Approaching six months

I’m still doing ok here as I approach the six months mark although I had the most intense craving I’ve had for a while pop up last week after a stressful visit to the vet. My usually mellow cat turns into a yowling four-legged freak-out on vet day so it’s hard work. While we were in the waiting room a tiny, cute puppy went in to have a microchip fitted and its screeching yelps of pain could probably have been heard from the car park. The poor thing was shaking like a leaf when it came out. Distressed animals stress me out too. In the car on the way home I said to my partner, ‘I could really handle a glass (bottle) of wine right now.’ He looked shocked and told me not to say that. I wasn’t going to do it, I knew that, but it’s obviously still an association I haven’t broken.

I’ve been thinking a lot about work matters recently. I’m still experimenting with my commercially-aimed illustration work but I’m beginning to suspect that making a success of that still won’t provide enough meaning, purpose and fulfilment in the long term. Earning an income that way would of course be an improvement on my current job. I could work from home, do fun, creative stuff, not commute, not have to be polite to customers who are being assholes etc. It’s still a goal but I also have some other ideas about what that could be combined with in the future…

I’ve been considering training as a counsellor for a while now. I keep looking at the courses, pondering and then filing it away in the back of my mind. It’s a long process which would take a few years and a few thousand pounds but I’m fortunate that I could afford to pay for it slowly over that time. It’s general counsellor training but there would be an option to specialise in addiction counselling later on. Maybe if that were combined with qualifications in mindfulness-based stress reduction, CBT and other such things I could become somebody who helps people to find their way out of addiction? It’s an exciting thought, scary too. I can see meaning and purpose down that route but I don’t know if I’m the right person to be doing it.

A few weeks ago I wrote that poem called ‘Why not today?’ Maybe it’s time to stop putting this on the back burner? I’m going to fill in the college application form this week and get the process started. The course doesn’t start until January 2018 when I will hopefully be hitting one year sober. I love the thought of studying again too. I loved my student days the first time round and I loved the atmosphere back when I did some tertiary college lecturing too. Yayy!! It’s exciting 🙂

I worked last night so now I’m nicely tired and ready for bed soon. Sober hugs and strength to all 🙂 x

My 11 week disappearance

I was surprised to realise that my last post was 11 weeks ago. I was on day 88 then and I went on to do 109 days. On day 110 I had a drink and have since been wandering in the grey area I attempted to label as moderation.

That first day I drank one large glass of red wine and got a dreadful hangover. It was a stark reminder that alcohol is a poison and not something we should be putting in our bodies. After so long without alcohol my body basically went ‘WTF? Seriously, you wanna do this??!!’ each time I drank and as a result it was a few weeks before I drank any more than half a bottle at a time. At that point I could fairly easily have a couple of drinks on one day and have a few days off without cravings.

At this point I’m aware that there has definitely been some creep towards the troubling side of drinking. It’s still not at terrible levels but I have had some ‘red flag’ moments and can clearly see down the shadowy path that could take me back to that place. I’ve observed once again how alcohol tends to contract life into something smaller and less fulfilling. It’s also a very bad influence on my attempts to eat better and avoid foods that I don’t tolerate. I’ve put back on the 7lbs I lost, my skin issues have flared up painfully and I have a lot of GI issues again. *Sigh*

I realised something important from a psychological point of view but I haven’t fully digested its implications. I expected to feel really weird and guilty when I drank but the overwhelming feeling I got was one of relief. The most obvious interpretation of that could be that it was simply an addict finally getting her ‘fix’ but as my body was initially quite grossed out by wine I’m not sure it was that. It was more a sigh of relief at the release from a set of strictly imposed rules. I’d become as obsessive and fixated on abstinence as I had on drinking. I hate being told what to do in an absolute sense, even by myself.

I’ve had some interesting conversations with work colleagues recently, without actually ‘outing’ myself. In my smallish team I have 4 colleagues that don’t drink. One is the child of a severely alcoholic mother who went through the British care system as a result so doesn’t want anything to do with alcohol. Another has quit because of pancreatitis. 2 others are long-term abstainers but in a way that it’s not really a ‘thing’ for them. One woman laughed that although she was previously a heavy drinker on nights out she’d gone off it over the years and hadn’t had any for about 18 months. One of the guys commented he’d toasted at his wedding but that was it for probably 9 months at that point. I find it fascinating that they’re just not particularly interested in drinking and don’t have to give abstinence any thought or effort.

It made me think of a new concept (new to me) and possibly a new goal. I’ve done plenty of obsessive drinking and some chunks of obsessive abstinence. How about getting to a place of non-obsessive abstinence? Or is that just another way of describing a ‘normal’ drinker or a fully freed alcoholic? I don’t know. I’d love to hear other perspectives on this.

I’m still convinced that addiction, whatever the substance or behaviour is still just a symptom of a bigger spiritual problem. Alcohol is an unbalancer. It tips the balance towards the negative side of the bigger, deeper dichotomies in life. From growth to contraction; from full to empty; from light to dark and heavy; euphoria to depression; engagement to indifference and so on…

There’s a song I like called Closer to Fine, by the Indigo Girls. It has an interesting couple of lines:

Well darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable, and lightness has a call that’s hard to hear.

It’s so easy and tempting to be the one diving head first, screeching ‘Hell yeah!’ into those deep pools of dark pleasure and to hell with the consequences. I’ve learned that during abstinence the call of the lightness was definitely a bit louder and easier to hear. I’ve also realised that alcohol is noisy and when it is allowed back in on a regular basis it’s all too easy for it to completely drown out the quiet call to the light. I want to choose the light. I’ve had some remarkable experiences on the lighter side. It’s important to me.

So, it looks like I’m heading back towards not drinking. This time I’m not setting any absolute rules or day counting. It has to be a daily choice, to show up and engage with life or to check out, shy away and shut down. It’s a new experiment…

Have a good weekend x

40 days and 40 nights

Well, I haven’t had the 40th night yet but close enough 😉

It’s been a strange few days. After a few relatively easy weeks of sobriety I’ve had some sudden stabs of craving this last few days. Being sober feels much harder at the moment.

On Sunday I met up with some friends in a pretty market town. We went for coffee, a walk, a snacky picnic and then spent a few hours in a pub having drinks and a meal. I drank pints of soda and lime and thoroughly enjoyed myself with no cravings. I was driving so I suppose the possibility of drinking wasn’t there at all but even so, I didn’t feel like I was missing out.

The following afternoon I went for a meal with my partner at a bar/restaurant. I drank soda and lime again but as we were waiting in the bar area for a table to be free I was hit out of the blue, like a slap in the face, by an intense wine craving. He was driving, maybe that was the difference? The option was there and my wine-brain damn well knew it. I rode it out and fortunately it passed. We had a lovely meal and then pottered into town to do some shopping. Later on when I got home I ended up doing a bit of house cleaning before settling down to an evening netflix session.

If I’d had a ‘glass’ of wine the day would have gone so differently. The shopping (beyond buying wine) and coffee in town would be rushed, my thoughts constantly drifting to when I could drink more. No way would the cleaning have happened and I’d be quickly drunk in front of the telly. Slouched on the sofa I’d probably fall asleep when the bottle finished and I certainly wouldn’t have been focusing on the series I was watching. Then the hangover would set in, along with the disappointment, guilt and depression. Ugghh, no thanks!

Now I’m past the initial novelty stage of the first month I’m finding that more difficult thoughts and issues are popping up to challenge me. Things that I would usually camouflage with wine are prodding me and making me wonder what I’m going to do to tackle them – other than drink that is.

Two recurring themes keep popping up. The first is feeling isolated and that I don’t fit in anywhere – I haven’t found my place or my people. The second is feeling a lack of meaning, motivation and purpose in life. The former has been a life-long feeling so is nothing new. The latter has been creeping up over time, since I quit my career over a decade ago and since I let go of many classic markers of purpose and success such as job title, salary and outward posessions. Now I’m not drinking away the discomfort it’s creeping up a bit faster.

I need to keep busy and try some of the new ideas that I have. I might make some soap today, or mount and frame the print that’s been waiting for over a year. Maybe I’ll do some extra special cooking or a bit more spring cleaning. I’m definitely not a type A high-stress kind of personality that struggles to slow down. I have the opposite problem – I’m so laid-back and spaced out that I need to speed up and show up to get shit done. My life needs a rocket up its ass!.. or something… anything but that slow slump back down into meaningless drunken lethargy and procrastination.

It’s sunny here, one of the first days it’s warm enough to sit out in the garden which is one of my big triggers… I’m struggling today with the familiar psychological tug-of-war, but it’ll pass. It always passes and I need to remember that – it’s my mindfulness mantra for today…