Archive | June, 2015

States of Change

29 Jun

Thank you for all your wonderful responses to my last post. It was hard to write and hard to publish, but all those little voices from across the world that whispered encouragement and said “me too” have helped me so much.

I don’t know where to begin with what to say next. I suppose I should start with an observation. It struck me this weekend as I was socialising that many people eat more than I do in an absent minded state. I’m actually pretty moderate with food most of the time, even what I would consider a “binge” many people wouldn’t bat an eyelid at. And here comes the parallel with drinking: it’s not about what or how much, it’s about how it makes you feel. And how I feel about my relationship with sugar, to put it delicately, makes me feel like shit.

I think I wrote last year somewhere on this blog that I felt that my issues with food were such that unless I addressed them, and quit my enemies (namely sugar) that I would continue endlessly in the circle of doom. Just as I once likened my alcohol issue to the myth of Sisyphus, endlessly pushing a rock up a hill only  for it to tumble down to the bottom, I suspected it may be the same with food. Almost a year on, I now know this to be the case. But how to make a change?

I was thinking this morning of the ‘Stages of Change’ model, and trying to work out which stage I’m at: the phases go: Pre-Contempaltion, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Maintenance and relapse can happen at any stage in this process. I think I’m somewhere between Preparation and Action, dancing the line between those two phases, with a healthy dose of ‘Relapse’ for good measure.

I think I’m partly feeling stuck because I don’t know what success would look like. With alcohol, it was quite simply a case of putting down the drink. The emotional implications of doing so were of course more complex, but once I’d mastered the not drinking bit, the rest fell into place. With food, the honest reality is that 75% of my intake is very good. I love healthy food. I love exercise. And yet in that 25% portion where I don’t comply to my idea of ‘good eating’, I go wild.

Now here’s an interesting thing. Most notions of healthy eating operate using the 80:20 rule, which is a pleasant and balanced way to exist. I’ve tried to aim for this. I’ve done a whole year of trying to do that. But it is increasingly becoming apparent that ‘moderation’ does not appear to work. But the alternative, 100% compliance with a healthy eating plan scares me because I perceive it as restrictive. What if I were to perceive it as a gift to myself? Would that help? Can I manage that? That shift of perception? I want to work on doing so.

I could write for hours on this subject but I must go to work. So for now, I’ll continue to try and bash my way through this knotty problem- any thoughts and experience on the matter are very welcome.



25 Jun

When you come into recovery for alcoholism, every fibre of your being is focused on staying sober. Every moment feels like you are inching your way through the day, willing yourself to get your head on the pillow that night.

Each and every time I tried and failed to get sober, I was getting distracted by other things; trying to maintain a carbon copy of my drinking social life, trying to lose weight, the list went on. So when I finally decided I needed to give sobriety my everything in January 2014, it became my sole focus. Everything I did was designed to support my sobriety, to kindle that little sober flame that I’d carelessly blown out so many times in the past.

I have had some absolutely wonderful  experiences in the (nearly) 18 months since I had my last drink.  I’ve had moments of clarity and joy that I never could have imagined. I’ve achieved things I never thought possible when the cloud of alcohol was hanging over me. And yet there has been something rumbling on in the background of my sobriety that I haven’t been able or ready to address: my issues with food, body image and weight.

Many of you who have followed this blog from its inception will know that I came to writing it as a means of working through my food and body image issues. I’d had a form of anorexia for several years, started drinking as a way to cope with the anxiety it induced, and piled on weight from the alcohol calories. I looked like I had ‘recovered’ from anorexia, but little did I or anyone know that the healthier looking exterior was a mask for deeper problems, problems that would soon need addressing very seriously. My drinking got out of control- what I thought was a temporary crutch, a sticking plaster over the wound of my eating issues was revealed to be a dangerous and all-consuming disease in itself. I just couldn’t stop the cycle of drinking. It would drive me to depression, shame and a sense of all consuming entrapment. I didn’t want to drink, but I just couldn’t stop. I’d leave the house, hungover, crawl to work and tell myself that I wouldn’t drink anymore, that this was the last morning I’d endure in that desperate state. By 8pm, I’d be halfway through a bottle of wine and in my happy place, ready to think about lining up the second.

Getting sober has been absolutely transformative and yet, in the past fortnight I’ve had an absolute smack in the face. A realisation I can’t turn away from. It’s been rumbling under the surface for months, if not since the moment I got sober, but I still have SERIOUS issues with food and fixation upon weight that need to be addressed. I’d squished these down, and felt I was doing fine, most of the time. I had extreme highs in sobriety. and thought if I feel THIS good and have this real sense of spirituality that helps me stay sober, all must be ok, right?! Wrong, I unequivocally have symptoms, still, of an eating disorder. I engage in habits that are too painful and shameful for me to articulate. It shocks me to write this, because it’s only this week I’ve admitted it to myself.

Just as I was in denial about alcohol being an issue, pushing down those instinctive warning signals I was getting, I’ve been in denial about my issues in this area. I’ve written posts, throughout my sobriety, which have started to examine my troubled relationship with food and body image, but have left that examination at a surface level. I was in an AA meeting this week where it hit me, that food issues are almost as big a factor in my life as the alcohol; for the first time, it seemed strange to me that I have been addressing one and not the other.

I have a real issue with my body being a symbol of my alcoholism; I started my drinking a bag of bones and finished it in an entirely different body entirely. I have flesh on my bones that to me, symbolises the shame of my dual diseases: the starvation once endured followed by the alcohol-fuelled binges where I spiralled out of control. I look in the mirror and I don’t see the legs that have carried me through countless marathons, or the arms that can lift heavy weights. I see something entirely different- some days I catch sight of myself and feel like I must be wearing a different skin, a fat suit almost, that’s been layered over my ‘true’ body, the body of my pre-drinking days. I am SO confused about it all because if you were to look at me now, as an objective outsider, I have no idea what you would see. My notions of body image are so warped I have no idea what I actually look like. And my food consumption swings from absolute clean perfection to uncontrolled and destructive. I have no true sense of what I should be doing, how I should be feeling or what I should be eating to be my best self. I feel as confused as when I once wrote about alcohol clouding what I really want in life, I feel like this obsessive cycle I’m caught in is dragging me into the abyss once again.

Ugh, this is so hard to write.

But, if I’m to experience TRUE sobriety, I must tackle this head on. I must get help. Just as I used this blog to make me accountable with alcohol, I want to declare my other issues so that I can be accountable by outing myself once again.

I’m fearful of what this next turn in the road might lead to, but I know that I am on the right path.


16 Jun

There I was, minding my own business, dancing to ‘I love Rock n Roll’ that randomly came on the radio and WHAM, there was the devastating thought: I can never drink again.

That song reminds me of one of my earliest wild nights out, about 15 years old, dancing in a nightclub and feeling truly free, emboldened of course by my beloved alcohol. Around that age, I worked like an absolute swot during the week at school and let my hair down and got drunk on double vodka and cokes at the weekend. We used to go to a grimy rock club where I’d dance and sweat and kiss boys and it was wonderful.

My reality now is quite different, I get my kicks from elsewhere, mainly running and yes, the occasional kissing of boys (still, for shame.) I’m so happy with my sober life day to day and yet, that one simple thought has crushed me tonight.

I know in sobriety we’re supposed to take things day by day, to avoid thinking in the absolutes that might lead us back to the bottle, and yet tonight all I can think is: those wild days are over. And I crave the craziness. Just one more drunken night dancing. Just one. Please.

Yesterday I was listening to an episode of the Bubble Hour all about coping with the summer sober. As they were listing their sober tools that would get through each tricky moment and day, it hit me that it is an ABSOLUTE BLOODY MIRACLE I have managed to stay sober for over 500 days. Those early weeks and months are a monumental challenge and it’s not often I’m reminded how hard they were. I often thank my lucky stars I’m not back there, but I haven’t reflected on what it was like to commit for the first (few) few times to sobriety. How I counted the minutes of each sober day.

Their reflections on summer also took me back to vivid memories- one summer in particular stands out. Two years ago I had a wild June and July bouncing between ecstasy and depression. And this was the summer in which I tried and spectacularly failed my 1st 100 day challenge. The day when drinking knocked me down so spectacularly I felt for the first time in my soul that I’m an alcoholic. I wrote to a friend, reaching out for help, I started this blog and I sought out therapy. But I would have 6 more painful months of drinking before I would finally be able to stop.

The days were hot, I was newly single and alone and rebellious and unhappy and joyful all at the same time. I went on dates and got wildly drunk and felt confident for the first time since I could remember, a soaring sense of self-love followed by crushing shame the morning after. I remember long nights alone in Ibiza, when I finished a bottle of wine alone on the balcony at 1am, and went out clubbing, alone, just so I could drink more. That holiday was the first time I drank in the morning, having a bottle of fruity cider before lunch daily, to help me over the hangover. It didn’t count because it wasn’t *really* morning, it was *holiday morning* which is entirely different. I remember running out of money at a cash-only bar and being devastated. Desperately slurping some of my friend’s drink on the way back from our final trip to the bar so I could get some alcohol inside me.

These memories are precisely why I don’t drink, and though bitter, they still have a sweet appeal to me. Life feels so different now, so much better, and I have made so much progress. And yet, it’s still hard. I still wish I didn’t have this disease. I wish I could enjoy drinks and party like a normal person, but, in frank terms, I CANNOT do that, and I have other things in my life that truly fulfil me.

I’m running a race this weekend and safe to say this will be on my iPod, fresh and ready to create new memories…

Happy Tuesday!

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