Category Archives: Stopping drinking

Thursday Sober Inspiration: 4 years clean and sober! (Straight Sun)

As I celebrate 4 years clean and sober it has prompted renewed reflection. So much has happened between this time last year and now.  Much of it has not been as positive as we would have hoped but then sh*t happens whether you are sober or drinking.  Some of it has been stressful, emotionally overwhelming, and felt downright difficult and unfair but again such is life.  One thing is true through all of this though – at no point has the thought of drinking crossed my mind as a good idea.

So when I wrote last years 3 year soberversary post I hoped that we would now be living in Australia and that isn’t so.  Our plans took a turn for the worse at the end of June when the Australian govt announced that they were reducing the age cap on the permanent residency skilled migrant visa from 50 to 45 effective 1st July.  As I’m 48 that was pretty much the end of the road to our emigration plans.  We may get the opportunity to go over on a temporary work visa for 4 years but it’s highly likely we’d have to return after that. The odds aren’t looking good so we’ve accepted as a family this is most likely the end of the living there dream but we  can still go back on holidays to visit our family whenever we wish.

I hoped that I would have been able to successfully publish my Cambridge research and that isn’t so either.  It is however my writing and so I can publish it here if I so wish, and I do.  So here is my research paper written last year for the University of Cambridge Postgraduate Diploma in Education Studies (Counselling).  This isn’t a true academic piece of writing because it is written in the first person rather than the third.  It uses much of my lived experience (phenomenological approach) so is a mix of qualitative and quantitative research.  That is partly why it isn’t suitable for academic publishing without a great deal of rewriting.  What I would ask is that you are respectful to the personal content contained within it.

What is the link between insecure attachment, alexithymia & addiction

If I had to write a time-frame of what this journey has been like to date I would say this:

  • Year 1 was about escaping the physical & psychological pull of drinking & getting through all the social triggers or big sober milestones (week-ends, weddings, parties, Bank Holidays, birthdays, Xmas & New Year, holidays, seasons).
  • Year 2 was about living sober – having made it through the milestones this year can be harder than the first because it is now ‘normal’ to be a non-drinker rather than a drinker in these social situations.  As Mary Karr writes in Lit: “If you live in the dark a long time and then the sun comes out, you do not cross into it whistling.  There’s an initial uprush of relief at first, then – for me, anyway – a profound dislocation.  My old assumptions about how the world works are buried, yet my new one’s aren’t yet operational.”  Sums it up beautifully 🙂
  • Year 3 was where I started to process the emotional sobriety elements of living in recovery.  It was too soon to start deep diving in to the issues but I started to tentatively explore the work that needed to be done later and build my emotional resilience in preparation.
  • Year 4 has been the mother-load of emotional recovery work for me.  Now I’ve felt emotionally robust enough to deep dive on some of the underlying reasons why I drank and to be resilient enough to sit with those feelings and it not trigger an emotional relapse that is then a risk for a full relapse.  And again in the words of Mary Karr from Lit: “A lot of therapy is looking through a child’s eyes, she says.  This is looking through an adult’s”  Again, absolutely bang on!

This is only my experience of sobriety though and we are all very different in how we experience both drinking and recovery.  Melody Beattie in her book: Beyond Codependency describes the stages of recovery as expressed by Timmen Cermak as: survival/denial -> reidentification -> core issues -> reintegration -> genesis (which beautifully mirrors my years 1-4 so far!).  She goes on to say: “This is the recovery process.  It’s a fluid process, with carryovers and crossovers at different stages.  There isn’t a fixed time frame for moving through these stages ….. Recovery is a healing and a spiritual process.  We travel from self-neglect into self-responsibility, self care and self love.  I’ve learned that self-care isn’t narcissistic or indulgent.  Self care is the one thing I can do that most helps me and others too.

And of the genesis stage which is where I now consider myself:

This isn’t the end.  It’s a new beginning.  We’re no longer carrying around our “imprisoned” selves.  Nor are we indulging in all our whims and desires.  Discipline has found its place in our lives too.  Like butterflies broken loose from a cocoon, our selves are “flying free” …  We’ve found a new way of life – one that works.

I would not have changed any of it and remain certain that my decision to stop was one of the best of my lifetime so far.  My life would have been poorer were it not for the friendships and connections I have made out here on the inter-webs because of that single decision to put down my last drink on the 20th September 2013.

Although drink holds no appeal right now I am under no illusion that like Smaug in Lord of the Rings my addiction is like a sleeping dragon that one drink could awaken.  Because as Tolkien wrote Smaug is “a most specially greedy, strong and wicked wyrm”.  I remain alert and resolute heartened by the knowledge that as I head on towards 5 years sober this time next year, the risk of relapse drops to around 15%.

And to end this post?  The only way I know how to celebrate – with a tune!  Orbital ‘Straight Sun’ and some fantastic timeframe video of the UK 🙂

Guest Post: Recovering from Your Alcohol Addiction

More guest content this time courtesy of James and image courtesy of www.pixabay.com about recovering from alcohol addiction.

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word addiction? I mean, there are different types of addiction. There are people who are addicted to reading. Others are addicted to the internet or computer games. There are even people who are addicted to studying. Well, the thing is, they’re not all the same.

Different types of addiction have different degrees. Some people might even argue that other types of addiction can be a good thing. Let’s say, for example, is being addicted to studying. How can too much studying be a bad thing? But, reality strikes again.

There are bad sides to studying too much. One example would be not having a social life. When you’re too engrossed on academics, not having enough time for your friends, then you might find yourself at the mercy of a mental illness called depression anxiety.

So, what’s my point? What does it have anything to do alcohol addiction? Well, everything. I mean, when you’re addicted to studying, you don’t really see anything wrong with it. Good grades make you happy, but pretty soon you are going to have your sessions, and then suddenly being too engrossed in studying wasn’t such a good idea after all. Well, it’s pretty much the same with alcohol addiction. Drinking is a social activity. At first, you don’t see anything wrong with it. I mean, if drinking makes you happy, it can’t be that bad, right? But apparently, at some time of your life, the negative sides of being addicted to alcohol starts to show, and you’re going to wish you were never addicted to it in the first place.

But the thing is, just like any other addiction, getting through it is hard. It’s not an easy feat. It’s not something you can do overnight. It’s going to take time. You need to familiarize yourself with all the correct steps in order to overcome it, and in this article, you’re going to find out just how by answering the following questions:

What do you get out of it?

Try to list down all the benefits that you get out of drinking alcohol. It’s not just about getting to know the benefits. It’s also about trying to think up alternatives. I mean, if drinking makes you feel better about your problems, this could be a phase where you’ll be writing down possible alternatives. Get to know other hobbies that will give you the same benefits.

How much does it cost?

Now that you have a list of all the things that you get out of drinking alcohol, you can now begin to ask yourself, if it’s all worth the cost.

I mean, if you’re drinking to forget about your problems, perhaps, you’ve to find a different hobby that helps you do the same. Perhaps, reading on your spare time would also help you forget your problems.

You can now evaluate if you’d rather spend for alcohol or just read for free, in order to forget about your problems.

Set goals

Getting over your alcohol addiction doesn’t start when you say so. It starts when you decide. Action can only start when you have goals. So, starting today, you should list down some of your goals. These are the goals that you should list down:

  • The date when plan to launch your call to action
  • Whether you’re going to eradicate drinking completely or just regulate it

Remove temptations from your life

Abstain from everything that reminds of drinking.

All the planning would be of no use if one beer poster is just going to tempt you back to being a drunkard.

Tell your friends about your goal

No matter what you do there will always be temptations all around you. Self-control won’t always be enough. There will be times when you’ll fall into the pit.

So, what now? Do you just quit? Well, of course not. What you should do is to tell your friends, family, and everyone you know. That way, you’ll have all the support you can get. When you have the entire family or friendship circle rooting you to get better, it’s impossible for you to not abstain from alcohol.

Author Bio

James R. Robinson is an essayist for hqassignments.net. Needless to say, he has a passion for words. Most of his relatives are quite obsessed with science. His family is a streak line of businessmen, architects, doctors, and lawyers. He, on the other hand, chose art. He chose to write. Even so, he doesn’t think he’s that far off. Being a writer isn’t all art. It’s a part science and half art. So, he’s sort of in between them.

Thank you James!

Friday Sober Inspiration: The Four Essential Processes of Grieving

So I’ve spoken about grief and grieving before in this post and this was a great podcast about the subject too.

As I’ve continued to read Pete Walker The Tao of Fully Feeling he has described his four essential processes of grieving .  So I’m going to add to my knowledge from Kubler-Ross and include it here as a reference for you too.

He argues that “grieving is the key process for reconnecting with our repressed emotional intelligence.  Grieving reconnects us with our full complement of feelings.  Criticism of emotional expression is especially damaging when it is expressed towards expressions of emotional pain as it forces our all-important capacity for healthy grief into developmental arrest.”

Pete Walker maintains that grieving is not just crying but for it to be fully effective it must include the processes of “angering”, verbal ventilation, and feeling.  He says the active resolution comes from crying, “angering” and talking about it whereas the passive resolution comes from simply focusing on and feeling what is stored somatically in our bodies.

I’ll cover a short summary of each here but again go read the book if you want to understand fully (although here is a link to a pdf on grief and complex PTSD written by Pete).

  • Crying is the healing release of pain through tears.  Unashamed crying creates deep, bodily-based feelings of peace and relaxation as tears are the body’s most powerful way of releasing emotional tension.  He believes that crying heals ‘catastrophising‘ and ‘drasticizing’ which are forms of toxic shame that taint our thought processes with unfounded perceptions of dread and doom.  What Brene Brown calls ‘foreboding joy‘.  Crying also allows for positive nostalgia or ‘euphoric recall’.
  • Angering is the process of actively expressing anger in a a safe and healthy way and is as essential to effective grieving as crying.  He believes we can break the ‘repression-accumulation-explosion-guilt-repression’ cycle by befriending our anger and refusing to guiltily squash it when it arises.  He says we can use a range of approaches to releasing anger to allow joy such as: thinking to writing to speaking to shouting to shadowboxing to pounding on pillows to finally breaking expendable objects.  He maintains when we finally end our repression of our anger we often feel exuberant relief and that it also builds confidence and self-assertiveness.
  • Verbal ventilation is when language is charged with feeling and is the release of pain through talking or writing about it.  This is where I have found this blog and therapy the most valuable in moving through my own grief.  It is also therapeutic he says to record jokes, anecdotes, and incidents that make you laugh as these can serve as heartening reminders of the joys of life.  Swearing is a powerful form of  verbal ventilating particularly if you chose words judiciously and sparingly.  He also talks about fully emoting which is when we cry, rage and verbally ventilate all at the same time!
  • Feeling is the process of grieving that focuses on pain with the intention of relaxing any resistance to it, so that it may pass through and out of the body.  I often think of funeral wakes when I think of this as this is where I would use alcohol to not feel the pain and sadness that the loss had triggered.  Some of my most spectacular relapses when I was moderating were after funerals where I would hold it together at the event and then drown myself in alcohol on getting home.  Feeling involves the direction of attention to the internal experiences in the body below the realm of thinking.  Feeling experiences are often accompanied by physical sensations in the heart area or “guts”.  No wonder I struggled with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) for so much of my adult life.  Feeling is a kinesthetic rather than a cognitive experience.  It’s why I’ve avoided yoga for so long – as I know that this is where I finally need to release the somatic feeling states that I’ve been resisting facing in recovery.  After all this therapy I know they are there and I’ve been scared to confront them …..

He finishes by saying that a balanced approach to grieving includes an openness to feeling emotions as well as emoting feelings.  He says “if we do not accept and value both processes, we will not become fully feeling human beings”.

Here’s to moving on to the next and final stage of learning to fully feel – connecting totally the mind and body experience where feeling becomes a spiritual experience.  He says “perhaps the greatest freedom attainable is that which is born out of a consistent willingness to stay lovingly and acceptingly present to whatever unfolds inside oneself.”

I saw this film again recently and this clip felt so apt:

Alcohol misuse most often treated in middle age

This report featured in the Institute of Alcohol Studies report in November 2016.  This report struck me because I stopped drinking just before my 45th birthday.

Average age of alcohol only clients seeking treatment is 45 years (04 November)

Drinkers in their forties make up the most number of alcohol only treatment users for substance misuse in England, according to new figures published by Public Health England (PHE).

The National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS) report ‘Adult substance treatment activity in England 2015-16’ shows that in the 12 months to 31st March 2016, clients exhibiting problematic or dependent drinking represented a total of 144,908 individuals, the second largest group in treatment (see pie chart, illustrated right). Of these, 85,035 were treated for alcohol treatment only and 59,873 for alcohol problems alongside other substances.

The overall number of individuals in treatment for alcohol fell by 4% compared to 2014-15, with the numbers for alcohol only decreasing by 5% since then, to reach its lowest total since 2009-10 (illustrated below). However, this figure still represents more than double the annual number of alcohol only clients recorded since records began in 2005-06 (35,221 clients).

The report noted that those in treatment for alcohol only and opiates tend to be much older than individuals who have presented for problems with other substances. The median age of alcohol only clients was 45 years, with 68% aged 40 or over and 11% aged 60 years and over.

Roughly three-fifths of alcohol only clients were male (61%) although this was a lower proportion than those representing the entire treatment population in 2015-16 (70%). The report’s authors suggested that this finding is “likely (to) reflect the differences in the gender prevalence of problematic alcohol and drug use.” PHE will be releasing estimates of alcohol dependency late 2016.

Individuals starting treatment in 2015-16 were most likely to present with problematic alcohol use (62%, or 84,931 new clients) (illustrated, below). But alcohol only clients also had the highest rates of successful exits of all clients presenting for treatment, with just under two-thirds (62%) successfully completing treatment, up on 61% in the previous year.

However, there were also more deaths among those accessing treatment for alcohol only problems; there were 817 deaths in 2015-16, 3% more than the previous year.

The report also noted that since alcohol service providers started reporting to NDTMS in 2005-06, alcohol citations have remained relatively stable, although the gathering of information on alcohol treatment service providers since 2008-09 may have been one of the main drivers of an overall increase in clients seeking treatment for substance use in general over the last decade.

Responding to the latest figures, Rosanna O’Connor, Director, Alcohol, Drugs & Tobacco within the PHE Health and Wellbeing Directorate, said:

“It is clear from the data that there is an increasing need for services to meet the complex needs of older more vulnerable drug and alcohol users in treatment as well as finding ways of helping those accessing services for the first time to get the treatment they need and move on with their lives.

“Within the data there is much to be hopeful about… But we certainly can’t be complacent – PHE, national and local government and providers, all need to enhance our efforts to ensure that treatment is a safe platform from which to achieve recovery.”

Before you pick up a drink again maybe reflect on this data and if you are in this age range perhaps ask yourself the question whether you really want to go back to that cycle of drinking or whether a longer period of abstinence might be helpful to evaluate your relationship to drinking further?  Just a thought 🙂

A Cry for Help

This was an excellent blog by Castle Craig looking at alcohol withdrawal and delirium tremens called ‘A Cry for Help’.

Last winter in the UK, a young man was found dead in a bloodsoaked hotel bathroom. The inquest determined that he had died by his own hand. It emerged that, in a confused state, he had tried to alert staff where he was accommodated to his fears that he was unwell, but seems to have been disregarded as a drunk causing a nuisance.

The inquest did not link the death to alcohol because there was no alcohol found in the body at post mortem. He was known by friends and family to drink alcohol but had never been diagnosed or treated for that.

His lap-top computer showing messages and websites browsed in the last hours of his life, depicted a frightening sequence. He had sent this message:

“I had stupidly started on a drinking binge and never stopped until 3 days ago. I thought I was getting better today but now I have the shakes and am hallucinating whenever I close my eyes and can’t sleep. I’m sorry if this appears scary because it is . . . I’m not here to harm anyone. I have looked this up and I have all the symptoms for alcohol withdrawal. This is a treatable condition. I mean no harm, I just need a doctor. The moment they see they will prescribe medication. If you feel threatened by me, which it looks like you do, get the police to escort me. I need to get to a doctor or to try sleeping this off.”

In the hours prior to this, he had accessed websites giving information related to alcoholism, and in particular delirium tremens. He had looked at Wikipedia and other websites about alcoholism and the withdrawal syndrome. One site said withdrawing from alcohol was no worse than quitting smoking.

But elsewhere he could have found a link to this account published in 1844: The Horrors of Delirium Tremens by James Root 1844 . . . he recounts how after one particular drinking spree, he experiences the effects of Delirium Tremens. As he wanders from Manilus to Syracuse to Geddesburgh, he begins to hear strange, shrill noises and whispers. He strikes up conversation with the source of the noises, finding little to be unusual about his experience until he follows the voice to a group of ‘fiends’ and devils who threaten him with damnation. He climbs up a tree to try to escape them and even enlists the help of a local landlord, but to no avail.

Some people are able to sustain high alcohol consumption for long periods, and still function in their jobs and relationships. However, cessation of alcohol consumption after periods of very heavy drinking may precipitate the alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

The severity and pattern of bodily and mental disturbance varies according to the individual’s constitution, physical health, nutritional status and the duration and quantities of alcohol consumed especially if consumed continuously.

Brain chemistry adapts in numerous ways to compensate for the effects of heavy consumption of alcohol. When alcohol is removed, certain systems that have been ‘suppressed’, such as the alerting transmitter glutamate and the flight/flight mechanism (noradrenergic and corticosteroid system) overshoot as they spring back into action. The individual is agitated, tremulous, unable to sleep, and may become confused. Hallucinations and accompanying deluded thoughts do not always ensue, but if they occur typically commence 2–3 days after the last consumption of alcohol.

This may be frightening. Beliefs and hallucinatory voices may be convincing, even commanding the person to behave in a way that would be out of character, including self-harm. Such commands may be acted upon. There are reports of individuals who, under such influence, mutilated themselves. Patra et al. (2014) describe an individual inflicting multiple stab wounds on his abdomen during alcohol withdrawal, as did Roig et al. (2014), and Charan and Reddy (2011) report an individual mutilating his genitals.

Severe withdrawal symptoms are sometimes seen during detention on remand in prison or in police custody when there is forced immediate cessation of alcohol consumption. If there is no medical treatment delirium may ensue. The first few days in custody comprise a frequently reported risk-moment for suicide.

Hospitalization after trauma or for a medical condition resulting in sudden alcohol withdrawal can result in impulsive or even deluded behaviour leading to self-inflicted death (e.g. Edinburgh Evening News, ‘Patient Plunges from Hospital Window’, 1997). Brådvik and Berglund (2003) documented that from 1949 through 1969, 1312 patients with alcohol dependence were admitted to the Department of Psychiatry in Lund, Sweden. By 1997, 102 of those patients (of whom 99 were men) had committed suicide.

Their deaths were compared with those of other suicide victims who had been previously diagnosed with severe depression or other illnesses. For the patients with alcohol dependence there was a suicide peak on the first 2 days after weekends and holidays. Alcohol withdrawal was suspected to be a contributor to that suicide peak—suggesting that trying to get sober for work on Monday after holiday or weekend heavy consumption of alcohol carries a risk for some drinkers.

The inquest mentioned above made no mention of factors that might have led to that violent death.

This article was first published in the scientific journal “Alcohol and Alcoholism”. The original version includes all references to the quoted research: http://alcalc.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2015/05/05/alcalc.agv041

If when you stop drinking you get any of these symptoms please seek medical help.

PS I’m taking a wee cyber break over the week-end and will be back responding to comments again on Monday afternoon 🙂

 

How to Beat Cravings with Glutamine

So this is a food supplement I used when I gave up smoking and drinking  back in September 2012.  It was advocated by Patrick Holford and I gave up both substances successfully for three months without too many cravings.  This supplement is called Glutamine and is used for the control of cravings.

CRAVINGS-COVER

As you know on giving up drinking for good I replaced booze with chocolate and other sweet things and have been struggling to wean myself off sugar as detailed in my giving up for lent posts.

So I’m going to do another experiment because of this blog post I came across is anything to go by if I give this supplement a go for a few weeks my cravings for anything, and I’m hoping particularly sugar, will be banished for good.  A big promise and I’ll do a weekly update of how it’s going as I did with my sugar detox.  Although the blog post I’m citing recommends Glutamine for sugar cravings I think this neuro-transmitter supplement could be used for booze too – let’s face it it’s liquid sugar!!

Here’s what the Food Renegade said:

If you’ve been wondering how to beat sugar cravings without relying on will power alone, I am about to make your day. Maybe your week! Or your month! Heck, why not call a spade a spade and say I’ll make your whole year?

So, here’s the deal. According to Dr. Ross, we’re all likely deficient in some neurotransmitter or another. Any number of things can set off a deficiency in us.

  • Maybe you eat a nutrient-poor diet without enough protein to supply the right balance of amino acids to make adequate amounts of certain neurotransmitters.
  • Maybe you had a loved one die, and the stress has eaten away at you.
  • Maybe you lost a job, or have experienced some other huge financial stress.
  • Perhaps you got pregnant or gave birth. Both are extremely hard on your body.
  • Maybe you had a period of too little sleep, or an overly critical boss, or experienced some other emotional wound.

Whatever the reason, you over-stressed and exhausted yourself to the point where your body is now severely deficient in one or more neurotransmitters.

According to Dr. Ross, that deficiency is so deep that simply eating a diet of whole, traditionally-prepared foods will not be enough to correct the deficiency in two-thirds of us!

Instead, for those two-thirds of us, we need a little extra help.

We can supplement with the amino acid precursors our bodies need to make the neurotransmitters we’re deficient in and give ourselves a boost!

If you’re eating a fabulously nutrient-rich diet, that extra supplementation will only have to last for a month or two — just long enough to resolve the deficiency.

Once the deficiency is resolved, your diet can supply all you need until you once again fall prey to the life stressors that cause these deficiencies in the first place.

According to Dr. Ross, sugar addiction is one of our worst enemies. Because of it, we eat a diet rich in the refined carbohydrates of industrialization, displacing the nutrient-rich foods that can actually supply us with enough dietary amino acids we need to stave off neurotransmitter deficiencies.

But overcoming that addiction is next to impossible with willpower alone.

That’s because, according to her findings, sugar is 4 times as addictive as cocaine!

Thus, every fibre of our being will be screaming for sugar — even if it’s displacing the very foods we need to eat more of in order to start feeling better.

Some people have strong wills, and they can just plow through their sugar addiction even while their body is suffering intense withdrawal. Eventually (in about a week or so), the cravings become more managable. After a month of avoiding refined sugar, the cravings disappear to almost nothing.

If you’re one of those will power driven people, congratulations! I envy you.

For the rest of us, we need a little help.

According to Dr. Ross, the amino acid L-glutamine will stop those sugar cravings in their tracks.

She recommends supplementing with 500mg 3-4 times per day — usually during the times when you’ve got the lowest blood sugar.

But does it really work for cravings?

YES. Within ten minutes of a dose of L-Glutamine, my sugar cravings disappear. If they don’t, I just take another dose.

It’s that simple, and it works every time!

According to Dr. Ross, my body will have been weaned off sugar within a month, and I won’t need to supplement with L-Glutamine any more.

That’s because it really does only take about that long to beat a sugar addiction to the point that you no longer have cravings. And, if I undergo a particularly stressful time of my life, I can now reach for the L-Glutamine instead of the sugar to help me cope.

Or if I do what many addicts do and completely fall off the wagon, that’s okay. I now know how to beat my sugar cravings back again.

And now you do, too!

So I’ll let you know how I get on and at the end of the experiment if it has worked I’ll let you know where I sourced my L-Glutamine 🙂

Using hypnosis for quitting drinking

This is not something I have used personally but I did attend a hypnotist to help me quit smoking many years ago and it did work for a bit.  The ladies over at Mumsnet have used it and shared that they found it really helpful especially with craving management so if they say it’s worth a shot then it gets my vote.  You can never have too many tools in your sober tool box right?

hypnosis

As is often the case it is Youtube that offers this video for free so if you’re wanting to try using hypnosis for quitting drinking this is the one that was recommended called: Complete Stop Drinking Alcohol Self Hypnosis Session

It gets lots of positive comments underneath so I think it is worth using as part of your moderation or quit attempt.  As I stopped 21 months ago I’m not sure there is much value in me watching it and telling you what I think but if you’d like to be a human guinea pig and trial it for me and let me know in the comments or by email at a hangoverfreelife@gmail.com then please do!! 🙂

Let me count the ways ……

that my perfectionism and self-critical way of being is receding as the booze ship sails further into the distance.

let me count the ways

I’ve been thinking about this as I go about my daily routine and just noticing things that I do differently now.  Count from here:

  1. I used to weigh myself every morning.  I was a complete body fascist and very hard and critical on myself if I gained any weight.  It was just another thing to beat myself around the head with.  I’ve stopped weighing myself every day and have gained a few pounds and it doesn’t seem to matter like it used to.
  2. I used to wash my hair every day as I was paranoid about it looking greasy.  Now I can go three days and even if it starts to look like it needs a wash I’m less bothered.  Just tie it back and it’ll be okay.
  3. Same with eyebrow care.  Waxed every 3-4 weeks and tweezed into submission in between – what would people think of me if my brows were poorly managed?  The irony is my close up eyesight is getting worse so I can’t actually see now so I worry less!  Same goes for other wayward body hair – used to be fastidious about this kind of stuff but MrHOF never noticed or cared most of the time.
  4. Clothes had to be pristine.  Would wash things after only one wear if only for a few hours.  Was equally paranoid about body odour.  Just more relaxed about it – stuff gets dirty if we wear it!
  5. All of these rules extended to my poor family and home environment too.  Chaos and mess used to make me really stressed and grumpy.  I live with a 9 and 7 year old and a husband who isn’t bothered about it but me?  Anal and overwhelmed if things weren’t just so.  Have slowly noticed myself relaxing about all of these things that don’t really matter.  Again this house is lived in – it gets messy and dirty and our newest kitten addition, called Inky, I’m sure has been sent into my life to make me get this stuff in perspective.  Every time he comes through the cat-flap he leaves a trail of muddy paw marks from the kitchen up to onto our bed.  Previously this would have driven me nuts – now I just have to laugh.
  6. The blog – again mistakes were not tolerated and I felt that they would be noticed and I would be thought less of if I made a mistake.  I’m human – mistakes happen.
  7. Academic advancement – this continues to drive me.  Partly because I feel safe when I am learning and growing.  I don’t know why this is but suspect it is how I got reward and acknowledgement as a child and it remains a strong motivator.  I suspect is also related to self-worth and proving that I am intelligent, something I consider important.  Plus because I’m a maven 😉
  8. Fitness – running  has become a pleasure that I enjoy and miss if I don’t go out and do.  It isn’t a chore or something I feel driven to do – it’s something I love to do and it has the added bonus of keeping me healthy.
  9. Diet – has improved immensely.  Yes sugar is still a battle point but generally what I put in my mouth is much more balanced, considered and healthy.  I used to be really unhealthy both in terms of fitness and diet and this was something else to berate myself over.
  10. Financial impulsivity – now I see it!  This was something that was well below my radar when I was drinking.  It was fuelled by drinking – browsing online shops glass in hand.  I used to buy clothes, so as to keep up the appearance that if everything looked ok on the outside I wasn’t falling part on the insides, right? Music and books were also high up on the overspending list – means to escape and feed my intelllectual cravings.  Clothes I stopped buying almost completely.  Music too, but partly as it had such a strong association with booze for me, that in these early days it has been a trigger so I avoided.  Books I still struggle with, but I use the library more often, and rather than impulse buy them they go on to my wishlist and at birthdays and Xmas requests are made for them to be gifts or they become milestone sober treats.  As a result all debt has gone 🙂

It seems when I drank because that felt out of control I sought to control everything else.  If I could just keep everything else looking okay then there wasn’t a problem right?  Thing is I constantly shot myself in the foot.  Hungover I would eat badly, wouldn’t exercise, my weight would go up.  My skin and hair would look like crap but if my hair was cleanly washed every day and my brows were perfectly shaped I was keeping my shit together.  I didn’t look after the house past wine o’clock because I was drinking but if I yelled at everyone else for making a mess then it took the focus off of my lack not them being – well them.  Drinking more cost me more financially so made our home finances worse.

The small almost imperceptible shifts that happen when you drink and then that reverse when you stop are so incremental that you almost miss them but they all add up to the bigger picture of how we feel and treat ourselves.

tip of the iceberg

I hadn’t considered any of these things when I was thinking about stopping.  Stopping drinking is like the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  There is a whole slew of stuff under the water line that are more impacted than just the observable behaviour.  It really is the most almighty of changes to make to your life and one I would strongly support and recommend.  How many changes could you count if you stopped?  🙂

PS This is Inky 🙂  He’s a rescue home cat so didn’t join us until he was 9 months old so not really a kitten anymore 😀

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Destination unknown

The goal is not to be perfect by the end. The goal is to be better today.

Another fabulous Simon Sinek quote which I so agree with.

This isn’t about doing sobriety perfectly – is there such a thing?  It is about starting on the journey without knowing where it will lead.

If you had told me 10 months ago that this is where I would be and these would be the things that I would have achieved I would not have believed you or believed that I was capable of such things:

  • The increased happiness overall
  • The increased joy in the moment that isn’t dependent on me having a drink in my hand
  • The improved relationships with my husband and children
  • The radically improved health and steadily increasing fitness
  • The glorious sleep I now have and energy I have to want to get out of bed
  • The savings of £3,500 (that’s me and Mr HOF combined)
  • The decision to shake up my working life
  • The offer of a place to do a Masters
  • The 10lb weight loss
  • The recognition that my diet now needs some serious work next because my taste buds feel alive in a way that they’ve never done before and shite tastes well – shit
  • I could go on and on but I don’t want to bore you or for you to feel like I’m bragging or rubbing anyone’s nose in it.

The single change of stopping drinking has lead to all of these things and not only that but I have met some of the most amazingly supportive people both in real life and here on the interweb.  Without you this would not have been sustainable for this amount of time of that I am absolutely sure.

If you could change one thing to make your life better today, without knowing the destination or end result, what would it be?  Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and just trust in yourself 🙂

59 days to go

Changing it up

So today is the last day of school summer term here in the UK and the last day of my job.  Like a fair few other sober bloggers who have been on this journey with me removing the booze has initiated some fairly spectacular re-evaluations of happiness, life and it’s future trajectory.

So I have the summer off with the kids and then come my 1st year soberversary a new life begins.  I’m starting a Masters at the University of Cambridge, have reduced my NHS public health nursing hours and plan to spend more time here developing this part of my life on the blog side of things.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about how our health care system manages alcohol issues and to be frank it’s not great.  Partly because the Govt fails to recognise it as an issue and what funding exists to support substance abuse is quietly being whittled away.  Even within the realms of substance abuse services alcohol is the poor cousin when compared to drugs.  This blatantly ignores the fact that 1 in 4 people in this country are believed to have a problem with alcohol.  So you can get support from your GP or practice nurse through an Alcohol IBA and then until you end up with a physical dependency issue, and require specialist substance abuse services, there isn’t much out there.  Comic Relief have recently released an Alcohol Hidden Harm Toolkit to support managers, commissioners and practitioners involved in designing, assessing or improving Alcohol Hidden Harm services for children and families which is encouraging.  Outside of the NHS you have again two extremes of expensive private rehab, such as The Priory, or you have AA.  Soberistas are doing a brilliant job of providing an alternative community to AA but from a healthcare perspective it is very thin pickings.

I’m working on that though and will be sharing soon some plans that I have to help you if you’re reading this and would like some support from a healthcare professional who, through personal experience, knows how difficult managing your drinking or giving up booze can be.  Who knew that changing your drinking life could change your life completely?!

Watch this space! 🙂

60 days to go