Category Archives: Stopping drinking

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.

and after …….

and after .......

But tea gets pretty repetitive even for us tea-loving Brits. So for the next 7 days as the countdown to Christmas begins I’m going to practice my mixology skills and the Christmas Mocktail Bar will be open. Each night I will make a different mocktail, take a snap and share the recipe. Just because I don’t drink doesn’t mean what I drink is dull 🙂

I gave away my power

It’s like a light bulb went on in my head last night.  That ‘aha’ moment had arrived.  I was reflecting on my 12 weeks of sobriety and how things had changed both good and bad.

And here’s when it dawned on me – all the things that I had struggled to manage in the past were now almost unrecognisable.

(1) I struggled to manage my weight

(2) I struggled to manage my finances

(3) I struggled at times in my relationship with my other half

(4) I struggled to be a good parent

OK so I am still struggling with being ‘me’.  My work life and the emotional stuff remains difficult but for most things it has improved and noticeably so.  I think the work thing may also be connected because as I feel better about myself I question what I do for a living and should I be doing something else?

In all of these things I used to think that drink was the solution as whenever I was p*ssed off about any of these I’d pick up a bottle.  It was my ‘there there’ soother.  But the reality was that IT was the problem not the solution.  It added to my weight, financial woes, relationship and parenting guilt and shame.  I had the power to resolve all of those issues if I just put down the drink not picked one up.  It seems so simple in retrospect but as the late Steve Jobs said:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path.”

Well I’m stepping off of the well worn path of alcohol as it leads me to a dead-end.  What I thought was a virtuous circle in the whole L’Oreal ‘because I’m worth it’ marketing fantasy was actually a vicious cycle.

12 weeks yesterday.  This is now personal best territory for me as I have never gone this long without a drink 😀

Pink cloud alert!

So being an avid reader of other sober blogs I had heard talk of this thing called a ‘pink cloud’ or as someone else I know called it, a dry high.  I interpreted this as a feeling of euphoria and elation at being sober – like all the sober planets had aligned.  I was somewhat in awe of the idea and hoped that one day this would be something that I might experience.

Well hello today.  This morning I awoke and the world rocked.  Nothing was going to put a dent in my good mood, not being slightly tired, not my boss being grumpy, not having to wait over an hour to see my daughter’s doctor.  Even when I looked in the mirror I saw myself kindly and not in my usual critical way.

And then as it is with me, I got fearful.  Whenever a good thing happens I start looking over my shoulder waiting for it to end or for a bad thing to follow quickly on it’s heels.  So right now I’m holding my breath for tomorrow morning and as Belle said when I told her ‘hold on tight and ride it for a long time’ Here’s hoping 🙂 Day 73.

Edited to add:

4 Dec: OMG I just had to add this as Brene Brown describes completely what I just wrote above in the last paragraph about foreboding joy!

Old birthday resentments

It’s my hubby’s birthday today which has got me reflecting on birthday’s of old.

High days and holidays were always a bit snarky for me.  We have this deal in our household where we share everything – cleaning the house, laundry, getting up with the kids – all split 50:50.  So on birthday week-ends we have the ‘do you want the lie-in on your birthday or the day after your birthday?’ conversation.  When we drank this was problematic as ideally you both wanted both lie-in’s on the days around your birthday – then you could really let rip with the excess, as too much booze meant staying up late and therefore an insufficient amount of rubbish sleep and need for a lie-in (however short).  But this wasn’t fair so whatever day you chose there was almost always a day that you had to get up with the kids with a monster hangover, ‘cos hell we drank on the eve of the day and on the day itself – why wouldn’t you?!  Those mornings I was grumpy with everyone – the kids for getting me up, my hubby for not letting me have both lie-ins (!) and myself for drinking too much.  Happy Birthday indeed!!

He had the lie-in this morning.  As for me – no resentments, no grumpiness, no problem getting up with the kids – even though I have a cold 🙂

Monday Morning you sure look fine!

As a Fleetwood Mac fan this song just fitted the bill today.  Although we were up late talking and the alarm clock felt like it went too early – this morning felt great.  In my old life I would have over-indulged with said friend over dinner and would be regretting it this morning and using caffeine to kick start my brain and paracetamol to dull the hangover.

This struck me more this morning than any other time so far as although there have been other social events that we have attended as non-drinkers, this was the first one at home.  I was someone who preferred to drink at home as then there were no breaks on how much I quaffed.  When out socially I was always aware of my drinking and so would moderate or try to anyway!  Although there have been big milestones along the way already this felt like a really big deal on day 58 🙂

Who was I trying to kid?

So the last post could have suggested that I only drank to manage anxiety but that would have been a big fat lie!  I needed no reason or excuse to drink and tonight is a point in case.

We have a friend coming to stay and will be having dinner later.  Now in my old life the thinking would have been ‘okay so it’s technically a school night, with work tomorrow, but hey we’ve got said friend staying and it would be wrong not to have a beer before dinner and wine during and after’ – justification made, end of.

I would drink if I was happy, sad, pissed off, bored, it’s a Wednesday, I’m on holiday, it’s someone’s birthday, it’s Christmas (oh and of course if I’m anxious) – you get the picture!  I self-medicated for life pretty much and even when I was sick would use the excuse of it being medicinal to justify putting alcohol into my body.

Jeez the level of self-delusion was staggering.  But that was then and this is now.  Friend staying for dinner will be offered Belvoir mulled winter punch as a warming non-alcoholic aperitif and elderflower cordial and soda water for with dinner followed by herbal tea.  He is a good friend who is abstaining for the night in support of our cause – god love him 🙂 Day 57

The working week is a refuge

I used to look forward to the week-end and the working week was something that just got in the way of drinking.  How things have changed!

I now look forward to the working week as at the moment the structure and activity gives me something to focus and concentrate on and stops my brain from dwelling on the whole drinking/not drinking thing.  Also no hangover to struggle through so everything feels a bonus 🙂

It has all gone very quiet in my head and after the week-end I’ve just had – that is pure bliss …..