Tag Archives: AA

How AA Changed my Life

26 Dec

What a luxury to have time to post! I’m enjoying the space that Christmas brings to think and reflect, and of course, my mind is coming back again and again to how I have got and stayed sober.

Someone who has been following this blog asked for help this morning and as I responded, I found myself writing about what changed for me the final time I put down the drink.

I’ve written about how AA has worked for me previously, but I want to document it again, because its power has, for me, been overwhelming.

When I found the blogging world I rejoiced because all of a sudden, I found people who I could relate to, who drank like I did. I would NEVER have called myself an alcoholic. I was just someone whose drinking had got painful and out of control. I looked around at the women wiring these blog and thought “this is it! there’s a breed of people just like me who aren’t proper alcoholics.”

I confess, whilst finding the blogging world was a godsend on one hand, on the other, it initially turned me off more traditional recovery methods. I saw an undercurrent feeling which defined this kind of sobriety as a (perhaps preferable?) route to living without the drink, a stance of “we don’t fit AA and we’ve found a way to get sober on our own.” This alternative way that wasn’t necessarily anti-AA, but somehow felt like a more Middle Class & intellectual way of getting sober. This approach to getting sober was at first encouraging as I witnessed person after person stopping drinking through their own strength and the help of the blogging community. Writing out and working through my problems as others around me were doing seemed a perfect solution. And yet, when I kept failing to get sober, I saw it somehow as a lack of strength- if these women around me could do it, why couldn’t I?

I remember vividly reading something on Soberistas & their related literature which positioned that community as an AA-alternative, for those who didn’t fit AA or didn’t want to go. Because of my ego and image of myself as an intelligent young woman, I aligned myself more with a community like Soberistas than to AA. And yet it didn’t get me sober. And I suspect, for me, it never would have done.

When I finally dragged myself to an AA meeting through sheer desperation, it felt like Coming Home. I have NEVER in my entire life experienced a sensation like I did that day. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief wash over me as I knew that not only was everything going to be ok, but that I had found my people. People who on the surface came in all shapes, sizes and from all strata of society. But who underneath were just different shades of the same colour that is my essence. From that day onwards, there was a solution for me that actually worked. Almost a year on, ‘the compulsion to drink has been removed’ just as they promise and I have found a great group of friends.

And more than just stopping me from drinking, working through the programme and 12 steps has helped me in ALL aspects of my life. My relationships are improving, my spirituality has grown into an ever-present comfort blanket, the lifetime undercurrent of anxiety I have felt has subsided. Little did I know when I walked into that room that declaring myself an alcoholic would answer a question I’ve had my whole life: ‘why do I feel different?’

I knew from when I was very small that I was a super-sensitive soul, and as I grew into my teenage years, the gaping chasm of nothingness I felt sometimes threatened to topple me. Here, in AA, I had found a group of people who understood these feelings and have found a way to work through them. Therapy hadn’t worked, self help books hadn’t worked, but sitting in a cold room with friendly faces and terrible coffee turned out to be my lifeline.

My sense of a ‘higher power’ is a fluid one. Sometimes it’s a ‘God’ in the more traditional sense, who has a life plan for us. Sometimes it’s a less tangible spirituality that I draw strength from. Whatever form it takes doesn’t matter. Stepping outside myself and believing there’s more to the universe than the strength (or otherwise) of my own will has been transformative.

I hear over and over again people saying they won’t go to AA because of ‘the God stuff.’ I felt the same. And yet here I am, having found great comfort and fortitude in the notion of a higher power

I’m not writing this post to preach or to push AA- one of the traditions of the programme is that its appeal is through “attraction not promotion.’ But I wanted to put pen to paper to articulate the amazing diversion my life has taken since coming in. It has been an overwhelmingly positive experience, and I DID NOT WANT TO GO. I thought it would be the last place that would help me, but it turns out that when I get off my high horse, it’s the place I feel most at home.

Happy Boxing Day to you All

5 months sober

14 Jun

Today is my 5 month soberversary. 

I’m so glad to be here, life is so much easier than it was 5 months ago, when I was caught in the cycle of stop-start-stop drinking. 

I often list what I’ve learnt at key milestones in my sobriety, or the benefits of being off the sauce, but to keep me focused on not taking my sobriety for granted, today I want to write about the challenges:

  • Remembering I have a problem– when I’m going about my daily business and enjoying life, it’s so easy to forget what a hold alcohol had on me. Even as I type that sentence, I catch myself. ‘Did I *really* have a problem or was I being dramatic?’ Recognising these thoughts is so important. If I have any doubt I had a problem, I just read over the early posts of this blog, or go and sit in a room of other alcoholics, all of whom I relate to. I always giggle when I remember my first chair at AA, and how everyone nodded along. If there is any greater confirmation of your alcoholism than a room full of alcoholics relating in many and varied ways, I’d like to see it…
  • Not drinking is easy, life is the hard bit– Now I’m in the habit of not drinking, the daily struggle to avoid booze is no longer there. YES I have thoughts of drinking, YES I wish I could drink, but I don’t have to physically stop myself picking up a bottle of wine any more. The problem is the emotions. The thinking patterns I have. Those are the challenge that I will always have to deal with. Alcohol helped nothing. I am so much better equipped to deal with life now.
  • This is part of who I am– almost daily I wish I wasn’t an alcoholic. I sometimes hate it so much it makes me want to sit down in the middle of the street and weep. But it’s just in my make up. If I had diabetes or a heart condition or asthma I’d have to accept it. This is another medical condition that is unfortunate, but part of my reality now. And really, when I reflect on the past couple of years, alcohol took a hold of me at the best possible time for me to deal with it. I had the space to deal with the problem, and if I continue to deal with it daily, I can continue my new improved life without a self imposed road-block slowing me down. 
  • Not drinking marks me out as different- our culture is so alcohol-centric, not drinking feels really strange sometimes. I wish I could, but I can’t. Most people accept this and if they don’t, then I have to consider my relationship to them. I wish I could join in the drunken fun sometimes, but the truth is, I enjoy myself more sober. Being sober and on a night out is FAB when you’re in the right frame of mind and if you’re not, well, maybe you should just go home and tuck yourself up in bed. I need to do the latter more rather than stoically riding out shitty nights just to please others. I’m trying to OWN my sobriety, wear it with pride and inspire others. Sometimes I feel it, some days I don’t, but if I make it a positive part of my identity rathe than a shameful secret, that will help me long term.
  • Drinking was fun– as lots of very wise bloggers have said, it was fun until it wasn’t fun any more. I remember the brilliant moments more than I remember the shit ones. The destructive drinking I did was almost always alone, but towards the end I’d opt out of the group nights out because I didn’t want to have to control my drinking. That doesn’t sound much fun to me. Consuming 2 bottles of wine alone doesn’t sound much fun. Nor does constantly calling in sick because of hangovers. I need to stop romanticising drinking and recalling the reality rather than memories from a different drinking time.
  • Complacency only causes me problems- some days I forget the importance of begin proactive to stay sober, not reading the blogs as much, not going to meetings. If I prioritise other things, I’ll drink again. Sobriety is an ongoing process, with no end to it. 
  • Not everything is perfect in sobriety– I’m still me with my flaws and problems, if fact I’m MORE me, which is even scarier. But I’d choose scary sobriety over miserable drinking every day.

Happy Saturday!

 

 

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: http://www.lifebuzz.com/start-doing/#!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….

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?

90 Days and Confused

14 Apr

Today I’m 90 days sober. Three whole months. It simultaneously feels a lifetime and no time at all.

In AA, 90 days is one of the magic numbers. They tell you to try and go to 90 meetings in 90 days when coming into recovery (which quite frankly is ridiculous if you have a job and a life…) but I understand that this is a guard against relapse in early recovery. A stabilising phase to get the drink out of your system and build recovery into your daily life.

Tonight I’ll collect my 90 day chip and will treasure it close to my heart. Without this sobriety, I erode myself from the inside out and I need to remember that.

But If I’m really honest, this past weekend I’ve felt the least stable in my sobriety I’ve been since those first few painful weeks. I’m finding it really bloody hard to reconcile myself to the fact I can’t drink. This weekend I was SO close. I had a major case of The Fuck Its and do you know what really scared me? I didn’t reach out to anyone for help. I didn’t want to. I just sat through the urge, white knuckling my way through a weekend of people drinking around me.

It was such an emotional weekend. I’m starting to get scared about sharing too many details about my life, but I spent the weekend at an event that was a non-stop overpouring of emotion everywhere around me. It was 48 hours of love, positivity and joy, and this made me want to drink. To heighten the emotion. To get that drunk high that comes before the fall. I just wanted to feel MORE than I did, feel the booze coursing through my veins and get a bit high on alcohol-enhanced life.

This was exacerbated by having a bit of a love interest enter my life. It’s someone who I, who I met through one of my hobbies for the first time last weekend and we spent the last two days together. I’m having that nervous/excited ‘does he like me? Do I like him? What might happen?!’ first stages of potential romance thing. This is compounded by my sober confusion ‘should I be thinking about a relationship now? Will it make me less stable? Do I really like him or just *think* I like him because I want some excitement in my life?’ No idea. I’ll have to sit tight on this.

We were out drinking two nights in a row and of course I didn’t drink, but I felt if I had, it might have moved things on a bit. One of the things I miss about drinking is that false intimacy it creates. Booze’s ability to smooth over the nerves and let you relax into a night. I’ve become a bit obsessed with dating sober, worrying about how I’ll do it, agonising over how I’ll miss sharing wine over a meal. Getting drunk and silly together. I brought this up with my therapist last week and she said, with a bite of much needed sarcasm and a dollop of tough love: ‘How terrible to have to enter a relationship being the authentic you. What a hardship’. We laughed together about it, but she’s absolutely right. The choices I would make regarding men when drunk are very different to the choices I would make sober. I’m scared to make these kinds of decisions sober, I think, because it means I have time to think harder about what I’m getting myself into, how it will serve me and what my deep down intuition is  telling me. As my therapist would say, how terrible! Poor me for having to think and act in my best interests!

I talked to my flatmate last night about all these feelings I’m having around missing out because of alcohol, and he said something that’s been absolutely revelatory in my sober journey. We have a phrase in Britain that sometimes precedes a compliment: ‘I don’t want to blow smoke up your arse but [insert compliment here]’ which he used and made me giggle. He didn’t want to blow smoke up my arse BUT I’m not one of those people who needs alcohol to socialise. He pointed out that I’m really sociable, have lots of great friends who would do anything for me and have a job that absolutely relies on my social skills. If there’s anyone who can navigate dating sober it’s you, he told me. And I know there’s truth in that.

There’s also truth in the fact that my life is just so much better when I don’t drink. I’m happier, more productive, more emotionally stable (most of the time), I have self-esteem and ambition again. So why the urge?

My flatmate made the very good point that I’m still so early in this journey. It would be worrying if I felt that I had it all worked out by now. The emotional pain of working through every new situation without turning to drink when it gets too tricky is a character building experience and I’ll continue to learn from it, getting stronger  every time I push through.

I’ve come so far from that morning in January when I lay shaking on my couch, knowing that the only thing I could do was surrender completely to AA. That this time, things really did have to be different. I’ve got 3 whole months behind me of waking up so grateful to be sober and even though the self-destructive impulse still comes on strong with alarming frequency, I value myself in a way I didn’t before. I’ve blogged before about how the Higher Power idea of AA really works for me, and since I got sober, so many things have happened that make it seem like the universe is screaming at me: ‘LOOK AT ALL THESE PEOPLE WHO THINK YOU’RE GREAT! LISTEN TO THEM!’ This sounds like I’m blowing smoke up my own arse (!) but in all honesty, in the last months I’ve found myself in situations where on 3 separate occasions people have made public speeches about how much they value me in their lives, how much of an inspiration I am to them. Honestly. And they had no idea I’m in recovery. They just felt the need to say ‘Hey! Well done for being you.’ Wow. This never happens outside the movies. If this isn’t the universe giving me a big sign to stop being so down on myself the whole time, I don’t know what is.

I’ll keep on moving forwards, keep on feeling the uncomfortable feeling of authenticity of being 100% myself and grow through it.

 

Letter to My Drinking Self

4 Apr

I’ve been having a bit of a down week. Nothing in particular has triggered it, and I’ve really been enjoying my work, so I’m not sure what’s up. I’m feeling fat, unattractive and a little bit lonely. I’ve thrown myself into AA and that’s great, but it means I’ve withdrawn from my normal social circles a bit. I’m also feeling the pain of being single- sometimes all you need at the end of a long day is someone to cuddle with.

I’ve just generally been a bit down on my sobriety- I love being sober, but I keep thinking to myself that I’ve been dramatic about the whole thing. You know, the wolfie voice…’ I wasn’t that bad, why am I making such a big deal out of it, sobriety is selfish…’ Blah blah.

So as a bit of an arse kicking exercise ahead of Sunday’s marathon, I thought I’d do myself a little kind thing for myself. You know those ‘Letters to my teenage self’ that you see occasionally online? Well I’m writing one to myself today, from myself 6 months ago. Does that make sense? Writing it I had to jump between me now and former me, so I hope it’d not too confusing to read!

Dear FFF (2014 edition),

Look at you, guuuuurrrl! You’re 80 days sober today. That’s 11 weeks. That is AWESOME. You’ve never strung together more than 42 days, and getting there was hell. You’re doing this sober thing right now- you’re right in the middle of it. You haven’t been this sober since you were 13! Think on that a moment.

Sitting where I am, I want what you have. I’m a failure. I can’t stay sober, it’s too hard. I can’t stop drinking. I want to numb more than I do to be sober. What the fuck is wrong with me? You can do it, I’m watching you. Why can’t I do it NOW?

You’ve learnt from all my mistakes. Every mistake I’m making I can see is helping you equip your sober toolbox, one tool at a time. This makes me feel better about all the stupid stumbles I’m making. Maybe one day all my pain really will be worth it.

You feel fat. I feel fat too. But look at you! Your skin is glowing, your nails are so shiny, your eye bags are gone and your drinkers puffy face has disappeared. Trust me when I say you look the best you have in years. Stop thinking back fondly to The Skinny Days. You were ill, remember? You never ate any food that wasn’t salad. You hated yourself then, and guess what? You felt fat then too.

You’re doing so well. Don’t let a silly idea of what your weight should be drag you down- you’re worth more than that.

And your job! You were so frustrated, knew something had to change. Right now, I’m stuck in a cycle of exhaustion, drinking to get over it and moving nowhere fast. I’ve had so many sick days when hungover. I feel like the biggest fraud in the world- work think I’m fabulous but I know I’m just treading water. I wonder what I could achieve if I just removed alcohol from my life? You’ve shown me what can be done. You got sober and found the job of your dreams. You know there’s a challenging road ahead, and that the job will be physically and emotionally draining. BUT you have always been driven by scary challenges, ever since you were little. Drinking just dulled that inherent drive in you for a few years. And I can feel that first hand…All I’m driven by at the moment is the will to get through the day.

I can’t believe you had the courage to go to AA. It was so brave to walk into that room of scary looking men and sit and weep. To go back into that room again after drinking just a few days after your first meeting, feeling a fraud and a failure. To walk through scary, unknown doors all around the city day after day, humbling yourself and saying the words ‘I’m FFF and I’m an alcoholic.’

Nobody wants to grow up to be an alcoholic, and if they do they certainly don’t want to accept it. You have. You’ve put the work in and it’s paying off. From where I’m standing, where you are looks pretty damn amazing.

You’ve come so far. Don’t let a little low mood and some negative self talk get you down. Run round that marathon on Sunday head held high, feeling proud. You’ve earnt everything you have. And if sobriety gets easier with time, your exciting journey is only just beginning.

Yours with love,

FFF (September 2013 Edition)

I feel better already writing that.

If you had to write a letter from your drinking self to your sober self, what would it say? If you want to write a letter in the comments or email it to me at fitfatfoodblog@gmail.com and I’ll compile them into a blog post so we can all rejoice in how far we’ve come 🙂

 

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