A better day

Today was a very well received easy breezy carefree day.

My mind was sharp and focused at work all day and I powered through the work (making up for some of the time I’ve spent moping about my desk reading sober blogs all day recently). We went out for a girls lunch and I was un-phased by the wine swilling in glasses around me. After work I met my sister and we went and saw sisters which was a bit cringey, but was made up for by a few crying-with-laughter moments (it was probably shit, I’m no movie buff). And again, I was totally un-phased by the well stocked bar at the theatre – I certainly picked a good day to be having a good day.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t punching the air while whooping ‘fuck yeah, I’m sober’, but I appreciated my sobriety a little bit today and that is a big step up from the last few days. It was nice to be clear headed and have ticked off half my to-do list by 10am, and it was good to come back from lunch not feeling like I needed a siesta to freshen me up after a boozy lunch. Best of all, it was amazing to be able to drive to a fancy boutique cinema in the burbs instead of settling for the mainstream cinema in town or getting public transport all because I wanted to be free to sink a few glasses of wine.

I can put up with all the shit days as long as I get a sprinkling of these good days in the mix too.

xx

 

 

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Snakes & Ladders

I’m into my thirteenth week of sobriety now and my brain has been NOISY! I took a break from reading blogs over the weekend in an effort to stop feeding my brain things to think about. It can be so tiring thinking about not drinking all the time and I thought my brain would have calmed down by this point. (But if I were drinking then I’d constantly be thinking about drinking instead, so it seems I’m stuck with a noisy brain no matter what I do, so I may as well stay sober and do my liver a favour!)

This is hard. I know no-one ever said it was going to be easy, but sometimes it is SO hard and seems to be getting harder. I’d read and been told that it gets easier, so in the beginning I assumed that everyday would just get incrementally better until I reached life perfection. Ha ha. That is not the case, sobriety is difficult. It feels like a life sized game of snakes and ladders. Constantly taking two steps forward and one step back, making leaps and bounds and thinking ‘I’m content’, and the next week perilously close to drinking again. Sobriety hasn’t been steadily getting easier for me like I expected. I was relieved to find Laura McKowen’s post on this very subject (I’m in love with her writing).

In a way it was good to hear that while sobriety is generally messy and unpredictable, in the end you’re still spiraling upwards. I have an obsession with making sure every feeling and phase of sobriety is ‘normal’, so finding thoughts that tally up with where I’m at currently is tremendously comforting.

Still, knowing that this snakes and ladders progression is normal, it doesn’t make it any more comfortable. These feelings, this discomfort is exactly what I feared about giving up drinking. And now I’m doing it and it is sucking big time. I’ve been feeling that no matter whether I drink or not, it’s a trade off. Obviously my logical brain tells me that in return for not drinking, I get my health (mental and physical) back, I save money, I regain self-respect and myriad other benefits. But having common sense doesn’t magically equate to not wanting to drink. My addiction isn’t logical.

I’m not sure whether I’ve lost my way a bit in this sober journey, or whether I’m exactly where I need to be, but I’m stuck in this really horrible spot between being unhappy drinking and unhappy sober and feeling really trapped.

Sober Treats

Lately I’ve been a bit of a Debbie Downer, so I decided I needed some cheering up and I figured that was best achieved by throwing lots of money at shops. Yeehaa!

I started with fresh flowers (actually free from my mum’s garden):

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Then splashed out a bit on some cleansing balm that I’ve heard rave reviews about:

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Taking my make-up off before bed was something I never had the time or energy for when I was rolling my drunken arse into bed every night. Now it’s fast becoming one of my favourite parts of the day.

Washing my face, scrubbing my teeth, soft PJs, clean sheets and a cup of chamomile tea – it’s every (sober) girl’s dream evening 😉

I also threw in a hair conditioning mask because I ran out of shampoo last week and washed my hair with body wash. My hair hasn’t been the same since. It was horrifying. If that didn’t make me crack open the wine, nothing will.

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And my most special sober gift: A little meadowlark heart charm necklace to remind myself of the importance of self-care and self-love  (puke).

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Of course it all cost me a pretty penny, but I am trying not to feel guilty knowing that I’ve saved over a grand on booze so far.

Being okay with not being okay

I’m beginning to rack up a good long list of ‘realisations I must come to’ in order to feel like I’m making any sort of progress towards sober happiness. Realisations like “I don’t need alcohol to relax” and “I don’t need alcohol to socialise.” The problem is there’s a gaping wide disconnect between knowing that I need to reach these realisations and actually coming around to them. I still don’t really believe them and it’s frustrating the hell out of me that I can’t bridge that gap, and bridge it now.

Sometimes I find myself berating myself “Come on you stupid, dopey brain! Catch up with what you know is true. Start believing you can’t drink like other people.” I’m pushing myself to get through this stupid denial(?) phase and trying to force realisations on myself, trying to force progress to happen.

I’ve always been the type to maintain a pretty drama free life. When drama appears I’m quick to whip out the fire extinguisher and put an end to the madness. Fast. Break-ups with guys are dealt with efficiently (you can blub about it later) and I don’t enjoy cattiness or bitchiness; I’d rather be upfront than let resentment seethe under the surface. Basically, I don’t like a messy life. I like it tidy and simple and drama free, and messiness is dealt with swiftly.

I’ve also always loathed the learning process. As a two year old I refused to be toilet trained. My mum despaired over me and beat herself up over it thinking she was doing something wrong, until one day I just plonked myself down on the potty. Learning has always been done in short bursts: school exams were crammed for on the day, I learnt to drive in an intense couple of months, I put off learning new systems at work until I have to, etc. Generally I just like my learning to be over and done as quickly as possible, like ripping off a bandage. I’m not sure what this comes down to… maybe I dislike the feeling of my brain being stretched?

So I’ve been thinking a bit about this today. Thinking about how I’m struggling to fast track my acceptance of this new sober state. With magical timing, The Sober Soul Searcher brought my attention to this amazingly relevant post. Laura talks about wanting to be at step C when she was currently at step A. That resonates with me massively, because I am just so uncomfortable with where I’m at currently. It’s messy and dramatic and untidy and all I want to do is clean the mess up and get to where I’m going.

But I’m beginning to realise that sobriety doesn’t fit into tidy little boxes, there’s no quick fix to my drinking problem and I can’t hit the books hard for a month or two in order to cram as many realisations in as possible. Instead I have to sit with the discomfort. I have to let emotions I don’t like (and beliefs I know aren’t true) swill around inside me until my brain is done stretching. I have to take the advice: “Give yourself permission to not be okay, but know that you are also fine.” It’s bloody uncomfortable.

Wanted: 1 rudder

For the past week or so I’ve been having cravings that aren’t really cravy so to speak, they don’t come in bursts or waves and I haven’t been craving a specific type of drink. Instead it’s like a faint yearning to go back to my drunken ways and I can’t seem to shake it like I can with normal cravings. It’s a really subtle under the surface feeling, so it’s not really on my mind, but in some ways that makes the feeling seem all the more dangerous. It’s like the wine goblin has given up working away at my conscious mind and is now attacking my sub-conscious.

Now that I’ve battled past the first couple of months that were filled with really shitty tough slog, I’ve emerged into a kind of limbo where I’m not really sure what to do. And my sub-conscious mind is bugging me to do what I’ve always done when I don’t know what to do next – drink.

I suspect that this is just a phase and that I will just drift along aimlessly for a while before ‘popping’ through to the other side (the ‘other side’ being a wonderful mystical happy state of being that so many long-term sober folk rave about). I’ve heard so many of these sober folk saying it’s worth it, it’s worth it so just keep trucking until you get there, but it would be lovely to know that on X date at X time, I will have reached that point. It would just be nice to have some set expectations instead of just aimlessly wandering in that general direction.

Maybe my patience is just wearing a bit thin, but I’m feeling a bit rudderless at the moment.

 

Sugar Plum Fairy

This mocktail was one of my Christmas creations, hence the festive name, so I’m obviously running ridiculously late with this post.

But who needs the excuse of Christmas to indulge in a mocktail anyway. This one contains fruit, so it’s virtually healthy! (It’s not.)

Done

You’ll need:

  • A tin of dark plums in syrup
  • Elderflower syrup
  • Blackcurrant syrup
  • Vanilla essence
  • Sparkling water

Ingredients

I wanted to make a Plum & Elderflower drink, but I couldn’t find plum juice or syrup anywhere, until I found this liquid gold in a tin of plums.

Drain the plums and reserve the syrup.

I chuck the plums in a ziplock bag in the freezer because they’re perfect for little plum puddings or crumble on a rainy day.

Plums

Each drink contains:

  • 3 Tbsp plum syrup
  • 1 Tbsp elderflower syrup
  • 1 tsp of blackcurrant
  • a couple of drops of vanilla essence

Syrup

And then they’re topped with sparkling water to give a bit of fizz

Sparkling water

Ideal for when you feel like you deserve something a bit more sparkly and special than your bog standard alcohol replacement drinks.

Done 2

Ho-hum

I’ve been having a pretty easy time of late. No knock-your-socks-off cravings, just strolling along ticking up the sober days. It’s not really that joyous pink cloud feeling that visited me in the early days though, because back then I felt self assured and thrilled with my decision to stop drinking, and these days I feel quite flat and life is just a bit ho-hum really. I’ve settled into a bit of a dull day-to-day routine that is making it really easy to avoid alcohol. It doesn’t feel weird anymore to come home and make dinner and drink cups of tea and gingerbeer (not mixed together), and I think less and less about what wine will go with food when I’m planning dinner these days, so those old habits seem to be fading.

And so here I am strolling along in my ho-hum sober life. Thoughts of drinking still drift into my head all the time, but they’re easy to remove with gentle reminders to myself that I can’t drink like other people and that realistically ‘moderation’ will end up in misery, so what’s the point in trying and failing when I’m happy enough as I am sober. It all feels quite easy and I really feel like I’m getting a hang of this sober business.

But then I was reminded that I’ll have the house to myself when my partner goes away to watch one of his sports teams in a few weeks, and BAM! My mind was flooded with a sense of relief that “I can totally go and buy a few bottles of wine and get written off for the weekend” and “I totally deserve it”, and “it’ll be such a luxury”, and “no-one will be any the wiser”. What. The. Hell. Where the fuck did that come from!?!? Addiction is such a sneaky little lurky fucker. Just when you think you’re finally rid (haa as if!) of the cheeky little gobshite, he rears his sneaky little head to remind you that he’s still there.

Obviously when these thoughts popped up, I didn’t act on them and sneakily start planning a private little party for one, or I wouldn’t be sharing this. When I sat and really thought about the feelings, they weren’t even a craving, it was just my old boozer brain leaping at an opportunity to get drunk. Just an old pattern of behaviour, my brain constantly scanning, constantly on the lookout for an acceptable opportunity to get drunk. It was probably an extra ferocious thought because it was an opportunity to get drunk in peace, which was my favourite type of drinking.

The thoughts did knock me off guard a bit though and I had to ask myself whether I really wanted to drink if I had the opportunity. I was relieved to realise that I didn’t want to, but it was a really good reminder of just how fragile my sobriety is. Although it seems like a really obvious thing to say, it kinda hit home and made me think ‘Shit, the only person standing between me and alcohol is me.’ Like of course there’s the accountability that I’ve created for myself etc, but that wouldn’t stop me drinking if I really wanted to drink. It’s good to know that I’ve reached a point where the part of me that doesn’t want to drink seems to be stronger than the part of me that does want to drink. For now anyway. Who knows what that sneaky little goblin has up his sleeve.

Lazy, but sober

It’s been a week since my ‘where to from here’ post and I have managed to achieve diddly squat. Zero exercise was done, zero new hobbies were looked into, zero helpful self-help books were read and I probably managed to get a little fatter (Christmas chocolate supplies seem to be multiplying despite my best efforts to make a dent in them).

But the good news is that I’ve racked up another seven days of sobriety, and that’s another seven days of brain re-training, another seven days of distance between me and my last drink, and hopefully another seven days closer to beginning to feel normal about not drinking.

After my last post, a general theme of the feedback seemed to be that it was all good to chill out a bit and not feel like I had to be doing stuff in order to achieve happiness in sobriety. Looking back at my last week, it seems like I took that advice and ran with it – I’ve gone into full laze mode and haven’t even scratched the surface of the housework! But as Jackie said, it’s wonderful to be able to remember the ends of all the shows I’ve been watching.

Surprising little things like this keep popping up and reminding me of what I was missing out on before I stopped drinking. I would get several episodes deep into a series, only to have to re-watch them all the next evening because I could only half remember what had happened. The amount of time spent trying to find the exact right point in the show where I slipped into drunken mess territory and couldn’t remember any further was infuriating. On Friday night we went to see Jimmy Carr and it was so bizarre (good bizarre) to be really present in the moment and get some simple enjoyment out of the night. Drunken me would have had one eye on the bar all night thinking about my next drink, needing to get up and pee halfway though, and my drunken brain would have been behind the eight ball with all the jokes.

This week hasn’t been all sunshine and roses though. The spectrum of emotions I can rattle through in a single day astounds me. I’ve had a few really, really angry ‘If anyone talks to be I’ll stab them‘ moments and I think they mainly sprout from feelings of ‘why me? This isn’t fair!’. Then within an hour my mood will have swung wildly the other way feeling grateful that I’m sober and even so far as to feel grateful for my drinking problem because it’s forced me to get involved in a bit of introspection and self-love. Within a matter of hours I can feel depression, boredom, elation, calmness, shame, self-loathing, self-love, irritation and so on. It’s a roller-coaster. When the yucky emotions hit, I try and remind myself that they’re only temporary, but when you’re in the thick of it, it can be hard to believe that you’ll ever feel any differently.

I had grand plans to get productive this weekend to make up for the week that’s been, but I’ve been struck down with a cold yesterday, so I’ve ended up cooped up indoors achieving a whole lot more of piss-all. It’s hard to believe there was a time, only a matter of weeks ago, that my go-to cold remedy would have been red wine and hot toddies. I’m happy to say that drinking is the last thing I feel like doing right now! Instead I’ll raise my cup of hot blackcurrant to a more productive week next week… or maybe the one after 😉

The List: Where to from here?

Now that I’ve managed to string a bunch of sober weeks together, I have to say my momentum is slowing down. That’s not to say I’m anywhere near contemplating drinking again, but I am worried I’m not doing enough (aside from refraining from drinking).

It’s really important to me that I reach a point where I’m not thinking about sobriety sixty-four-thousand times a day. I want to reach a stage where I don’t crave wine with food, I don’t feel left out when others are drinking, a point where a simple “no thanks, I don’t drink” trips off the tongue and I don’t think twice about the fact that I live without alcohol in my life. I want my sober status to eventually be comfortable (perhaps even bring happiness) and for it to become normal to me. That’s the ultimate goal and from what I’ve read it’s entirely possible. The last thing I’d want is for my progress to come to a standstill and to be left wallowing in discomfort (because I’d say discomfort is an accurate description of where I’m at currently).

The problem is, I’m not sure how I make that leap from where I’m at now to where I want to get to. I’ve read that it’s important to keep on moving, keep making progress, keep making changes, keep trying new things and those actions (plus a looooong string of sober days) will eventually land me where I want to be. So I’ve put together a loose list of action points for 2016:

  • Bust some illusions – I still have terrible habits of romanticising wine. A common trend I’ve noticed among long term ex-drinkers is that they did a lot of work on busting the illusion that alcohol adds anything to their lives, which I imagine contributes greatly to cutting down on fomo. Books to read include: Allan Carr, Jason Vale, Annie Grace.
  • Fix my broken self – This is a biggy and I have no idea where to start. There must be some underlying reason that I chose to drink – to numb the pain of life? – how dramatic! As I’ve read many times, you can’t just take the coping mechanism away and not do any work on the real root cause of the problem. But I’m a bit stuck as to what the cause of the problem is… I may need professional help on this one. That and Brené Brown.
  • Learn to relax – luckily I haven’t had any big dramas blow up in my face so far, but it’s only a matter of time until life throws a curve ball, so I need to start building new (healthy) coping mechanisms. People rave about yoga, so why not start there? I may as well throw in some meditation and go the whole hippy-hog.
  • Fill my time – The amount of time I spent quaffing wine in front of the telly was endless. Yet it doesn’t feel like I’ve ended up with hours of free time after quitting drinking. Most nights are still spent in front of the telly, but with a glass of sugary soda in hand instead. I’ve always been a bit of a ‘hobbyless’ person (always dreading the question “sooo what are your hobbies?”… “errr, I’m a wine connoisseur?”), so I want to find some constructive and productive uses for my time. So far, I have coloured some pages of an adult colouring book… Hobby suggestions welcome.
  • Get healthy – The vast quantities of sugar I’ve been subjecting my body to (see soda point above) cannot be healthy. I’ve also been noticing a bit of a blue feeling creeping up over the last few days of the Christmas break. Probably just a bit of cabin fever seeing as it was raining and I’ve been pretty unproductive. Normally I’d blast these blue feelings with a dose of alcohol, but I need to find new ways to fix my mood. The blaringly obvious solution is exercise. Bleh. I might start with something small like buying a fitbit and getting 10,000 steps in a day. Let’s not go crazy here.

Now I just need to drag my lazy arse into gear and start making this list a reality 🙂

The List: Taking Stock

Now that I’ve washed up on the other side of a taxing festive season and the rush and busyness of Christmas has died away, I’ve been plonked into 2016 with no grand plans, no immediate obstacles, just a vast expanse of sober time stretching out ahead of me and a bit of a sense of what now? I read some advice recently that said when you’re feeling at a bit of a loose end and a bit directionless, it’s a good time to write down what you’ve achieved so far and what your future goals are.

I’ve never been one to set resolutions at New Years – I think I’ve always been too much of a realist and knew I’d never stick to them, so didn’t bother. But the start of a fresh year seems to time perfectly with where I’m at and my need to take stock of what I’ve achieved so far and have a think about what I need to do next. (Plus, I have an obsession with list writing, so any excuse!)

Here’s what I consider my achievements so far:

  • I stopped drinking! (Obviously had to be number one.) I actually managed to stop the daily cycle – drinking to feel good/to help me sleep/to take away anxiety, waking up feeling guilty and ashamed, promising myself I wouldn’t drink again that night, doing a half-arsed job of getting myself ready for work, feeling sick, eating crap, feeling miserable. Then, the afternoon spent feeling better, the internal argument cranking to life again ‘wine with dinner?’ – I still can’t believe that I pulled myself out of that cycle and gave myself enough distance to get any kind of grip or perspective on the situation.
  • I won battles. The first few weeks were spent still so tightly wound up in the grip of alcohol. This was a very wobbly time. There were points where I even decided I was going to drink again. But there was still a tiny little voice inside me, saying “win this battle, win this battle, win this battle.” The voice was so little, I can hardly believe I listened, but I’m grateful I did.
  • I worked through cravings. Meh, cravings are easy to deal with in comparison to doubt. But they are still a pain in the backside.
  • I resisted peer pressure. Surprisingly minimal amounts, but I’ve still dealt with a wee bit of it.
  • I started telling people that I’ve stopped drinking. I count this as an achievement because it’s been awkward as hell (so I want some credit for it haha), but I haven’t really managed to do a good job of it. I find myself wanting to compensate for their awkwardness when I tell them. I haven’t got my lines down-pat (I wish I’d worked more on exactly what I planned to say like all the advice told me to!)

    NYE Cheese & Mocktails
    NY Eve : avoided human interaction in favour of cheese & mocktails
  • I got through testing times. I stayed sober through big work parties, boozy dinners, Christmas and New Years. All achieved through a combination of planning, support (thanks to everyone that has given me advice and propped me up), dogged determination, avoidance, and a fuck load of sugar and cheese.
  • I maintained optimism. I’m not really seeing any of the expected positive side effects (weight loss, glowing skin, better sleep, more free time), but I don’t really care because there have been unexpected positive side effects instead. Mainly, the restoration of some self respect. But I’m also less anxious, my nails are better (random), I don’t have to worry about drunk driving and I can buy sober treats.

I did not expect that list to be so long, so I might draw a line under this post and have a good think about where to from here for 2016. After writing this list of achievements, I think the first point on my next one will be ‘don’t get too cocky!’ 🙂