6 months and a week

I was going to post last week to mark 6 months but things ended up getting hectic for various reasons and I didn’t get round to it. Better late than never though.

I was wondering if things would shift and feel different at this landmark and they have, but unfortunately I can’t say it’s all in a good way. At this point my mind is not as focused on not drinking to the exclusion of other thoughts. In a way this is good; I’m feeling more secure in my sobriety and less of my mental energy is required to sustain it. The bad side is that this energy is now freed up to focus on other stuff and the other stuff is often the stuff I was drinking to avoid thinking about in the first place. Damn!

I’m at a stage in my life where I’m beginning to feel comfortable in my skin and in the way I am. I spend many happy hours chilling out at home with my creative work, reading, sofa cuddling with my cat and/or fella and various other simple, sober pursuits. My inner and home landscapes are becoming generally calm. Where it goes wrong is when I leave my solitude and sanctuary and step out the front door.

I’ve always felt like I somehow landed on the wrong planet. Other than the occasional blessed weirdos that I’ve been honoured to find as friends I find little to relate to in what most people (and society in general) seem to consider normal, admirable or fun. And is it me or do so many people seem angry and cranky when they’re out and about? Maybe I’m focusing on the wrong things and tending to see the negative stuff. I know that a bias toward paying attention to threatening or aggressive events is a deeply ingrained survival instinct but it really got to me yesterday.

I got up in the early hours and spent a few hours reading on the sofa with the cat. Then I headed out to the country park for a walk and some berry foraging. This was all pleasant and good. On the way home I went to do some grocery shopping and things went downhill.

On my way into the shop car park I would usually go straight ahead but I noticed that area looked particularly busy and there were some spaces to the left so as a last split-second decision I turned left instead. It was so quick a decision I didn’t have chance to indicate which I admit was my bad. People not indicating is a real peeve for me and I’ve quietly cursed people often enough for not doing it. The one extremely rare time I don’t do it there is of course somebody there that felt the need to bellow abuse at me through our open windows. I guess that’s some sort of annoying karma in action.

I tried to shake that off, did my shopping and headed home. On the way I had a near miss on a roundabout which would have been an action replay of my recent crash. Somebody cut me up trying to overtake from the wrong lane. Luckily (?) it was a real lad-racer type who accelerated so fast he got past in time but I was so fucking pissed off and shaken up. I couldn’t wait to just get home, close the front door of my sanctuary and shut out the world for the rest of the day.

A hand-delivered information sheet from the local police was waiting for me at home. There have been a spate of local burglaries and I was informed that my home is considered at heightened risk of being broken into. FFS! Talk about bad timing 😦 The whole sequence of events just left me feeling a bit raw, overly sensitive, exposed and psychologically slapped around. Without the option to do the crap ‘too drunk to care’ thing I’m feeling some low-level but nagging anxiety creeping in at the moment. I’m breathing and watching, and eating too many doughnuts… it’ll pass.

It wasn’t all bad. I had a pleasant chat about blackberry locations with a man waiting for his sweet granddaughter who felt the need to pick up every stray branch she passed. There were friendly smiles and hellos from other walkers (and their dogs). There was sunshine and refreshing breezes. There were abundant blackberries and elderberries to pick. There was the meditative task of stripping elderberries from the branches while sitting in the garden. I know there is a lot of good in the world too, it’s just sometimes hard to notice the quieter whisper amid the noise, stress and chaos.

So, my 6 months post turned out not to be overly celebratory but I guess it’s just where I’m at for the moment. Wishing everybody a lovely sober and un-stressful weekend 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

 

Life is good (in general)

It’s day 41 here – I had to find my phone to check on that. I was going to post for 5 weeks but I’ve been so busy getting into my creative work I didn’t get round to it.

Not everything is great, such is life. The company I work for has announced another large round of job cuts. My shift has survived this time but my job is definitely looking less secure each day. I’ve resolved not to worry about it. I have savings so losing my job would suck but it wouldn’t be an immediate emergency. If/when it happens I’ll worry about it then. I’ve spent far too much of my life worrying about stuff I can’t control – it never prevents anything and just wastes my time and energy.

I’m currently reading a book that is worth a mention here. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon it; maybe it was mentioned in a podcast or web article. It’s called Blessed Are The Weird by Jacob Nordby. I thought it sounded like my kind of book so I bought the kindle version and got stuck in. I’m only halfway through but I can already tell it’s one of those rare and precious gems that has the power to utterly transform a life.

Fairly close to the beginning this passage was the first of many to reach deep into my soul:

Where it all begins, I cannot say, this sense of being a stranger in a world full of people who seem to belong in it. All I know is that some of us are not like the others – something in us doesn’t fit.

Well hellloooo! The gems just keep coming:

The problem is the numbing.

The problem is that we have forgotten how to make our own lives works of art and we cannot seem to find enough ways to gorge ourselves to fill the aching sense of emptiness this leaves behind. Because we don’t know how to fill up the space of our lives with ourselves, we turn that job over to others and then wonder why we are never satisfied.

Does that sound familiar at all?

There is also a beautiful quote from the poet Mia Hollow:

Every now and again, you will feel a dull ache in your soul. A gentle humming around your heart. A longing for something without a name. If I ever told you to obey anything, this would be it. Listen to the call of your authentic self; that part of you that lives just outside your own skin. Let it have its way with you. I have died a hundred times trying to ignore it.

And I have drunk a hundred times (and the rest) trying to ignore the dull ache, and shoehorn myself into the socially agreed version of an acceptable life, career, drinking habits etc…

The book addresses many of the recurring issues that I struggle with myself and regularly read among other sober bloggers. A feeling of never quite finding our place in the world, social awkwardness, the tendency to isolate or that feeling of having missed the point somehow. I’ve always had a feeling of there being ‘something more’. On the very rare occasions I have voiced this I’ve often been made to feel ungrateful because although my life has had its fair share of ups and downs it has (in general) not been so bad. It’s not been bad enough to ‘justify’ developing a drinking problem, according to some.

I was tucked up in bed last night, reading in utter amazement as the book basically spelled out the story of my life. I realised that the lack of connection to my deeper creative soul is a big part of what I’ve been trying to drink away. Over time I became so disconnected that I couldn’t even remember what it was I was missing but I kept drinking anyway.

I was thinking about that illusory first drink and its misleading buzz that we chase over and over. It’s just a poor photocopy of the magic that we have forgotten can be found within – a photocopy degraded a thousand times. The magic is never going to be found in the drink, it’s all within ourselves and we all have it in our own ways. It’s the magic that we saw everywhere in the world as children but lost as we grew up. The hard part is remembering and reconnecting 😦

So, as you can probably tell, I’m quite excited about it all. I’d go as far as to say I think this book is going to do more to cement in some core foundations of sobriety than the many books I have read about quitting drinking.

I’m still running with the poetry that keeps popping into my mind. I’m going to combine it with the visuals that are forming too. It looks like illustrated poetry is going to be my ‘thing’. I’d never have predicted it but the more I focus on it the more I can feel the magic creeping back into life and the joy and excitement growing. I’ve been so busy and uplifted by turning towards these wonderful new things that I’ve gone long stretches of time forgetting that I’ve turned away from drinking. This definitely feels like a breakthrough in the right direction.

The sun is shining here even though it’s still cold. I love those first few times of feeling sunshine on my face after a long, dark winter. Gratitude for the small things feels good 🙂

I hope you’re having a good week so far. Hugs to anybody struggling, keep going and keep writing – it doesn’t matter whether you’re on one year or one day, your sharing will be helping somebody out there 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 21

So I made it to 3 weeks this time, yayy! I’m still feeling my newly discovered inner resolve and haven’t thought much about drinking over the last week.

I had a really disturbing drinking dream yesterday though. I had gone to visit an old friend and her partner and we’d arranged to go out. Then things become a bit unclear because the dream cuts to me knocking on the door to hurry them up so we can go out but it’s actually 8am Sunday morning and I’m drunk with an almost finished bottle of wine in my hand. She’s all sleepy and in her PJs and I felt really embarrassed and ashamed. I think I had a blackout in a dream!! Then I wanted to get away from there urgently and was debating how dangerous it would be to drive but she was telling me to come inside the house. That’s all I can remember.

For the first few moments after I woke up I was still feeling the shame, anxiety and extreme disappointment – I felt like I was going to cry. I can’t tell you how happy I was when I realised I was still sober and it had all been a bad dream 😀

Happy sober Friday folks x

 

The persistent poet

A few days ago I was sitting at my laptop trying to finish some artwork in progress. I felt distracted, restless, slightly bored and knew I was forcing myself in the wrong direction for that moment. I gave up and ended up pacing around in an all too familiar void.

What happened next was strange. I seem to have a mysterious persistent poet hiding somewhere inside me and it started poking snippets of poetry in to my consciousness. I have no idea where this comes from. I’ve had creative thoughts and ambitions in art, music, photography and some forms of writing but never poetry. If you’ve been reading my ramblings for a while you may remember my sweary ditty An ode to sparkling water. This is something I’ve never taken seriously though.

In my current spirit of surrender I decided to go with it. I plonked down on the sofa with a pot of coffee and a cheap sketchbook and pencil and then poetry just poured out of me for the next 3 hours along with scribbled ‘shorthand’ versions of accompanying illustrations. I wrote whole poems, small sections and rough ideas too – all on the subject of drinking and recovery. Huh?!

Here’s a sample:

Hangover Grey

The sun shines bright, what a beautiful day

But under the duvet your world is grey

Wake up! Let’s go!

You can’t! You know

The nauseas seeps and sadness creeps

You’re here again, you said you wouldn’t

Just one glass! But then you couldn’t

It’s every time, why can’t you stop?

It’s no holds barred once that cork pops

Anxiety grips your pounding chest

What happened last night? Was I a mess?

Your clammy head can’t face the dread

You burrow deeper into bed

It’s the weekend friend, let’s go and play

Ugh! Not today

Please go away

I know bugger all about poetry but I quite like it. Maybe I have the start of a new sober hobby or project? When the urge pops up I won’t fight it, I’ll run with it and see what happens.

Has anybody else had something like this pop up unexpectedly in early sobriety? It’s very odd.

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