping out at me from all angles. Even in my 40s my pulse raises and my muscles tense up when I concentrate on memories of being a kid. I remember being so tired of coping that I actually broke my own arm over a concrete step just to get a few days away from school. I still don’t know how I did that – I’m such a pain wuss.

You get the general picture. I was a wreck of a super-high-anxiety, rabbit in headlights teenager on the edge of a nervous breakdown sort of kid. Eww, blimey even just describing this is taking me as close to wanting a drink as I’ve been for 3 weeks. I’m not going to though.

Then, at 14, hidden away in some woodland near my dreaded secondary school I got drunk for the first time. Oh my fucking god, the bliss I felt that day. I was drinking cans of guinness and trying to ignore how foul it tasted. When that first sense of creeping numbness started I could feel my tightly strung-out tension receding. The more I drank, the further away all the shit seemed to go. For the first time ever I was feeling something close to relaxation and it felt like some sort of divine revelation. No wonder I fell in love with drinking from then on.

My drinking partner that day was my best friend at the time – a lass even more way-out-there-on-the-fringes than myself. I think we both had a similar sense of relief that day and both continued to drink heavily from that day onwards. I always remained fairly high-functioning but sadly she went into a slow slide into mental illness (depression and paranoid schizophrenia) and some horrendous self-induced tragedies. That’s a whole other long story 😦

So, I don’t think that was too long or rambling – I have a tendency to stray off the point when I write. I’d say I spent the first 30 years of my life desperately wanting to fit in) or at least be unobtrusive in not doing so) and trying to pretend to be more normal. I’ve spent the last 10 years observing that what is classed as ‘normal’ in our society is actually not all it’s cracked up to be and preferring my take on life – finally growing to like my ‘otherness’. I can even say that now, entering my 40s I’m actually very happy to have my ‘otherness’ and to be me. I’m not perfect and I’ve made plenty of mistakes but I can honestly say that I like and respect myself and my values, strengths and weaknesses.

Now I’ve (mostly) stopped wishing to be anything other than what I am and started embracing who and what I am it’s brought a level of inner peace that’s eluded me for most of my life. I suppose it’s a far healthier version of what I thought I was feeling all those years ago in the woods with the illicit guinness. It’s a tentative peace and I can easily lose contact with it but I know it’s always there within my reach as long as I am able to make the effort to keep an attitude of self-honesty, gratitude and acceptance rather than lose my way worrying about ‘social norms’ or chasing after a false alcohol-induced copy of it.

Bloody hell I’m exhausted now, I think I need a nice cup of tea. If you’ve got as far as this then thanks for reading and I’ll make you a virtual cuppa too 🙂

Day 21 – Less obsession and more pies please

A whole 3 weeks have gone by since I last had any booze. That’s the longest time without a drink in gawd knows how long, I can’t even remember it’s that long ago. Although I still get a kick every day when I check the day counter app on my phone I find I’m spending less time thinking about not drinking which is a big difference from when I first started.

I’ve moved on to figuring out why it’s been easier to stop this time, compared with previous attempts. Somehow, something has flipped that mysterious ‘switch’ in my head that somehow changes everything.

It’s not the first time it’s happened to me. I used to be a smoker. I used to smoke like a bloody chimney in fact – for 13 years. I tried to quit over and over and failed. I read the Allen Carr book and quit, then failed again.

I’ve come to the conclusion that quitting an addiction is as inexplicable as falling in love. No amount of intellectual understanding or logic can tell you if you’re in love – a switch flicks and you just are, and the thing that flips that switch is such an individual, subjective choice. I spent so many days making and pondering lists regarding smoking – and later drinking. Even though the pros list was tiny (and mostly illusory) and the cons list was as long as my arm it still didn’t do it. Even the living example of my mum who had a serious smoking related illness at far too young an age wasn’t enough to make me ‘get it’.

I think eventually I just got too tired of feeling shit all the time. I clearly remember walking up the hill to the nearest tube station to go to work one morning. I was in a sorry-ass state that day. I was severely hung over (a daily occurrence back then) and was struggling to walk up the hill. I had a fag on the go, was out of breath and was coughing and spluttering and coughing some more, holding onto my head because it felt like it was going to fall off and wondering if I was going to have to throw up in the gutter because I felt so sick. I remember thinking ‘This is fucked up! I’m only 27, this shit shouldn’t be happening’. And so began my experiential rather than intellectual understanding of why quitting smoking would be a good idea.

I think it took me about another 6 months to actually do it. Many more feeling shit episodes followed until I’d had enough. I read the Allen Carr book again and this time the understanding merged with the experiential feelings and the switch flipped and I quit easily. I remember stubbing out my last fag just as my housemate came home drunk. I told him that was my last fag and he laughed, having heard it all before. Fortunately he took the same journey himself a few years later.

Back to drinking (not literally!). I’m a very visual thinker and an image popped into my head that may go some way to explaining why not drinking seems easier for me this time. It went like this…

A common theme I’ve seen on blogs is how people struggle to fill their time when they stop drinking. Again this is a totally subjective experience. For some people the extra time seems like an abyss – wondering what the hell to do to fill it seems to become a source of panic and stress and therefore a relapse trigger. For others the extra time is a glorious revelation and an unexpected bonus.

I imagined the time as a big empty pie crust waiting for a tasty filling. Some people have no idea what to put in a pie / do with free time, and may panic. One option is to start checking out recipes for pie fillings and just get on with giving it a go. Some may remember much loved but long-forgotten fillings and get to work resurrecting them. The pie crusts are going to keep coming, day after day and our work is cut out to deal with them all.

My version of this is that I have plenty of fillings. The fillings have been queued up for years, stored away in cupboards, filling the fridge – packed into the freezer and the fuzzy bits at the back of my mind. Spending too much time in lazy, default drinking meant that I never got round to doing anything good with any of the pie crusts that came my way. Crust after crust went off, got dropped, got eaten unfilled because I ‘couldn’t be bothered’. In my treading water life there hasn’t been a decent supply of crusts for a long time and I’ve been thinking – ‘Am I just going to let this continue and sit there in my 60s, 70s etc. regretting that I wasted all that lovely filling or am I going to get off my ass and make some damn delicious pies?’

Now I’m finally making some tasty pies and not just sweeping forlorn piles of pastry off the floor and chucking it in the bin it feels like an experiential understanding of the benefits of not drinking, rather than just the intellectual ‘pros’ list. I’m drawing a lot, exercising, cooking nice food and not eating crap, I’m have the discipline to 5:2 fast again, I’ve lost 4lbs, taken time to play games and read etc. I think this is one of the main factors that is making it easier this time round and it’s a hell of a lot nicer than coughing a lung up into a London gutter 🙂

Now I read that back to myself I have no idea if it’s going to make sense to anybody else but hey, it’s how the inside of my head goes.

Happy pie making x