One year tomorrow

So, I hit one year tomorrow!! Woop woop! I’ll be at work so I’m posting a few hours early I guess. It’s hard to believe I’m at this milestone that once seemed enormously impossible, but here I am. If I can finally manage to do it after what seems like a million restarts then you can definitely do it too. Cheering for you all over here yayy!

One of the problems with not posting here as often is that so much stuff happens and I don’t know where to start when I do get round to writing. A lot has happened over the last month – some bad and some good.

A few weeks ago wordpress wished me a happy third blog anniversary. Three years! I was a bit surprised by that so I went back right to the beginning and sure enough, my first post was on December 29th 2014 when I was the tender age of 40 – and in a pretty tender state too. I was 44 at the weekend and I ended up in the same pub where I had my lapse last year. This year it was coffee and sparkling water and not a moment’s second thoughts 😀

A lot has changed and that change has taken a lot of time and perseverance. It was a gradual process and it was definitely worth it. If you’re doing dry January then hang in there if you’re wanting to speed things along or are wondering why you don’t feel awesome after a few weeks. Be patient and congratulate yourself for every win, every day, no matter how small they feel now. Over time it all adds up to something much bigger.

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas/Holiday season and a happy new year. I didn’t have much time off work so it was all very low-key which is how I prefer it. I actually ended up eating Turkish food, in a Hindu community centre, on a Christian celebration day which was pretty unplanned but it was certainly different. I had wanted to stay home, cook some nice food and chill out but my partner’s boss bought us tickets to this event which created a sense of obligation. I was a bit pissed off about it but once I got over my objections and just went with it it ended up being an interesting experience.

New year’s eve I was on night shift so I ended up spending midnight in the staff canteen with a few colleagues. When they popped open a couple of bottles of sparkly stuff I honestly didn’t bat an eyelid. I reached over for the bottle of schloer, poured myself a plastic glass of it, ate some munchies, and watched the guys get a bit flushed and silly and talk shit. Nobody commented on the fact that I wasn’t drinking or asked me why. People often care less than you think. I felt good afterwards that I wasn’t even the slightest bit tempted to drink although I was on a bit of a sugar rush, damn that stuff is sweet.

I still get reminders of why it’s best that I don’t drink. When I was setting off for work on NYE I spotted a sweet-looking couple walking hand in hand away from a local shop, carrying a single bottle of wine. My first thought was immediately ‘ONE bottle between TWO of you!? Are you fucking crazy?!’ I was reminded that my idea of stocking up for new year’s eve has always been somewhat different. I would feel nervous with less than two bottles for myself and then I’d buy far too much for anybody else that would be around – just in case, you know? Yeah, if you’re reading this then I know that you know. I’m so relieved I don’t have to think about all that stuff any more. Life is so much simpler now.

The low point of the month was when my elderly dad fell victim to some rogue builder crime. He’d agreed to have some guys clean his gutters out but they went on to do lots of unasked for work and then demanded an exorbitant sum of cash in an intimidating fashion. He handled it fairly well and they ended up getting less money than they wanted but it was still a significant amount. I wish he’d called the police sooner (he reported it after the event) but I think he was in shock and prioritising his personal safety (one old man against three scumbags).

When I found out about this I was absolutely gutted, and completely fucking livid! I really struggled to handle the anger sober. Adrenaline gets extremely uncomfortable if there’s enough of it and I was absolutely packed full of it that day. My thoughts were pretty dark when I considered what those cowardly bastards had done. I wished for a consequence-free few minutes with a baseball bat and other such violent thoughts. I’m kind of ashamed to write that but that’s how it was. Without dousing down the heated anger with booze I just had to sit and seethe and sizzle. Eventually it passed, as everything does. He’s OK and moving on from it as am I. No matter how bad we feel in the moment, everything really, really does pass – this is something I’m learning more and more in sobriety.

My college course started earlier in the month and I’m loving it. More about that later though, it’s a whole post of its own.

I haven’t been around here much but I’ll be catching up on blogs and seeing how everybody’s doing over the coming week though. I’m on the last day of a week off work and I’m going to spend the evening watching netflix and eating donuts – I’m such a rebel these days pffff!

Big sober hugs to all, have an awesome weekend 🙂 x

 

 

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Day 26 – Sober birthday done

Yesterday was my birthday and I had lots of nice things to eat – but I didn’t drink yayy!

I had a disgustingly indulgent birthday breakfast when I got home from work in the morning – a scone with jam and clotted cream, a piece of chocolate cake and a cup of hot chocolate too. After a bit of sleep I went out for a lovely curry in the evening.

There were 5 of us and nobody drank alcohol. 3 were driving (including a friend I haven’t seen for a while who is also having a dry January), I was not drinking and the one left didn’t bother because he had to get up for work this morning. My partner had a coke and the rest of us shared 2 big bottles of sparkling water so it was easy not to drink in the end.

Now the sober birthday is under my belt the next big thing I have looming is my first ever as an adult sober holiday towards the end of February. I’ve got to admit to having a few doubts about that but I’m up for the challenge.

Day 20 – So how bad am I really?

Day 20 was actually yesterday but my internet connection was having none of it for the whole day. I’m back on today so here goes.

This non-drinking experiment has been a long time coming. I’ve been pondering my alcohol intake for years, whether I drink too much and whether I should knock it off – probably since my late twenties if I’m honest with myself. Now that I’m not drinking I’m finding it fairly easy, which is a shock and not what I expected at all. I know this is a common – and potentially dangerous – theme in quite a few of the alcohol blogs I’ve looked at, but I can’t help thinking – how bad is my drinking really?

A few months ago I was chatting to one of my colleagues while we worked. She is well known for being a wine lover and we’ve had a few pleasant conversations about nice wine-drinking-chilling-out scenarios. This night I asked her how many bottles of wine she drinks in a week. The conversation went like this…

Me: So how many bottles of wine do you drink a week?

Colleague: (She pondered for a few moments as she needed to take her husband’s consumption into account for shared bottles) Hmmm… probably about 6 bottles a week plus quite a few Jack Daniels on top.

Me: Shit!! Really!!! You look so slim and healthy you’d never think it!

Colleague: OMG don’t say it like that! It’s not that bad is it?! There’s only 3 glasses in each bottle so it’s not that many drinks.

Then I realised that she was totally in the dark about how many units of alcohol she was actually consuming.

Me: Ummm, I really hate being the person that’s saying this to you but each bottle of wine has about 9 units depending on its strength. I’m also guessing you’re not pouring singles of the JDs.

Colleague: (laughing nervously) Er, no… probably not.

Me: (cringing apologetically) So, I’d guess you’re drinking around 70 units of alcohol a week.

Colleague: Hmmm… maybe I do need to consider cutting down a bit.

What’s interesting is that this isn’t a young party girl. She’s a bit older than me and is a devoted mother of 3 with what sounds like a lovely home life. That level of drinking is totally normalised with her husband and friends. She went on to say a close friend of hers had been warned to give up drinking for at least 6 months as she was showing signs of liver damage. Apparently she hasn’t managed to stop.

This gave me some perspective on my own drinking. I drank similar amounts in my teens and twenties and at some points in my thirties but I haven’t drunk anywhere near that amount on a regular basis for years now. Recently I’d say I have generally had 2 bottles of wine a week, 3 bottles would be a heavy week. It’s never spaced out though – a glass here and there – it’s always open a bottle and finish it on 2 or 3 days of the week. It’s rare that I drink more than a bottle but it does happen occasionally. Even my bigger drinking over Christmas wasn’t anything raucous or extreme. I drank 4 bottles of wine and a 4 pack of lager over 3 days and that was done slowly with plenty of food. It was enough to give me a bad hangover on the 4th day though 😦 As heavy drinking has become so normalised it’s sometimes hard to remember that even 2 bottles a week – with about 18 units – is still more than the health guidelines say is safe for a woman.

The other side of the story that rarely gets told during ‘how much do you drink’ conversations is how much mental energy is spent to keep a person’s drinking at that level. Sure, I’d only drink on 2 or 3 days a week but I’d usually be tempted to drink on at least 5 days. This means I was using focus and willpower to keep my intake down. This means I’ve also been losing focus and willpower from other areas of my life to compensate.

During my previous attempts to take a break from drinking I’ve managed up to 10 days and then started again. I’ve jumped in my car in the early hours to go to a 24 hour supermarket to get some wine after having vowed to go another alcohol-free day and then decided – fuck it! These attempts, however many days they were have also always required immense levels of self-control and willpower. This time something is different – very different – and so far it’s been easy. I don’t fully understand why but I’m certainly not complaining.

I’m on day 20 now so doing a month is looking very manageable – even including my birthday meal next week. I read recently (on the hello Sunday morning website I think) that at least 3 months off booze is required for you to fundamentally re-evaluate your relationship with alcohol so I’m going to extend my dry January to do 100 days.

I’m actually thinking that a year would be amazing too. Judging by how much I’ve managed to get done in the last 20 days I feel like my life would be totally transformed if I scaled that up to a year. I’d also have done everything in a year that would normally involve alcohol so would be in a position to observe its role in every aspect of my life.

Ambitious talk for day 20 I know but may as well aim high eh? 😉

Day 12 was a mixed day

Some good things happened today, and some not so good.

One good thing was that I went swimming for the first time in almost 2 years. Seeing as I live a 3 minute walk from my local pool it’s not exactly a hassle to fit it in so hopefully I’ll keep it up – just once a week for now.

After about 15 minutes I was really starting to feel it so I thought, ‘I’ll just do half an hour then get out.’ It was feeling like a real slog and a chore.

After about 20 minutes the endorphins started flowing and I started enjoying it. At 40 minutes I could feel the slightest pulling at the back of one of my knees (they’re both injured) so I slowed down and did a very slow few lengths and stopped at 45 minutes.

During my cool-down lengths I was pondering the parallels between the swimming and sobriety. I had to push through the early stages and resist the urge to give up. Once I reached a certain point it became easier and even started to become enjoyable, creating a positive momentum of its own. It was still important that I didn’t push myself too far and to take care of my known weaknesses too. Yes, I think there are a lot if similarities between the two.

I also had another drinking dream 😦 I was very happy to wake up and realise I hadn’t had a drink but I can’t remember the details of the dream. This was probably triggered by an unfortunate conversation with my partner earlier in the day…

I’ve just arranged to meet up with another couple for a meal for my birthday in a couple of weeks. This is obviously a tricky point for me. I’ll be over 3 weeks sober by then but I’m not complacent about how difficult it might be. One of the friends is an old-time hard-drinking partner I’ve known since I was 18. We’ve both grown up and calmed down a lot but the strong association with him and drinking is still there in the background and has been known to occasionally pop up cause some ‘hilarious’ drunken shenanigans, even though we’re supposed to be mature now 😉

I offered to drive there, partly to ensure I don’t drink and partly because he drove last time. The next part of the conversation went into stressful territory…

Him: ‘No, I’ll drive, you’ve got to have a drink on your birthday.’

Me: ‘I’m doing a dry January and that includes my birthday.’

Him: ‘Come on… it’s your birthday!… you can have just one can’t you? That’s not going to make a difference.’

Me (thinking to myself): That’s highly fucking unlikely!

This could have easily turned into an argument and probably would have less than two weeks ago. Instead of getting pissed off I just quietly stated that not drinking is really important to me at the moment and that the last thing I needed was for him to give me any hassle me about it. He apologised immediately and we were OK.

This incident gave me plenty to think about for the rest of the day. One thing it highlighted was the pervasiveness of British cultural brainwashing about alcohol. This is even more pronounced when you consider the fact that my partner is from a muslim family who obviously did not mark celebrations with alcohol. I pointed this out to him and the conversation continued…

Me: ‘You’re from a culture that never included alcohol in celebrations so why is it so hard to believe I want to do it?’

Him: ‘Yeah but I always found celebration times stressful.’

Me (after a pause): ‘So you’re saying you could have done with a drink?’

Him: ‘Yeah.’

At this point we both laughed at the ridiculous turn the conversation was taking and any remaining stress dissipated.

He’s been immersed in British culture for about 8 years now and the booze brainwashing – particularly regarding birthdays – has obviously seeped in. He’s now a take-it-or-leave-it-only-have-1-or-2 sort of drinker but in the past he has made mistakes with alcohol. Coming from a background where drinking is entirely absent (and highly taboo) he was suddenly let loose in pissed-up Blighty and learned his alcohol lessons the hard way. He once drank so much so fast at the encouragement of his hard-drinking Brit work mates that he passed out and ended up in an ambulance. Something even I’ve never done and I’ve done a lot of stupid drinking stuff.

There’s nothing stressful about going for a tasty meal with 2 easy-going friends and I’m sort of looking forward to being fully present and focused on the people, the food and the conversation – not on drinking. I can’t predict where my head will be by the time my birthday comes around but I’m determined it’s going to be a sober one.