A happy Day

Today I met up with one of my oldest friends, we planned a day at an event we have attended together, every year, for several years. As we don’t live very close to one another any longer, the day needs planning and involves traveling for us both. I look forward to seeing her, and having a catch up. 

Every year we arrive when the event opens, around 10 am. We look around, make a few purchases, maybe do some research into something we are interested in, we mooch around the exhibitions stands, chatting and sharing news. At about 11.30, one or other of us suggests ” getting a drink”… For most people this would mean a coffee, for us it meant a Pimms, a glass of champagne usually turned in to a bottle because it’s ‘better value’ . This mid morning chaser would be followed at 2 pm ish by lunch; and lunch would be accompanied by two bottles of wine, more Pimms, a G & T …until at 5 pm we would stagger out,  rushing for transport connections , more than a little drunk. 

I intended not to drink today, I had no desire to and I knew that my friend would be fine with that. Although she has Been my willing partner in many many heavy drinking sessions, I believe she has an off switch, and that she drinks moderately most of the time. Nevertheless I was a little apprehensive about returning to a place so strongly associated drinking, with drink so readily available, with someone who didn’t know I had committed to sobriety. The opportunity to break my  promise would definitely be there.

And it was hard in places. Watching others drinking Pimms, remembering the nice buzz of the first drink, triggered lots of nostalgia, and not a small internal debate about ‘special occasions’ and ‘one offs’ and ‘ one won’t hurt’….I was the one to suggest a drink, and my friend – remembering, as I did, what this innocent sounding idea was code for – agreed. The internal debate intensified .. ‘ I could just have ONE ‘ … ‘Seems unfair for her to have to drink alone’ … ‘Me being sober will spoil the day’ … 

We get to the area where food and drink is served. Deep breath. “Actually I’ll have a coffee, I’m not drinking at the moment’

Phew. Done. Been straight, turned my back on temptation and made the RIGHT decision.

The rest of the day was straightforward, no more temptation, Diet Coke for lunch, and tea and cake later on. No worries. And now, at home I am SO GLAD I did not drink. 

So what have I learned?

  • I was under prepared for today. On reflection I should have told my friend weeks ago that I was not drinking. Why didn’t I ? A cynic would say it was to leave the option open for an occasion such as today…
  • I HAVE learned some useful lessons from my last sober spell. Those thoughts about ‘special occasions’ were exactly what undid me last time. To be successfully long term sober you have to NOT DRINK, at all, ever, full stop. That includes “special occasions” !
  • The day was not ruined, my friend was not pissed off, we had a good time. And now I feel so so much better than if I were drunk. 

Day 120. Feels like a significant hurdle has been successfully negotiated. I am at peace.

Cross addiction

Do you ever have that feeling that you just want something NOW. That  you can’t wait till you have saved up to buy the shoes, or you can’t chose between a skirt or a jumper so you just buy them both; have you ever avoided looking at your bank balance or credit card statements because you know you are overspending, but don’t really want to get the blast of reality that will make you feel guilty, or like you should actually cancel that weekend away you planned?

This is my other problem. Overspending.

I have always found it hard to budget. As a child, my brother would save, and I would spend – thinking only about today, and no cushion for things I might need as opposed to want tomorrow. When I first lived away from home at University (we had grants in those days) I remember looking at my grant cheque and thinking I had LOADS of money – and so I went and spent about half of it on clothes.Of course by the end of term I was overdrawn …

I’m still doing it now. I always always make sure the bills are paid, no mortgage arrears or scary defaulting for me, but I have NO savings, and pretty scary piles of personal debt. This is despite earning a good salary (I have always worked FT)… Every now and then I try to ‘take charge’ of my financial situation: draw up elaborate plans, budget carefully, work out how I will clear the debts, transfer money around and set up spreadsheets to monitor my spending. It lasts a couple of months and then, just as things start to look a little less scary, I find things I WANT  need, and off I go again on a spending spree. This is why all the money I have saved not drinking, probably about £1,200 by now, has been spent several times over.

I definitely get a buzz from spending. It doesn’t matter if its a new football kit for one of my sons, an original painting for the wall, or something personal for me. I enjoy ‘things’ but more I enjoy having what I want. Self denial is not something I am very good at.

I used to think this was a reaction to having grown up in a house where money was tight. Really tight. We lived in an affluent area and all the other families had a great deal more money than we did. I saw what it could buy – holidays, ponies and relief from the stress of wondering how to pay for the car repairs… I genuinely think this stimulated both my brother and I to strive to do well, and get established in secure well remunerated professions.

It’s more than that now. I don’t NEED anything material, we have enough. But I still get that buzz out of spending and seen quite unable to resist – unable to defer gratification. or just do without. Save the money – and pay down my debt, build up some savings for a rainy day, plan for retirement …I know all this – but I don’t act on it

I’ve read a bit about cross addiction, the theory that if you have one addiction, you are more likely to develop another; i.e one addiction came first and a by product of trying to control that is that you develop a different problem. and also the alternative concept of ‘dual diagnosis’ i.e just because you are alcohol dependent does not mean you cannot also be a gambling addict – in other words you have two separate primary problems.

Which ever way you choose to think of it, I quite like the biochemical ‘explanation’ for this which goes something like this:  Whenever you engage in something pleasurable, whether it’s drinking alcohol or spending money , your brain releases the “feel good” chemical dopamine. When you have an addiction, your brain begins to need that feeling. That need is what triggers cravings that drive you back to the substance or activity that made you feel so good. When you’re in recovery – even though the original substance is no longer in your body – your brain continues to desire that feeling. In other words, it wants a new drug or activity to give you that “high”. So whilst I’m not getting my dopamine ‘high’ from drinking, my brain craves it and so I spend (too much).

Need to think about this one some more  …

Avoiding relapse

Image result for relapse quotes

Relapse, RELAPSE, RELAPSE

The possibility of relapse is something that really scares me. I know the stats; at best only 30% of people who decide to quit drinking will make it to 12 months still sober. And of those only about 35 % will remain sober at 5 years. The message is clear: stopping drinking is the easy part – its maintaining sobriety which is hard.

This scares me for several reasons.

  • First because I have relapsed before. After eight months. And it took me 22 months to get sober again. I’m scared that if I relapse again I will never get the strength to do this again.
  • Second because I have put everything I have into this attempt. I’ve taken it really seriously; adapted my behavior, immersed myself in a sober culture – what if I relapse despite all the efforts I have made?
  • Third, I think I will lose faith in myself if I relapse – almost as though all my worst fears about myself would be confirmed – and I just wont be able to convince myself I’m worth this much effort again.
  • Fourth – I just cant go back to living like that… because something BAD will happen

Now I do know that relapse is NOT a random act, that I would actually have to take an alcoholic drink to my lips and swallow it, and I and only I have control over this act. Its also pretty clear to me that I do not want to relapse, so why on earth am I worried?

I think its because I am aware how easily the little voice, the ‘wine witch’ creeps into your head, convincing you that just one won’t hurt, just tonight, on this special occasion, in this special place, It would be ok to have a drink. I’ve convinced myself of this SO many times in the past that I am concerned that my resolve will slip when I am least expecting it

I do also know that one small slip does not necessarily mean all is lost, but I am afraid that for me, with my rather all or nothing perfectionism, it would trigger a ‘fuck it’ attitude and a consequent lengthy binge… (see point 1 above)

so what can I do about this?.. prevention being better than cure…

I’ve been doing a bit of research. The predictive factors that make a person more likely to be successful in quitting alcohol include being a woman, being over the age of 40 and having a spouse. That’s me then ! Its is also true that medical practitioners tend to do well once they commit to sobriety. The Royal College of psychiatrists  paper about substance addiction in doctors, states that figures from North America suggest that 80–90% of doctors in treatment do well over 1–5 years. That’s significantly better than the general population…

What have I done to guard myself against relapse ?

  • Asked for support – from my partner, from a small online doctors community I am part of, from my BFF.
  • Built / am building a sober network – that’s here, a long running thread for dry people on a website and Soberista’s.
  • largely removed alcohol from the house. Occasionally my partner will bring in a couple of cans, but he then drinks them so there is no alcohol lying around..
  • Pay attention to my diet. Not doing brilliantly here, but I am aware of it.
  • Learn about my craving triggers and how to manage them, I have a mental list of ‘things to do if I’m craving a drink’ It includes; walk the dog, call someone, take a shower, go to bed,
  • Look after my physical health: I have taken up yoga and Pilates
  • Try hard to get enough sleep –  I prioritise this.
  • Writing this blog – as a recovery journal to help me refresh my memories about how bad things were and how far ahead I’ve come.
  • Plan Plan Plan. Think ahead. When I need to do something which involves drinking I plan as much of the evening / event as I can including how I can escape if necessary
  • make sure I have sober treats – small (and some large! ) rewards for myself on a regular basis.
  • Prioritise my sobriety – if I really think I cant face an event without alcohol I just don’t go.
  • Take care of my appearance. I think this boosts my self esteem and a woman who feels self confident is less likley to damage herself
  • I’m trying to work on communication, particularly with my partner – because when all is well between us, I feel stronger.
  • Read books about sobriety. I find them supportive and useful

Any other ideas anyone else employs ?

Vanity, or self respect ?

The picture at the top of this post is my ‘sobriety pendant’. I had it made for me after about 2 months sober, seemed a little premature and maybe a bit self-indulgent, but it was also a statement of intent – after all, you can’t wear a sobriety pendant with the wrong sobriety date! So it has my sober birthday, March 12th 2016, ‘one day at a time’ and ‘love, serenity courage’ embossed on the three discs. I wear it a lot, particularly when I’m struggling – I think of it as a talisman and a solid tangible reminder of my commitment to staying alcohol free.

Yesterday I had a chat with my partner about drinking, or not. he did the month of June alcohol free and has had a couple of drinks in the last week. We talked about the benefits of being dry – that we had both felt and he asked me if I intended never to drink again – I said that this was indeed my intention. That’s the first time I have said it out loud. It felt good, to be talking properly and communicating my feelings to the man I adore (even though he drives me nuts sometime! ) and good to be able to share my intentions. He said he was proud of me – he’s said that before – and it surprised me again, in a nice way… I hadn’t really thought I had much of an option about being dry really!

He also told me I looked much better since I stopped drinking. This is true, for a variety of reasons. The most obvious is that I’m no longer drinking 70 + units of alcohol (which is a toxin) every week – my skin looks brighter, my eyes are not red rimmed and my face is not puffy any longer. But more than this, I am taking care of myself in a way that I haven’t for many years.I am wearing makeup – not a lot, but a little light foundation, eye liner, mascara and lipstick. It makes a big difference. I have now lost 5lbs (whoop whoop) without trying;  took a while to start, but I think the ‘promised’ weight loss is at last starting… I’m short, so 5lbs is noticeable.. This makes me feel better, my clothes fit better, I take more trouble with how I dress…so I look groomed and smart. Then I WANT to look better – so I have had my hair cut and highlighted, my eyebrows threaded and tinted, my eyelashes tinted… I have had a facial and a pedicure. I’m doing yoga regularly – I think my posture has improved , certainly my balance has – so I’m walking taller, with my butt under me. I’ve bought some new clothes that are more fitted, new and smart .. Now I am really feeling the difference. So then, after a lot of thought (and a personal recommendation) I had some Botox… and this, subtle (my partner hasn’t noticed and neither has my mother) elimination of the deepest frown lines and wrinkles, has boosted my self-esteem hugely.

I’ve been thinking about this. I have invested money in ME. Just for vanity, just because I want to look better – because it makes me FEEL better, proud of my appearance, not ashamed and scruffy. I have never loved my body, I had eating disorders in my teens and twenties – in fact right up to when I had children. I have cursed my short stumpy legs and pear shape. I’ve abused myself with starvation and purging, and latterly covered myself up to hide the lumps. I’ve not worn make up mostly – except on special occasions – I haven’t been bothered, subconsciously thinking I’m not attractive anyway so why bother.

Is it vanity ? (because vanity is a sin) or is it self-respect? Is making the best out of your face and body narcissistic and egocentric, or is it actually a reflection of an important self-love, about dignity, self-confidence and valuing yourself?

One of the character traits associated with an addictive personality is low self-esteem;  those who do not value themselves very highly are going to be more willing to engage in high risk behaviour, self-destructive behaviour, and are less concerned about the damage they are doing to themselves

People who have low self-esteem don’t expect much from life, and often become willing to settle for a mediocre existence & poor relationships, Low self-esteem prevents individuals from achieving success in life because they just do not feel like they deserve to be successful. This type of person not only lacks motivation to succeed, but they will often sabotage their own efforts to improve their life, as well. Ring any bells with anyone ?

My thoughts about this are not well developed yet – and I will reflect on it some more; but for now I think that removing alcohol from my life has removed a significant source of guilt and shame… and that once I am not feeling guilty or ashamed of myself, I have been able to start treating myself with care and love… And this is definitely a positive thing 

Pink Cloud

sobercourage_198

The last couple of weeks have been quite difficult. Partly due to external circumstances and partly because I’m now 116 days sober, the novelty has worn off, the relief that I managed to GET sober has passed, and the new phase – managing to live sober is underway. The problem with living sober (for me anyway) is managing all the emotions, feelings and experiences that come along, without anything to ‘take the edge off’; no substances to make the stress of day to day existence subside; nothing to pacify the tensions of quotidian routines.

Today however I am feeling extremely cheerful; buoyant, optimistic and positively upbeat. Its the ‘pink cloud’ again, and like the PAWS symptoms I know it wont last, but I’m going to enjoy it and capitalise on it whilst it remains. Despite the 12 step belief that the pink cloud represents a withdrawal from reality and is dangerous to your sobriety, I don’t feel grandiose or unrealistic. I know my problems haven’t gone away – I just feel I can look at them in a more sanguine frame of mind, and perhaps believe that everything ‘will be ok in the end’. In another way to describe today’s mood: I feel able to concentrate on matters within my circle of control, rather than fretting about all those things I cannot alter.

Image result for circle of control

In this mood I dug out my list of ‘why I need to stop drinking’, which I actually wrote about 3 years ago …. and cast my eye over it ( with some trepidation I might add).. It reads like this… and in italics how I think the last 116 days of sobriety have impacted on those things I was worried about.

  • My health. My liver must be damaged. I will get cirrhosis and everyone will know I’m a drunk. Or Alzheimer’s. Or cardiomyopathy
    • Being a doc has a lot to answer for ! My list of health worries was extremely long. So, I know that now my liver function tests are normal. The effect of alcohol on my bone marrow is wearing off, and soon all my tests will be normal. I’m not further damaging my brain or any other part of me with poison.
  • I cannot control how much I drink so I put myself at risk.
    • Indeed I did put myself at risk. Staggering completely plastered through Kings Cross station on a Saturday night (one of my last drinking nights) was an invitation to be mugged or worse. I can control the first drink. By not taking it I am keeping myself safe
  • I embarrass myself and my partner by being pissed. I’m really worried what people think of me
    • Not any more
  • I’m a rubbish example to my kids, and I’m a crap mother because I would rather drink than spend time with the kids
    • Not any more – and better than I expected, by talking with them – superficially at the moment – I am modelling self control. self worth, self knowledge –  and showing them that their feelings and needs matter to me. 
  • It’s expensive and I’m broke
    • I’m still broke because I’m spending too much on ‘other things’ – I reckon each pound I have saved by not drinking has been spend on other things about 4 x. BUT, I will deal with that soon.
  • I look awful. I’m fat, flabby and  out of shape
    • I reckon I have now lost 2 lbs. BUT I look LOADS better, my skin is good, my eyes are bright and several people have said I look thinner. I’m not, but I look better and I AM stronger due to yoga and pilates…
  • I’m constantly anxious that something bad is about to happen
    • I hadn’t remembered this one till I saw it again – Now I recall a near constant feeling of impending disaster; I would lose my career, I would be caught drunk in the car, I would fall down the stairs …. … I haven’t felt like that for AGES now, nice 🙂
  •  I hate myself for being unable to control my drinking
    • Not any more
  • The house is a mess, I have no motivation to DO anything about it, I waste so much time drunk or hungover
    • The house is LESS of a mess (and cleaner thanks to the vaporetti steam cleaner), I generally have more motivation and I have found a LOT of time….
  • I cant sleep
    • Mostly my sleep is LOADS better

There are other lists somewhere, but this is the one on my laptop…

Revealing isn’t it…. Actually the real revelation to me is the absence of that ‘impending disaster’ angst… The number of times I used to wake in the night, sweating, heart thumping, head splitting and brain racing … and its gone…..

Pink cloud or no, I think that’s something to be thankful for

Love and hugs

lily x

Trust

 

The importance of trust, and the dis-ease within oneself and within ones relationships when trust is absent has been on my mind for a while. Trust is one of those invisible things that pervades all our relationships, from that with our partner to an interaction with a shop keeper – trust between people is vital, and life without trust is a grim, lonely destructive existence.

Nobody can trust an addict, least of all him- or herself.

I think we have all heard that quote; its so common that I didn’t bother to look for a source. It certainly resonates with me. When I was drinking I couldn’t trust myself – to behave well, to remember what I had said, to be up on time, to be reliable. Whats more, my kids couldn’t trust me either – not to fall asleep drunk, not to forget to make their dinner: They couldn’t RELY on me to be consistent. And consistency is really important for small kids – it gives then security ….And if you think about it , its pretty important for all of us ? Its important to know that if you do or say X you will get a consistent response from your boss, or from the law or from your partner … Inconsistency creates insecurity. And insecurity is not a good place to build solid family or intimate relationships.

When I think about love – and the relationships we have with those we are closest to, it is often said that you cant really love another until you love yourself. I would add that until you can trust yourself – your decisions, your judgement, you cant really TRUST another person either. Until you really know WHO you are, what YOU believe in, what your values are, how can you truly believe that you have made a good choice of partner? And to help a relationship flourish you have to believe in it – to take the rough with the smooth, without wanting to bale out every time the going gets a bit tough.

One of the things I like about being sober is that I am learning to trust myself , possibly for the first time in my adult life; I can rely on ME. I know I will be alert in the morning, I know I won’t do anything embarrassing at the school even this week, I won’t fall over because I’m drunk, I won’t be loud or ‘funny’ at inappropriate moments. I won’t disgrace myself. Increased self trust definitely leads to increased self esteem. If you think about it, you might really like a friend who drinks too much, but trust them ? Not really. Its just one more way that drinking erodes our self esteem by making us people who we are not proud of …making us flaky, we make decisions when drunk or hung over that seem ok at the time, but make us cringe in retrospect –  How many times have I woken up and looked in horror at what I ordered on the internet the previous night – too many impulsive buys / things committed to – all as a result of being drunk…

This is a slow process, and I know that this post, like my thinking around this topic is far from ordered and crystal clear, but I think its touching something very important that I need to understand about myself. I touched on the issue of self belief in an earlier post – I think I have failed in previous attempts to stop drinking because I didn’t believe that I could do it –  I didn’t TRUST myself enough. Now, like that bird in the picture at the top of this page I am going to trust in the power of my “wings” to keep me sober, not the strength of any tree…..

 

Grief

Since I posted that short piece about motherhood yesterday it is as if a dam has burst. Behind the wall of my self control All the grief and anxiety that I feel for my son, my home situation, my partner has been building. With no outlet my emotions have been swirling and multiplying , until a small hole appeared in the dam. By writing, and more importantly posting as I did, a small crack appeared in the facade – and as in a real life dam, the pressure on that crack leads to a bigger andbigger aperture  being formed – and the suppressed emotions gush forth.

I can’t stop crying.  I Started last night, slept fitfully and woke intermittently with tears in my eyes. This morning it’s a huge flood of tears. I can’t even identify the emotion that I’ve making me cry, just that I can’t cope with it. If I look at this ( which I saw on primrose’s blog)
 
I think I feel everything in the top half of this wheel ( except perhaps bored) although I am bored with the conflict so perhaps that applies too. 

It’s Sunday. I have a yoga class later and I will walk Lola ( who submits to being wept over with good grace, and licks my tears away. ( as an aside I used to think that dogs licking people was disgusting, but I find Lola’s sympathy licks, and her obvious concern for me rather comforting) I have no idea how I am going to get myself together to go back to work tomorrow. I feel like I have just fallen apart completely.

Outside of the immediate grief, it has occurred to me that maybe this is like a bereavement. The loss of a ‘normal’ relationship with my son. And if this is at least in part a bereavement reaction, then I’m on more familiar ground. 


The above is the well known ‘grief cycle’ as described by Kubler Ross in the late 60’s. Although first developed for and applied to the death of a loved on, this journey through emotional adjustment can be applied to many different losses. It’s not as simple as a linear progression of course, which is why I have chosen this twisted ribbon picture, to illustrate the  nature of the meandering process. At the moment for example, if I apply this analogy, I am somewhere with elements of anger, depression, detachment and dialogue. I feel stuck here, it’s not much different to where I was 3 years ago, although with perhaps less hope. 

Maybe this has become a complex, non resolving bereavement reaction. Maybe I need to do something different. Maybe writing this post is a start. 

Motherhood


I am a mother. I remember so clearly the day I became a mother, the moment my first born son was lifted squalling, red and bloody from my uterus. He was born by Caesarian section and appeared, held aloft by the surgeon over the green drapes. I recall the moment of bonding as he was placed next to me after a quick wrap in a towel, the overwhelming love and feeling of completeness that engulfed me. I remember the smell of him, the sticky vernix on his head, and the watery look he gave me as a held him close. At that moment, the Reality, that he was a real person – separate to me, with his own personality, his own rights – crystallised. It was a truly profound experience that changed me for ever. 

He caused me not a little stress, my adored first born son. He lost weight, wouldn’t feed, had severe reflux and was admitted to hospital at two weeks old after a terrifying episode where he turned dark blue beside me. I was so scared I would lose him, this tiny unique person I loved so completely. 
I was a single parent to this child. His biological father did not wish to be involved, a fact that, in my ignorance and arrogance, didn’t really concern me – until he was born. Then I realised this person deserved contact with both parents, and I tried hard to engage his father.

We lived in a small room in my mothers house, we co-slept, we sorted out the feeding and the reflux and eventually he started to thrive. He smiled late, and bestowed his first gummy grin not on his adoring mother, but on my hairdresser! 

Gradually things got sorted out. I went back to work, temporary part time at first, and shortly before my son’s first birthday I secured a permanent full time post that enabled me to buy a house for us. 

My first born son is now almost 18. He is living a life I find very hard to understand or accept. He has left school without the minimum qualifications he will need to secure employment in any job that has prospects. He finds it hard to tell the truth; has been expelled from school and has been arrested. I am genuinely very worried for him. The process of separation that began the moment the umbilical cord was cut, has accelerated in the last two years.

My partner dislikes my first born child. He has reason to. I think if he were someone else’s child I might feel the same, but he’s mine and I love him. I’m desperate to help him, but I cannot seem to guide him in the right way. Maybe nobody could. 

Of course, as a mother, I am consumed with guilt. My distress, anxiety and concern for my lost wayward, unhappy son, sits like a stone in my chest. I literally do not know what to do, and as on so very many occasions in the past, as his only parent, no one else cares as I do.

 My son would be happier if my partner did not live here. He would be home more often, maybe he would spend less time with the undesirable characters he calls ‘friends’ , maybe if I had him closer I could influence him more. My instinct as a mother is do whatever it takes – but is this is a price to high?

 I wrote this a few weeks  ago, and didn’t post it as it felt too raw. Now, with my central dilemma unresolved , I feel I am being literally torn apart. My partner is barely civil to my son, my son has failed to achieve any further qualifications in this ‘resit’ year, and will NOT do one single thing to help the situation. And I sit between them, with my yonger sons and wonder how it all went so wrong. 

Cleaner

My steam cleaner has arrived. It is wonderful . No blogging from me yesterday as I was too busy blasting the dirt of ages from the grout , and steaming my ancient tiles to new brightness. 

It felt wonderful and satisfying on several levels. Firstly the purely practical – it was quick and effective. Contrary to the impression I may have given here , I am not some clean freak. I don’t like housework – regarding it as at best a necessary evil. It so often seems pointless. Expending a lot of time and energy making something clean when in this house it will be dirty again in 24 hours.  But … To have a machine which tackles grime in a few moments , which I have previously only been able to shift with a toothbrush and a lot of scrubbing (and have therefore not often bothered) is seriously great! 

Secondly, it felt very emotionally satisfying making the floor “like new” again. That probably sounds a bit bonkers, it is a bit bonkers , but that’s how it felt – deeply good, on an emotional level. I wonder if there is something about renewal and rebirth of my dirty kitchen floor that equates with my current journey from slightly grubby stained life that I was ashamed off, to the hope of a bright clean life I can feel proud off. 

That’s probably nonsense, perhaps an analogy too far- but nevertheless i enjoyed cleaning my kitchen floor with my new shiny expensive steam cleaner, and I felt good ; engaged And happy while I was doing it!

And this morning I have overslept- one morning in a whole 9 days off – and therefore missed what I intended to do. And the whole bloody cycle of blame and self criticism and anxiety that I won’t get everything done starts all over again .. 

Gggggggrrrrrrrrrr

Thank you

When I started writing this blog, back in March this year, I was writing for myself. I’d made the decision that I HAD to stop drinking. Somehow, a truth that I had known for at least 19 years, had crystallised in to a decision… NOW. Nor tomorrow, next month or year, but now. 

I had tried sobriety seriously twice before – and not succeeded in maintaining it. I knew this time, I had to be successful. Following advice I had read on another sober site , I decided to write about my journey. Many of the posts I made between March and June are privately published as they are so raw. I had no intention of seeking an audience for my ramblings – and as such just read others blogs quietly.

Then I started leaving messages on a few sites and slowly a few people began to visit my site. I have been so overwhelmed by the wisdom, thoughtfulness, consideration and support I have been shown. I wanted to thank each and every person who has visited my site, shared, liked and commented. You have enriched my life, given me hope and inspiration ( as well as not a few reading suggestions) 

The unexpected seam of love and care I have unearthed means more to me than you can possibly know. I’m still early on in this process, only 109 days. But I now have faith and belief that I can and will succeed in embracing sobriety, and that my life and those of my loved ones will be richer and more authentic for this. 

From the bottom of my heart – thank you

Lily🌷

The dog

Today I have been thinking about things- introspective again.
Sober mummy commented a few days ago that there are three distinct ‘phases’ to getting sober.

The first, that probably lasts for a 100 days or so is the sheer ‘getting through’ it part. When a huge amount of your focus is on just not drinking, managing social occasions without alcohol and just gritting your teeth and riding e roller coaster of emotions and physical / psychological symptoms.

The second, which is where I definitely am now, is a phase of introspection and self analysis. How did I get here? Am I an alcoholic? why am I like this etc etc. In many ways, where I am now is a great deal easier. I definitely think about drinking much less – sometimes a whole hour will go by without the thoughts of “I’m not drinking” , “it’s day X ” etc initially I reckon I thought about alcohol about every 10 seconds.

In my introspection I have been walking our dog quite a bit. I have posted a photo of Lola at the top of this post as she is so important to me and my recovery. Lola is a 2 year old border collie bitch. We have had her from a puppy and she is just the best dog ever. She adores everyone in the house, and no matter what disagreements we humans have, Lola shows no favouritism. She is always delighted to see everyone , even if you have been away for 5 minutes. She us loving, loyal and cuddly and she never tells any secrets.

Watching Lola run this morning I was reminded of childhood, it’s simplicity. All she needs is food, company and exercise – and she is completely and perfectly content. No substances, no artificial highs, she lives in the moment and enjoys everything for what it is.

Today I went on a school trip with number 3 son and his classmates. Their 11 year old enthusiasm, and infectious, irrepressible curiosity about the world around them was really cheering to my rather jaded mind. They too live a simple life.  Listening to their chatter and ideas it seemed sad to me that in the next few years they will become anxious and stressed about the future and that as their world expands from the safety of primary school and home, they will absorb the tribulations and first world concerns that affect adults.

We should all take a tip from Lola’s book of life, and live in the moment, content with what we have.

Friday night

Friday night was always my best ‘drinking night’ , it was the end of a tough week (always !) , the start of a weekend , and with my children with their father for the day on Saturday I could get away with a hangover / morning in bed / hair of the dog pretty easily.

I would stop on my way home and lovingly select three bottles of white wine. Usually whatever was on special offer. But sometimes I would treat myself with one of my favourite New Zealand Sauvignons and scuttle home as quick as possible. If I could buy at least one bottle that was cold, so much the better, otherwise I would stash two bottle in the freezer and put up with the first at room temeperature.

opening the wine as soon as I got in was enough of a ritual that one of the kids would invariably offer to pour me a glass of wine. The first, large glass, would disappear extremely quickly , and the rest of the bottle wasn’t far behind. I would have bough three bottles so that my partner and I could share , but as he drinks faster than I, if it didn’t buy the third bottle I couldn’t be sure of getting my share. That whole 750 mls I considered to be my entitlement. Of course once the third bottle was opened I would help myself to just one more glass, just a small one, that more often that not would turn into a further third of a bottle. Staggering off to bed at midnight, not remembering what I had watched, dehydrated, drunk and messy

Tonight has been different. I came home, spent time with my boys talking about the EU referendum, bought the youngest a new pair of football boots, put away a big internet shop, cooked dinner and ate with the boys and then watched TV with my middle son whilst sewing on an enormous number of name tapes. I’m calm, and I have plans for tomorrow that I know I will be able to fulfill.

these are the benefits of sobriety that I need to think about when the wine  witch comes calling – and those days of relentless drinking seem like fun … Actually it was not FUN at all. 

Have a quiet weekend everyone

lily 🌷

 

Brexit

Its not exactly personal and its not exactly addiction related, but today feels like a mark in history for the UK. I was absolutely stunned to wake up this morning and find that the people of the UK had voted to leave the European Union.  Stunned, and not a little apprehensive about the future.

In my view, the leave vote has  a lot to do with the political elite choosing to dismiss the concerns of the ‘ordinary people’ by branding them ‘racist’ and failing therefore to explain WHY immigration is not the problem that it is perceived to be, and why leaving the EU is unlikely to make much difference to the number of people wanting and choosing to make their home in the UK. If I, as an educated and interested member of the general population, was almost as confused yesterday about the merits of the remain campaign as I was 6 weeks ago, what hope for the less well informed and economically privileged who see economic and social migration as the cause of the UK’s problems.

The ‘people’ have spoken; The Prime Minister has announced his resignation in the next couple of months. There will be much picking over the bones of the referendum campaigns and no doubt much mud slinging and blaming of individuals for the outcome. The markets are in turmoil and the whole future of the EU project is in question.

What next ? Honestly I have no idea. A future where we need a visa to cross the channel, a border right across the island of Ireland (as if that country has not had enough division and segregation) the economic chaos and potential mass exodus of European companies currently trading in the UK, the real potential for a further Scottish referendum resulting in the break up of the Union –  its all alarming and uncharted territory.

We must now hope for strong and balanced leadership, clear vision and a willingness to compromise and work hard to make the best of a very uncertain future. Beyond the short term turmoil and financial turbulence I hope we can emerge into a place where there is clarity of vision and direction, I hope that the tolerant, inclusive and diverse country I have been so proud to be part of, can survive this divisive upheaval, and I hope that we can work together to build a strong and thriving society for the future. But I’m very afraid  that’s a lot of mountains to climb and that what we carve out will not be as good as what we have thrown away. When we realise that, it will be too late to go back.

What’s different ?

 

tresco2

I’ve posted the above picture because its soothing to me, at a time when I am seriously in need of some soothing. Its a picture taken in one of my favourite places, where I have spent many many happy days

When I was at the contemplative stage of the change cycle re stopping drinking, one of the things that caught my eye, was the suggestion that to be successful in making a change, you have to ‘do things differently’.

I thought about this for a while and wondered what I could ‘do’ differently. It seemed (and still does) to me that its not STOPPING drinking that’s the problem – rather it’s staying stopped once the initial flush of success wear off, committing successfully to long term sobriety. You may have seen my previous posts about my conviction that its learning to not WANT to drink which is key.

So what can I do differently to help myself along the path to that goal. I can remind myself, should it be necessary, of all the reasons I decided that sobriety was the best option for me. I can read articles, books and blogs about the health effects of excessive drinking, and I can look at the examples in front of me professionally, at what happens to people who do not draw the line and stay sober. But that’s what I did last time, it helped, and it still does but –  its not different.

Reaching out to the wider community of sober people, asking for help and offering it where I can – writing this blog ; that’s a bit different, it helps me to feel connected with others who are on the same path as me. The similarities of experience transcend the differences and the support has been amazing. I now have a whole library of books that thoughtful people have recommended based on my posts.

I’m wondering again about real life support.About maybe trying to make one or two real life sober friends, The friends I have I love dearly, and I certainly don’t expect them to change their drinking habits around me, but I think my self imposed sobriety makes some feel uncomfortable (of those few I have told)- like they have to justify their choices around me. It make ME feel slightly awkward in some situations, and that I really don’t want to get into discussion around why I have made this decision (at the moment) probably doesn’t help.

So I’ve been pondering again on AA. That would certainly be different. On the positive side it seems a good place to find sober people, and a good place to get positive reinforcement. On the negative side I really don’t want to be recognized, I really do NOT want to ‘work the steps’ and I really can’t attend 90 meetings in 90 days, and I don’t want to be set up to fail, and then judged on that failure. sigh. I wish there was an AA ‘lite’ option !

I think I’ve decided yesterdays therapist was not for me. She was nice enough, but I didn’t feel any empathy from her, and although I heard her ‘that must be difficult’ and ‘that sounds very hard’, they felt like stock phrases and not genuine. On the other hand I did come out of the session with a grip on one truth, that I hadn’t really accepted before…

What have been your experiences of AA? Good and bad? Or have you found sober friends elsewhere?

Lily x

 

 

Ashamed

Today I had an initial meeting with a therapist. There is so much other shit in my life that the subject of my drinking didn’t come up in the hour I was in there. Quite ironic really, that this doesn’t seem to be the focus of my problems right now.

What did come through my unstructured narrative was the profound sense of shame that I feel. I think it permeates all aspects of my personal life. Logically I know that if I were looking in from the outside, I would forgive this person that I am. I would comfort her and point out to her the many many good things she has done, and the sense of love and optimism that has driven many of her decisions.

But I can’t do that for myself. As I’m staring down the barrel of yet another failed relationship I just feel overwhelming shame and despair that I am such a shit person that no relationships last, that I keep trying and the same old patterns keep repeating themselves. That I am so crap that even my own mother doesn’t like me. I could cry for all the pain I have brought to my children who deserve none of this, and all I want to do is crawl away to a place where I don’t have to cope, or fight or struggle to make myself heard.

I actually don’t know how I am going to crawl through the next two days at work. Plaster on my professional face and mange the problems of all those who come to see me. Sooth and calm staff ructions, write a business plan for a new service. I’m not fit to do this, but home is no sanctuary either. I feel as though I am at breaking point

I would say “This is so hard sober”, and indeed it is, but I have no doubt it would be much harder drunk. Day 103, and keeping going.

 

 

My Mother

My mother is a most abstemious woman. Where ever I get my ‘addictive tendencies’ from its definitely not from her. My father died when I was 21 – and I didn’t really know him as a person at all – he had been unwell for several years before his death. If I had to hazard a guess I would think I inherited the ‘risk taking’ part of my personality from him.

I don’t think my mother likes me very much. I know that she loves me, and I know that to some extent she is proud of my achievements, but I have always felt that a) she dislikes me as a person and b) she disapproves of me. I don’t know if this is because I remind her of my father, or she just doesn’t like me very much. In fact how SHE feels about me matters less than why it bothers me so much, even at 51.

She dislikes me drinking. I have never ever seen my mother drunk , or even tipsy. She literally cannot see the point of drinking more than 1 glass of wine – or two on special occasions; and appears to despise people who drink more than this. She is also amazingly focused on herself. When I stopped drinking in 2013. her response was only about how awful it had been FOR HER watching me drink, which bearing in mind that I rarely drank in front of her was quite something. Not one word of praise or encouragement, not one comment of sympathy or empathy, just comments about how awful it had been for her watching me drink. Writing this down I can feel that I am ANGRY about this response, that is literally the first time I have felt anger about this.

So why do I care what an almost 80 year old woman thinks ? Why do I care that she has never once told me I looked nice, (indeed one of her comments on my appearance was that ‘those shoes make you look like a prostitute’) has always always disapproved of my boyfriends/ partners (all of them) ; cannot understand why I want to travel, questions me about my fiances and is generally passive aggressive.

And why do I feel that this constant quest for approval, that will never come, is in some  way tied up with my addictive, anxious, insecure frail personality which wears a coat of armour to face the outside world, and destroys herself behind closed doors.

Answers on a postcard please

Lily x

 

Confusion

 

Since I got sober, my self examination, navel gazing, analysis of self, has mushroomed. There are so many thoughts jostling around in my head,  so many half developed theories, or attractive ideas. So many experiences that I want to ponder on, so many decisions I need to justify (or not). Its hard to impose any kind or order or structure on my subconscious which feels like a gigantic concrete mixer for emotions and experiences, periodically throwing one up to the surface to be briefly examined before its subsumed back in to the concrete mix.

I started this blog to try and capture some of these thoughts and see if I could identify any themes or strands that on reflection may be significant. I’m afraid I don’t and can’t subscribe to simple theories of alcoholism – either genetic or environmental; and neither can I believe that my addictions are outside my control .I believe there is a hugely complex and subtle mix of environmental, social, societal and inherited factors that contribute to the development of personality, behaviour and also to compulsive / addictive traits. For me, it thus follows that I need to understand this, for myself, about myself, to help me move forward on a healthier more productive a path. My partner, who decide to stop drinking (for now) 17 days ago has none of this angst and soul searching. I’m not sure if I envy that or think he is still in denial!!

So, when I read back through my postings I do see some themes, and some repetitive thoughts. Some things I have written several times. Whilst that seems ‘lazy’ and wrong on one way (boring for anyone who happens to read my posts), in another its exactly what I was hoping to get from writing every (most) day(s). To have a tangible record of what I was tinging, what floated to the surface on THAT day when I sat at my keyboard. There are SO many posts I could write, so much ‘stuff’ in my brain – that I cant hold onto what I thought yesterday let alone last week ! I feel as though I am naked, with no fixed ideas, no definite beliefs and no grounding … does that make any sense?

I have booked an initial appointment with a therapist for next week. I am guarded about this, and uncertain, but I am coming to see that an outlet, in real life,  for my racing, contradictory, confusing and very self critical thoughts, might be a good idea. I’ve got a chance here, to build a good future – maybe I could use some help…

One recurring thought that I do BELIEVE is that there are many people here and elsewhere who have stopped drinking for good. Not one of them has ever said that life is shit now, or not fun or that they wish they were still drinking. So I’m going to keep going …

Disclosure

Yesterday I had lunch with two of my oldest friends. We live in different parts of the country, all have busy lives, but we try to meet 2 -3 times a year for lunch. In the past these lunches has been boozy affairs, at times very boozy. Inevitably I would stagger out from the restaurant in the early evening, later than I had promised.I would struggle home, and breeze in, trying to appear sober(ish) – a charade that usually lasted about 30 minutes before I escaped upstairs to my bed. The next day – yes, hangover from hell, tired (poor quality sleep) irritable (guilt mostly)  – another ‘bad day’.

When I stopped drinking in 2013/14 I did tell my friends what I had done, although we did not really discuss why I felt it was necessary. Obviously I lapsed back into drinking alcohol, which was noted but not discussed further.

Yesterday I made an excuse why I didn’t want any wine. I have really not told anyone. I wonder why ?

Is it shame ? I am ashamed that I have drunk so much in the past, I am ashamed of many things I have done. I am probably ashamed that I cant ‘moderate’; but I am NOT ashamed of my decision to be abstinent… so I don’t think it is shame that kept me quiet.

Is is denial ? That if I don’t tell people it might just be a ‘phase’ that I am going through. That somehow one day I will wake up and on THIS day I will be able to be a moderate drinker, and if I tell people I’m not drinking now,  they wont believe me or understand when I say, in the future, that its all ok now… ? That’s bonkers thinking – and I know it.

Is it fear that I will fail again and I don’t want anyone else  to know? Different from the above – I fail and start drinking again despite the knowledge that this is a  very BAD IDEA. Then I have to face pity (and disapproval)

Actually I think the main issue is that I actually just don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to discuss why I know I must not drink any more, and whilst I know these friend would respect that wish, I don’t want people thinking my alcohol problem is either worse than it was, or paradoxically that I’m overreacting.

I have realised  that drawing attention to myself and my own problems is not something I feel comfortable with. Asking for help, IRL, is really hard for me – although I will be the first in the queue to offer it. One possible interpretation of ‘just not wanting to talk about it’ might be that I no longer want my relationship with alcohol to be a defining part of my life – and whilst that is true- for the moment it sadly is – hence this blog ! One day I hope that I will not drink as naturally as I don’t take drugs – but we are not there yet!

In one way I have reached out for help from the wider community by writing this blog, and by joining various sober websites, in another I am keeping my ‘battle’ completely private.. I am not sure that’s a good thing from the wider perspective.

What do others think ? To share – or not ?

 

 

Alexithymia

This is something of a new concept to me, and one that I have read about several times in the last few weeks.

Wikipaedia defines alexithymia as

Alexithymia is a personality construct characterized by the sub-clinical inability to identify and describe emotions in the self.

This is something I strongly identify with, although it has taken me until my 50’s to fully appreciate how this ongoing dysfunction has affected me. When I was in my early 20’s I had a boyfriend who came from a significantly more wealthy family than I did: although I often felt diminished and rather pitied by his parents because I had not gone to a notable public school, I prided myself on being able to ‘fit in’ to that environment. Similarly, when spending time with  a rather bitchy group of fashion obsessed young women, I could adapt to being ‘one of them’ with ease, this despite the fact that (a) I had nothing at all in common with them and (b) I was frequently the subject of  unkind comparisons and snide remarks. This pattern was repeated frequently with different groups of people, and boyfriends. I don’t recall having anything at all that I really believed in FOR MYSELF.

I honestly remember being pleased that I could pull on alternative personae and adopt the thoughts and feelings of those I was with. It didn’t occour to me that, by my early 20’s, it would have been more appropriate to have a strong sense of my own values and opinions. That drifting along with the crowd was not ‘zen’ and chill, but indicative of an alarming lack of self esteem and poor sense of self worth. It was as though I didn’t trust my own opinion about anything at all.

From here developed the typical ‘people pleaser’ who avoided virtually all forms of conflict. I literally couldn’t bear to state my own point of view – if I even knew what it was. I bent over backwards and sideways to accommodate other peoples needs and took little account of my own.  As a partner, if my boyfriend did something to upset or annoy me, I would not discuss it or confront him. Instead the anger took root and gradually built and built until exploding, always when I was drunk, in  a huge torrent of uncontrollable rage. Of course to my partner this was out of the blue as they had previously had no idea I was upset by what ever it was…. This pattern of extreme compliance followed by infrequent but unrestrained vociferous drunken outbursts, continued right through my relationships until I married aged 36. The interesting thing to me was that I didn’t KNOW what I was angry about until it all burst out of me. Its not that I noticed that X forgot my birthday and I stored the resentment away , allowing it to fester until it exploded. No, I would have noted that X forgot my birthday, explained it away to myself logically, never acknowledged to myself that it had hurt or upset me until weeks or months later when it would spew from me in a vituperous tirade that bordered on, or tipped into, verbal abuse.

I could, and will, examine the emotional vulnerability that culminated in an ill advised marriage, in a later blog. For now I want to look again at the construct of alexithymia.

later in the same article from wikipaedia

The core characteristics of alexithymia are marked dysfunction in emotional awareness, social attachment, and interpersonal relating. Furthermore, individuals suffering from alexithymia also have difficulty in distinguishing and appreciating the emotions of others, which is thought to lead to unempathic and ineffective emotional responding.

This passage does not resonate with me at all. If anything I have always been over attuned to the emotional needs and nuances of others, contorting my behaviour and emotional response to another’s perceived requirements.

So If i do not display the classic alexithymic traits, how would I be described in psychological language – an empath?

Empaths are highly sensitive, finely tuned instruments when it comes to emotions. They feel everything, sometimes to an extreme, and are less apt to intellectualize feelings. Intuition is the filter through which they experience the world. Empaths are naturally giving, spiritually attuned, and good listeners.”

This really doesn’t fit either. I feel, acutely and intensely, the emotion coming from someone else – especially if it is negative towards me; but I will intellectualize my own emotional response until it is NOT an emotion any longer.

Sometimes I think I drank as this was the only way i could lower my inhibitions enough to FEEL anything negative at all, or rather, allow myself to feel anything negative… anger, frustration, irritation, boredom.. not allowed. Unless I was drunk when the inhibitions would slide and the suppressed rage and despair came tumbling out.

Excited

Today I am disgustingly excited

I have planned to do something entirely and completely for myself this afternoon. It is totally self indulgent and, dare I say it, vain. I’m not planing to tell ANYONE in real life. 

The wish to do something vain self caring, tells me that my self esteem is improving. When I have been drinking heavily I feel low, and don’t care about my appearance / clothing / grooming, beyond the basic cleanliness and ironed clothes. I will often not bother with make up, dress for comfort rather than elegance, and hide my figure (which is not THAT bad for 51) in a selection of unflattering baggy tops, skirts and trousers. 

Yesterday I celebrated my 3 months soberversary. Not than anyone other than me was aware if it, and that is what I wanted. We had a big family lunch, with my partners children and mum as well as my kids. DP and I did not drink, and we had a wonderful, happy, family Sunday. My partner, who has also been a heavy drinker, completed 12 days AF yesterday, and has said that he feels better, is more focused, clearer and more motivated. Well, who knew ! From my perspective he is a lot less grumpy (though he still snores). I’m hoping he will decide to continue AF, but I am saying very little and hoping the results speak for themselves…

Yesterdays lunch was a testament to how much fun can be had without alcohol. Pre March I would have started drinking on the stroke of 12. By the time the family arrived I would have been almost a bottle down, lunch would have been late (er), and it is possible that an argument would have ensued – not caused by me, but by the alcohol consumed all around. This morning I would have been hungover, tired and depressed. 

So,  my positive mood today, my self caring treat booked for later (I’m actually a bit nervous) my smart clothes and shoes, my inner smile at the thought of a happy family lunch – all of these things have come about because I am sober. Today I am as close as I have ever been to not wanting to drink alcohol. Not denying myself, not resisting  the urge, but choosing NOT to drink because my life is better without it.

This feels important, I want to box this feeling and hold it close – I’ll settle for sharing it with my lovely sober friends and thank you for your support

Lily.