I gave away my power

It’s like a light bulb went on in my head last night.  That ‘aha’ moment had arrived.  I was reflecting on my 12 weeks of sobriety and how things had changed both good and bad.

And here’s when it dawned on me – all the things that I had struggled to manage in the past were now almost unrecognisable.

(1) I struggled to manage my weight

(2) I struggled to manage my finances

(3) I struggled at times in my relationship with my other half

(4) I struggled to be a good parent

OK so I am still struggling with being ‘me’.  My work life and the emotional stuff remains difficult but for most things it has improved and noticeably so.  I think the work thing may also be connected because as I feel better about myself I question what I do for a living and should I be doing something else?

In all of these things I used to think that drink was the solution as whenever I was p*ssed off about any of these I’d pick up a bottle.  It was my ‘there there’ soother.  But the reality was that IT was the problem not the solution.  It added to my weight, financial woes, relationship and parenting guilt and shame.  I had the power to resolve all of those issues if I just put down the drink not picked one up.  It seems so simple in retrospect but as the late Steve Jobs said:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path.”

Well I’m stepping off of the well worn path of alcohol as it leads me to a dead-end.  What I thought was a virtuous circle in the whole L’Oreal ‘because I’m worth it’ marketing fantasy was actually a vicious cycle.

12 weeks yesterday.  This is now personal best territory for me as I have never gone this long without a drink 😀

Go Soberistas Go!

I caught this today and thought I would share it here:

This Morning is a UK daytime show that runs on ITV (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/This_Morning_%28TV_series%29).  I couldn’t find the viewing figures for this show but it is definitely a housewives favourite in this country and has won awards for the last 3 years.

Lucy Rocca from Soberistas was featured on it on Thursday along with the results of a poll they undertook to support her interview and the results make interesting reading.

In conjunction with One Poll, we surveyed 1,000 women with children aged 0-18.

  • 40% of women drink 2-3 times a week
  • 33% admit to not just drinking in a group but also to drinking alone
  • 15% admit to drinking in front of their children several times a week
  • 1/4 admit they have been so drunk they’ve put their own safety at risk
  • 36% say they drink to alleviate work related stress
  • Just under a third admit they drink to alleviate the stress of looking after the kids
  • Almost half said they wouldn’t be prepared to give up alcohol for good
  • 1 in 6 admit they have been too hungover to be a good parent
  • 1 in 5 women admit they feel guilty about their drinking

http://www.itv.com/thismorning/hot-topics/habitual-drinking is the link if you would like to watch Lucy’s interview.

I’m so proud of her and her efforts to bring the issue of alcohol to our culture’s awareness.  We have a BIG problem with alcohol in this country and this will have been watched by large numbers of people.

Go Lucy Go!

Day 84

Edited to add:  Lucy has now uploaded this interview to Youtube so you can watch it if outside of the UK

Sober Intimacy

So I said I was going to be honest in my blogs from here on in so lets start with this biggie (no pun intended!)

Drunken f*ck and hungover sex I knew these two intimately.  My husband swore by the latter as a bona fide hangover cure.  Me not so much – the brewery breath didn’t really float my boat.

There was a time when I believed wholeheartedly that I couldn’t possibly have sex without a drink or more on board.  I felt that it loosened my inhibitions and relaxed me and was a necessary part of the whole seduction process – get me drunk and you’ll get me laid.  But the problem was that sometimes however much I wanted alcohol to get me in the mood it just didn’t.  A bit like those times when I wanted to get steaming drunk but no matter how much I drank I just couldn’t.

The other problem was that sometimes I was too zealous in my drinking and went completely overboard and I couldn’t tell you what it was like because I just couldn’t remember.  The ‘sweet spot’ of uninhibited enough but not plastered was a tricky one to achieve.

So sober sex was a big concern for me.  But just like everything else about sobriety the fear was so much worse in my head than the reality.  See in the same way that alcohol inebriated me from the neck upwards it also anaesthetised the rest of me.  I thought that drinking would make the experience more pleasurable just like I thought drinking would make any other time better.  My drinking friends and I used to joke that the success of a night out was judged by the amount of UBI’s (unidentified beer injuries) you had in the morning because you just didn’t feel anything at the time and the same was true of sex.  No sense no feeling if you get my drift.

Well I’m happy and delighted to report that in my experience sober intimacy is a million times better than anything that went before.  Sometimes the seduction has to start earlier in the day with notes or whispered suggestions.  Sometimes rather than a drink a long soak in the bath or a massage helps to set the mood but it has been vastly superior every single time.  And my other half reports the same for him too.

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for weeks and it was Belle’s anonymous sex booth blog a few days ago that felt like it finally gave me permission.  I hope I haven’t offended anyone with my candidness but if I have I’m going to blame Belle as she started it 😉 Day 83

Giving up the people pleaser in me

Growing up I learned very quickly to be a people-pleaser.  In my family that meant keeping how you felt to yourself, having a smile on your face at all times, even if you were emotionally dying inside, and being a ‘can do’ person not a ‘no can do’ person.  This has stayed with me throughout my life.

What it has meant for me though is that I have put the feelings of others before my own much of the time.  I worry what others will think irrespective of how I actually feel.  This week has been really tough on the non-drinking front because of some stuff going on in my job.  And because I’ve learned that the way to get acceptance is to put others first, and I’ve only been in post 3 months, I’m not being completely honest with them about it.  This is creating over-whelming anxiety in me that is manifesting itself as the desire to drink BADLY.

And true to form, this blog has been no different.  I worry about what I post and that someone might not like what I write which is a kind of self-torture really.  So I’m going to try really hard to be completely honest on this blog from here on in.  No dressing it up as all smiley and easy breezy does it but hard much of the time at the moment.

I’m hoping that by being honest in this area of my life I will gain courage about being more honest in the work element of my life.  Here’s hoping.  Day 82.

Extra pennies for Christmas.

We’ve had a post-it note stuck on our fridge door since last Summer.  It reads ‘not drinking + smoking = £400 a month savings’.  That was 18 months ago and the price of both have increased quite considerably since then.

I’ve noticed that the bank account is looking more healthy and that there is more money available all round for Christmas, which is a pleasant surprise 🙂  So I decided to do another back of the fag packet calculation to try to work out how much we have saved since we stopped.

We used to drink at least a bottle a night between us and that would increase to two a night once we hit the week-end, and the rest – the beers and the ciders, the nights out, the increases around birthday’s, Christmas and New Year and holiday time.  Let’s say we drank 10 a week.

Like Lucy from Soberistas joked we couldn’t possibly have been alcoholics because we drank nice wines bought from nice shops.  No Tennants Super for us.  So we easily spent £60-100 pounds a week which works out at £400 a month.

So in the almost 3 months since we stopped we have saved £1200!! (and hellosundaymorning says that their bloggers save a similar amount if you check their site)

So if we abstain for the year that is a monumental £4800 in savings – enough for a very nice holiday instead 😉

Day 81.

Neural network of a dependent drinker

These words of wisdom came from a blogger on Soberistas who goes by the name of Pip:

‘The brain is full of neural pathways and the “priorities” pathways are the ones that give us the ‘want/urge/desire/need to eat, drink water, be sociable and mate… all for survival. If we ignore them we will die.  The pathways created by an addiction will take priority over many others, giving us the ‘want/urge/desire/need (craving) to take alcohol as though the body thinks it will die if it doesn’t have it as it thinks it needs it for survival.  When we stop putting alcohol in, the brain starts sending loud messages out that it wants and needs this chemical to survive.  WE know that we won’t die, but the brain doesn’t.  If we stop using these pathways for long enough, they will narrow down.  New ones are being made with every minute/day we don’t use this chemical (alcohol).  The chemical balance of the brain returns to normal and all the receptors and dopamine, etc start working normally, without being confused by alcohol.

Cravings are the brain thinking we need this substance for survival.  Stop using the pathways and new ones are created.  Then the desire to drink lessens.’

This is supported by research which shows that several characteristics that were identified by a pruned neural network have previously been shown to be important in this disease (alcoholism) based on more traditional linkage and association studies. (Falk, 2005).

The sober blogging community is a beautiful thing.  We are forming networks of sober bloggers like our brains are forming new non-drinking neural networks.  Synchronicity in action 🙂

http://soberistas.com/

Day 80

Grieving

As a nurse I am very familiar with Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ 5 stages of grieving and Friday night really made me reflect on this and how I was going through a grieving process about alcohol.  It had been a part of my life for so long and now it wasn’t.

The five stages are denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance.

I tried to work out how long I had been in denial about my drinking and this I find really hard to answer because it was only last year when I started a new course with my job that ‘intellectually’ I understood that I had a problem.  Before that, my family had always drank, the friends I chose always drank as did the boyfriends – and then husband, and his family too.  It was so ‘normal’ for me that denial wasn’t necessary.  But then I would have events in the past after too much drink that would trigger questioning that I quickly buried.

The bargaining part is easier to answer as moderating became a pattern from 2008 onwards.  But for me to be bargaining, or moderating, then I must have known I had a problem before last year.

The anger stage on Friday was evident as was the following dip into depression.  I worry about the depression stage as depression has been a feature of my life before and this is not something I am keen to revisit.  But I also accept that this is a necessary part of the grieving process that cannot be skipped and that I must do what I can to manage this, not avoid it.  That’s what led to a drinking problem in the first place.

So I have put strategies in place to help with the anger and depression stages like running, meditating, luxuriating in a bath and other small treats.  I need to feel that giving up alcohol isn’t a lose:lose situation but a win:win and mostly so far it has been.

I am partly at the acceptance stage but also at all the other stages too.  I say that I’m not going to drink again but this feels like a big ask and so honestly, part of me is still wavering.  I can see the benefits already but the neural networks of a non-drinker are not fully laid and embedded yet in my brain and so the drinker pathway still has strength (a topic for another post).

We do not travel through the stages of grief in a linear fashion but ricochet through them, revisiting some many times, before the work is done.  I am committed to the pathway to acceptance as there is no going back for me and am just waiting for my neural networks to catch up 🙂

Day 79

Loaded Gun

Reflecting on Friday night and my work Xmas do I think I hadn’t actually given it much head space – I think I was in denial and thinking ‘oh it’ll be ok, I’m almost 11 weeks without a drink’.  How wrong could I be?

I should of realised it was going to be really hard, thinking about it now.  The celebration was in a city that I spent many years in my late teens and early twenties partying hard.  Driving in and walking to the venue I passed so many old drinking haunts and the ghost of drinking past stirred.  These were happy drinking memories of a time when I hadn’t become a dependent drinker and I was young and naive and having a very good time.  To make it worse the dining venue was in the building of an old bar that I frequented 😦

I had got the time wrong and arrived half an hour early so had to go sit at the bar.  I thought I can do this and ordered my San Pellegrino and just people watched trying not to look at the rows of bottles in front of me.  Most of my colleagues were drinking and the table was crowded with glasses of fizz and wine but that was okay.  Although my new colleagues were warm and friendly I was having an excruciatingly difficult time of it.  Alcohol had always been my social lubricant and without it I felt lost and incapable.  I wasn’t me and I didn’t know who ‘me’ was without alcohol in this situation.

This morning with a little distance between myself and that night I can now see how well I did and how glad I am that I didn’t drink.  In hindsight this event was a loaded gun but fortunately and thankfully I didn’t pull the trigger 🙂

Day 78

The value of Belle and Team 100

I am a member of Belle’s Team 100 and this has helped me immensely on my sober journey.

Here is why when I look at last night and this morning and our sober penpal conversation:

Me: Work Christmas do tonight – driving.  Sober.

Belle: 🙂 and how are you feeling?

Me: Just back.  Honestly?  Like shit.  How do I ever cut loose again?  I was so envious, not during the meal, but afterwards when people were going on to a bar and I was going home.  It’s a new job and a new team and I felt like someone had cut my tongue out.  Socially awkward once more.  I’m now frightened of booze.  Feel angry, frustrated.  Bought myself a bar of chocolate to eat when I got home as a reward and can’t even bring myself to eat it.  Sad sack me …..  I’ll probably feel better in the morning.  Thanks for asking and caring though 🙂  Remain sober even though wolfie is having a field day.

Belle: I guess we don’t ‘cut loose’ in a traditional sense. we laugh, cry, run, tell jokes, share stories, and raise a glass as a toast (of soda) but we just don’t drink and fall down and get sloppy and have regrets.  we have all of the good parts of being sober. I’m pretty frightened of booze myself. It ruins too many lives. you may be a bit shyer without booze than you were before.  that’s not tragic 🙂 maybe you’re a good listener now instead of a blah-blah talker (I talked about this in my last subscriber podcast called Fun). hugs from me

Me: Thanks Belle.  Emotional hangover this morning.  Not a happy sober lady but a dry drunk this morning :s Going for a run in the hope that this will sort me out.  Will remain sober today even though I long to say ‘f*ck it’.

Belle: there is a predictable “fuck it” around day 80.  but just past this, you can see 100 and all is well again.

Me: Good to know and enjoy the moderation time away from your computer 🙂  I’ll sober you again tomorrow x

Priceless

http://tiredofthinkingaboutdrinking.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/100-day-challenge/

Day 77

Gratitude

At the end of last year I followed the excellent suggestion of Andrea Scher and found myself a gratitude buddy (http://www.superherolife.com/2012/12/find-a-gratitude-buddy/).  We have been exchanging our gratitude lists by email pretty much every day ever since.  It has been a lovely way to get to know better a great friend and I have really enjoyed the experience and am hoping she will be happy to continue this next year!

I wonder if this focusing on three things to express gratitude about on a daily basis has been part of the shift in my thinking that has led to me stopping drinking.  Brene Brown in her interview with Oprah, that I shared two days ago, says that people who feel joy express and experience gratitude consciously and actively.  It’s more than an attitude of gratitude.

Could this simple act have refocused my thinking sufficiently to think enough is enough on wine time?  If you are reading this and are considering stopping drinking, or are struggling to stay on the sober path, might this be something that would help you on your journey?  Would thinking about the things you are grateful for lead to feeling more positive which then prompts you to be kinder to yourself?  I have huge gratitude to Andrea and my friend Beccy and am learning to lean in to the joy that has been unleashed anew in sobriety.  Day 76 🙂