The Fear

I’ve had some dreadfully realistic drinking dreams in the past couple of weeks. In one dream I was waking up after a heavy drinking session, having blown my sobriety. I felt sick, both from booze and shame. Dry mouth, banging head and a great black hole where the memories of the previous night’s drinking should have been. I could feel the dreaded ‘fear’ setting in and I had forgotten how fucked up that feeling is…

– A sense that you have done yourself some lasting damage after a night of drinking;
– A feeling that you are going to die soon (and not just due to other hangover symptoms); 

– A feeling that death might actually be an option or a solution. A lack of value for your own life.
– Angst that you may have offended, inappropriately touched or even physically attacked someone the night before; 
– Absolutely dreading the next time you meet the people or return to the bar where you degraded yourself the previous night. 

This ‘fear’ is often accompanied by “The Remorse” where you are also genuinely ashamed and sorry or the way you have behaved, as well as simply frightened for the sake of your own wellbeing.

I can’t believe I allowed myself to believe that drinking was a worthwhile, fun way of passing the time. Many a night out ended in me feeling depressed and really afraid. But, each time I would convince myself that the next time I drank it would be just a glass or two. I wouldn’t get myself in that state again. Why would anyone inflict that on themselves?

In the dream, all of these old familiar feelings were back but the overriding anguish I felt was for the disregard I’d had for my precious sobriety. I was so gutted that I had stamped all over the recovery I have worked so hard for. Drinking will never be any different for me and those feelings took me back to a place I don’t want to revisit. Boozing doesn’t hold a candle to my sober life. Drinking will always end in personal sacrifice. Recovery has helped me to see that I don’t have to choose that self- destructive path anymore. I will work hard and put my sobriety above everything because it’s worth it. I am worth it.

I’m coming up to a whole year sober and that’s a really exciting milestone for me. I think sub consciously (aka wolfie-fucker)  I am worrying that the novelty of being sober will wear off once I get to one year. It won’t be all shiny, new and full of surprises. I have realised that I won’t get ‘there’ and be able to relax and put my recovery feet up.  But, once the really hard work at the beginning had passed and the cravings had become less of a regular thing, I’ve actually embraced the adventure that is my sobriety.

Wolfie can fuck off out of my dreams, ‘cause he’s wasting his time. Recovery is what you make it and I plan to keep rocking mine. 

 

 

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11 months

I didn’t have a low bottom end to my drinking. For a long time I was kind of waiting for something awful to happen, a sign or maybe someone to tell me I needed to stop.

I wasn’t someone who could binge drink only every month, or at weekends only or once in a while. Nor was I someone who would drink every day. I didn’t drink to excess every time I drank. I was somewhere in the middle, usually depending on other factors in my life. In times of stress or crisis, I could drink every day for weeks. In the holidays, or during a spell of good weather, I would up my consumption too. I had periods of being ‘healthy’, keeping myself in check, when I could manage to drink only at the weekends, without actually getting drunk for weeks, months even.

 No matter where I was at, the feelings in my head were always the same. Abstaining was hard but always felt like I was being ‘good’ and getting it right for once. A normal whole person.  Drinking was associated with failure and shame. That I couldn’t keep a promise to myself really upset me, disappointment at my flawed character was a common emotion. Gradually but increasingly, I felt an almost constant pull to drink and every single time I gave in ,I felt like I’d failed and it would be anything but pleasurable.  I thought that I was a person of weak character who had no willpower and was just a greedy cow. I longed for the time when I could simply desire a drink, have one and enjoy it. Eventually, I came to realise that no matter how much I chased that dream, it was never going to return. Once you flip the switch, you just can’t go back. I could cut down for a while but over time it would gradually creep back up and gain momentum.

Ever since I realised that I had a drinking problem it became impossible to drink pleasurably. Denial was a constant companion, but deep, deep down, I knew it just didn’t feel right anymore…

Accepting that whether I wanted to call myself an alcoholic/problem drinker or not… I no longer derived anything good from drinking alcohol. Throw into the mix the financial cost, the time wasted, the hangovers, the embarrassing situations, the regrets, it’s mind blowing that I didn’t quit sooner. How low was I prepared to sink? Who knows when you cross the line?  I’d crossed mine, it’s a personal journey.

But quitting is not easy. It’s a really hard habit to break. And it’s tough to know when the right time is going to be for you. Personally, I was sick and tired of chasing the buzz and the feeling that had long gone. Finally deciding to give sobriety a proper go, I took a chance that there might be a different way to live.

It takes courage to embark on a life changing challenge. To swap the chaos and excitement of reckless drinking for a calmer, real, raw way of life is scary. To trade the sophisticated, sociable wine drinking for the sensible, boring observer that is the tee total label is gutsy. It’s not a challenge I felt I had any choice about, I had been doing the same old something and getting miserable results for years, it was time for a change. To continue drinking would have just been dumb.

Do I feel better? Yes, without a doubt this is the best I have felt in years, I spent too long feeling crap.

Do I think it’s forever? I still can’t go there but I know that I wouldn’t trade how much better I feel, for a drink today. I gave some of the best years of my life to drinking, I am prepared to give sobriety a fair go.

11 months and counting (sometimes!)

 

Lovely weekends

We’ve been invited out to dinner tonight. I don’t worry about not drinking spoiling the fun, if there’s fun to be found, I’ll find it.  I’ll have a nice evening and then I’ll get a good night’s sleep. I’ll still get up early, sort the house, have a long weekend run and get the most out of it being a day off. We’re off to see a film Saturday night and out for dinner after that. All lovely and quite busy but that won’t write off Sunday either!

Next week, I have two, possibly three evenings out but without the booze and the inevitable hangover, it’s possible to fit it all in and it doesn’t mess with all of the other shit I need to get done.

Last evening, I was tidying away after dinner and looking forward to sitting down with a cup of tea and doing a bit of internet window shopping for my bedroom when I thought how simple and straightforward my evenings at home are these days. It’s chilled. There’s no drinking and worrying about how much I have had, or when to stop, or whether there is enough wine. I don’t feel guilty about not connecting with the rest of family as I’m not isolating in the kitchen anymore, hiding how much I am drinking from everyone else. There’s no rushing the kids off to bed just so that I can ‘relax’ and get a little drunk again before heading up for another rubbish night’s sleep. It’s just calmer and it actually really is relaxing.

So, the shopping’s done and  I am up early, making a start on work so I can finish early today. I can’t get used to having this air of calm around me. I used to wonder how other people got through the evenings at home without wine, couldn’t understand why they didn’t participate in daily drinking. Why didn’t they think that home life could be enhanced by injecting some ‘fun’ into the evening by adding a little wine every night?

I keep waiting for the bubble to burst and everything to start getting a bit harder again, for the chaos to return. It’s a whole new Friday feeling that has nothing to do with getting drunk, being reckless or escapism .I am finally beginning to embrace and look forward to it and it’s hard to imagine ever wanting my life to go back to how it was before.

 

10 Months. Time heals.

It’s ten months since I downed my last glass of wine and said ‘that’s it!’

Woo hoo! I really didn’t think that would be it for me but something clicked and here I am.

I don’t know when drinking stopped being enjoyable but it had become something I did compulsively, by myself, just me and my head most of the time. Sure, I still had social occasions when I drank and it felt ok, acceptable, fun even,  but overall, even socially, it felt like a chore. I had to count units, drink slowly, wait for others to finish their drink, worry if there would be enough, more, more, I want more!

Looking back now I can’t believe the hold it had over me and I truly didn’t believe I had a choice or that there was any other option. I simply could not see a life without alcohol in it. But here I am with 300 plus days and the finish line is in sight…right?

A whole year sober.  That became my goal once I had done 100 days, followed by another 100, then another. Experience everything sober, holidays, birthdays, weddings and the dreaded Christmas and New Year!”

I have lots of things in my ‘sober tool box’ that helped to get me this far

 

  • A      special drink in a favourite glass, usually elderflower, cranberry and      soda or something with ginger in a wine or cocktail glass.

 (I found it easier to carry on with having the same routines if I had that ‘prop’ in my hand and it really worked. I would forget after a few minutes that I wasn’t drinking and of course the drink in my glass actually tasted really good too. I still find it hard to empty a wine glass with the remains of an elderflower cordial down the sink? How bizarre is that?)

  • Movies,      I have watched more films in ten months than I have in the last ten years,      my lovefilm subscription was a lifesaver
  • Lots      of treats, chocolate every day, cake at least once a week.  Didn’t loose any weight for the first six      months.
  • Relaxing      baths with scented candles
  • Reading      (finishing books and remembering what I have read)
  • Having      one person in real life that I can talk to about how I am feeling…my      wonderfully supportive husband.
  • The      sober online community and the many supportive friends I have made.
  • Blogging,      reading blogs and listening to the Bubble Hour over and over
  • Group      exercise classes, making the most of the hangover free weekend early      starts
  • Staying      in, staying in and more staying in. It’s not forever, just the first few      weeks. Going out and socialising does get easier and will be fun again but      is just hard work in the beginning.
  • Early      nights and lots of new bedding. I have such lovely restful nights now. 

By far the biggest thing that I have put into my sobriety is time. There is something about crossing off days, clocking up time, digging in and just waiting for it to pass that counts beyond belief towards feeling better about being sober. Sometimes it goes quickly and easily other times it seems like a painfully slow, endless road to nowhere. But sticking with it, hanging in there, just being…heals. From six to eight months, I felt I’d taken giant leaps in my sobriety and again from eight to ten months it’s happened again. I can only explain this feeling (which is wonderful) to be down to time alone. It really does heal. Sobriety feels fantastic, like I’ve found the key to making my life work. I’m exploring who I am and have started to create a whole new life for myself. New routines, hobbies, interests and a more enthusiastic approach to my career are just a few of things I have embraced in the last few months.  

So, when I wonder if I will make it to a year and beyond that, I am excited to see what happens rather than worrying about forever. I am really not frightened of ‘forever’ anymore. The effort feels more like it’s about my life as a whole than just my sobriety singled out.

When you get sober, yes, you do spend a whole lot of time thinking. But it’s not all about not drinking, it’s about sorting your shit out and getting more out of your life, especially if you feel like you’ve wasted a whole lot of it drinking and being hung over. I devoted enough of my life to drinking so I am more than prepared to give sobriety a bit more of my precious time. So, onwards to one year!

 

Drinking is (almost) so last year…

My first sober Christmas has passed and I’ve survived, sobriety intact.

It was a low key one, in that we had been invited out for both of the big days. Doing less physically, makes it easier on my stress levels. I had very little food or preparation to do and this really did help with keeping me calm and allowed me the time to check in with sober blogs/pals/podcasts, grab a bit of me time.

Christmas Day was lovely. It was such a treat to wake without a heavy head and not feel bleary eyed and out of sorts all day. I have celebrated a bit too much on Christmas Eve on more than one occasion and it has never been worth it.

I loved not having a hangover and not worrying about what time it would be ok to open the Champange and if anything would interrupt me once I got started with drinking. I felt calm, in control. We went to my brother’s and although I had some pangs when the fizz came out and when everyone was having wine with dinner, I let it pass and got on with enjoying the food and the company. There was only one comment, as usual it was made by the person who drank the most during the day and evening. It wasn’t a big deal, just someone surprised at how someone else could be refusing the lovely vino on Christmas Day of all days?? I have to admit, that person would have been me in the past. No other comment was made. There was a huge gang of us and we stayed the night. I went to bed with a clear, happy head after making sure all of the children were in bed, accounted for. God knows who did that in previous years, but it wouldn’t have been me. 
/The rest of the holidays have been much more restful than usual and I am sure that this is because I am calmer. I have less covering up to do all of the time, no guilt or drinker’s remorse to cope with so I actually feel entitled to a break. I’ve been reading, watched loads of movies and some bad tv, it’s been chilled.

 And already it’s New Year’s Eve…another celebration, another reason to drink? 

I have turned down invitations to party. Frankly, while I have loved my Christmas, I’ve have had my fill of people boozing and I have opted for a night in. I am not really into NYE, I am much more of a Christmas person, love it, but by NYE the lows of drinking copious amounts of all types of alcohol would have settled in and I really would be partied out. So, it’s not a night that I really associate with drinking lots, as I would usually just have a couple with dinner and an early bed. I have rarely seen midnight in the last few years, except when we have been invited out to dinner and I have felt obliged to drink until Midnight and then bang out an off key version of ‘Auld Lang Syne’, followed by tragic karaoke.

This year in our house there is much excitement by the children about it. I think it’s mostly due to the TV being spiced up again today and tomorrow and the fact that they are at the age now where they can probably outlast me in the ‘staying up’ stakes. So, we are having a fun meal and we made a scrummy trifle this morning which is chilling and I’m dying to taste! Hopefully, I will see midnight, but I do know that I will be sober and tomorrow I will start the New Year as I mean to go on, clear headed and proud of myself.

It’s important to recognise each little victory and getting through these holidays is hard work. Whether you get cravings or not, it’s not exactly fun being surrounded by the excitement of people drinking and it’s very prevalent at this time of year.  There have been parties, lunches, dinners, work events, family get-togethers, all of which come with pressure or a need to drink. Most people drink at this time of year to get through it, even the teetotals have a sherry at Christmas! 

I think it’s ok to entertain a little ‘woe is me’ time and feel a bit sorry for yourself too. It’s hard to give up alcohol and live your life without any escapism.  It’s one thing to choose a way of life that makes you different from everyone else but I didn’t ask to be addicted to alcohol. It’s not my fault that they forgot my off-switch. I didn’t choose this path. It chose me.
I have accepted that I can’t drink, can’t participate, can’t join in the drinking games but that doesn’t mean that I can’t feel a bit put out about it now and then. And if that means that I have to recognise the sacrifice that I make in staying sober and pat myself on the back for doing a good job of it, then I will do whatever it takes to feel better about this. I think it’s worth remembering that we didn’t put ourselves in this situation. We are kicking ass here by dealing with, getting and staying sober, supporting each other, hanging in there. Three cheers for the sober community!!! 

So, whether you’ve had a sober Christmas or not…if you are here reading blogs, you are in the right place, on a better path. There is still time to ring in the New Year sober style. Let’s put drinking in the past where it belongs.

Happy New Year Everyone!  Here’s to January when we can all say… 

‘Drinking? Yeah, I used to do that, but it is so last year!’

Carrie xx

Sober Tiaras

Off to a drinks party this evening and lying in the bath thinking I don’t actually feel too bad about the fact that I can’t get excited (obsessed) about wine tonight, when up pipes Wolfie with a new one.

‘You probably won’t be invited to many festive events next year, you won’t be on the top of anyone’s guest list now you’re all sober, reserved and well, boring. No one is going to want you at their parties anymore. End of an era for this charmed party girl…’

Oh where do these thoughts come from? I was sad for a minute. Then I remembered sober is the new black and I am not going to be all dull and boring just because I am not drowning myself in alcohol. I am not going to let this knock my confidence and life is what you make it, right? I am going to fun and exciting, because work is over and it’s Christmas and I am in a good mood! I am still the same person, just a less annoying version of myself! I have always enjoyed socializing and although I admit I don’t need to be out so much now I don’t need an excuse for wine, I do still like mixing with people in a fun environment. I don’t need to behave like a shrinking violet just because I am alcohol free. I will be wearing my super invisible sparkly sober party tiara and my fuck you wolfie bracelet with it’s magic powers so it’s bound to be a good night.

I am writing this to kick myself (and Wolfie) up the butt for feeling sorry for myself and thinking that my life has changed beyond recognition. I am responsible for my own fun and I have always been a positive, outgoing person. Lots has changed, that doesn’t have to.

I used to put so much energy into just keeping it all together and trying to feed my addiction without it holding me and my life back. I own all of that energy now, it’s up to me to take it and use it positively and tonight it’s going to rock a Christmas drinks party because Sober is the new black.

Better get ready, where’s that tiara?

C x

Sober Christmas?!

I think if there is a period of time that I dreaded most about being sober it was Christmas.

The thought of having no fizz or wine at the parties and the drinks receptions was appalling.

The idea of putting up the tree and wrapping presents without taking sips (yeah right!) of my red wine was unappealing to say the least. Christmas dinner without the dull head from the night before being eased by the pre noon Champange and no boozy gravy, well, I just couldn’t imagine how anyone could enjoy it? 

So far I have had three Christmas get togethers. Now, I don’t think I would have even entertained the idea of going along had I not had quite a lot of sober time under my belt. If I had been in very early sobriety I am certain I would have faked illness and stayed home.

I sort of knew that I wouldn’t drink. I had kind of planned this great big announcement type thing in my head where I would finally ‘out’ my sobriety for once and for all! Not the blogging and sober buddies etc but just the fact that my non drinking is now a permanent thing…quite the turnaround for this party girl.

Turned out that at no time did everyone, yes I thought everyone would be focused on my partying,  really notice or care that I wasn’t drinking. Here and there I had the odd comment about what was in my glass but not enough to warrant me making a big old deal of it. Some of the colleagues I am closer to of course asked me all about it and I was fairly honest in saying that it’s not for me anymore, too old, too greedy, too tired of it all etc etc. They were very chilled about it.

So, explanations aside, I put on my best party frock and huge smile and went along with the partying. The anticipation wasn’t the same but then neither was the rising panic about when someone would get the first drinks going!  I did enjoy myself as I was in good company most of the time and we ate, oh boy did we eat? So, it was treats all the way. I felt lucky to have had the luxury of a new party dress, spent money on make up treats and my hair. I tried to focus on the fact that I was lucky to be taken somewhere lovely, not having to cook or clean up and generally having a break from the routine. I find when I take the focus off what I can’t have and put it on what I have, then I don’t feel so sorry for myself. I am also lucky because I don’t have horrible strong, pulling-me-to-the-wine-shop cravings anymore. I did slope off to bed much earlier than usual but I had put in a good day of chatting and socialising and it turned out that no one was too bothered about that either!

When I am out, I do ask for a drink that resembles alcohol in a way and I get it in a grown up glass. I find that after a couple of sips that I and those I am with, forget that I am not drinking and this makes for a more relaxing vibe for all concerned. I used to have my grown up drink at home in the those first few months, at wine time, but I don’t have to do that anymore, it just doesn’t occur to me.

I don’t think about the routine of drinking at home anymore, ever. This is so fantastic because that’s where most of my drinking took place. It’s gone, that obsession and I am grateful that I can be so relaxed at home without it, more than when I was guzzling wine. That was not relaxing at all. What bullshit I fed myself! I was so stressed out all of the time because of it and now it’s not an option, things are so much calmer.

So, when we did the tree and wrapped the presents (not all done yet!) I honestly didn’t think about booze. Thought that would be way harder than it was.

I couldn’t give two hoots about not having wine with Christmas dinner either and this was the girl who would order case loads this time of year! I will bring something nice to drink, we are going to my family who don’t know it’s a permanent thing but I suspect they will when I don’t have wine on Christmas Day! I am so excited about not having to watch what I drink on Christmas Eve. We are all going to the cinema and then having supper out. Oh the freedom of not having to answer the call of wine anymore. I really was a fucking slave to when/where/how I was going to legitimately get my next fill of wine and now I don’t have that hanging over me anymore, it feels like a new lease of life.

Christmas Day will be hangover free for the first time in years. My kids always get up super early and I will not have a throbbing head a panic rising through me that I haven’t done it all in time.

I am not saying that it isn’t hard at this time of year. I am exhausted from all the people time, smiling, socialising and sure, having wine would have given me something else to focus on. But that would be all it would do. It wouldn’t make the uninteresting people more exciting, it wouldn’t give me more energy, it wouldn’t make the parties more fun. I have been standing back observing how fun happens when I am not at the centre of it. Because I was there whether you wanted me or not, livening things up, oh how I am cringing now. I thought I was responsible for everybody’s fun. And I have found that it’s not about drunken loud people telling their stories, trying to be funny, acting inappropriately. It’s fun when you get a bunch of nice people in a nice atmosphere on a good day with the right mood. Sometimes there’s something missing and it’s not all that. Other times it’s just the wrong mix and it’s not happening and that’s all. All that is different for me is that I am not drinking my way through and around what is actually happening at these parties, has always been happening at these social occasions. I am not drunkenly blissfully unaware of other people’s feelings, the mood, the highs and the lows. It feels very grown up, not always in an exciting, super fun way but just like someone has finally got me to open my eyes properly to what’s always been there.  Oh and other people just don’t drink the way that I did? Even when it’s free! With that frantic sense of panic…like there is something or somewhere I was trying to reach, urgently.

It is like I have been hiding inside my own party for one all this time and that’s not reality, this is. It’s different and it’s going to take a bit of getting used to. But that’s not a reason to run away from it, because neither is it full of regrets, shame, guilt, pain, embarrassment or any of those other awful feelings that seemed to be my constant companion for the last few years.

So, I am getting there. Bit by bit unravelling a new kind of Christmas where I am present, more connected with everyone, definitely less judgemental, more organised,  less grumpy, not hung over…that’s the best best best!

And in January nobody drinks so we won’t be the odd ones out for a bit – Hallelujah!