Archive | May, 2014

Shape Shifting

31 May

The most common search terms that lead people to this blog are around weight loss and other physical benefits of sobriety. I’m not the only one who saw drinking take its physical toll.

I’ve posted before about how a big part of the reason I started looking at my drinking was the effect it was having on my body. I gained weight drinking and assumed that when I stopped it would drop off. Not so.

Allowing myself sugar and a little comfort food during very early sobriety was one of the most important things I did. It warded off the booze cravings and allowed me to get some time under my belt. Around 100 days I started looking at my diet and making positive changes, cutting down on the sugar and eating for energy rather than comfort.

Finally as I edge towards 5 months sober I’m seeing my body change. My face puffiness went within a few weeks and my skin looked clearer, but I still felt I was carrying extra booze pounds about my person.

In the last few weeks, my legs suddenly seem to have toned up, my stomach has slimmed down and I feel happy with my size again. I look slim and healthy rather than puffy and boozy.

Although I was eternally marathon training while drinking, I didn’t have the leanness and tone I wanted. I’ve switched to HIIT workouts (intense bouts of exercise for 45 seconds followed by 30 seconds rest) and everything has sort of been sucked in a bit.

People told me weight loss would come if I was patient in sobriety, and it’s happening. Now, when I look in the mirror I see a sober body, rather than the wine- riddled reflection that was staring back at me a few months ago. If you’re not seeing weight loss in sobriety yet, hang in there. I’ve heard it from others and for me, it took a while but is worth the weight (lol, rofl, terrible pun…)zoopla

In other news, I’m really struggling this week because of terrible stress and the immense pressure of my new job, but being sober makes it feel manageable. I can tackle the mountain bit by bit when I’m not drinking.

I’m going to a party and I will not drink today.

Love, FFF x

Self- Absorption

27 May

I have’t blogged, read blogs, been to a meeting or even thought about drinking for days.

When I realised this, I was conflicted. On the one hand, it means I’m moving on from that OBSESSION with drinking/not drinking that I’ve been held prisoner by the past months (/years?!) but on the other, it could mean I’m not putting my recovery first. I’m so used to it occupying my mind it really shocked me when I’d sort of… forgotten to think about it. 

I had a little panic when I realised this, but upon reflection, I have been active in recovery, just in a different form to the one I’m used to. 

Until this point, my recovery had been very ‘me me me’; what do I think, how do I feel, how is my experience of recovery and how can I protect it. A lot of being inside my own silly head. I’ve often fretted about this, thinking that this means I shall be eternally self obsessed when I’m sober. But actually, as my sponsor has pointed out, recovery is as much about helping others as anything else. That’s how we stay dry. It’s the foundation of the AA programme, and how that amazing organisation keeps doing great work. And without realising it, I’ve been helping others more than I’ve been taking help over the past few days by calling newcomers and checking in with people who I know are struggling.

Just because I wasn’t thinking about me doesn’t mean I’m not being active in recovery. Quelle surprise! I’ve been quite ‘take take take’ and now I’m back onto more solid ground I feel truly able to give. This feels good. Imagine if I could pass on what I’ve learnt and another person actually gets sober and it changes their life?! That’s pretty powerful. I know mine’s changed, through the help of my AA buddies and all the brilliant bloggers who came before me. I suppose even when we’re struggling, our words of pain help others think ‘wow, other people feel like I do’ and we help them. I’ll never forget that first night I sat reading the blogs realising that there were other women out there like me who drank like I drank, feel like I feel.

I’m exhausted and not very articulate today, but I suppose I’m saying that giving feels really good. And being out of my own head is the greatest relief. I’m praying that this marks another corner turned in sobriety, where I stop thinking about myself all the bloody time. I hated that bit of early recovery. And of course it’s even worse when you’re drinking. 

So here I am 133 days sober, crawling down the road of progress and being more grateful than ever for what sobriety is giving me. If you’re struggling in the very early days with the ‘Is it worth it?!?!’ question that plagues us all, I’d say that right now, it truly feels it. The way I feel now in comparison to a few months ago is so dramatically different it takes my breath away. The brain chatter has quietened down. Most of the time at least. 

I’ll file this post under ‘YAY SOBRIETY!’ to refer to in my darker moments 😉

Happy Tuesday all x

Opening Doors

20 May

List articles are all the rage and my Facebook feed is full of LOLZ from Buzzfeed and other similar sites. Apart from the ones about drinking which make my blood boil (30 Hilarious Signs Wine is your BFF or some rubbish like that), they’re generally a fun way to pass a few minutes. 

Someone I really love and admire posted ’30 Things to Start Doing for Yourself’ today and it really got me thinking about our sober toolkits and how this weird thing we call alcoholism has given us some unexpected gifts:!O4vZ3

All of these points, without exception, I think, are the things we must learn to stay sober. They’re all about authenticity, self-care, helping others, checking in with what we need and desire and tackling the difficult things in our lives. 

Yes, it might be hard and we might not like it sometimes, but sobriety equips us for life with tools that some of us might never have learnt without having a drinking problem. When I look back at my life before drinking got out of hand, I was living so chaotically but paradoxically within a self-imposed straight-jacket of control. I was dishonest with myself in my relationship, what I expected from myself, how I treated my body. I overrode all desire and need for being kind to myself with rigidity and denial. 

Learning all the unexpected lessons that go on around sobriety is an amazing journey to go on, not only because it unlocks new experiences and opportunities in our lives and ultimately (although it may not feel that way sometimes) makes our lives easier, but because it gives us the keys to a door some people never find. Unlocking the door to the raw emotional bits inside and knowing what to do when we get there is one of the bigger gifts of sobriety in my view. We have to do it to stop drinking and if we’re lucky enough to find a sober community to immerse ourselves in, we find spiritual guides, people ahead us on the path who can suggest to us what to do with what we find there.

If we blog or go to recovery meetings, we have a place to articulate our feelings honestly in a safe environment where we not only will we not be judged, we’ll be supported. We have people who will listen to us, soothe us and celebrate with us new milestones in recovery. 

Sometimes, I feel like the recovery community (and AA in particular) is what I’ve unknowingly been searching for my whole life. I’ve always been a person who thinks and talks in emotions much more than your average. This has served me well in forming deep friendships, but I’m often holding back from spending too much time talking about this stuff (let’s face it, it can be boring) which can leave me wanting. And usually, I’m the one listening, so it’s vital I go somewhere to talk. I get the emotional release I need in that room in a way I never have from therapy. Therapy is all about me, which is helpful, but sobriety is about all of us, collectively heaping each other to get better. It’s remarkable, when one thinks about the selfless, loving acts that go on in the sober community. 

So, I suppose my thought today is that as people with drinking problems, we’ve been forced to confront what’s below the surface head on and for that I am grateful. Would I choose again to be an alcoholic in another life? No. This is a disease that kills many and could kill me if I give in. But I AM happy to have been given the change to explore this stuff, because many don’t. 

Daily my sobriety shifts, from the agony of the weekend to feeling like a little precious gift today. We put one foot in front of the other and we grow….

It aint over ’til it’s over

18 May

Yesterday I was SO close to drinking.

If you read my post yesterday, you’ll know I was tired, stressed and had full intentions to have a relaxing day to get myself back on balance. That went flying out of the window. 

A new problem has emerged with my house buying plans and once again I find myself looking for somewhere to live. I went looking yesterday and the whole process was incredibly stressful because the market is crazy and the financial pressures of the whole thing were too much to take. This combined with the idea of having to start the whole lengthy search again was too much. My body was screaming with anxiety.

I was meeting my friends for dinner and had 2 hours in town to kill. I was almost certain I was going to drink. The ‘fuck its’ were strong and I thought ‘how bad could a night of drinking be? I can start again tomorrow.’ I was slowly walking towards a pub, calculating how much I could drink before I met my friends to appear sober and feel drunk enough to satisfy me. Annoyingly, one of the friends I was meeting knows I’m in AA so I had to remember that once I met them, I wouldn’t be able to drink any more. Bugger. I was contemplating ringing my sponsor, but didn’t. I was accepting my fate of drinking. 

There’s an individual who reminds me of my last night of drinking, an experience so horrific to me I never ever want to feel like that again or see him again. Let’s call him James. I half heartedly asked my Higher Power to give me a sign by getting James to contact me, to remind me of how bad it was. No such sign came. I got closer to the pub.

I walked in, went up to the bar, looked at the larger taps glistening and found myself asking for a pint of lime and soda. I gulped it down and decided what to do next. 

The pub was rammed- it was the FA cup final (big football championship here in the UK) and the local team Arsenal were in the lead. The atmosphere of nervous excitement was palpable. I ordered another drink, a water, and felt my seconds ticking down to meeting my friends. My insides were churning, all I wanted to do was have alcohol running through my veins, but I drank the water, watched the football and let myself get swept up in the atmosphere. 

The footie fans were chugging pints jovially, getting excited and tense and loud. The match went into extra time, and everyone was on tenterhooks. I was very very slowly going off the idea of drinking, being so wrapped up in the game. 

Arsenal scored what looked like it would be the winning goal and the pub went absolutely effing wild. My whole body was covered in goosebumps and it was electrifying. At that moment, I was glad I didn’t drink. 

I loved the final few minutes of the match because once again, I’d been reminded of the wonder of life without alcohol. My body had shifted from being a ball of nervous tension to experiencing the profound joy of being part of something exciting in the matter of what, 45 minutes? An hour? 

I went to meet my friends and we had an absolutely brilliant evening, swapping a meal out for takeaway, some philosophical conversations, some plain silly conversations and some ridiculous singing. 

As I checked my phone at the end of the night, my silly prayer to my higher power had been answered. One missed call: James. Seeing his name made me put my head in my hands at the sight, realising what I’d escaped by not drinking. THANKS UNIVERSE.

Sobriety is hard, but drinking is harder. In the space of a week I’ve gone from feeling utterly comfortable in my sobriety to finding it agonising and guess what? That tide will turn again. I was walking to that pub thinking drinking was a foregone conclusion I’d resigned myself to, but my fortunes shifted by finding myself in a life affirming situation, and my desire to numb ebbed away. 

Another day another lesson. Day 124 and still sober. 

Blogging to Stay Sober

17 May

I’ve had one helluva week. My feet have barely touched the ground and I’ve barely slept. My self care regime has gone out of the window as other things have taken priority. 

This week, it was necessary for me to allow the chaos to happen, but as I’ve changed job and this level of madness is going to become part of my life for the foreseeable future, I need to work out how to cope. 

I feel pretty shocking today. For the first time in ages I got 8 hours sleep last night and that has helped, but I’ve got a general sense of anxiety I haven’t experienced for a long time. My body is telling me something is off. When something is wrong, I feel it so physically, I can’t ignore it. And now my go-to numbing tool of drinking is off the table, I need to deal with it head on.

I’m going to try and meditate today, get to the gym for an all-out heart pumping workout and go to a meeting. Meetings have slipped (I didn’t go to one for 8 days!) and I can feel that too. They don’t lie in AA when they say not going to meetings is dangerous. Around Wednesday this week I could feel myself inching closer to a drink. I knew I wouldn’t take one that day, but if I don’t remind myself frequently that I really am an alcoholic, that first glance seems ever more appealing. 

This sobriety lark is a continuous process, isn’t it? A constant maintaining of positive practices, taking emotional checks and balances. 

I feel better writing this, I knew blogging would help. There’s something very powerful about getting your feelings down on paper. In times of need, when I’ve been really down or worked up into a frenzy, writing this blog has always helped me. When you commit words to paper (or the screen), you look at them objectively as a reader would. Is the world ending? No. Is this life or death? No. Have I felt like this before? Certainly. Are there things I can do to help myself? Yes. 

This blog has become an ongoing record of the ebbs and flows of sober life. Some days I feel bloody fantastic, others today, I feel off-centre. But that’s ok, because all these moments pass and as long as I don’t drink, I feel better equipped to deal with them. 

Right, I’m off to get my meditation on. Happy Saturday lovely bloggers!

Hang in There

11 May
I’m on a train, which means I want to write. Writing and trains go together like toast and jam, bangers and mash, gin and ton… Nevermind. 
For the first time in sobriety, I have nothing new to write about. Up until now, every day has been a new lesson or given me a new sober experience that I’ve wanted to shout from the rooftops about. Not today, or yesterday, or the day before that. 
This is excellent news. It means that I’ve finally settled into sobriety. It’s no longer a battle not to drink. I don’t get the cravings very often and if I do, I know how to quickly and painlessly deal with them. I don’t worry about being envious of other people drinking, as I value what I have in sobriety far too highly. 
When I was in my first 90 days, I felt like I had a little man running round in my head going ‘THIS IS SO HARD, WHEN DOES IT GET EASIER?!’
Belle told me that somewhere between 30 & 60 days of sobriety something would shift. She was right, but it was still very hard. At 60+ days sober, I worried that I wasn’t ‘getting it’- as far as I was concerned, this sober lark was still hard work. I really wanted to drink quite often. I met some lovely sober bloggers and we sat outside on one of the first sunny days of the year drinking coffee and talking about sobriety. The whole time I was there I felt a niggling urge to drink. Even when these brilliant ladies, with more sobriety under their belts than I had, were telling me how great it was further down the road. Oh alcohol…Cunning, baffling, powerful. 
At around 90 days I was thrilled to have made it that far, but I was hugely resentful of everyone else around me who seemed to be able to drink and just enjoy it. WHY ME? My inner Kevin piped up (moody teenager from 90s Brit culture: and I threw a bit of an inward strop about poor little old me not being able to get drunk over a sunny bank holiday weekend like everyone else. 
Well, I’m on 116 days today and I feel not the slightest desire to drink. It’s not a battle anymore, it’s just a new and delightful way of living. I was thinking of all the things I’ve done in sobriety: first sober holiday, wedding, leaving do (mine), endless drinks after work, birthday parties, first sober clubbing night, first gig, first sober train journey (I used to drink ALOT on trains… for shame…) and they have all unquestionably been more enjoyable because I’ve been sober.
NOT ONCE have I woken up and thought “my GOD I wish I’d had a drink last night..!”
I’m not quite sure what I set out to say in this post, but I think my message is this: if you’re in early sobriety, hang in there, it really does get better. Trust the process. Trust the discomfort and feeling of helplessness and the sneaking suspicion that the pain might not be worth it. It is. I promise. The pain is a necessary part of the transition to something better.
The lesson I learnt last year is that for sobriety to really work, it has to be continuous. I laboured under the misapprehension that if I drank again after a period of sobriety it would all be ok and that I could pick up my sobriety again where I left off. Not true. You can’t ‘have a break’ from sobriety in my experience. It has to be an ongoing process. Every Day 1 I had set me right back to Square 1 with each drinking experience being more horrific than the last. Funnily enough, I never had terrible drinking experiences until I started trying to get sober. I had the strong sense that I was drinking too much and the depression that accompanied bad hangovers, but the nights where I publicly did something stupid were almost unheard of. When I started drinking again after periods of sobriety, it was truly horrible and embarrassing. I simply could not control my intake. It’s like the fabled ‘Wine Witch’ had laid dormant, building up an insatiable hunger for booze that was unleashed when I took the first drop. This was when I knew that breaks from drinking weren’t enough. I had to abstain completely. 
It’s good to remind myself of this, at this point where I’m feeling pretty secure in not drinking. One thing that experience has taught me is just how easy it is to forget the extent to which I have a problem. I’m going to an event tonight where there will be wine galore, forced into my hand. All I need to do is remember not to take it. Then I’m safe. But if I take that drink, all bets are off. 
So today I’m grateful for the gift of contented sobriety. I raise my elderflower cordial to THAT! Cheers and Happy Sunday 🙂

AA: My First Chair

8 May

Thanks to everyone who wished me good luck ahead of my first AA chair yesterday. 

As predicted, it was pretty terrifying but also a wonderful experience. Luckily, I’d been asked to do it at my home group where everyone had seen my come in 16 weeks ago and sob my little heart out. 
It’s hard for me to believe that it was that recently that I went to my first meeting and how much my life has changed since then. 
Until that day, AA was never an option. I didn’t truly believe I was an alcoholic, didn’t like the sound of what went on there, didn’t have a concept of God and didn’t think I’d fit in with the people I met there. 
How wrong I was. 
I’ve written about this before, but from the very moment I walked through the door into my first meeting I knew I was at home. Followers of this blog will know that I spent the whole of 2013 trying to get sober and failing repeatedly. I was desperate for something to change, as my life had to very small very quickly. I felt myself eroding away my insides and knew that if I wanted to have the life I desired, drinking had to stop. It was going to kill me, if not physically, certainly emotionally. 
Last night when I arrived at the meeting I got so many friendly words of encouragement from fellow members, took up my seat at the front of the room and talked for 13 minutes. It felt like no time at all! I hate speaking publicly and my voice was a bit wobbly with nerves, but I shared my story honestly.
It was important to me to convey that for years I had a very benevolent relationship with alcohol, that it was my friend when I wanted to let loose and have a bit of fun. I wanted to share this for the newcomer who was having the battle that I did of ‘am I an alcoholic?!’ which in part was difficult for me because alcohol turned on me so quickly I couldn’t quite get my head round the shift. 
I talked about the agony of trying to quit on my own. I spoke about this blog, and how when I started writing to work through my alcohol issues, the internet started to speak back to me. Women all over the world putting their hands up and saying ‘Don’t worry honey. I feel like that too.’ 
I didn’t want to tell any drinking horror stories, so focused on how hard it was to quit and how each time I relapsed, my drinking got worse. 
Finally, I spoke about how the programme has helped me. For me, AA has been utterly transformative. Alcoholism is just a symptom of something deeper for me that over the years has manifested itself in different ways. I am a chronic relief seeker, always wanting to change the way I feel. I’m a sensitive soul, wounded by others words and actions. The AA programme has not only helped me to stop drinking, but it’s given me the tools to treat what’s underneath. 
It was an amazing privilege to have people share back and tell me how they related with my story. There were a few newcomers there who were really encouraged to see someone only slightly ahead of them on the sober path being so content in their sobriety. It took me a long time to get here, but once I got some time under my belt the shift to happiness happened very quickly. 
I have so so far to go on my journey through sobriety, but at 114 days sober I know I simply cannot go back. I feel a real sense of calm acceptance that I didn’t feel even just a few weeks ago. I’m gaining SO much more through being sober than I’m losing through not drinking and that’s an amazing place to be.
It’s important to me that I don’t suggest that AA is the only answer, as I know many people get sober without it. But it is a very very special place and I’d recommend that everyone who’s struggling to get sober gives it a go. What is there to lose by trying something out before you rule it out? That’s the attitude I took, and here I am happy as happy can be to be a proud member of alcoholics anonymous. Who’da thunk it?

My First Chair!

7 May


I’ve just been asked to do my first chair at AA, TONIGHT!

For those of you who don’t go, it’s where someone opens a meeting by sharing their experience strength and hope of the programme for 15 mins.

As I’m so newly sober, I was worried I’m not experienced enough to do it. My sponsor said that as I’ve done my step 5 (where you share with them the nature of harms done when drinking) I’m ok to. And it’s a newcomers meeting, my home group, so I have a valuable experience to share as a newcomer myself.

Terrifying. I’ll get through it I’m sure.

Wish me luck!

Clubbing Sober

5 May

Early sobriety is full of firsts and there were few I’ve been more nervous about than going clubbing. 

I’ve done endless work events, nights in pubs and bars and even danced at a wedding but I hadn’t yet gone out clubbing until last night. 

I love dancing and really needed to let my hair down so when someone suggested a Bank Holiday evening out I jumped at the chance. By the time the day actually came to go, I didn’t want to. The thought of heading out at 11pm was unbearable. But I prepared as best I could- I slept in the day before, had good nutritious food and my new Sober Saviour for getting through long events: Zero Calorie Red Bull. 

As with every other sober first, it was a fascinating experience. 

Here’s what I learnt (I’m quite into my lists of sober lessons at the moment!):

It’s all about the company and the music- if either one of these isn’t spot on, the night can be uncomfortable or boring. But when the two come together perfectly, it’s a joy. 

Drink only slightly heightens the experience- the ‘sweet spot’ of drinking I once had where I wasn’t smashed but had enough of a buzz to really get high on the music was fantastic while it lasted. But it’s been a few years since I’ve been able to control my drinking and get that. Last night, I got the same surges of joy from the music and flashing lights without the consequences of downing vodka. 

Drinking is a waste– I watched my friends get wasted, and some of them went off to do coke, which I was pretty shocked by. Those who took the drugs were completely out of it. They just floated around the dance floor, barely engaged with what was going on. 

Being sober is the best money saver ever!- I sort of knew this already, but last night I spent SIX POUNDS. SIX ENGLISH POUNDS. I got a night bus home because I was in a fit state to keep myself safe and paid for the cloakroom and some sparkling water. Amazing. I treated myself to a gorgeous pair of £50 boots this morning- I would have spent much more on a night out. 

Hangovers aren’t just caused by drinking– I was out til 4am and this morning I’m REALLY feeling it. The lack of sleep has got to me, but it was so worth it. Because I’m not hungover too, I went out and blasted a workout to perk myself up and then will get an early night tonight. When I was drinking I probably would have had a drink at 4pm to get me through the day and ended up finishing the bottle and starting the hangover cycle all over again. 

If you want to leave, get out of there– I knew that if at any point I left, my wasted friends would notice but not care. They were too wrapped up in their own drunk/high thing. That was a really comforting thought when heading out- I knew I could leave at any time I wanted, especially if I fancied drinking. As it turned out, I stayed to the bitter end because I was having so much fun. Happy days. 

Being sober helps me squeeze every moment out of life– Yesterday I went to 3 social things before clubbing. Had I been drinking I’d have started at 4pm and not stopped for another 12 hours. Instead of a blurry day, I had a wonderful one full of clarity. 

I was talking to my sponsor about how great sobriety feels at the moment and she said something that EXACTLY describes how I’m feel ing at the moment:

‘I think as time goes on, and we stay sober, it becomes a precious thing that you feel inwardly proud and quite protective of. It’s all part of the long term sobriety where you actually want to be sober instead of not wanting to be an alcoholic.’

I love this thought. It really hits the nail on the head of the shift from ‘WHY ME???’ to ‘HURRAH SOBRIETY!’ 

Long may it last. 


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