First sober Christmas

I’m a bit behind with this post, but I wanted to make sure I document how Christmas 2015 went so I can look back next year. I hate blogging from my phone, so waited until I got home to write this. (It’s good to be home!)

So, how did my first sober Christmas go? I would have to say ‘averagely. Christmas Eve was by far the worst day. It did get better after my last blog post. The timing of our arrival was just plain shitty. We walked right into the 5 o’clock drink rush and it was really overwhelming.

The rest of the week was booze fueled as well, and I felt left out from time to time. I tried to join in with my NA drink concoctions, but I was really aware of the difference between me and the ‘real’ drinkers. I tried not to be. I really tried to be mindful that it made no difference that I was drinking a different liquid than everyone else. On Christmas morning, we were all in good company, eating good food, and all drinking bubbly from flutes. The only difference was that mine didn’t contain alcohol. From the outside I would have looked just like any other, but on the inside I was conscious that I wasn’t experiencing the same warm buzz from the alcohol as everyone else.

I am aware that I’m not supposed to think like this. I know I’m supposed to work on believing that alcohol doesn’t add any benefit to my life, but that is easier said than done. Right in those moments I was still under alcohol’s spell, romanticising the warm happy buzz that the first drink gives you, and feeling awkward in my own skin sitting at the table. I just felt really bloody different and awkward and silly.

Those feelings came and went over the week. At some points alcohol was barely on my mind. I still had a good time. I could take my mind off the fact I wasn’t drinking for maybe an hour at a time, but it would always pop back up into my head. (I should say, the thoughts that were popping up weren’t a desire to drink. I didn’t actually want to drink at any point during the whole week except for those first few hours after we arrived on Christmas Eve. I was simply just very, very conscious that I wasn’t drinking.) There were even patches where I was really content with my glass of grapefruit-berry-whatever and I didn’t give two hoots about everyone drinking. I imagine those patches are glimpses of what it is like to be settled into an alcohol free lifestyle much further down the track.

The whole week was just very up and down. There were no very high highs. There were some good patches, but they were just ‘good’, not ‘great(!!!)’. There was lots of feeling awkward, feeling self conscious. I was extra sensitive without really noticing until something would tip me over the edge and I’d go off to have a cry with the Alpacas (my cousins have pet Alpacas)…

Llama1Llama2LLama3

(I read somewhere that interacting with animals will give you an instant mood boost, but I’ve also read that Alpacas spit like camels, so I wasn’t prepared to get much closer!)

The Alpacas didn’t really boost my mood, nothing really boosted it. I wasn’t terribly unhappy either. It all just feel like an average week of life (with presents and good food), whereas Christmas used to feel like a massive celebration – probably because I was celebrating the fact that everyone around me was drinking just like I did everyday. It was acceptable to let loose and get way too drunk every day for a week.

I think I maybe expected too much from Christmas. I went in wanting not just to get through, but to get through and have a great(!!!) time, but it didn’t really meet my expectations… it was just okay.

Advertisements

Sober mornings 

❤ my sober mornings. Even the cloudy ones. 

  
This view doesn’t hurt either!

Attitude

I’ve always been a big believer in the power of choosing your attitude. When I was 18 I took a gap year and worked. The company wasn’t doing too well and we had a tiny budget for the work Christmas party. Everyone was whinging about what a crap party it was going to be and I overheard the big boss saying that it’s the attitude you go in with that’ll determine the enjoyment you get out of the event. From that point on whenever I wasn’t looking forward to something (a family dinner, a difficult work conversation, a party where I didn’t know anyone etc), I would simply adjust my attitude and dive on in. And he was right. A sunnier attitude resulted in a sunnier experience, every single time. 

And so this is how I approached Christmas with 15 boozing relatives. Before I arrived today, I adjusted my attitude. I thought to myself, this is still Christmas. There are still a million parts of Christmas you get to enjoy without the booze. I will see relatives (the ones I actually like), I’ll eat good food, I’ll make yum mocktails, there will be presents and gift giving and family pranks and lots of laughter. I dived straight in with a good attitude and an optimistic outlook. 

And my attitude adjustment theory was shattered. I arrived stupidly optimistic that I was going to have a great time and am now in bed after a long and stressful and testing day that ended in tears. 

We drove all day and arrived tired at about 4pm. Everyone was waiting for us to arrive before cracking open the first drinks of the day. It was so overwhelming greeting everyone while drinks were being poured all around that I immediately jumped back in the car with some family going out to buy beers. Not my greatest move. 

My intention was to get out of the house and away from the hustle and bustle, but of course then the thoughts started up in my head. “It’s Christmas though, everyone drinks at Christmas! Even non-drinkers” and “you could just drink today, no-one will know, most of your family don’t even know you’ve stopped.” I started panicking thinking shit shit shit, the minute you say ‘maybe’ that means ‘yes’ (as many of us know), so I calmed myself down with the promise that if I got through this Christmas I could drink next Christmas. 
The rest of the evening was just as shitty and depressing. I tried in vain to keep a weak smile plastered on my face, but I wasn’t having a good time to match my good attitude. I felt jealous of the drinkers and left out. My emotions were raw and I felt shy and awkward and uncomfortable. 

The location here is absolutely beautiful and in my old boozing life, this is exactly where I would have been happiest. Sitting in the sun, on holiday, everyone in high spirits and with a glass of wine in hand. Instead I ended up going to bed long before everyone else and tried to boost my mood by reading Brene Brown’s book, but couldn’t get past page two because tears were just uncontrollably pouring out of my eyes. 

And so there you have it. I went in with a positive attitude, big fake smile plastered on, determined to salvage some enjoyment from Christmas Eve, tripped over the doorstep and fell flat on my face (metaphorically in case anyone didn’t get that haha). I hope tomorrow’s better, if it’s not, at least I’ll get presents 🙂

Big fat whinge coming up…

Today things have taken a turn for the worse. I’m feeling seriously glum and I’ve got a pretty bad case of the ‘why me?’s. I’m not having any cravings for a drink, yet I’m feeling shitty and yucky about being the odd one out. I’m just feeling really pissed off that I ended up with a drinking problem when everyone around me was born normal. It’s decidedly uncool and a massive pain in the arse and I HATE the fact that I have to deal with this and I’m just feeling shitty and gross and sorry for myself.

I have no idea where these feelings have sprung up from. It’s probably just because Christmas is thundering towards us and I know that everyone around me is getting excited about letting loose. I don’t feel like I’m missing out exactly, but I certainly do feel like the odd one out.

I need to go home and have a big fat cry and wallow in my self-pity and get it out of my system, but I won’t get that luxury until late tonight because I have a million Christmas related things to organise after work. I love Christmas, I go absolutely bat-shit crazy for Christmas, but right now Christmas is not my friend.

Argh. Rant over. Tomorrow’s a new day.

Italian Hot Chocolate

Since I spent last night avoiding our Christmas work do in favour of hanging out with my good friends Couch and Netflix, I decided to make an occasion out of it and try my hand at Italian Hot Chocolate.

Finished top

Italian hot chocolate is heavenly. You practically need to take to it with a knife and fork it’s so thick. It tastes like molten chocolate lava and it’s very, very lux.

While it certainly tastes pretty decadent, I’ll let you in on a little secret… it’s not quite as bad for you as you might think because there is a magic little ingredient…

FullSizeRender

Cornflour!

To make one large cup add:

  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp cocoa
  • 1 tsp sugar

To your saucepan:

Dry Ingredients

Fill your cup with milk (full fat) and add a dash to your saucepan to dissolve the cornflour and cocoa.

Milk

Add the rest of your milk and a few squares of dark chocolate. I went for Green & Black’s 70% dark chocolate.

I like my hot chocolate quite bitter and dark, but you could dial up the sweetness by adding milk chocolate or extra sugar.

Chocolate

Heat over a low heat for about 5 minutes , stirring until the chocolate has dissolved and the liquid begins to thicken.

Heating

Once the consistency has thickened up a bit, pour into a big cup for one. You’re not gonna want to share!

Pouring1

Pouring2

I like to add a drizzle of liquid cream, but you could go the whole hog and add whipped cream and marshmallows.

You could also spice it up with ground chili or add some vanilla essence while it’s heating through. Or make it a festive hot chocolate with mixed spice or cinnamon.

Finished side

Perfect treat for a cosy date night with the telly

 

Pangs

The last couple of days have been frustrating. I’ve been having little niggly pangs popping up all day long. Each time they pop up, I pounce on the feelings and remind myself that one glass of wine equals two glasses the next day (and six the day after). I remind myself that I can’t drink like a normal drinker and that, while I have been doing well with cutting it out completely, that doesn’t translate to being able to have one and stop. One equals a slippery slope back into miserable old habits.

I’ve also been patiently taking each pang and dissecting it to try and work out whether there’s rhyme or reason to them cropping up. I run a mental checklist that goes something like this:

  • Am I thirsty?
  • Am I stressy?
  • Am I jealous?
  • Am I anxious?
  • Am I tired?

Which is usually answered like this: Nope, nope, nope, nope and nope… Oh just another inexplicable pang then. Great.

I’m actually surprised by my patience with these pangs. Generally I’m a pretty impatient lass, but these pangs are testing me and I’m rising to their challenge each time, despite my frustrations with my mini analysis not drawing any conclusions. I’ve been coming around to the realisation that brain re-wiring is a marathon, not a sprint.

Because of all these fecking pain-in-the-arse pangs lately, I decided to give our all company Christmas do a miss tonight. The thought of a room heaving with free drinks freaked me out a bit and I was worried that if a pang were to strike just as a glass of wine was waved under my nose I might cave.

So instead I’ve come home (buying myself an array of NA drinks on the way), parked up in front of the telly and have grand plans to make a new hot chocolate recipe later too. Let’s get this (couch) party started 🙂

 

 

 

Booze Bombardment

Well, my wonderful fluffy pink cloud that was protecting me so beautifully is definitely fading. I had a very up and down weekend full of little stretches of self-pity and longing for a glass of wine. I’ve really got to work on my terrible habit of romanticising wine. Something I’ve noticed a lot of long term ex drinkers have in common is that they’ve busted the illusion that alcohol is a necessary part of a happy life.

Saturday was a particularly yucky day. I was in a bad mood all day running around with a million jobs to get done and feeling very stressy. We had the BBQ to go to with friends that night and it ended up being a little bit of a disaster. I was so busy all day that I didn’t manage to put together a mocktail of any kind or plan out how the night would run. I ended up taking along my bottle of alcohol free bubbly instead and fully intended to let people (some of my oldest friends) know that I had stopped drinking. But when we got there, there were a bunch of people I didn’t know so well there too, so I just quietly poured myself a glass of by NA bubbly and blended in with the crowd.

I drank the whole bottle of NA bubbly as everyone else around me got merry on the real stuff and nobody noticed a thing. At the end of the night we left earlier than everyone else and I slipped my NA bottle into the recycling and nobody there was any the wiser that I hadn’t been drinking. I felt a bit shifty about it all really. There wasn’t any reason not to tell my good friends, but I didn’t want to have to make an announcement and it didn’t come up naturally in conversation. The other thing that held me back was the blindingly obvious boozing culture on display during the evening.

Since I’ve stopped drinking I’ve become hypersensitive to the massive culture of boozing all around me. We’re bombarded with alcohol advertising from every direction to the point where I’m shocked that it ever flew under my radar when I was drinking. My facebook news feed celebrates passing out drunk as an achievement – something to aim for on a night out. To be fair the crap that comes up on my news feed is probably tailored to me specifically, but drinking does seem to permeate every social event on there. The cover photo for a party I’m invited to next weekend is of a woman passed out naked on a picnic table surrounded by empty bottles. I know it’s a joke (and I’m beginning to sound like a grumpy old lady), but when you take a step back from a life of boozing, you really notice how ingrained it is in the culture around you.

On Saturday night, one friend had set herself a challenge – to drink one drink every 15 minutes for the first two hours (otherwise she “wouldn’t have time to get drunk enough” before heading into town after the BBQ). There were loads of comments during the night along the lines of “let’s get fucked uuuuup” (especially from the males) and a general sense that that was the aim of the evening. Of course back in my drinking days I would have been glad of these attitudes because I could have quietly become more and more drunk without any fear of judgement. In fact my ability to hold my liquor would have been seen as a sought-after talent by some. But now as a non-drinker, these attitudes are a massive roadblock in being open and honest about my decision to give up drinking.

It’s a bit of a sad state of affairs really. I love my friends and totally trust that I could tell them in a different setting and it would all go down fine, but in that setting with the goal of the evening seemingly to ‘get shitfaced’ the fear of the social stigma stopped me from feeling comfortable enough to open up to them. How sad is that? 😦

Sober Socialising: Round Two

I’ve had more and more cravings peeking through in the past couple of days, so I think my pink cloud may be dissipating – waaahhh! It’s as though I’ve been racing along in my big pink car, but now it’s running out of gas and I’m put-put-putting to a stop. It probably doesn’t help that I’ve been getting a bit lazy with my ‘sober work’ this week. I’ve been doing so well and feeling so settled in my decision that I’ve let my guard down a bit. I’m nowhere near seriously contemplating drinking, but the cravings are fluttering away in my subconscious a bit.

Went out to dinner with friends last night, so beforehand I got in quick and suggested we all meet in a bar that I knew did a good selection of mocktails. I got stuck into a pineapple and passionfruit number, while the others had proper grown up drinks. And then the most peculiar thing happened – everyone switched to mocktails for the rest of the night – how bizarre! But then I remembered that not everyone has an alcohol fanatic living inside of them making sure drink after drink is poured down their throat.

At the restaurant, with pressure on from a waiter standing ready to take our order, I didn’t know what to order off their limited drinks list and ended up going with a raspberry and chocolate milkshake (what am I five!?). I felt a bit uncomfortable and awkward in my own skin for the whole evening. No-one asked why I wasn’t drinking, except to ask whether I’m pregnant (nope, just a food baby), but I still felt conscious that I wasn’t relaxing. I felt a bit uptight and tired all evening, so it wasn’t as successful as my first sober socialising venture.

I’ve got another BBQ to go to tonight (oh the joys of the festive season), which is an annual catch up with old friends from school and I haven’t really done any planning. I had been thinking that I’d try and fly under everyone’s radar by drinking NA wine, but from recent experience no-one really seems to care whether you drink or not. In fact, the only person that has seemed to care so far is my boss, who I never even drink with anyway! (Yesterday, he asked with concern whether I was planning on not drinking forever? He seemed genuinely concerned that I was making a very poor life choice, haha.) So anyway, I think I will head along to the BBQ  tonight with soda or a pre-made mocktail and just bite the bullet and tell people that I’m no longer boozing. Cue the pregnancy questions (note to self: wear baggy top).

Once tonight is out of the way, I really need to get cracking on some positive sober thoughts to pre-empt any cravings that rear their ugly heads before Christmas (eeek 13 more sleeps!), because that’s going to be my next big challenge – a week staying in a house with 15 other people – most of whom looooove their alcohol.

Has anyone got any suggestions for useful ‘keeping positive even though your whole family are raging boozers‘ sober reading material?? I’ve heard Jason Vale’s ‘Kick the drink‘ is pretty good.

 

Red wine dreams

Had my first drinking dream (more of a nightmare) this morning and it was wholly unpleasant! I guess it makes sense that it’s on my mind while I’m asleep, seeing as I spend so many of my waking hours with one eye on sobriety. Maybe my brain was getting way too comfy in this sober headspace, so the wine monster decided to jazz things up and attack while I was sleeping. Sneaky little shit.

I’m still not getting this legendary luxurious sleep I’ve been promised. Instead I feel like death when I wake up and it takes me about an hour before I can speak to anyone. Maybe I’m just not destined to be a morning person 😦

The silver lining of drinking dreams though – you wake up panicking that you’ve got drunk in your sleep, but then get to bask in the relief that it was all an icky nightmare. Fingers crossed the nightmares are out of my system now.

The List: The Sequel

Currently I’m loving this headspace I’m in. I feel steady and certain that I’m making the right choice for myself, but I’m also quite fearful of the sense of doubt returning and rocking the boat.

For the first few weeks after clearing the booze out of my life, questions raged away in my mind – the main one being “was I really that bad? Plenty of people drink wine with dinner every night”. And it is difficult, knowing that I never reached that classic ‘rock bottom’ losing my job, house, kids, living in the gutter. I don’t think I would have ever got to that point realistically, but I certainly wasn’t heading in a positive direction!

Last night I was thinking about what sets me apart from those people that have a healthy relationship with booze and I started making a list of things I did to appease the alcohol fanatic living inside of me. This list is in no way exhaustive (I had to cut it off before I died of shame), and I certainly had phases where my drinking was worse than other times, but it gives me a list to refer back to when I ask myself that question – ‘was I really that bad?’

  1. Most recently: drank during the morning, on my own and in secret. This was a huge red flag for me because this was something I’d always used to distinguish myself from ‘real alcoholics’. What’s worse was that it was vodka (hate the stuff) and the last of a flat bottle of coke (hate the stuff), which tasted terrible because the ratio of vodka to coke was too high, so I put icecream in it to disguise the taste. I sat there in my PJs, watching Saturday morning telly, drinking a kids drink spiked with vodka and all because I was feeling very blue and very bored and I knew the booze would be a quick fix. Oh, the shame.
  2. Got shitty last Christmas because my mum had told me she’d massively over-catered on booze, but then we ran out. I was mainly shitty at myself for not having a plan B and bringing extra. Present booze hag got mad at past booze hag for not looking after future booze hag.
  3. Pre-loaded with a couple of wines before many an event because I knew it would take too long (i.e. 10 minutes or more) for the booze to start flowing once I arrived.
  4. Bought an extra packet of baking powder. One for baking and the other because I knew I’d need it to get inevitable red wine stains out of the carpet.
  5. Got rip-roaring drunk the night before many of my uni exams because I ‘needed to calm my nerves and make sure I got a good night’s sleep the night before‘. One day I had a morning exam and an afternoon one. I was still drunk in the morning exam and spent the lunch break between them vomiting in the toilets. What the fuck was I thinking!?!?
  6. Drunk my flatmate’s wine while she was away because I’d run out. Then realised it was really fucking expensive wine when buying her a replacement bottle the next day. Actually, I’ve had to buy lots of replacement bottles for flatmates over the years.
  7. House-sat for my parents, drank their gin and then had to replace the outlandishly expensive bottle before they got back. Why does everyone have such expensive taste!?
  8. Always offered to put together the G&Ts at family events so I could make sure mine had more gin in it.
  9. Attempted ‘Dry July’ and told everyone I’d done it, but really I caved a few days before the end and drank a bottle of wine in my bedroom. My flatmates and boyfriend at the time were none the wiser.
  10. Late one night decided I needed something to eat because I was too drunk, but didn’t want to wake the house, so took a loaf of bread and serrated knife into my bedroom and used my bed as a chopping board. I woke up to find that I’d sliced through the bedsheets and woolrest.

This type of stuff happened over several years and wasn’t an everyday occurrence. I did go through phases where my drinking was far more insatiable than other times, but that is still some decidedly freakish behaviour! Especially for someone who thinks ‘was I really that bad? I only had wine with dinner’!!!

Argh this post is so cringey! I’m going to run off and hide under my covers and die of guilt and shame now.