Tag Archives: self care

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….

Blogging to Stay Sober

17 May

I’ve had one helluva week. My feet have barely touched the ground and I’ve barely slept. My self care regime has gone out of the window as other things have taken priority. 

This week, it was necessary for me to allow the chaos to happen, but as I’ve changed job and this level of madness is going to become part of my life for the foreseeable future, I need to work out how to cope. 

I feel pretty shocking today. For the first time in ages I got 8 hours sleep last night and that has helped, but I’ve got a general sense of anxiety I haven’t experienced for a long time. My body is telling me something is off. When something is wrong, I feel it so physically, I can’t ignore it. And now my go-to numbing tool of drinking is off the table, I need to deal with it head on.

I’m going to try and meditate today, get to the gym for an all-out heart pumping workout and go to a meeting. Meetings have slipped (I didn’t go to one for 8 days!) and I can feel that too. They don’t lie in AA when they say not going to meetings is dangerous. Around Wednesday this week I could feel myself inching closer to a drink. I knew I wouldn’t take one that day, but if I don’t remind myself frequently that I really am an alcoholic, that first glance seems ever more appealing. 

This sobriety lark is a continuous process, isn’t it? A constant maintaining of positive practices, taking emotional checks and balances. 

I feel better writing this, I knew blogging would help. There’s something very powerful about getting your feelings down on paper. In times of need, when I’ve been really down or worked up into a frenzy, writing this blog has always helped me. When you commit words to paper (or the screen), you look at them objectively as a reader would. Is the world ending? No. Is this life or death? No. Have I felt like this before? Certainly. Are there things I can do to help myself? Yes. 

This blog has become an ongoing record of the ebbs and flows of sober life. Some days I feel bloody fantastic, others today, I feel off-centre. But that’s ok, because all these moments pass and as long as I don’t drink, I feel better equipped to deal with them. 

Right, I’m off to get my meditation on. Happy Saturday lovely bloggers!

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!

 

 

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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