I like to think that I’m a ‘glass half full’ kinda gal most of the time. I’m a big believer in the power of positive attitude and I try to find a silver lining to any shitty situation. But I’d be lying if I said that sobriety has been a walk in the park so far – sometimes you just can’t force happiness and sometimes you’ve just got to have a big fat whinge.
Lately though, my brain chemicals seem to be falling into line and I’ve been feeling better, feeling steadier. I don’t want to jinx anything, but it feels like optimism is tentatively creeping back into my life. It’s becoming easier to spot the positives, so here’s six good things from me:
I’ve finally started telling people “I don’t drink”. None of this “I’m trying to be healthier” nonsense anymore. People ask “why?” and I tell them the truth (in varying degrees of detail). It just fell out of my mouth one day and i haven’t looked back since. To be clear, I’m not knocking people that choose to be vague, it certainly helped me to be vague to begin with, but these days I’m all for being straight up.
I’m fascinated when I come across alcoholic characters in books or telly. I find myself rooting for them, they’re on my team. I loved how Trixie from Call the Midwife found an outlet in her aerobics classes in London’s East End during the 1950s, similar to how so many of us find yoga to be a huge help these days. And I found myself getting way too emotionally invested in Catherine’s sister Clare’s character from BBC’s Happy Valley.
Coffee. Need I say more? This is an addiction to be dealt with another day.
Sober treats! I’ve been able to save more now that I’m not demolishing $100 worth of wine a week. Sometimes though, you’ve got to scrap the savings in favour of treating yo’self.Recently I bought this perfume. It’s a unisex scent that smells clean and powdery. I’ve heard it described as smelling like velvet, or the pages of a book. It smells different on everyone’s skin and I love it!
Ok, I think this one’s the best of the six. There’s been a big push at my work lately to promote diversity. I guess it’s the latest ‘thing’ in HR circles. There’s been all the expected stuff – trying to get a better male/female balance in top positions, making sure racism, homophobia and sexism are stamped out etc.But at our company’s latest fortnightly meeting a woman from the diversity working group stood up to talk about non-drinkers in the company. Everyone gets wine gifted to them on their birthday, and she explained that you could add yourself to a non-drinkers list and you’d get a gift card instead. I’m already on this list, but I thought it was cool that they are becoming more aware of non-drinkers’ needs, given the extreme boozing culture at my work (and in NZ in general).
I’m also helping out with organising our mid-year work-do and we were given direction from the big boss to make sure it was less alcohol-centric than years before. It seems like the message is filtering through the company. Great news for me, maybe a bit of a bummer for the drinkers though.
And finally, how good is it when you come across non-alcoholic drinks menus as good as these:
This one’s from the Black Sparrow bar in Wellington. The apple snap was amazing and I’ll be trying to recreate at home. I’ll share if I’m successful!
Aaaand I’m back into an easy phase of sobriety. It’s such a relief to have easy spells after a period of feeling down in the dumps about it all. In saying that, over the past week I’ve dipped my toe into socialising at boozy events a few more times and it’s left me feeling a bit beat up. My cousin was visiting from the UK so I felt the need to make an effort and arrange some outings while he was here.
A whole lot of family came down to Wellington to catch up over dinner and we went out for Mexican. My family aren’t raging party animals, but they can put a fair few drinks away, so there were margaritas and coronas flowing around the table. My family have actually been amazingly good with the non-drinking. They’ve asked a few questions, but nothing too nosey and have mainly just ignored the fact (other than offering me orange juice when all the girls were having afternoon mimosas the other day). To be honest, I always work it up much more in my own head and no-one really cares one bit. It didn’t really bother me that I wasn’t drinking the night of the Mexican dinner. The bartender made me some delicious gingerbread lime thing and it was all fine. Afterwards we went to a craft beer bar and sat on the rooftop terrace. Everyone had sangria except me and my aunty who opted to drink gingerbeer with me because she didn’t want to cop a hangover the next day.
I didn’t feel like an outsider and it was easy enough not to drink, but as the night wore on I got really really tired as everyone got merrier. I drove half of them there, so I didn’t want to cut the night short seeing as everyone was there to see my cousin. Socialising sober just got more and more grating as the night went on and my nerves felt frayed by the end. I don’t think I’ll ever be the type to dance the night away without alcohol in my system. I also felt a bit boring. It was a real effort to keep conversation flowing like the others were. It wasn’t a bad night, but it was a little dull and I felt raw and tired.
A couple of nights later there was a BBQ. I brought along my alcohol free wine and tried to fit in with everyone sitting on the deck bathed in the evening sunset. It was the perfect setting for a few wines and I was jealous of the drinkers because I couldn’t really relax. I was conscious of the fake grapey taste of my wine and just felt like a bit of a fraud. I can’t wait until that changes and I don’t think twice about what’s in my glass. I worry that these feelings will never change and I’ll always feel like I’m living some kind of sub-par life at these types of gatherings. The food was really good and there were lots of laughs around the table, but again, I got tired much earlier than everyone else. We sat for what felt like hours while some of them had a night cap of whiskey and I was practically falling asleep before we could leave (again, I was driving people home, so had to wait for them).
We also had a day out at the cricket, which was surprisingly fun. I had some pangs of jealousy when I smelt the beer being drunk around me. Not because I was jealous of the drunken revelry, but it just smelt refreshing while we sat there in the hot sun. I was never a beer drinker though, I liked the taste, but could barely finish one drink. At least I wasn’t falling asleep after the cricket. Maybe I need to stick to day time socialising and flag attempting to fit in at evening gatherings…
Once my cousin had left I just felt like I needed this weekend to recoup and nurse my frayed nerves. Today I spent the day at the beach for a friend’s birthday (I only went because it wasn’t an alcohol centric event!). I pretty much lay on my beach towel and read my book for a few hours, which was well called for after feeling battered and bruised by this week’s sober socialising. There were a few people I didn’t know there and I noticed that it felt weird making conversation with strangers without alcohol in my system. I actually can’t remember the last time I would have talked to random people at a social event without a drink in my hand.
I’m halfway through the socialising episode of ‘home’ podcast and it sounds like Holly and Laura’s social lives changed drastically after they’d been sober a while, so I wonder whether mine will too. I wonder whether it’ll be a natural progression or whether it’s something I need to take steps to change. There’s so much that I can’t see changing, like the fact my family have a drink for every occasion – I can’t just pick a new family, so I’m always going to be around these type of events. And work do’s are always entirely alcohol centric too. Perhaps it’s just a matter of introducing new types of social events into my life 🙂
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)…
(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.
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.
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…
To make one large cup add:
2 tsp cornflour
1 tsp cocoa
1 tsp sugar
To your saucepan:
Fill your cup with milk (full fat) and add a dash to your saucepan to dissolve the cornflour and cocoa.
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.
Heat over a low heat for about 5 minutes , stirring until the chocolate has dissolved and the liquid begins to thicken.
Once the consistency has thickened up a bit, pour into a big cup for one. You’re not gonna want to share!
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.
Perfect treat for a cosy date night with the telly
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? 😦
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.
Last night went better than I could have expected. Perhaps in part because I went a bit crazy prepping and worrying about worst case scenarios, but I‘m happy to say it’s officially possible for me to have a good time sans alcohol!
A huge contributing factor to the fun was that I had friends there. I’d say it would have been a bit awkward if I didn’t get on with any of my colleagues and had to ‘mingle’ completely sober, but when you’re with your mates and this is the view, who cares if it’s wine or ginger beer in your glass:
On the drive to the venue I felt really awkward and nervous in anticipation of being the odd one out not drinking, but once we got there everyone was so busy with clay bird shooting and archery that no-one even looked twice at what I was drinking. Turns out I’m only the centre of attention in my own head 😉
By dinnertime I got a little jealous of everyone around drinking wine, not because I wanted to get drunk, but because my ginger beer was getting really sickly sweet.
I didn’t want to start mixing up mocktails at the table because I felt conspicuous, but after everyone had sunk enough wine the maturity levels took a dive. Glasses were being broken and people were playing with their food, so I realised I wasn’t going to be questioned over my mocktail mixing at the table.
It’s been at least 5-10 years since I’ve spent time with a bunch of people getting drunk while I remained sober, so it was an interesting experience to be a fly on the wall. Towards the start everyone got loud and excitable and they were generally fun to be around, laughing way too hard at jokes. But towards the end of the night lots of fully grown adults turned into a bunch of toddlers, bumping into things, slurring and falling over… drunk people also smell really bad. Like stale wine and sweat – ick. I’m sure I was never that bad
After hours of drinking, the portion sizes of the food weren’t really enough to line anyone’s stomachs either, and I was glad to not have that feeling of having overdone it with the wine. When you’re not focussing on how much wine you can pour down your throat it leaves a lot more time to enjoy the food too.
After dinner we sat around on couches outside watching the sun go down and a couple of people asked what I was drinking, or why I wasn’t on the wines, but no-one seemed to really care. Someone asked if I was pregnant too (of course they did), so I kept self-consciously sucking my tummy in for the rest of the evening.
Having people I trusted there really did make the world of difference. I’m sure there will be events in future full of people I loathe, but hopefully I’ll be able to avoid going or at least have an exit strategy in place for those ones instead of being stuck in the middle of nowhere. I’ve also got to remember that awkward sober events are temporary and a bit of liquid social lubrication isn’t worth giving it all up for.
One friend asked if I was not drinking forever, so I said I thought so, but that I wasn’t really thinking years down the track at this stage. I tried to explain how different it is being sober, which is hard to try and explain to a normal drinker. In the end she said “maybe you just like it better because you’re back in control” and I think she hit the nail on the head. Aside from all the health/monetary/emotional benefits of being sober, there is just something better about being sober. You begin to regain your self-respect and you’re no longer at the mercy of your addiction, pandering to its every need. You’re taking back the reins and living life on your own terms once again.
I’m sure this clear-headedness won’t stick around forever, it seems far too easy, but I’ll take it while I can get it and I hope it carries me through the rest of the socialising to be done this season.