Aha! moments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Over 8 months

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a lovely evening whatever you get up to x

Day 230

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Day 208

I was going to post to mark passing 200 days but didn’t end up getting round to it. I have to rely on my counting app now to know how many days I have, the number has become far less a focus of my consciousness. The whole not drinking thing has become something I think about far less too. That’s probably why I’m not online or posting as much at the moment.

I’m having a strange time with a lot of anger surfacing. I think I’ve always been pretty angry with the world. From the first realisations of my misfit status whilst my age was still in single digits to the plethora of injustices, imbalances and general mess that we currently live in and call society. A lot seems to be driving (and inconsiderate parking) related. I was listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast and got a crazy rush of anger as he described being nearly drowned by a childhood bully holding him underwater. I see crisp packets and coke bottles strewn around in beautiful woodland and fume about the ignorance of it all. These are just a tiny few examples.

So, I’m pretty sure that anger was one of the things I was drinking to ignore. Now I’m not drinking and now I’ve got past the early months of laser-like focus on avoiding drinking, the stuff I’ve avoided for so long is definitely queuing up to say hello.

I can count on half a hand how many times I’ve had aggravated verbal confrontations with somebody in my life. I’m very confrontation avoidant and generally hate it. I have now had two in the previous two weeks, both at work.

During the first one I was very in control. I didn’t swear or say anything unjustifiable. I had injured my hand the previous night after doing at least two extra hours of work than my contract requires. I was told what my tasks were for the current night and worked out that it was at least an hour more than the actual working time I had, yet again – even though I had pointed out I was injured. There are some people that constantly get away with doing less than their contract requires and instead of managing those people and kicking their butts or changing them for people that are prepared to work, the shortfall just gets piled onto people that they know will shut up and get on with it. I know this is a common complaint in workplaces and it’s not just me. I put my foot down and spoke out against it that night. I don’t know what came over me, I had just had enough and I let them know in no uncertain terms. I think I was more surprised than they were.

It actually turned out fine. I was told I made some fair points and that there were plans to change things in the near future. Hmm, I won’t be holding my breath. It was a surprising response though. Even as I was speaking my mind I was also thinking, ‘Oh shit! What am I doing?!’ It’s the first time in four years I’ve done anything like that whilst some colleagues bitch and moan their way through each and every shift. I was basically taken aside and told that I was well-respected and had earned the right to make those points by having a consistently laid-back but hard-working attitude. Phew!

The second outburst wasn’t quite as in control and well-phrased. We have a guy that comes in early morning to pick up stock that we drop on the floor when it has been delivered but there’s no space for it on the shelf. He snides and snarks his way along, constantly moaning about the night shift, life, the universe and anything else he can think of. He’s also not made the connection in his mind that whoever is in the aisle in the morning is also the person that did the work and therefore he’s bitching about them, to them. Normally I just let it go in through one ear, out the other.

The other morning he’d decided he was going to ‘make an example for the senior management team’ of my one mistake among the probably 6-7 HUNDRED boxes I’d handled that night. I’d mistaken one product for another and dropped it when it would have fit on the shelf. It’s so easy to do when you’re tired and rushing. I lost it. My rant began with… ‘Have you got any idea how much fucking work I handled last night?’ Oops! I went on to point out that taking my one genuine mistake and dropping me in the shit and backstabbing about it was petty and wasn’t exactly making for a good workplace. It’s only a week ago there was a bellowing argument across a meeting I was in. My job is beginning to look like some sort of Machiavellian soap opera at the moment. Jeez!! I did end up taking a deep breath and apologising for the manner in which I spoke (but not the content) and that I hadn’t set out to be intentionally rude.

It’s given me a lot to think about though. I felt pretty good after the first example. I would need to borrow a few hands to count how many times in my life I should have stood up for myself but didn’t (and drank away the resulting regrets and resentments). Sometimes things do need to be said, even though it’s scary to do it. I felt pretty shitty after the second example. The adrenaline wouldn’t dissipate and even though I tried to smooth it over at the end he may still make a complaint about me. I was also unhappy about how out of control it felt. I ended up using EFT to dial down the discomfort when I got home.

Handling anger is evidently something I need to work on and was probably an aspect of my development that got stunted by my early drinking to hide from it. I need to get a balance between standing up and constructively saying what needs to be said without becoming a reactive, unleashed rabid loon barking in everybody’s face. I’m going to be more mindful around my reactions at work in the coming weeks. I’ll take a deep, long breath before I react to anything. I don’t want to make these things a regular occurrence.

I’ve been trying to reframe incidents that make me angry and look beyond the immediate event to the probable underlying causes. Instead of getting angry at the other person I’ve been attempting to separate the behaviour from the person. I’ve been wishing people a peaceful resolution to whatever anger or fear is causing them to act out in dangerous, inconsiderate or antisocial ways. I’m also trying to remember that some things are out of my control and to get angry about those things is like drinking poison and hoping somebody else is going to feel it. It’s hard, really hard to do but it’s got to be better in the long run than mumbling and grumbling into a glass (bottle) of red.

I hope you’re all having a good, sober and calm week x

 

 

 

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

One month

I now have a full calendar month of sobriety. I think I’ve only got this far once before but I’m not 100% sure, I’ve lost track there have been so many attempts.

I had an interesting encounter in a supermarket earlier. The man in front of me was waxing lyrical about Bacardi being on a BOGOF offer and was encouraging me to stock up. I smiled politely and said ‘I don’t drink.’ Three little words. One huge statement. They came out fairly naturally and didn’t feel forced. It did make me feel slightly odd after saying it, as if I was trying on a new reality and checking it out in the mirror. The mirror also provided an interesting reflection. The guy quickly felt the need to justify himself. ‘Oh I don’t drink much either, I’m stocking up for a birthday party.’ I hope it was the truth.

I was feeling good about the encounter during my walk home but then I noticed a familiar bright-light blind-spot in my vision. I was developing a visual migraine, which quickly rained on my one-woman victory parade. I made it home and got the necessary stuff into the fridge, took some paracetamol and went to sleep it off. They usually last less than an hour and mercifully don’t come with a classic migraine-strength headache. I’ve snoozed for a few hours and feel fine now. I’m also able to stay up all night which puts me back on the right sleeping schedule for my return to work tomorrow night.

Being sober is currently a mixture of 95% feeling positive and enthusiastic about it and 5% that dreadful skin-clawing need to alter my state of mind. I’m getting longer stretches between cravings but when they do come they are pretty heavy. I’ve been experimenting with more natural and helpful ways of altering my consciousness.

A craving hit and I paced around a bit then made myself sit and meditate. The first twenty minutes was a monkey-mind chaos session. ‘It’s not working’, ‘Fuck I want some wine’, ‘Aaarrghhhh!’, ‘Why am I like this?!’ etc, etc… Then I felt it, the lovely receding, quieting feeling when my mind finally settled. I sat for another peaceful ten minutes and came out of the session feeling much better.

I’ve also done lots of drawing during my week off. I spent hours doing an intricate drawing of a flowering shrub in my back garden. That sort of intense-observation drawing changes your consciousness dramatically. Your vision focuses in and the background recedes, colours seem brighter, objects cease to go by their given names and become shapes, colours and negative spaces. It’s very powerful. I was once painting at my desk and a pigeon flew past the window just as a loud motorbike went up the road outside. For about ten seconds my mind totally accepted the fact that the pigeon was revving its ass off until normal consciousness stepped in to make me laugh at that bit of ridiculousness.

I’ve also been paying attention to my addicted bargaining mind. ‘I’m not really that bad am I?’, ‘Could I give up coffee and drink wine again?’ and other such thoughts. They are still there, churning away but they seem to be a bit weaker, as if I’m hearing them from farther away now. I hope they keep on moving away and getting quieter.

Yet again I’m saddened by the news headlines. There’s so much fear, pain and hate causing more fear, pain and hate. It seems to be a cycle that’s so hard to break, like a bigger worldwide version of the drinking one. I wonder if we, as human beings will ever manage it? I really hope so but I really don’t know how. My thoughts are with the victims and their families.

As another weekend approaches I wish you all a happy, peaceful and sober one. Hugs for anybody who’s struggling. Take care and be well 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