Tag Archives: Quitting

Impact of booze on your liver

After sharing yesterday’s documentary it seemed only appropriate to share this video too.  I promise no more uncomfortable medical video posts for a while.

This was shared by Alcohol News which you can follow here.  This show only aired in the last few weeks so is very recent.

The scary thing is the Dr talks about the additional burden alcohol places on females as we are just not as able to process alcohol as men.  I watched this and feared for my poor liver!  My intention is not to scare anyone into quitting but we need to be aware of the implications of what heavy drinking does to the body and how important our liver is to our general well-being and health.

Back to our usually more upbeat blog schedule now! 🙂

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 🙂

 

Health check-in (2)

One of the things I really like about the ‘Smokefree’ booklet is it gives you a timeline  of how quitting smoking benefits your health after certain time frames.  I haven’t seen one for quitting booze so I’m creating my own based on my own experience.

The last time I checked in I was at 4 1/2 months and now I’m another 2 months on.  So what do I notice?

My nails are stronger and tend to split less.

I used to wash my hair every day as I didn’t like it getting greasy and it would within 2 days.  Now I can wash it and leave it for 2 days without problems.

We have a new kitten who likes to play, scratch and bite and I’m noticing that the scratches he inflicts heal quickly.  Spots also disappear faster!

Working as a nurse, and as a parent to primary school age children, every winter I used to get a good share of all the bugs going round and some lovely colds.  This winter I have only had one mild cold and no more.  This and the quicker healing wounds all suggests an improving immune system.

Finally, having spent 25 years working as a nurse I have some rather fetching varicose veins from all those hours standing and running around.  Astoundingly they are looking better and less prominent suggesting an improvement in my cardiovascular health.

I’ll check in again in another few months and share what I find 🙂

16.50 UK time

Edited to add: I’ve been having a conversation with wolfish (@wintersknife) on Twitter about creating a stopping drinking health benefits timeline.  If you would like to contribute your experience and how far along you were in your sober journey when you noticed the benefit then please post a comment below and we’ll make sure it’s included! 🙂

I’m Done Drinking Counter

This was an app that Sharon mentioned in a comments discussion on her blog.  As soon as I read it I went scuttling off to the iTunes store looking for it and you can find it here.

The designer says that it was inspired by their ‘I’m Done Smoking’ App and this app was requested by many to track how many days and how much money you can save by not drinking.  And that’s what it does!

You programme in your quit date, how many drinks you drank per day, what was your choice of poison and the cost per drink was and it does the rest 🙂

It shows your quit date and time in days, hours and minutes since your last drink.

It shows the number of drinks not consumed in number of drinks, bottles/packs and cases.

It shows the calories saved (calculated using 125 calories for a 5oz serving of wine for me) and $$ cash saved.

A nice touch on the ‘About’ page is that the designer says ‘I started this app with the idea of just saying I’m Done and use it as daily motivation to prove that if I could stop drinking I could do anything, even create an iPhone app’ 🙂

I have it downloaded on my iPad and it cost $0.99

At the time of writing this post I was at 171 days since my last drink, had not consumed 686 alcoholic drinks, had saved a whopping 82,372 calories and £1024 in cash (x 2 as Mr HOF has also stopped) therefore meaning a combined total of £2048!!  It’s a great motivator 😉

Edited to add: the app has now been updated with a range of drinks from beer to spirits to wine to cocktails to chose from.

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!!

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!!

Survival’s Law of Three

This is an old adage from battlefield medicine and triage about survival times:

3 seconds – fight or flight decision making time

3 minutes – without air

3 hours – without warmth or shelter

3 days – without water

3 weeks – without food

This rule of three’s has stuck with me for many things and I used it when giving up the fags and then I applied it to giving up the booze too:

3 days – physical withdrawal time.  Towards the end of my drinking my hangovers could last 2 days and I wouldn’t feel recovered until the third morning of waking (unless of course I chose to manage the hangover with a ‘hair of the dog’ and then I was back to square one)

3 weeks – psychological withdrawal time (remember PAWS)  The first 3 weeks can be really tough mentally and can feel like you are ‘white knuckling’ it at times.  Hold on tight and it will pass.

3 months – length of time it takes to break an old habit and make a new habit.  Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) medication programmes are for 12 weeks because of this knowledge.

If you can survive these key stages and push past 3 months to 100 days then you will give your neural networks a good go at breaking the drinking habit.

On any length of days of moderating or quitting you will learn valuable ‘survival without booze’ skills for the next time.  Never give up giving up if that is what you want to achieve.  I got really good at giving up as I got so much practice 😉

Committing to stopping

winebottlesmilkcartons

Like the postcard above I had always made stopping drinking a joke.  That was my defense mechanism to what I knew was a pretty serious problem, even if none of my friends or family saw me as any worse than any of them.  But now I wanted to take it seriously and so I made a contract with myself.

This contract is modelled on the making changes worksheet taken from the centre for smoking cessation and training here in the UK.  It could be used for any change that you are considering making.

It detailed the change I wanted to make to my drinking, and could just as easily be used for moderating for a specified length of time if you are not ready to stop completely.

It considered; how changing/not changing made me feel. how changing/not changing might affect how others viewed me and the consequences to myself and other people

It listed the advantages and disadvantages of both making the change and not making the change and the conclusions that I had come to.

It then listed a ratings scale of how motivated I was about the change and how confident I felt about the change.  Finally at the bottom it had a section for other considerations. So for me previously when I used it to give up smoking I included the risk of drinking alcohol while quitting smoking as for me the two went hand in hand.

Critically I completed it when I was really hungover and my desire to change was at it’s highest. I then posted it up on the front of my fridge so when ever I was tempted to consider having a drink it was there as a reminder of the deal I’d made with myself.

You can use this with yourself progressively as you moderate or stretch your duration of non-drinking to longer and longer time frames.  You can keep former contracts as a record of progress and to see how your motivation and confidence changes over time and what influences them as you learn more skills to manage your drinking.

If you would like a print friendly pdf version it is included in a guest feature article that was published on Soberistas yesterday here 🙂

Alcohol and depression

I had several bouts of depression during my drinking years, mainly reactive depressions caused by bereavements or being bullied.  As I self-medicated with alcohol that was usually my first line treatment.  I also referred myself to the GP practice for counselling to overcome it but on one occasion this was not enough to help me and I was prescribed anti-depressants.  I took the course of anti-depressants and my low mood improved but in hindsight I realise that my drinking was probably not helping things at the time.  I was prescribed a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) and it is recommended that you do not drink whilst taking this medication.  I roundly ignored this advice washing down my tablet every day with a glass of wine.  I mentioned in another post recently how much better my mood had been since I quit and this got me thinking and researching.

Last year a newspaper article reported the results of a survey of tens of thousands of GP’s sick notes and found that 35 per cent of illnesses were linked to stress, anxiety or depression. In the United Kingdom, the use of antidepressants increased by 234% in the 10 years up to 2002 and the number of antidepressants prescribed by the NHS in the UK almost doubled during one decade, authorities reported in 2010. Furthermore the number increased sharply in 2009 when 39.1 million prescriptions were issued, compared to 20.1 million issued in 1999. Also, physicians issued 3.18 million more prescriptions in 2009 than in 2008 (source).  This is an alarming statistic in itself and I began to wonder how many other people were like me and had continued to drink whilst taking them?

A meta-analysis of depression and substance use among individuals with alcohol use disorder found that high rates of depression are common among individuals with alcohol use disorders (AUD), particularly alcohol dependence. Data from the National Comorbidity Survey estimated the lifetime prevalence of major depression to be nearly one quarter (24.3%) among alcohol-dependent men and nearly one half (48.5%) among alcohol-dependent women, exceeding the prevalence rates among individuals without AUD. In clinical samples, the lifetime rates of co-occurrence are greater still, ranging from 50% to 70%.

Research has shown that the pharmacological effects of alcohol may produce symptoms of depression more or less directly during periods of intoxication and/or withdrawal.  Relatedly, laboratory studies have shown that depressive symptoms can spontaneously emerge in the context of heavy drinking and abate with abstinence.

So my thinking has become how much of my depressive symptomatology was caused by, or certainly exacerbated by, my drinking? And also how many other people may be being prescribed anti-depressants for depression that is caused or exacerbated by drinking and yet they do not know this link between drinking and depression and continue to drink?

Edited to add: 29th April 2016

Drinking Alcohol While Taking Antidepressants Could Exacerbate Depression, Increase Drug’s Side Effects