Tired, wired and craving

It appears that the craving shit has hit the fan today 😦

I’ve been digitising my old photos and memorabilia as part of a de-cluttering drive. Other than photos of a younger me at home with family almost every other photo I’ve scanned has shown me in raucous drinking scenarios. While it’s been lovely to look back and reminisce there has obviously been an underlying whiff of ‘drinking was sooo much fun wasn’t it?’

I’m also at my danger point of 2-3 weeks – day 16. This is the point in so many previous attempts that I’ve slunk off to the shop and bought a bottle of wine. The fact that there are 5 shops that sell alcohol within a 3 minute walk of my house doesn’t help.

Instead, I grabbed my partner and walked into town for a coffee and we picked up some bits from the supermarket. To head off my cravings I had a piece of cheesecake after not eating any refined sugar for over 2 weeks. I was surprised to find that a moderate portion was almost too much to finish but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Unfortunately the combination of craving, too much coffee and a sugar rush has left me uncomfortably restless and wired. I’ve been pacing round the house unable to decide what to do with myself. That doesn’t happen to me very often; I don’t generally do boredom. It’s making me even more cranky. It’s also exactly the kind of feeling that screams, ‘Douse me with wine, NOW!’

Some of the photos that I scanned were of my mum and it’s mother’s day in the UK. Yesterday I was going through old letters and I found the final letter she sent me before she died which triggered a bit of a cry. I guess I’ve also got some sadness thrown into the mix today.

Aarghhh! I know it will pass; things always, always pass whether we want them to or not. I already feel a bit better after writing this. I think I’ll make a big cup of tea and go play some xbox. I don’t often have just lazy unproductive time at the moment. I’m getting lots of stuff done now I’ve cut booze out but I think I need to balance that with some down time as self care today.

There was one positive thing that happened earlier. I told my partner that I was craving wine and he pointed out that he’s noticed I’m a lot happier and in a better mood when I don’t drink. It’s easy to waver in our own perception of this when we’re being influenced by the craving voices. It’s very helpful to have somebody else confirm it from an external point of view.

Enjoy your Sunday x

Day 11

I’m giving sobriety another proper go. I backed myself into the usual cranky, flat, depressed and anxious corner that goes hand in hand with drinking.

By day 3 the clouds were thinning. By day 5 the sun had started to peek out again. Now at day 11 I’m feeling good and determined.

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing. In the last 11 days the roof leaked, builders were summoned and a hefty chunk of cash has been paid to have the roof fixed. I very nearly caved in when that stress was all finally over, but I didn’t and I’m glad of that now.

To stay on the 11 days theme, I’m now on holiday and have 11 days (nights) off work too – woop woop! 🙂

Wishing everybody a happy and sober day with no leaky bits x

8 days in and doing OK

Not terrible, not great but OK – which is OK for now.

It’s been an eventful week with a real mixture of experiences and feelings. I went out bowling with some people from work and didn’t drink which was surprisingly enjoyable. I find it hard to do general chat with people I don’t really know and usually hide behind a few drinks. Doing it sober was easier because my head wasn’t totally fuddled and I could think straight and talk sense. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not actually any easier to do drunk – I think I just talk more crap and tell myself I’ve done OK with it.

What I did find interesting was nobody really noticed or commented on me not drinking. I drank pints of soda and lime and in the dim lighting they may have looked like pints of lager. When we left, people were asking myself and my partner how we were getting home. When I told them I was driving they finally realised I hadn’t been drinking.

Yesterday was a nice sunny day where I am and I went to sit in the garden with the cat. I’ve realised this is a big trigger for me, it’s what set me off 9 days ago. I was thinking ‘Ooh, wouldn’t it be nice to have a glass of wine in the sun and read my book?’ The drinking part of my mind has a very short memory. That’s exactly how it started last time. I drank the bottle, went to my local shop and bought another bottle and some chippy chips. I stuffed myself with chips, drank half of the 2nd bottle, crashed out on the sofa, woke up in the early hours with a sinking heart and a banging head and proceeded to drink what was left. This is the sorry scenario I played out in my mind yesterday to answer that nagging craving voice.

I felt restless, flat, bored and had craving after craving all day and evening. I have so little motivation to do anything at the moment. The house is a mess. I’ve done almost no artwork. I’ve slept huge amounts and binge-watched netflix. I’ve eaten crap food and not really cooked much. An extremely slobby unproductive week all in all – but at least I didn’t drink! I did manage to do a trip to the supermarket yesterday for groceries and just ignore the wine section although I really, really, REALLY wanted a drink. That felt like a real achievement.

I’ve identified a Tuesday meditation class and a Thursday SMART meeting and my next goals are to start attending these. As a person who considers two ‘social/out of the home’ events a month to be plenty to suddenly go to things twice a week will be a big leap. Although I really enjoy and need time alone as a ‘creative introvert’ type it has gone too far in the last few years. I’m tending to isolate and lose the momentum to face my fears/intertia and go out and meet new people.

I feel like I need to meet people that understand where I’m at and what I’m feeling. My few old friends and partner are lovely people but none of them seem to understand or believe how deep my problems run. My wolfie voice is saying ‘See! You’re really not that bad! Everybody says so.’ but it’s time to stop listening to that and acknowledge that I’ve had about 27 years to get really good at hiding aspects of my drinking.

That’s all for now. Strength and hugs to anybody who’s struggling and a happy sober weekend to all X

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

One week and a weird dream

I’m just going into day 7. I’m surprised that a week has already gone by. I also just had a very odd dream.

I was on my annual camping trip that I go on with some friends but things were pretty strange, as they often are in dreams. For a start my bed frame, mattress and chest of drawers had somehow been set up in my small tent. As it’s usually a pretty boozy few days and I was insisting I wouldn’t be drinking my partner was saying ‘We’ll see shall we?’ which pissed me off.

Then I was half in the tent (which must have been the size of a marquee by now), and half at a bar – a gaudy neon sort of bar you’d find in a nightclub. Somebody put down a shot glass of some green drink and I downed it straight away without even thinking.

My immediate reaction was ‘Oh fuck I’m not drinking, why the hell did I do that??!’ It was particularly disappointing because I don’t even like those sort of hulk-green chemical-flavoured shots anyway 😦

A few other themes appeared in the dream that seemed particularly relevant at the moment. I was struggling with the changes in and potential loss of some friendships. I became aware I was blaming my partner for things I should have taken responsibility for checking myself. There was even an appearance by a particularly picky shit-stirring work colleague that I have to work hard to handle constructively. She was telling me I hadn’t fitted the tent groundsheet straight.

I was very happy when I woke up and realised it was all a dream and that I really am on day 7. Yay!!

Happy sober new year!

New year’s eve came and went and I didn’t drink a drop. I cooked some ras el hanout spiced lamb and stayed at home with my partner to eat nice food and chill out. I put two wine glasses on the table and a bottle of red grape schloer which tasted ok, if a little sweet. My partner rarely drinks and when he does it’s only one or two then he’s had enough, unlike me 😉

My partner actually ended up going to bed at about 11.30pm, his eyes were drooping and he could hardly stay awake. I told him it was ok to go to bed and not worry about midnight as I knew he was working long hours today.

At midnight it was just me, (with a big glass of sparkling water and elderflower cordial) and our cat. It was really nice, and quietly contemplative – once the fireworks had stopped and the cat had come down from defcon 1. Being alone can provoke feelings of isolation or solitude depending on the person. As I’d describe myself as about 75% loner I’m fortunate that for me it’s the latter.

New year’s day without a hangover has been pretty good and for me it’s day 5. It’s not been particularly productive but I did manage to dye some beige cords black which I’ve been meaning to do for weeks. They needed dyeing because I stained them by dripping red wine on them a while back – oops!

I’d say being sober is going well so far and I genuinely haven’t had any cravings though I know from past attempts that they will come. I’m sleeping lots today, mostly on the sofa. Doze, wake up, eat some leftover Christmas goodies, read for a while, shoot some xbox aliens, doze again etc. I think I’m having a mini-hibernation but it feels quite restful and happily doesn’t involve any headaches, clamminess, crushing anxiety or nausea.

Happy sober new year! x

Let me introduce myself

I’ve realised I should introduce myself before I ramble on any more.

I’m 40, female, have a 26 year history of problematic drinking behaviour and I’ve decided it really is time for a change.  As this is an anonymous blog I’ll be going by the assumed name of Sam.

Since I was 14 my drinking has fluctuated between very heavy bring-it-on binging in crazy situations, to a bit too much creeping in a bit too often at home on the sofa. I have had one fairly extended period where I rarely drank but this was when I lived in a country that has decriminalised cannabis 😉

I’ve been reading sober blogs on and off for some time now and so many of them resonate with me on so many levels – lots of slow nodding with a wry half-smile sort of a response. I’ve also read a few alcohol related books and have a few more queued up in my to-read pile. The question of ‘Do I drink too much?’, ‘Is drinking trashing my health?’, ‘Shall I drink today or should I have a day off?’, ‘What could I do with my life if I didn’t spend so much time wasted on the sofa?’ and so on and so on… have been occupying far too much brain-space for some time now. I think that’s pretty indicative of a problem in itself.

As I’ve turned 40 I’ve also realised that I have a choice in how much quality of life I will have as I age. I need to lose weight (about 2 stone). I have a few minor but constantly niggling health issues to sort out. I’m currently underemployed but have a plan/goal/dream to work on for the future. Overall I feel like I’m only really living at about 50% of my potential and I suspect that wasting time and energy on alcohol is the root of this problem.

I’m beginning to see alcohol as the insidious little fucker that’s interfering with my ability to expand my life into something wider, brighter, happier and healthier. I’m treading water and I’m tired of it. Sick and tired of it.

It’s nice to meet you 🙂 x

Day 3 – changing my Tuesday mornings

Tuesday morning is my equivalent of Friday night. I work nights and Monday night is the last shift before a 4 day (night) break. Every Tuesday morning I get home from work and crack open a bottle of red.

Not today I didn’t. I had lots of herbal tea, a coffee and a pepperoni pizza for a treat. The pizza really did feel like a ‘new year’ sort of treat because I am aiming to be much stricter about excluding gluten next year.

I noticed there was none of my usual mental wrangling through the night about whether I was going to drink in the morning, how much to buy, whether I should lay off a bit etc, etc. Life did feel a little bit simpler this morning which was good.

It’s lunchtime now and if I’d had the wine I’d be starting to feel crappy now. I’d be droopy and sleepy and headachy after drinking with a physically tired body and probably an empty stomach once the first glass hit and I couldn’t be bothered to make breakfast (dinner for me). Instead I feel pleasantly tired, relaxed and am really looking forward to a decent sleep.

Change feels good at this moment.

Where do I start?

How do I even begin to write about such a huge life-changing idea and the reasons behind it?

It’s day 2 and my head is as tangled as a bowl of noodle soup.

I was going to wait until after new years eve to start dry January but then I started thinking about what message that was sending to my subconscious. I drank too much between Christmas eve and boxing day, ending up with the worst hangover I’ve had in ages.

Do I want another one of those clammy, nauseous sessions or am I going to start the year as I mean to continue? Why am I clinging on to the idea that a new years eve needs alcohol to be fun or meaningful? Why am I reinforcing the idea of losing something when it would be more helpful to focus on the potential gains?

These questions were in my head when I was trying to sleep on the 27th December and as it turned out, day 1 was actually almost over by the time I realised it was day 1.