Tag Archives: drinking

5 months sober

14 Jun

Today is my 5 month soberversary. 

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

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

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

Happy Saturday!

 

 

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. 

Self- Absorption

27 May

I have’t blogged, read blogs, been to a meeting or even thought about drinking for days.

When I realised this, I was conflicted. On the one hand, it means I’m moving on from that OBSESSION with drinking/not drinking that I’ve been held prisoner by the past months (/years?!) but on the other, it could mean I’m not putting my recovery first. I’m so used to it occupying my mind it really shocked me when I’d sort of… forgotten to think about it. 

I had a little panic when I realised this, but upon reflection, I have been active in recovery, just in a different form to the one I’m used to. 

Until this point, my recovery had been very ‘me me me’; what do I think, how do I feel, how is my experience of recovery and how can I protect it. A lot of being inside my own silly head. I’ve often fretted about this, thinking that this means I shall be eternally self obsessed when I’m sober. But actually, as my sponsor has pointed out, recovery is as much about helping others as anything else. That’s how we stay dry. It’s the foundation of the AA programme, and how that amazing organisation keeps doing great work. And without realising it, I’ve been helping others more than I’ve been taking help over the past few days by calling newcomers and checking in with people who I know are struggling.

Just because I wasn’t thinking about me doesn’t mean I’m not being active in recovery. Quelle surprise! I’ve been quite ‘take take take’ and now I’m back onto more solid ground I feel truly able to give. This feels good. Imagine if I could pass on what I’ve learnt and another person actually gets sober and it changes their life?! That’s pretty powerful. I know mine’s changed, through the help of my AA buddies and all the brilliant bloggers who came before me. I suppose even when we’re struggling, our words of pain help others think ‘wow, other people feel like I do’ and we help them. I’ll never forget that first night I sat reading the blogs realising that there were other women out there like me who drank like I drank, feel like I feel.

I’m exhausted and not very articulate today, but I suppose I’m saying that giving feels really good. And being out of my own head is the greatest relief. I’m praying that this marks another corner turned in sobriety, where I stop thinking about myself all the bloody time. I hated that bit of early recovery. And of course it’s even worse when you’re drinking. 

So here I am 133 days sober, crawling down the road of progress and being more grateful than ever for what sobriety is giving me. If you’re struggling in the very early days with the ‘Is it worth it?!?!’ question that plagues us all, I’d say that right now, it truly feels it. The way I feel now in comparison to a few months ago is so dramatically different it takes my breath away. The brain chatter has quietened down. Most of the time at least. 

I’ll file this post under ‘YAY SOBRIETY!’ to refer to in my darker moments 😉

Happy Tuesday all x

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. 

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! 

Video

Swinging from the Chandeliers

20 Apr

In true addictive style, I have been playing this song by the wonderful Sia over and over today. Very apt, as it’s a song about addiction, specifically the cycle of living in the moment when drinking and then having to face the aftermath.

After Friday’s happy, sober contented post, I’ve had a tough weekend of cravings. I stupidly went to a huge street party/rave thing yesterday afternoon, which is NOT the kind of environment I should be putting myself in when I’m feeling like I’m missing out by not drinking.

I was turning over the idea of what would REALLY happen if I nipped into a pub to come out with a plastic glass of slightly warm flat beer when, as if on cue, two people I recognise from AA walked past. Thanks Higher Power, impeccable timing there eh?

It is safe to say I was absolutely crawling the walls yesterday afternoon and have been for most of today. I just want to drink. I do. Surely these cravings should, at 96 days sober, have died down a little?

I’ve got friends coming round for dinner tonight and I’m writing this as a guard against opening the wine that’s in the fridge. I want to dance around my kitchen and cook and feel the effects of wine. I know I’m romanticising it, that it would end with me waking up tomorrow full of regret, but that knowledge doesn’t take the desire away.

Two of the people coming for dinner are the friends I’ve told about being in recovery, so I couldn’t drink tonight if I wanted to, which is really bloody annoying.

I’m trying to just focus on getting my head on the pillow tonight sober, which i know I can do, but what’s really bothering me is the thought of just how much effort this is taking. Week after week I’m battling cravings of epic proportions and it’s pretty exhausting. Yes, I know life is way better sober. Yes, I know when I post about happy sobriety I am I’m bouncing off the walls ecstatic, but when I get these cravings my skin crawls.

Even though I am committed to my sobriety, it’s painful, and I don’t know if I can continue like this forever. Unfortunately, this option is better than the drinking alternative, so for now, my choice is to remain sober. It does get easier, right? I’m praying that the cravings will start to go. I’m my own worst enemy with my thinking, I keep building up drinking in my own head as this wonderful thing I’m missing out on. It’s not. We all know it’s not.

GAHHHHHHHHHH this is hard.

But I’ll do it and tomorrow I will wake up happy.

Progress not Perfection

18 Apr

I’m at the start of a few weeks break before I start my new job. The sun is shining, I slept for 10 hours and made a delicious breakfast and I’m curled up in my living room with some relaxing piano music and my laptop. 

That sentence right there ^^^^ has got SOBER written all over it. The kind of sentence that makes a sober heart sing with joy at the serenity and peace of not being hungover and that the drinking mind thinks ‘booooooooring’ at the  mere sight. 

But it’s not boring, it is, quite frankly, delicious. Every other Good Friday for the past few years I’ve been wallowing in a hangover. I’m not sure what it is about Brits and Bank Holidays, but it makes us go a little crazy and hit the pub HARD. In former years, I would have got smashed last night in an unremarkable way, woken this morning feeling shitty and made it through the rest of the weekend by continuing to drink in the evenings, with a bit of afternoon drinking thrown in if I was *really* struggling. Yesterday was so dramatically different to that. There was champagne opened in honour of my last day at work and I refused it without a pang of resentment I couldn’t drink it. I went to the pub after work for my leaving drinks and had soda water all night, not yearning for a beer like I usually would. One of my colleagues asked ‘Do you think you’ll never drink again? You seem to really enjoy not drinking’ to which I replied ‘I don’t know about forever, but for now, I’m enjoying it’ and he accepted that. 

One of the things that has been fascinating about sobriety is that people REALLY DO NOT GIVE A SHIT. I was worried for so long about peer pressure, particularly around my boss who drinks a lot, but last night not one person tried to persuade me to drink, and my boss bought me soda water all night. I created that barrier to change, the notion that I would be rejected if I didn’t drink. No-one cares. People admire it when you go, have fun and stay sober. They like it when you’re happy to chip in with rounds even though you’re not drinking. In other words, they’re happy to have your company, not to have just another drinking partner.

After my struggles with sobriety last weekend, I’ve been doing a little exercise called ‘Old Post Bingo.’ I get my WordPress app out, scroll up and down through my old posts with my eyes closed and pick one randomly to read. The idea of this was to scare myself into never wanting to drink again by seeing my own despair on the page in black and white, but of course in reality, the exercise has been much more subtle than that. I’ve seen before my eyes the slow march of progress towards a better life. 

This morning’s bingo post was this. The moment that after months of being dissatisfied with my current job, I was forced to go out and find something new. The joy of reading this back with the power of hindsight is that I can see my newly found sobriety glowing strong through my thoughts and actions. I didn’t get wounded or panic but was proactive and found a new job, my dream job in fact, that I’ll start in a few weeks time. What I didn’t know then was that I’d soon be offered another contract at the company I was with, negating the panicky situation. If I’d been drinking, I would have been too hungover to do anything proactive, dragged my feet and eventually found myself with a new contract offer without having to lift a finger. I would have been absolutely fine for a job and money, but drink would be ravaging my body and mind and I’d still have that niggling feeling that there’s a better alternative out there. 

SOBRIETY is that better alternative. Everything good in my life over the past few months has come from sobriety. And whilst I might still have my wobbles and the urge to drink sometimes, it fades, whereas my little sober flame does not. 

Pretty cool huh? I’m looking forward to a weekend of relaxation, calm and above all, sobriety.

Overflowing

16 Apr

When I’m having a great day, I often become aware of why I want to drink. I want to drink to become full to the brim, to be bursting with happiness, or to temper that amazing, nervous excited feeling that comes with being elated.

As I was bouncing down the road to work this morning, I was full of that feeling. Full of joy and elation. Life is bloody good. And for the first time in a very long time, I didn’t want to multiply that feeling by adding booze into the equation. I’m so happy because I’m NOT drinking, of course I am. What an obvious revelation!  

Now that I’ve removed alcohol from the equation I can see that my life is basically pretty brilliant. The period of my life I’m going through at the moment is just brilliant. I’m happy, secure and am privileged to be part of a hobby group that gives me spine-tingling, life affirming experiences week in week out. I’ve got my dream job starting in a few weeks, and I’m leaving my current one on a high.

I basically feel on top of the world.

And yet I let the niggles of the uncomforableness (not a word, I know) not drinking creep in. Maybe what I need is a change of perspective. I’ve been emailing another lovely sober blogger recently and this morning she wrote something to me that was so true. She spoke about the idea that alcohol gives us NOTHING, it only takes away.

Deep down I know this, I’ve experienced it first hand, I’ve steeped myself in the Alan Carr/Jason Vale ideas which are along these lines, but I haven’t yet taken it on board fully.

When I look back on this period of my life, I KNOW I’ll look back on it as a golden one. It’s magic, some of the things that are happening at the moment. And yet, some of the amazing experiences I’m lucky enough to have I’ve been having for years in various forms through my hobby group and my job, and yet these have all been tainted by drink.

Yes I’ve had some hard times, but I’ve also had some brilliant ones. Looking back over experiences that I should remember with a sense of elation, I only remember the tang of shame from drinking. So my idea that alcohol enhances happiness and supersizes experience is UTTER BOLLOCKS. It’s a fictional notion that I’ve tried and tested and found simply not to be true.

So with that thought at the front of my mind, I’m going to skip through this happy patch, savouring every minute.

 

90 Days and Confused

14 Apr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Letter to My Drinking Self

4 Apr

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

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

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

Dear FFF (2014 edition),

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours with love,

FFF (September 2013 Edition)

I feel better already writing that.

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

 

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.

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!

Opening up

23 Jan

After running out of my flat to an AA meeting that I desperately needed to go to (the second that day) to take away the niggling thought that a drink would be a GREAT idea, I managed to lock myself out of my flat. 

I went to the meeting, which was the worst one I’ve been to yet (a bitter chair, not great positivity in the room that night) and arrived home to find I had no keys. BUGGER. My flatmate is out of the country- without a locksmith, which I can’t afford right now, I’d be locked out for days. DOUBLE BUGGER. 

I was dying for the toilet, and the natural place to go was a bar next door to where I live. I went in, went to the loo, sat down at a table and decided what to do next. I had a nice little dialogue in my head between Old Me and New Me:

Old Me: Argh! This is a NIGHTMARE! The only thing that will make it better is a drink!

New Me: Terrible idea. Terrible. You don’t drink anymore.

Old Me: I wasn’t going to drink, but since I’m going to stop again anyway, I might as well tonight- I’m locked out of home and in a bar! What else would I do?!

New Me: Take a deep breath and decide who you can call who has a place to stay where you’ll get a decent night’s sleep and decide what to do in the morning. 

Old Me: But I want to just have one glass of wine, just one…

And this went on for quite some time.

Thankfully, the bar I chose is the one I walk past every day to see some old alcoholics sitting outside. They’re all 70+ and sit there in their finery drinking all day long and it breaks my heart every time I see them. They look so frail and so sad. It reminded me of what could happen if I carry on drinking, always jeopardising my hard work for another day 1. 

So I called a friend I know has a nice, cosy place and asked if I could stay with him. 

He knows I’ve been struggling with depression, and has been kindly telling me for many weeks I can open up to him about anything. I’m not sure why, but in that moment in his warm, cosy flat where I felt safe I decided to tell him the WHOLE story. Every last detail of my drinking. 

I’ve been wanting to tell someone close to me for a while, but have never quite found the right person to tell, because I was scared of them not taking me seriously or thinking it was silly. As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I very rarely got smashed publically, and would be considered quite a restrained drinker by most of my friends.

This particular friend turned out to be the perfect choice. He listened to every word and took them with grave seriousness.

I think one of the reasons he felt like the person to tell is that he’s a BIG binge drinker, one of the biggest I know, and I have, in the past, worried about his drinking before alcohol became a problem for me. We talked about his drinking and how it differs from mine. I explained how and why I drank and how once I started I couldn’t stop for days at a time and he said: “I drink alot when I’m out, but it never occurs to me to drink on my own, or for more than one day in a row.” As I looked around his flat he had a couple of red bottles of wine that were half full. I pointed them out to him, saying I could never have those half bottles in the house and he seemed to have genuinely forgotten that they were there. There’s a debate about how binge drinkers fit into alcoholism, but for me, hearing his utter indifference about alcohol at home and him saying he likes it as a mood enhancer on a big night out, no more than that, reminded me why I have come to the path of sobriety.

I told him about this blog, my attempts to stop and my joining AA. He was incredibly supportive and suggested that while I’m being really proactive, maybe I need more support than I’m allowing myself, and suggested taking some time off work.

So following yesterday’s musings about taking some time out to focus on sobriety and getting better, I’ve spoken to my boss and I’m having at least a week to get myself together. I couldn’t share the full details of why, but she understood that I have something personal going on that I need to attend to and that was enough.

I’m so grateful for him, and the fact that he not only listened, but cared enough to have some really great practical advice. I joked with him that now I’ve ‘fessed up to being an alcoholic, I can’t have a drink with friends again without him breathing down my neck reminding me why I shouldn’t, but it’s true. He’ll help keep me safe and sober. 

So that’s that. Being truthful helps. I’ve been telling versions of the truth, but the whole truth feels so much better, the sense of unburdening is greater. 

And by the way, I hadn’t locked myself out after all, my keys were in a hidden pocket after all 😉 

Happy Thursday all!

 

 

Taking time for Me

21 Jan

To try and make this time round a successful sober lifestyle where other attempts have failed, I’m taking some time for me. Slowing down. Not trying to be the best goddamn sober person ever doing it all, having it all, and remaining tee total.

But, I’ve been trying to work out how, exactly, I slow down when I have a hectic full time job, am marathon training, flat-hunting and trying to get to an AA meeting every day.

I realised this morning that I am in a very privileged position- I don’t have children who depend on me, I don’t have a partner who needs my love and attention, it’s just little old me. And (HOPEFULLY!) life won’t be this solitary forever. So maybe now is the time to really take advantage of that and heal myself from the ups and downs of drinking over Christmas and the New Year, from the linger term damage drinking has done. Should I be selfish with the aim of getting to a place (eventually) where I’m sober, balanced and ready to truly love and support others rather than being caught in a drink-relapse cycle?

I’m off work today, and contemplating taking the rest of the week off to focus and relax into sobriety. Every time I’ve tried before I’ve had my Day 1 right in the middle of a manic work week and haven’t ever truly stopped to take stock or recover, despite blogging it out. And foolishly used my Christmas break to drink…

I’m not sure whether taking time off wise, as I don’t want my work to suffer, but equally know I need some more time away to get myself back on track, to attend as many meetings as I can and be still.

I’ll see how the rest of the day goes, but for now, I’m grateful to be able to have a sober day to myself.

To the Streets or a Penthouse

17 Jan

Yesterday, I posted about my anger regarding a conversation I’d had with someone who questioned whether my drinking was a problem. I’d mulled over whether or not to post it, but the one thing I promised myself when I started blogging was that I’d be 100% honest. That I’d be as warts and all as I can about my feelings as a means of a) getting in touch with them and b) keeping track of how my moods and difficult feelings change as I journey through sobriety so I can reflect on what, for me, makes a situation better or worse.

The comments were supportive, and some did challenge my view, which I’m thankful for. What I already knew was reiterated- that I have to take full responsibility for my actions. And I do. But I needed to articulate my frustration at the idea that if you don’t end up in the gutter then you don’t have a problem. It undoes all the positive messages around alcoholism being a problem that anyone can suffer from. As someone put it yesterday in my AA meeting: “it can take you to the streets or it can take you to a posh penthouse, but it’s still destructive, still hell for us who suffer.”

I didn’t intent to place blame or deflect responsibility from myself, but to remind everyone who dispenses support or ‘advice’ that they do so carefully and with sensitivity.

So, today is a new day, my anger has subsided into acceptance- yes I do have a problem, yes it’s not fair, yes I am doing everything in my power to manage it. I’m quite pleased, in a way, that I felt anger, because it’s an emotion I’m not that familiar with, and it felt cathartic to get it onto the page. 

I had plenty of sleep last night, a glorious run in a thunderstorm and am trusting that today, everything will be ok. As long as I sleep, run, eat chocolate and go to AA, all will be well. 

Happy Friday!

 

 

My First AA Meeting

9 Jan

 

So, last night I went to my first AA meeting. I never thought I’d set foot in one, to be honest, but I’m so glad I did.

For the 90 minutes I was there, I cried constantly, sometimes bordering upon hysterically. It was the most incredible feeling of release. Although I sometimes do cry with my therapist, it’s so rare that I actually let everything come out, and I felt like the pent up agony of the past year or so of struggling with this horrible problem was being let go.

The meeting set up was basically a massive cliché. We were sitting in rows on crappy plastic chairs with an outdated tea urn bubbling away in the corner and handed Styrofoam cups of cheap coffee to welcome us.  

As I entered the room I wanted to walk out immediately. There were around 25 people in the room, all men apart from myself, the chair and one other woman who arrived later. I knew that my connections online of people who have struggled with alcohol have been 90% women, but I didn’t expect to be intimidated by the male presence.

I sat down, and when they invited newcomers to make themselves known, I said my name and that it was my first meeting and was welcomed. As the guest speaker’s story was told and the 12 steps recited, I started to open up emotionally and the tears came. It’s REALLY bloody hard to stop hysterical tears in a quiet room and I was a bit of a snivelling mess at the back, snotty nosed and not armed with a tissue. WHY DIDN’T I BRING A TISSUE?!

They tell you to listen for the similarities not the differences you see between yourself and other drinkers when you’re new, and my GOD were there so many similarities.

The main thing I took away from the sharing and the discussions was that everyone in the room has struggled with who they are in some form or another, and that led them both to drink, and to find recovery difficult. There were amazing stories of self-discovery. Some of the points that were made might seem small if I recounted them, but they spoke volumes to me.

There was an overwhelming positivity that I took away- several people talked about things in their life that have happened only because they got sober. These are things that they couldn’t have done before not because they were drunk, but because they didn’t know who they truly were, or that they never had the self-esteem to pursue them. Someone described growing into an adult when he got sober, having lived 40 years as a child.

All of these points made great sense to me and gave me real hope, because I’ve always known that alcohol is making my life smaller than I want it to be, that I could achieve things I never thought possible if I could take the steps to permanently remove it from my life. And that I’m still a child in so many ways, and that’s alcohol is keeping me there.

The other thing that really clicked for me, which is the thing I expected to relate to least, was the ‘higher power’ notion. Everyone who referred to the higher power in their discussions specifically said it didn’t take a religious form to them. I had a HUGE switch click in my head with regards to this idea. I realised two things. The first is that I’ve got a gaping hole left by moving away from the Catholic religion that was such a fundamental part of my life until I was around 20, when I suddenly decided it wasn’t for me. I was shocked to discover last night, that I really missed the idea that there was something outside of myself that I could rely on. I don’t want religion back. Maybe now, my spiritual guide isn’t God, but something that dictates that everything will work out just as it should. Some sort of universal plan that I fit into.

The idea that “maybe everything is just as it’s supposed to be right now” was mentioned to me by my therapist a while ago, and it one of the most helpful ideas I have to get me through the tough times. And maybe this idea is the same thing, for me, as the notion of a Higher Power: the thought that everything I’m going through now is for a reason, and that will make me a stronger person in the long term. You can’t argue with the idea that I’m learning a hell of a lot from this struggle, and placing this in the context of a wider life plan that I’m not completely in control of was a huge relief. It took the great burden away from me and my little corner of the earth a little bit. Made me GET OVER MYSELF a little bit.

This also reiterated my feeling that I also don’t want to rely 100% on myself and tear myself up with endless introspection. I’ve talked about this before, but last night I felt a shift inside myself where I just trusted that everything will be ok. That I can pray or ask or just hope that something outside of me has my best interests at heart. That feels a weird line for me to type, but I believe it.

And the thing that really underlined the “maybe everything is exactly as it’s supposed to be” idea for me was the fact that I feel I walked into that AA room at precisely the right moment for me. I walked in, my brain telling me that maybe I didn’t have an alcohol problem, knowing that just 24 hours before I’d expressed the fear to Carrie that one day, my parents would get a call saying I’d died because of alcohol. That dramatic mindshift in just a day showed me that this disease is real, it’s serious and that it’s got me in the grips of deception.

The second thing that meant that last night was precisely the right time for me to go was it coincided with my true acceptance of this problem. When I reread old posts I’ve made, I remember the hopeless optimism I had that once I stopped and stayed stopped for a while, that would be the end of my journey with alcohol. I’ve realised in the past month or so that stopping drinking is only just the beginning. That I have so much work to do to stay sober. But that that’s ok.

If I’d set foot in that room even 3 months ago I still wouldn’t have believed this would work for me. But all the soul searching I’ve done and the honest approach I’ve repeatedly forced myself to take as I look inwards has meant that I’ve done a lot of ground work on my own, but I know that I need more help than that, from lots of different perspectives. After taking what’s been a pretty lonely road, despite all the online support and occasional meet ups with other sober bloggers, the comfort of simply having a large people group around me to listen to was huge.

As we stood up at the end and joined hands in a circle, I was absolutely crying my eyes out. The two women rushed up to me immediately after and comforted me, gave me their numbers and said lovely reassuring things. One of them was in her mid 30s, and sober for 4 years, the other 26 and had got sober at 21. They were kind and gentle and beautiful and I never wanted them to stop hugging me!

I honestly feel that I’m going to be going to these meetings long term. I think it’s going to really help me, more than I could ever have imagined. I had HUGE preconceptions and misgivings about AA, which I think many of us do, but I knew trying it was important, and I’m over the moon this morning that I plucked up the courage to walk down those stairs, shaking like a leaf, and make myself vulnerable in front of a room of tough looking men.

After last night I feel calm and I know it’s all going to be ok. It’s going to be hard, and I’m still going to have the same struggles, but maybe this new approach I’m trying will truly help me this time. I have the belief radiating from somewhere very deep inside me that it will, and that makes me want to weep with joy.

Pretty powerful stuff eh? I’m more shocked than anyone, but I’m going to stick with it and see where this unexpected journey takes me.

Happy Thursday! 

It’s ALL FINE

8 Jan

Day 2, I slept for 8 or 9 hours last night, I feel like a new person. The fog of hangover has lifted and I’ve got my positivity back. I have even started to think that the last nightmare few days have been an anomaly, a case of me being overdramatic about alcohol. 

How is it that our bodies and minds forget so quickly? 

When I’m sober, I feel like I’m definitely not an alcoholic, and when I drink, I know that I am. 

Today I’m going to my first AA meeting. I have to. I have to make my world about being sober for the next few months. I can’t go back to the place I’ve been stuck in so many times over the past year of weeks on and off alcohol, a constant rollercoaster. 

Here’s the things I know about what to expect about the next few weeks that might make me slip up:

  • My addiction will trick me into thinking life is ok, and that drinking is ok, and just a bit of fun. I know it is not.
  • I will need alot of sleep.
  • I will get anxious as hell, and running will help that.
  • I need to avoid the 4pm desperation at work by getting fresh air at lunchtime and using my SAD lamp to help lift the blues.
  • I will go to my doctor as planned, but may be tempted to scale down the size of my problem. I need to be brave and honest.
  • It will get worse before it gets better. I’m just happy today not to be hungover, it won’t always feel this good. I have other issues I need to work through that I squish with drinking and I need to accept that this will be hard.
  • I shouldn’t try and be The Best Sober Person ever, as Carrie advised me. Last time I was unwilling to sacrifice my parties and social life for sobriety, because I thought being alone sober would make me more likely to drink. While I wasn’t tempted to drink whilst out, and could still dance all night and have tonnes of fun, the December onslaught of nights out with work, friends and family left me utterly exhausted until I cracked. I need to protect my sobriety more carefully. To change my life so that I can change my destructive habits. This will be hard, but is important. 
  • There is no magic cure. I once believed stopping drinking would be easy, and that it with solve all my other problems in life. It isn’t and hasn’t but I choose this path over drunken hell.

I’m looking forward to AA, I think. I’m terrified I won’t actually be able to walk through the door, but I know which meeting I’m planning on going to, and what do I have to lose?

 

 

Sober Research

7 Jan

Belle has posted in the past about drinking Research, a period we go through testing out moderation and other drinking strategies before we quit. 

I could write a PHD on drinking research. I have tested out ALOT of ways of moderating, and yet I’m still here, writing about how big an impact drinking has on my life. 

I’m a big fan of re-reading old posts when I’m tempted to drink, so I want to remind myself when I’m at my lowest, what I’ve learnt from this relapse. 

I can moderate socially– I have little problems drinking like a normie when I socialise, but that isn’t truly reflective of my relationship with alcohol. I’m happy and relaxed when I’m with friends, but the moderation is just an exercise in self control that fools me into thinking I do not have a problem. 

Drinking makes me lonely- in my last run of sobriety, I rediscovered that I love spending time alone. I liked my little wintery sober cocoon, reading and watching DVDs when I had no plans. When I drink I feel desperately, painfully alone. 

Drinking makes me loose focus– I discovered when sober that there are other sources of happiness in my life that I need to work through. I can’t address these when drinking, so I remain unhappy, so I drink… This cycle has to stop. 

Wine tastes shit after the 3rd glass- I’m not even sure if I like red wine anymore, I think I’ve had my lifetime’s worth. 

I can still derive and discover new “joys” from alcohol, which makes it more dangerous- I used to hate whiskey, and on holiday with my friends, I tried it. I loved the burn as it went down my throat and the glow in my tummy. It reminded me of when I first started drinking and alcohol had that immensely pleasurable effect. Do I want to add whiskey to the list of tastes and smells that makes me want to drink like a fish? I do not. If I drank, would it become something I now do regularly? Absolutely. 

My body hates alcohol– my skin looks shit, I’m bloated and fat looking, I have lost the desire to run, which is my mental health saviour. It’s easy to forget that I’ve been choosing to poison myself.

I lose the desire to do stuff when I drink– I packed in SO much stuff when I was sober. I was the epitome of Getting Shit Done and also bloody enjoyed myself. I read books again, I planned weekends packed full of delights. And here I am, on square 1, having to will myself to go for a coffee after work with someone because all I want to do is hide under the bed sheets. 

I lose my ambition when I drink– I’m a different person. I just get through the day. That’s not me. 

I have an addictive personality- I just do. It’s evident sometimes on this blog when I post 2 or 3 times a day. I need to accept that (it’s often a good thing to be obsessive, it helps you become an achiever) and realise that alcohol is a problem, but I am not the problem. I am me, created the way that I am, unique, special, a little mad, but loved by many and I have to live as me for the rest of my life. I need to like myself more. To accept that I’ve got to a stage in life where I need to change, and that maybe that’s ok. 

A thought is just a thought– I can think about wine all I want, but the image of a glass of wine popping into my head doesn’t mean I have to drink it. I won’t die if I don’t. I’ll just be uncomfortable for a while and then happy the next morning when I wake up without a hangover. 

I don’t want to drink, I want to change the way I feel– someone posted this gem of wisdom in the comments section in response to a super-dooper craving I was having once. It made so much sense to me. I’m in a constant state of wanting to change how I feel. Once a workaholic, then an anorexic, then a bulimic, now an alcoholic and a crazy runner- I spend my life avoiding my feelings. When I was a teenager, before I had enough school work to allow me to loose my evenings in it, I remember actually enjoying feeling my feelings. You know, the intense pain of unrequited love, the drama of listening to a sad song and wallowing in melancholy, the crazy happy joy of dancing in your room. I need to learn to do this again- it’s called Life. I keep forgetting that I have to learn to live Life, not just avoid it. 

I don’t actually know how I feel about my life because of drinking- am I doing the right job for me? Have I got my sights set on the man who would actually make me happy? Do I want to work in an office for the rest of my life? Do I need to consider changing career if I’m ever going to be happy? I have no idea. Not a clue. I have made some big life changes, as I’ve posted about before, in the last year which have improved lots of things, but there’s more work to be done. I’ll just have to see what the sober journey brings. Maybe I’m not designed to live in a big city, maybe I should one day think about a career change. These are the things which I’ll only know after a year or two sober, when I can learn to know that the voice that’s speaking is me the person, not me the alcoholic. 

Drinking makes you selfish– do you know what I hate most about this getting sober lark? The endless introspection, the focus on self care which I know is important but hard, the feeling of it all being “me me me me.” It’s a necessary thing to do though, I know. One day, maybe I’ll be secure enough in my sobriety to relax into it more. To know more intuitively what I need rather than spending 40 million hours a day analyzing it. For self care to be a natural process rather than something I agonize over. 

I need to trust myself– I posted last night about trying out AA because the level of support I get from blogs isn’t enough. In the cold light of day, it’s become apparent that I get exactly the level of support I need online, and whilst AA might help, I need to look within for my own strength and support rather than clinging onto others. If the “support of others” technique worked for me, I wouldn’t be on my millionth Day 1, having emailed Belle in July last year, met her and other lovely sober ladies in November and seeing Carrie frequently. They would have carried me through (no pun intended). But they can’t, because there’s not me. None of you wonderful, supportive and caring readers are. Knowing you’re out there is wonderful, as is reading your words of support, but I also need to know that there’s something within myself that knows how to protect me.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results– I’m an intelligent person, and I’ve been taken over by a drug. This isn’t me, this behaviour of doing something that has such dire results, it’s an addictive substance that I’ve let into my life. I’ve had 2 decentish chunks of sobriety in the past 12 months: 25 days and 40 days, which sounds like nothing, but is enough to have got a taste of how great it makes me feel on a good day. When I’m sober and happy, I sometimes get so elated I want to do a little dance in the street as I work to work with the cold air in my lungs and the winter sunshine in the sky. I feel great! I think. I can totally drink now! This sober lark is easy! And then I pick up the glass of champagne that’s handed to me at a party, take a sip in a whirlwind of happiness and excitement and find myself here, nearly 3 weeks later, having drunk hundreds and hundreds of units, deadly unhappy.

 

If I don’t stop drinking, it will kill me– not today, not tomorrow, but at some point. I wouldn’t have said this 6 months ago, but I know this for certain now. I have been lucky enough for nothing bad to happen so far, but one day it will. I’ve only been drinking heavily for 2 years and my liver is making itself so known to me it’s terrifying. My doctor’s appointment is on Friday, and I almost want her to tell me something is seriously wrong so I have the “give up or die” question. Writing that sentence, in itself is terrifying. If I had cancer, and knew that running, which I’m also addicted to, would make it worse, would I carry on? No. I’d treat the cancer. I’d sacrifice my great passion for running and do something that made me feel good that wasn’t dangerous. Drinking is my cancer. It is eroding my body and mind from the inside out. I know this to be true. I’ve felt it, physically and emotionally. I’ve felt it repeatedly. I want to be free of this disgusting drug that has crept into my life steathily. 

So, that’s my thesis. I’m graduating from the School of Drinking Research and embarking on my next PHD- The Challenges of Staying Sober 😉 

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