Tag Archives: 100 day challenge

100 Days without alcohol

24 Apr

Today I’m celebrating 100 days without alcohol. I can’t quite believe I’ve got here, to be honest. I had so many aborted attempts, so many times of giving up, giving in and resetting to Day 1 I never thought I’d dig in and do it. But I have. And here’s what I’ve learnt:

Never Give Up- no matter how many Day 1s I had, I knew I wanted to give myself the chance to experience life alcohol free. It’s worth every moment of the struggle. It’s bloody hard, some days, but if I’d thrown in the towel I’d just be having to start over again. I want to keep up this sober momentum at all costs.  

I felt the benefits almost immediately– Within 2 weeks of being alcohol free, I was feeling SO much better physically. I was sleeping like a baby, I felt generally happier and I had bags of energy. 

My hair, skin and nails started shining within a month– I just LOOKED so much better within the first 4-5 weeks. People would tell me how great my skin looked, and having always suffered with rosecea, I was thrilled when it finally died down. One of the most frequent search terms that leads people to my blog is, hilariously, about losing a puffy face when you stop drinking. Well if you’re here looking to stop face puffiness, PUT DOWN THE WINE. My face slimming down has made me look like I’ve lost half a stone. I’m quite slim, but my chipmunk swollen face was making me feel really fat. All it took was removing the alcohol. 

Weight loss needs to go out of the window for the first 3 months– this is the bit no-one wants to hear. When I first started this blog, I was all about the weight loss. I knew the sole reason I’d put on weight from previously being super-skinny was drinking and bingeing when drunk, so I thought if I removed the wine and trained for 2 marathons whilst doing it, those pounds would drop off. Not true. I’ve actually gained a few pounds. This is due to an increased sugar intake, and needing to actually start eating dinner in the evening rather than skipping it in favour of wine. Having previously suffered from an eating disorder, I can honestly say my eating is the healthiest and most balanced its ever been. My body is strong from all the marathon training. I’m not 100% happy with how I look, as I know changing up my diet and training will shift some of the extra fat I’m carrying, but that will come in time. I cannot express how difficult it was for me to wrap my head round not losing weight but now I’m in a slightly more stable place with my sobriety, it’s the next thing I’m going to address. I’d rather be sober than skinny. 

Put your sobriety before everything else– Before losing weight, before socialising, hell, before your job if needs be. I got signed off work for a week or so in my first few weeks of early sobriety and it was the best gift I could have given myself. I had the chance to take time for myself, get into a sober routine and not run myself ragged by trying to work AND be sober AND marathon train. I’ve adjusted my social life- I still go to most parties and nights out, but I’ve got better at hearing the warning signals in my own head. If I’m in danger of drinking, I just leave. Out the door, sharpish. I’m so much happier with my social life because I choose how long I want to stay at an event, rather than hanging around just to drink or drinking my way through a boring night.

Find a sober ritual- In very early sobriety, I started doing two things before I went to bed. Lighting a ridiculously overpriced but gorgeous scented candle and writing a gratitude list. I found these two simple things so incredibly soothing as I gave myself time to dwell on the gift of a sober day. There’s nothing lovelier than that moment you’re truly happy to be sober and thanks to this ritual, I have that moment nightly. 

Treat yourself, but not as a direct reward for being sober– Bear with me on this one, this is just my experience and view, but I think it’s an important one to share. A lot of the sober blogging world quite rightly focuses on treats and thinking as you have one ‘this is my reward for being sober.’ I buy into this, great, treat yourself definitely. BUT what I struggled with was the idea that this was instead of treating myself with wine. Thinking ‘this is my treat for getting sober’ made me think ‘well wine would be a more fun treat.’ Classic wolfie voice madness.

When I shifted the notion of treats ever so slightly over to self care, it was transformative for me. Really, they’re exactly the same thing, saying ‘I value myself and I’m going to give myself this pleasurable experience because I deserve pleasure in my life’, but that very subtle shift in thinking for me. It’s helped me break the association of wine = pleasure and think about how the small pleasures I enjoy daily wouldn’t exist if I was pouring wine into my system. 

3 months is at once a lifetime and no time at all- in some senses, 100 days has DRAGGED. I feel like I’ve been sober forever. Battling often, being ecstatic frequently. But I’ve got so so far to go. For me, reaching this target is nice, but in all honesty, I have to learn to live this way forever. I’ve tried moderation, I’ve tried drinking again after a period of abstinence and I’ve found myself right back at where I started. I’ve lost all my sober zen the very second I pick up a drink. What I have is too precious to give up.

It’s hard work– being a grown up and dealing with emotions is HARD. Who knew?! I need to keep working away to learn new ways to cope. As readers of this blog know, I struggle ALOT with being sober, with not jacking it all in. But I’ve stuck with it and I’m feeling a million times better than I did on day 1.

A thought is just a thought– I’ve fantasised about drinking a million times in the past 100 days. I blog here about ‘being close’ to taking a drink. But on reflection, that’s not strictly true. I’ve never actually seriously made any move towards taking a drink. I haven’t had to walk away from a bar where I was about to order or put down a bottle of wine in the supermarket. On the surface, I feel like it’s a constant struggle to stay sober but actually, deep down something has clicked and I know that I’m not in REAL danger. Of course I have to be vigilant. Of course that urge will always be there, but I now know that a thought is not an action, and I keep those niggling ideas that a drink would be just fabulous right now locked up in the confines of my chattering brain.

Try anything once– I thought that AA wasn’t for me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I can honestly say it’s been the single biggest factor in getting me sober. I’d been blogging for around a year, tried the 100 Day Challenge innumerable times and never been sober for more than 40 days. The moment I walked into my first AA meeting I knew I was in the right place. This was not a feeling I expected to have. AA has become my anchor. No matter how antsy I get, how quickly my mind is running towards a dark place, if I get myself to a meeting I experience the same relief I got from picking up a drink. As a constant relief-seeker, I feel like I’ve struck gold. I go to around 3 meetings a week, more if I need it, and it’s amazing. I feel a real sense of community, joy, laughter and the wealth of experience in those rooms is incredible. Of course some days people share and I want to walk straight out of there, thinking YOU ARE A PROPER ALCOHOLIC I AM NOT, but mostly, I love it. 

Alcoholic is just a word- I believe I am an alcoholic. I couldn’t have said this a few months ago. Because of the stigma surrounding the word, it’s become a dirty thing to say. The friends I’ve told about being in AA have been so shocked at the notion I identify as an alcoholic. But what makes me one, in my eyes is the following: I get caught in a cycle of drinking much more than I want to, once alcohol enters my veins I need more, my drinking increased to dangerous levels, drinking was seriously affecting my mental and physical health yet I could not stop, I maintained a lovely looking life on the outside, knowing alcohol was eroding my inside and the only thing that has got me sober is identifying 100% as an alcoholic. I really like the idea of having an allergy to alcohol. It’s not a moral failure, having a drinking problem, as I once thought. It’s just a socially inconvenient truth I need to get my head round. 

Emotional sobriety is the most important thing for me to learn- I didn’t understand, before AA, why I drank. I didn’t understand that the characteristics I’ve battled with my whole life (being over sensitive, over achieving, people pleasing to name just a few) are at the heart of the addictive personality. Before I started seriously drinking 2 years ago, I had other terrible coping behaviours to get me out of my own head. Starving myself. Running obsessively until my legs could no longer support my weight. Now, I’ve got a set of tools to learn how to cope with being me. In all honesty, if tomorrow I was suddenly granted the gift of moderation and could drink normally, I’d still go to AA. What I learn there is basically How to Be a Human Being. 

Just get through the day– The key to my sobriety so far has been bargaining with myself that I won’t drink today. It’s age old stuff, the ‘one day at a time’ notion, Belle’s ‘Not Today’ idea, but it works. If I can get myself through one tough day, I’m much more likely to get through the next. I never wake up in the morning feeling worse than I went to bed, and I always wake up feeling a million times better. So grateful for being sober. 

So here I am. What next? More of the same, I think. I can see battles ahead, as the initial excitement of getting sober subsides, but I also see great moments of sunshine and light and I cannot wait to see what’s round the corner. 

 

Glowing not Sparkling

23 Feb

I’ve had a lovely weekend. I went to 2 gigs ran 20 miles on a beautiful spring day and napped a lot.

On paper, it was fantastic. I really enjoyed it. I felt so grateful to be sober. 

My energy levels are through the roof and JESUS I looked at my nails this afternoon and they are shiny! I never even knew nails could be shiny! I’m the “vision of health”, as a colleague put it, which made me feel pretty great!

BUT. 

But I miss the confidence boost drinking gave me. I went to the gig last night with a man I’ve being seeing for months, a really strange Friends with Benefits situation that has evolved. I enjoy his company, but I’m not 100% relaxed around him. Like so often when we go out, last night I wished I could drink so that the conversation would flow more freely, so I could dance less self consciously. 

And then I realised that I’m not a quiet person around the RIGHT people. Around the right people I’m chatty and bubbly. Around the wrong people (read: wrong men) I get quiet and a little withdrawn and want the artificial boost of booze to make me be more me. A better, shinier sparklier me. 

I know this man isn’t right for a relationship and we enjoy each other’s occasional company without any emotional side effects. I’m happy with things as they are, in part because it’s fulfilling the need for male company and stopping me seeking out a “proper” relationship which I know would be a threat to my sobriety right now. Whilst it’s fun, we both acknowledge we’re each others stop gap people, and that’s probably not very healthy. 

If I’m going to be sober long term, I need to surround myself with people that make me feel whole without the booze. Of course there will always be work/family/friendship situations where you feel a little “less than”, a need for the kind of boost that alcohol gave us. That’s just life and the natural ebbs and flows of confidence that come with it. But I never want to hide behind booze again when getting to know someone new. I want them to like me for who I am, not the Merlot Mask I’m wearing. 

This is all a work in progress. I’ll keep tabs on this man situation and stay in touch with how it’s making me feel. If he needs to go, he needs to go.

40 days sober today. It feels bloody brilliant. 

1 month

10 Dec

Today I’m 30 days sober.

I honestly never thought I could get to this point, but with some hard work, bloody mindedness and amazing support, I’ve got here and feel I can just keep on going.

It makes SENSE for me to be sober now- I get so much pleasure from it (most of the time), socialise better, respect and trust myself more and have more fun.

Last night was my work Christmas party which I’ve been dreading. I work in a boozy industry with boozy colleagues and was terrified of how I might be pressured to drink, so had all my excuses and sneaky tactics to hide the fact I wasn’t drinking ready.

A couple of things I wasn’t expecting happened. Firstly, half my office was ill, which meant the pre-party spirit was subdued, which meant I was in for an easier ride than I expected.

Secondly, I noticed that I was the only person with a non-alcoholic drink in hand, but that people who were drinking had such different behaviour to how I remembered people behaving around me when I was drinking- my drinking seems to have distorted my view of what other people were doing. They were drinking so much less than I thought they were…

What you realise when you stop is the way other people drink, and you can spot the alcoholics (although they may not know it yet) and the normies. I’ll say it again. People drink so much less than you think they do. I can’t believe how I used to knock back glasses of wine faster than the men drinking bottled beer.

I had a few “is this forever?!” moments when I caught the sweet smell of champagne, and decided that I’m not ready to think about forever, but I am ready to accept that right now, this is the best possible thing I could do for myself.

A very happy 30 day milestone for me and a few big challenges navigated.

Happy Tuesday!

Gifts of Sobriety

7 Dec

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After a shocker of a week where my emotions have been all over the place, today I feel unbelieveably calm. In this sober journey, it seems my emotions are shifting much more quickly between extremes. 

Today, as I inch towards a month sober, I’ve become very aware of all the gifts of sobriety that I’ve encountered over the past month. 

It’s list time! IlLove a good list to reflect back on when I’m feeling like I want to dive face first into a vat of wine…

1) The notion of being kind to yourself has been a lifesaver. I honestly think that in my 27 years I have never, ever practised being kind to myself. Life has been a constant exercise in achievement and self improvement, and never just doing what serves me. I’ve started to do this and OH MY GOD IT’S AMAZING. Life is just so much simpler when you listen to your own wants and needs. It’s been critical to my recovery and might be the biggest lesson I get out of this whole sobriety lark. 

2) Time– when you don’t drink you get huge lumps of time back, which at first are scary, but if you use them wisely are so amazing. For one thing, I no longer turn down invitations at the weekend because I’m not scheduling hungover time. HUNGOVER TIME?! What madness was that?! I actually used to account for it in my plans as if it was a legitimate use of time. I’ve done so much this month, despite the off days, the battles and the white-knuckling it moments. 

3) Passions– I’ve rediscovered things I love doing, outside drinking and running- before, if I wasn’t doing one you could be damn sure I’d be doing the other. I feel in touch with my former self, before emotional drinking got in the way. 

4) Eating– I’ve been strictly observing the HALT rules and I realised that I haven’t fed myself properly or responded to hunger for the best part of 10 years. Yes I’ve unleashed the sugar monster and have some new work to do on my diet to get it to be balanced again, but the feeling of (mainly) nourishing my body rather than merely repairing it after alcohol abuse is foreign and bloody brilliant. 

5) Autumn– I’m so glad I’m doing my first month sober in Autumn. Autumn is my spring- every year I take stock at this time of year, relish the changing colours and the cold weather. I have created my little sober cocoon in the room I drank so much in and feel genuinely content in the low light and candles, nice and cosy, drinking my tea or soda water. 

6) Sleep– who knew I could get so much sleep?! I’ve been sleeping 7-8 hours every night which is unheard of. I can tune into my natural rhythms and recognise being tired and deal with that, rather than drinking through it. HU-RAH for sleep. 

7) Socialising- I’ve had so much fun when I’ve been socialising sober, and rocking the sober tiara makes me feel amazing. The triumph of getting through a party until 4am last weekend has not only reminded me I have loads of fun sober, it’s also reminded me socialising sober is preferable- you remember things people have told you, have meaningful conversations! What novelty! What fun!

8) Support- I am so grateful for the support network I have found in this journey, everyone has been amazing in their wisdom and patience. When I was struggling with questioning my alcohol issues alone, I always came to the conclusion that I was fine, and should drink through the worry. It’s such a comfort and help that we’re not alone in this weird struggle that has become such a big part of our lives. 

9) My body– I have abused my body in so many ways over the years. On that last day of drinking when I felt my liver hurt I knew that something really had to change. I’ve really focused on listening to my body which encompasses so many of the positive lessons I’ve learnt above, and my body is thanking me. My eyes, which were yellow, are white again. The redness of my face has calmed. My puffy face has slimmed down. I have more energy and get the warning signs when I’m too tired. Weight loss hasn’t come yet, but it’s more important at the moment for me to biff wolfie on the nose by deploying my Secret Sobriety Weapon (a Cadbury’s Twirl) than it is to lose weight. Weight loss will come if I continue on this path and learn to listen to my body. I had an amazing realisation this morning that chocolate aside, I naturally eat healthily and do alot of exercise- at some point, my body will get to the weight it’s supposed to be, whether it’s my shape now, thinner or even a bit heavier. And I’m ok with that. I’ve had enough of keeping my weight artificially low, of suppressing my emotions with alcohol, and at 27 days sober, I feel ready to be authentically me, warts and all. 

Pretty bloody exciting eh?

What’s your biggest gift sobriety has given? I’m so excited about what might happen over the next weeks and months I’d love to hear your stories…

 

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. 

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!

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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.

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