Tag Archives: drinker

Almost Alcoholic to Social Drinker

I loved reading the book ‘Almost Alcoholic’ by Robert Doyle and Joseph Nowinski but I was left with this nagging question that I can’t shrug off and which wolfie is quietly nurturing.

So many of their case studies who were in the ‘almost alcoholic’ zone seemed to be able to go back to normal social drinking after some self-help work or psychological therapeutic input.  Now don’t get me wrong they are clear that there are some who cannot go back to this type of drinking however hard they try.  They talk about drinking developing to the point of dependence or a person having co-occurring conditions, such as mental health problems.

In the UK substance abuse or misuse is seen and treated as part of the mental health service within the wider children and young people’s services if you are under the age of 17.  Both mental health, drugs and alcohol carry the same type of stigma for young people and adults despite huge campaigns to change it (for example the time to change campaign).  Which is why I struggle to accept where I am and am still looking for a way round.  As you know I’ve been having Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) specifically to look at my drinking and having done a series of posts on drinking thinking.   In the near future I will start to look at my thoughts and the formulations that we are working on to share them with you here.  I posted before about a friend of mine who had CBT and turned their drinking around completely.  This both fascinates, excites and scares me.  Could I do the same, would I want to and what if I can’t?  I’m still trying to figure that out.

89 days to go

Social life stirrings

Previously I had posted that I was still struggling with my social life and how I felt about drinking when I was out socially around drinking venues and other drinkers.

But in the last few weeks I’ve noticed a shift.  My social life is improving and is reaching out to new groups and new ways of socialising that I just wouldn’t of considered before.

I’ve met some other lovely sober bloggers for lunch and cups of tea and am keen to do this again soon, but this time with cake 🙂

Secondly I have started going out with some friends at work.  We’ve been going for a bite to eat and then on to the cinema and we’ve done this a couple of times now and I really enjoy it.  Doing something where no one drinks is really odd but equally really nice.  When we first had a meal together I was struck by how no one at the table had an alcoholic drink and how weird that seemed – but for me, newly sober, how fantastically reassuring.  There is a social life out there where booze isn’t a pre-requisite!  Who knew?!

I’m lining up tickets to a gig soon too which will be breaking new ground for me but it’s a couple of months out yet and I’m beginning to feel that by then this will be less of a problem because not drinking will have become even more the ‘new normal’ for me.  Who needs booze to have a good time anyway? It would seem not me anymore, how ’bout you? 😉

‘Rain in My Heart’ Drinkers documentary

There was a discussion on Soberistas about this British BBC documentary which I had never heard of before and therefore not seen.

I watched it last night and it reminded me very much of my nursing days which I talked about here.  I also wrote a guest post for Veronica Valli that was my account of caring for a dying alcoholic that you can read here.

It was filmed in 2006 and is a hard-hitting, shocking and saddening account of the lives of 4 alcoholics during hospital admissions and relapse.  If you wanted an insight into my nursing experience then this is a very accurate and true reflection.

Here is the link to the documentary:

Why I am I sharing it here?  Because my nursing experience helps keep me on the recovery path.  Although as a drinker my alcohol consumption never reached this level or had this impact on my physical health I knew that this is where I would end up if I carried on.  It is a sobering ever present reminder to me and maybe it will help you stay on the path if you are wobbling or strengthen your resolve to stop if you haven’t yet.

Drinking Thinking Errors

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
  • Over-generalising
  • Catastrophising
  • Emotional reasoning
  • Mental filter
  • Discounting the positive
  • Should’s and musts
  • Labelling
  • Jumping to conclusions
  • Personalisation

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? 🙂

Psychosocial stress

We all have days where we feel stressed or low and what is important is to learn to recognise what is your normal ‘ups and downs’ and the early warning signs.  For me if I notice a change that goes on for longer than a week then I would become more watchful and mindful.  These changes might be in my:

  • Mood/feelings
  • Thoughts/beliefs
  • Sleep pattern
  • Eating habits
  • Personal care
  • Socialising/relationships

There are some life events that we cannot control and we have to learn to live with them without falling prey to the drinker’s reflex of picking up a drink to cope.  This is not always easy but the longer time goes on the easier I find it to not resort to this old coping strategy.

Things to consider would include:

  • New job/promotion/redundancy
  • Moving house/leaving home
  • Relationship/friendships/family – loss/divorce/death
  • Holidays/social events/outings
  • Birthdays/anniversaries/Christmas/New Year
  • Health issues
  • Major news events

You can reduce your risk of relapse by:

  1. Changing the things you can change
  2. Learning to recognise your sources of stress
  3. Learning better ways of coping with the things you can’t change

Are there any other life events that are stressful that I’ve forgotten that I need to watch out for too?

 

Angry Bird (s)

Yep we all know the game and I have spent many hours trying to improve my score on it and beat my kids at it.

As a drinker I could also be an angry ‘bird‘. I grew up around arguments as a child and so was pretty avoidant of any confrontations as I didn’t like them and they triggered negative memories and associations for me.  So I would swallow any angry feelings down with my booze and then when I reached trigger point would explode either whilst drinking or in the fog of a hangover the next day.  This just caused a cascade of guilt and shame on top of the anger and remorse and I would resolve to not behave like this again and then the cycle of the building of unexpressed emotions would start again.  I could be pretty passive-aggressive as a result.

If you want to do a good online test about anger go here.

If you struggle with anger either as part of your drinking, or as you try to moderate or stop, then once again those fab peeps at Mind have it covered.

Their tips for managing anger include:

  • Learn your triggers by keeping an anger diary so that you can identify patterns.  If you find it difficult to identify triggers you may need more professional help.
  • Look out for you physical warning signs.  For me I start to clench my jaw and get a radiating heat out from my stomach, what’s yours?
  • Try some calming techniques, like counting to ten, deep breathing or walking away.
  • Learn to be assertive and to express yourself verbally in an assertive way
  • Look at your lifestyle and see if you need to change anything such as exercise, sleep or causes of stress

I still get angry now but it is less often and I handle the feelings differently.  Now I feel that I am more assertive due to an increase in self-confidence and self-esteem and speak out before it reaches explosion point.  Happier Mr HOF and kids as I am less volatile as a result 🙂

Bob The Street Cat

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“It’s incredible,” said Bowen. “When I first saw Bob on this doorstep, I never thought this is where I’d be today.”

I love this true story and I read the book written by James Bowen to describe his and Bob’s journey when it was first published in 2012 and it made me cry.  Now I’m a sucker for a happy ending and this one involves a cat, that looks not too dissimilar to our family cat, so it was always going to be a winner in my eyes.  More importantly this was a story of addiction and escape from it and the hope and change that recovery can bring.

“I think I’ve opened people’s eyes to things they never understood properly,” said Bowen of the book’s success. “I never ever thought I would be able to turn my life around … and be the voice of people who can’t be heard.”

Why I am I sharing this?  Because the companionship of Bob helped James in the same way that I feel the companionship of the sober blogging community helps me.  I also consider that mine is a voice that cannot be heard.  I’m a drinker who had a problem that needed help where traditional support does not exist and yet here it is – in the very ether around me.  I would have been reclaimed and drowned by the sea of booze if I didn’t have the life-line of all of you.  I thank you all for your support from the very being of my soul that is rediscovering itself slowly but surely now that I am hangover free xx

Edited to add 21/10/16

Street Cat Bob: 500,000 Facebook followers, five million books… meet the world’s most famous cat

The Right Time?

Is it ever the right time to stop drinking?  Before I quit I used to ponder this question a lot.  Although I no longer drink I still consider myself a drinker, in the same way that I consider myself a smoker who no longer chooses to smoke, so thinking about this isn’t hard.  If I was still drinking I could think of several reasons why now would not be a good time.  Our wedding anniversary is this week, my niece’s 18th b day party is in a couple of weeks, Easter holidays approaching fast, etc, etc, etc.  Always a bad time and I would put it off and inevitably never come back to it.

So if it is never a good time then how do you decide to change and know if you are ready for change?  For me, because it would never be the right time I just bit the bullet and stopped even though it was 4 weeks before my birthday!

What you could do is fill out a readiness for change questionnaire (University of Rhode Island Change Assessment Scale, URICA).  This is a list of 14 questions that you can mark as disagree, undecided or agree with disagree scoring 0, undecided scoring 1 and agree scoring 2.

The questions are:

  1. As far as I’m concerned, I have a problem that needs changing
  2. I think I might be ready for some self-improvement
  3. I am doing something about a problem that has been bothering me
  4. It worries me that I might slip back on a problem that I have already changed, so I am looking for help
  5. I am finally doing some work on a problem that I have
  6. I’ve been thinking that I might want to change something about myself
  7. At times my problem is difficult, but I am working on it
  8. I’d like to understand myself and my behaviour better
  9. I have a problem and I really think I should work on it
  10. I have not been following through with something I’ve already changed and I want to prevent a relapse of the problem
  11. I thought I had once resolved this problem, but sometimes I find myself struggling with it
  12. I’d like to hear some ideas on how to solve my problem
  13. Anyone can talk about changing, but I am actually doing something about it
  14. Even though I am not always successful at changing, at least I am trying

If you score over 14 you are open-minded to the concept of change around your drinking.  Much like the contract to change, you can do a score intermittently to see how it changes and while you are not ready to change keep drinking or moderating and then come back and repeat it.  Also like the contract to change it can be used for anything, not just booze, and I shall be using it next to tackle the sugar issue that I seemed to have replaced booze with!!

Health Warning

In the UK cigarette’s have carried a Government health warning, in it’s simplest form, since 1971.  These warnings were increased in size in 1991 and then again in 2003 so that now 40% of the packaging display is covered.  Plus in 2008 the graphic picture warnings were introduced.

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What does this have to do with alcohol you may be asking?  Well I guess my question is – why doesn’t booze carry the same kind of warning?  See, if you check the list of many of the warnings now given on cigarettes (which you can see listed here) many of them are equally applicable to alcohol.

So why doesn’t a bottle of wine, spirits or can of beer carry the message  ‘Drinking is highly addictive, don’t start’ or ‘Drinking when pregnant harms your baby’?  High blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, cancer, impotence and reduced fertility, aging of the skin, premature death?  Booze will do this too not just the fags.

Alcohol is carcinogenic because alcohol (ethanol) is metabolized in the liver, where it produces acetylaldehyde, a chemical that the International Agency for Research on Cancer has designated as a carcinogen (this was in 1988).  Alcohol creates the greatest cancer risks in the upper respiratory tract, liver, colon, rectum and breast as found in a meta-analysis of 229 studies of cancer in 19 sites of the body (source).

Now you could argue that these statements only apply if you are a heavy drinker but the same could be said for cigarettes.  The more you smoke the greater the risk, right?  So I just wonder when it will be that these warnings will replace the existing somewhat ambiguous, and often tiny part of the advertisement, ‘drink responsibly’ message currently displayed on alcohol.  And what does that mean exactly anyway?

By using a personal responsibility message the cynical might argued that the supplier of the product is putting the onus on the consumer not the manufacturer.  How else would a court be able to consider criminalising a women who drinks during pregnancy and causes harm to her child?  This completely avoids the issue of the nature of the substance being addictive.  Now if the bottle of wine that a pregnant women picked up to drink stated clearly that consuming it would harm her child then it could be argued that she was culpable but it does not.

Cigarette’s also carry the message that ‘Your doctor or your pharmacist can help you stop smoking’ or ‘Get help to stop smoking: consult your doctor/pharmacist’.   Pity alcohol doesn’t have these health advice message’s too …….

Edited to add: Alcohol Justice in the US released this on 26th Feb ‘There is no determined safe limit for alcohol consumption with regard to cancer risk’  and ‘daily alcohol consumption of as little as 1.5 drinks accounts for up to 35% of alcohol-attributable cancer deaths in the United States’. Read more here: http://alcoholjustice.org/press-room/press-releases/988-alcohol-is-a-leading-cause-of-cancer-even-with-moderate-use.html

Clear Thinking

I recently read the book by David Downie ‘Escape the Routine, Take Control, and Join the Clear Thinkers‘ and really enjoyed it.  I read it in one sitting and it triggered a great deal of reflection on my part.

David is an Aussie who knows a thing or two about beer having founded AustralianBeers.com and was the Australian contributor  to the international beer bible ‘1001 Beers You Must Drink Before You Die’.  Having been such an advocate and encourager of the swilling of beer he is now 3 years into a stint of being ‘between drinks’.

This started as a decision to give up alcohol for a year and he was so struck by the changes that happened that he decided to keep going.   Why did he stop?  Tired of feeling tired and unfit, curious as to what life would be like and because he felt he had nothing to lose as he could always change his mind and have a drink if he wanted.

When he started the journey he was a partner in a major law firm and beer expert.  Now he has left this job having cleared all his debt and works as a writer, has moved from the city to a beach on the Gold Coast and found a new girl.  Life for him has improved immeasurably since he became a clear thinker.  Stopping drinking enabled him to assess what he wanted from his life which prompted massive changes.

The book looks at the value of being a clear thinker and the differences between clear thinkers and typical drinkers.  He shares his experiences through the first year and offers actions at the end of each chapter.  The thing I really like about this book is it considers the benefits of this change in lifestyle and the implications for the long term.  It is framed in terms of huge gains and you read it and think why would you not?

This paragraph summed it up for me:

for people who have let the grog monster grab them by the tail, I am 100 per cent confident that breaking the pattern and letting your soul and mind recover for a good while can give you an opportunity to ask some of the bigger questions, and make real changes to your life as a result.

I absolutely agree with David on this and my life has changed immeasurably in the 5 months since I quit.  Personally, I would never have started this blog if I was still drinking.  I wouldn’t have tried my hand at sewing again.  I wouldn’t have met the brilliant people who write these great books and the many brilliant sober blogs I read every day.

I’ve already worked out that we will save almost £5K a year from not drinking.  And that’s enough to pay for tickets for my family to potentially fly to Australia and go sit on the beach with David now that he doesn’t have to do the work slog.  If that’s OK with him? 😉

Edited to add: David and I have been in touch on email and he had an update for me:

I’m about to take off with my ‘new girl’ next week, around Australia, and then Thailand I think, who knows after that. Maybe France…

Of course as France is only across the water from here I invited him for a cup of tea  🙂  If this is booze free living – I’m in!!