Tag Archives: drunk

Should Drink Less, Must Drink Less

This is another biggie for me.  When I was moderating and trying to manage my drinking  I struggled with the ‘I should be able to manage my drinking’ and ‘I must have 3 nights off a week as per the Govt recommendations’.  Then when I couldn’t manage it I would beat myself up and feel guilty for being such a failure and not being able to keep my own drinking rules.  Hello, addictive substance alert!

These kind of thoughts make heavy demands on us emotionally and I love that Albert Ellis termed this “musturbation,” probably because it appeals to my sometimes purile mind (source).  It is one thing to want to try to do something positive about your drinking, like reduce the amount you drink on a daily or weekly basis.  It is quite another to say that you ‘should’ or ‘must always’ be like that.

Strategies:

  • When you find yourself using ‘shoulds and musts’ recognise and acknowledge the thought and then forgive yourself the perfectionism and give it up.
  • Yes, of course it is important to try and change thoughts, feelings and behaviours but don’t punish yourself if you can’t always keep it up or don’t succeed.

This, for me is, is why I stopped drinking.  Because if I drank I’d break my own self-imposed rules and then think ‘what the hell, may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb’ (explanation).

If you don’t drink the only should or must is not to drink.  There is no sliding scale on the perfectionism.  In this instance all or nothing thinking actually works to your advantage 🙂

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? 🙂

My last drunks

In the last year of my drinking there were two events that put the final nail in the coffin of my drinking career.  I’m going to talk about them in two different posts because there are lessons to be learned from both for me and they both contributed in a different way.  The final one I’ll talk about tomorrow.

The first one was in November 2012 and was a nursing re-union.  It was a 20 year post training celebratory gathering of my old student nurse colleagues back in the city where I trained.  I was on one of my moderation/quitting attempts back then and hadn’t had a drink for 6 weeks running up to it.  It was an opportunity for me to have a week-end away from small children and catch up with other close nursing friends, not from my training colleagues, at the same time.

I had to drive 4 1/2 hours to get there and grabbed a late lunch at a service station on the way down, checked into my hotel and then headed straight out at 4pm to meet another nursing friend.  She is one of my oldest and closest friends and we shared a strong drinking history together and so we started as we had left off with white wine and fags.  The re-union was at 8pm and suffice it to say that by the time it was due to start I was already sh*tfaced.  I had had nothing to eat so was drinking on an empty stomach after 6 weeks off.  Recipe for disaster.

We arrived at the re-union but by now my memory was patchy.  I remember I was very drunk, didn’t recognise people I should have done because of it, was slurring my words and really struggling to stay upright.  Said friend looked out for me, and after me, and I think she realised from the sobbing drunken mess I had become what a bad state I was in and got me into a taxi and back to the hotel.

The next morning I came too, not knowing what had happened and how I had got back to the hotel.  I texted said friend who said that I was ‘tired and emotional’ and not to worry.  I texted one of the re-union members who was kind and focused on how at least I had made the effort to attend unlike some others who lived more locally.

But I was mortified.  I hadn’t seen these people for 10-20 years.  They didn’t know any of the context to my state – 6 weeks off the booze, difficult family stuff going on, meeting and drinking pre-event.  All they had was how I presented and what a shambling drunken wreck at 8pm I must have seemed.  My shame knew no bounds.

In a recent post, linked to my CBT, I have said that I wonder if I need to do more alcohol experimentation and whether I can moderate.  This memory tells me what a joke that thought really is.  Do I really need more evidence of how that isn’t possible for me?  OK I may have worked through some of my emotional history, baggage and how it impacts on my thinking but would it really be any different?  I think we all know the answer to that one don’t we ……..

PS This time next week I’ll have run the Nike 10K and am hoping to do it in sub 1hr.  If you would like to sponsor me for this event and raise some money for Alcohol Concern then you can do so here ( http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/ahangoverfreelife).  Donations can be made anonymously and thank you in advance 🙂

 

Coping Strategy Enhancement

We all have ways of coping when things aren’t going well in our lives or when we feel stressed.  For me one of those coping strategies was I used to drink.  I used to do other things too like run, read, escape into a film or music, talk to friends and I still do all of those things now – except the drinking 🙂

I didn’t realise that drinking was an unhelpful coping strategy, in fact it had a habit of making the situation feel worse, but it was a habit that I had got used to and I had never tried to find a more helpful way of managing my stress.

So for me getting drunk in the short term was helpful because I was able to forget about the problem and it would allow me to feel relaxed and confident.  But if I overdid it I would feel sick and dizzy, I would do things that would embarrass myself, I might feel more angry or depressed and that would lead to me getting what my friend would call ‘tired and emotional’ i.e. crying, or getting into fights.  I would have a hangover and spend too much money that I could ill afford to spend.

And long term it became an over used coping strategy leading to dependence, it created minor health problems, I offended friends and family, fortunately I never got in trouble with the police (but more by luck than judgement) and it caused money troubles.

So what I needed to do was ‘beef up’ my non-drinking strategies to counter-balance the choice of not drinking!

So I developed new strategies, such as this here – my sober blog.  I also connected with other sober people both real and virtual, I focused my attention on other activities that didn’t revolve around drinking, like the cinema, going for walks, meeting for tea not beers.  You need to think creatively about how you spend your time and where you focus your energies and attention.  You can look at each of your coping strategies and create a decision table to help you decide if what you are doing is positive and helpful or negative and unhelpful, both in the short term and long term.

When you are feeling negative about not drinking I found I had to work really hard at it, and at times it felt like a slog, but ‘faking it till you make it’ does work!  Connect when you don’t really feel like it, reach out when you don’t want to.  My wanting to withdraw was ALWAYS a sign of a relapse in the making.

What coping strategies have you used that I could benefit from? 🙂

Relapse signature

Working on our early warning signs is one way of avoiding a complete relapse.  They are a set of symptoms that can occur in a specific order, over a particular period of time, that indicate a relapse is possible and impending.

You need to think about what changes that you experience in your thoughts, perceptions, feelings and behaviour prior to your last bout of drinking, whether you were moderating already, or had stopped completely .  It is also helpful to identify events which might trigger these sorts of changes and I’ll cover those in more detail in another post

The early warning signs can take place over a period of several weeks or months and are usually noticeable between four weeks and two days before a relapse and include:

  • Subtle changes in thinking – in terms of the way you think and what you think about.  For me this is getting wistful about drinking, the cravings being rekindled and becoming preoccupied with the thought  of drinking again.
  • Change in the way you feel.  So I get this sense of ‘f*ck it’ that gets stronger and stronger.  I can almost taste the booze in my mouth.
  • Changes in the way you behave.  So I start to look for, or provoke, reasons to drink or I withdraw.
  • Changes in relationships with other people.  I might pick a fight to enable me to storm off to the off-license because I’m upset and I deserve a drink now.  I might stop reaching out to the communities that would challenge these thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

If you were to look back you could almost pin-point the moment when you went from happily not drinking to unhappily not drinking, from happy sober person to dry drunk.

So if you find yourself experiencing what feels like early warning signs you can practice asking yourself questions such as:

  1. “What am I thinking about?”
  2. “How am I feeling?”
  3. “Is this my usual way of thinking/feeling?”

I usually out myself to Mr HOF or you guys 😉  What was your relapse signature?

Not Hangover Free?

This nifty chart explains what makes a hangover feel like it does and gives some good tips on how to manage it.

Not Quite Hangover Free?
PS I’m not sure where you’d be able to source activated charcoal and I’m not sure I would want to take this as in A&E medicine it is used to make you sick! :s

PPS Asthenia discussed under (7) means weakness and from Wiki:  weakness is a symptom represented, medically, by a number of different conditions, including: lack of muscle strength, malaise, dizziness, or fatigue.[1] I didn’t know what it meant and had to look it up! 😉

What the Dr said

As I said in my last post I’ve been back in school and during that time had a really interesting conversation with a GP.  We were discussing alcohol as a public health issue and she said that there was this saying in her experience that went something like this:

‘You only have a drink problem if you drink more than your GP or your MP’.

Now I had never heard this expression before but actually it makes perfect sense.  Your GP is your senior primary care health professional and your MP is your senior political representative.  Both influence and shape health and public health policy and legislature.  Now if they drink the same amount as you they are not going to perceive your drinking as a problem because to do so would cause them discomfort relating to their own drinking (or cognitive dissonance).  And therein lies the rub.

The GP asked me if I drank, and I shared that I had given up 6 months ago, to which she said ‘well you are probably in a better position to comment as you are unbiased’.  See if your GP or MP drinks like you then they have a positive bias towards alcohol and this creates a dichotomy for them.  How can they be impartial in their working lives towards the issue?  I responded that it could be argued that I now have a negative bias towards booze as I had stopped drinking (or that’s how some would choose to see it!).

The WHO stats I shared yesterday telegraph loud and clear that ‘Houston we have a problem’.  We need to have an honest open discussion about alcohol and it’s impact and yet this is complicated by the fact that so many professionals that should be unbiased are not.  So the issue gets tip-toed round or we stick our heads in the sand hoping that it will just go away.  Except it doesn’t and it isn’t.  The elephant in the room has passed out drunk and we just keep stepping over it ……

First Dates

This is a UK tv programme run on C4 and which as the name suggests follows couples on first dates.

The episode I saw peaked my interest as one of the couples are described in the synopsis as:  Young party animal Devon is nervous too, and arrives in the bar needing a very large drink. Her dishy date, debonair Will, is teetotal, but there’s chemistry when they see past each other’s drink orders.

If you would like to watch the episode you can do so here (Will & Devon’s date starts at 33:30)

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/first-dates/4od#3655544

What was interesting about this was how the two of them related and talked to each other when she describes herself as a big drinker, who’s drank alcohol from the age of 13 and thinks that this is normal, and he’s 24 and never had a drop.  Plus it was great to see a young person who has never drunk alcohol and says he doesn’t need to drink to enjoy  himself! 🙂

Sober boosts

On giving up drinking I have noticed that I have been getting these ‘sober boosts’.  Every 6-8 weeks or so I get an increase in the feeling of physical and emotional well-being from the increased length of time without a drink.  It reminded me of the development of babies and developmental leaps that they have.

So using this analogy (bear with me) when a baby is born it is expelled from a comfortable known warm place into an uncomfortable cold unknown world which is how it felt to me when I stopped drinking.

For the first 4-6 weeks of life a baby spends most of it’s time crying, sleeping and eating (oh and pooing and weeing).  Everything is very basic.  Well again that is how I felt in the early days.  Emotional, wanting to hide under the duvet and sleep, and eating everything in sight to replace the sugar that I was no longer getting from booze.

At 6-8 weeks babies have a developmental growth spurt and start to interact with their surroundings and you see their first smile.   They become able to briefly calm themselves.   This is when I experienced my first sober boost and I began to become more settled and happy with where I was and what I was doing.  My first pink cloud moment came after this 🙂

At 4 months again they have another developmental growth spurt and are able to smile spontaneously and  to cry in different ways to show hunger, pain or being tired.  When I had my second sober boost I noticed another period of developing my ability to differentiate my emotions and an increase in calmness about who I am and where I am going.

At 6 months (which will be me tomorrow!) they have another developmental boost  where they start to roll.  At this stage of the game I feel like I’m rocking and rolling 😉 the sobriety thing.  They also recognise their name and will turn to look at you.  Me too, I now recognise myself as a sober person and if you offered to buy me a beer I would turn and look at you oddly!  They also like playing peekaboo with partially hidden objects and I’m enjoying getting to know parts of myself that has been partially hidden by booze.

I am curious to see if this matching will continue and will let you know how I’m getting on at 9 months when babies have their next big developmental leaps.  Sober bloggers further on in their journey’s have shared that it gets better at these times so it looks like it might be so.

Comparing sobriety to being a baby may seem a little far-fetched but if you have drank for a long period of time then chances are you are learning everything anew.  You are learning how to be in the world without the crutch of alcohol which I found both terrifying in the beginning and exhilarating now.  I have absolutely no desire to go back to my old way of being and the groundhog day of hungover, thinking about drinking, drinking, drunk, another hangover.  Not drinking is a very small price to pay for the huge benefits I have experienced so far 🙂

Alcohol test case

It’s funny how one idea leads to another.  The friend who mentioned Waterloo Road asked if I’d heard on the news about the guy in the States who was suing a casino for lending him $500,000 while he was ‘blacked out’ drunk which he then gambled away.  As the Telegraph reported “Eventually, having had 30 drinks in 17 hours, he blacked out and it was only after he woke up that he realised how much he had lost.”

Whilst looking for this story I found a news report about a landmark test case regarding drinking alcohol whilst pregnant.  This interests me as when I submitted my article to the Guardian for publishing a paragraph was removed by the editor which read:

This is very worrying when research has shown that the leading known cause of people born with learning disabilities in the western world is Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and 1 in 100 live births in the UK and US have neurodevelopmental damage caused by alcohol.  Yet this isn’t brought to our attention.

Why the editor removed it I have no idea and they have final editorial rights so I’m not complaining.  The piece in The Independent was discussing a landmark test case, due to be heard by the Court of Appeal, that could criminalise excessive drinking during pregnancy and it made me think of this removed paragraph about FAS.

The Telegraph article detailed how “It will be argued that a six-year-old girl is the victim of a crime because she suffered brain damage when she was exposed to alcohol in the womb – a risk that her mother was aware of, Sky News has reported.

The case comes amid a 50 per cent rise in Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in the past three years, with 313 damaged from exposure to alcohol in the womb in 2012/2013.”

Sue Brett, the adoptive mother of 15-year-old Glenn who was born with FAS after his mother drank excessively, said women need to be better alerted to the dangers.

She told the news channel: “It should be to abstain from alcohol throughout pregnancy. You can’t make it a criminal offence if you are still legally saying this is a safe amount to drink or you can drink.

”It needs to be clear from the start that you can’t drink.”

So two recent legal cases where alcohol is under the spotlight and where people are claiming damages because of it’s direct impact or influence.  Is this the thin end of the wedge for the drinks industry, in the same way that the first landmark case about smoking and claims made against the tobacco industry opened the door and led to the truth being exposed about the damaging effect of this other highly addictive substance?