Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Thoughts Thoughts and more Thoughts

Posting from my sun lounger to share my thoughts, and boy, do I have a lot of them. 
I am reading Caroline Knapp's book, Drinking. A love Story. I bought it a long time ago but needed a break from sober books. Plus, it never actually appealed to me despite its rave reviews. 

But I am blown away. 

I am so sad she is no longer alive because I feel compelled to write to her shouting 'YES, ME TOO! I GET IT AND I GET YOU'. Since she's not here I'm pouring it out to you instead. 

A 'journey of self discovery' is a much better way of portraying what I feel is often self indulgent, over analysing of oneself. I, for sure, am guilty of this. Perhaps perversely I enjoy reading about someone else having the same degree of self scrutiny, puzzlement and theories as they try to sort themselves out and live as normal people do. 

What I have learnt most profoundly, is that I am an addict. 

Whether to alcohol, food, sugar, cigarettes or a myriad of other pleasure giving (and taking) substances and behaviours that I have not yet tried, merely giving them up is not the solution. As Caroline says, this is merely 'Same dance, different shoes'. 
Instead, something is needed to fill the void of neediness within me. Something is missing and I've tried for many years to plug it one way or another, a true serial addict. 

Through fear of jumping out of the frying pan into the fire, I'm going to search for the cause of that space. 

What is it that is missing?
What am I trying to replace?

Another blogger suggested a book called 'Feeding your demons' which I will check out as a starting point. 

Any experience of this kind of 'stuff' out there please share below. 

Me, I'm off for another sparking water. 

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Simple Sober Solutions

'What time do you want to leave the beach?'
'I don't mind. I'm happy to leave whenever.'

This was the question OH asked me one day this week, around 4pm, and my honest reply. As I answered him,  my mind was flooded with all the factors I would previously have weighed up and hedged my bets upon, terrified I would miss out on a drinking opportunity.

  • I want to leave now but don't want to look desperate to get back to the apartment for a drink.
  • I want to suggest a visit to the beach cafe but not for ice cream (or coffee). 
  • Does the beach cafe sell wine?
  • What will be doing next? 
  • Are we going straight for something to eat?
  • Did I leave wine in the fridge?
  • Will we go out later for dinner?
  • Is there enough wine in the apartment if we stay there all evening?
  • Can we legitimately stop off at a supermarket on the way back?
  • Can I, oh so casually, add a bottle to the basket because 'I'm not sure if we have any at home'?
  • Can I justify more than one bottle?
  • Will the kids notice? Will they remark? Is it worse if they don't? 
Still, OH is waiting for my answer. He knows I will have a specific answer so will not try to double guess me, knowing it will inevitably be wrong.

  • Does he know what I'm thinking? 
  • Can he see straight through my charade?
  • Does he pity me or feel irritated by the confines within which I make us live?
  • Surely he cannot know or why would he put up with me?

The truth is he does not mind when we leave the beach because to him it is a simple one-dimensional question whose answer is of very little consequence. The question does not induce anxiety, mental contortions of Olympic standard, nor does it have good or bad answers.

Only now do I agree with him. We packed up and left.


Thursday, 9 April 2015

99p Books Right Now

Just a quick note to highlight my books are on Amazon countdown deals right now.

How to Tell Them you Don't Drink is only 99p for the next 22 hours here

Sweet and Sober is £1.99 for the next 12 hours (or free if you have kindle unlimited) here

Get them now before the price goes up. You can also recommend or 'gift' them to a friend.

Now into the last month to pre-order The Secret to Being Fashionably Sober and Fabulous at a pre release price  here

Next time I will share the sober revelation I found at the beach...

Sunday, 5 April 2015


I've had several emails this week from fans of this blog. (Does that mean I've had fan mail??) Thank you to all who take the time to write, say how inspirational you find it and how you identify with me. It's lovely to receive such feedback. Several asked about my progress on the Cambridge diet so I thought it was time to update you.

Background: This diet is available globally. Most simply, it begins as a meal replacement diet which then progressively adds in real food: lean protein and a small amount of veg at first, through to fruit and complex carbohydrates later on. The aims are to:

1. Reduce weight quickly, capitalising on high motivation at the beginning.
2. Re-educate the way we eat with regard to healthy choices, recognising and responding to only true hunger with food to maintain our weight loss in the long term.

The raw stats, after 4 weeks are

Wk1 -4lbs, Wk2 -2lbs, Wk 3 STS, Wk 4 STS AGAIN!!!!

I'm getting over my disappointment at STS as I believe I have stuck to the diet and it will work given time. Diving into a chocolate Easter egg in despair will not help my cause.

I'm motivated to continue because I'm learning, I really am, in the same way as I did with alcohol.

When I considered stopping drinking for good, I was terrified. I would have done anything to be able to moderate and keep wine in my life. Then, I sadly said good bye to a friend. I missed it. I felt deprived, incomplete, bored and boring.
Then, I started to reap the benefits: so much more I could do now I was here, present, able, no longer held back by a hangover and a need to return to the sofa with another bottle. This was better. I could live with this. The price was worth paying.
Now, I would not drink if I could, had the option, could do so 'normally'.
Because it's not what I want MOST. What I want most is to hang onto my my blossoming life overflowing with plans, projects and possibilities and I know that a single glass of wine will not help my stay on that path. It will not add to nor facilitate the way of life I want to continue to lead.

Lightbulb Moment!

As the 'challenge' of the Easter weekend approached I was concerned about how my compliance to my diet would fare. Easter without chocolate?
In previous years I've nibbled and restricted, broken off a bit more, had pieces from each child's egg to even them up, tried to limit the assault and prevent, unsuccessfully, a full sugar blown binge.
This weekend I've thought rationally.
What is it that I really want?
Do I really want an Easter egg so badly? Above all else?
Or, is what I really want to lose weight and feel good in the summer as my safe winter layers are shed?

I'm going to finish on a profound note:

Don't give up what you want MOST for what you want NOW.

Happy Easter.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Sober Authors do Fact and Fiction: Marian Keyes and ME!

It's not often I have the opportunity to hob nob with celebrities or name drop those I've been rubbing shoulders with, so indulge me just this once.

I am featured alongside one of my very favourite authors, Marian Keyes (sounds good eh?) in an article reviewing books for women in recovery, in the Spring 2015 edition of Law Care News. The link to the article is here along with the rest of the newsletter but, so proud am I, I've copied the important bit below for you.

'Sober is the New Black' by me reviewed alongside 'Rachel's Holiday' by a proper well known author? (I can't claim she had me in mind when naming the main character though.) Who would have thought!

Books for Women About Recovery 

Christmas is often the time when people realise that their alcohol intake is probably higher than it should be. LawCare always gets more calls to its helpline regarding alcohol misuse in January and February than at any other time of the year, and the number of women calling about alcohol issues has been rising. So it's good that there are books available which can give the female perspective on alcoholism. 

Sober is the New Black by Rachel Black shows very effectively how alcohol can insidiously, destructively and completely take over a life. Throughout it powerfully juxtaposes events in the author's life--business conferences, family holidays, book club meetings--when she was drinking, and after she stopped. There's always a risk with this sort of personal memoir that it can become egocentric and dull, but this one avoids that on two counts. First, because Rachel will resonate with so many readers as a typical working mother, someone they can relate to. Second, because it doesn't go too deeply into aspects of her life (we never learn the names of her children or her Other Half, or what job she does) and stays firmly focussed on the subject of alcohol. I particularly liked the metaphor where the author compares lifelong abstinence with her mortgage. Both are burdens which look huge and terrifying when viewed as a whole, but are manageable and life-affirming on a day-to-day basis. The book well written, interesting and not overlong, but for me its best feature is the overriding optimism and delight on every page. If it has one message, it's that the sober life is wonderful. Rachel was evidently taken by surprise to find how much better everything, from social events to Christmas, is when you're not focussing solely on wine and how to drink as much of it as possible without anyone noticing. That brightness and assurance shines throughout the book and lifts it above other "sobriety memoirs".

Rachel's Holiday by Marian Keyes tells the story of an Irish woman living in New York who is shipped off to an alcohol and drug treatment centre in Ireland. Written by best-selling author Marian Keyes, herself an alcoholic in recovery, its charm lies partly in the character of Rachel herself, and her slowly dawning realisation, in part told through flashbacks, that she does indeed have a drug problem. Hidden beneath the humour is a powerful and memorable message, and it gives a fascinating insight into the realities of in-patient rehab. Highly recommended.

Law is a respected profession full of high achievers. Within groups of this type, there are a number of functioning alcoholics. These individuals continue to work, drink and live, only just holding it all together until, well, until they can do so no longer. At this point their lives begin to unravel and the consequences and losses become apparent to all.

The profession is cognisant of this fact and there is a well established support network to help individuals. You don't need to be a lawyer to benefit from these online and downloadable resources (I'm not!), so visit LawCare.Org and have a look around at their 'Get help with Alcohol' section full of strategies to assess your drinking, give up alcohol and stay sober in the long term.

If you are concerned about your drinking and are wondering how to cope over Easter, get on line or download one of these books and see if you identify with any of the characters or experiences within.

Me? I'm off to chat to Marian (only on twitter!).

Saturday, 28 March 2015

The Significance and Excitement of 28th March 2015

Today I am 2 years sober.
104 weeks
730 days
many many hours, depending on how you are currently counting your sober time.

Either way, that represents a lot of wine I have not consumed: at my last pace it would be at least 500 bottles of wine and that's only allowing for 5 per week, with no extra at the weekend or other occasions deemed 'special' in some way or other.

500 bottles of wine! Picture that for a moment, it seems much more significant than 2 years!

I haven't mentioned the date at home. OH would not realise, ask, wonder, nor find it in any way relevant, so I quietly congratulate myself while looking at the two new beads I bought for my charm bracelet. They're fairly plain, white and a little shiny and have no resemblance to a drink, glass, or bottle of wine, but I love them, and I know exactly what they represent.

I'm surprised at how 2 years with no alcohol seems to be both a massive deal and a non event at the same time. It's a big part of my life because... it doesn't feature in my life, and as time passes it features even less in my thoughts and falls outwith my radar.
The 'challenges' are no longer challenging, they are just the way things are now. I firmly believe there is no option. Indeed, I don't actually want any option. I would not have a glass of wine even if you told me I could and could stop at that one. I don't see the point any more.
Alcohol was almost like a massive storm, a tornado even, whipping up chaos and destruction in its pathway with me tightly sucked into its vortex. For many years I stayed there, unable to see the solution was to remove it from the equation and allow the storm to pass.

I can see it clearly now, and believe me when I say, there is no-one more surprised by this than me.

Friday, 27 March 2015

The (Drunk) Girl on The Train

I had a couple of long train journeys this week so downloaded the latest chic-type psychological thriller 'Girl on the Train' by Paula Hawkins which I thought was very appropriate.
I am enjoying it and am intrigued as information is gradually unveiled. The female protagonist is called Rachel, funnily enough, and it is written in the first person.

Rachel is an alcoholic.

Yet she is in denial of this (up to where I am anyway). She exhibits all the classic signs of alcohol being problematic and taking over her life. I've had many of them in the past including:

Waiting until her flatmate goes out and she is home alone to drink excessively
Drinking at times and in ways she feels reassured is 'socially acceptable'
Wondering what exactly happened the night before- when flashes of memory reappear intermittently and randomly. Flitting into her mind and out again before they can be grasped or joined up.
Continuing to drink while knowing it is causing negative consequences
Observing she cannot stop after one or two, or even three or four and worries about the unpredictability of how her drinking session will end.

I could go on but you probably recognise many of these feelings too, plus perhaps some others.

I'm enjoying the main story in the book but I am further enjoying watching someone else's (fictional) car crash life and wondering how it will turn out.

There is a review of the book in the Guardian here and it is available to buy in all the usual outlets.

Follow @SoberRachel