Archive | November, 2013

Preparing my Ammunition

30 Nov

Tonight is the party.

Just as I’ll spend an hour doing my hair and make-up, I’m spending an hour preparing my mind to fight wolfie.

Right now, I feel like a drink would be a good idea, but I KNOW that this is wolfie. I’m reading back  my old posts, posts I love from others and reflecting on how amazing the last 20 sober days have been.

I’m about to do a meditation on what being sober means to me, just giving myself some space before the madness begins.

Going to slip on my Fuck You Wolfie bracelet and if he pipes up at any time, take some space and email Belle or Carrie who has been amazing.

I can do this, I just need the focus to remind myself why I am.

Wolfie, it’s fight night, and the odds are against you.

The Power of Storytelling

28 Nov

This morning, like most mornings, started with a run. It’s the only time of day I can run without any aural stimulation, and I love hearing my feet pound the streets as the city sleeps and tuning into the bird song.

Today I changed my routine and decided to run listening to a Bubble Hour podcast. I’m finding that while the main bulk of my day isn’t preoccupied with thinking about drinking, bookending my day with sober blogs and podcasts so that my ‘me time’ is focused on consolidating my sobriety. This approach has really been working for me so far, as I’ve voraciously taken in ideas, stories and tools that have helped other people get and stay sober.

The episode of the bubble hour I chose today was focused around individual women telling their stories. Not only was it powerful in itself to listen to, it also provoked me to reflect on what’s changed for me during this run of sobriety, and how important what we’re all doing is as we write, read and comment on others blogs.

Storytelling has been my medicine for my problem with alcohol. If I hadn’t started reading the stories of women bloggers who I could relate to so much, I would still be in denial that I had a serious problem. Women like me don’t have problems with alcohol, I thought. I’m alone in my issue and it’s all my own fault. Reading and reading more and more people coming forward with their own tales has been a revelation to me and has completely changed my view of what being an alcoholic means. Alcoholism isn’t black and white, and you’re not aware whether you’re an alcoholic inside the moment you take your first drink, or even 5, 10 years into your drinking career.

So many stories I have read has have had been similar to my own, it’s like a little mix and match set of narrative points or themes have been given to us all to create our own story.  

Key story elements seem to be:

  • the insidious creep of alcohol
  • the feeling of reward alcohol gives, classic ‘me time’ being seductive
  • being high functioning in other areas of life
  • shifting from social drinking to drinking alone
  • denying you have a problem because you haven’t lost your job, kids or got a DUI
  •  noticing you don’t drink the way other people drink- how do people just manage to have ONE?
  • Hiding bottles as your drinking gets worse
  • Trying and failing to cut down
  • Trying and failing to stay sober
  • Many day ones
  • Being fooled after a period of sobriety that moderation might be a good idea.
  • Knowing it’s important enough for you to stop to pour time and energy into worrying about your drinking, seeking out help online, but feeling AA isn’t necessarily for you. 

Over and over I have read and listened to the same things in different formats from women all over the globe. We all have one thing in common: we’ve empowered ourselves to acknowledge the negative role alcohol now takes in our lives and have proactively made changes.

The power of story is incredible.

I’ve had the persistence to have several failed attempts at sobriety and I can honestly say that I would not be in the position I’m in of being on day 18 and feeling like I’ve had my last day 1 without all the wisdom of the people who have had the bravery to put their own stories online and support me in telling mine. Every word we write helps is reflect on our own problems, but also helps others recognise theirs and learn from the behaviours and mistakes of those who have gone before them.

The feeling I get when I have a comment on this blog of encouragement is overwhelming- it’s like having a little team of cheerleaders all over the globe.

The final step in getting to where I am now was vocalising my problem and telling my own story out loud, rather than through the act of typing, which sometimes makes me feel like I’m engaged in some sort of fiction. When I read back my own posts I sometimes don’t recognise myself if what I’ve written.

And I’ve learned that speaking is as important as writing for me. On October 13th I went to meet Belle, Carrie, Sober Journalist and Reading Creature in London. I was 30 minutes late because I turned back to my house so many times I missed my train. I was lacking the courage to go and meet these people whose stories I’d read and admired, but didn’t know whether I wanted to meet. What if they judged me?! What if I realised it was all a big mistake and that actually, they were REAL alcoholics and I decided I’m just fine and started drinking again? What if what if what if…

Going there and listening and talking in real life was one of the most valuable actions I could have taken. For me, it made this whole thing real. These incredible women who looked together and normal, and that I related to because of their problems with alcohol. Speaking to them and putting a face to their stories was invaluable.

I wonder whether the next step is to tell someone I know in my ‘normal’ life the full extent of what’s gone on. I have told versions of the story to friends to explain why I’m not drinking, but never the real version. There is someone I run with who isn’t too close a friend, who recently admitted something to me about a huge personal secret he has and it was a real weight off his mind. I’m toying with telling him my alcohol story, because it feels important to me to articulate it to someone else in my life, but I don’t know whether it’s a great idea. I’ve tried talking to a friend before (who is teetotal so I thought might understand the madness of what alcohol does to people) but he didn’t take my problem seriously because I look so together on the outside.

Maybe the power of storytelling when it comes to alcohol lies in reading the things we recognise in our own drinking habits. Maybe that’s why this sober blogging and online community works so well to support people- because we hear our own experiences in the words of others.

For now, I’ll keep my story within the blogging community, but one day I’d like to work out how these amazing stories could be brought to a wider audience, how I can use my job in the media to do something, however small, that brings our wisdom to wider audience. The moment to do this isn’t now, but the cogs in my brain are starting to turn and hopefully one day, something good can come out of what has been a pretty traumatic journey to get to this point. 

Day 18 feels pretty brilliant and I know I can carry on with this. No deprivation, no lusting after wine, just contentment. 

Party Time

27 Nov

 

I’ve been thinking a lot, as everyone in the sober blogosphere has it seems with Thanksgiving and Christmas upon us, about parties.

 

Parties are the place where I used to turn up, have 2 or 3 drinks pretty quickly to feel the effect of the alcohol, and then stop drinking. Recently, they’re the place where I’ve got absolutely fucked, excuse my French. Two of my most embarrassing drunken moments of all time have been at wedding parties, where you drink all day, and the house party environment I love because you’re not limited to rounds or by queues at bars and you can top up your alcohol unnoticed whenever you want.

 

This weekend, my flatmate and I are hosting a party. Our summer party was hugely drunken and if I’m honest, very fun, and has become the stuff of legend. I have mixed feelings about having something like a house party so early in my sobriety. On the one hand, it means I’m completely in control of my non-alcoholic drinks, will be able to sneak off to my bedroom to read sober blogs if I get tempted. But on the other, I’ll be surrounded by friends in my own house with a party feeling in my veins and a sense of being in a safe environment that might lure me in to thinking drinking is a good idea. I just got a little thrill writing about it.

 

There’s not much I can do about the party taking place as it was planned before my latest sobriety run and lots of people are coming to town for it, so I’ll have to make sure my guard against wolfie is at its highest ever and that I use every damn thing in my toolkit.

 

It might be fine, I might find the company of friends and a full house and great music is enough to take my mind off drinking, but I doubt it.

 

This will be a big big test, but I think I can do it. 

 

 

Progress

26 Nov

Today is most definitely a pink cloud day. 

I got up at 6:15 really refreshed, went to the gym, was in work very early and got some personal tasks done and am feeling incredibly content.

Last week was tough, I was riding cravings and energy slumps, feeling happy to be sober but still feeling I was clinging onto it and that the rug might be pulled from under my feet.

Yesterday evening I went to a dinner where wine was being poured freely and glasses topped up continually. I turned down wine the first time it came round and filled my wine glass up with water. That was that. It’s getting easier and easier to say no, but it also isn’t really occurring to me to drink. I don’t want to, because I know what the consequences are and am ecstatic to have moved away from the drudgery of drinking. It’s just, well, quite boring to drink like I drank. Once again, I had a much better evening because I didn’t drink.

I’m wary of party season coming up, where it will undoubtedly seem like a really good idea to drink, but I know that’s just wolfie’s voice taunting me and that if I drink, it will take weeks if not months to get sober again.

 And let’s be honest, who wants another Day 1? 

99 Problems

25 Nov

It’s interesting as I enter week 3 of sobriety that I’m reminded that stopping drinking alcohol isn’t a magic solution to all my problems. WHAT A SHOCKER. When you drink, it’s not just the immediate numbing effects of alcohol that lessen your awareness of other problems in your life, it’s the making it through the day at work with a hangover, the focus on giving up drinking in the near future, the time worrying about how much you drink….

 

Now I’m not drinking and am thinking a little less about it, or at least it’s taking less energy to stay sober, the things I blocked out when drinking are starting to come to the surface. I felt, for around a year, almost completely numb to emotions, both good and bad, and I’m starting to get in touch with those funny things called ‘feelings’ again.

 

But stopping drinking also helps you look at your life as a whole and realise what has been going on but has been hidden under the cloak of drinking.

 

One of the main things I’ve become aware of is how unfulfilled I am in my job. I work in a very creative industry with some fantastic people, but my day to day in my current role is mind-numblingly slow. One of the reasons I crawl towards the end of the day and (used to) look forward to a drink is the distraction from that, the relief of the boredom. In the past if I found myself in a job situation like this, I’d be incredibly proactive and change it. But drinking had numbed my ability to care, my proactive nature and my ambition. I kidded myself I was being proactive and achieving things by training for a marathon and a triathlon this year, which are both great achievements, but I need more in my lift than that. With no partner or kids to focus on, I need to be striving to get more out of life than I currently am.

 

I’m going to use my new found energy to focus on changing my job situation between now and Christmas. I have potential opportunities within my grasp, which I can now try and make concrete.

 

Wow. I feel like a little baby chick hatching into this world which is bright and exciting and scary. I can’t believe I blocked it out for the last few years. I like this bright, colourful and slightly painful world. At least I feel things now.

 

Happy Monday all!

2 weeks

24 Nov

It feels like the longest 2 weeks of my life, a lifetime since I had my last drink. It was about this time on a Sunday evening with a monumental hangover, drinking beer out of a mug to hide it from my housemate. I took a look at myself, my painful liver made itself felt again and I got up and poured the rest of the beer down the sink.

My body feels dramatically different- I have more energy, my eye bags have gone, my puffy face looks slimmer again and my stomach is flatter. My running feels really strong. I’m sleeping so much more than I have in years and not waking in the night.

My mind feels transformed too. I’m more certain than I have ever been that staying sober is the right thing to do for me, but I also know that it’s precarious.

The longest I’ve gone without alcohol in 13 years is just over 3 weeks, and I’ve always slipped up because I got complacent at how easy I was finding it and thought alcohol wasn’t really a problem for me. This time round I’m staying really vigilant. I’ve learnt to separate the desire to drink from feelings and needs, which has been the big eye opener to me. If I can accurately pinpoint what’s making me uncomfortable and do my best to address that, the desire to drink goes. I’m reprogramming my brain day by day. 

I noticed today when I had some of my family round that our house is absolutely FULL of alcohol. I counted the bottles in the house and did a little inventory. None of these bottles are mine:

13 different bottles of spirits

4 bottles of wine

3 bottles of champagne 

5 beers

3 bottles of ale

That’s alot of alcohol. But interestingly, I would never dream of drinking any of it, I’m not tempted now in the slightest and wasn’t tempted in my drinking days. My desire to drink would start late in the afternoon and on the way home from work/a social event I’d buy a bottle of wine on the way home and that started it. As I’ve noted before this week, that buying and drinking of wine was usually to mask stress or tiredness. Once I start I’m in the danger-zone and that’s when, if one bottle didn’t do the trick I might have a few sneaky vodkas or gins from the spirit stash. But now, I barely notice them lined up in the house- they’re part of the furniture. 

This is a relief to me, because it helps clarify the nature of my relationship with alcohol, and how wolfie sneaks up on me. I’m not an addict in one sense, because I hadn’t slipped deeply enough into alcoholism to want to get my hands on any drink I can- it’s more subtle than that. My alcoholism, and I’m going to start calling it that, begins the second I take a sip of a drink and want to keep going for days. I drink alcoholically. Reason goes out of the window. 

Just because I feel fantastic now doesn’t mean I can stop thinking alcohol is a problem for me, it is. And it probably always will be. This makes me hugely sad in alot of ways, but at least I’ve made it to this point where I’m stopping before anything disasterous happens (frankly, it’s a miracle it hasn’t already). 

So Week 3, bring it on!

Energy

23 Nov

Day 13. Feeling incredibly content.

One of the hardest things I’m finding with sobriety is tuning in to the natural ebb and flow of energy levels you experience when sober. I’m naturally a morning person and have just rediscovered this through no longer being plagued by hangovers. I wake up on the brink of feeling ecstatic when sober, bounce around the house or go for a sunrise run and waltz into work feeling on top of the world.

From around 3:30pm, my energy levels really start to fall. This co-incides with what I thought was my “witching hour.” I feel the call of wine most strongly when I’m tired, either physically or emotionally. The 3-5pm slump is hard for me, because I lose my momentum at work, get frustrated with myself and feel like I need a wine treat.

This week I’ve been finding alternative ways to manage my energy levels. I’m getting 7-8 hours sleep consistently and have a very good diet that shouldn’t mean I have sugar crashes, so I’ve been investigating what else I can do.

I’ve found a surprising cure to my tiredness: carrot juice. There’s a Pret a Manager (food chain in the UK) opposite my office and for a pricey-but-worth-it-if-it-stops-me-drinking £2 I can pick up a little bottle of carrot juice that gives me the lift I need. It feels like a little miracle in a bottle, because for the next few hours, I have enough energy again to get through the end of the day

So I’m learning slowly that it’s the small things that help. I need to watch my energy levels during party season coming up, and work out how I’m going to handle the transition between work and going out so I don’t reach for one of the free drinks when I arrive to give me a lift.

Every day’s a day to learn something new and I feel secure in my new sobriety. I don’t want to drink, I just need to make sure I’m vigiliant about the things that might trip me up.

If anyone has tips for energy boosters, I’d love to hear them!

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