Tag Archives: Addiction

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

Addictive Daughter

5 Jun

I love Addictive Daughter, two twenty-somethings in the UK whose goal is to : ‘lovingly guide you through your Quarter-Life Crisis (& inspire you to create a better life for yourself than you ever dreamed was possible. In other words, we’re here to help you get addicted to the good stuff.’ 

They talk openly about their bad addictive habits that they had to kick (alcohol, drugs, casual sex, shopping) and are great young, fun proponents of living a good sober life. 

Today I am feeling particularly shit. I’ve had a tension headache for 4 days, I’m having a nightmare with my flat buying situation and no-where permanent to live, and my job is stressful.

I clicked on their site this morning to get an injection of loveliness, and there was just what I needed to see, a vlog on celebrating your little achievements of the past 6 months. 

When I look back at mine, I have done ALOT. I have got sober, run a marathon, found my dream job (which obviously I now moan about), have moved flat (albeit into a temporary one), have embedded myself in AA, have been able to stand on my own two feet without therapy and have gone self-employed. 

These are all big things. Why don’t I let myself have them? Why do I focus on the stuff that’s making me feel shitty? 

Yesterday I felt so much stress my chest hurt, like my heart was aching. This is a HUGE warning signal that I need to chill the fuck out. I need to try to accept the things I cannot control that are causing me stress (namely my seemingly doomed flat purchase) and to stay thankful for all the amazing things I do have. 

I’d highly recommend everyone has a little squiz around the Addictive Daughter site, particularly if you can relate to the ‘Quarter life crisis’ idea. To me, being in your twenties and trying to work out who you are and what your place is in the world whilst still having to act as an adult is wayyyyyy harder than puberty. I feel like a child and an adult simultaneously. And when you throw trying to come to terms with being an alcoholic into the mix when everyone else is out living the drinking life, it feels tough.

But I’m here, I’m sober and I’m working on my shit. 

Let’s hope the dark storm turns and I can get back into the Sober Sunny Place I love so much.

 

 

Fat Loss

28 Apr

So, weight loss has always been a big part of why I wanted to quit drinking. It’s simply not possible to drink like I was and shift the pounds. But, as I blogged last week when I hit 100 days, losing weight in early sobriety isn’t a given. In fact, weight gain is a distinct possibility. 

As I shared last week, much to my surprise, I found when stopping drinking that weight loss is REALLY insignificant in the big picture. I’m sober, I have much better self esteem and my life is slowly changing in a million imperceptible and important ways. 

I say all of this, but of course I am about to tell you how I am going about losing weight and how much time and effort is going into it. Why so contradictory?

More than my size being an issue, I definitely feel my eating was out of control during early sobriety in a way that it never has been before. Nothing was restricted. I ate what I needed to stay sober and sane, and some days that meant ALOT of sugar. There were times, to be honest, where I binged with the out of control feeling I had during my bulimic episodes, but without the volume of food or making myself sick, thank goodness. 

Sugar became addictive for me and unlike a former me who would have a tiny taste of chocolate and then stop, when I started, I didn’t want to stop and it was an EFFORT not to crack open a second bar. Sound familiar?

I felt at times that I was just transferring the addiction to alcohol, but didn’t over analyse and just gave myself time. I knew I had to get the diet thing on lock down, but I needed to wait until I was truly ready to do it. To go cold turkey on sugar. 

Well, as I was approaching Day 100, I decided I did feel ready. I enlisted a nutritionist friend to do me a plan designed for slow, safe fat loss. As someone who has had serious issues around restriction in the past, I needed to be 100% sure what I was embarking on was safe. I also train a lot to keep myself sane, so I knew that would buy me some extra calories, without having the constant fatigue and low level hunger that comes with marathon training. 

I’ve just completed my first 7 days on the plan and I feel FANTASTIC. The diet basically consists of shit loads of good food. It’s low carb, with carbs taken mainly after training sessions to make sure the glycogen stores are replenished. I was very very wary of low carb (does anyone else hear that word and think a) NOOOOOOOOOO and b) Atkins! Yuck?!) but its working brilliantly. My energy levels are steady, my hunger levels are negligible and I’m having zero cravings for sugary stuff.

A typical day’s eating on a workout day looks like this:

  • Interval Training session (fasted, upon waking) 
  • Protein Pancakes (made with oats and banana for carbs)
  • Snack
  • Protein based meal with veg (e.g salmon and broccoli, chicken stir fry)
  • Snack
  • Protein based dinner v similar to lunch. 

On a non exercise day, it would be similar, but without the carby breakfast. 

On paper this looks BLOODY BORING but the recipes my nutritionist has given me are fantastic. I’m enjoying feeling more in control of my food intake by making time to cook and eat good food, and it’s forming part of my self care routine. I’m in a position at the moment where work is quiet and I have the opportunity to form good habits, which I’m seizing before I get crazily busy as is going to happen in a few weeks’ time. 

I’ve lost 4lbs in a week just cutting out sugar and following this plan and although I know a lot of it is water its great to see the scales going in the right direction. But here’s the best thing- SOMETHING INSIDE MUST HAVE CHANGED. This is the first time in years I have not used alcohol or food (eating it or denying myself it) to alter my emotional state. This is big stuff. I have spent a whole 7 days feeling my feelings without blocking them out, stuffing them down or starving them. That’s huge. I hadn’t even realised this until I started writing this post. It’s probably one of the biggest leaps in sobriety yet. 

I went to my first wedding sober last week and I did it on my healthy meal plan, prepping for the evening with my protein rich meal rather than taking the edge off an alcohol craving with chocolate. This must be progress right?!

I still feel shitty about sobriety sometimes, in the past 24 hours alone I’ve been really up and down about it. But I suppose what getting a grip on my eating has shown me is that deep within me in a place I can’t quite locate yet, change is afoot. I’m not sure what or where or how, but its happening. If I drink now, I’ll be back at square one and won’t find out where I’m headed in this crazy journey of my relationship with myself.

Addiction

2 Apr

This article by Russell Brand is well known in recovery circles, and its been invaluable to me over the past few weeks: http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2013/mar/09/russell-brand-life-without-drugs

Sometimes when I’m in AA, I feel like the literature is filled with passages from inside my head. I get the precisie same feeling when I read passages of the article.

Russell talks about watching a video of himself taking heroin in a run-down dump in Hackney:

‘…[I felt] envy at witnessing an earlier version of myself unencumbered by the burden of abstinence. I sat in a suite at the Savoy hotel, in privilege, resenting the woeful ratbag I once was, who, for all his problems, had drugs. That is obviously irrational.’

On my down days, I can relate to this so strongly. I envy the version of myself drinking freely before the penny had dropped that I’m an alcoholic, before I was encumbered by the knowledge I can’t drink again. I look at myself in those first few months alcohol really took its grip where all I felt was a sense of naughtiness and abandon. No more. As an AA buddy once said ‘Being in a 12 step programme REALLY f**ks with your drinking.’ I imagine that were I to drink now, every drop of pleasure would be sucked out of it by the knowledge that I’m an addict. That drinking isn’t a choice, but a compulsion.

As the sunshine is out again, my mind turns to thoughts of ice cold pints of beer and dewy glasses of white wine by a pool somewhere exotic. I can sometimes taste it, feel the relief of the drink slipping down my throat and then I remember the wisdom on Monsieur Brand:

‘Even if it began as a timid glass of chardonnay on a ponce’s yacht, it would end with me necking the bottle, swimming to shore and sprinting to Bethnal Green in search of a crack house.’

I love this line so much. When I’m right in the middle of a craving, this is the sentence I turn over and over in my mind. Minus the crack house, this describes my experience of drinking perfectly. That timid glass that seems so appealing is a one way ticket to the land of Doom.

I’m still obsessed with watching people drinking, especially the ones who can have Just One Glass. I find it absolutely baffling that people don’t get overtaken by the same urge to drink more that I do. I was talking the other night to my best friend who I finally told that I’m in recovery. He gets absolutely SMASHED, sometimes for 2-3 nights in a row and in terms of volume, has always drunk more than me. But when I told him about my drinking he said he didn’t relate to it at all: the shame, the sadness, the wanting to stop… He never feels like that.

Once again, Russell sums it up perfectly:

Drugs and alcohol are not my problem, reality is my problem, drugs and alcohol are my solution.

If this seems odd to you it is because you are not an alcoholic or a drug addict. You are likely one of the 90% of people who can drink and use drugs safely. I have friends who can smoke weed, swill gin, even do crack and then merrily get on with their lives. For me, this is not an option.

Oh you wise wise man, THIS IS IT! Most people can get blind drunk, wake up, shake off their hangover and get on with their day. Not me, not ever.

Today’s a flat day. I’ve got a bit of a case of the ‘mehs.’ I’ve had a bit of a sugar binge over the last few weeks and it’s making me feel crappy. My addiction has most definitely transferred- I’m filling the gap alcohol has left with the comfort of sweet things. This needs to stop. I need to go cold turkey I think, as surprise surprise, moderation isn’t an option for me. What would Russell say? “What starts as a timid nibble of a Reeses peanut butter cup turns into me snaffling the entire packet and leaping out of the door in my pajamas to Bethnal Green Tesco to get more. My transformation into Augustus Gloop is complete’  I used to be a paragon of discipline, one of those people who could savour a single square of dark chocolate and be satisfied. Not any more. So this is the next addiction to tackle. I’m doing a marathon on Sunday so will not worry about dietary restriction until after that, but I’ve got to take a hold of it.

 

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