A whole 3 weeks have gone by since I last had any booze. That’s the longest time without a drink in gawd knows how long, I can’t even remember it’s that long ago. Although I still get a kick every day when I check the day counter app on my phone I find I’m spending less time thinking about not drinking which is a big difference from when I first started.
I’ve moved on to figuring out why it’s been easier to stop this time, compared with previous attempts. Somehow, something has flipped that mysterious ‘switch’ in my head that somehow changes everything.
It’s not the first time it’s happened to me. I used to be a smoker. I used to smoke like a bloody chimney in fact – for 13 years. I tried to quit over and over and failed. I read the Allen Carr book and quit, then failed again.
I’ve come to the conclusion that quitting an addiction is as inexplicable as falling in love. No amount of intellectual understanding or logic can tell you if you’re in love – a switch flicks and you just are, and the thing that flips that switch is such an individual, subjective choice. I spent so many days making and pondering lists regarding smoking – and later drinking. Even though the pros list was tiny (and mostly illusory) and the cons list was as long as my arm it still didn’t do it. Even the living example of my mum who had a serious smoking related illness at far too young an age wasn’t enough to make me ‘get it’.
I think eventually I just got too tired of feeling shit all the time. I clearly remember walking up the hill to the nearest tube station to go to work one morning. I was in a sorry-ass state that day. I was severely hung over (a daily occurrence back then) and was struggling to walk up the hill. I had a fag on the go, was out of breath and was coughing and spluttering and coughing some more, holding onto my head because it felt like it was going to fall off and wondering if I was going to have to throw up in the gutter because I felt so sick. I remember thinking ‘This is fucked up! I’m only 27, this shit shouldn’t be happening’. And so began my experiential rather than intellectual understanding of why quitting smoking would be a good idea.
I think it took me about another 6 months to actually do it. Many more feeling shit episodes followed until I’d had enough. I read the Allen Carr book again and this time the understanding merged with the experiential feelings and the switch flipped and I quit easily. I remember stubbing out my last fag just as my housemate came home drunk. I told him that was my last fag and he laughed, having heard it all before. Fortunately he took the same journey himself a few years later.
Back to drinking (not literally!). I’m a very visual thinker and an image popped into my head that may go some way to explaining why not drinking seems easier for me this time. It went like this…
A common theme I’ve seen on blogs is how people struggle to fill their time when they stop drinking. Again this is a totally subjective experience. For some people the extra time seems like an abyss – wondering what the hell to do to fill it seems to become a source of panic and stress and therefore a relapse trigger. For others the extra time is a glorious revelation and an unexpected bonus.
I imagined the time as a big empty pie crust waiting for a tasty filling. Some people have no idea what to put in a pie / do with free time, and may panic. One option is to start checking out recipes for pie fillings and just get on with giving it a go. Some may remember much loved but long-forgotten fillings and get to work resurrecting them. The pie crusts are going to keep coming, day after day and our work is cut out to deal with them all.
My version of this is that I have plenty of fillings. The fillings have been queued up for years, stored away in cupboards, filling the fridge – packed into the freezer and the fuzzy bits at the back of my mind. Spending too much time in lazy, default drinking meant that I never got round to doing anything good with any of the pie crusts that came my way. Crust after crust went off, got dropped, got eaten unfilled because I ‘couldn’t be bothered’. In my treading water life there hasn’t been a decent supply of crusts for a long time and I’ve been thinking – ‘Am I just going to let this continue and sit there in my 60s, 70s etc. regretting that I wasted all that lovely filling or am I going to get off my ass and make some damn delicious pies?’
Now I’m finally making some tasty pies and not just sweeping forlorn piles of pastry off the floor and chucking it in the bin it feels like an experiential understanding of the benefits of not drinking, rather than just the intellectual ‘pros’ list. I’m drawing a lot, exercising, cooking nice food and not eating crap, I’m have the discipline to 5:2 fast again, I’ve lost 4lbs, taken time to play games and read etc. I think this is one of the main factors that is making it easier this time round and it’s a hell of a lot nicer than coughing a lung up into a London gutter 🙂
Now I read that back to myself I have no idea if it’s going to make sense to anybody else but hey, it’s how the inside of my head goes.
Happy pie making x