Monthly Archives: March 2014

Health check-in (2)

One of the things I really like about the ‘Smokefree’ booklet is it gives you a timeline  of how quitting smoking benefits your health after certain time frames.  I haven’t seen one for quitting booze so I’m creating my own based on my own experience.

The last time I checked in I was at 4 1/2 months and now I’m another 2 months on.  So what do I notice?

My nails are stronger and tend to split less.

I used to wash my hair every day as I didn’t like it getting greasy and it would within 2 days.  Now I can wash it and leave it for 2 days without problems.

We have a new kitten who likes to play, scratch and bite and I’m noticing that the scratches he inflicts heal quickly.  Spots also disappear faster!

Working as a nurse, and as a parent to primary school age children, every winter I used to get a good share of all the bugs going round and some lovely colds.  This winter I have only had one mild cold and no more.  This and the quicker healing wounds all suggests an improving immune system.

Finally, having spent 25 years working as a nurse I have some rather fetching varicose veins from all those hours standing and running around.  Astoundingly they are looking better and less prominent suggesting an improvement in my cardiovascular health.

I’ll check in again in another few months and share what I find 🙂

16.50 UK time

Edited to add: I’ve been having a conversation with wolfish (@wintersknife) on Twitter about creating a stopping drinking health benefits timeline.  If you would like to contribute your experience and how far along you were in your sober journey when you noticed the benefit then please post a comment below and we’ll make sure it’s included! 🙂

Mother’s Day Mutterings

It started on Thursday.  Colleagues at work asking what treat was in store for me this Sunday.  I answered I didn’t know and the conversation moved on.

Until I was lying in the bath that night and the voice in my head piped up.  Those premeditated resentments started to form and it went something like this “well birthday’s used to be a big deal because you could celebrate with a drink and Christmas isn’t what it used to be now that you don’t drink.  And newly sober you must be a better parent so the day that should really be celebrated is now Mother’s Day.  And if they don’t spoil me rotten that day then why did I bother giving up drink and that would be a really bloody good reason to drink, to reward yourself for being such a good parent if they can’t be bothered” harumph  Uh oh, then I realised wolfie was there dressed like grandma in the little red riding hood story lurking under the bedclothes in disguise ready to gobble me up!

In my drinking days I would have nursed these expectations over the following days and when the day failed to match the picture I had built up in my head I would have sulked, probably picked an argument and drank – justifying it with I’m feeling sorry for myself so I’m going to drink more.  This time I outed myself – first to Mr HOF (who made noises that suggested he understood my warped logic) and now to you (although I don’t feel very proud of admitting this line of thinking).

I’m going to write some posts soon about relapse and warning signs as to me this was a big flashing neon warning sign of a relapse in the making.  Maybe with six months under my belt I have become complacent, bored, frustrated and am maybe having a few post 6 month sober-versary blues.  The memories of drinking don’t seem quite so hideous as they used to either and this rattles me.  I can feel wolfie’s breath down my neck again in a way that I haven’t done for a while.  Maybe I need to treat myself today irrespective of what my family do? 😉

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Empathy not sympathy

Love the RSA video’s. Love Brene Brown. This video is so simple yet so powerful. If you are reading my blog because you are worried about your drinking I understand. My drinking was a problem for me too and now I’m trying to move beyond that place and that feeling. Maybe talking to me might help and If you would like to reach out and make an anonymous comment below I would love to hear it. If that is too public then please email me instead 🙂

Alternative Bar Venues (ABV’s)

I like this tagline for Sobar in Nottingham.  A cheeky play on a three letter acronym (TLA) related to booze and I read about it in a recent article in the Guardian which you can find here.

The article mainly covers the emergence of dry bars across the UK in the last three years and the journalist poses the question of whether England is sobering up?

My favourite part of the piece is this:

All of them talk about their experiences with intoxicants, and what they see as the singular effects of alcohol. “I spent 17 years as a functioning heroin addict,” says 47-year-old Gary Hamilton. “I held down a job, had a wife and child. But two years of drinking flattened me.” Compared to other drugs, they tell me, alcohol’s effects on mental health should not be underestimated; it has a habit of sparking anxiety and depression that in turn lead on to even more drinking.

Having myself blogged in the last week about anxiety and depression and booze you can understand why 🙂

It’s a thoughtful article and worth a read.  The comments are also worth a gander for both the ahem positive and negative appraisal of the piece and the trend!  I particularly like the idea of the Swedish ‘fika’ culture (which means coffee or tea and cake) as an alternative to our traditional pub one.  Food for thought …..

What the Dr said

As I said in my last post I’ve been back in school and during that time had a really interesting conversation with a GP.  We were discussing alcohol as a public health issue and she said that there was this saying in her experience that went something like this:

‘You only have a drink problem if you drink more than your GP or your MP’.

Now I had never heard this expression before but actually it makes perfect sense.  Your GP is your senior primary care health professional and your MP is your senior political representative.  Both influence and shape health and public health policy and legislature.  Now if they drink the same amount as you they are not going to perceive your drinking as a problem because to do so would cause them discomfort relating to their own drinking (or cognitive dissonance).  And therein lies the rub.

The GP asked me if I drank, and I shared that I had given up 6 months ago, to which she said ‘well you are probably in a better position to comment as you are unbiased’.  See if your GP or MP drinks like you then they have a positive bias towards alcohol and this creates a dichotomy for them.  How can they be impartial in their working lives towards the issue?  I responded that it could be argued that I now have a negative bias towards booze as I had stopped drinking (or that’s how some would choose to see it!).

The WHO stats I shared yesterday telegraph loud and clear that ‘Houston we have a problem’.  We need to have an honest open discussion about alcohol and it’s impact and yet this is complicated by the fact that so many professionals that should be unbiased are not.  So the issue gets tip-toed round or we stick our heads in the sand hoping that it will just go away.  Except it doesn’t and it isn’t.  The elephant in the room has passed out drunk and we just keep stepping over it ……

Lies, damn lies and statistics

I was back at university last week studying a public health course and as part of it this graph was shared to discuss (and little did they know that it would then pop up here on my blog!)

WHO 2002 major burden of disease

What I find striking about this graph is that 12 years ago alcohol was recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the 3rd leading risk factor for major disease burden in developed countries.

Now compare it to this statistic:

The WHO estimates that by 2020 depression will impose the second biggest health burden globally (source).  So, letting that sink in for a bit, within the next 6 years depression will impose a bigger health burden than cardiovascular disease for which high blood pressure (no 2 in the chart above) is a contributory risk factor.   That begs the question, what are the contributory risk factors for depression?  Using the same logic I applied to cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure is alcohol one of them?  We know that alcohol is a depressant (source).

Now I’m not saying that there is a causal relationship here between booze and depression but what the hell is going on?  How has depression become such a huge public health issue?  The relationship between alcohol and depression is directly correlated (dependent) with up to 50% of alcoholics presenting with symptoms of major depression.  We also know that alcohol and depression are co-morbid (so the same person can have both at the same time) and which anecdotal evidence from my experience and our small community supports (see the comments on these two posts).  I self-medicated my depression with alcohol and this is likely to have made my depression worse.

If the WHO have known for 12 years that alcohol is such an issue – why has more not been done?  If we know that depression is becoming such an issue globally, again why are we not doing something about it, including researching the risk factors and paying particular attention to alcohol and looking at co-morbidity?   Inquiring minds would like to know …….

and if anyone does have any evidence of this kind of research I would love to see it either in the comments below or you can email me 🙂

We Own The Night

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On May 10th I will be running the Nike ‘We Own The Night’ London 10K run.  I have teamed up with Alcohol Concern to raise funds for this important charity here in the UK and you can visit their website here.

Alcohol Concern is the leading national charity working on alcohol issues. Their goal is to improve people’s lives through reducing the harm caused by alcohol. They have an ambitious long-term aim to change the drinking culture in this country.

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Lace up. Zip up. Light up the night. Join me for Nike’s #WeOwnTheNight 10k run: www.nike.com/weownthenight is where you need to go if you’d like to join me – running rather than drinking my time away on a Saturday night!  Please let me know if you do sign up so that I can look out for you at the event and say hello 🙂

If reading my blog has helped you and you would like to donate some of the money you’ve saved through not boozing, then please help Alcohol Concern via my Virgin Money Giving page.  You can donate anonymously by unticking the box ‘I’d like my name to be shown with my message’ on the donation page.

Please visit http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/ahangoverfreelife where you can sponsor me online.

Thanks in advance for your support and maybe I’ll see you running on the night!
L x

PS Until my 1 year sober-versary date I’ll have a ‘sponsor me here’ tab on the menu bar should you come looking for this post again!  If you find this post after I’ve run the 10K event and would still like to thank me for the blog then please donate to Alcohol Concern via the sponsorship link above.

 

First Dates

This is a UK tv programme run on C4 and which as the name suggests follows couples on first dates.

The episode I saw peaked my interest as one of the couples are described in the synopsis as:  Young party animal Devon is nervous too, and arrives in the bar needing a very large drink. Her dishy date, debonair Will, is teetotal, but there’s chemistry when they see past each other’s drink orders.

If you would like to watch the episode you can do so here (Will & Devon’s date starts at 33:30)

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/first-dates/4od#3655544

What was interesting about this was how the two of them related and talked to each other when she describes herself as a big drinker, who’s drank alcohol from the age of 13 and thinks that this is normal, and he’s 24 and never had a drop.  Plus it was great to see a young person who has never drunk alcohol and says he doesn’t need to drink to enjoy  himself! 🙂

Progress not perfection

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting 3 sober friends for a chat over lunch and cups of tea while all around were busy celebrating Paddy’s Day with booze.  Although we ‘knew’ each other this was the first time that we had met and for me it was both anxiety-provoking and like coming home all at the same time.  I had a fantastic time, 3 1/2 hours had never gone so fast and I have never before not wanted to leave the table in case I missed something!

What I learned through our conversations was that we were all quite different and yet our stories were reassuringly familiar when it came to drinking and what had bought us all together and to the point of stopping.  I loved our differences in both who we were and how we were treading our own paths.  Each journey was as unique as our individual finger-print.  There was no ‘one size fits all’ panacea.

Some of us started blogging when we had stopped drinking and others had not

Some of us were drinking alcohol free beers and wines and others were not

Some of us were attending AA and others were not

And that I found deeply comforting as my perfectionist inner critic loves nothing more than finding out that there is a supposed ‘right’ way to do something and that I haven’t done it.  Wolfie would have been straight in my ear with his ‘oh well, you’ve not done it correctly so you may as well drink again’ tactics.

See the only thing that matters is that you don’t drink.  How you manage that is entirely up to you and you just need to do whatever works for you.  Progress not perfection 🙂

Bob The Street Cat

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“It’s incredible,” said Bowen. “When I first saw Bob on this doorstep, I never thought this is where I’d be today.”

I love this true story and I read the book written by James Bowen to describe his and Bob’s journey when it was first published in 2012 and it made me cry.  Now I’m a sucker for a happy ending and this one involves a cat, that looks not too dissimilar to our family cat, so it was always going to be a winner in my eyes.  More importantly this was a story of addiction and escape from it and the hope and change that recovery can bring.

“I think I’ve opened people’s eyes to things they never understood properly,” said Bowen of the book’s success. “I never ever thought I would be able to turn my life around … and be the voice of people who can’t be heard.”

Why I am I sharing this?  Because the companionship of Bob helped James in the same way that I feel the companionship of the sober blogging community helps me.  I also consider that mine is a voice that cannot be heard.  I’m a drinker who had a problem that needed help where traditional support does not exist and yet here it is – in the very ether around me.  I would have been reclaimed and drowned by the sea of booze if I didn’t have the life-line of all of you.  I thank you all for your support from the very being of my soul that is rediscovering itself slowly but surely now that I am hangover free xx

Edited to add 21/10/16

Street Cat Bob: 500,000 Facebook followers, five million books… meet the world’s most famous cat