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!

Ray of Sunshine from Soberistas

22 Nov

Image

A repost from Soberistas that has helped me through this bleak Friday afternoon: http://soberistas.com/page/the-sunshine-that-is-sobriety

The Sunshine that is Sobriety

My affair with alcohol started aged 15.  Everyone around me was drinking so I assumed it pretty normal to drink till blackout, normal to wake up feeling like there was someone bashing your head with a hammer from the inside every Sunday morning and, again, perfectly normal either be at college/uni/work, or getting drunk. I got myself in humiliating and dangerous situations, and all of my dysfunctional relationships and subsequent messes stemmed from and were sustained by alcohol.
I drank heavily for 12 years.  At first I thought alcohol was the answer to my teenage problems; it made me feel confident in my own skin, mature, sophisticated and happy.  And that’s a pull right there for an insecure teenJ  I continued to drink heavily through life’s passages; all through uni and most, if not all, times after work.  I was drunk when I met my husband, drunk on my wedding day, drunk when I conceived, and yeppers, drunk when I found out I was having a baby.  I’m happy to say though that I didn’t touch a drop during both my pregnancies.
Some time after my son was born in 2008 alcohol began to loose its shine.  Because I was now a mum I couldn’t drink nearly as much.  So I didn’t.  But when I could- those rare mummy nights out- I would get wasted and end up the next day buried in a pile of fervent regret, depression and anxiety.  Instead of seeing alcohol as this miracle liquid that did all these wonderful things I started to dislike the stuff, and all the trouble it had gotten me in over the years.  And I had a son now, who had taught me the meaning of love, and who needed me.  But my new distaste towards alcohol didn’t stop me from drinking.
One time on a holiday to Mexico when my son Alex was 7 months old, I got very drunk with my family. My husband was babysitting our baby back in the room.  He said that after I was lugged back to my room by my sister and her boyfriend and passed out on the bed, I nigh choked on my own vomit.  I could have died if he had not held my head over to the side of the bed.  I have tears streaming down my face at the memory of it.  I could have left my beautiful baby motherless.  The party was over.
I got home and went to the bookstore and bought books on the AA and alcohol addiction.  They helped, and I realized I did not have a ‘normal’ relationship with alcohol.  I tried then for several years to moderate my drinking; a bottle of wine on a weekend night, and the odd glass during the week.  On hindsight, I tried to brush the problem under the carpet.  During this time I became very interested in health and I found faith, inhaling spiritual and self-help books as much as my time allowed for.  Over the next few years I grew beyond recognition from a self-destructive shadow of a gal into a woman with ambitions dreams fuelled by self-love.
Looking back I see that although I wasn’t physically addicted to alcohol, I was mentally addicted.  My circumstances with two young children didn’t allow me to drink heavily but  whenever the opportunity to celebrate and have a few drinkees presented itself, I grabbed the bottles with both hands.  So the chains were still around my ankles, I was still trapped, I just didn’t notice them as much as my heavier drinking days. Alcohol is a trickster, and an ingenious one at that.
Around this time, once all the exterior noise and drama of my younger life started to melt into a peaceful and happy home life, I began to hear the whispers of my heart.  It told me I had to quit drinking altogether.  I resisted.  And then lived to regret it.  I regretted it not because during my last drinking session I had embarrassed myself, or endangered myself, (I hadn’t) I regretted it because of this;  my son tried to wake me up after I had passed out and because I hadn’t stirred, he thought I was dead.
I can’t convey in words the self-loathing and remorse I felt that next day.  I held my two children tight, blinded by tears, and vowed I would never, ever drink again.  If I couldn’t do it for myself by God I would do it for my children. That night I read every personal story on Soberistas and they comforted me beyond measure: I was not alone.
Before I could think straight I went tearily to the doctor who referred me to a therapist.  That was nigh 4 months ago and it was one of the best decisions of my life.  My therapist is an angel, deeply spiritual, and so we resonate profoundly with one another.  I feel so supported by the Universe since I made this decision, because I took this brave step and said ‘Enough.’
Everyone is different, and I urge you to consult your own heart for your personal program to recovery.  To use my therapist’s metaphor, I have a toolbox filled with tools that aid me in my sobriety journey.  I’d like to open up that tool box and share my tools with you in the hopes that they help you too.
I had a lot of positive things in my life before I gave up alcohol.  I strongly suggest that you join that yoga class, or book club, art group or whatever speaks to you before hanging up your drinking hat.  Once you quit you don’t want any other pressure on yourself aside from staying sober.  So set up these non-drinking social groups that can sustain you and give you meaningful purpose and friendships before taking away your alcohol crutch.  You’ll also find a lot more time on your hands when you quit; you have the time and energy now for your creative talents to blossom.  You’ll have the time to properly get to know yourself, perhaps for the first time since you were a teen.
Yoga for me is such a tonic; it stills life both on the exterior and interior so I can connect with myself, and give my body and soul that place of sanctuary everyday.
I refused to go to AA because it didn’t feel right for me.  I couldn’t get passed the first step; I am powerless against alcohol.  I’d just spent six years building myself up to feel powerful, I wasn’t about to give that up so easily!  Also I knew enough about affirmations and the law of attraction to not declare something which I do not wish to be, i.e. “I am an Alcoholic.”  Instead the affirmation that is taped to my bathroom mirror is this; ‘I am so incredibly happy now that I am sober.”  Additionally I wrote out a paragraph or two about how I want my life to look now I’m sober; it’s a pretty place.  I read this aloud and then close my eyes and visualize it.  It’s filled with sense perception imagery to help the visualization spring to life in my minds eye.
Another powerful tool in my box has been reading Jason Vales’ ‘Kick the Drink…Easily.’  The reason I love it so much is because it actually gets you excited about life without alcohol!  It’s a slog thinking about giving up the drink if you think you’ll be consigning yourself to a lifetime of deprivation and sitting on the sidelines.  But this book says- and it’s been my experience- that life without that nasty drug is pretty darn wonderful.  It wakes you up from the delusion and you see clearly for the first time this prison of alcohol that you have escaped from:  Time to celebrate!
My therapist gave me this next tool and I recommend it whole-heartedly to you. Every month that passes sober I want to congratulate myself.  The first month sober I bought myself a handbag.  But I felt empty and guilty on reception of this ‘gift.’  My therapist suggested instead giving a sentimental gift to myself or those I loved, a gift that celebrates my sobriety.  So last month I lit a candle, cleared my schedule for the afternoon and hand-wrote a letter to my children. It included my past relationship with alcohol and my recovery, in which I have found peace, love and mostly; Myself.  I poured my heart and tears onto the pages, sparing no detail, and then mailed it to my address. The kids will therefore see the postmark when I give it to them in their teenage years.  It was not only an act of love for them, but an act of healing for me.
Now to those ‘magic moments’ of sobriety; if you have children- very happily- you won’t miss a thing now.  Instead of sitting on the porch sipping a Pimms of a summer’s evening you can be playing football with them, a part of their joy and wonderment and memory, rather than watching it from the sidelines guarding your drug close by.  You won’t be rushing through their bedtime story on a Friday night so you can then go downstairs to get to your wine.  You won’t be tired and crabby the next day towards them because you stayed up too late the night before with a drink.  You won’t, my friend, miss a moment of your growing babies to alcohol anymore.
Magic moment two; instead of waking up vulnerably, tentatively, you can wake up feeling Yes!  Because after all, alcohol is a depressant and it will no longer drag you and your next day down.
Recovery has not all been a bed of roses though; two months into sobriety I froze in fear and said to my husband; “Holidays!  What are holidays going to look like now?”  I couldn’t imagine a cruise without a booze package, or a hotel without a trip to the bar.  My husband said, appealing to the adventurer in me, “Honey, you’ve never known a holiday sober in adulthood, how exciting will it be trying that out?  All the new experiences you’ll have and things you will see and do.”  He’s right.  I’m so looking forward to the outdoor family holiday to Scotland we have planned.  A holiday that wouldn’t have been half so appealing if I had hangovers to factor in.
So the secret to my happy sobriety is attitude, and I want to share this secret with you.  There is such a deep satisfaction you get when you return from a dinner out with the girls in which you drank water, or a mocktail.  Every boozeless event that you would have previously drank at can turn into a glorious victory, and can raise your self-esteem no end.
Don’t you blame yourself for your addiction, don’t you even think about it.  Because alcohol is a powerful drug, and so culturally encouraged in our warped society.  Just because it is legal, doesn’t make it in any way safe.  Don’t you think yourself weak for getting tangled in alcohol’s cunning web, not for a second. You are far from weak.
You are being brave and you are being bold:  Congratulations.
You are enough.  You don’t need any crutch, particularly a dangerous drug, to hold you up.  Please feel proud of yourself for reading this story, because its true, admitting you’ve a drink problem and acting on it is such a courageous act.
I promise you this, my Soberista friends; thinking about giving up is much harder than actually giving up. Quitting alcohol has been my greatest act of self-love to date.  And there’s more; as international yoga teacher Seane Corn says, “Find your wound and you’ll find your purpose…If you’re a drug addict, probably a pretty good chance that you should go back into the drug community and serve them…If you’re an alcoholic, who better than another alcoholic to hold the space?…Who better than you to step into that environment and say ‘I see you.  Allow me to serve you.’  Because not only are you serving them but healing yourself.  You’re meeting yourself.”
 
I wish you an abundance of good fortune, love and blessings to you in your journey.  Quitting drink can be done.  And it can be done joyously.  You will be free. All you have now to dream up is, where on God’s green earth will this new- found freedom take me?  Enjoy the ride.
 
Yvette Durham is British/American, currently living in Germany.  She is a full time mummy to her beloved children and a proud military wife.  When not engaged in mummy- hood she can be found on her yoga mat, getting pumped up on the elliptical or trying out a new dish in the kitchen.  She has ambitions to do a Masters degree in Transpersonal Psychology, with the view to becoming a spiritual counselor and eventually, a minister.  She plans to turn her addictive personality inside and out, and use it to get addicted to helping others find their way to a joy-filled life.

Day 12

22 Nov

After a week of swerving cravings, I’m hugely buoyed by the fact that my toolkit seems to be working, all the lessons that I learnt from previous slip ups have sunk in and crucially, my craving window is only a couple of hours and if I sit that out, I’ve succeeded.

Now I understand why the  ‘one day at a time’ principle works. Does the thought of possibly never drinking again terrify me? YES. So much. Does the thought of even 100 days seem insurmountable? Yes. But can I make it through another Friday night sober? Abso-fucking-lutely. And tomorrow I’ll use the same principle.

I’ve been moving through different feelings about drinking this year, and wrote a desperate email to Belle on my last weekend of drinking talking about feeling like I was continually engaged in the “last tango” with drinking. Promising myself I’d stop after this last night of drinking and only lasting a few days before starting all over again. The classic resolving to end of an abusive love affair but being persuaded to stay before you pluck up the courage to leave.

Now, drinking just feels like a bad idea. I know it will feel nice at the time, and my ‘fuck it’ moment will seem worth it, but as we all know, one is never one, and for me one night turns into 3, 4 or even 5 nights on the bottle feeling increasingly shit.

Last night I was supposed to be working and plans changed last minute. I ended up going to an  event with lots of wine. This wasn’t problematic, even though I wasn’t mentally prepared for it. I’m fine with not drinking when I’ve stopped, it’s stopping that is the problem…

So, I had water, and closely observed how my companions drank. They nursed one glass of wine each over about 90 minutes (!!!!!!!), and didn’t reach for another one. As I watched them, I played out the alternative version of events if I’d been drinking:

I would have gulped down the first glass, been a bit embarrassed about it so left a little bit in my glass and ‘gone to the toilet’ where I could pick up another glass on my way out and finish it on the way to and from the toilet, returning with exactly the same amount in my glass as I left with. I’d then finish that, breezily ask if anyone wanted another drink and start on my 3rd glass before the talk at the event had begun. I’d then sit twitchy throughout the talk wanting more wine and dash off after the event to either drink a mini bottle on the way home and/or buy a bottle on the way from the train station to make a start on alone.

Writing this reminds me why I’ve stopped. When I’m drinking, I wouldn’t think the above behaviour was problematic, but it is and reflecting on it helps so much. Isn’t it amazing how we convince ourselves our drinking behaviours aren’t problematic?

Tonight I’ve got plans not based around alcohol and I know my night will be so much better for it.

Hope everyone has a lovely AF weekend planned. 

Drinking

21 Nov

After yesterday’s wobble in the afternoon and overcoming it again, I wanted to reflect on why it’s is important to me that I don’t slip up, a list to read over when the wolf is at the door:

  • Drinking makes me lonely
  • Drinking makes me gain weight
  • Drinking makes me eat crap
  • Drinking disrupts my sleep
  • Drinking gives me pleasure for about 30-45 mins and then I get sucked into the void
  • Drinking makes me have less fun on a night out
  • Drinking makes me sneak extra drinks in because my friends or colleagues aren’t drinking enough
  • Drinking takes up huge amounts of my headspace. I’ve been actively trying to quit for about a year, and have never succeeded. All that wasted time for giving into an early evening craving isn’t worth it.
  • Drinking affects my health- during my last round of drinking I actually felt my liver ache. God knows what its done to my insides.
  • Drinking makes me more selfish and introverted- I want time alone to drink/recover from hangovers so I shut myself away and the loneliness cycle starts again
  • Drinking affects my running
  • Drinking squashes my ambition- the past year has been dulled by drinking and as a natural achiever, I’ve let the driven side of my personality slide.
  • Drinking makes me secretive.
  • Drinking makes me feel like I’m leading two lives.
  • Drinking tricks me into thinking I don’t have a problem, when I clearly do, otherwise the above list wouldn’t exist.

That’s a pretty significant list eh?

These first few weeks need to be focusing on the one day at a time approach. I’m finding that forgetting the bigger picture is helping, as I still find it difficult to imagine long term what it will be like to be sober. So for now, all my energy is going into beating wolfie in that 4-8pm witching hour window and enjoying my glorious mornings where I wake up happy I’ve had another night sober.

24 Hours in a Day

20 Nov

Before I ran a marathon a few weeks ago, one of my friends I was training with said to me: ‘the way I stop myself getting scared is by thinking this is just 4 hours out of 24 hours in my day, 4 hours of discomfort for the most amazing feeling when I finish.’ 

This week, I’ve been keeping this brilliant idea at the forefront of my mind.

My ‘witching hours’ are between 4 and 8pm, when I’m tired, a bit fed up at work and want to slip into a glass of merlot. 

Like clockwork, it’s come again today, the subtle creep of wolfie’s seduction dance. I can taste the wine and anticipate myself relaxing, but I won’t give in. 

I’m keeping focused and strong, it’s just 4 hours out of my day where he creeps in, and I’ll feel amazing tomorrow when I’ve kicked his arse. 

Drink Repent Repeat

20 Nov

Image.

Don’t worry, I didn’t drink.

I’m on day 10 and reflecting on what causes the cycle of drinking so many of us get caught up in.

Yesterday I emailed Belle with a reflection on what was causing my ‘cravings’: “I’m learning that sometimes (often) what I think is a craving is just being tired/hungry/thirsty cold so I’m doing other things to give me a lift.”

For many of us the thing we identify as a ‘craving’ is just a physical or emotional need. On Monday, when I had my wobble and wanted to grab a bottle of Pinot Grigio, I indentified that I was thirsty. When I’m thirsty I want the refreshing coldness of white wine, when I need emotional comfort it’s the indulgent juiciness of red wine that calls me.

When we’re in the cycle of drinking, we learn to respond to these physical and emotional cravings by reaching for a glass. When I’m in the cycle of drinking, I get drunk, hate myself, feel physically and emotionally drained and so the only thing I can do is drink. My ‘cycles’ of drinking last anywhere between 3 and 5 days until I have 2-3 days of feeling rubbish sober and decide it’s a good idea to drink again.

As someone who’s stopped and started the 100 day challenge several times, I’ve been learning how to break this cycle, to recognise different emotions that are triggering me to want to drink and deal with them by addressing my physical or emotional need. Chocolate? Brilliant. Hugs? I’ll go seek one out. Running? The perfect tonic. But no wine, not for now. Not today.

Say it out Loud

19 Nov

Yesterday, I had a little mid afternoon wobble where I wanted to drink. It wasn’t particularly related to any stress or emotional upheaval, I just fancied a night in with a bottle of wine.

I immediately reached out to the brilliant Carrie who I’ve been in touch with a lot these past few weeks and has been an angel, and doing so was enough to crush the desire to run to the shop and buy wine.

Sometimes, articulating an unhelpful thought is as useful to me as acting on it. Sometimes I just want to remind myself that a thought isn’t an action, so rather than doing, saying can help.

Today I’m just ok. I had a great 8 hours sleep, a brilliant run but now it’s late afternoon and I feel a little flat, a little tired and in need of a treat tonight.

I think I’m going to plan a solo cinema trip (which I just love doing) and another early night.

I already miss the ups and downs of drinking to an extent (I love a bit of drama, and I suspect that a lot of drinkers do) but being stable makes me happier. So tonight I choose boring, flat and incredibly satisfying contentment. 

Quicksand

18 Nov

I was talking to some friends yesterday about some pressure I’ve got in my love life (if you can call it a love life- ‘clusterfuck’ might be a more appropriate term, given its recent dramatic nature).

None of them know about my drinking issues yet or my commitment to sobriety, but they started discussing something very relevant to it.

They were talking about the importance of me continuing to build up the different pillars of my life again which have been eroded by the break up of my 7 year relationship this year, my struggle to get back to a healthy weight after years of disordered eating (thanks, drinking, for piling on those pounds…) and get my confidence back.

They were talking about how far I’d come this year in my career, my confidence and my running. They were worried that if I threw a new relationship into the mix it would “topple my pillars.” They’re right.

Apologies this blog is getting into crude metaphor territory AGAIN, but it helps me to get my head round this first period of sobriety by making comparisons, so here goes:

One of the things drinking has done is to build those pillars on a foundation of quicksand. Everything I’ve built up, drinking has eroded a little.

Already I feel stronger and more stable to keep building. I’ve got a nagging feeling that this sobriety lark might well be the most important thing I ever do, so all the more reason to stick to it.

Happy Monday!

Video

This LIttle Room

17 Nov

I’ve had the most wonderful sober weekend I am in a state of bliss. I never once wanted to drink, despite being surrounded by booze.

Something has clicked and I’m no longer fighting an urge to drink, I’ve just decided it’s a really bad idea, and that I’m quite content as I am, thanks, sitting here on my little pink cloud.

Sunday nights used to be a huge trigger for me- the evening stretching out before me, promising loneliness and melancholy which wine would put a little plaster over, until of course I woke up on Monday feeling terrible.

Tonight, I am content, calm and in control. Wine caused the loneliness. Caused the unhappiness. This room was hell on earth. Tonight, I sit in my little bedroom listening to this beautiful song by London Grammar alternated with some of Belle’s brilliant podcasts (http://fuckyouwolfie.com/sober-jumpstart/ – if you don’t subscribe you really should, they cement all the messages of her blog and really helped with my ‘click’) feeling anything but alone.

With my scented candle flickering in the background, a weekend full of friendship, laughter and love under my belt, my room feels like my sober cocoon I’m returning to, to get my energy back. I’m for some reason reminded of a line from one of my favourite John Donne poems about infatuation and love, aptly titled “The Good Morrow”:

‘And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love, all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.’

This sober cocoon is my ‘everywhere’ right now and sobriety is my new lover. This honeymoon period can’t last forever, but I’m damn well going to enjoy it while it does.

Young, Free and Sober

15 Nov

It always strikes me I’m lucky to be going through this sobriety challenge without some of the pressures other women in the blogosphere have- husbands and houses and kids to look after. Real adult responsibilities. The flip slide of this is that I’m a 20 something year old in a big city and a boozy industry trying not to isolate myself by giving up booze. I’m going to have to navigate parties, dates, gigs, pubs, all the things I don’t want to miss out on while I’m young and have the opportunity to enjoy myself. It’s a tightrope I’m learning to walk.

Last night I navigated my first Thursday night on this new round of sobriety. Thursday night is probably the biggest trigger night of the week for me. I’m tired of the week at work, don’t have any exercise commitments (or am too tired from training earlier in the week) and start getting a bit of a ‘Friday feeling’ early. ‘Thursday is the new Friday’ has become a bit of a thing in the circles I move in and casual drinks can sometimes (often) turn into monumental hangovers.

Yesterday I got the ‘Thursday is the new Friday’ feeling really intensely at about 5pm and formed an action plan. I left work, got some delicious food, some tonic water ice and lime, came home and put the stereo on loud, poured my drink and danced round as I cooked. As soon as I ate, the desire to drink alcohol diminished and I set about getting ready really calm and happy, putting my gladrags on and enjoying myself.

I then went out to the bar with friends as planned, had a couple of lime and sodas, a good time and woke up at 6:45am to do all my weekend chores before work. Getting Shit Done in action.

It made me so glad not to have drunk when I contemplated the alternative course of events last night.

5pm- Email round the office seeing if anyone wants a drink.

6pm- Quick pint (or two) at the pub

7pm- Dash home and buy a bottle of wine on the way home, or some tins of gin.

7:30pm- Drink half a bottle of wine whilst getting ready, or 2 strong gin and tonics

8:30pm- Head to bar and have 2-3 glasses of red wine

11pm- Home to a potential food binge and the rest of the bottle.

And it wouldn’t have been worth it at all. Is it ever really worth it?

Life is like a Pencil Drawing

14 Nov

 

The last few days I’ve been reading lots of sober blogs to help myself focused on why I want this, recognise my own drinking patterns in those of others who have considered them problematic enough to stop and get inspiration.

Yesterday I came across Mrs D’s blog and have been working my way through her posts month by month. The emotional rollercoaster ahead is what terrifies me most, and Mrs D articulately and brilliantly documents her own journey.

Today this line really spoke to me:

“[I] thought about how my life is like a pencil drawing.  Now all sharp edges and clear. Before with wine it was like something had been smudged all over the top of it.”

I’ve been smudging away for years to numb emotional pain. Yesterday I started to feel emotions very acutely and for the first time in what feels like a *very* long time, recognise what they are and embrace them. Yesterday afternoon I was writing a long creative document at work and felt simultaneously a cosy happiness and melancholy. It was the first time in YEARS I have felt that particular cocktail of emotions, and it reminded me of the hours I’d spend holed up at university, writing away, feeling a strange satisfying sadness that I get when I’m in the flow of writing. I really enjoyed it.

Emboldened by my new ability to Feel Stuff, last night I brought up a conversation that I’ve been putting off with a new man I’ve been seeing about the nature of our relationship. Again, as I spoke, I had a real clarity about my emotions. I knew what I wanted to say, exactly how I felt when he responded and a satisfaction as I drifted off to sleep that I’d articulated these. I woke up feeling calm and fantastic.

I keep spotting so many things that are different about this time and other attempts at sobriety that buoy my confidence that I can do this bloody thing. The last time I started the 100 Day Challenge, I did so with such a monumental hangover it took me about 3 days to feel even vaguely normal physically and the emotions I battled through in those first 2-3 weeks swung between denial, anger, sadness and contentment. I knew not drinking was benefiting me, but I hadn’t 100% embraced the idea that this wasn’t a short term fix, that it is in fact something that is absolutely critical to commit to long term if I’m going to have a happy life.

All the working and thinking and failing I’ve been doing over these past few months seems to have planted seeds both mentally and emotionally that have fast tracked me to a point where I feel I’m longer sober than I actually am. It’s been 4 days, for Christssake! But I’ve got a real calm and clarity that I hope I can maintain even when the emotions get tough. Emotions are not a reason to drink, they are a natural part of being human and you know what? I want to start feeling them and embracing both the good and the bad.

Tonight is my first social event where I’ll only know one person and the drinks will be flowing. Whereas usually I’d head to the pub after work to get some ‘pre-drinks’ in and spend the night glugging red wine, my plan of action is to head home before the event and cook a good meal. Eating really helps quash the desire to drink. Then, my drink of choice tonight will be lime and soda. I’ve tried tonic water in the past, but for now, it makes me just want gin so I’ll avoid it.

I’ll check in here tomorrow to let you all know how it goes. Thank you for reading and helping me know I have people who want me to succeed in this. 

Treats!

13 Nov

One of the things I’m changing this time round on my 100 day challenge is taking treats seriously. Before, when I’ve given up wine I’ve also tried to diet whilst marathon training and doing a stressful job. Well, I’ve decided that this time, if I’m serious about being sober, I’ll also be serious about treats.

The old AA rule “Don’t get too Hungry Angry Lonely or Tired” I’m really taking on board. Hunger is a big one for me. Ironically, one of the reasons I started drinking in the first place was when I was seriously struggling with food. When eating in company it helped me relax enough to actually eat food and look vaguely normal, and when alone, it suppressed my appetite (for a while at least). I was so thin then, and weigh so much more now, almost entirely due to alcohol. When I read back to my very early blog entries here, this giving up alcohol idea was all about losing weight. I knew drinking had other negative consequences in my life, but didn’t really focus on those, I just wanted to be skinny again. Very very skinny.

Now, the weight issue is entirely secondary. I’m actually the healthiest weight I’ve been in years, despite it being all due to excess wine. This doesn’t matter. The most important thing in my life right now is my sobriety and nourishing my body.

So rather than restricting food, I’ve given myself license to eat whatever I want. So that when my personal witching hours of between 4 & 8pm come, I can eat a chocolate bar, grab an espresso or a more substantial snack. I’ve stopped meticulously meal planning and allowing myself to choose what I want to eat in the hour before every meal. It’s a luxury of not having a family  to cook for and living in a city where any type of cuisine is immediately available at almost any time of day or night, and I think it’s an important part of my first few weeks of getting sober.

Despite being worried I’d eat everything in sight the reality is I’m still eating a very healthy diet, but that I’ve had coffee in the afternoon to give me a lift and chocolate after dinner to feel comforted and like I’m not depriving myself. I should mention that I didn’t used to eat dinner when I was drinking. There’s no point in soaking up that alcohol with food until you absolutely have to! No, I’d skip dinner, have my bottle of wine and then go in search of something salty and then inevitably something sweet.

Now, the act of having whatever I fancy in the evening has felt like a treat in itself, and it’s a bonus that I naturally shy away from fatty food and go for the light, nourishing stuff when I’m not drinking. The best thing is, I have a regulated appetite already, even within 3 days of not drinking. Being hungover and nauseous would completely throw my hunger off kilter, either suppressing it or over stimulating it.

Other treats have included booking myself a massage for a week on Friday, a night when I know that at nearly 2 weeks into sobriety, wolfie will pipe up and tell me I don’t have a problem and that drinks at the pub with colleagues is fine. Instead, I’ll go for a luxurious massage and dodge a drinking bullet.

I’ve bought lovely scented candles which I light every night to make myself feel cosy and happy in my sober cocoon of a bedroom (that just 4 days ago was littered with bottles). I bought myself a cheap yet rather sexy dress yesterday to wear on an occasion in a couple of weeks when I hope to have a handle on my sobriety and can sip my lime and soda feeling fab.

Treats are important because my wine habit developed at a time when I denied myself everything else: food, time to relax, nice clothes, self care. I’m even running less, because that, usually my secret ticket to happiness feels a chore this week. As a result these very early wobbly days of not drinking are like having a holiday from the constant perfectionism and self-flagellation that wine gave me a one way pass away from for a few hours.

I’m blogging alot too. I love writing, and it’s helping me focus so much. If my work suffers this week, it’s a small blip and to be honest, I’m sure I’m being much more productive than when I’m hungover.

Feeling good. Long may it continue.

Video

Retrograde

13 Nov

This year through my break up and night after night sitting alone with my wine in my poky new room I have listened to one song obsessively.

‘Retrograde’ by James Blake has spoken to me in so many ways and inspired so many moods. I once joked to a friend that it is the only song in the world that can ‘make me feel every emotion, ever, simultaneously.’

It’s been my wallowing song, but also my celebratory one as a mourned my happy break up (there’s a paradox of a sentence for you). The refrain of ‘you’re alone now you’re alone now’ has been like a crystal that shines out different lights and moods every time I listen to it.

Last night, I listened to it again and heard it an entirely new light. These words for me have always been about breaking down, about the new alone world that I’d created for myself by breaking up with my partner, and the void I was filling with alcohol. But last night these words for the first time became about building myself back up:

You’re on your own, in a world you’ve grown
Few more years to go,
Don’t let the hurdle fall
So be the girl you loved,
Be the girl you loved…

I’ll wait
So show me why you’re strong
Ignore everybody else,
Were alone now
I’ll wait

Suddenly I’m hit!
Is this darkness of the dawn?
And your friends are gone
And your friends won’t come
So show me where you fit…

Every line took on a new significance. The world I’ve grown now, to me is the wonderful life I have when alcohol isn’t in the equation. I’m not a lonely person as I talked about last week on this blog, alcohol to me is loneliness. It makes me ‘alone in the world I’ve grown.’

And the next line…That ‘hurdle that I shouldn’t let fall’ is alcohol- when I drink, it falls, tumbles away and makes life seem easy. Until the next day. Sobriety is like constantly jumping over hurdles without ever letting them fall- it’s hard, but the more you train, the better your jumping gets, the less likely you are to tumble.

Every time I listen to it, one of the parts of song that has at times made me want to explode with emotion is the ‘suddenly I’m hit’ line, with the ominous drone of the synthesisers in the background and the echoing question, ‘is this darkness or the dawn?’ Apologies that this has become like a student’s bad poetry review, but something very special happened last night while listening to this section of the song. To me, this early stage of sobriety is like the darkness before the dawn when you’re lying awake in a state of insomnia. You know the sunrise is coming, you know you just have to wait, but you’re restless in your mind and body, simply exhausted. Meanwhile, the drone of the synthesisers rises with their ominous, alluring yet discordant sound vibrates on…

I’ve read people in the sober blogging world liken the call of alcohol to the Odyssey’s Sirens, those irresistible yet fatal women whose song lured men to shipwreck. What an accurate metaphor. In this song, those sirens almost drown out the promise of the dawn, but then fade. The parallel to my own journey at the moment hit me really powerfully because, as Belle says, everything is everything, right?

The ‘show me that you’re strong’ line will be one of my mantras and this song will be added to my sober toolkit of reflections. It’s been my soundtrack to 2013 and I hope as the year draws to a close, I’ll get closer to the dawn he sings of.

Gratitude

12 Nov

Last night, Lily posted something that really spoke to me in response to my Lessons in Sobriety post:

“I hope this encourages you not discourages you but I read this and I could so relate to where you’re at. I spent an entire year trying to reach 30 days – I would always fall off around 2-3 weeks when I’d start feeling better and would decide I had been making too big a deal of it all… only to end up back where I was. It took me at least 18 months – maybe two years – to find a real foothold on sobriety from when I started to admit I had a problem.”

Rather than being discouraging it made me really grateful for the experiences I’ve had over the past 18 months or so. It’s taken me this long to realise that I need to stop drinking as a non-negotiable deal with myself, at least to the end of the year (but I know in reality it needs to be longer, if not forever. It’s only because of the collective weight of all the things that have happened with my drinking over this period that have brought me to this point.

As I’ve said before on here, it’s been hard for me to recognise that I have a problem, because as isolated incidents, my drunken antics aren’t that bad. Not one person in my social circle would say I have a problem with drinking- I never pass out, throw up or drink more than them. In fact, if anything, I’m sometimes more restrained than them. But I’ve come to realise that it’s not specific drinking incidents that have led me to my “bottom”, it’s the fact that I can’t drink how I want to in public, and that I’d prefer to do it alone. That my worst nights have always been alone with a bottle, and that time after time after time, I’ve failed to control it. It’s this string of failed attempts to stop that confirm that I need to.

So I am grateful. Grateful that I have this wealth of experience and failure to draw on. The classic Beckett quote springs to mind

 

 

Whilst I might have not been failing better in my attempts to stop drinking, each time I’ve learnt something, picked myself up and tried again, banking the lesson on where I went wrong.

For these failures, I am grateful.

And there’s more to be thankful for. As I go through life I become more grateful for my character flaws. So the fact that I’m a natural worrier, an anxious person who wants to please and have validation from others means that I’ve always thrown myself into my work, professional or academic and excelled. It’s caused me no end of problems over the years, but on balance, I’m really thankful for this for this character trait.

It’s the same with the horrible battle with body image I have. If I was naturally slim and never needed to keep my weight in check, I would never have discovered running. Admittedly, played a role in my once obsessive food restriction when I got addicted to the power of losing weight, but it has also been one of the most overwhelmingly positive forces in my life. Now, if I didn’t run I think I would go crazy, and I’m so glad that my body’s natural ability to pile on the pounds has led me to find something that is now my rock to keep me (mostly) sane.

So today I am wondering whether one day, a long day down the line, I will be grateful for getting to this point in my life with alcohol. I have a very strong feeling that one day I will feel that my identity is as a non-drinker. It might be 2 years, 5 years, 10 years down the line, but it’s one of those deep-buried gut feelings that you have when something is right, that it’s so easy to bury when you’re drinking. Today I’m imagining how dramatically my experience of life will change if I cut out booze, and feeling grateful that I have been brought to the point where I have no choice but to give it 100% and try harder than I’ve ever tried.

Each time I’ve given up alcohol this year, I’ve done it with an underlying sense of annoyance or denial. Classic angry thoughts have occupied my sobriety “Why can’t I just drink? I don’t really have a problem, I’ve just had some tough times in my personal life and this is a phase!”, “I’ve always been a normal drinker, so I can’t suddenly develop a problem”, “This 100 day challenge is just another way of denying myself pleasure. And I DESERVE pleasure in my life.”

This time, if I reframe the whole scenario as an opportunity to give myself a great gift, to learn something about myself that I think I already know, but have been too scared to try out (that life is better without drinking) then this journey into sobriety might feel less of an arduous challenge and more of a wonderful treat for myself. A holiday from all the bodily pain and mental anguish.

We’ll see. I’m feeling good and steady in my commitment to the challenge, but I’ve been here before. This time, I’m just better equipped to deal with the speed bumps in the road.

As I’ve been writing this, I just tuned into the lyrics of the song that’s playing on my Spotify radio, very apt, from a song called “The Habit” from the wonderful Lissie:

Once it hits your lips you know you’re gonna have more/Coursing through the blood and coming out of your pore. There’s no use in fighting/Almost as inviting as the first time.

If you don’t quit, you’ll never get over it…

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