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Friday, 12 September 2014

Crossing the Chasm

I'm definitely at a point of transition. In the last week I've recognised another stage I've reached along the sober path. I'm glad because I have spent a lot of time without any further change or improvement and thought I had reached my status quo. But apparently not. To those who told me it would keep on getting better, I now believe you. Here's my sober path.

  1. Newly sober. Here I was finding my way, wondering how long I could last. It was hard. I thought about it every day. Alcohol free time was counted in hours, progressing to days.
  2. Novice. Progress was counted in days then weeks. I experienced some of the amazing highs that come with freedom from alcohol, those psychedelic rainbow days where I felt invincible. It was still hard and my conversation was peppered by thoughts of 'oh, but I don't drink now'. The future felt scary but I acknowledged that yes, I was managing without alcohol.
  3. Improver. As time elapsed and the first months being AF clocked up I was learning all the time. Life was a series of 'firsts' as I went about my usual activities, experiencing them all for the first time sober. This was scary and each brought a challenge I wasn't sure I could succeed at. But I did. I took them one at a time and sure enough, it began to get easier. My thinking changed from 'oh but I don't drink' to 'It will be fine, I'll drive…' and I stopped considering whether I would be drinking or not, my default was that I did not. Ever. I thought about it much less and had a Friday night where I almost forgot it was Friday Night!
  4. Intermediate. Between six months and a year of sobriety the novelty had worn off. I'd blogged about the benefits, supported and given support, been through most of my 'firsts' and now took the clear head and masses of weekend time for granted. I no longer had great highs but neither did I have terrible cravings. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and got on with life the way it now was. I was still reluctant to imagine my AF life too far into the future. It still overwhelms me with a sense of impossibility. This period culminated in my first sober birthday. I thought this would be a fantastic day when I marked my great achievement but instead I actually forgot it was 'the day' until the evening and I did not feel I deserved a pat on the back. I felt that it had taken me long enough to wake up and smell the coffee, long enough where I'd repeated the same mistakes over and over again.
  5. Experienced. this week I've had to count up how long I have been AF when someone asked me. (18 months). I had two social events and, wait for this, I was looking forward to remaining sober! I was surprised and shocked in equal measure and never, ever, would have believed that I would ever honestly prefer not to have a glass of wine when it was offered. THIS, I feel, is true progress, to a new state of not just accepting but really embracing the concept of sobriety; feeling it is a positive choice I continue to choose as opposed to a life sentence I am serving. Then, a true first. Someone was put in touch with me, by another sober blogger, as we live close to each other. The 'newbie' needed to speak to someone real, in real life about their attempts to give up alcohol and would I meet? It was a big decision for me but all I could think about was how, three years ago, I wanted the exact same thing. I wanted to pour out to a real person all my ifs, buts, and failed attempts at moderation, and I wanted reassurance that I could do it by seeing someone who had succeeded. Someone agreed to meet me, more than once and left the door open. I got the feeling she would have preferred not to meet, but she did and I appreciate that to this day. I had not yet reached the stage where I knew I had to give up but it was a big step in that direction. I feel I owe it to something or someone to do for another what someone once did for me. I feel instead of 'paying it back' I'm 'paying it forward' and spreading the benefits. So I will meet this new friend and I will tell you how I get on!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Things You Never Said When You Were Drinking

1. No thanks, I've had enough

2. No thanks, I've got a big day tomorrow

3. No thanks, I'm driving

4. No thanks, I'll be hungover tomorrow

5. Let's get this one, it's less ABV%

6. Lets have a night off the booze

7. Let's go to the cinema instead of the pub

8. Let's take the car

9. You're not really my best friend, I'm just drunk

10. I don't really love you, I'm just drunk

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Book Club Sans Booze

I've written a lot about the 'Thens and Nows' of life before and after removing alcohol from it. As my length of sobriety approaches 18 months I am realising that the stark changes I noticed at first are not over and done with, they were not flick of a switch type black and white changes.
As time goes on, the feelings, thoughts and perceptions surrounding all those 'First Time Withouts' continue to evolve as the same events come round and round again.

Firstly the book club. Tonight it is book club with the neighbours. At first I dreaded the whole event being sober, taking cover next to a pregnant lady. The next couple I feigned work commitments and early starts to explain away my not drinking, but tonight will be different again.
I put a bottle of fizz in the fridge to chill for the host and thought immediately how strange it looked there. It looked out of place yet I know that not so long ago, more than one bottle would be lined up chilling at the start of a weekend. That was my first thought! That is to say, I had no thoughts of want nor pangs of regret. This indeed is progress.
When I go there tonight I will be not drinking and am not bothered about very much. If anyone asks I am now confident enough to say 'I don't drink now', (although I may act surprised they didn't know and throw in a nonchalant 'oh it's been ages now, well over a year'.) The need for reasons and excuses has gone.

Here is what really happened.

20.45: I arrived and was met at the door by the host. After the greetings she asked if ‘I would join them with a glass of prosecco?’ to which I replied
‘Can I have something soft?’
‘Of course: diet coke, sparkling water, orange juice or appletise?’
I chose diet coke.
And...
Nothing.
No issue. No questions. No surprise. No explanations required.
Throughout the night I noticed little things that bothered me much less than usual. When speaking, I kept being unable to find the exact words I wanted. I was glad there was no question of it being due to drunkenness. Same as I wobbled to the loo in my high heels. I wasn’t embarrassed by wobbling away because I wasn’t drunk. Best of all I could drink my diet coke at whatever rate I wanted; no trying to make it last, but more importantly, no shame in guzzling it down quickly.
Even although I was the only one sober I found myself become more and more silly and giggly along with everyone else and you know what? It wasn’t forced. I wasn’t trying to have a good time despite being sober. I was having a good time and, by the way, wasn’t drinking alcohol. 

2330: I had a really great evening with lots of chat and gossip (and of course some discussion about the book). I had 2 small slices of pizza and a few crisps. No hoovering the snacks. When I was offered yet another top up of diet coke I asked for a cup of tea, having spied a bowl of chocolates on offer. This is my perfect combination.

0100: I knew I had enjoyed myself as I stayed so late (and was only the second person to leave). I walked around the corner to my home, smiling to myself, remembering the funny conversations. I felt elated that I was out, late, having fun, yet would have no price to pay tomorrow.
At home I sat at the kitchen table drinking more tea, suddenly feeling awake and excited. 
For the first time ever I felt like I had not missed out on any part of the evening. I truly believe that it would not have been any better had I been drinking and I am astounded that I am able to think that and write it down.
When others further down the path than me said things would get better and better without alcohol, I didn’t really believe it. I had accepted I couldn’t and wouldn’t drink and that I would continue to make the most of life, despite this.
I never thought I would reach a stage where I.Truly.Did.Not.Miss.Wine and was not just pretending to myself that everything was fine without it.

If I can do this, and get to this stage, anyone can.



Friday, 22 August 2014

Drawing the line- again

The summer is over for me and daily life is settling back into its normal routine. My reflection on my holiday highlighted how well and truly alcohol is out of my life now. After a couple of wistful glances at others drinking by the pool, which I attributed to a return of hard-wired coping mechanism upon meeting another 'first', I really enjoyed the rest of the time away, without giving alcohol any consideration at all.

So after almost 18 months alcohol free, we had no discussions about whether or not to have wine with dinner or if we were having a night off. None about whether we would share wine or if OH wanted beer. There was no realisation of it being Friday or Saturday therefore permitting an increased amount to be drunk. There was no clock watching or deciding how early in the afternoon I could start drinking. Previously I would have had a pint of lager while the rest of them had an ice cream about 3pm. I always felt guilty, having tried, and failed to have OH join me in such a deliciously naughty endeavour! This year I sampled each variety of Magnum now available!

Which perhaps is why I have returned to Weight Watchers meetings this week. Previously I went to boost my motivation each week; limited my food intake to save the calories for wine, while maintaining a reasonable size. When I stopped drinking I loosened the reigns on my diet- I felt I had to in order to prevent myself feeling totally deprived of everything I enjoyed. But as you know, that leniency went on too long and this year has seen 'weight creep' to a degree that none of my clothes are comfortable now and I am resorting more and more to stretchy sporty looking clothes (but without doing any exercise!). Stretchy waistbands are too forgiving and I took it as a warning sign. I need to improve my ways. I have lapsed into what I call 'careless eating', where I think

'yeh, why not',
'yeh, I deserve it',
'yeh, just a bit then',

I have not yet managed to track a whole days food intake due to it going off the rails somewhere after lunchtime.

So I went back along to my meeting. The leader is always very motivational and I stayed behind at the end to hear the new start chat, by way of revision. I am all set now, to return my main focus to that of my diet, confident that my sobriety can look after itself for a little while at least. I have drawn the line in the sand. Random biscuits are out, strawberries and blueberries are in.

Wish me luck!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Sober Is The New Black (SITNB) on the Big Screen?

As well as writing a book, most of us dream of having it made into a movie; and of course, it becoming a huge overnight hit. I am no different and wondered how best to pitch SITNB to movie makers.

'SATC' meets 'When a man loves a women'!!

'Sliding doors' meets '28 days' ??

And so to the leading lady. While I'd love to be like Meg Ryan or Gwyneth Paltrow, neither portray a character anything like me. So who would be like me? The answer is difficult because at one end of the spectrum is (the real) me. I am no thespian so a debut breaking through performance is not on the cards and more importantly, I'm too unremarkable to be in the movies.

I'm average height or slightly smaller
I'm average weight or slightly bigger
I have medium brown, medium length hair
I'm pale and don't usually wear make up.      

With all due respect to myself, for the movies that is all just too boring. (I know stage and film make up can be transforming but there are limits.)

Should it be someone who is remotely like me? Or will the actress take on the story, becoming 'Rachel' personified to the exclusion of the mundane detail of reality?

What do you think?
Who would you choose to play you in a movie of your life?

Friday, 1 August 2014

Friday Flashback

Last night I watched the Ladies Artistic Gymnastics at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. To travel home required two trains; one into Central station followed by a second (the last train) out to my home area.

Being in Central station late at night brought back memories of the last time I caught that same train home. While last night I noticed and detested the whiff of booze and fast food coming from bars and the great unwashed, the previous time I was much less aware of such nuances. Dangerously so.

I had arranged to meet a friend in the city centre which was mutually convenient. We arrived on different trains from different directions and would travel home this way too.
We weren't particularly close friends but kept in touch and hey, it was an excuse for a night out.
We met in a wine bar where we had 2 bottles of wine and a few scant, over priced snacks. She drinks very little and that night was no exception. I drank a lot and did so that night too.

At 11pm we headed back to the station and went our separate ways. I had had a busy day at work and I was tired. I dozed off slightly near the beginning of the journey home and when I awoke at a stop a couple of ladies were looking at me sympathetically and smiling. I stretched and yawned remarking on how exhausted I was, always on the go.

They left the train, leaving me in the carriage alone. The rhythmic movement of the quiet, warm train on the tracks quickly caused me to doze off again.
I woke up when the train stopped. No one was around and all the train doors were open. Groggy from sleep, I got out and realised the train had reached the end of the line, 2 stops further on than the station at which I should have dismounted.

I walked up to the driver's cab at the front of the train.
'I think I've missed my stop. Can you drop me off there on your way back?' I asked him trying to muster some self respect from somewhere.

No, he couldn't. The train was not making any more journeys that night. The timetable was complete.

I was in the middle of nowhere, alone, drunk, at midnight, with no idea where I was or how to get home.
However, only a few seconds later the driver appeared to change his mind and although angry, he told me to get back in the carriage while raging about the trouble he would be in if found out. I suspect he felt vulnerable alone, with a drunk girl, and enjoyed the protection from accusations afforded by his cabin. Perhaps he felt sorry for me.

Either way he drove the train back to my station. I fought to keep my eyes open this time and got out of the train as he quickly pulled away again without so much as a wave.

I called a taxi to take me home from the station and waited in the cold, dark, windy car park while it arrived.
I paid the fare and when home, ate lots of breakfast cereal, staggered to bed trying to cause minimal disruption to the household and hunkered down under the duvet, trying to hide from the inevitable monster hangover that would soon be arriving.

Was it worth it?

What do you think?

Suddenly, last night, I was counting my blessings that I was not in a similar state to that last time. I was pleased to be clear, on the ball, aware of crowds, pick pockets, undesirables. I was a little cold and impatient for the train to arrive but I had my wits about me, felt a true physical tiredness and happily looked forward to going home to bed, without any drama.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Fun Friday, Sober Saturday, Serene Sunday....

Apologies for the lack of Friday alcohol free tip this week- international travel (sigh...) but here I am home again and despite my moans and musings of the last two weeks I am very glad I've remained sober in the sun. The longings do still come. I am getting better at managing them, delaying them, and waiting for them to pass but blogging about them here is a great release. I know that I will not receive responses such as 'just have one', 'start again tomorrow', 'if you really want it then have it!'
I will receive encouragement and strength to wait, to sit it out and be returned to my usual sensible sober self. I hope it also shows that the risks and temptations are there in the longer term too. I have not 'cracked it'; it is far from 'job done, let's move on'. It still needs effort and work, as anything worth having does and is never easy. So I continue...

My tip was to find a drink that you really like. This can be harder than it sounds. For instance, I enjoy a cold diet coke (has to be from a can) but I don't enjoy a second or a third one so much and absolutely DO NOT WANT the fourth.

In the beginning I enjoyed slimline ginger ale with lime cordial. I loved the fiery taste and I loved that I could drink it as early in the day as I wanted, as quickly as I wanted and I could have as many as I wanted without guilt!

Now I enjoy this drink occasionally and have become a big fan of sparkling water (living the dream- I know!) I don't have it on a night out but for everyday, all times of day, with meals or between meals, it is my go to staple. I love it refreshingly cold and it has made me re-think diet coke; I appreciate how overpoweringly sweet it is and often, prefer sparkling water.

I'm still loathe to 'spend' calories on drinks and do not like my teeth and mouth feeling sugary and coated so I have not explored cocktails and have only the occasional appletise or other fizzy fruity drinks (usually after the third diet coke!)

I have gone NOWHERE NEAR non alcoholic wine or beer. It's too close, too tempting and I've mixed reports and opinions about the wisdom of these drinks so personally, I've decided to stay clear of them as I don't think they would help me the way they do help lots of others who swear by them.

So, what are you drinking today?
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