Checking in

Wow, it’s been ages since I posted. My poor little blog has been neglected recently. I’m still reading other blogs but not spending much time on my own so I thought it was time to check in here.

I’m still a work in progress. I’m booze-free for a large majority of the time but I have been slipping up from time to time. I seem to have gone into a pattern of 2-3 weeks off and then a slip up. I’m not beating myself up about it and it’s leading to a new and subtle learning process. I’m not trying harder, I’m trying differently.

I’m practicing ongoing mindfulness as much as possible. Through this I’m really noticing the change in the quality of my life experience after each slip. I’m gently watching the physical slump and the mental agitation of a hangover. I’m patiently being aware of the mild but definite anxiety and depression after my increasingly rare drinks. By taking the self-berating out of it and just watching the process without judgement something different seems to be happening.

I’m feeling a growing aversion to drinking that is coming from somewhere deep inside. It feels like a small green shoot that has the potential to grow into something big and strong. It’s growing naturally without any should’s or criticisms or health fears or presentations of logical reasons why it must happen. The dry periods are getting easier and longer and the time between having a drink and then noticing how shit it really is and pushing it away again is getting shorter. This feels like progress of a different kind than I’ve had before using more of a ‘grit my teeth’ approach.

I’ve been making some changes in my general life too. My artwork is still going well and I’m making progress there. I also stumbled on a small kindle book called Miss Minimalist by Francine Jay. It really connected with me on a deep level. It’s all about simple and frugal living and not getting bogged down by the stuff we own, or by the wanting to own.

I could totally relate to the description of feeling suffocated by having too much stuff and being disorganised in general. It sparked a huge de-clutter and so far 3 full car boots have gone off to charity shops and the tip. There’s still more to go but it’s stuff I need to go through more slowly or digitise or sell. Each car load out felt like a weight was being lifted from my shoulders and it put me in the best most upbeat mood I can remember for a long time that didn’t involve some sort of substance use. It felt like that blessed relief you get post-constipation but on a bigger, life level 😀

I’ve also decided to train as a counsellor. It’s something that has been in the back of my mind for a long time. Nothing is going to happen in a hurry. I’ve missed the start dates of the courses in my local college. I don’t think I can start until January next year and after that it looks like about 6 years of part-time study. I’m not a big planner for the future but I know I don’t want to still be stacking shelves in 10 years, never mind the physical wear and tear it brings. A combination of artwork and counselling seems like a realistic way to work into my later life if necessary.

Well, that quick check in turned into quite a long post after all. It’s time for another cup of tea and to download some bubble hour and Buddhism podcasts for my coming 3 nights at work. I hope you all have a lovely weekend filled with as many peaceful, simple and gratitude-filled moments as possible x

1 week and feeling grateful

It’s day 7 and I’ve been feeling grateful today. It’s a gentle and peaceful feeling, a whole world away from the crappy hangover I had last week.

I was grateful for the whingy-growl complaints from my cat when I pulled out the clump of grass seeds that had got planted into her tail. She wasn’t really restrained – just a one-armed lift – and could easily have scratched or shoved her way out of it but she didn’t. I felt loved and trusted by the little critter. The purring over reward treats was even sweeter.

I felt grateful during my morning coffee out in the garden, listening to the birds singing, smelling the fresh dampness everywhere and seeing the new tomatoes and cucumbers on the plants I’m caring for.

I even felt grateful for my aching feet. I appreciated the fact that I have the strength and health to be on them for 10 hours. The feeling of the cool morning air on my flip flopped tootsies after being stuffed into hot, heavy work shoes was wonderful.

I’ve had a long, undisturbed sleep and have woken up feeling good. I’m even appreciating the clean, sharp hunger I’m feeling because it’s an honest request from my body for nourishment rather than a chemically imbalanced, hung over scream for something to stuff down to take away the pain.

Simple, peaceful, grateful. I think they are my words for today. Now, it’s time for a nice sausage and ketchup sandwich 🙂

I hope everybody’s day brings lots to be grateful for too.

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 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 🙂