140 days – mixed times

It’s been a fairly mixed couple of weeks since I last posted. My health scare turned out ok – not entirely good, but nothing too serious. There’s nothing like it for getting your healthy motivation on though. I ate really well and did anything else I could think of to be good to my body. Since getting my test results that has slacked off somewhat. Isn’t that so often the way it goes?

I did have a week off coffee and sugar and felt a lot better for it. I’m plagued by the daily dragging fatigue that Hashimoto’s brings. Without these two things in my diet the fatigue definitely eases a bit and becomes less hard-edged. You know the classic scene in a zombie movie where the new zombie sits up in its grave, jaw dropping and looking oddly surprised that it’s upright and alive? That should give you a good impression of what I usually feel like waking up. During that week I actually felt something close to a normal (?) sort of waking up sleepiness. The coffee and sweeties have both crept back in but the experiment has given me something to think about.

I also hit another happy milestone since my last post – I lost a stone (14lbs/6.35kg). Not in two weeks obviously but it’s been creeping off slowly over the last few months – and creeping back on, and off again and round in a few circles, as it does. My super healthy living around my health scare seems to have kick started it again. A couple of pounds have crept back on but I’m still in a much better place than I have been for years. I feel sluggish and rubbish after eating lots of junk for the last 3 days, it’s time to eat clean again and feel better. I don’t want to backslide all the way back up the scale again, or feel like an overfed sugar-crashing slug.

Being sober is becoming normalised now and something I’m not thinking about so much. My thinking about not drinking has lessened and doesn’t take up such a large percentage of my days now. Some days I don’t even think about it at all. Many days I’m not sure what my day count is. I have had a few moments where I can clearly identify what I would previously have called a craving and set off down the path of drinking thoughts. Now I realise that I’m feeling a bit ‘off’ somehow – bored, restless, anxious, unfocussed, cranky, fearful etc but my brain is becoming less likely to skip straight to the ‘DRINK!’ to make it ok phase and instead stays longer with the uncomfortable feelings. This means I’m feeling a fair bit of discomfort at the moment but I wouldn’t swap it for where I started from.

I miss my pink cloud days but I do appreciate that what I’m feeling is real. Life feels dull, ploddy, scattered and uninspired at times but I can accept that because that’s just the way life works, and I know that at other times it can also feel wonderful.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend x

 

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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

Day 33 – Sliding into a slightly darker place

After the mainly upbeat and revelatory state of the first month I seem to have slipped into a slightly darker place. This is manifesting in a number of ways.

The initial joy and productivity brought by a sense of time expanding has given way a little to restlessness and laziness though I’m still fortunate that I don’t suffer too much from boredom. The novelty has worn off. I need to make a plan to stay productive and use my time well but also build in lots of down time and relaxation. If relaxation time is counterbalanced by lots of progress in other areas of my life then it feels good. If ‘relaxation’ turns into something bordering on lethargy (or a teenage game-playing marathon) then it’s heading to a darker, unproductive place. I don’t want to swap treading water for a ‘dry’ version – tired of standing in quicksand maybe?

I’m not feeling much better physically and there are a couple of reasons for that. One is that I’m drinking too much coffee. I do love the feeling of a good coffee buzz but I also know it’s not good for me. I was diagnosed with autoimmune hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s disease about 7 years ago. My doctor told me it was a lifelong and incurable disease that could only be managed by taking thyroxine. I had other ideas. I researched everything I could about it and identified a number of possible nutritional deficiencies and things I was doing wrong with my diet. The short version of it is that I went from horrendous blood test levels and being barely able to move my ass off the sofa to normalised blood tests and a reasonable level of energy again – all with supplements and dietary changes (much to my doctor’s annoyance but that’s a whole other story). The two most critical dietary changes were cutting out gluten and coffee.

I’ve been rewarding my sober efforts with coffee and various baked goodies which I really need to stop because I can feel my low thyroid symptoms creeping back in which is totally unacceptable. Being gluten-free isn’t really a big problem, I’m used to it to a degree and if I really want something sweet and baked there are plenty of alternatives that I can buy or bake myself. Coffee however is a huge one. I love it and giving it up feels almost as bad as not drinking even though I’ve been coffee-free in the past and I know it does make me feel so much better. I’ve also been having some mild stomach irritation – nothing terrible but it’s definitely there. I’m going to taper down over a couple of weeks – I can’t face the just-been-punched-in-the-head coffee withdrawal headache. Sigh 😦

The baked goodies, and chocolate, and sweeties thing also means that I’m not losing weight either. I know I should be going easy on myself and not tackling too much at once but I have reasons beyond superficial appearances to get my 2 stone off. One of my knees is irritated and painful at the moment, as are both my feet. At my job I walk on average 6 miles a night (18 miles a week), on a hard floor while lifting, carrying, pulling and pushing – some things I lift are up to 18kgs. It’s hard on my feet and knees and they tend to hurt. With extra weight on they tend to really hurt. I’m tired of joint pain and I know how much difference losing weight makes.

On a funnier note, I’ve been stubborn recently about buying new casual trouser for myself at this weight. I’ve lived in a pair of black velvet jeans to the point they developed a small hole in the crotch area. As I couldn’t think of a scenario that would involve me showing that area in public (particularly as I’m now not drinking!) I thought, oh well, never mind. I sat down at the top of the stairs a few days ago and heard a ripping sound as the hole got somewhat bigger. A few unladylike poses in front of the bedroom mirror convinced me that a line had been crossed and the beloved velvet jeans went in the bin. My nearest alternatives need about 6lbs to come off before I can wear them comfortably and so I have a bit of a problem. Oh the drama 😉

When I was younger I lost about 4 and a half stone using a food diary to count calories. It was a hassle to swap wine for vodka to cut calories but I did it. 2 of those stones have crept on again and never really gone away. I’ve tried various alternatives to lose them but nothing really works as well as calorie counting. I’ve low-carbed but that doesn’t work with a physically demanding job – I nearly passed out at work a few times to learn that the hard way. I’ve been doing 5:2 fasting but I have a tendency to go a bit off the rails on non-fasting days. Counting calories and using a diary for accountability is the only way that I know has worked in a long-term way and now I don’t have to count wine calories that should be a hell of a lot easier. I like the reported health benefits of fasting so I’m planning a combined approach – one day of fasting a week (6:1) and using myfitnesspal to do the calorie counting.

I’m gritting my teeth and hoping I’m not too crazy to be dealing with all this at once. I’ll blog here for accountability which I think will really help.

Happy Thursday to you!