Archive | September, 2014

Gut Feelings

29 Sep

In sobriety, I have become reacquainted with an old friend: my intuition, my gut feeling, my sense of judgement.

When we’re drinking, it’s so hard to live beyond the moment. I once wrote here that the only approach to life I could handle was, paradoxically, one day at a time”, trying to get through each hangover, often just waiting for the next drink to take the discomfort away.

In sobriety, things for me are often, and perhaps more than I’d like, startlingly clear. I’m able to tune into that deep down feeling that helps me make the next life choice.

Once again, I’m on the brink of change in a couple of areas of my life. I posted last week that I’ve been seeing a young man and so far, it’s going well. When I say it’s going well, I mean I think he’s absolutely lovely, I fancy the pants off him and he, amazingly, appears to think I’m lovely. But here’s the thing- I’ve got this niggling feeling that throwing myself into that relationship might not be quite the right thing. I’ve got a track record in having relationships for years that I’ve entered being not quite sure, not listening to my gut. But what’s the difference between giving something a chance and entering into something that you know isn’t right? As I type that, I’m not sure it’s as black and white as it “not being right”, but there’s something I’m not sure about. Ugh, once again I’ve exposed something by being too honest with myself on this blog. Why does it have to be a case of “this is the right or wrong thing to do”, when exploring this relationship more tentatively rather than “throwing myself in” would be more sane? Why do I have to drill down into my feelings incessantly? I sometimes feel like I’m bound in chains by my own self awareness.

And it’s not just my love life that is getting this super-honest appraisal. Ive got yet another career decision to make again soon. A new job sits on a plate in front of me, which on paper looks fantastic. But there are a few things about it that are a bit triggery for me. I’ll be working in an environment I know I’ve struggled in in the past. Was I struggling because I was drinking, or was I drinking because I was bored, lonely and hated the horrific office strip lighting? Really, bad lighting can send me insane. Especially in winter.

One of the things I’ve noticed since I’ve let my spiritual practice in AA slip a little is the feeling that everything will be ok. I think I need to meditate a little more, to pray more (and I mean that in the secular “asking the universe” sense).

The benefit of sobriety is that it puts everything into sharp relief, but I can’t help but wishing sometimes I didn’t turn my enormous magnifying glass of self-analysis to every area of my life so frequently.

But this is the cruel luxury of sobriety. We examine, we feel uncomfortable things, we learn, we grow.

This week I’m going to focus a little more on spiritual practice, see what that brings up. See whether I’m truly having strong gut feelings or whether my current million mile an hour pace of life is throwing off my emotional compass a little.

Well, that was a rushed-on-the-bus post, but as ever, it’s helped to get things down on paper. Happy Monday lovely bloggers, happy Monday.

Recovery vs Life

24 Sep

Life has been a million miles an hour again. My feet have not touched the ground in 2 weeks. I’m working lots of p14 hour days to meet a series of never ending deadlines and have been using my infrequent spare time to see (gasp) A Boy I have started dating. I’m behind on everything in my life- emails and texts from friends, calls to make, life admin… All of it. I’m chipping away at a never ending to do list and it’s exhausting.

On that list is sobriety work. I didn’t go to an AA meeting for 10 days and have been away from the blogs a bit. I was feeling fine, then got a bit antsy on Monday this week. I skipped a work meeting that wasn’t absolutely necessary to dive into an AA meeting and I felt distant from it all. I know I won’t drink (today), but what does this uncomfortableness with the programme I’ve been experiencing recently mean? Is it complacency? Is it a case of not reaping the rewards of the old adage “you get out what you put in?” or is it a result of being more in tune with what I need to stay sober, which may or not require lots of meetings.

I’ve been having some interesting discussions with my sponsor recently about how much is enough. I’ve been missing my home group where I have a greeting commitment because of work appointments I have no control over, and I think she thinks I’m not committed enough now I’ve got some more time under my belt. Today, I feel weird even typing the words “my sponsor.” It feels strange to me that I’m even in the programme. *Oh hark! The sound of alarm bells!*

Is this the “disease that we forget we have” playing it’s tricks on me? Am I bring sucked into complacency and therefore danger of relapse? Or am I carving out my own recovery where attendance at X number of meetings a week until the end of days is the only way to stay on the right path?

As readers of this blog know, I’m very pro-AA as it’s helped me hugely, and I’m by no means turning away from it or shirking my responsibility to try and help other alcoholics where I can. But. But but but. What do I sacrifice to stay consistent in my attendance at meetings? Do I regularly lie to my colleagues, as I have done today, to get out of something in order to attend my home group? Do I cancel a date with the lovely young man I’ve started seeing to go to a meeting? Do I swap my 6am run/gym visit to find a crack of dawn meeting?

Perhaps it’s like exercise in that you can always find the time in the day if you try hard enough. I was getting up at 5am at one point during my marathon training to fit it in…

But the thing is, currently I’m resenting needing to do all this stuff. How I ever drank when life was this pace I do not know. Thinking about it, my sober life is more hectic as a direct result of all the great things sobriety brings. I am lucky enough to have chosen a job I love, but it’s one that is currently all- encompassing. I cannot let that slide and my whole team is working as hard as I am through necessity.

So what should give? Are meetings the only way to stay sober? Am I getting my priorities wrong? Maybe. This is what I need to work through. How can I stay afloat in sobriety terms and have any sort of social life outside work?

Ugh. Send tea and hugs ­čÖé

Speaking Out

14 Sep

I have been thinking a lot about how I explain to people why I stopped drinking. I feel a responsibility to be honest within reason, to say a version of ‘I was drinking too much and it was making my life terrible and I realised I had to cut it out altogether or it was going to get even more out of control.’

On my bolder days, I want┬áto wave my hands and say ‘Hey! Look at me! The one you think has her life sorted? Well I am an alcoholic! Does that change your image of what that word means to you?’

When socialising, I feel I should wear my sobriety on my sleeve to show that yes, you can go out and dance your socks off and laugh like a drain and be happily sober in your 20s.

I want to say to people- ‘if you’re worried about your drinking, that probably means you should stop.’ And I want to say to some of my dearest friends ‘you’re normalising completely abnormal drinking habits. Just because you’ve surrounded yourself with people who drink like you do, doesn’t mean it’s ok.’

I want to walk round the local ‘hangover’ cafes on a Sunday morning with a placard saying ‘It’s not how much, it’s how it makes you feel…’

I’ve mentioned on here before that one of the biggest agonies of my drinking was my outer/inner life conflict. I looked like I had an amazing life. Some friends told me they looked up to my career success, my regular┬ámarathon running, my passion for life. But they had NO IDEA what was going on inside, the horrible things that were happening due to the drink. One of them said recently that she hadn’t seen me drink for ages and that she wished she had my self discipline. She said this to me in a public forum (Facebook), so I couldn’t declare my story, but it got me thinking a lot about just how I’m going to be more honest about my experiences. A Woman Without Wine┬áwrote a great post today about her drinking, and how it wouldn’t be classed as typically alcoholic. It really struck a chord with me, not only because I recognised myself in her words, but because it made me wonder about what we’re all doing here in this sober blogging world, how we’re spreading the message of a new kind of alcoholism that Women Like Us can relate to (and men of course, but my sober blogging pals are largely women)… And how we can recover.

It’s really powerful, this act of reading and writing we all engage in. It’s helping, in its own small way, the image of alcoholism move on. It’s saved me.

If I hadn’t started noodling around on the internet, I would have never found this sea of words which captured my experiences exactly. I would have gone on thinking that the problem was me, not the drink. And whilst we’re not blameless in our drinking, removing myself from the idea that having alcohol issues is some sort of moral failure was life changing for me. As was the idea that despite my nice life, I *could* still be an alcoholic.

As I’m getting a little more confident in my sobriety, I’m exploring how I can be more open about my drinking with those close to me at first, to test the waters. I’ve told several good friends about my real reasons for stopping drinking but to get them to believe me, I’ve had to tell them all the gory details. Being a secret drinker shot me in the foot in that respect, because no-one really could see I had a problem. But I can’t take that approach with everyone, can I?

My worry about how I articulate my sobriety all comes down to 2 things. Ego, and stigma. I don’t really want people to know what a mess I was. That I struggled with addiction. That I was living a lie. I want people to see me as strong. But, if people are ever to understand addiction, to see the true face of alcoholism which walks past them on the street every day, stings next to them in the line for their overpriced latte, sits next to them at literary readings and races marathon, how will they know if more of us don’t speak out? I for one knew nothing about addiction before I fell victim to it. I had NEVER met anyone my age who didn’t drink, unless for religious reasons. I thought alcoholics were weak willed, that I’D never let things get out of control like that..

It’s late, I can’t sleep and I’ve got myself whipped up into a bit of a frenzy about this, but it’s an interesting area, no? How the stigma of alcoholism stops people from speaking out and feeds the stigma? A classic viscous circle.

Maybe all I can do for now to protect myself is be open with those who matter to me, offer a friendly sober ear for those who might be struggling and be honest about how stopping drinking has changed my life for the better. Something to think on. Better than counting sheep anyway…

8 months sober

13 Sep

Unless I go on a hell-raising bender tonight (I won’t), this weekend will see me celebrating 8 months of sobriety. With every milestone I reach, I utter the words ‘I can’t believe I’m here’, and today I’m saying them again.

Whilst earliest sobriety crawls along, painfully slow, time has suddenly speeded up and I want to scream ‘SLOW DOWN’ so I can enjoy it.

I’m happy, I’m calm, I’m self-accepting (most of the time), I can recognise unhelpful thoughts and feelings and most of all, I don’t want to drink.

Sobriety has transformed my well being. I dread to think what an emotional wreck I was before. It got really bad. I didn’t realise how much alcohol was to blame. I thought it was me, that I was broken, that being in despair and doom was part of who I was. Not so.

If I’d known this, would I have put down the drink sooner? Probably not. The pain was absolutely necessary to get me to committed sobriety.

I don’t have too much to say today, but I suppose I wanted to articulate that not only does it get so much easier to stop pouring the poison down your throat, it also gets easier and easier to live sober. If you’re in your first few weeks, hang on and wait for the good bit.

Happy Saturday!

Losing my Shit

10 Sep

I occupy that weird, paradoxical space between being insanely organised and thorough and a complete scatterbrain.

This morning, I’ve once again lost my expensive railcard. It’s shattered my serene pool of sobriety that I’ve been bathing in the past few days. But it doesn’t matter. None of this money, possessions, inconvenience stuff matters if I stay sober.

The contrast between my perfectionist and scatty side was illustrated perfectly by my drinking. I’d work my arse of all week at work and the gym and regularly throw all that into chaos by drinking. Why do we do this to ourselves?

I’m really annoyed with myself this morning, but then I look at the hours I’m working, the lack of sleep, the huge project I’ve got underway outside work and think: something’s got to give. I can’t have it all, all the time. I’ll make mistakes. I just need to make sure I make the right mistakes… A bit of clumsiness, dizziness or harmless thoughtlessness is forgivable when drinking might be the alternative.

I’m on day 9 of my 21 day challenge. The intention was to go cold turkey on some bad food habits and see what that brought up. So far, the results have been surprising; nothing. I don’t want to tempt fate, but I’m slowly coming to the realisation that day to day, my shit is more sorted than I thought. I’m relying on external crutches less than I’d imagined. All this sobriety work and therapy has been working away under the surface.

So with that positive in mind, can I keep looking at bad habits I need to improve, like constantly losing things? I don’t know. I’ve always been this way. What if they aren’t habits, but part of who I am? I don’t know. I’m thinking and typing out loud on a very rushed train journey. How do we change the things about ourselves we don’t like? Are my messy, ditzy tendencies habits I can break, or part of me?

There’s work to do, there’s always more work to do. But aiming for progress not perfection is keeping me going.

It’s AA day today, and that always helps me check in with where I am for the week.

Happy Wednesday!

Emotional Sobriety

3 Sep

The concept of “emotional sobriety” is one that resonated strongly with me from the start. I think I first heard it in AA, when people were sharing about “acting out” in other ways when they’d put down the drink.

In a conversation with Primrose following my last blog post, I reflected on how drinking is only a very small part of my “story”, as they say in the rooms. I drank destructively for 2-3 years, having had lots of other ways of expressing my emotional turmoil prior to that. I often look at the sudden way alcohol turned on me, previously having been a moderate and happy drinker. It’s my very strong belief now that the “alcoholic” cells (I like to think of my alcoholism as a teeny tiny group of cells tucked away inside me as part of my biological make up) we’re lying dormant my whole life, waiting for a moment to multiply. Had it not happened now, it would have happened at some point in my life. I remain thankful that it’s happened early enough in my life for me to have a brighter future ahead of me if I keep on top of it.

This cluster of cells represents the physical addiction that now I have more or less under control, but what about this pesky brain of mine?

As part of my 21 day challenge, I’m pushing myself to reflect on non-alcohol related negative behaviours. Something that’s really compromising my emotional sobriety at the moment is my weird compulsion to tell teeny tiny white lies. I’ve always had it. They’re so small and inconsequential they don’t harm people, but of late, it’s been bothering me. It doesn’t feel very authentic or “sober.” How to address it? I’m not sure. But at this stage acknowledging it as something I need to work on feels like some small progress.

Emotional sobriety to me means keeping our emotional and moral lives in check. Trying to live the best way we can live, avoiding harms to ourselves or others.

And that’s my focus for day 3 of the 21 day challenge. Still no chocolate consumed, although there was a run in with a bowl of granola that felt a bit off… Anyway, progress not perfection.

Happy Wednesday!

Day 2

2 Sep

This is the best! I feel great! I’m never goin to fall into bad habits again! Sound familiar?

As I woke up this morning, I checked my sobriety app (229 days) and my 21 Day Challenge app. I looked at the measly number 2 there, and my “cycle of day 1s” when I was drinking came back to me. That feeling that you don’t have any significant time under your belt, you’ve got less to lose, so starting over isn’t a big deal. You feel so great, you convince yourself there was never a problem in the first place…

It’s so easy to fall into self sabotage when you can’t feel any tangible fruits of your labours. Like the deeper spiritual and emotional shifts that come with time. Before I knew I had a drinking problem that was serious, I’d go through the same cycle over and over again. Drink bottle of wine, feel shit and depressed, have 2-3 days off, feel normal again and think there was no harm in drinking again. It was only when I started attempting longer stretches of sobriety that I realised the huge benefits of sticking with it beyond those first few painful weeks. But I don’t like emotional pain. I like to be soothed. Immediately.

What will happen when I taKe away my other destructive behaviour?

It’s not rocket science, what I’m trying to do here, to kick a bad sugar habit, but in some senses it’s as important as my sobriety. Because when you take weight or health out of the equation, you’re left with the same root problem that fuelled my drinking: managing my emotions.

Thankfully, I have fewer emotions to manage these days. Fewer perhaps is the wrong word. Less extreme. Less painful. Less likely to swing so dramatically between extremes it knocks me sideways.

Today, I’m sleep deprived, under a lot of work pressure and in desperate need of some “me” time. This is classic “fall into a cappuccino and illicit mid afternoon chocolate bar” territory. I’m going to have my (second!) morning coffee, but will focus on a well balanced satisfying lunch. Not the usual protein + a few salad leaves nonsense. Something that actually nourishes me and makes me feel good. It’s the food version of self care. If I deprive myself of it, I binge. See the parallels?

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m trying to carve out some more time for writing. For me, reflection is growth. It’s my emotional yardstick. When I look back at some of my posts when I was drinking, I barely recognise the person contained within them. When I struggle nowadays, reading one of those anguished entries makes me grateful for how far I’ve come. Hopefully blogging through this 21 day challenge will help in a similar way.

Happy Tuesday lovely blogging friends.

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