The question that I dread the most and keeps me hiding out at home still is this one. What to say when people ask you what you want to drink and when you ask for a non-alcoholic option and the questions then follow what’s your ‘go to’ response?
In some respects having young children has really helped me as I don’t have much of a social life! When I’ve gone to parties I’ve taken alcohol free beer such as Becks Blue and that has avoided this question being asked but I would really like a killer line, ya know. Witty, yet deflective and maintains boundaries, particularly mine in this instance!
One that they shared in the Almost Alcoholic book that I talked about before here which I really like is this one:
“Thanks, but I drank my whole life’s quota of alcohol by the time I was forty, so I’ll pass”
The person who used this was a nurse and she said that many people responded with a smile or a laugh and no one ever frowned or pressed her to take a drink. I like that and may co-opt this for myself 🙂
The one that feels most comfortable for me right now is that ‘I don’t drink anymore because for me life is so much better without it’.
What’s worked for you when dodging booze that I could also try?
94 days to go
PS Completely unrelated but I just had to mention as a nurse and employee of the NHS that yesterday it was voted the best healthcare system in the world by an international panel of experts. “The United Kingdom ranks first overall, scoring highest on quality, access and efficiency,” the fund’s researchers conclude in their 30-page report. Their findings amount to a huge endorsement of the health service, especially as it spends the second-lowest amount on healthcare among the 11 – just £2,008 per head, less than half the £5,017 in the US. Only New Zealand, with £1,876, spent less. We don’t often get an opportunity to toot our horn and this is my blog so three cheers for the NHS!!! 🙂
So when I started this journey it started with a Day 1. And then I cobbled together 37 days on my own. During those early days I was lucky enough to find Soberistas and Belle and then I began to share my journey with all of you here and I became a member of Team 100.
My involvement in the online sober blogging community grew, my daily blogging continued and then I graduated from Team 100 to Team 180. During that time my sober connections turned from virtual to real with lunch and coffee shared with 3 other fellow sober bloggers.
There were up days and down days, emotional overwhelm days and ‘meh’ days but I did not drink. I graduated again from Team 180 to Team 365 and found more online sober communities. Thanks to other sober bloggers I found the Booze Free Brigade on Yahoo, the ‘Being Dry’ thread on Mumsnet and my sober community extended again. So many people all doing the same thing and supporting each other in the process.
And here I am at Day 265 and it seems only right that I now count down to day 365 when I will have achieved one whole year without booze!! I will not falter at this point and it seems only right to count down the last 100 days in the same way that I counted up those first 100 days 🙂
So my counter at the bottom of my post will reappear so I can mark the importance of this most amazing milestone. One I never in a million years thought I would reach. But I’m not there yet …….
100 days to go 😉
When I think back on my drinking it wasn’t just about drinking habits it was also about drinking rituals. Interestingly when I looked at the word ‘rituals’ on Wiki it said this:
In psychology, the term ritual is sometimes used in a technical sense for a repetitive behavior systematically used by a person to neutralize or prevent anxiety; it is a symptom of obsessive–compulsive disorder.
How very interesting?!
And I think for me it was a bit like this as I was a bit obsessive about my drinking. What do I mean by that? Well I had certain wine glasses that I preferred to drink out of – you know a ‘favourite’ and would be eager to replace them if they got broken. I would always have spare wine in the house so we NEVER ran out. The wine rack was filled regularly, the fridge always had a bottle of fizz, white and rose chilling in it (for unexpected guests of course!) and I used to love those supermarket offers that incentivised me to buy even more. Interestingly us UK folks love of a drink bargain may also be confirmed by recent University of Cambridge research that found end of aisle displays significantly increased sales of displayed products: 46% for spirits, 34% for wine and 23% for beer. So it wasn’t just me then?
If I was having the lie-in the next morning at the w/end I would almost always stay up beyond Mr HOF and sink another couple of glasses and smoke a couple more fags – like I needed them? Same with the fags had to always make sure there were 2 left in the pack for the following day. Not nuts much huh?
Was it just me with the drinking rituals or does this all sound familiar to you too? 🙂
This is the mother load for me. Everything is my responsibility and my fault, good or bad, happy or sad. Drinking was my personal stick to beat myself with for years. I could ‘why me?’ about drinking ad infinitum. Why am I the only one who can’t drink normally? What did I do to make this happen to me? On and on and on.
Personalisation is where we attribute personal responsibility for something, including the resulting blame or praise, for events over which we have no control (source) Or, welcome to the world of parenting, I digress 😉
Nothing allows this better than drinking. Imbibe lip loosening, inhibition dropping addictive substance in vast quantities and stand well back. OK so I picked up the first glass that IS my responsibility. But the cascade of events afterwards, however much the bottle of alcohol says ‘drink responsibly’ – sorry this is an oxymoron and paradox rolled into one.
Strategy, for the last time, involves – you guessed it – checking the evidence! Not everything is our fault and it doesn’t always happen to me only. I am just not that damn special or ‘terminally unique’ as AA would say 🙂
I should say everything was my responsibility because I’m drawing boundaries around this one and progress is swift when you put down the glass. Maybe you’d like to join me? 🙂
This is a real biggie in our world. We use labelling to connect with people but also to distance ourselves. So I am happy to be a member of the sober blogging community because that has positive connotations for me but am still stuck on the ‘am I an alcoholic?’ question because the label of alcoholic still carries and attracts very negative stigma.
“This is a more severe type of overgeneralization; attributing a person’s actions to their character instead of some accidental attribute. Rather than assuming the behavior to be accidental or extrinsic, the person assigns a label to someone or something that implies the character of that person or thing” (source)
Being unable to control our drinking is seen as a character defect rather than the reflection of an alcoholic substance that we have accidentally become addicted too because of our cultural acceptance and encouragement of us to drink. For me it suggests that I am a ‘bad’ person and that I have ‘failed’ in some way. But I am not defined by my ability to drink alcohol or not, this is just a tiny facet of me as a person, and yet I feel shame.
Strategies to manage:
- Back to checking for evidence. I am not the only person struggling with this issue and thanks to the sober blogging community I know this. I could always go to an AA meeting in real life and check it there too.
- Beware of labels as they usually hide the truth
What other labels need deconstructing and redefining? Sober and what that means is the first one that springs to my mind. What else? Chime in below 🙂
This is times when I focusing entirely on negative elements of a situation, to the exclusion of the positive. I guess for me and drinking that would be thinking about when I was moderating and how when I started to drink heavily again how I could not think about the times of moderating as positive and how each time I was learning new tools for my sober toolkit. They weren’t wasted they were valuable learning opportunities but I saw them as negative relapses.
Also, it is the brain’s tendency to filter out information which does not conform to already held beliefs. So if someone said something nice about this blog post I might still think it was not good enough and that it should have been better written because I believe I am not creative.
This is mental filtering.
As Almost Alcohol wrote: Look at how I drink. Obviously I’m an alcoholic. I can’t even quit when I try really hard. I fucking relapsed. In this piece of writing she focused on the fictional relapse and not on the successful quitting before that night.
The new way of thinking includes:
- Checking the evidence to support the statement
- Write a list of all the ‘good bits’ no matter how small they seem by comparison
- Try not to filter out all the bad stuff and just focus on that
Every time you attempt to moderate and do so successfully, for however long a duration, this is a good thing if you are trying to cut down or stop completely. I spent years moderating before I finally nailed this quit and I wouldn’t have done it without all the good things I learned about my drinking and myself during the process. It’s not always the outcome but the process which teaches us the most or to use the oft used expression ‘it is not the destination but the journey’.
What great things did you learn when you turn your mental filter to positive? I’d love to hear them 🙂
It could be argued that once I drank there was no reasoning with me. I became completely at the mercy of my emotions. But now I don’t drink and so I am less ‘tired and emotional’ (code for pissed and sobbing) and my reasoning is more reasonable 🙂
So emotional reasoning is when we react emotionally and let our hearts rule our heads. Where we are presuming that negative feelings expose the true nature of things, and experiencing reality as a reflection of emotionally linked thoughts. Thinking something is true, solely based on a feeling (source)
So sometimes in the early days of stopping I felt bored in the evenings because I’d stopped drinking so I felt I was boring. Feeling = being. Or when I’m due to clean my house and I think that it’s hopeless to do it because I’m overwhelmed by the prospect of doing it! Not helpful and also not true as I always feel tons better when it’s done with a real sense of achievement.
Over to Almost Alcohol‘s passage: I’m just a pretty crap person. I might as well learn to live with that. Fuck it. Lots of people are crappy. We all grow up and learn the truth, that we are just not that great. Because I feel like crap I am crap.
- Searching for the evidence to support feeling this way.
- If you do find them you may have to accept you are being ’emotional’
- You can accept that you are putting yourself down for no good reason
- But you do have a choice
- You can continue to feel this way
- OR you can tell yourself that there is no reason why you are feeling this way
- And then try to work out how you should be feeling
As a female I get caught up in this type of thinking because I am unfortunately hormonally challenged fairly regularly which doesn’t help. And sometimes I just accept that this is the reason and it will pass. How ’bout you?
PS I am using a piece of writing by another sober blogger because it was SO good and illustrated so many examples of these types of thinking without me having to write a forced piece including them all. I am using it because it completely reflects how I felt and is not a reflection on her individually. I am also mentioning and linking every time because I don’t want to not acknowledge her brilliant writing talent 🙂
This is similar in some ways to ‘black and white thinking’. Overgeneralisation is where we use an experience in one part of our life to influence other parts of it. A negative example would be the ‘I never get anything right’ kind of thinking where a single negative event is seen as a never-ending pattern of defeat.. A positive example would be ‘everyone drinks like me’ which may be true, as for me personally, most of my friends and family did drink like me – apart from the pre and post event hidden drinking at home, ‘livener’ and ‘night cap’ anyone? 😉
It is a cognitive bias and a logical fallacy but that doesn’t stop me using it to support a line of thinking whether positive or negative. Who says our brains are rational and logical?
Just because we fail at one thing does not mean that we will fail at everything and transposing negative feelings from one experience to another can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I’d relapsed on my drinking yesterday, smoked, eaten crap and not run I’d have been wallowing in overgeneralisations a bit like this I’m just going to have a crappy life, I’ll be one of those people who disappoint their families, I’ll always regret never making anything of myself. Poor me. Thanks Almost Alcohol 🙂
So how am I working on this line of faulty thinking:
- Again I look for evidence to support this view. Does everyone drink like me? Do I never get anything right?
- I don’t pretend there isn’t a problem.
- But I am learning to recognise that there is no value in generalising my unhappiness from one situation to the rest of my life.
- I try to distinguish between things which genuinely are ‘bad’ or unpleasant from other areas of my life that are not and that I am viewing under the same black cloud.
It is a much happier way to be 🙂 How bout you? What overgeneralisations related to your drinking would you be happy to share?
As you know I started some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to look at my thinking around drinking. Having done a couple of sessions I quickly began to realise that, actually, my drinking was a symptom of a much more complex issue than my inability at times to control how much I drink. Shit, this was not what I thought it would be.
In one of the early sessions we looked at some of the thinking errors that can occur that can keep us trapped in negative thought patterns. These negative thinking patterns simply convince our mind that what we see is true when it is not. These cognitive distortions are “maladaptive” and CBT replaces these “coping skills, cognitions, emotions and behaviors with more adaptive ones by challenging an individual’s way of thinking and the way that he/she reacts to certain habits or behaviors” (source)
So the main thinking errors are:
- Black and white thinking
- Emotional reasoning
- Mental filter
- Discounting the positive
- Should’s and musts
- Jumping to conclusions
Now I recently read this brilliant post by Almost Alcohol and with her permission I am reproducing this particular paragraph here because she has completely nailed my thoughts around drinking and I couldn’t have written it better myself.
Why is it here? Because it beautifully illustrates some of the thinking errors that I display and that she expressed on my behalf 😉
Shit. I’m pretty drunk. Shit. This wasn’t what I wanted to happen. Maybe I can’t drink normally. Maybe I’m really an alcoholic. Look at how I drink. Obviously I’m an alcoholic. I can’t even quit when I try really hard. I fucking relapsed. I’m a fuck up. I can’t get out of this. I can’t quit. I always thought I could quit when I finally decided to and I can’t. I must be an alcoholic, and most alcoholics relapse and can’t quit and keep drinking and ruin their lives. I’m just going to have a crappy life, I’ll be one of those people who disappoint their families, I’ll always regret never making anything of myself. Poor me. I didn’t mean to be an alcoholic but it’s too late, I guess. Life didn’t turn out like I thought it would. Sobriety is just beyond me, I have no willpower, I’m just a pretty crap person. I might as well learn to live with that. Fuck it. Lots of people are crappy. We all grow up and learn the truth, that we are just not that great. So I drink. So I’m a drinker. What the fuck ever. I wish I weren’t, but also I wish I were thin and dynamic and good at crafts and successful and I’m not. We can’t all be perfect. I’ll just accept that my life isn’t great. At least then I can drink, which gives me something to look forward to when I’m bored and depressed.
Over the next 10 posts I’m going to address each of those thinking errors listed above and we’ll play a bit of buzzword bingo and see if we can spot them in the paragraph above.
Starter for 10? 🙂
So this week-end has really shaken things up for me. My running buddy was the first person I told I was going to give up drinking the week-end before I did and this was our first time together again since that day. Not only that but it was a week-end of more firsts – first hotel, first organised run event, first meal out with friend, all sober.
Don’t get me wrong it was a huge success and I feel so proud of myself but that in itself has created a bit of a problem. See when you start to do well in some aspects of your life you, or I at least, start to question other elements of it that are less rosy. It’s like you raise the bar on life.
See before if I wasn’t particularly happy about something that was happening, or I had to do, I would drink, smoke and moan to a friend. You know ‘poor me, poor me, pour me another one’. But 2/3rd’s of that coping strategy is no longer available to me and so I find myself in a bit of a conniption (I love that word and just had to use it!)
I used to be a happy little wage slave and the private and public corporations could do their worst and I would drink. Annoying person in the office? Have a drink when you get home. Dull and boring task? Reward yourself later. So I am struggling with the whole happy in my work day existence and the fabulous week-end just drew attention to that fact. I love my job, I just hate the office politics and am not very good at playing the game or keeping my mouth shut – can you tell? 😉
What I’m struggling with is do I trust myself and my emotions in these early days? It feels like a real issue but I can’t work out if it’s a ruse to destabilise things and make drinking more likely or if I genuinely am just not happy with the status quo in a way that I used to be before. Maybe I’ve always been less than happy with things and I just need to let it go. I really don’t know and it is giving me angst.
If there are any wise words that you can offer I’d much appreciate it. Answers on a postcard please, or in the comments section below 🙂