Tag Archives: recovery

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!

Advertisements

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?

Self- Absorption

27 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Tuesday all x

Opening Doors

20 May

List articles are all the rage and my Facebook feed is full of LOLZ from Buzzfeed and other similar sites. Apart from the ones about drinking which make my blood boil (30 Hilarious Signs Wine is your BFF or some rubbish like that), they’re generally a fun way to pass a few minutes. 

Someone I really love and admire posted ’30 Things to Start Doing for Yourself’ today and it really got me thinking about our sober toolkits and how this weird thing we call alcoholism has given us some unexpected gifts: http://www.lifebuzz.com/start-doing/#!O4vZ3

All of these points, without exception, I think, are the things we must learn to stay sober. They’re all about authenticity, self-care, helping others, checking in with what we need and desire and tackling the difficult things in our lives. 

Yes, it might be hard and we might not like it sometimes, but sobriety equips us for life with tools that some of us might never have learnt without having a drinking problem. When I look back at my life before drinking got out of hand, I was living so chaotically but paradoxically within a self-imposed straight-jacket of control. I was dishonest with myself in my relationship, what I expected from myself, how I treated my body. I overrode all desire and need for being kind to myself with rigidity and denial. 

Learning all the unexpected lessons that go on around sobriety is an amazing journey to go on, not only because it unlocks new experiences and opportunities in our lives and ultimately (although it may not feel that way sometimes) makes our lives easier, but because it gives us the keys to a door some people never find. Unlocking the door to the raw emotional bits inside and knowing what to do when we get there is one of the bigger gifts of sobriety in my view. We have to do it to stop drinking and if we’re lucky enough to find a sober community to immerse ourselves in, we find spiritual guides, people ahead us on the path who can suggest to us what to do with what we find there.

If we blog or go to recovery meetings, we have a place to articulate our feelings honestly in a safe environment where we not only will we not be judged, we’ll be supported. We have people who will listen to us, soothe us and celebrate with us new milestones in recovery. 

Sometimes, I feel like the recovery community (and AA in particular) is what I’ve unknowingly been searching for my whole life. I’ve always been a person who thinks and talks in emotions much more than your average. This has served me well in forming deep friendships, but I’m often holding back from spending too much time talking about this stuff (let’s face it, it can be boring) which can leave me wanting. And usually, I’m the one listening, so it’s vital I go somewhere to talk. I get the emotional release I need in that room in a way I never have from therapy. Therapy is all about me, which is helpful, but sobriety is about all of us, collectively heaping each other to get better. It’s remarkable, when one thinks about the selfless, loving acts that go on in the sober community. 

So, I suppose my thought today is that as people with drinking problems, we’ve been forced to confront what’s below the surface head on and for that I am grateful. Would I choose again to be an alcoholic in another life? No. This is a disease that kills many and could kill me if I give in. But I AM happy to have been given the change to explore this stuff, because many don’t. 

Daily my sobriety shifts, from the agony of the weekend to feeling like a little precious gift today. We put one foot in front of the other and we grow….

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. 

 

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. 

 

Addiction

2 Apr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once again, Russell sums it up perfectly:

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

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

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

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

 

The Art of Keeping Going

A blog that's mostly about not drinking.

trufflesfreedom

Starting a life of sobriety and freedom.

waking up, being sober

and trying to make sense of what follows

Off-Dry

I got sober. Life got big.

Hungry Girl Eats

Notes on the care and feeding of body, mind and spirit.

DominantSoul

The Erotic Art of Sensual Domination

lydia davies

author of 'Raw, the diary of an anorexic'

800 Recovery Hub Blog

Written by people in recovery for people in recovery

My Road To Abstinence

Sober, me? Really?

ainsobriety

Trying to ace sober living

tired of treading water

Ditching the drink and waking up

Shadow. Ash. Spirit. Flame.

Out of Shadow and Ash, Spirit ascends and blazes Light.

The drinking Stops Today

My attempt to quit drinking....

Good Morning Mercies

Seeking beauty and balance overcoming chronic illness and addictions

sparkly sober

writing my way out of drinking

We Admitted We Were Powerless

A journey of recovery

A Woman Without Wine

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got

Mind-Full Mom-E

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

12 the hard way

ruminations on the twelve steps.

superbly sober

A girl trying to get sober in a boozy world.

Recovering From Powerlessness

A journey of recovery from everything

soberchoices101

One day at a time

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)

Party.0

Getting crazy with no consequences!

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.

The Lotus Chronicles

Just like the lotus we too have the ability to rise from the mud, bloom out of the darkness and radiate love and beauty.

Living Free

A fine WordPress.com site

messyarts

lettuce turnip the beet.

Seeing Clear Lee

musings on becoming alcohol-free

Sober at 51

Enough is enough...