Counselling

Still here, still sober. Halfway through month eleven now. I haven’t posted in a while because any “self-reflection” energy I’ve had has been going into counselling.

When I signed up for counselling I explained that I wanted to talk about my drinking problem and mentioned that I might need to speak to an addiction counsellor specifically. But the counsellor I was matched with doesn’t have any background in dealing with addiction whatsoever so she basically just listens and can’t make any comment when I ask questions because she doesn’t know the answer. She’s really lovely, but it’s a bit frustrating seeing as I wanted some actual academic answers to stuff.

Instead we’ve been getting into the social anxiety/shyness issues I have, and talking about my “overactive inner critic”. I know I have quite a few traits that are typical of people with drinking problems – an all-or-nothing personality, a streak of perfectionism and an out of proportion fear of failure – so it’s good to dig into that stuff a bit. It was nice to hear that she reckons it’s all very fixable stuff, but after a few sessions I was none the wiser as to how I am meant to fix this stuff. “Getting conscious” of being self-critical was the first step, but I don’t really know what’s meant to happen after that…

After the first four sessions I decided not to continue because it seemed really expensive for what I was getting out of it, but she suggested a group counselling option, which my work would cover the cost of. So far I’ve been to one session and it was about as bad as you could expect a group counselling session to be. Here are a bunch of reasons it sucks:

  1. Sitting in a room full of strangers talking about all the embarrassing aspects of your personality, explaining that I could barely breathe due to anxiety and just feeling extremely vulnerable. Pure hell.
  2. As people in the room share their issues, the counsellors who are running the session try to involve other people by saying things like “Bob, how do you feel about what John has shared?” And poor Bob has to tell John that he empathises with him because he doesn’t get on with his in-laws (or whatever the issue is). It couldn’t be any clearer that Bob doesn’t feel any way in particular about John’s life problems and it’s equally clear that John feels incredibly awkward about forcing an opinion out Bob. Poor Bob, poor John, poor me.
  3. No one knows I don’t drink. My counsellor didn’t think I should bring it up because it’s a ‘side issue’. People keep mentioning how difficult the sessions are and joking that we all need to go to the pub. I predict that by session three everyone will be hitting the pub afterwards. That’ll be a fun one to navigate.
  4. The sessions run for two and a half hours. They feel like they go on for six and a half.
  5. I’ve already cried in front of a room of people. Dead embarrassing, but I may as well get used to it because my face leaks tears the entire duration of every counselling session I’ve been to. Now that I’m doing group counselling, it means I get to cry in front of 15 strangers instead of just one.
  6. I wasn’t told that the sessions would also include “psycho-drama”. Apparently this is where you get up in front of the group and act out your issues and then explore ways to deal with the issue by acting out different solutions and seeing how they make you feel. Acting. In front of people. Need I say more?
  7. There are EIGHT weekly sessions plus a weekend workshop. This hell isn’t going to end anytime soon.
  8. I can’t just stop going because my work have paid and the counsellors will surely tell my work that I’ve stopped showing up and I’ll get in trouble for wasting a lot of money.

I know this list makes it sound like I’m not really trying to be open to what group counselling has to offer. I did go in with a really open mind for the first session and after finding the experience seriously un-enjoyable I think I’ve made up my mind that it’s just going to be torture from here on in.

In drinking news, absolutely no desire or cravings to drink except a lot of anxiety in social settings when I’m around other people drinking, which I’m mainly avoiding at the moment. Still completely undecided about whether I want to attempt moderating at some stage, but I think having it there as an option makes me feel a lot more chilled out and happy to not be drinking today/this week/this month. I really wanted to discuss this stuff with a counsellor who knows what they’re talking about, but as I mentioned she hasn’t really been able to help me out there, so I might have to keep shopping around.

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Runaway train

In the three weeks since I last posted, I have well and truly gone off the rails. Not drinking, but I’ve completely lost focus and feeling distinctly untethered.

Maybe I’m just going through a bit of a dark patch… I’ve read blogs by long-term sober folks before where they’ve mentioned that they’re going through rough patches even after years of being sober, but I’m not really sure if they mean rough as in they’re just feeling a bit low, or whether they’re going through a patch of full blown doubt like I am right now.

There’s been several days in the last few weeks where I’ve dived head first down that rabbit hole of negative self-talk, letting it go on for hours, losing control and letting the inner addict take over my mind. I’ve bargained back and forth about picking up wine from the supermarket as I drove there. It really is like having multiple personalities and it’s really fucking tiring trying to constantly keep it in check.

I think that’s how I have been feeling lately – just really jaded. Mentally tired of there being no let-up. The weird part is, most of the time I don’t actually want to drink. I’m not specifically craving alcohol as a way to switch off, but I am craving an end to… an end to what, I’m not sure. I’m really restless. My life is boring me. I feel like I want a big change, but I also feel like I’m not stable enough in my sobriety to handle big changes.

I still feel frustrated with my lack of progress. Ever since I stopped drinking I’ve wanted to be ten steps ahead of the point that I’m at. I get frustrated with not having made as much progress as I think I should have. A couple of weeks ago I had to skip a good friend’s birthday in favour of going home and crying in the bath. I was hormonal and sensitive and just couldn’t handle being around other people drinking. I was so on edge and it really pissed me off that after eight months I still didn’t feel up to sitting through a dinner for the sake of a friend.

And that’s how everything has been feeling lately – like a matter of enduring life. I’m so, so bored. When I look back at what I’ve achieved in 2016 it looks like fuck all. I look like I’ve strung a long line of sober months together. Nights spent enduring social events, finding myself snatching at snippets of fun and really, really trying to be happy, but the only time I am truly comfortable and not thinking about being sober is when I’m sat at home on the couch in front of the telly. Am I going to spend the rest of my life taking it easy and killing time hiding away in my house like a hermit? Is it a matter of sitting patiently for a few more years? Or is day to day life always going to feel slightly more shit for the sake of something greater, like my health?

***

In other news, we’re talking about making a big move over to London – probably not a good idea in my current state, but will I ever be in the right mind set? It’s not for a few months yet, but when I fast-forward to thinking about moving to a new city, meeting new people, making friends, getting a new job etc., of course my mind goes straight to the thought that I wouldn’t be able to get through it without drinking. I do realise that I can definitely move continents and make new friends and build a new life etc all without alcohol, I know I can, but I just know that it will be ten times harder.

I’ve been dreaming of moderation – every alcoholic’s dream right? Wondering whether I’m doing this sobriety thing at the right time in my life. So many other bloggers are in their 30s and 40s – they’re married with kids and settled. I’ve always said that I’d do a year and see how I feel after that. What happens if, come Christmas, I still feel like life is just a slightly shitter version of the life I was living before? What if? What if? What if? I’ve been feeling like I owe myself the chance to see whether I can moderate, and if (like I suspect) it all turns to shit then at least I’ll know.

Feel free to try and talk some sense into me – I can’t promise I’ll listen. I can’t tell whether it’s me or the addict in charge of my mind right now!

Dickheads everywhere

I don’t think I’ve ever really grasped just how good I’ve had it when it comes to other people’s reactions to my decision to stop drinking. I’ve had it soooo, so good, but if the last fortnight is anything to go by, my luck has run out.

When I first quit I was constantly on the defensive, always prepared for hostile reactions when I turned down offers of drinks. Boozing culture is so well ingrained in our society that I expected it to ruffle a few feathers when I decided to go against the grain. Plus, I had been living in a world that revolved around alcohol and I couldn’t believe that people wouldn’t care about my decision not to partake in a bit of gasoline guzzling.

On the whole though I was pleasantly surprised by other people’s reactions. Close friends and family knew that I’d been worrying about my drinking for a long time before I actually stopped, so they had a bit of background and didn’t hassle me one bit. In fact their reactions have ranged from being curious about it all, to hugely supportive, to awestruck. And the majority of workmates, strangers and acquaintances have been mildly surprised, yet completely un-phased by news that I no longer drink. Overall, people just do not give a monkey’s what I decide to put into my body. It’s fab, it’s how things should be.

And so (with my surprise at everyone else’s lack of surprise), alcohol free me has slowly come out of hiding and I’ve gained confidence in this new aspect of my identity. I’ve become better at picking my timing and dropping it casually into conversation. Things seemed to be on the up and up. But, as this image so wonderfully summarises, up and up is never the reality:

Expectations v reality

The reality is that there are, in fact, an abundance of dickheads around. Absolutely loooooads of them. Ignorant, insensitive, ill-informed, blithering idiots, who feel it is their place to make you feel like a less of a human for becoming addicted to an addictive substance, and feel that it is their right to be offended by your decision to do something about that pesky little addiction.

I guess I’d been lulled into a false sense of security by all the wonderful mature reactions I’d had the good fortune to experience for the majority of my time spent sober, so I was a bit miffed at my work-party last week to be met with judgmental comment after judgmental comment all night long. There was pity “Oh you don’t drink? What… ever? That must be so booooring!”, and shock “You don’t drink? You?”, and attempts to coax me out of the ridiculous proposal that I stop drinking “It’s not forever, right?”, but what I found most unsettling was the disgust I encountered. My standard explanation when people ask why I don’t drink is to tell them that I wasn’t comfortable with the amount I was drinking so I decided to cut it out completely, but watching strangers’ faces balk in disgust at this fact has been making me second guess whether being honest all of the time is best for me.

To be fair to this particular bunch of dickheads, I think it was the age group of a lot of the people there that night – we’d recently hired a whole lot of junior staff straight out of uni and they probably haven’t learnt that there’s a big old diverse world out there and that they’ll need to learn to tolerate differences.

What’s rattled my cage a lot more recently is the judgement and disgust I’ve copped from an old friend. I can cope with a lack of understanding from people that don’t know me, young people that live in a booze soaked world, who are conditioned daily to believe that alcohol is the only way to have fun, but it’s a lot more confronting when it comes from a good friend. This friend has tiptoed around the edges of disdain. She hasn’t outright said that she doesn’t agree with my decision, but it’s quite clear that she’s not in support. The problem is, her comments are so minor that I feel like I’m being petty by bringing them up with her. The other day she messaged me delighted to see that I’d started drinking again. When I explained that the big glass of wine in the photo was AF wine, she replied simply “ew yuck”. This friend is one seriously intelligent girl, who’s normally really open minded and considerate, which is why I find her reaction all the more frustrating.

I guess the silver lining here is that her display of shitty friendship qualities just makes my supportive friends shine all the more brighter in comparison. Plus, she has really ugly eyebrows, so that makes me feel better too 😉

Maybe the porkies aren’t porkies

Back in my fledgling days of getting sober I remember asking the Living Sober community whether the arguments going on inside my head would ever shut up, or whether people just learnt to live with them over time. All the long-term ex-drinkers agreed that the internal back and forth dialogue would definitely fade away over time, hopefully before the 200 day mark. While that seemed like a ridiculously long way away, it reassured me that I was heading in the right direction.

I was beginning to think these ladies had spun me a yarn because I’m into my sixth month and the internal arguments seem to have been ramping up lately, not dying down. But then, this week, absolute peace. Pure blissful peace. That’s not to say that things have been 100% peachy. I’ve still been feeling stressed by work, I’m still grumpy when the toilet seat gets left up and I still have an unquashable sugar addiction. But all of these things have felt far more manageable and far less life-ruining than the week before. There’s no arguing or bargaining going on in my head. The need to drink is there, but it’s just a faint itch and extremely easy to use logical thought to put an end to.

I can’t put my finger on what’s caused the lift in my mood. Probably not my crappy diet – skipping meals and eating crap (plus the aforementioned thriving sugar habit). It possibly has something to do with getting to know my needs a bit better lately and putting less stress on myself to conform to other people’s expectations. Last weekend I skipped a birthday at a bar in favour of a low key night at the movies with my sister. My introverted self sang with joy.

I know well enough that this doesn’t mean sobriety’s ‘clicked’ for me and I’ll dance off into the sunset to live happily ever after. If past patterns are anything to go by, this peacefulness will be gone again soon enough, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts. Hopefully one day these patches of calm and ease will begin to string together until they form one big patch (a bit like how I hope all my freckles will one day join together to create a tan!).

I’m also extremely lucky that I have a very chilled out life at the moment. I don’t have kids to look after and I can generally leave the stresses of my job behind at the end of a day. That does make me worry that a bunch of stressful events might just blindside me someday and I won’t be prepped to deal with the pressure, so I’ll reach for the bottle. But I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

I’m  feel like I’m finally starting to settle into this sober life. For so long I really struggled to believe that it was possible to be happy sober. I secretly thought that everyone was telling porkies when they said that “things will get better”, but now I’m beginning to feel like sober happiness is more realistic than I believed.

Talking to strangers (plus a bonus Q)

Plenty of advice I’ve received on socialising in early sobriety has been simply ‘don’t go’. I took that advice as much as I could in my first couple of months, but have been trying to re-introduce a bit of socialising back into my life recently for fear of turning into a hermit. As I mentioned in a couple of previous posts, it really sucks the energy out of me and I haven’t had the best time, so perhaps that’s a sign I’m destined for hermithood. Or maybe I’m just trying to do too much too fast.

This weekend we have a couple staying with us from the UK. They’re friends of my partner’s and I haven’t met them before. I feel terrible about it, but I’ve been putting myself first over the last couple of nights and staying in while they go out for dinner and drinks each night. I realise how crazy it is to feel so much guilt simply for doing what’s best for me, but I can’t help but feel bad for not ‘making an effort’ and ‘being a good host’.

I think a huge part of it is because I assume they’ll just think I’m rude, which is frustrating, but I just don’t feel comfortable communicating my situation with strangers – “Hello, nice to meet you. I’m going to be avoiding you all weekend because I’m in early sobriety and having a tough time of it of late and all your holiday boozing around me will fray my nerves to bits. Sorry about that. Here’s your room, let me know if you need fresh towels”. If  I had, say, the flu, that would be a different story entirely “Hello, nice to meet you. I’m going to be avoiding you all weekend because I’ve got a horrific cold and a pounding headache. Sorry about that. Here’s your room, let me know if you need fresh towels”.

To be honest I even feel uncomfortable talking to close friends about sobriety some of the time. Today as I skyped a friend I watched her eyes glaze over after she asked how my sobriety was going. I’m so conscious that it’s not a fun topic of conversation for them that I’ll change the subject to save them the pain of having to listen to me whinge on about it for more than 30 seconds. Which is why it is so lovely to have all you fine folk to whinge away to 😉 It really does make a profound difference to know that there are other people out there that get it. Obviously there’s a lot of variation between everyone’s sober journeys, but I think we all get each other on some level or another and being propped up by a fellow sober blogger when you’re feeling fragile is a helluva lot more powerful than by a glazy eyed friend! 🙂

While I do think there is a massive support network to be found through blogging, I do wonder whether I need to extend my support networks in other ways. Ken asked whether I had looked into SMART recovery groups, which unfortunately it doesn’t look like we have here in NZ, so what I’d love to know from other sober bloggers is…

What other support networks are out there that you’ve used? And why were they right for you?

Edit: I’d also be interested to hear if blogging has been your only support network too! And whether you think you need more or that’s enough in itself.

Thanks! xx

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.

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!’ 🙂

 

Test passed

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:

venuefilter

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.

Ginger beer
Trusty mate ginger beer

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.

Menu

 

dinner1

Dinner2

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.

Sunset

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.

First Big Test

Tonight we’ve got a big work party on and I have to go because I’m one of the organisers. This’ll be my first big test being sober in a social setting and I’m absolutely packing it.

I’m not worried that I won’t be able to stop myself drinking, but I am worried that I’ll have a terrible time or that I’ll publically embarrass myself by bursting into tears over the stress of it all.

I’ve read a few ‘festive season sober survival guides’ in prep and they all say “if you’re worried don’t go” and “make sure you have an exit strategy”… Sadly these won’t be an option seeing as I have to go. I volunteered to help organise months ago (probably subconsciously to make sure that there was plenty of booze, or maybe just to be a complete control freak), anyway now that means that I am required to be there to shepherd hoards of drunk, festive people around paddocks. Literally paddocks. The place we’re going is in the middle of the countryside, which means there is no escape.

I’m determined to make the most of my predicament though, so here’s what I have done with Mrs D’s advice and Kate from the Sober School’s advice:

  • Put it in perspective: It is just another day of sobriety. Sober socialising is something that I’m going to have to practice sooner or later. I’m still in a good headspace and I don’t want to drink. I’m more concerned about other people’s negative reactions.
  • Dress up: I’ve bought a new dress. It’s just a cheapy, but it will make me feel a bit better. I’ll also add red lippy and flashing festive earrings.
  • Make the right decisions for you & prepare an explanation: while I have to go to the event, I don’t owe anyone an explanation for my lack of boozing. I’ve told close work friends that I’m not drinking and they’ve been really understanding. For the nosey parkers that don’t need to know, I’m just going to say that I’m doing a pre-Christmas cleanse. I’m sure people will think I’m pregnant, but I don’t really give two hoots.
  • Stay positive: I have some really good friends that will be there, so I’ll hopefully have a good time regardless. If I don’t, it’s only one night. Another positive – there’s no chance I’ll be the one overdoing it and vomiting on the windy bus ride back to the city.
  • Fake it till you make it: At least I’ll have a purpose being there. I can assume my role of organiser and boss people around (fun!). I can look after all the messy drunks and the best bit – I’ll remember all the drunken gossip from tonight in the morning.
  • There’s no shame in leaving early: Well. I can’t do this, but I can lock myself in a toilet and have a cry. I have make-up on hand in case of emergency fix-ups.
  • Plan your drinks: The thought of drinking sugary coke all evening makes me irrationally angry at the venue for not catering to sober folks. I’ve packed up some lime juice, watermelon syrup and mint, so I can put together my own mocktails. A friend has also offered to help me sneakily put these together seeing as there’s the risk that I’ll draw attention to myself by looking like I’m spiking my own drink. Not really the best look at the office Christmas do.
  • Remember you are not alone: Up until writing this, I had a friend (that has been told she needs to stop drinking for medical reasons) who was going to be my sober buddy. She’s just told me that our boss has been hassling her to drink because it’s a special occasion, so she thinks she’s going to cave. I don’t blame her, and it isn’t ideal, but I’ve gotta roll with the punches! I’ll have mates there that I’m crossing my fingers will stay supportive while drunk! And my partner a phone call away. And of course, the knowledge that all the other sober bloggers are going through the same stuff at this time of year.

So there it is, my shaky plan to get myself through the evening. I’ve already been shoulder tapped by the enthusiastic boss asking if my sobriety ends tonight. When I said “nope” he replied saying “aw that sucks, you’re no fun when sober”. He meant it in a jokey way, but all I could think is What. An. Arse. I’m sure I have more of it to look forward to tonight. Wish me luck!

Some valuable advice

After getting fed up with the tug of war going on inside my brain on Friday, I decided to get some advice from the lovely ladies (and lads) over at the Living Sober community. I asked whether I’d ever get to the point where the constant internal questioning/bargaining goes away, or whether long term ex-drinkers just learn to live with it.

And I’m SO glad I bothered to ask. Everyone answered with a resounding “yes, it does get easier and it is worth it, so stick with it” which is all I needed to hear really.

It can feel quite pointless in these early days being sober. I know I wasn’t happy while drinking and yet being sober hasn’t felt amazing yet either. I haven’t experienced the legendary pink clouds (well I haven’t been bouncing off the walls with happiness, which is what I imagine the feeling to be like) and I haven’t been reaping any massive benefits so far. So far, it feels like a bit of a lose lose situation – I want to stop drinking because it’s getting out of hand and yet now I’ve stopped it constantly feels like I’m denying myself something, so I’m not happy either way.

But the Living Sober folks assured me that it will get better and easier, that benefits would start to show themselves and that it was worth the wait. As a suspected, the time frames for everyone were different. For some people they came to peace with their decision really early on and others took about 200 days before the internal questioning and bargaining died down. When I look at my measly 20 days in comparison it makes me realise that I just need to chill the fuck out a bit and stop expecting everything to click into place so quickly.

The other thing they mentioned was that it’s not only a matter of retraining our brains to begin new habits and routines, but retraining our brains around the way we see alcohol as a whole. Instead of it being a glittering seductive luxury that adds something to life, I need to retrain my brain to see alcohol as a poison that is destructive and holds no value.

For me, alcohol still holds value, so this is the point that I’m stuck at right now.

The ‘value’ of alcohol is woven so tightly into who I am as a person that I suspect it’s going to take a lot of work to unravel. It’s a big part of my family’s lifestyle – right now my parents are away on a holiday with the sole purpose of going wine tasting. It’s also a big part of my friend’s lives – we socialise with BBQs, BYO dinners, brunches – all of which usually contain copious amounts of alcohol. It’s even a big part of my worklife – Friday night drinks every week, alcohol given out as rewards and huge work do’s that centre entirely around everyone getting shitfaced.

And most of all, it’s a massive part of my day to day lifestyle. Everytime I plan dinner, my brain automatically matches wine with whatever I’m having. Cosy night in on the couch = wine (red), fireworks at the beach = wine (white), celebrations = wine (bubbly), shit day = wine (any), fancy restaurant = wine (posh), camping holiday = wine (lots of)… the list is endless. The point being, I still hold alcohol in high regard. It’s up there on its shiny pedestal, happily absorbing all of my worship. So if I want to move on and grow and learn and recover and find peace being sober, then I’m going to have to find a way to knock it off its perch.