Tag Archives: alcoholism

The Food Thing

2 Mar
So last week I posted how I had fallen off the sugar wagon dramatically. Ever since, I have been thinking about what’s going on inside and why food has, of late, become such an issue for me. Combining this with a very painful conversation over the weekend with someone who told me I could lose a few pounds to be at my best (I know, I know, unhelpful. But it’s probably true. That’s what so annoying about it.) I’ve been reflecting on how I can change.
Because what I’m dealing with now is emotional eating and that needs to be tackled head on as part of my recovery. Weight is one factor of course, but emotional health is another one. Doing what I’m doing is making me feel rubbish.
What I can’t wrap my head around is how someone who was once so controlled around food has lost it entirely. I’ve observed recently that many of my friends who have also come out the other side of an ED have put on a few too many pounds, and I wondered whether I might not be alone in this. Because at a very first look, it doesn’t make sense, does it? Woman with eating disorder who has been absolutely terrified by the idea of being fat gets, well, a little fat. Logically it sounds absurd, but for many psychological and emotional reasons it makes absolute sense.
I started looking around for evidence of whether my experience is common online and came across the below article by Charlotte from The Great Fitness Experiment who I’ve followed on and off for years. And she reaffirmed what I suspected; being in the position I’m in and wanting to shift a little of that extra ‘recovery’ weight is completely normal. What struck even more of a chord is her observation that many many women who recover from an ED tend towards bulimic episodes or turning to alcohol to help them transition out of their ED. Well that was entirely my experience as readers of this blog well know. It has made me feel SO MUCH BETTER about my behaviours and also given me the beginnings of the tools to change.
As ever, it’s not about the substance it’s about the emotions. And this is what I needed to realise once more.
I’ve posted the full article below because it’s incredibly helpful to me (especially the image, which made me LOL!) and I hope might help some of the others who are in recovery from an eating disorder AND alcoholism who want to change something in their current behaviours….

What Happens If You Need to Lose Weight and You Used to Have an Eating Disorder? [Reader Question]

Warning: May be triggering for those with sensitivity regarding eating issues, food or eating disorders. Actual numbers are not used nor are diet tips but you know what you need right now – please take gentle care of yourself today.

stress

Here’s a dirty little secret about anorexia: You can’t do it forever. They won’t tell you that on the pro-Ana boards and there are even some celebs that make “functional anorexia” look like a viable life choice. But it isn’t. It doesn’t work. Some people, heartbreakingly, die of the disease. But what of the rest of us? The human body has a powerful life force and eventually it will rebel against starvation. For us champion dieters, food restricters, obsessive compulsives, perfectionists, we eventually have two choices:

1. Do our best to make our peace with our bodies and free ourselves from the tyranny of dieting and weight worries by learning healthy habits to replace the demons one by one.

2. Stop restricting but turn to other diet techniques and/or eating disorders.

Obviously choice #1 is optimal and what we aim for in recovery but I’ll be honest: I know very few anorexics who haven’t boomeranged into bulimia (whether purging by chemical, physical or exercise methods) and/or substance abuse (alcohol, diet pills, amphetamines, cocaine) as a means to try to regain control over their weight and bodies.

From the outside an eating disorder may look like the ultimate expression of self-control and willpower but I can tell you from personal experience and from years of hearing other people’s stories that it is about one thing and one thing only: pure, unadulterated fear. And I wouldn’t even say it’s a fear of getting fat. It’s that, yes, but really it’s a fear of being unloveable, of being imperfect, of having powerful needs and desires, of not measuring up, of failing. So many, many fears. An eating disorder is a terrifying roller coaster of highs filled with delusions and lows marked by denial. For awhile we have the illusion of control – food is so passive! So easy to push around! So obedient! – but eventually we realize that our entire lives are being controlled by something that’s not even sentient much less very nice.

So we give in and eat. And for a body so used to restriction this temporary lifting of the bans leads to a bottomless desire that we’re sure can’t be filled and will consume us instead. We eat and eat and eat. There is no balance – when everything is forbidden then that means it’s all equal, apple or apple pie. The body is trying to stay alive even while the mind is trying to kill it. But if we keep eating eventually we gain weight. Often this is a good and necessary thing for healing and recovery. But here’s another secret about eating disorders: They don’t always make you skinny. Moreover, you don’t have to be skinny to have one. Lots of anorexics don’t look “anorexic.”

In an ideal world, we’d all be able to immediately get right back in touch with our hunger cues and eat exactly enough to gain just the right amount of weight and live happily ever after. It didn’t work that way for me. I daresay it doesn’t work that way for a lot of people. Instead, after years of dieting and restricting and other unhealthy habits, suddenly we’re supposed to be the picture of health to be “recovered” and yet we have no clue how to do it. How would we know? I personally have been dieting in earnest since I was 10. Which means that some of us gain more weight than we are comfortable with.

I’ll wait while you laugh.

Actually we all gain more weight than we’re comfortable with. That’s ED treatment in a nutshell. But some people gain more weight than is deemed “necessary” or “healthy” which is such a fine line to walk. How do you talk about what is appropriate or healthy with someone who has no concept of either? And what happens when – if – you end up in a position where you legitimately need to lose a bit of weight? Dieting is just another trip down the rabbit hole. And you’ve worked so SO hard to recover! Plus, by this point, you may even think that dieting is anti-feminist or unsocial or simply unkind. Are you even allowed to think you need to lose weight?

I don’t know the right answer to that question but I do know a lot of us think it, as evidenced by a letter I got from Reader K recently:

I do realise you must get about a zillion of these questions per day, but I would really appreciate it if you found time to answer this.

I am an almost 20-year old girl (gosh, I should probably start saying “woman” by now…) with some history of disordered eating and exercising. I was never diagnosed and wouldn’t say I was ever bulimic/anorexic, etc. but I certainly dropped too low in my weight and exercised too much for quite some time (from sometime around 12 years old to about 18, is my best guess).

I am XXXcm high and the lowest I ever was was about XXkg, which put me in the high end of underweight. What followed were major arguments with my parents about my not eating enough, my feeling exhausted and cranky 90% of the time and secondary amenorrhea. I did pull myself together though (most probably because I absolutely LOVE to eat – ah, the irony – but I guess that was the reason for my being a chubby kid and being made fun of in school, leading to the dramatic weight loss).

I was diagnosed with mild osteopenia [charlotte’s note: that’s bone loss, the precursor to osteoporosis], but otherwise my health is in good condition now. I am fully weight restored and apart from occasional low body image bouts, I am OK. (An aside, the funny thing is that I started liking my body more after I gained weight, how weird is that?)

But here’s my problem:

I am eating normally, trying to follow my hunger cues and eating what I like. I try not to count calories because that leads to restrictive behaviour for me. The thing is that I have only time for exercise 3 to 4 times per week, sometimes less, as I am extremely busy. After I got to my senses I started gaining weight… to XXkg. I am not comfortable at this weight – bot aesthetically and how it makes me feel.

And finally, here’s what I really want to ask – do you have any suggestions/advice as to what I should do, given I cannot increase my activity level, to lose weight the healthy way? It’s driving me nuts because I already eat extremely healthy, following my hunger, but seem to keep gaining!

Advise would be strongly appreciated

If I were any good at the metric system I’d swear I’d written this letter to myself, that’s how much I relate to what K is saying. As I’ve mentioned here before, after starting outpatient treatment for my eating disorder several years ago, I gained a certain amount of weight back and eventually it stabilized at a point which I maintained for two years. While I didn’t ever lose the latent wish to be ten pounds lighter, I did grow to accept and even love my body at that weight. I got comfortable with it and ditched my crazy clothes and bought ones that fit. Most importantly I did it while practicing Intuitive Eating (Geneen Roth style) and so I ate almost everything. My recovery wasn’t perfect but I felt good about it.

And then about a year ago for reasons I still can’t explain I gained a not insignificant amount of weight. I weigh more now than the day I gave birth to Jelly Bean. It changed my clothing size and suddenly I was right back to loathing my body. I felt like a total failure and not just because I had to go buy all new pants. Rather I felt like I was a failure at my ED recovery, at Intuitive Eating, at showing body acceptance – all of it. And so I know quite well how Reader K is feeling. So what’s a girl who’s still recovering from an eating disorder (because recovery is going to be a lifelong process for me, I think) to do when she thinks she might need to lose weight?

I have a few suggestions for K – and for me – but I hope you guys will help out too! This is such tricky territory for me.

1. Get professional help. I spent a long time in therapy. Not only did I complete my eating disorder therapy but I also did a lot of personal therapy. You mention that you never got help for recovering from your ED and it might be helpful, even now. One of the things ED therapy taught me was about proper nutrition. It sounds silly to someone who can spout the caloric content of any food from memory but I learned a lot about what a proper portion looks like, how to balance meals and – most importantly – what “normal” eating looks like. It helps.

2. At least see a nutritionist or dietician. And be honest about your history with disordered eating! He or she can not only help you devise a healthy plan but also serve as a person to be accountable to – not for the weight loss but for the healthy habits part.

3. Get an objective opinion, preferably from a doctor you trust, on whether or not losing weight is really in your best interest. Body dysmorphia is part and parcel with an eating disorder and we’re often not the best judge of what we look like.

4. Focus on what you can eat, not what you “can’t”. I recently cut out sugar for a while in an effort to help my mental state and it was a lot easier when I focused on how my body was feeling and all the yummy foods I enjoyed, rather than torturing myself thinking about all the forbidden treats. Whether or not you lose weight, mindful eating and staying positive will help in a lot of ways.

5. Eat some more protein. I hesitate to make any specific recommendations but I’ve found through personal experience that when I get overly hungry and munchy or crave junk food it’s often because I haven’t had enough “real” food earlier, usually protein and healthy fats. Note: I’m not saying that’s ALL you should eat. But rather that adding in a bit more high-quality grass-fed meat or eggs or coconut oil can help head off a cookie bender. (Also, from looking through your daily meals that you sent me, you do not seem to get much protein…)

6. Do things for yourself that you enjoy and make you feel happy and confident, no matter what you weigh. Being super busy is hard on the body in so many ways, weight being only one of them. I love hiking, skiing and skating – those things always make me feel better about myself. And I love realizing how my strong legs carried me up a mountain rather than focusing on how much they rub together. Reading, painting, piano playing, photography – anything that gets you out of yourself and using your body in a creative way!

7. Accept that life circumstances change and your weight does too. You’re at a really busy time in your life! But things won’t always be this way. Sometimes we weigh more, other times we weigh less. It doesn’t mean that we’ll keep on gaining weight forever and ever.

8. Meditate. It sounds silly I know but a few minutes a day of quiet contemplation/prayer/meditation can do wonders for bringing us back in touch with what we need to nourish ourselves on many levels.

9. Get enough sleep. Stress wreaks havoc with not only weight but also mental state and one of the single best things we can do for our health is to have a good bedtime routine of going to sleep before midnight and getting a solid 7-8 hours, every night.

This is such a touchy topic and I hesitated to broach this on here but eventually I decided I needed to because I know that Reader K and I are not the only two recovering ED’d people to be in this situation! I’d love it if you guys have any other suggestions, advice or even corrections!

P.S. I’m not a doctor and this is just my opinion and all that!

Sober Library

19 Jun

As a life-long dusty-book fan who has spent hours of her life holed up in century old libraries, I never expected to fall in love with my Kindle. Blasphemy! I cried when this electronic device boldly announced itself. We need real books! With paper! And smells! And mucky-fingered stains! But low and behold, just a few months after they launched, the thought of lugging another entire rucksack of books on holiday was enough to make me cave, so I bought one and have never looked back.

When I first got sober, I couldn’t read. I just couldn’t sit myself down with anything other than a short blog post or a Twitter update. My concentration was all over the shop. My kindle lay gathering dust in a corner of my room. When I turned it on the other day, it gave me a shock. The number of sober books/books about alcoholism I had worked my way through in the 18 months prior to stopping drinking was INSANE. Here’s a little catalogue of what I read, starting in October 2012, when I first thought about getting sober. If you’re thinking about getting sober or are not sure if you have a drink problem, choose some of these to read, I implore you. It helped me through the tricky ‘Am I really?!’ phase and over a ling period of time brought me to a position where I could finally stop. 

Alan Carr’s Easy Way to Control your Drinking– I read this, glass of wine (bottle) in hand at a beautiful bar on a chilly Autumn afternoon in 2012. I resolved to stop drinking. I didn’t. Alan Carr’s approach of drinking being a poison resonated, but it didn’t make enough of an impact for me to stop.

Jason Vale- Kick the Drink, Easily- again, I understood the point he was making intellectually (drinking has NO BENEFIT WHATSOEVER), I even endured the SHOUTY CAPS he peppers the text with. But put down a drink? No way. His approach really works for some people, and mirrors the mindset I’m in now (drinking is a waste of time/energy/I can’t think of anything WORSE to do with my time) and is definitely worth a read. 

I Need to Stop Drinking! Liz Hemingway- no idea when I read this, what it said or whether it had an impact on me. I was probably drunk when I read it. Hmm…

Cleaning Up: How I Gave up Drinking and Lived– Tania Glyde, again, I don’t remember much about this one, but I do remember vaguely recalling that this person wasn’t me. She drank LOADS more than I do, she hid bottles forgawdssake! 

Ice and a Slice– Della Galton- A novel based on one woman’s true experiences. It planted the seed that there was a life better than being caught in the cycle of drinking but at that stage, I still wasn’t ready to hear it.

Woman Walks into a Bar- Rowan Coleman, hilariously, I thought this would be about drinking. It’s a chick lit romp about dating. OBSESSED MUCH?!

Drinking: A Love Story- Caroline Knapp- one of the sober classics. I read this in a hungover daze, weeping, knowing I needed to stop, then drinking later that night. I’ve heard criticism that this book romanticises drinking but for me, reading about someone who hides vodka bottles in the cistern of their mum’s house lacked romance and was a wake up call.

Last Orders- A Drinkers Guide to Sobriety- A humorous account of a Proper Lad who makes a bet with his mates that he can give up booze for a year. He struggles, then falls in love with the Pink Cloud feeling of no more hangovers and finding exercise and WOOO!!!!! loves life sober. 

High Sobriety: My Year Without Booze- Jill Stark- Binge drinking health writer Jill has suffered one too many drunken nights out that have ended up with her collapsing on the dance floor in front of her colleagues or rendering her unable to move for the entire next day. As someone who writes frequently about Australia’s dangerous drink habits, she decides to commit to a year off the sauce, exploring Oz’s drink culture along the way. I loved this book, particularly when I was unable to label myself ‘alcoholic’- I liked the idea of taking a year off and seeing how I got on. She ultimately went back to drinking, but more moderately. Highly recommend this one. 

The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers drink– Olivia Laing,  LOVE this book. I luxuriated in it whilst on a beach somewhere, drinking cider in the morning to take the edge off last night’s hangover, sneaking a gin and tonic by the pool while my holiday companions weren’t looking. I’ve always been obsessed by tortured writers and this book was a beautiful yet tragic read. The whole reason I started writing this blog today was that I came across this article on the Guardian about women authors who drank: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jun/13/alcoholic-female-women-writers-marguerite-duras-jean-rhys If you like your literature, I suggest you take your time over this glorious yet painful read, and then read Echo Spring. It is just wonderful, and sad and worth every moment you give to it. 

The Sober Revolution: Calling Time on Wine o Clock– Lucy Rocca & Sarah Turner- THIS BOOK WAS TRANSFORMATIVE. It spoke to me in a way no other sober book had. It draws a parallel between drinking and an abusive relationship, and the subtle, manipulative way ‘He’ keeps you coming back. Having just extricated myself from an emotionally abusive relationship, not only could I see the stark truth that alcohol was my new abuser, I could also see I had the strength to walk away again. 

Drink: The Intimate Relationship between Women & Alcohol: Ann Dowsett Jones- This was the big one for me. I read it on the way back from an all inclusive holiday where I’d sneakily drunk all day long, taking drinks from the mini-bar into the shower so my room-mate didn’t see them, desperately sucking down iced cocktails that didn’t have enough booze for my liking and going back for more… I lay there, jet lagged, reading this and having the most overwhelming feeling yet that not only was I a problem drinker, I was an ALCOHOLIC. I needed more help than the sober blogging world was offering me. I started my final solo sobriety run of 40 days, drank again, re-read this book and took myself off to AA.

So there we are, my drinking library. On a day when I’m not feeling alcoholic at all, it’s been great to look back at how much work I needed to do to convince myself I was one, how much time went into reading this stuff.

I was all worth it. ALL of it.

Happy Thursday to you! And Happy reading 🙂

 

 

 

 

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jun/13/alcoholic-female-women-writers-marguerite-duras-jean-rhys

Am an I Alcoholic?

16 Jun

I was looking through old computer bookmarks this morning, and I came across this wonderful article by Veronica Valli. She could not have made answering the question ‘An am I an alcoholic?’ easier for me. My experience of alcoholism, which she summarises so wonderfully here, is that it’s about how I THINK and FEEL as much as how I drank. That’s why it’s been really hard to explain to my binge drinking friends I’ve confided in how I differ to them, without turning myself inside out before their eyes. 

Have a read of the article, and take a look at Veronica’s site, which I have found packed full of great insights:

Am I an alcoholic?

That’s a very good question.

Are you?

Image courtesy of luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In all honesty, there is no straightforward answer to that and whichever ‘expert’ or professional you speak to will give you a totally different, if not conflicting answer. This is because there is no scientific way of measuring this, it really is an opinion. Alcoholics Anonymous for instance, will let you make up your own mind. No one diagnoses you. Doctors and other addiction professionals have other ways of concluding an individual may be an alcoholic or not. Alcohol dependency will usually indicate you are.

 

It is, in my opinion, fairly easy to diagnose. What follows is a description of the traits of an alcoholic. If they fit you, then you may have to come to the conclusion that you are an alcoholic.

Firstly, and I can’t emphasis this enough, ordinary people do not think about their drinking.
It rents no space in their heads.

Period.

This means if you have spent some time looking for solutions for why you drink the way you do and have ended up reading this page.
Then the answer may be yes.
Because it’s renting space in your head.

You have a problem.

Alcoholics know they have a problem.

They know something is most definitely wrong.

It’s a nagging feeling that won’t go away.

They are vaguely aware that they drink too much but have loads of excuses and reasons for why that is.

So, by the sheer fact you are reading this, you know there’s a problem right?

We’ll go further.

Alcoholism has nothing to do with alcohol.

No, really.

Are you surprised?

Alcoholism is about the way you think.

Let me explain.

Alcoholism is a state of mind, a way of thinking and being, that is so uncomfortable and unpleasant it is expressed in how they drink.

Which isn’t normal. Because alongside this state of mind is a physical allergy that means when alcohol enters the body of an alcoholic they respond differently to other people. You lose the power of control over alcohol; something else takes over and they find it extremely hard to regulate or stop drinking when they start.

The mind and body work against any intentions or ‘will power’ you may have had of not wanting to drink.
Any alcoholic can stop drinking or using for a while, or for a good enough reason, its staying stopped that’s the problem.
When an alcohol isn’t drinking alcohol to manage their internal state they will invariably be using other kinds of unhealthy behaviours to manage their emotional life.
Look closely and you’ll see how.

An alcoholic is so uncomfortable in their own skin that they will always return to alcohol to ease the discomfort in their own minds (and souls). Once they start drinking the physical allergy kicks in and they find that they nearly always drink or use far more that they intended.

The common misconception is that it’s how much you drink or use and how often that makes someone an alcoholic.

Not so!

Certainly, in most cases alcoholics drink far more than is acceptable and on a more frequent basis than ordinary people, that’s for sure. However, you can be an alcoholic and drink infrequently; it doesn’t necessarily have to be everyday.
What differentiates a binge drinker or heavy drinker from an alcoholic is how that person thinks. It’s exactly the same with addiction.

Image courtesy of hyena reality at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We have created a culture that has normalised abnormal drinking – we call it binge drinking, and everyone seems to do it. We have also moved the goal posts with drug use, ‘but everyone does it, I know all the dangers’ is the bulls**t lie that addicts will tell themselves in order to justify what they are doing. If you normalise something it becomes acceptable. We surround ourselves with people who are just like us, who then reflect back to us who we are. We look for justification for our behavior.

 

Of course not everyone who binge drinks will go on to become an alcoholic.
Many will naturally regulate their drinking as they mature, or the circumstances of their lives change and they find they have no desire to drink at abnormal levels anymore. Others, despite becoming older or their lives changing, will still, whenever they have the opportunity, drink far beyond what is reasonable and to the point that it impacts all areas of their life.

What is reasonable?
The recommended weekly allowances for an adult male are 21 units a week (UK measurement), spread over the week and not all in one night. For a woman it is 14 units. A 250ml glass of wine is the equivalent of 3 units. If you drink consistently over this amount you can expect to have some kind of mental health, physical health, emotional, financial, and social consequences.
Most people are surprised at how low this is. Because so many people are drinking way beyond acceptable levels, we have normalised the abnormal.

And the biggest excuse that most people give for drinking way more than is good for them?

Everyone else is doing it, so it must be ok.

Wrong!

An alcoholic will find it easy to hide amongst binge drinkers because they drink the same way. What makes them different is what’s going on inside of them.

Pay attention, we are really coming to the crux of the problem now; this is the most accurate description of an alcoholic or I can give you:

An alcoholic just feels different than everyone else. It’s like they were born different; some people have described it as looking at the world through a glass screen, watching everyone else get on with life in a way that they just can’t seem to. It feels like being born without the instruction manual for life, and whatever you seem to do it never works out in a way that seems to satisfy or fulfil you.

Alcoholics always have a nagging feeling of dissatisfaction and emptiness, and they are always looking for something to fix that feeling. Alcoholics tend to believe that if they get the right partner, job, house, or car it will bring them the feeling of satisfaction and happiness they crave.

They are always looking for something outside of themselves to make them complete.

And what happens?

Temporarily, these outside changes fix that hole inside of them. Everything seems like its going to be okay, but it’s always just temporary. It escapes them again, it’s like sand running through their fingers, they can never seem to hold on to it. Just when they are almost there, when they feel like they finally have the thing that will make them happy, they lose it and they revert back to their old feelings of dissatisfaction and emptiness.
In addition to living life in this unsatisfactory way, alcoholics also experience a lot of fear.
A disproportional amount of fear.

Fear is probably the defining characteristic of alcoholics.

It’s fear of everything and nothing; it’s always with them. It’s hard to put into words but fear is a daily companion to an alcoholic.

An alcoholic will very rarely be able to tell anyone close to them about the ‘fear’.

They are scared of what people might think of them.
They are frightened of not being good enough, of being found out, of people not liking them, of failing. An alcoholic will do whatever they can to hide this fear to the outside world, and they even find it hard admitting it to themselves. They are so used to living with this fear that they can’t remember what it’s like to be without it.

So you can see that when you feel this way on a consistent basis, it becomes so uncomfortable that you will do anything to change it. Alcohol can achieve that. In the short term it removes that sense of discomfort and uncomfortableness and for a short while you feel like everything is okay. You feel happy and unafraid, like you fit in with the people around them; the glass screen separating you from the rest of the world has been removed.

For a while at least.

It was only artificially and temporarily induced, courtesy of alcohol, and you are back to being the way they always were, still searching for whatever it is that will make you feel better (feel complete).

You can see then, that alcoholism is an internal problem rather than an external one. That the problem arises from how you think and how you feel, and that drinking is only a symptom.

You may argue that other people who don’t drink also feel that way and you’d be right. They will be expressing their internal dissatisfaction in other ways, other behaviors, alcoholics and addicts pick substances because they are accessible, widely used and very, very effective.

Pay attention, though – look around. Notice how other people express their internal dissatisfaction through unhealthy relationships, overspending, gambling, sex, moving, food, shopping, rampant consumerism etc. All that behavior is just a way to deal with uncomfortable feelings.
Feelings motivate all behavior.

By reading this far, then chances are that you have read something you have identified with, that intrigues you.
If you can recognise the traits or alcoholism, if you can identify your problem, then you can get help much earlier. The truth is, that this condition this way of being and thinking won’t go away just because you want it to. My experience of working with alcoholics and addicts is that you can’t think your way out of it and you certainly can’t do it alone.

It comes down to this: how much longer are you prepared to accept living this way?

You may have read this and thought,
‘Yeah, I identify with some of that, but it’s really not that bad.’

Hel-lo?

Are you really prepared to accept that in your life?

Are you really prepared to accept less than you deserve?

Do you want to look back on your life and see that you settled for 70% or 50% of what you were capable of?

Are you prepared to live through one more day feeling the way you do, when now you know there’s a way out?

Now may be the time to get really honest with yourself.

So, are you an alcoholic?
Yes, or No?

Taking up Space

9 Jun

Image

I’m still struggling a lot at the moment. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but it’s there and real and uncomfortable. I’m walking down a very well trodden and familiar path.

When I’m unhappy, my discontent at my body starts up, and my relationship with food turns funny again. I want to eat for comfort, but start despising my figure, which fuels the desire to eat. Fucked up and irrational, yes. But it almost exactly mirrors the weird relationship with drinking I had. Drinking makes me miserable, and I want to quit drinking and I’m putting all my energy into not drinking, so I’ll have drink to take away the pain. Madness. 

I’ve had some sugar slip ups, but I’m trying to keep on fuelling my body in positive ways, which is hard when I either want to starve myself or eat everything IN THE WORLD. 

I’ve blogged many times about my relationship with my body and food, and at the moment, how I perceive myself can do a full 180 degree swing in the matter of moments. Yesterday I went from working out in front of a mirror at the gym and being amazed at how explosive and powerful my box jumps onto a really high platform were, to hating the chunk of my thighs. I can vacillate from one overwhelming feeling to another in seconds. 

I often stay at a friend’s house where cruelly, one entire wall of the bathroom is a mirror. What I see on any given day as I prepare to shower entirely depends on my state of mind. Increasingly, I see a figure that’s simultaneously toned and soft, that is slender but has a womanly curve to it. I think ‘yes, this is how a woman should be’, thankful I’m no longer the bag of bones I once was. On a bad day, I look in horror at my shape, the boldness of my round bum, thinking: ‘it wasn’t like this until I started doing so many hill sprints, I’ll have to cut those out.’

I look at myself and see failure, flaws and feel entirely helpless. All my self esteem is sucked away in a momentary glance. I wait for the steam of the shower to erase what I see. 

I’m so sick of the way my mind constantly undermines me. When it wants to be, it can be a happy, sparkly place full of rainbows and unicorns. I get REALLY happy frequently, like jump-in-the-air-and-do-a-little-heel- click happy and would consider myself a pretty positive person, but when the gloom comes, it’s a bloody battle. 

I was catching up on the clever and wonderful After Alcohol’s blog this morning and this post really spoke to me. The fear of suddenly losing control and blowing up to ‘DIE OF FAT.’ The post is wonderful and mirrors so many of my feelings, but what hit the nail on the head  for me was a comment Primrose made:

those extra ten pounds have been a false focus for me for much of my adult life. if I had spent as much time thinking about my relationships with others or my career or even learning a language I would be Professor of the Liberal Arts at the University of Florence right now. so much wasted effort.

Lord, that’s it. That’s what’s been bothering me. I am pissed off at how my brain works, how much TIME and EFFORT I’ve put into thinking about food and alcohol. About losing weight and giving up drinking. The endless and dissatisfying circle. You know the myth of Sisyphus? The bloke who was eternally condemned to push a rock up a hill and then have it crash down upon him? That’s what my battle with my mind feels like. What a waste of time and energy. Although the struggles with alcohol have got easier, they’re still constantly there. I’ve thought quite a few times about jacking it all in and just having a bloody drink, which is the kind of self defeating thought which got me here in the first place.

The space these thoughts and feelings take up is huge. Thankfully, I’m mostly too busy to let them in at the moment, but it feels like they’re lying dormant, ready to get me whenever I have some spare headspace. I spend hours on sobriety & fitness/dieting, reading about it, listening to podcasts about it and thinking about it. I want some space in my brain to think about other things. When I can help others, this spiral is more under control, so I’m trying to focus my energies on that. 

I’m having a day off today and need to try and make positive use of it. I’m exhausted, but resting makes me anxious and dissatisfied, so I’ll try to spring into action and feel like I’ve achieved something today. 

It aint over ’til it’s over

18 May

Yesterday I was SO close to drinking.

If you read my post yesterday, you’ll know I was tired, stressed and had full intentions to have a relaxing day to get myself back on balance. That went flying out of the window. 

A new problem has emerged with my house buying plans and once again I find myself looking for somewhere to live. I went looking yesterday and the whole process was incredibly stressful because the market is crazy and the financial pressures of the whole thing were too much to take. This combined with the idea of having to start the whole lengthy search again was too much. My body was screaming with anxiety.

I was meeting my friends for dinner and had 2 hours in town to kill. I was almost certain I was going to drink. The ‘fuck its’ were strong and I thought ‘how bad could a night of drinking be? I can start again tomorrow.’ I was slowly walking towards a pub, calculating how much I could drink before I met my friends to appear sober and feel drunk enough to satisfy me. Annoyingly, one of the friends I was meeting knows I’m in AA so I had to remember that once I met them, I wouldn’t be able to drink any more. Bugger. I was contemplating ringing my sponsor, but didn’t. I was accepting my fate of drinking. 

There’s an individual who reminds me of my last night of drinking, an experience so horrific to me I never ever want to feel like that again or see him again. Let’s call him James. I half heartedly asked my Higher Power to give me a sign by getting James to contact me, to remind me of how bad it was. No such sign came. I got closer to the pub.

I walked in, went up to the bar, looked at the larger taps glistening and found myself asking for a pint of lime and soda. I gulped it down and decided what to do next. 

The pub was rammed- it was the FA cup final (big football championship here in the UK) and the local team Arsenal were in the lead. The atmosphere of nervous excitement was palpable. I ordered another drink, a water, and felt my seconds ticking down to meeting my friends. My insides were churning, all I wanted to do was have alcohol running through my veins, but I drank the water, watched the football and let myself get swept up in the atmosphere. 

The footie fans were chugging pints jovially, getting excited and tense and loud. The match went into extra time, and everyone was on tenterhooks. I was very very slowly going off the idea of drinking, being so wrapped up in the game. 

Arsenal scored what looked like it would be the winning goal and the pub went absolutely effing wild. My whole body was covered in goosebumps and it was electrifying. At that moment, I was glad I didn’t drink. 

I loved the final few minutes of the match because once again, I’d been reminded of the wonder of life without alcohol. My body had shifted from being a ball of nervous tension to experiencing the profound joy of being part of something exciting in the matter of what, 45 minutes? An hour? 

I went to meet my friends and we had an absolutely brilliant evening, swapping a meal out for takeaway, some philosophical conversations, some plain silly conversations and some ridiculous singing. 

As I checked my phone at the end of the night, my silly prayer to my higher power had been answered. One missed call: James. Seeing his name made me put my head in my hands at the sight, realising what I’d escaped by not drinking. THANKS UNIVERSE.

Sobriety is hard, but drinking is harder. In the space of a week I’ve gone from feeling utterly comfortable in my sobriety to finding it agonising and guess what? That tide will turn again. I was walking to that pub thinking drinking was a foregone conclusion I’d resigned myself to, but my fortunes shifted by finding myself in a life affirming situation, and my desire to numb ebbed away. 

Another day another lesson. Day 124 and still sober. 

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?

Clubbing Sober

5 May

Early sobriety is full of firsts and there were few I’ve been more nervous about than going clubbing. 

I’ve done endless work events, nights in pubs and bars and even danced at a wedding but I hadn’t yet gone out clubbing until last night. 

I love dancing and really needed to let my hair down so when someone suggested a Bank Holiday evening out I jumped at the chance. By the time the day actually came to go, I didn’t want to. The thought of heading out at 11pm was unbearable. But I prepared as best I could- I slept in the day before, had good nutritious food and my new Sober Saviour for getting through long events: Zero Calorie Red Bull. 

As with every other sober first, it was a fascinating experience. 

Here’s what I learnt (I’m quite into my lists of sober lessons at the moment!):

It’s all about the company and the music- if either one of these isn’t spot on, the night can be uncomfortable or boring. But when the two come together perfectly, it’s a joy. 

Drink only slightly heightens the experience- the ‘sweet spot’ of drinking I once had where I wasn’t smashed but had enough of a buzz to really get high on the music was fantastic while it lasted. But it’s been a few years since I’ve been able to control my drinking and get that. Last night, I got the same surges of joy from the music and flashing lights without the consequences of downing vodka. 

Drinking is a waste– I watched my friends get wasted, and some of them went off to do coke, which I was pretty shocked by. Those who took the drugs were completely out of it. They just floated around the dance floor, barely engaged with what was going on. 

Being sober is the best money saver ever!- I sort of knew this already, but last night I spent SIX POUNDS. SIX ENGLISH POUNDS. I got a night bus home because I was in a fit state to keep myself safe and paid for the cloakroom and some sparkling water. Amazing. I treated myself to a gorgeous pair of £50 boots this morning- I would have spent much more on a night out. 

Hangovers aren’t just caused by drinking– I was out til 4am and this morning I’m REALLY feeling it. The lack of sleep has got to me, but it was so worth it. Because I’m not hungover too, I went out and blasted a workout to perk myself up and then will get an early night tonight. When I was drinking I probably would have had a drink at 4pm to get me through the day and ended up finishing the bottle and starting the hangover cycle all over again. 

If you want to leave, get out of there– I knew that if at any point I left, my wasted friends would notice but not care. They were too wrapped up in their own drunk/high thing. That was a really comforting thought when heading out- I knew I could leave at any time I wanted, especially if I fancied drinking. As it turned out, I stayed to the bitter end because I was having so much fun. Happy days. 

Being sober helps me squeeze every moment out of life– Yesterday I went to 3 social things before clubbing. Had I been drinking I’d have started at 4pm and not stopped for another 12 hours. Instead of a blurry day, I had a wonderful one full of clarity. 

I was talking to my sponsor about how great sobriety feels at the moment and she said something that EXACTLY describes how I’m feel ing at the moment:

‘I think as time goes on, and we stay sober, it becomes a precious thing that you feel inwardly proud and quite protective of. It’s all part of the long term sobriety where you actually want to be sober instead of not wanting to be an alcoholic.’

I love this thought. It really hits the nail on the head of the shift from ‘WHY ME???’ to ‘HURRAH SOBRIETY!’ 

Long may it last. 

 

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.

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. 

 

Drinking Dreams

22 Apr

I had the most horrific drinking dream yet last night. 

If there’s one thing that really hammers home why I shouldn’t drink, it’s the way my blood runs cold in the moment I wake up after a drinking dream, followed by the overwhelming relief. I feel like these dreams are a guard against my sobriety. They pop up when I need a kick up the backside and remind me how much my life has changed in the past 3 months. Drinking would not be worth losing all that, going back to the dark place where I’m stuck in a cycle I cannot break, feeling down and shitty until I drink again. THANKS BRAIN FOR GIVING ME DRINKING DREAMS!

I can’t exactly remember what happened in the dream, but I got wrecked and was forced to admit to my mum that I have a problem, which broke her little heart. I’ve been accidentally drunk around my parents quite a few times in the past year. I once got smashed at one of their work events, having consumed a bottle of wine on the train on the way there plus loads more when I arrived, and the shame I felt the next day at seeing them and the people who’d been at the event was horrible. At Christmas, when I drank 2 bottles of wine across a day, including one secretly in the house, I’m sure they must have been able to smell the almighty stench of stale wine in my room the next day. My childhood bedroom, now tainted by the smell of booze. 

I think if I told my parents I had a drinking problem they’d be slightly less surprised than a lot of my friends. They’ve seen me really drunk, know heavy drinking runs in the family and almost without doubt would blame themselves. Part of me wants to tell them to unburden myself by being truthful with them, but I think it would be a selfish thing to do. When I told them I’d been struggling with depression, my dad cried (actually, upon reflection, he was a bit drunk himself…) because my brother has also really struggled with depression, and he said out loud he blames himself for our pain. He worries it stems from the way we were raised, which is utter nonsense because I am lucky to have had, in my eyes, the perfect childhood.

They encourage me to drink, my parents. They have a nightly bottle of wine (often each) and they worry I’m too uptight, too hard on myself and too hard working, never giving myself a break. For them, seeing their little over-achieving daughter flog herself is tricky- on the one hand they’re proud of how I throw myself into everything I do and get the results through hard work and determination, but on the other, they find it hard to watch. Since I started drinking, offering me a glass of wine to help me relax makes sense to them- it’s an easy thing to do, a helping hand to get me to slow down. They’d be horrified if they knew how this action had taken on a life of its own, causing me to get to the difficult place I’m at now. 

I won’t tell them. I have the support I need from my friends who know, but I’ll have to work out how I can tell them I’m not drinking without them worrying about me not relaxing enough (which I know will happen). They’ll take it as a sign I’ve gone back to my old, anxious, restrictive, self, I know they will. I’ve seen them do it before. Thankfully, I’m (mostly) the happiest I’ve been in a long time, so hopefully they’ll see this and accept that I don’t need a drink to calm myself. 

I’m so glad to have had that dream last night, it’s just reminded me of everything about sobriety that I should treasure, and forced me to think about a plan of action for when I go home in a few weeks time.

On a completely different note, shout out to And Everything Afterwards who absolutely NAILED my feelings about drinking vs the reality in her post this morning . If today you think a drink might be a good idea (as I so often do at the moment), I urge you to go and read this. It hits the nail on the head, and will be a post I return to in my darker moments when a glass of wine seems like the solution to all my problems…

Happy Tuesday! 

Made It

22 Mar

I made it through yesterday, but BOY was it hard. 

I threw every single tool at the craving. Every single one. And it worked. 

Here’s what I did:

  • I text lots of AA people
  • I arranged to go to a meeting with my sponsor
  • I made a bargain with myself that if I made it through the 4 last agonising hours at work, I’d buy a brownie. 
  • I cracked and bought a brownie 45 mins after making that promise. The sugar REALLY helped fight the craving. 
  • I read old blog posts
  • I read all your amazing comments
  • I looked repeatedly at my sobriety counter app, and remembered just how much of a struggle it was to get those first 7 days, never mind the first 66. 
  • I went to a meeting and shared and cried. There’s a lot of tears going on at the moment. The flood gates have well and truly been opened on that front…
  • I went to the cinema and saw my man friend, which gave me some physical comfort, even though this casual/no string relationship isn’t probably the best thing long term, it’s really helping me at the moment, so I’m not worrying about it too much.

The most important thing is that I made it to bed sober. I was in so much danger yesterday, I really really was close to drinking. This whole experience of sobriety is such a rollercoaster- I really feel the highs, bask in them and let them wrap me up in their shiny, comforting glow, but the struggles are really tough. 

I suppose the fact it find this so difficult shows the extent of the problem I have, which is all the more reason not to drink. 

It’s a sunny morning, I woke up with a headache that WASN’T from drinking and I’ve got the whole weekend ahead of me. No shame, no guilt, the pride of remaining strong and whacking wolfie over the head…

It feels great to have made it. 

60 Days!

14 Mar

I’m 60 days sober today. It feels amazing.

I’ve had a pretty disasterous week in some senses- lots of unexpected costs that I can’t really afford have been incurred through having my handbag stolen, I’ve developed a stinky cold and a cotton wool head and have been a bit of a hormonal pre-menstrual monster.

And yet, I’m sober.

I’ve started my ‘Step 1’ in AA, where you look at the ways in which you’re powerless over alcohol. I’m so grateful to have this blog to look back on, because there it is in black and white, time and time again. I don’t want to go back to that place, where I describe the desolation of drinking the Wolfie Cocktail or am constantly screaming inside ‘what the FUCK is wrong with me?’

When I’m sober, I feel like a normal person. Someone who’s a perfectionist, an overthinker and a sensitive soul, but very normal. When I was drinking I felt like the most crazy person in the world.

If you’ve read the older posts on this blog, you’ll know that for a year I was trying to string together a decent chunk of sobriety and failing, starting over and over again. I got stuck in this cul-de-sac of only experiencing the rubbish bits of sobriety- the cravings, raw emotions and feeling low. I just wanted to feel better, and sometimes that meant drinking and going back to square 1.

I’d email Belle in despair, asking when sobriety gets easier and better, and she said to me many times ‘somewhere between 30 and 60 days, something will shift.’ And it has. I don’t obsess about drinking now. It crosses my mind, but as a passing thought. It’s just a thought now, not the compulsion to act it once was.

It’s true what everyone who has any length of sober time under their belt says: in early sobriety, you just need to cling on. Don’t worry about weight loss or sugar intake or sleeping insane amounts. Just do what you need to do to make it work for you, to get out of the danger zone.

The sun is shining, it’s Friday and I’m sober. Hurrah to that!

 

Gifts of Sobriety Part II

8 Mar

I blogged last year, when I was 30 days into my sober run leading up to Christmas, about all the positive things I was experiencing in sobriety. Lots of small things, adding up to a sense of contentment, which made the craving battles worthwhile.

Then, I was a fledgling sober chick learning to make my way in the sober world, with every day a scary experience full of lessons. Now, I’m a fledgling sober chick with just a tiny bit more experience behind me, but my goodness what a difference that experience has made. I’ve seen the benefits of sobriety morph into big, huge, life changing things. 

I like to leave myself little messages in a bottle to remind myself why sobriety is worth all the struggle and heartache. Here’s my latest list of the benefits of sobriety:

I have landed the job of my dreams: I blogged last week about finding myself without a contract that would leave me out of work. I knew that this was both a blessing and a curse: it would get me out of the job that I knew was a major part of the dissatisfaction that drove me to drink, but that I needed the stability. Because I’m sober, I accepted the bad news, moved on and set about getting a job search going. Yesterday, I was offered the role of my dreams. I cannot quite believe it. There is NO WAY I could have got myself together to get that job when I was drinking, no way. This job is life changing, and yes it’s down to my hard work and the fact I’m good at my job when not under the influence of alcohol, but it is also 100% a result of getting sober. 

I have bought a house– I laid the foundations for this in my last sober run, beginning my search and this time round I’m in the process of sealing the deal. Such a stressful, grown up decision would have been completely out of my grasp when drinking. 

I’ve been given the all clear on liver health– speaks for itself, this one. Thank God I’m not dealing with long term physical consequences. 

My self-esteem has been transformed– I like myself now, I accept who I am and I trust myself a little more. This is worth its weight in gold. Drinking made me feel like a piece of dog poo squished on someone’s shoe and I don’t have that battle to contend with any more. 

I have rediscovered a faith– A former Catholic who renounced the religion, I never thought I’d find myself turning to God again. But through AA I have, and it gives me such enormous comfort I can’t describe it. The job situation I’ve described feels like it’s got “Higher Power’ written all over it. I can’t believe I’m typing this, little sceptical me would never attribute anything to God, but now I do, and it makes me feel good. I feel safer, and trust that ‘everything is just as it’s supposed to be’ right now, which helps my mental well-being hugely.

My physical image is vastly improved– I look better because my skin has improved dramatically and I’m slowly slowly losing a little weight, but that’s not what feels important here. I feel comfortable in my own skin. I feel confident that one day, I might find a man who finds me attractive and could love me for who I am. I no longer have the desperate desire to lose a stone in weight to feel better about myself. Amazing stuff. 

The world is my oyster– I once said to Carrie that if I want to achieve anything in life, I have to stop drinking. If I want a decent career, job, or relationship, it had to go. Having had such amazing benefits of sobriety thus far, I feel I can live an exciting and full life that I could never have dreamed of when I was drinking. 

Last year was laying the groundwork– when I drank again at Christmas, I felt like I’d thrown away all my good work, because the second I drank I was back at square 1, having to do those painful first few weeks of sobriety all over again. But what I didn’t appreciate that all the experiences I had, the lessons I learnt and the sober tricks I banked were setting me up for a more successful sober run. I say this with great caution, but for me (and I can only speak about my own experience), every relapse was an important and possibly vital lesson learnt. Someone once said something similar to me about relapse being an important lesson, and I took it as a license to drink so I could bank more “experience” of the consequences of drinking, which was my alcoholic brain at work. I’m not for one second suggesting that drinking again is a good idea for anyone, but what I am saying is that the more you try things out and find things that work for you or things that trip you up, the more confidence you get and the easier sobriety becomes. 

 

I’m conscious as I write this that some pretty amazing things have happened because of sobriety and that it won’t always be like this. Nor will it feel as immediately rewarding and as easy as it does today. I still get killer cravings. I only have 7 weeks of sobriety that is so precarious everything I’ve worked for could come crashing down at any point. 

So I’m putting everything I can into staying sober, it’s just too precious to lose. 

Happy Saturday gang! 

Liver test results

6 Mar

I posted months ago about being very worried about my liver pain. That was one of the things that made me really seriously look at how damaging my drinking was. I had many experiences last year where I was experiencing pain in the liver area, sometimes crippling when I breathed in after a drinking bout.

I had always focused on the mental effects of alcohol, but now the physical effects were too great to ignore. I was terrified at the damage I was doing to myself. When you find yourself googling liver related issues it’s a BIG wake up call. You realise how integral that little organ is to your health, and realise that drink really could be silently killing you.

My doctor referred me for a liver test and I have to be honest, it took 6 weeks to pluck up the courage to go. Usually, I’m really proactive but with this, I just didn’t want to know. I was scared that in early sobriety, finding out I had liver damage would cause me to drink. F**ked up right?

I went for the test last week, and called the doctors today to get my results. They have been deemed normal. I’m so grateful, I feel like I’ve been given a ‘get out of jail free’ card.

My health has improved so dramatically since I’ve stopped drinking- people keep complimenting me on my glowing skin and I feel like a normal person again. I feel hunger and tiredness, sleep just as much as my body needs and my running is coming on leaps and bounds.

I’m 7 weeks sober and it’s starting to feel worth all the heartache and struggle. It’s the most valuable thing in my life and I absolutely cherish it. I’m so grateful to find my liver is ok, and will do everything in my power to keep my health in good form- I deserve more than to ruin it with drink.

The Sunny Side

21 Feb

Today, I’m 38 days sober.

The sun is shining in the city, it feels a little like spring.

My clothes are feeling a little looser, and I’ve lost a few pounds.

I’m following a tailored nutrition plan for my marathon training a nutritionist I know designed for a slight calorie deficit so I can lose the weight I want, and I feel fantastic. Plenty of food, no deprivation, heaps of energy, strong running.

I slept for 8.5 hours last night and woke up and like I do every morning now I’m sober and thanked god, my higher power, or whatever is out there, for sleep and another sober day.

I’ve applied for a new job, to remind myself there are other options out there, if and when I want them. I’m not dwelling on it, or going to make any dramatic changes, just trying to feel my way towards what I really want.

I’m going to a gig tonight with a friend who’s never really drunk, and will dance my little socks off sober.

I’m feeling happy to be me. Happy to be on the Sunny Side. Not going back to the place where alcohol sucks all light out of life… Not today.

Happy Friday! 

 

Day by Day

20 Feb

This week has been a bit of a struggle. Not with cravings explicitly, but the niggling feeling that a drink would make everything better. I 100% know that in reality, that wouldn’t be the case.

Now that the booze fog is well and truly out of the way, at 5 weeks sober, other feelings are starting to surface. The uncomfortable nature of clarity. The curious sensation of being able to look into the mirror and examine what you see unfettered by shame. The experience of raw emotions.

It’s so easy to ignore things when you’re drinking. In some ways, it’s a mirror image of the AA principle “one day at a time.” You’re advised to “keep it in the day” rather than thinking about the possibility of never drinking again. So often when you’re fighting a hangover (particularly at work) all you can do is hope to get through the day in one piece. I took my drinking very much one day at a time, choosing to ignore future consequences, the number of days I’d drunk before hand, the effect it would have in the morning.

When you’re in early sobriety, all you want to do is get through the day without a drink. Now, I’m into a sober routine that’s working. I’m dealing with cravings, I’m going to AA regularly, I’m still reading sober blogs daily. Sobriety is slowly becoming part of the fabric of my life, and now my attention is turning to the other things I want to address.

Things are pretty good- I’ve just bought a flat, marathon training is going well and I feel some form of happiness every day. But my job, which I have chosen to ignore as a source of discontent, is becoming more and more of a worry to me.

All the big questions are coming up this week “who am I? Does this career suit me? Can I do this job for the rest of my life? How do I change things up? Am I just being the eternally unsatisfied alcoholic? Have I created a life than is better than I realise?”

Understandably, it’s all a bit overwhelming, and all I can do now is to stay solid and sober and manage the overwhelm. To start to address these questions slowly. Not to rush things. Not to threaten my precarious sobriety.

I asked a lovely lady who’s been vital in my first few weeks of AA to be my sponsor last night, and she said yes! This is a huge weight off my shoulders- I trust her, admire her and think I need to get started on the steps.

I’ll focus on these for now, not my big life questions or my job. Working through the steps will be a journey of self discovery and I think that if I prioritise that, maybe, just maybe, everything else will fall into place. For now, I’ll trust that It will, and that soothes me.

Happy Thursday!

WOAH CRAVING

16 Feb

I have been doing brilliantly this week, happy, feeling very sober, thrilled to be over a month without a drink but WOW today I have been wrestling Mr Wolfie like mad. 

All I want to do is fall face first into a mega glass of wine (you know the goblets that hold pretty much half a bottle? One of those). Why? I have no idea. 

In a bid to make sure I relax a bit and get enough rest after a mad week at work, I’ve been quite isolated this weekend. I think that has something to do with it. I’m also at the point which I’ve learnt, for me, is the classic “I wasn’t that bad really” point- just over a month sober. 

I’ve been to a lot of AA meeting this week, but I haven’t been engaging with the principles of it outside the meetings. So the One Day at A Time approach, which I know works, has gone out of the window. I’ve become a bit obsessed with not being able to share a bottle of wine with an (imaginary) future date, which is not helpful. I don’t even have any prospect of a date any time soon!

I’ve also been watching a lot of House of Cards where there is ALOT of alcohol. Despite one of the characters being an alcoholic which should put me off drinking, the seemingly endless casual glasses of wine portrayed on screen seem really appealing. This is just nonsense, to get triggered by a TV programme, but it’s reminded me how dangerous it is when the seed of drinking is planted. 

I’m staying strong and am leaving for a meeting in the next half an hour, which will buy me one more sober day. I cannot have a Day 1, not now. There is just no point. I know I don’t want to carry on drinking and have to stop, so why ruin my momentum AGAIN. 

Next week I’m going to focus on coming out of my sober bubble a little so I feel less isolated at the weekend, and planning lots of nice sober activities to look forward to.

I’ve settled on a treat that I’m saving up for if I make it to 3 months sober- a set of personal training lessons to start strength training and shake up my exercise routine a bit, which I’m REALLY looking forward to and today, the thought of denying myself that treat has pushed me through. 

Alcohol eh? Cunning, baffling, powerful. 

But I’ll stay sober today. 

Weight Weight Weight

14 Feb

Since I wrote about my body image struggles the other day, I’ve felt so much better. I’ve been so focused on alcohol of late, I haven’t had the mental space to get to grips with the noise that’s going on in the background about food and weight. I don’t want to focus too much on it and get distracted from the really important work, which is staying sober, but I think it’s important to start to address.

The therapist I go and see actually specialises in food and body image issues, and I started seeing her to deal with those problems, all the while opting to ‘forget’ to mention my alcohol problem to her. Since I came out about how much I was drinking, all our work has been focused around that. For me, the two problems are so interconnected, exploring the reasons why I drink also helps me explore why get caught in the starve binge cycle, or chronically under ate and overexercised.

I don’t want to over-simplify a very complex issue, but for me my preoccupation with weight comes down to 2 key things: a lack of self-care and a preoccupation with what other people think. I’ve realised throughout this whole crazy getting sober journey that I have NO IDEA how to be kind to myself, how to rest and be still and nourish myself properly. I’ve always been addicted to over-achieving and staying busy. I was an academic over achiever and studied round the clock all the way through school until I graduated. When I started running I fell head over heels in love with it and went crazy on that. I learnt the power of being thin, the attention and admiration it got me and took it to extreme lengths. And then: drinking.  My drinking was secret to preserve the external image that I wanted to portray, to look like I had it together whilst secretly falling about.

All of this behaviour wears me down emotionally, but on the outside, makes me feel like I look successful, driven and accomplished.

I love having this blog and AA because for the first time, possibly in my life, I can let the mask slip.

I wrote the other day about how I had a real mental wrestling match going on between feeling strong and healthy and feeling like a whale. I think this is in part because I’ve got two dialogues going on: what I think of my weight and what I imagine other people think of it.

I REALLY care what other people think about my size. Weight has always been a huge area of discussion for my family. My dad was very overweight when I was young, and then lost a lot through running. My mum has always been stick thin, but really prizes being thin highly. Every time we go to a family event they appraise everyone in the room “ooohh Tina has lost a lot of weight, James is looking a bit big isn’t he?!” etc etc.

I have so many specific memories of comments made around my size when I was younger. I was very slim- I did ballet 4 times a week and played lots of sport at school, but my Dad used to jokingly call me “thunder thighs.” Once I commented on my weight to him, looking for reassurance that I was slim, and he said “well cut back on the Mars bars then.” I didn’t even eat bloody Mars Bars.

When I was between 16 & 18 I exercised less and went on the Pill, both of which resulted in me putting on weight. Not tonnes, but enough to look bigger than I was. My mum was quietly horrified, and made comments about my stomach on several occasions. I was being fitted for a ball gown whilst in my first year at university, and she said I had “quite a bit of back fat.” When I look back at the size I was then, I was a UK size 10-12, (US 6-8) and not as athletic as I am now, but by no means fat. Slim but not toned.

When I discovered running and healthy eating, the weight steadily came off, much to the delight of my family who showered me with praise. My sister who has always been naturally big has received lots of teasing about it and comments on her weight and has recently fasted herself slim. She received the same plaudits from my parents. I get insanely jealous when I look at her…

That’s an aside. Back to the chronological story…. So, taking up running coincided with me meeting my (now ex) boyfriend who was very preoccupied with weight. I got slowly thinner and more restrictive with my food over the years, and he loved it, pinching my hip and proudly saying “there’s nothing there!”

When my eating issues got really bad, and my hair started to fall out, he used to call my “baldy”, faux affectionately. He once said to me “I don’t understand how you’re not thinner, bearing in mind how little you eat.” I was having CBT for my eating issues and he didn’t engage with it, didn’t acknowledge there was anything wrong.

My parents by this time were really worried, but he didn’t see there was anything unhealthy about my behaviour and weight.

When my boyfriend moved away for 6 months, I started drinking, as I wrote about in a recent post. I also started eating again, and getting back to a healthier weight.

My boyfriend was horrified- I remember us being on holiday and him walking behind me, giving me the once over and saying- “wow, you’ve got bigger.” “Where?!” I asked. “All over” he told me.

But I didn’t care enough to do anything about it. I was enjoying drinking too much, and it was hugely liberating to be able to eat again.

I left my job and had a month long holiday before I started my new one. I went off on a trip to the other side of the world where I ate normally, drank shitloads and had a ball.

I came home maybe 4 pounds heavier (and looking at photos, slim still) and again, my boyfriend was horrified. He started instigating weekly weigh-ins, saying “you just need to get back to the weight you were before holiday.” When I eventually refused to do them, he called me a quitter.

Meanwhile, my mum told me they’d cheered when they saw me after this holiday, because my weight was up.

I split up with the boyfriend, the weight issue being a major factor, and still see him occasionally, always worrying that he thinks I’m fat. He’s really thin now, and looks drawn and weak.

Enough on the details, but is it any wonder I feel like I’m constantly being weighed up by the eyes of others?! When the most important people in my life valued weight so highly? And in the case of my parents, still do.

One of the questions I’ve been asked by several family members over the past few 6 months is “how did you put on so much WEIGHT?!” as if I was the size of a house. I’m a toned, fit, UK size 12. I could lose some body fat, yes, but seriously, I’m not overweight. Just not skinny.

Society is a bit fucked, isn’t it, if loved ones feel it’s appropriate to make weight seem so important that it’s easy to believe that the love of others is contingent on you maintaining a certain size. I struggle with the idea that any new man will love me unless I’m thinner, which is bollocks, because if he doesn’t, he’s not worth my time.

Phew. It feels good to get that all on paper and out of my head.

For me, my sober journey is all about finding out how to be unashamedly me. No booze, no starving myself, just working out who the natural me is. If I’m designed to be around the weight I am now if I eat well and keep up my exercise, then that’s something I’ll have to come to accept. If I’m honest, I don’t want to accept it, and may not have to, but hey, I didn’t want to accept I’m an alcoholic and that’s worked out ok so far!

Fat.

11 Feb

I originally started this blog to talk about my struggle with food and weight, and then from my writing my realisation that drinking was the real problem emerged. It was a real shock. I was originally focused on quitting drinking as a means to weight loss: in the space of 18 months I’d gone from an emaciated underweight person to a healthier looking shape, but one whose weight came from the increased booze intake, not necessarily a better relationship with food.

My relationship with food now is probably the healthiest its ever been- I don’t restrict myself too much and don’t have huge guilt over eating sweet things or not existing off vegetables alone. But the reality is, I feel fat.

 I’m marathon training at the moment, and completed a race last weekend where some photos went up of me online. I look really heavy. I nearly cried when I saw them. I’m used to looking thin and elegant and in my running clothes I looked squat and a bit dumpy.

But my body is stronger and fitter than its ever been, it’s more nourished than its been in years and mentally, my relationship with food is better. I’m really struggling to reconcile these two opposing things- on the one hand feeling stronger and healthier and on the other hand feeling really fat and unattractive.

I’m not quite sure what to do. I don’t want to launch myself into a diet plan, because quite frankly, I don’t have the energy to get caught up in thoughts of restriction and rules. I’m running huge amounts, but I’ve learnt that for me, my body no longer responds to running because it’s so used to that kind of exercise. I’ve been running for 8 years and at first, weight dropped off but now it never does.

The most obvious solution to make a change to my body is to eat clean, nourishing food and to employ the “listen to my body” strategy, fueling it as needed, but I don’t yet trust myself to do that. If I did that, I think I’d just want to eat all the time. I can’t yet distinguish between hunger, emotional hunger and just wanting a sweet treat.

I don’t actually need to lose very much weight at all to look slim, so it’s not something I should be thinking so much about, but I haven’t lost anything at all since stopping drinking and definitely gained over Christmas when I was drinking again. I feel completely powerless over my weight, which isn’t necessarily true, but I don’t feel I can change it without some dramatic regime I’m not willing to do right now. This probably isn’t true, and some small daily changes could start to make a difference over time, but the idea of doing anything at all feels exhausting.

 I know I have to be patient and put sobriety first and not get too hungry (being hungry really makes me crave alcohol) but I’m finding it really hard to look at myself in the mirror every day. Sometimes I feel like I literally shift shape before my very eyes as I look at my reflection.

I hate the self-absorption of worrying about weight, but the truth is, I see my shape now as a symbol of my alcoholism and shame. If I hadn’t started drinking, I probably would still be very thin, and my body just feels like a product of my binges. But at the same time, it’s strong and toned, just carrying a little more fat than I’d like.

Why do we focus on our bodies so much? I’m the strongest I’ve ever been emotionally, and yet I dwell on this external manifestation of self.

I’m going to try this week to make small steps, just focusing on each food choice as a nourishing one, a bit of a “day at a time” approach to food, not starving myself, just trying to make the best possible choice available. We’ll see how that goes. 

The Drinks Trolley

7 Feb

While my colleagues went to drink warm, weak mojitos at the Friday bar in our work, I laced up my running shoes and took a gorgeous evening run round London.

I went along one of my favourite routes along the Thames, but made sure to take a detour past my old work which is very close to the river.

I left that job 14 months ago as it was incredibly toxic for me. I had a bullying boss, a ridiculously high pressured job and was miserable there by the end. When it got unbearable, I took things into my own hands and handed in my notice, which was one of the most liberating things I’ve ever done. In many ways, that bold decision has paved the way for other bold decisions in the past year- leaving my home and relationship and ultimately, quitting drinking.

I’d intended to run past the old office because it would remind me how far I’ve come, but what I had COMPLETELY forgotten about was how my serious drinking career actually started in those very 4 walls.

When I moved to London at the age of 23, I’d had probably 2-3 years of not drinking very much at all, without really thinking about it. I’d had a really tough degree to get through that needed full focus and then had taken my first job in my home town, living with my parents and not really having any opportunities or the desire to drink.

So when I took this big, exciting job in London I threw myself into it, especially the social scene. I work in the media, and it seemed at every moment there was an opportunity to drink. I weighed around 7 stone at the time, was barely eating, marathon training and had no tolerance for alcohol. The first night I went out with the team I drank 3 large glasses of red wine which literally floored me. I was absolutely mortified. I can still so vividly remember the sensation of knowing I should eat something to sober up and trying to force down a burger, but my mouth being so incredibly dry I could barely chew.

I resolved to drink less with colleagues after fearing I’d made a bad impression, but with the endless merry go round of free bars, award ceremonies and after-work pow wows about the latest team drama, that didn’t last long. My tolerance for wine grew and my taste for red became voracious. I started to crave it, swerving the gym to go and drink, which wasn’t like me at all.

Running past that building tonight I can pinpoint the night my drinking took an irreversible downward spiral. I know alcoholism is a progressive disease, and my drinking got slowly worse as it went on, but I can honestly say for me, there was one weekend which changed everything.

The month before That fateful Weekend, I’d been tasked with injecting some team spirit into our organisation, which was going through lots of uncomfortable changes. I went to visit another creative business for inspiration, and came back with a notebook bursting with suggestions.

The one single idea that was picked up was to install a “drinks trolley” on a Friday to encourage people who weren’t up for the pub to have a drink and socialise with colleagues, to build a bit of camaraderie.

I was pretty pleased one of my suggestions had been taken on but was disappointed to find that the trolley’s debut (!) fell on the night before my (now-ex) boyfriend was moving to another city for 6 months.

I was supposed to be going to a farewell meal for him and his brother, but had time for a quick glass of wine at the drinks trolley before I went. I started chatting away and the wine was flowing, so I stayed for another, and another, and another. I ran off to the toilets to text my boyfriend and tell him I was caught up in a horrific deadline and would be late. I remember barely being able to type the words, and coming out with nonsensical predictive text which I put down to not being able to operate a touch screen phone. Bollocks. I was wasted. But I carried on drinking.

I got home at 11pm that night, and I’d like to say that having missed the meal, I was full of remorse, but I don’t think I cared, actually. Which isn’t like me at all, and horrifies me to type it, but it’s true.

The next day I had to endure a hungover 3 hour car ride to drop off boyf’s things at his new place. I remember the sweet relief of having a glass of wine over dinner, the magic glass that eased the hangover.

And the next night, when he was gone, and I faced the prospect of living in my flat alone for the next 6 months, drinking half a bottle of wine to dull the fear. I’ve mentioned that moment on this blog before, but I was sitting in front of the TV watching Homeland and drinking the wine thinking, “this is dangerous: I love it.” Drinking alone had begun. Lying to someone else and myself had begun. Drinking to numb shame and loneliness had well and truly begun.

From thereon, Friday nights getting drunk in the office were a highlight of my week. Often after everyone had gone home and left the drinks trolley still amply stocked, I snuck off with a glass (bottle) to my computer to “finish up some work” and drank alone in the office. I believed I was genuinely working. What lies I told myself.

Soon, I started buying a bottle of wine to have a glass of on my lovely balcony a couple of times a week, ending up finishing the bottle falling asleep on the sofa and awaking feeling like shit thinking “WHAT am I doing this for?!”

But at that time, it didn’t feel like a problem at all. It just felt like a habit I’d got into that I could kick at any time.

Writing this post, I’ve realised it’s almost 2 years TO THE DAY that that first incident in the office happened. Which makes me incredibly grateful to have started to get on top it now. Two years of heavy drinking (one of which was actively trying to stop) is small in the scheme of things, but the fact it declined so quickly to a point I feel I have no other option than AA speaks volumes. I read something, somewhere, that says women alcoholics can fall victim to drinks effects incredibly quickly, and I suppose I’m a walking testimony of that.

So today, on that run, I gazed up at the big building I used to spend my Friday nights in drunk, and thought how far I’ve come, how much stronger I feel now and how I know that the only path for me is the sober path.

Happy Friday!

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Good Morning Mercies

Seeking beauty and balance overcoming chronic illness and addictions

We Admitted We Were Powerless

A journey of recovery

Mind-Full Mom-E

Being sober & clear headed with a mind that is full!

12 the hard way

ruminations on the twelve steps.

Recovering From Powerlessness

A journey of recovery from everything

nomorewine's Blog

The greatest WordPress.com site in all the land!

Ditch The Grog Blog

A Quest to Sobriety!

Lucy's New Life

Goodbye booze. Hello clarity, health and happiness.

The Adventures of a Sober Señorita

Follow me as I live la vida loca (but sober)

The Six Year Hangover

A BLOG BY A GAY MAN GETTING SOBER IN NEW YORK CITY.

And Everything Afterwards

How I quit alcohol and discovered the beauty of a sober life

Just A Rock

The trials of a young woman awkwardly trudging her way to happy destiny

Life Unbuzzed

Rowing my sober boat gently down the stream

Alcoholics NON Anonymous

Step 1: POWERLESSNESS is not real.

Living Free

A fine WordPress.com site

messyarts

lettuce turnip the beet.

Seeing Clear Lee

musings on becoming alcohol-free

Vodka Goggles

No longer seeing the world through vodka colored glasses..

Recovering Life

Age and alcoholism

365reasons2sober

My blog to help me stop drinking.

Kind Copy

Better writing attracts better clients

No Shame in Asking

A Memoir of Sober Living

aglasshalffullofcheer

90 days sober, a look at the problem of drinking