Category Archives: Stopping drinking

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 😀

IMG_0571

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

Playing the drinking tape forward

One of the tips that was given to me when I first stopped drinking was that if I ever thought about having a drink I should play the tape forward to the end of the night.  So don’t focus on the first glass, focus on the last and the state I would probably have been in by that point.  And that’s what I did thinking about the drunken stupor I would be in, the stupid things I might have said or done or the row with MrHOF I might have had.  As a deterrent it was pretty effective.

While running today I was thinking about this and it reminded me of a Drink Driving TV ad campaign that ran here in the UK in 2008.

Here it is:

This ad uses the same approach – playing the tape forward in a very powerful and shocking way.  I’m quite a literal person, so sometimes struggle with visual learning, so if you are like me and struggle to play the tape forward in your head then maybe this will help.

There’s also this one which is a more subtle ‘play your life forward’

I’m not usually a fan of shock tactic adverts but I really liked these.  What do you think?

81 days to go

Goodbye letter to alcohol

Dear Alcohol

You have been the one constant in my life.  From my earliest memories you were always there, firstly in the life of my parents on a daily basis and once I looked old enough to get served in mine.  You were a factor in the choices that I made and with the friends and partners that I chose.  I have never known a time when you weren’t important to someone close to me or to me.

I always viewed you as a Jekyll and Hyde character, sometimes making those close to me more affectionate and then at other times causing anger and violence. I spent much of my childhood fearful of you and the effect and power that you seemed to have.  Those involved with you seemed to prioritise you over everyone else.  But you were who people I knew chose to help them in times of good and bad and so I learned the same message and the same way of being.

When I joined the dance with you, you appeared benign even helpful.  You gave me confidence, made me bigger, louder and funnier than the person I felt I was.  You were my side-kick in all my adventures whether here at home or overseas.  You helped me forget difficult memories and emotions and smoothed over the rough edges in my life.

I partied with you for almost twenty years never questioning your influence, even though during those times I worked as a nurse on a ward where you had done serious damage to other people and they were dying because of you.  They wanted to choose you over anything and everything else.  But I still didn’t see it.

But then I wanted to have children and people were telling me that you were bad for me and so I scaled back our dalliance, joining you only for short but stupendously large blow outs.  I resented that I couldn’t have you in my life as much as you had been in the past.  We had to separate for two short periods while I cared for my unborn babies but I still stole the odd clandestine night, missing you badly.

Once the children arrived life with you became much more difficult and I had to make choices against you, limiting our time together or the intensity of our time together.  This is when I began to realise that our relationship was problematic and was having a serious impact on my other now important relationships.

I began to bargain with you, set myself limits about how often and how long and I tried to stay away from you.  Plus our time together had changed.  Before it was mostly fun and I enjoyed our time together whereas now this seemed to have gone and had been replaced by something darker.  I was more out of control in our time together and this scared me.  You seemed to have taken the upper hand in the relationship and were more insistent and controlling.

I was also trying to give up other relationships that had served me well up until that point but that I could no longer ignore was damaging.  But that relationship was also linked to my time with you and so when I stopped this relationship with nicotine I knew I had to stay away from you too, at least until I had got over that one and could spend time with you and not miss them.

You grew angry at my withdrawal and would harp incessantly in my ear until I would relent and come back to you but the next day I would hate you and hate myself for giving in.  This pull and push has gone on for 5 years and now I am sick of you, sick of the way you make me feel and think about myself, sick of the stupid things I say and do when with you and I don’t enjoy your company any more.

So I have decided to say good bye.  I have decided to try and live my life without you.  You were furious when I made this decision and upped your rhetoric about how useless I was and how I would never survive a party or a difficult time without you.   But I held steadfast and it has been over three months.

You were right, it was hard and at times still is, but I know I have made the right decision.  I have experienced the joy of living without you and your voice has grown fainter and your power has lessened.  Other people still think you are important and want to spend time with you and that is fine.  This decision is about me and no one else and has been one of the hardest I have ever had to make but I feel stronger and more confident in myself and my life without you.

I have fond memories of you in the beginning but we can’t recreate those early days and I know that we never will.   What was once benign is now very much malignant and I must move on.  It is time to forge a new path without you.

Good-bye.

I can take no credit for this brilliant idea, which rightly goes to Veronica Valli when she talked about the goodbye letter in her book ‘Why You Drink and How to Stop: Journey to Freedom’.

Boxing Day blues no more

If you’d have said to me 4 months ago that I would choose not to drink on Christmas Day I would have gone very still in fear, laughed nervously and said that this was some kind of a joke.  Previous Christmas’ had been great excuses to make fast and loose with every and any kind of booze – bucks fizz for breakfast, red wine for dinner and Disaronno for tea.  It was the one day of the year where it was obligatory, even compulsory and so I happily committed to the cause.  You could have a ‘messy Xmas’ and no-one would bat an eye-lid and so I frequently did.  Cue the morning after and the hangover from hell and the Boxing Day blues.  I would drag my sorry hungover arse for a run, ever step punishment for the guilt and excesses of the day before, to get home and collapse in front of the telly with junk food and chocolate and maybe a ‘Bloody Mary’ to try to take the edge off.

This year the anticipatory anxiety started on Christmas Eve – around lunchtime as wolfie found his voice.  I got more ansty at the idea of not drinking as he got more vocal in my ear.  I had to have a long bath and go to bed early to escape myself.  I woke up without a hangover – that joy never gets old ever 🙂  I had mustered my sober toolbox for the day; own booze free drinks to take with me – check; driving for fast escape if needed – check; permission to take time out to hide in the bathroom/with the dog/with the kids if it all gets too much – check; leave early if necessary – check; and log in to sober blogging community if really struggling – check.  It wasn’t my sober tools I doubted it was me.  Could I stay strong?

But you know what it was okay and I learned a new tool for the toolkit.  When the first drinks were being poured I took myself off and played with the kids.  For me this is always the most difficult bit – resisting that first drink and watching others tuck in.  It is also the time that you may have to fend off questions as to why you aren’t drinking, so I avoided both by getting my San Pellegrino and effectively hid out with the non-grown ups!  It worked though as once everyone else had got past the first glass they stop worrying about what you are drinking and my anxiety dissipates.  I was asked if I wanted wine with my Xmas lunch to which I just said ‘I was good’ with what I had and that was that.  When things got difficult I went and helped the host with the drying up or hung out watching tv with my kids. They were tired by 7.30pm so we had a ready made excuse to leave as everyone else was just warming up and things were starting to get messy.  I had a lovely day and remember every single part of it.

I had a long bath when I got home as a reward and when I sat in bed last night the self-pride I felt was enormous.  If you are looking for a way to give your self-confidence a shot in the arm then this is a winner as far as I’m concerned.  I would go so far as to say that the glow of achievement I felt matched or exceeded that which I felt when I crossed the line of completing the London Marathon.  And this morning I woke up without a hangover and went for a run with no feelings of punishment and no guilt.  I’m not sure that this would have been possible without the knowledge that there were so many others I knew out here in the sober blogging community that were doing the same thing here with me in the UK but also in different time zones and parts of the world.  Thank you all for the sober skills, for listening and supporting 🙂 Day 96.