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

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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

 

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

 

4 weeks

It’s been a good week in general. There was one notable incident that affected me to a surprising degree. It happened at work. I’d just arrived and went to join a few of my colleagues already sitting in the canteen. I usually just quietly drink my pre-work coffee and stay on the periphery of canteen conversations but this one was – unknown to my colleagues – like a kick in the guts.

One woman – who I’ll call Pat – was fuming about the destruction that addiction causes. Her daughter’s fiance had been taking money from her to pay important bills and to put away to save for their upcoming wedding. Instead, he’d secretly been gambling it all. Her daughter had finally found a scary letter informing them of their large arrears. The fiance had been intercepting all demand letters for months but this one escaped him. She also found out that the wedding money had been lost too. Her hard-earned sense of having things under control has been yanked out from under her and her very young daughter’s feet. The resulting fallout has fractured the whole family in heartbreaking and near-violent ways.

Pat says she would understand if her daughter ended up taking him back but doesn’t think they should get married so soon. I said it was probably not a good idea to get married at all. It changes things in legal and financial liability ways. I was sad for her daughter and depressed for myself as it’s advice I’ve also had to follow 😦

Pat then went on to say she had hoped that her daughter had moved out from the shadow of addiction when she left home. She described her husband as an obviously physically addicted but ‘functioning’ alcoholic.

I had to be so careful what I said in that context and so was unable to say anything but general thoughts and sympathies. Really though, I had SO much to say about both revelations but I had to swallow it all so as not to out myself. It was really uncomfortable. As I went out to start working I felt tight-chested and had a lump in my throat like I was going to cry. I felt spacey and a bit anxious. Fighting to keep my face neutral and choking on things unsaid actually made me feel ill. I had to deep breathe and try to get into the rhythm of my job which ironically had taken me to the booze department first. After an hour or so I felt ok but I was still shocked by the effect it had had on me and sad for their family.

On a more positive note, I’m still feeling completely different than I can ever remember feeling – in a good way. I’ve been trying to put my finger on it and I think it boils down to my motivation having switched positions from being mainly extrinsic to intrinsic.

I’ve long been fascinated by the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. For so long my reasons to not drink have been purely extrinsic or external. What damage was I doing to my health? What life events was I missing out on? What would other people think of me? What was it doing to my finances? How shit was I going to feel later? etc… There’s nothing wrong with any of these external motivations and many are helpful in the bigger motivational picture. What I struggle with is the fact that they are all things I would run away from. They’re like a horde of scary spectres chasing me down the street, taunting me with all the bad juju they will unleash if I don’t stay sober. I’m no ultra-marathon runner – there’s only so far I can run before I fall.

So if we don’t want to be running away from, what’s the other option?

Moving towards. I’m going to drop the running bit, my knees can’t take it 😉 This is where I’m less clear and I’m struggling to describe it.

I guess one good example is in day counting. Something about it has always felt awkward to me. I would check my day counting app more than once a day, as if to reassure myself. I would cling to each day and it would feel like a weapon of sorts. A collection of days would come together to form a shield I could brandish at the chasing spectres. Each day also sometimes felt like a tiny, insignificant step on a never-ending journey. I couldn’t see where the journey was going but I needed some sense of going somewhere, of control, achievement, or proof.

This time it feels different. I sometimes don’t check my app and have gone more than one day not really aware of which day I was on – because I haven’t even thought about it. I’m not trying to prove anything to the outside world any more, it’s more of a quiet acceptance and feeling good in this day without looking too far ahead. It’s moving towards the good things. More peace, more health, more gratitude etc. It’s acting out of love rather than fear. It’s a quiet internal motivation that shines upwards and outwards from the centre of my being rather than an oppressive motivation that pushes inwards and downwards from the outside.

As for how the switch was made, I guess it has something to do with my surrendering 4 weeks ago. I’ve joked to myself that the real me must have been abducted by aliens and this new me has been dropped in her place. Yeah, I watch too much Star Trek.

It has spread out beyond just drinking. My diet is much better. I’ve figured out a major food irritant and have gone from having constant gut pain needing painkillers just to function to absolutely zero pain. It’s such a massive leap in my quality of life just from making some simple but consistent food (and drink) choices. My level of general self-care has improved enormously. I’m seeing consistency instead of chaos. I feel so much better.

Of course, I know from past experience not to be complacent. My gratitude for today is for all the good things that are happening. Tomorrow is a new day where anything could happen.

Sending out some supportive sober gratitude vibes to you all. I hope you all have a good sober weekend.

Day 14 – subtly shifting

I can’t believe it’s day 14 already. I’ve been busy at work as we’re short staffed due to sickness. Then I got a mysterious pain in my side. It wasn’t quite bad enough to be called severe but it did have me on painkillers and scrunched up on the sofa feeling sorry for myself for a couple of days. It has now (thankfully) mysteriously disappeared again. If I’d still been drinking I’d have been paranoid about my liver.

I’m still processing the shifts that have started happening since that dark/light day 2 weeks ago. I’ve been thinking a lot about surrender and the times in my life I’ve found peace through it. It’s brought up a lot of interesting, and funny memories. More about those later.

The feeling I have now reminds me a lot of the feeling I had when I finally let myself move on from my old career. I had the degree, the years of experience, the important sounding job titles, the fat pay, the excessive after-work socialising blah blah etc. My ego ran a mile with it all and told me that my life was good. Friends, family and colleagues all agreed. From the outside it looked that way and ticked the boxes that society told me I was supposed to tick. On the inside I was empty, lonely, unfulfilled, feeling like I’d hugely missed the point somewhere. I was drinking heavily and daily to not to have to feel or face any of it.

I ended up backing myself into a corner where I’d drifted away from from the career but not let go of the associated beliefs and baggage that had become my false identity. I wasn’t working and just subsisted in confusion for ages. I couldn’t go back but I had so many confused beliefs about myself that were getting in the way of me moving on and applying for jobs that were ‘beneath’ me. People told me I was crazy, deluded and ungrateful to even consider dropping out.

Eventually I found the sense and strength to listen to myself. I was also broke. I have a vivid memory of the day I first applied for a retail job. I’d dropped the application form off in person and was driving home. It was a sunny autumn day and whilst waiting at a red light I gazed at a bright blue sky through a blazing display of leaves. I suddenly had a huge rush of euphoric relief and a manic grin. I could almost hear the ‘thunk’ of heavy baggage hitting the road as I drove away and left it behind. It was one of those moments that imprints like a flash photo on your brain.

Although I haven’t had any euphoric rushes this time I do feel that familiar sense of lightness. Maybe I managed to drop off the first few bits of booze baggage? I know the dangers of getting overconfident though and can see the huge suitcases still waiting to be unpacked – one step at a time.

At the moment I have no desire to drink at all. Over the last couple of weeks I have had occasional moments of my red flag restlessness. What has been interesting and encouraging is that my mind hasn’t retreated towards thoughts of drinking during these moments. It has instead stepped up to look for more constructive ‘what can I do about this’ solutions. I think that’s progress 🙂

When I’m not working I’m alternating between lazy indulgent sofa sessions of reading, gaming or snoozing and more constructive stuff. I’m currently doing a couple of free online courses. One is in photography and one is in philosophy and critical thinking. My mood is subtly shifting toward lightness, hope, brightness, gratitude and a gentle excitement about what the future could bring. Bring it on! 😀

I hope everybody has had a good sober week and is looking forward to the weekend. Hugs to anybody struggling at the moment x

Day 88

I’m still here and still sober but I haven’t really felt like blogging as much in the last couple of weeks. I’m on day 88 now and not drinking is becoming more normal and routine. Over the last 12 weeks I’ve spent almost as much time thinking about not drinking as I did thinking about drinking and I feel like I’m ready to move on to the next stage, whatever that is.

I still get those ‘Ooh, wine would fit nicely into this moment’ kind of thoughts but I’m now noticing they seem to be more a result of ingrained habitual thinking than a real desire. Those thoughts are fading in intensity and have less power over me. I’m recognising a subtle separation between that restless, uncomfortable ‘gap that needs filling’ feeling and its association with wine. It panics me less and I am able to think, ‘Yeah, yeah, mind the gap, it’ll pass’. When I’ve started to ‘play the movie’ in my head I’ve sometimes even noticed an aversion to the thought of drinking. Deep down I know that looking to alcohol in these moments is pointless and futile and will never solve anything.

I’m starting to recognise the difficult moments as an opportunity to be mindful and a chance to stand up and build something new and better rather than taking the old, familiar and ‘easier’ option. It’s really not easy. I feel like I’m climbing a mountain at the moment. I seem to frequently fall into a trough of TV or game bingeing, pizza and chocolate bingeing or just lethargy, flatness and laziness. I also somehow always seem to find a way to pull myself out of it. I’m hungry for knowledge and experimentation whether it’s in psychology, spirituality, nutrition or any form of behaviour change. Maybe I’m finally ready to make the climb, to do the work that I’ve spent most of my life avoiding? No matter how hard the climb feels at times I’ve come far enough and seen enough benefits to not want to get drunk and slide backwards down the mountain. I can feel a shift towards being motivated by positive and constructive desires to build and grow rather than shying away from negativity and fear.

Now I’m starting to be a bit less preoccupied with not drinking I’m moving back towards some other projects in my life. My artwork is always waiting for me. I’m back on the decluttering mission. I’m also starting a new writing project which I won’t detail here as it won’t be written anonymously. I know that none of this would get the chance to happen if I let alcohol back into my life at the moment. I don’t know what my longer term future relationship with alcohol will be but I know that it has no place in my life for the forseeable future.

I’m still reading other sober blogs every day even though I haven’t been writing. It has been very interesting to read about the experiences of people who have managed increasingly large chunks of sobriety and then returned to drinking for various reasons. Some of their relationships with alcohol seem to have changed for the better and I’m hoping for it to continue for them. I really do wish the best for them but I’m also aware (as I’m sure they are) that alcohol can be deceptive like that while it’s in the process of creeping back in.

I have noticed that people tend to back away from blogging once they reach a point where they are aware they don’t fit neatly into one of the many labels around alcoholism and addiction. I also know many people couldn’t continue to read if a blog described a return to a new relationship with alcohol. For some it would be dangerous and triggery, for others not so much. Like religion, this is one of those subjects that tends to forge extremely strong opinions and the potential for conflict with people holding opposing views. Myself, I can’t help but be curious about the grey areas while respecting, appreciating and learning from all the different points of view from this wonderful community. I would certainly continue to read and be open to a variety of possibilities for how this journey could ultimately unfold.

Maybe addiction isn’t a black and white matter after all and could be more of a spectrum, like autism? Is it possible that once one has repaired the ‘hole in the soul’ then a previously problematic substance or behaviour may end up being no more dangerous than a luxurious soak in the bath? Can we get to a stage where it’s just a non-issue, like me and the smoking that I quit 15 years ago? I don’t spend my life in fear of cigarettes and know it’s going to be zero effort to never smoke again. Will that / could that happen with alcohol?

I know this is trigger territory for many and I apologise if it’s hard to read but I have read so many different views and opinions on addiction that I don’t know what I really believe. I feel more able to ponder questions like this at the moment as I’m genuinely open and curious rather than just looking for a way to talk myself back into the bottle. For now I’ve made my peace with the perspective that I can choose alcohol or spiritual/life/health growth and remind myself of this with my new Spiritus Contra Spiritum bracelet 🙂

bracelet

Take care everybody, be well x

9 weeks – day 63

I’m well into new territory now as this is the longest I’ve gone without alcohol since I was a teenager. 9 whole weeks! I partly feel like it’s been ages and partly feel like it’s flown by.

I’m feeling strong and positive today. I got up early and went for a 45 minute fast walk to get sweaty, get my blood pumping and start the day. The weather looks pretty promising and I have the rest of the week off so that’s all good. I’ve got plenty of ideas and plans for my artwork, decluttering and fermenting for the next few days and I’m definitely appreciating having what feels like a lot of sober, productive time at the moment.

My sauerkraut experiment is now on day 5 and it’s starting to smell like proper sauerkraut and not just like somebody farted while attempting to do the cabbage soup diet. I have an organic cucumber and some carrots hanging about in the kitchen so I might have a go at combining those into some sort of fermentable creation later today. I can feel a new hobby coming on 😀

I did a lot of thinking during my walk, mainly about sobriety and spirituality. I’m feeling different somehow at the moment and I’m not quite sure how to explain it. I’m reconnecting to a feeling I remember having as a child. Whenever unpleasant shit would happen in my life (such as bullying, parental illness, family financial problems etc) I would feel small, scared, sad or whatever negative expression came about but there was always a small light tucked away deep inside me that would feel, or know, or have faith that in the bigger picture everything would somehow be alright in the end. I’ve carried the memory of that feeling with me my whole life but now I think I’m actually experiencing the feeling again which is huge.

I’m not religious and neither was my upbringing although I’ve always had some sense of there being something ‘higher’ but no clear concept of what it is exactly. As it’s not something I’ve ever really talked about I’ve never felt the need to define it. There is much talk about a higher power in 12 step information and I like the concept that the individual can choose what form it takes. I’ve meditated for over 20 years using a set of phrases that give praise, gratitude and love to a ‘higher’ concept of the individual’s choosing. I’ve also had some pretty powerful and inexplicable changes in consciousness, either spontaneously for unknown reasons, through drug taking or through meditation…

I have a vivid memory of slipping into a different state of consciousness when I was still a child young enough to be looking out through cot bars. I recognised this state as familiar when I experimented with hallucinogens as a teenager and once again recognised it during an extreme altered state that was brought about through meditation in my 30s. The common theme that binds all these moments was the experience of being able to really feel and even see energy. I saw everything as being composed of sparkling motes of energy. Woah! now I sound like I’ve been drinking the Kool Aid don’t I?! Or maybe it’s whatever is off-gassing from the sauerkraut?!

What I began to theorize during my walk is that alcohol has been drowning out the small fire deep inside me and also damping down my energy into a much lower state than a human is capable of. When I read all this back it sounds so Woo Woo and mystical but that’s not really where I’m coming from. I get pretty skeptical when I hear people getting excited about something like ‘the secret’ and use it to try to attract themselves a fat salary and a new sports car. I do however keep coming back to energy as some form of attracting/repelling/higher force as a key part of my thoughts today. Um, what am I trying to say here?… focus…

I believe that there are many ways we can move ourselves towards a positive, uplifted, courageous, open minded, open to change/challenge and dare I say it, higher energy state. The content of our thoughts, the ways we breathe and move – or don’t move, the people with which we surround ourselves, the quality of our food and drink! are just a few that come to mind. Alcohol is most definitely not a part of this list. That romanticised moment of glistening glass in the sparkly sunshine will whisper that it is a route to a higher state until we play the film to the end when we’re laid low and bottomed out and we’ve given away our potential energy to the wine witch and spend the next day begging to have some of it back.

By the time I’d finished my walk I’d come up with a new thought/life experiment for myself. I’m offering up my life and sobriety to my concept of a higher power. This isn’t a blind faith, washing my hands of all responsiblity, sit back and let the world give me what I think I deserve kind of thing – far from it. I’ve vowed to be mindful of my thoughts as much as possible, to express gratitude daily, to eat well, exercise, be creative and always look ahead for the next right thing to do and be prepared to work hard for it. When I disappear into future fear or negative thinking I’ll come back to the present and reconnect with that part of me that knows that whatever heaven or hell life throws my way there will always just be the next right thing to do and any worrying I do about the future now is pointless as the next right thing is always now and not then. Oh yeah, and I won’t drink.

Well, now I’m a bit scared of publishing this in case you all think I’m a total weirdo 😀 Maybe I need to also make a vow to stop worrying so much about what people think of me. Have a lovely sober day everybody and if anybody is low on energy today I’ll send you some of mine, I seem to have some to spare today. Hugs x