Tag Archives: sobriety

How AA Changed my Life

26 Dec

What a luxury to have time to post! I’m enjoying the space that Christmas brings to think and reflect, and of course, my mind is coming back again and again to how I have got and stayed sober.

Someone who has been following this blog asked for help this morning and as I responded, I found myself writing about what changed for me the final time I put down the drink.

I’ve written about how AA has worked for me previously, but I want to document it again, because its power has, for me, been overwhelming.

When I found the blogging world I rejoiced because all of a sudden, I found people who I could relate to, who drank like I did. I would NEVER have called myself an alcoholic. I was just someone whose drinking had got painful and out of control. I looked around at the women wiring these blog and thought “this is it! there’s a breed of people just like me who aren’t proper alcoholics.”

I confess, whilst finding the blogging world was a godsend on one hand, on the other, it initially turned me off more traditional recovery methods. I saw an undercurrent feeling which defined this kind of sobriety as a (perhaps preferable?) route to living without the drink, a stance of “we don’t fit AA and we’ve found a way to get sober on our own.” This alternative way that wasn’t necessarily anti-AA, but somehow felt like a more Middle Class & intellectual way of getting sober. This approach to getting sober was at first encouraging as I witnessed person after person stopping drinking through their own strength and the help of the blogging community. Writing out and working through my problems as others around me were doing seemed a perfect solution. And yet, when I kept failing to get sober, I saw it somehow as a lack of strength- if these women around me could do it, why couldn’t I?

I remember vividly reading something on Soberistas & their related literature which positioned that community as an AA-alternative, for those who didn’t fit AA or didn’t want to go. Because of my ego and image of myself as an intelligent young woman, I aligned myself more with a community like Soberistas than to AA. And yet it didn’t get me sober. And I suspect, for me, it never would have done.

When I finally dragged myself to an AA meeting through sheer desperation, it felt like Coming Home. I have NEVER in my entire life experienced a sensation like I did that day. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief wash over me as I knew that not only was everything going to be ok, but that I had found my people. People who on the surface came in all shapes, sizes and from all strata of society. But who underneath were just different shades of the same colour that is my essence. From that day onwards, there was a solution for me that actually worked. Almost a year on, ‘the compulsion to drink has been removed’ just as they promise and I have found a great group of friends.

And more than just stopping me from drinking, working through the programme and 12 steps has helped me in ALL aspects of my life. My relationships are improving, my spirituality has grown into an ever-present comfort blanket, the lifetime undercurrent of anxiety I have felt has subsided. Little did I know when I walked into that room that declaring myself an alcoholic would answer a question I’ve had my whole life: ‘why do I feel different?’

I knew from when I was very small that I was a super-sensitive soul, and as I grew into my teenage years, the gaping chasm of nothingness I felt sometimes threatened to topple me. Here, in AA, I had found a group of people who understood these feelings and have found a way to work through them. Therapy hadn’t worked, self help books hadn’t worked, but sitting in a cold room with friendly faces and terrible coffee turned out to be my lifeline.

My sense of a ‘higher power’ is a fluid one. Sometimes it’s a ‘God’ in the more traditional sense, who has a life plan for us. Sometimes it’s a less tangible spirituality that I draw strength from. Whatever form it takes doesn’t matter. Stepping outside myself and believing there’s more to the universe than the strength (or otherwise) of my own will has been transformative.

I hear over and over again people saying they won’t go to AA because of ‘the God stuff.’ I felt the same. And yet here I am, having found great comfort and fortitude in the notion of a higher power

I’m not writing this post to preach or to push AA- one of the traditions of the programme is that its appeal is through “attraction not promotion.’ But I wanted to put pen to paper to articulate the amazing diversion my life has taken since coming in. It has been an overwhelmingly positive experience, and I DID NOT WANT TO GO. I thought it would be the last place that would help me, but it turns out that when I get off my high horse, it’s the place I feel most at home.

Happy Boxing Day to you All

Accidental Drinking

4 Jul

Last Friday, I consumed alcohol. I was in a bar of people most of whom knew I don’t drink, so when I asked for a slimline tonic, I assumed I’d be safe.

I had a sip, thought it was sweeter than I was used to, and assumed the drink wasn’t slimline. But there was something about the taste that wasn’t right. I smelled it to see whether it had alcohol in and it seemed fine, so after another few minutes, I took another sip.

It would be an over exaggeration to say I could feel it in my veins, but with that second sip I knew that this was alcohol and that I needed to Get the Hell Out of Dodge. I asked the kind drink buyer whether it was gin and tonic because I don’t drink and she was MORTIFIED. It was.

Hilariously, the reason I didn’t recognise it to contain gin was because I don’t think I’ve EVER had a single gin and tonic in my life! It wasn’t the kind of gin *I* recognised. I remember once being caught at a party pouring a drink that was significantly more gin than it was tonic and the person who saw me thinking this was wonderfully out of character for me. ‘In for a big one?’ She’d asked, and I just thought ‘how little gin do YOU put in your drink- this is totally normal!’ I was genuinely amazed that anyone would consider somewhere near a single or even double measure satisfying.

Anyway, back to the bar.

I gave the drink to someone else and ordered a diet coke, trying to brush it off. But I felt really uncomfortable. I’d had a stressful day and was ill at ease anyway, but this close scrape really shook me. What if I hadn’t stopped? What if I hand’t been able to put that drink down? Losing nearly 6 months of sobriety for a silly mistake would have been devastating.

What was encouraging was that I didn’t WANT to carry on drinking that drink. The thought of ingesting alcohol truly terrified me. And I suppose that’s a positive sign. That when faced with a glass of alcohol I’ve already partly consumed, I choose sobriety.

I told my sponsor about it immediately and she reassured me that this wasn’t relapse because I hadn’t intended to take the drink.

I’m so happy to be sober today. I have a headache, I’ve got a bit of drama going on with not being able to live where I’m living for much longer, my job is very high pressured and as usual, I’m not getting enough sleep. But in sobriety, all this stuff is manageable. So today I choose to avoid that first deadly drink.

Quitting drinking & Dieting

24 Jun

Regular readers of this blog will know that weight is a big issue for me. I talk about it here and here and here and countless other places.

In summary, my story is this: I grew up slim and active, with a normal relationship with food. Like any teenager might when they start to have freedom of choice over their own food choices, I put on a stone or so’s weight when I was 16-19. I was still not overweight, but I started to feel conscious of my body. I wanted to do something about it, and fortuitously, when I was at the start of university, I discovered running and loved it. My body changed quickly and dramatically (oh to be 20 again eh?), I looked slim, healthy and lost weight whilst eating the foods I loved (namely, a bit of daily chocolate). 

As I left university and I felt unsure of my place in the world and got trapped in a toxic relationship, I slowly got more and more obsessive with my food, and thinner and thinner. It was never my intention to be skeletal, but that’s where I got to. I was terrified of food, obsessively restricted whilst maintaining high running mileage and generally didn’t look after myself. My skin was terrible, my hair thin and those around me were very worried. 

For some time, I could fit in 2 bottles of wine a week into this regime whilst still maintaining a very very low weight. This was when my drinking started to be destructive, but because of the relatively low volume of alcohol I (thought) I was consuming, I didn’t see it as a problem. I was thin and drinking, what’s not to like?!

My weight gain and journey back to a normal, healthy weight came when I started really hitting the bottle. I went from very thin to a very sensible weight in the space of 12 months. Everyone around me was thrilled. I looked better, my hair thickened up and I started to have a ‘presence’ about me again, as one person described it. When I was too thin I looked and acted like a shadow. Drinking brought me a vitality that I hadn’t had for years, until, of course, it turned on me. When I look in the mirror on a ‘fat’ day I see all that new weight as a direct result of my drinking. This isn’t a healthy way to look at my strong, marathon-running body, but it’s what I perceive. I want to kick the booze weight and get back to the old me who ran for sanity, ate for pleasure and savoured food, never abusing it.

I’ve focused a lot on my recovery and the importance of letting nothing get in the way of staying sober. Dieting in the first few months of recovery was an absolute no no, and as I hit 100 days, I started to look at my diet again, trying to cut down on sugar and take a more holistic approach to fuelling my body. 

This has worked to an extent, but the reality remains I am unhappy with my shape. I’ve been tracking my food intake on My Fitness Pal for months and I can see the good new habits I’ve made, but also that there’s lots of room for improvement. I’m not getting where I want to be through moments of ‘fuck it’ and self sabotage. One bad day or chocolate binge can mess up my entire week, because I’m aiming for a small calorie deficit each day, so I don’t go too dramatic on the restriction and lose weight healthily. 

I can see SO many parallels between the stages of quitting drinking and this desire to lose weight. I am OBSESSING over losing fat and being unhappy in my body shape and yet not getting results because I’m not committing fully. Like with drinking, the longer I mess around in this space where I’m thinking a lot but not taking action, the longer I’ll end up wasting precious time and energy getting nowhere.

Like with drinking, I feel like somehow my relationship with food has irreparably changed and that I need to go through a concerted period of effort taking my diet one day at a time to get to where I really want to be. As I type these words I’m conflicted, because I know how unhealthy my restrictive relationship with food once was, but I also know that intuitive eating isn’t working for me because I use food to change the way I feel in the way I did with booze. 

I just got hit with a wave of embarrassment writing that, worried how you readers will perceive me. Worried how those sober bloggers I’ve met in real life will read this. What a strange thing, to have a blog which I set up with the very purpose of being 100% honest about all my struggles to aid my recovery, and to have the urge to self-censor. 

These are my feelings and I need to explore them, not push them away or pretend I don’t feel the way I do. 

In the same way I had to commit fully to quitting alcohol, I feel I need a concerted effort on the dieting front. If I put in the work, I will get results, but I just can’t seem to stay on that path. 

The irony is, I don’t actually have very much weight to lose at all, somewhere between 10 and 16lbs would see me looking really fit and healthy, but I feel like I have some sort of mountain to climb. But the more I stand at the bottom looking up at the mountain, the more time I waste in getting to the top.

I got to a point with stopping drinking where I knew that if I didn’t just dig deep and do the bloody thing, I’d be unhappy forever (what drama! but it felt true). I’ve put almost 12 months of solid work into getting sober with lots of slip ups but guess what? It was all worth it. I’m the happiest I’ve been in years. The most emotionally stable. I’m achieving things I never thought possible. 

So can I find it in me to do the same with focusing on my diet? I don’t know. It panics me, somehow, to think of dieting. When I think of any sort of regime I remember those years of crazy restriction and how terrible I felt then. But that perception is false. I know from the amount of exercise I do that to get a steady, healthy weight loss, I’d need to be taking in between 1,700-1,800 calories a day. That is ALOT of food if you choose wisely. So why can’t I do it? Or why does my brain tell me I can’t when actually, that’s a really achievable goal if I break it down into small parts. 

I think that in truth, if I don’t make a change I’ll continue to be unhappy with my weight and keep running in circles around square 1. But I’m also conscious that I could be focusing on this area of discontent to mask other problems. With alcohol, I know that I just didn’t want to feel so many things. Now, approaching 6 months sober I’m not scared of my feelings anymore and truthfully, I’m happy. As I write, I think that this might be totally about weight for once, and wanting to be the best (slim) version of me, rather than feeling generally shitty and pinpointing weight as the issue.

I know that if I reach my goal weight, life won’t magically get better, but that was also true of getting sober. And am I glad I put the work into getting sober? HELL YES.

So today I’m reflecting, forming a plan and will keep you updated on my journey. I’d really appreciate any thoughts on this topic: does this all sound sensible? Or am I being mad? 

Answers on a postcard please 🙂 

Sober Library

19 Jun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was all worth it. ALL of it.

Happy Thursday to you! And Happy reading 🙂

 

 

 

 

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

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. 

Addictive Daughter

5 Jun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Off Kilter

4 Jun

I feel like I’ve fallen off the blogging wagon. It’s a really important part of my recovery, it helps me step back and reflect, discovering thoughts and feelings I didn’t know I had as I commit words to the page.

It’s all been a bit of a struggle the past fortnight or so. Not a -shit-I’m-going-to-drink kind of struggle, but a definitely unhealthy one. I’ve sort of got myself over the drinking-to-cope hurdle, and after we’ve leapt that, what’s left to deal with is life, really, isn’t it? I’m never out of danger of drinking, but my brain has slowly changed its well-trodden thought pathways of believing a drink is the best way to get through ANYTHING. So here I am, left with life to contend with. 

My new job is an amazing experience and privilege, but it’s sucking the life out of me. I’m not eating properly, have had a few big sugar sessions to get me through exhaustion and have had a real lack of sleep. I have a few other very big things in my life going on which means there’s emotional pressure from all sides and it’s keeping me up at night. Too much worrying, too little sleep. 

Sleep is the key to it all, I think. When I was drinking, it was the constant exhaustion that got me and now I’m sober, I get drunk with tiredness if I don’t get my 7 hours. If I don’t sleep, my diet goes off track and then I feel even shittier. It’s got to be my number one priority over the next few weeks, getting that shut eye. Without it, everything is just so much harder. 

All this disruption in my life recently has reinforced something I’ve always known but never quite managed to get right; the huge extent to which the physical affects the emotional. When I suffered real anxiety, I felt it so viscerally. It used to sit heavy and uncomfortable in my stomach, course through my veins when it rose. When I feel depressed (which happens infrequently at the moment because of being sober and in the summer months), it manifests itself in a brain fog and feeling almost floppy limbed. When I feel low I just want to sit down in the middle of street and let the world walk by. With the stress I’m currently feeling, it’s just sort of THERE. I can’t feel it physically like I usually do. But I know the physical exhaustion is feeding into it, and that the two states are inextricably linked. Exercise is helping, and stopping the sugar will help too.

I’ve got 5 more weeks of getting through this intense period, then things will calm. Co-incidnetally, I have 5 weeks until I’m 6 months sober (when did that happen?!) and I’m not letting that slip away from me by drinking now. 

Happy Wednesday? 

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….

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!

AA: My First Chair

8 May

Thanks to everyone who wished me good luck ahead of my first AA chair yesterday. 

As predicted, it was pretty terrifying but also a wonderful experience. Luckily, I’d been asked to do it at my home group where everyone had seen my come in 16 weeks ago and sob my little heart out. 
 
It’s hard for me to believe that it was that recently that I went to my first meeting and how much my life has changed since then. 
 
Until that day, AA was never an option. I didn’t truly believe I was an alcoholic, didn’t like the sound of what went on there, didn’t have a concept of God and didn’t think I’d fit in with the people I met there. 
 
How wrong I was. 
 
I’ve written about this before, but from the very moment I walked through the door into my first meeting I knew I was at home. Followers of this blog will know that I spent the whole of 2013 trying to get sober and failing repeatedly. I was desperate for something to change, as my life had to very small very quickly. I felt myself eroding away my insides and knew that if I wanted to have the life I desired, drinking had to stop. It was going to kill me, if not physically, certainly emotionally. 
 
Last night when I arrived at the meeting I got so many friendly words of encouragement from fellow members, took up my seat at the front of the room and talked for 13 minutes. It felt like no time at all! I hate speaking publicly and my voice was a bit wobbly with nerves, but I shared my story honestly.
 
It was important to me to convey that for years I had a very benevolent relationship with alcohol, that it was my friend when I wanted to let loose and have a bit of fun. I wanted to share this for the newcomer who was having the battle that I did of ‘am I an alcoholic?!’ which in part was difficult for me because alcohol turned on me so quickly I couldn’t quite get my head round the shift. 
 
I talked about the agony of trying to quit on my own. I spoke about this blog, and how when I started writing to work through my alcohol issues, the internet started to speak back to me. Women all over the world putting their hands up and saying ‘Don’t worry honey. I feel like that too.’ 
 
I didn’t want to tell any drinking horror stories, so focused on how hard it was to quit and how each time I relapsed, my drinking got worse. 
 
Finally, I spoke about how the programme has helped me. For me, AA has been utterly transformative. Alcoholism is just a symptom of something deeper for me that over the years has manifested itself in different ways. I am a chronic relief seeker, always wanting to change the way I feel. I’m a sensitive soul, wounded by others words and actions. The AA programme has not only helped me to stop drinking, but it’s given me the tools to treat what’s underneath. 
 
It was an amazing privilege to have people share back and tell me how they related with my story. There were a few newcomers there who were really encouraged to see someone only slightly ahead of them on the sober path being so content in their sobriety. It took me a long time to get here, but once I got some time under my belt the shift to happiness happened very quickly. 
 
I have so so far to go on my journey through sobriety, but at 114 days sober I know I simply cannot go back. I feel a real sense of calm acceptance that I didn’t feel even just a few weeks ago. I’m gaining SO much more through being sober than I’m losing through not drinking and that’s an amazing place to be.
 
It’s important to me that I don’t suggest that AA is the only answer, as I know many people get sober without it. But it is a very very special place and I’d recommend that everyone who’s struggling to get sober gives it a go. What is there to lose by trying something out before you rule it out? That’s the attitude I took, and here I am happy as happy can be to be a proud member of alcoholics anonymous. Who’da thunk it?

Clubbing Sober

5 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Long may it last. 

 

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.

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.

 

The Day Wolfie Ran A Marathon

7 Apr

Now I’m further away from my last drink, what ‘the wolfie voice’ means to me is slightly different. He’s no longer telling me to neck wine, but operates in more subtle ways, eroding my self esteem with his negative chatter.

One place I thought I was free of negative self talk was running. My running club friends call me ‘smiler’ because no matter how hard the race or bad the weather, I’m always beaming as I run. Not yesterday. 

This wasn’t my first marathon, but it was certainly my toughest. 

Before Christmas, I’d completed a marathon with a PB I was REALLY proud of and came into this race feeling strong and confident. Surely, all the training plus not drinking for 3 months would mean I could achieve a similar time?

The city I was running in was bathed in glorious sunshine, and I was really excited as the crowds danced to the pre-race music. I had my power playlist ready, checked my sobriety counter and felt a little swell of pride as the pack of runners moved off.

The first 10k was hot, crowded and a little too fast for my liking, so I stopped to take an energy gel and douse myself in cold water. From that moment on, the wolfie voice was in my head the whole race: ‘Look how hard you’re finding this, LAST time you ran a marathon you had the remnants of a 2 day hangover. Sobriety’s not working out so well for you eh?’ (WHAT THE ACTUAL F**K?!) and more general negativity: ‘You’re so weak, so tired, what a failure…’ etc etc

Having 20 miles of that sort of head noise is soul destroying. A fair few tears were shed on the course as I contemplated dropping out. I knew all my running friends were at home checking the race app to follow my split times every 5k and my ego was severely bruised. Should I fake injury and drop out?

All I could turn over in my head between miles 18 and 19 was whether this was a horrific enough experience to warrant a drink. Again, madness. I knew I wouldn’t, but I tortured myself with that thought over and over again. 

Some lessons must have been learnt on that course, with wolfie running along beside me, whispering his venom. What those lessons are right now, I’m not sure. I’ve been upset and irritable all day, but I’m trying to remember that completing a marathon is a huge achievement whether it takes you 3 hours or 5 hours and that it’s a privilege to run at all.

Tonight involves a bath, clean sheets and an early night to reward myself for getting through.

Happy Monday lovely sober bloggers!

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 🙂

 

73 Days

29 Mar

When I looked at my sobriety counter this morning and it said 73 days I felt really conflicted. On one hand, that feels like SO much time I’ve got under my belt now, and on the other nothing at all. I remember the sheer pain of trying to get to 7 days after a relapse, and thinking I never ever wanted to go back to square 1 again. The further away I get from square 1, the more horrific the possibility of going back seems. 

I did my ‘Step 1’ with my sponsor recently, where we talked about all the examples of why I’m powerless over alcohol. There’s an incident I’ve never blogged about that happened on my last night of drinking, that makes me want to lie on the floor in shame when I think of it (aside: does anyone else get that feeling of wanting to lie on the floor when a shameful thought comes?! I just want to drop right to the ground. Just me? Let’s move on…) This week, I’ve had some very stark reminders of what happened that night, and it makes me think once again about rock bottoms. I’m pretty sure I went out and sought that rock bottom so I would have something ‘bad enough’ as a reason not to drink. How messed up our drinking minds are. My sober mind thinks the very notion of doing something so cruel to myself is preposterous, but I went and did it. It makes me want to weep when I think I treated myself that way. 

My sense of self esteem is well and truly back in sobriety. I value myself. I know my worth because I’m not constantly battering myself down to the ground with a bottle of merlot. 

But while all these positive things are happening, in the background a Fear of Being Sober is slowly growing. I’ve done 73 days, it feels like forever. Can I really do this for *actual* forever? I know you’re supposed to ‘keep it in the day’ etc etc, but at the moment I’m finding it almost impossible to do that. My mind is running off ahead of me. What about when something really tough happens? Will I cope then? What about accidentally taking a sip of someone else’s drink, as almost happened last night? What about when I’m dating again, and want to smooth over that first night of nerves? What about music festivals- will I ever be able to go to a stinky, dirty camping weekend without the softening effect of booze?!

All of this thinking is pointless. It only serves to terrify me, and so early in my journey I need to think about how I feel now and what’s working for me now. And of course, the benefits. This morning, I’ve been up since the crack of dawn, pottered in my kitchen, had a hot cross bun for breakfast (what a seasonal treat!) and am going to go on a run in the woodlands with some friends. These are the times when sobriety is easy, and I treasure the privilege of knowing how to stay sober today, when before I did not. 

Happy Saturday! 

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