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Friday, 17 October 2014

Holiday Time

Tomorrow is my last day of holidays. I've only had one real wistful pang for wine this time. It didn't last long and it was easy to distract myself until it passed. 

I have made things easy for myself though. I've avoided the bars and caf├ęs where drinks are served at sundown and the food service has not yet started. 

My OH has had a few beers. That is, one beer on a few nights. Watching him have one beer with his meal then make a cup of tea reminds me how I could not drink like that. I know if I ever give it an inch it will take a mile and more. 

So, one more day equals two more ice creams and two more chocolate treats before back on the dieting bandwagon on Monday. 

Hope you are all happy and sober this weekend too. 

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Boozy Dreams

Boozy dreams does not refer to the disjointed dreams and disturbed sleep of being drunk. Instead it refers to the way in which alcohol features in my dreams. Personally I'm quite fascinated by this. I always have vivid, weird dreams and usually remember them.

THEN: (the early days of abstinence)

My head was full of 'giving up'. How many days, how was I doing, what was I next worried about, how on earth would I manage in the longer term (never referring to it as the F word)! My dreams reflected my day time thoughts and I regularly dreamed of getting drunk and awful things happening. It wasn't dreaming as in longing for drink, it was getting drunk and thinking 'oh no, I've slipped up' and I would feel that I'd let myself down. I'd be annoyed that my campaign to go AF has failed and confirmed my deepest thoughts: that I could not do it.

I would wake up in the morning, transiently feel gloomy about it until reality kicked in and I realised it was all a dream and that my sober mission remained on track to fight another day.
The strength of my in-dream and out-of-dream feelings showed me how much it meant to me but at the same time what a huge challenge it was. I realised then that I did not want to slip up and did not want to return to drinking; my dreams had played it to the end, reminding me of the ultimate outcome.

NOW: (18 months-plus a little bit! )

My head is no longer full of 'not drinking' thoughts throughout the day, even at the weekends, even on Friday nights. My longing for wine has gone and my feelings of deprivation at social events has disappeared too; I'm pleased I don't drink and happy to remain sober and confident, without bad behaviour. My last 'pang' occurred in a supermarket recently, in the home section funnily enough. I walked past some lovely crystal wine glasses and thought 'they look nice, wouldn't it be nice…' before I closed my mind to those thoughts and moved on.

My dreams are weird. More than once in a dream I have been at a lengthy social occasion. I have remained AF until the last hour when I get a bit bored and suddenly think 'I know, I'll have a glass of wine.' I know I don't drink in my dream but this seems okay. I heed the warnings that I can't and should not try to moderate but I don't feel that far down the slippery slope. I have eyes wide open and want to have A single glass, just really for something to do, that I can do on my own at the bar because I am tired of socialising, but I'm sure I will still be a non drinker. The following day I will revert to my normal AF state without a second thought to my one glass of wine. Suddenly I realise this is what normal people do and I shouldn't be making such a song and dance about everything. In the dream, it remains calm and not catastrophic. I have my glass of wine, it is slightly disappointing and doesn't taste as good as I'd expected, but that's it. No second glass. No genie out of the bottle. No calamity and no chaos. Not like me at all in fact!

 I can see how dangerous I would think this sounds if I read it on another blog but I honestly have no temptation to actually have one drink, ever. I know what will happen and I know I cannot ever drink like a normal person and accept that I will not drink at all.

My dream occurs regularly and I'm intrigued. Is it a warning? Does it reflect a secret desire to be able to do this? How does booze feature in your dreams?

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Then and Now: Saturday Night Texts

I would send texts during the evening to those who were not out with me along the lines of ‘remind me to tell you what x just said!’ and if I was at home I would be texting everyone to follow up on previous discussions or to make plans, suggest ideas, all of which I felt had to be done THIS MINUTE, because it seemed like such a good idea, right?
If I’d been out, once home I would text everyone about what a great night we’d had, how we must catch up again and generally confess too much love for ones I do not love.
I would immediately confirm the dinner date I’d hastily arranged earlier in the evening with one of my new ‘best friends in the whole world who I really love’ and had hugged to prove it. As we were chatting I would always say ‘You should come round for dinner one night soon, so we get catch up again and the boys can meet’ Because we are so sure they will get on well together (!). This was perhaps always, even subconsciously, a date to allow more drinking, me having found a like minded, equally paced drinker.
The next day I’d scroll through the lists of texts. Noting the worst ones had not received a reply. Groaning as the potential fiasco added to my hangover made everything seem worse. Why did I say that? Did I really say that? What did I do that for? Were they as drunk as me?
Then I have to decide how to carefully word my morning after texts to sound casual and being of a general ‘Hi again’ nature, but really to provide an opening for the other to comment on the state I was in the night before, without having to ask directly. (This would incriminate me you see.)
If they don’t, then I worry it was either too embarrassing for them to mention or they were  also so drunk they did not notice my behaviour. I hope it’s the latter but I have a nagging feeling it’s the former.
All in all it serves to compound my hangover and darken my day further on a day that I have limited ability to function even at the most basic level. I do not need this.
Last night , Saturday, I had a text conversation with a friend to arrange a walk this afternoon. This morning I can remember all the details of the arrangements.(I hope she can too!)
I replied to a few emails which had been lingering in my inbox for a few days. Ones that needed a little time and concentration. I have no need to worry that I’ve made a mistake, emailed the wrong person, forgotten the attachments (although I do that sober too), or copied in people who I absolutely should not have copied in.
I read and commented on a few blogs. I took in what I was reading and made some useful (IMHO!) contribution to discussions in the comments section. Pertinent comments, appropriate comments, generally free from typos and comments which had travelled the right way through the BS filter between having the thoughts and typing them out on the keyboard.
This morning I am pleased I can stand by any comments I made as being what I really meant and not a passing glib thought whilst drunk. I am pleased I have no damage control to consider, or to worry about. I am reassured I have not offended anyone, been inappropriate to anyone or loose tongued and gossipy at the expense of anyone.
I feel calm and relaxed. The day ahead seems simple and uncomplicated. It just ‘is’, with no undercurrents of what ifs and what might be’s.
Why did I ever drink so much? I can’t explain that but I do know that I can’t do anything to change the past but I have definitely made a positive change for the future.
Enjoy the rest of the weekend. Rx

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Then and Now: A New Car

I am shortly to collect my new car. It has been so long a process that I've had no particular excitement about it. I'm not really into cars-my top concern is reliability. But this morning I became all excited about it and it reminded me of my relapse when I last got a new car.
Three years ago, I was on Day 19 of becoming AF for the first time (excepting pregnancy). It was a Saturday and I had friends and their kids coming round for drinks and dinner. They were good friends and us girls drank a lot and the men only a little. I hadn't planned what I was going to say to my friend. Why wasn't I drinking? It was all too new and fragile to risk telling her the truth. I was convinced this was not to be forever, I was coping with a 'just one more day' strategy and was already growing tired of it. I was anxious about what I'd say, anxious that she would be disappointed if I wasn't drinking and worried I would sound like an alcoholic. And then I would look like an alcoholic too, when this dry run came to an end and I started drinking wine again. This episode with her was my inspiration to write "How to Tell Them You Don't Drink" (and deal with the questions they ask) shortly afterwards.
I didn't realise it at the time but I was having far too much internal chatter about what would happen after the AF period. Should've kept it in the moment.
I rushed to collect my new car. Forgot to take some documents so rushed home again and back to the garage becoming harassed as I knew dinner for the guests was not well on in preparation. The handover of the car took aaagggggggeeeeeeessssssss. Who knew I would have to sign 50 forms! I was late but I was elated when it had its corny unveiling ceremony in the garage. (This is important to the outcome, I promise).
I drove home, a bit jerky getting used to the different controls, but as fast as I dared, already late. I arrived home at the same time as the guests arrived. There was plenty of oohing and aaaaaahing over my new car and they had brought champagne, insisting we celebrate with a glass, before the men went back out to sit in and admire the car further.
As I opened the champagne I was fully intending still to have a soft drink. I'd poured 3 glasses and the fourth stood empty, waiting.
I had to make a spilt decision without great explanations. Ironically I was now keeping it in the moment and I poured the bubbles into the fourth glass too, thinking how excited I was and how I felt warm and cosily cocooned with good friends around me. Without a glass of alcohol it would just not be as good. Hell, I deserved it too. I'd done 19 days and had suffered a lot of misery and deprivation in that time. It was time to give myself a break.
I never intended it would only be one drink: I knew that the decision was to drink as usual or not at all and I had chosen the former. And that included the next night and the next night and then there seemed no point in having one or two nights off the booze because I had a party coming up at the weekend. No, I'd have to wait a while until my diary was clear of, well, everything really, so I could 'have a good go at it.'
It was another 5 weeks until I had my second attempt at being AF.
(for info it failed after a week or so and my usual drinking returned with a vengeance culminating in the time where I knew, I just knew, I had to stop. End of).
My car loan arrived in the bank this morning and I felt all excited. I got out the car brochures that were filed away and tried to remember the colour I'd chosen. I oohed and aaaahed with the kids about which side they would each have in the back and commiserated with them that there was no sun roof! Again, it's Saturday afternoon, I'm max-ed out on retail therapy from this huge purchase. I'm looking forward to roast chicken followed by pancakes and butterscotch sauce (pre made for micro-waving, don't be impressed) tonight and then to see what Cheryl has done with her hair and make up tonight on the X factor. I'm going to change my bed and enjoy clean sheets tonight. I might even finish my jigsaw today! (Living the dream, I know!) Loads of options.
Alcohol could not be further from my mind.

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.
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.

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