Monthly Archives: July 2014

Upward spiral of positive change

If we work to make every day better than the day before, imagine what our days will be like at the end of our lives.

This is a Simon Sinek quote and it isn’t the first of his I’ve posted up.  I really like it and it makes me think so optimistically of the future.

When I was drinking it felt like the only way was down.  Less control, less desire to control, brakes off rolling down the hill towards an almighty drunken, metaphorical or literal, car crash.

With almost 10 months sobriety under my belt it all feels better and upwards now.  That difficult stuck phase of over-analyzing moderation has passed and I feel all ‘pink cloudy’ again.  I’m working hard to make every day better than the last but am finding it’s improving with very little deliberate effort.  Moods are so much more level, which means relationships with everyone, but particularly MrHOF and the kids are massively easier and feel all round kinder.

In the past I often felt a slave to my emotions and I would argue and justify that they drove me to drink if only to forget.  Early sobriety was an emotional smorgasbord and I felt all over the place but now when an ’emotional hijacking’ is in the offing I have found a way to pause.  This has been one of the biggest learns and positive change rewards of this whole process.

Looking back I cannot believe that I stayed trapped in the drinking hamster wheel for as long as I did and oh how I wish that I had trusted myself to know that I would be okay without alcohol before I did.  It matters not, as I’ve done it now and I am so bloody proud of myself and MrHOF.

Day 300! 🙂

65 days to go

 

 

Sharp rise in foetal alcohol syndrome

Another week and another ‘sharp rise’ in health related drinking harm.  This news piece was in the Guardian recently:

The number of diagnosed cases of foetal alcohol syndrome in those born to women who drink during pregnancy has tripled since records of the debilitating condition were first kept 16 years ago.

In 2012-2013 there were 252 diagnoses of the syndrome, which can leave victims severely mentally and physically impaired, compared with 89 in 1997-98. Cases are up 37% since 2009-2010.

Experts say the figures, for England only, suggest an improved ability to diagnose the condition but also a continued failure to deal with alcohol abuse.

It is feared that those so far diagnosed are the tip of the iceberg. There is often no physical sign of the condition, but victims are left with learning difficulties and an inability to connect emotionally with their peers. Without diagnosis, they are often not helped during their time at school and become isolated as adults.

Susan Fleisher, chief executive of the National Organisation for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, whose adopted daughter suffers from the condition, said: “The World Health Organisation says that one in 100 people has foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which is the umbrella term used to describe the conditions that occur in people who have been diagnosed with some, but not all, of the symptoms of foetal alcohol syndrome. But there have been studies in Italy and the US that say that between 2% and 5% of the population is affected by this.

“And, remember, Britain is the number one binge-drinking country in Europe. The chances are we are closer to 5%, although we can’t say that for sure because it is under-diagnosed and difficult to diagnose. Only 20% have the physical signs of this condition such as small, wide-set eye openings, flattened filtrum, thin upper lip, lower ears, different creases in the hands and there can be skeletal damage. Those are the physical things, but if you don’t see them, then perhaps you don’t ask the question.”

Alcohol kills brain cells in developing foetuses by reducing their oxygen and nutrient intake. More than half of women drink more than the recommended daily amounts, and a quarter of those drink more than twice the recommended amounts. In 2002 some 200,000 women were admitted to NHS hospitals because of alcohol abuse. By 2010 the figure was 437,000.

Luciana Berger, the shadow public health minister, said the government should do more to highlight the consequences of heavy drinking and, in particular, during pregnancy.

The Department of Health advises that alcohol is to be avoided in pregnancy, while the independent National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence advises women to avoid alcohol in the first three months of pregnancy because of the risk of a miscarriage.

In 2007 Lord Mitchell introduced an alcohol labelling bill into the House of Lords. The bill was passed, but it failed to gain a sponsor in the Commons. The bill sought to make it mandatory for all containers of alcoholic products to have a government warning telling purchasers: “Drinking alcoholic beverages during pregnancy, even in small quantities, can have serious consequences for the health of the baby.”

In the United States and Canada all containers have similar wording and all pubs, bars and clubs are obliged to display a warning statement.

Berger, who uncovered the new figures, said: “The government must ensure that expectant mums have the information they need to make informed choices during their pregnancy. Instead, ministers have relied too heavily on the drinks industry to do it for them.

“Government must stop putting the interests of business before the health of mums and babies and take a bolder approach.”

No sh*t sherlock! *sigh*

66 days to go

 

 

 

 

Short Cuts

I love Short Cuts.  Both the book by Raymond Carver and the Robert Altman film from the 1990’s if anyone else watched it.  Interestingly he was an alcoholic so I’m not sure if his style of writing appealed to me because of that long before I realised I had a problem with booze.

I also love short cuts in life.  If there is an easier and quicker way to do something then I’m all ears.  It is part of my instant gratification no patience thing.  Why re-invent the wheel right?

But the problem is that for me wine became a short cut for self care.  It’s how it is painted in the media and advertising isn’t it.  Hard day at work?  Have a glass of wine.  Need to unwind and reward yourself?  Have a drink.  But for me booze wasn’t self-care – it was actually a short cut to self-destruction.  It’s taken me 45 years and 9 months without it to figure that out!  And I prided myself on being a quick learner :s

And this is where the danger still lurks.  The ‘just one glass?’ from friends and family when you are with them who don’t know or understand what downward spiral this would eventually unleash.  It may not be that day or that week but it would come because as I have learned through all my moderation efforts and failures, one glass does not work for me and this kind of thinking is what keeps wolfie alive and well in my mind.

Some things there are no short cuts for and much though it pains me to admit this getting sober is one of them.  The minute I go back to thinking that a glass of wine is self-care all of my hard work and struggles of the last 9 months will be undone.  I have to be patient and have learned that there are other forms of self-care but I must be consistent in their application.  I drank every day and I need to apply these new self-care strategies every day too.  It is hard at first and I have to constantly remind myself but the minute I stop this wolfie pipes up.

I wish there was a short cut to getting sober and if there was I would be front of the queue!  You can make it easier on yourself by finding a supportive recovery community to pick you up when you are faltering and by reading and learning about living booze free.  The rest is then trial and error and time.

Does anyone have any good short cuts that would help me that I haven’t discovered yet?

67 days to go

 

 

Euphoric recall

I read this great article by Maria Weeks on The Fix called ‘Only Lockdown Rehab Worked‘ and the whole article is worth a read.  A particularly couple of paragraphs really jumped out at me so I thought I would share them here:

Cravings are nothing but extremely powerful memories of pleasure (euphoric recall) brought on by drug use. It’s also estimated that “euphoric recall” registers two to ten times stronger in the hippocampus than any other pleasurable activity – even sex! So if someone has told you in your first few days of sobriety the best way to deal with cravings is to play the tape back by remembering how bad things got the last time you used, you may not have much success, because euphoric recall is so powerful, it overrides negative memories.

So what is the solution? The solution is to rid oneself of euphoric recall! And it’s a lot easier than you might think and here’s why: if euphoric recall is nothing but a memory, don’t most memories fade in time? For example, I’ve forgotten how to speak Japanese, only because I no longer use it living in California.

It’s estimated that cravings begin to attenuate in about three months, and by the sixth month they are usually gone. Of course there are some exceptions to the rule, for some people cravings may never go away completely. However, they will be a lot fainter and easier to manage than they were in early sobriety.

The bolding of those sentences is mine because it explains so clearly why cravings can be so overwhelming and difficult to resist!

The article recommends staying away from people and places that are triggers for you for as long as possible to allow the cravings to diminish.  She spent 6 months away and when she returned home the booze shop that had been the trigger for several other post 1 month rehab relapses no longer was a problem and rather than remembering good things she remembered a negative experience!

I appreciate that it isn’t possible to avoid all situations where your drinking memories are triggered but if you can reduce them to the barest minimum you are giving yourself a fighting chance of allowing and creating permanent change 🙂

68 days to go

 

More inclusive alcohol and drug service called for

A five-year study by the Lesbian & Gay Foundation (The LGF) in partnership with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) into drug and alcohol use among lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people in England found significant substance dependency problems in the community.

The LGF and UCLan’s national ‘Part of the Picture’ project looked at alcohol and drug use in the LGB community in England over a five year period and has just launched a suite of final reports. The researchers say LGB people are often unable to get the right support for problematic substance use as health services are not set up to meet their specific needs.

The research found that ‘binge drinking’ is high across all LGF groups, with 34% of males and 29% of females reporting binge drinking at least once or twice a week. Available comparable data suggest that LGB people are approximately twice as likely to binge drink at least once a week, compared with the general population, and have a higher likelihood of being substance dependent.

Many LGB people interviewed felt like an ‘outsider’ when accessing support services because of their sexual orientation. They reported being unable to be open about their lifestyle and reasons behind their substance use, or were afraid to come out to heterosexual service workers and peers. Drug and alcohol services often failed to address complex needs, such as mental health issues, alongside substance dependency.

As is often said addiction is an ‘equal opportunities’ disease and we need to cater for all in an equal and fair way.  The report concludes with recommendations for commissioners, policy makers, GPs, drug and alcohol service providers, researchers, the voluntary and community sector to address the problematic substance use of LGB people.

Is this different in other countries?  I’d be interested to hear 🙂

69 days to go

UK Recovery Walk

I learned about this from Sobermalarky and commented on her blog when she posted about it that I would like to join her.  This is what she said on her blog:

The UK Recovery Walk  is a charity that is very much about bringing recovery advocacy out onto the streets. In its 7th year, it will be bringing 8 to 10,000 people to the streets of Manchester to celebrate their and their loved ones’ recovery. It will conclude with a big party in the Castlefield basin

This is taken from their website:

Join thousands of people in recovery, their families and friends for the biggest gathering of recovering people in Europe
as we walk through Manchester celebrating and advocating for recovery.
The UK Recovery Walk has become an annual event that combine the celebration of recovery with advocacy activities.  This year on Saturday 13th of September 2014 at Castlefield Arena, Manchester we have grown in reputation, numbers and capacity.  It starts at 12 midday.

I will be travelling up to Manchester to be a part of this as I would like to have more people in my real life who are in recovery to touch base with.  It also happens to be one week before I hit my one year soberversary so I plan on having tea and cake! 🙂  I would like to invite anyone who also seeks more real life sober friends in their journey to join me at this event.  If you are interested then drop me an email and we can arrange to meet up!  Meeting fellow sober bloggers earlier in my time really helped me and supported my desire to continue.

Maybe I’ll see you there? 😉

70 days to go

 

New report on alcohol-related brain damage

Wernicke fmris

This picture is the functional MRI scan of someone with diencephalic amnesia in Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS, also known as ‘wet brain’) with a normal brain on the left and the diseased one on the right.  It is a manifestation of thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency, a spectrum of disorders which also encompasses beriberi, Wernicke’s encephalopathy, and Korsakoff’s psychosis.  WKS is usually secondary to alcohol abuse. It mainly causes vision changes, ataxia and impaired memory, such as diencephalic anmesia (source).

It is taken from a new report, Alcohol and brain damage in adults – With reference to high-risk groups by the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Association of British Neurologists which calls for clinical commissioning groups to support services that provide specialist care for patients with alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD).

Alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD) is an umbrella term that accommodates the various psychoneurological/cognitive conditions that are associated with long-term alcohol misuse and related vitamin deficiencies. ARBD tends to affect people in their 40s and 50s, with females presenting a decade younger than males. At one extreme is the classical presentation of Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome (see images above) and at the ‘milder’ or less obvious extreme are the more frequent but subtle frontal lobe dysfunctions.

The report highlights how alcohol abuse can cause changes to people’s brain function and intellect, even though many will not be aware of it and you can access the full report here.

As unpleasant as it is to discuss, alcohol does cause brain damage and we have to acknowledge this fact.  Assisted withdrawal within the report is recommended for those who ‘typically consume over 15 units a day and/or who score 20 or more on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test’ (Audit, Babor et al, 1992).

If you are reading this and considering stopping and are consuming over 15 units a day I would strongly recommend seeking medical advice to make sure that you are safe to do so.

71 days to go

Existential bummer

I saw this video called Existential Bummer thanks to Marie Forleo and having watched it, firstly I thought of Prim, and then I thought about how it applies to this journey.   Better let you see it first! 😉

Whenever I was at the peak of happiness I thought that a drink would complete the moment somehow, would make it even better or me happier.   Thing is that it rarely played out that way and in some ways that perfect moment was spoiled by my choice to add booze.  See this short film talks about holding on a little harder and saying that I will not let go and I’m going to extend this moment forever – or at least I’m going to try.

And now the only way I know how to do that is to not drink.  Drinking at those happiest moments meant that I forgot or I took my eye off of the very thing that had triggered the joy.  It meant I got sloppy and blacked out and ended up with no memories.  Sometimes it ended not in happiness but in sadness and upset.

The moment was perfect and complete as it was and I need to remember that next time and every time.  And the only way I will not interfere with these memories being created and be able to extend them for ever is to be present.  Present completely all the time = no mind numbing or bending drugs like alcohol for me.

Actually that makes it easier and clearer for me.  Simple.  In my drinking days the idea of stopping drinking would have been an existential bummer whereas now it’s the thought of drinking that bums me out.  Who knew? 🙂

72 days to go

 

Recovery meeting and me

I said in a recent post that I would share my experience of attending a recovery meeting and so here it is.

Firstly I need to say that many of my sober blogging community really rate these meetings and there were people attending this meeting who had many many years of sobriety that they felt was only possible because of the fellowship.  This was both inspiring and humbling to me.

The recovery meeting was not as well attended as usual as it happened to be at the same time as a World Cup England game, which we could hear the goings of because the meeting place was next to a pub!! There were a mixture of men and women and everyone was very kind and welcoming.  I was given a welcome pack and some of the women attending gave me their contact details. I could see how valuable this was when there is so little else out there for those of us who find our relationship with alcohol problematic but was a little freaked out by it, if I’m honest, and they did acknowledge that they felt the same too when they first started going to meetings.

So how did I feel?  Uncomfortable. I really struggled with the ‘I am an alcoholic’ as part of how you introduce yourself.  Why?  Because I don’t see myself as an alcoholic and don’t want to be defined by it.  Is that ego?  Maybe.  Is that denial?  Maybe.  Yes I drank too much and yes it was getting out of hand but I stopped before I created total chaos in my life. I’m not saying that I’m better than anyone that was there. I nursed alcoholics and so see alcoholics as those who were physically addicted and I never reached that point. I don’t connect with the feeling powerless and I really struggled with the God emphasis as I hold secular beliefs.  Afterwards I really gave myself a hard time because I really wanted to feel like I was ‘coming home’ which is how another sober friend of mine described it, and so wanted to feel differently than I was.

Steps, sponsors, attending regularly? I’m having CBT and I felt that I was meeting all those needs in that setting.  I think if I had not found the sober blogging community first then my experience would have been very different.  But because I have the support of this community and have met people further along the path who have helped me with tricky moments I don’t feel that it added anything to what I already have in place.  Will I go back? I don’t know but it was a valuable experience for me so it was not in vain and I know where they are should I need them in the future.  The smell of beer as I walked past the pub on leaving was really appealing and yes I did want to drop in for a pint and to watch the game!

I think if you are wondering about AA you should go along yourself and make up your own mind. As for me the jury’s out and I don’t think it really matters if a recovery meeting isn’t for you.  As long as you don’t drink and whatever works for you works for you then that’s all that really matters.  There is no wrong or right way to ‘do’ recovery or that’s what I concluded anyway 😉

73 days to go

My sober heroes

I was running today and thinking about sober role models and who mine are.  For me it has to be Zoe Ball and Norman Cook, aka FatBoySlim.

zoe ball

Why?

A couple of reasons really:

Zoe typified the ‘ladette’ culture here in the UK that was so prevalent when I was in my 20’s and 30’s and the picture above pretty much summed it up.  Hard living and hard partying that was me too.

zoe and fat boy

I am also a huge fan of her husband, who is world famous for his DJ work, and he is also a big raver – as was I (back in the day!)

These two people both together and individually were part of my cultural identity and happened to live in the same city as me, and me and MrHOF would see them out and about in the bars and clubs.  I saw us as like them (I wish!!)

But together in 2009 they decided to get clean and sober.  So if they could do it why couldn’t MrHOF and I?  They both struggled with alcohol and have been open about their struggles and their story just resonates:

Zoe:

“I wanted to give up drinking because my body couldn’t tolerate it any more and I didn’t really know when to stop and I hated myself for half the week.

“I’d wake up hung–over after a night out and think, ‘Oh God, what did I say? What did I do?’ It got to the point where I would drink a bottle of Sancerre and become the crazy, ranting woman.”

With the help of a therapist Zoë came off booze and three months later husband Norman went to rehab with the same intention. That was five years ago and they have both been sober since.

Norman:

I get a completely different buzz nowadays. In rehab they taught me about euphoric recall.

‘When I’m in a situation where everyone is “having it” I have memories of the past coming back to me.

‘I get a natural high from remembering those times.’

Hell if they can do it I can do it.  Who’s your sober hero or heroine?

74 days to go