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Saturday, 20 December 2014

Some Surprising Sober Statistics

This week, one of my tweets highlighting free soft drinks for designated drivers from Coca-cola, (in the UK only I'm afraid) was picked up by a member of their research team. She provided me with some statistics from research carried out this year. Coca-Cola launched its Designated Driver campaign in partnership with THINK! (the Department of Transport's road safety campaign) currently celebrating its 50 year anniversary. I thought sharing some data here would be a nice change from my own musings and opinions.

Of those polled, 87% reported still having a great night out sober with more than half planning to take the role of driver a second time during the festive period. Apart from the clear head the next day, almost three-quarters looked forward to saving £50 over 2 nights out and over half of friends benefitting from a sober driver would contribute to petrol and parking costs, as well as buying the driver soft drinks throughout the night.

Times are changing and it is now recognised women made up an increasing proportion of those caught drink driving and 92% of the British public would be ashamed to drink and drive.

Disappointingly, almost half of designated drivers are offered alcoholic drinks, 'Not even just one? 'cos it's Christmas?'

These findings are almost identical to what we, the sober population, know about alcohol. Once we get over mourning its loss from our lives, we continue to reap the benefits and have fun too, albeit a very different type of fun. One of the main benefits I feel is that when I drive to a party, it is by choice rather than necessity. When I used to drink lots of wine, the worst thing was driving and not being 'allowed' or 'able' to drink and therefore 'missing out'. Not wanting to drink and not needing to drink remove alcohol from the equation and replace the negative mindset with a positive one.

The 87% who still enjoy themselves sober is surprising because we have an ingrained feeling that alcohol equals enjoyment and more can only be better. 87% probably mirrors the population of 'normal' drinkers: those for whom drinking is not a problem and therefore, not drinking is not a problem either.

I've written lots on how to party sober but one activity I laughed at on Coca-colas guide to partying sober was to take photos of the 'fun' and 'antics' of drunk people. This really appealed to my sense of humour although will no doubt add to the suspicion often levelled at the sober ones. You can join in the conversation on twitter using #DesignatedHero

Whatever the reason you are staying sober this Christmas you will enjoy the festivities minus the hangovers and the other negative effects of alcohol.

I've never regretted not drinking. Have you?

Monday, 15 December 2014

Helping You to Help Yourself

One of my Sober Buddies is Louise Rowlinson. As well as being a Public Health nurse she has walked the same path with alcohol as many of us here. What struck her was the lack of support, help and guidance available. Many realise their GP is not best equipped nor able to help us and the waiting list for CBT is often 6 months or more. The other option is AA, which many are reluctant to attend especially at first when anxiety is high and confidence low.

Louise created and delivered the ideal package to fill this void and has made it widely available and affordable using the Udemy platform. Here she tells us more about it.

A Hangover Free Life Udemy course:

Since I stopped drinking in September 2013 I have saved over £2650, lost 12lbs in weight and symptoms of anxiety or depression have all but gone. Life is better in every way! 

Before stopping, we think quitting drinking will be impossible and too hard, so we decide not to even try, but this course will give you all the information and tools to make it possible. 

There are presentations, an e-book, hand-outs and online resources for you to use. The course is designed to be completed in 3-4 hours but deciding to change your relationship with alcohol, and doing so can be a much longer process. 

This course gives you lifetime access; it will be there for you as long as you need it. 

It looks at ways to cut down through moderation, gives you the structure and time to reflect on your drinking while thinking about stopping or preparing to stop. 
It gives you knowledge about the impact that alcohol has physically and emotionally and the skills to manage life alcohol free.  Once you are living hangover free, tools are provided to ensure that you can stay that way as long as you wish. 
It details supportive resources in terms of books, films and online communities. A one-on-one support consultation via email, telephone or Skype is included in the course, should you wish to take advantage of it. 
This course is for you if you want to look at, and change, your relationship with booze, whether temporarily or permanently. What have you got to lose? You can always go back to drinking if you change your mind. Although you might find, like me, that life is so much better without it that you'd rather stay hangover free. 
Enroll now! 
Until New Years Day the course is going to be available at a 50% discount so half price at $25 (£15.50).  If you're looking for a surprise treat for your holiday season sober first aid kit, the brilliant idea from Living Sober (amazeballs Mrs D and SueK!) or would like to forgo a bottle of Christmas spirits this year then this could be for you!!

Discount : Use this discount code to access :)
Five star reviews for A Hangover Free Life Udemy course:
If you are serious about stopping drinking alcohol or cutting down, the course will help you plan, action and sustain this momentous change. 
The information given is an accessible mixture of evidence-based theory from a nursing perspective, and personal experience. The lectures, resources and support included in the course comprise a powerful yet compassionate package. 
It's not easy getting your life back from alcohol's clutches when you have been drinking too much for too long, but this course will help you do it. Highly recommended.
Helpful for Anyone Affected by Problem Drinking 
Louise Rowlinson has combined her professional background and personal experience to create a course to provide guidance to those who are worried about their drinking habits, or those who know they have a drinking problem and are not sure how to get help. She addresses moderation, along with abstinence, in a course packed with useful information, resources, and referrals to online communities dedicated to reduce alcohol abuse. The course materials are presented in an easy-to-follow and honest manner. I feel it is helpful not only to those with a drinking problem, but to those who are family members or friends of problem drinkers. It explains the effects of alcohol use on the body and mind, which makes the often misunderstood issue of alcohol abuse easier to comprehend. Would definitely recommend this course.
Packed full of information and tools! 
What I liked most about this course is that it's written by someone who has been through addiction herself and is passing on her understanding and tools using the benefit of her professional background. It's written really clearly and speaks hard truths in a sympathetic and matter of fact way. 
If you are wondering whether your life could be improved by changing your relationship with alcohol this course will guide you through that decision making process and give you the techniques and support you need to make that change. Highly recommended.

About Louise Rowlinson:
I am a public health nurse who wanted to offer an aid to help with reducing alcohol intake or quitting the booze. This course, my e-book, my blog and all the resources are based on my own experience and from all the knowledge and skills I’ve acquired as a general nurse with alcoholic liver disease experience, psychology graduate, research assistant to Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Samaritan volunteer, post graduate specialist community public health nurse but most importantly as a person who was psychologically dependent on alcohol and who is now in the early stages of recovery.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Drink Driving and the Law: Part 2

It's been one week since my last post which stated the new law in Scotland; that of a reduced, allowable, blood alcohol concentration. Since then, an astute reader contacted me and suggested I had held back on my last post. She felt it was artificially truncated and that I hadn't said all that I honestly felt about the subject.

She was right.

The truth is that drink driving is a massive social taboo. As such it is never spoken about, not even between the best of friends who discuss everything else generally considered taboo. My personal opinion is that many of us drive when we know we are 'likely to be over the limit' but think on balance, that we'll 'probably be okay'. We think we'll probably be okay because it's only a short journey or we live in a rural area and are unlikely to be stopped by the Police. There's also the arrogance borne of having a couple of drinks, the feeling of invincibility when we truly believe we are fantastic, sassy and can have it all and still drive home with a casual 'it'll be fine'. There is also a layer of naivety that those things only happen to other people.

So we do not allow our thoughts to dwell on the thought of losing our driving licence or having a criminal record and declaring it at work or to insurance companies. And we certainly do not consider that we may injure someone, or worse. We don't think about it because it is just too awful to play the movie to the end.

My movie would indeed be awful. A drunk driving conviction would threaten my career, restrict my ability to fulfil my home commitments and above all, would leave me walking an eternal road of shame. No matter what price I paid, I feel I would never be entirely absolved of the crime. All these reasons prevented me from habitually drinking and driving.

My nights out involved significant taxi fares and I was happy to pay them. The three occasions I remember, when I did drive knowing 'I was probably over the limit' but would probably get away with it, happened when I had an impromptu drink. It was always unplanned. As you know, for me one drink, impromptu or not, was never enough and a second followed. Two drinks doesn't sound a lot but two large glasses of wine is 2/3 of a bottle which most certainly does sound a lot. Once home safely, I stopped to consider the risk I had taken, I was truly horrified, terrified, to the degree that it was not common practice for me. Not that this makes it any better.

There is an interesting article here recently written and published in The Observer magazine by editor Lucy Rock which explores why there has been such a rise in women drinking and driving.

So there it is in its entirety. I had not divulged my thoughts and feelings last week because no matter how infrequently I did it, or how long I have been sober subsequently, the facts remain unchanged. And what ugly thoughts they are.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Scotland's New Drink Driving Law Today

From today in Scotland, the legal drink driving limit of blood alcohol level is reduced from 80 mg to 50 mg per 100 ml blood. This means it is lower than the unchanged level in England and Wales, and is equal to that in Europe.

Yesterday, the coffee rom chat amongst my fellow Scots was not focussed on the safety aspect of this change nor did many consider the risk drink drivers pose to others. In the true British way of drinking, the chat was about how much you could still drink and not get 'caught' or worse still, get unfairly caught the morning after. The anti-establishment vibes of flirting close to the line and 'getting away with it' were paramount. I heard no chat of 'best not to bother drinking anything if you're driving' which is more appealing to my 'all or none' mentality.

Further, I heard on the radio that certain outlets are giving drivers free top ups of coca cola or diet coke all night after purchasing their first glass. I did not catch the details- anyone know where this applies????

My overall reaction to the change in the law is that it is a move in the right direction for public safety as a whole. My more personal feeling is one of relief. I don't have to bother about the new lower limit, I don't have to decide whether to buy a breathalyser self testing kit or not, I don't have to concern myself with the morning after. In many ways, this new change is not relevant to me, in my individual life. I'm glad I don't need to study the factors affecting metabolism and blood concentration of alcohol nor bemoan being able to drink even less while factoring a host of unknowns into the risk assessment.

All or nothing is the way I am and today brings another reason that as far as alcohol is concerned, I'm glad it's nothing.

Monday, 1 December 2014

My First Love

For those of you who missed this article on Soberistas, here it is again. Enjoy!

My First Love

‘Come on,’ you called ‘let’s spend the evening together. We’ll have fun!’.

I was torn. Undecided. I had planned a trip to the cinema with a friend yet despite having you all to myself the last three nights, I was tempted. We were seeing more of each other and I knew things were becoming serious. It was hard to resist such an attractive proposition.

I always enjoyed being with you and you’re right; it is fun. You make me feel special, beautiful and tell me I am charming and clever. I enjoy being a little wild and carefree with you. We are extravagant; money is no obstacle. You make me forget all my troubles and am freed from mundane responsibilities of daily life. My other commitments lose their importance in comparison to spending more time with you.

We have spent several nights together. Talking and staying up into the small hours of the morning. Why do you never stay the full night?  When I wake up at 3am, anxious or scared, you are never there. Sometimes I am glad about this because my sparkle has subsided and I am tired, restless and can feel a headache developing. I am no longer the same attractive, flirty person of the night before.

There are times when I need you though. Bad times when I am sick or shaky or feeling anxious and depressed. But still you are never there to rescue me. You don’t want to know about the downs and it seems you do not care about my health or wealth. Deep down I know you are a fickle, fair-weather friend.

In the morning I vow not to see you again. I will ignore your calls and will not allow myself to be led astray. You are not good for me; my nan would have called you a ‘bad ‘un’ and I agree. We’re finished.

By lunchtime I wonder if I’ve over-reacted and been too hard on you. We each have our faults and you are no different. Besides, I love you. I want you.

In the middle of the afternoon I decide I will answer when you call. And you will call, as you do each day around five o’clock. Sometimes earlier, occasionally later but you can always be relied upon to come back.

I will agree to see you again tonight despite my better judgement: I know you are no good but I am drawn to you regardless. I cannot say ‘No’.

I pick up the ‘phone and call my friend. I plead off the cinema trip claiming a headache. It’s not really a lie: I did have a headache today although it is almost gone now. I can hear the disappointment in her voice and feel bad that she had arranged a baby-sitter specially. But not for long. I do not dwell on my guilt. Instead I reach up for my favourite heavy crystal glass. Next, I go to the fridge and open the door. There you are, reliable as ever, waiting for me to take you out so we can spend time together. 

I unscrew your top and listen to the satisfying glug as you fill my glass with amber nectar. I sit back and relax and wait for you to bring the feel good factor to me once again.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Thanksgiving and Thanks Giving

I never really understood the phrase used by AA members 'You have to give it away to keep it.'
It is used in reference to sobriety and how we each support each other. In my early days of quitting, when I went to a few AA meetings, I felt quite needy and that I fed off those members with many sober years under their belts. I wondered, what was in it for them? They clearly had the thing licked, it was working for them, why stick around to help others like me so much? 

Other than human nature, which makes us want to help and share what we have found, I realised a far more important reason to stick around.

I will quietly celebrate being 20 months sober on Thursday, along with those of you in North America celebrating thanksgiving. During this time I have been contacted by various people who read this blog (thank you) and others who have found my book SITNB useful (thank you again). They often ask me for advice (me?!), ask how I got to where I am and whether it is easy to stay sober after such a time. It seems I portray a sense of true unwavering commitment to the cause!

Well, no. It is not easy. And each email I receive from someone nearer the beginning of their journey helps me immensely. Contact from a stranger joined by a common theme is cathartic: both can talk honestly and freely behind the anonymity of an email address and I always reply personally to each one.

Last weekend I received one such email when I was at a point of despair. Saturday afternoon, the girls coming round for dinner, wine and fizz chilling for them. I looked in our drinks cupboard and all of a sudden felt sad and mournful for a time now past and an element of the forthcoming evening in which I would have no part. This was brought on by a general feeling of being over-whelmed. We have some serious family issues going on right now: my parents are upset and leaning on me for support (without once asking me how I am), the kids are just being kids, and to top it all I am coming down with a cold.

The email came at just the right time. When it seemed as if no one was listening to me or caring for me (ok I was feeling sorry for myself), I battered out my reply on the keyboard. I wrote about all the slights and injustice I felt, the frustration I had that I wanted to drink yet would not allow myself to do so and the sadness from knowing that drinking wouldn't help the way I felt anyway. 

Alcohol would, however, blot it out for a few hours and take my mind somewhere less fraught. 

What I needed was another way to blot it out. E-mailing and blogging are two good ways, listening to the chat of my friends when they arrived (as opposed to talking) and, as I'd done the night before, watching a movie and falling asleep during it, exhausted from tears and emotional drama.

Sobriety and recovery is a two way street. Each of us have something that is valuable to us but which also helps another. I want to send a big Thank You to all my contacts and readers who keep sobriety fresh in my mind and re-confirm my belief that life really is much better this way despite all the stark ups and downs.

On a happier note, tonight I am meeting a friend from the blogosphere, in London, in real life and I am so excited about meeting and spending time with someone who understands it all.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Monday, 17 November 2014

Party Season

Party season is coming, sober blog traffic dwindles as intentions are put aside until January.
I continue to be amazed that parties seem so unimportant to me now. All those years before, I went to the ends of the earth to get a babysitter, taxis, the next day off, a new dress and it all seemed of the utmost importance that it was all 'just right'. 
Now I am no longer interested in going to my usual parties I can only conclude it was only ever attractive because I wanted to get drunk. Or be something different. Or try to hide who I was.

Why would I do that? 

Being sober is a continual journey of reflection and self discovery. It never fails to surprise me. Yet there is no other explanation for no longer wanting to go to events I previously saw as heavy drinking opportunities.

This year I forgot to request the work party night off and when I checked, I'm not down to work but I am, however, working the Saturday following the Friday night. Instead, on that Friday I'm going to my spanish class's 'xmas' tapas quiz night! I'm not sure what it will involve but we are a mixed bunch and have known each other for over a year. I have offered to drive and I will enjoy the chat and socialising and getting out of the house.I'm looking forward to getting to know the others and the teachers better and quite frankly, that's enough but if it does turn out to be awful, I can get into my little car and leave early.

I don't think it's purely an age thing either as younger sober bloggers report the same change in interests. Whatever the reasons I'm looking forward to my Christmas preparations not being impeded by alcohol or hangovers, not blighted by queueing for taxis in the cold and rain or by the continual effort of buying and chilling and having 'enough' over the festive period.

One of the worst aspects of Christmas drinking for me was 2012 when I was unable to have a night off. I watched my OH 'having a break' or 'giving it a rest' but I was on conveyor belt and could not, would not, did not want to step off for any time at all when I could be drinking again. Every day that presented   a drinking opportunity I took it, without exception and it was a relief when finally, on 31st December, I was back at work and had sobriety enforced. I had neither the inclination or ability to do this of my own volition.

I only need to glance back to this period to confirm that alcohol is nothing to celebrate, is not a treat, and most certainly does not enhance my life.
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