Tag Archives: sobriety

Drinking Catastrophes

Ooh this one was a biggie for me.  Catastrophising.  I had an old nursing colleague who said that I could take one problem and split that into ten and then split each of those ten into another ten until I had a pyramid of problems, worries and anxieties.  Maybe being a nurse doesn’t help as during your career you get to see the worst possible things happen and you just end up with a jaded view.  Who knows.

But I can magnify a problem like a pro.  Exaggeration? No, just disaster/risk management in my book 😉  But the thing about this line of thinking is that if you see the problem as SO big it becomes unmanageable; the ‘you can’t eat an elephant in one bite’ approach as Belle would say.  You’re also minimising and underestimating your ability to deal with it, like you are looking down a telescope from the wrong end.  So I end up paralysed, in analysis paralysis.

Here’s some catastrophising: I must be an alcoholic, and most alcoholics relapse and can’t quit and keep drinking and ruin their lives.

And here’s some minimising: Sobriety is just beyond me, I have no willpower, I’m just a pretty crap person (Almost Alcohol)

So what to do?

  • When things do go wrong I try to avoid turning a small problem into a disaster.  Mountains out of molehills anyone?
  • I search for the evidence.  How bad is it really?
  • I assess my ability to manage it.  Am I really not able to manage it?
  • I make a list of things I could try to do
  • If all else fails I call in the professionals

the professionals

Sorry not trying to make light – I couldn’t help myself 😀

So this one has taken some major work on my part.  How do you catastrophise around your drinking thinking?

 

 

 

 

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? 🙂

What does hangover free look like?

Now this isn’t some philosophical question, more of a visual representation question.  I’ve been thinking about changing my blog a bit and was trying to think of what ‘a hangover free life’ looks like visually.

I suspect for all of us this will look different but for me this is what I see in the daytime:

Girl_on_Beach_Hammock_Maldives

And this is what I see come evening time:

bubble bath and candles

Why?  Well we honeymooned in the Maldives and at the time I described it as being what I imagined heaven on earth would be like.  Just looking at these picture makes me happy, optimistic and inspired, plus candles and bubbles in a bath are part of my sober treats already 😉

All those pennies and pounds I’ve been saving need to be put to good use for a BIG sober treat in the future.  When I was training to run the London Marathon I used a similar image on the wall next to my running machine to keep me motivated and it’s no different now.

Plus I have this dream of one day in the future running sober celebratory retreats where all us cool sober people hang out, catch some rays and generally live the good life for a week or so to remind us why we started on this journey and to reward our hard work and continued growth.

If you had to visualise what it means to you what would it look like?  Could you email me with an image that most represents the goal of sobriety for you and I’ll post them all up and we can have a poll to decide which one goes on the top of my blog (or maybe more than one image who knows!)  Send them in over the next two weeks and I’ll share them all after that 🙂

Can’t wait x

Edited to add: 22/04/14 Was so excited to be able to change the header on my blog after the site being down all Easter week-end that I couldn’t hold off putting a new image up temporarily.  I will share all the other images you suggested on 2nd May as promised and we’ll change it again then 🙂 xx

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 🙂

Soberiety Bloggers

I was reading MTM’s blog post (which you can read here) about The Bubble Hour broadcast from Sunday night.  It is called Soberiety Bloggers and featured Mrs D, UnPickled and ByeByeBeer and I just had to listen to it as soon as my kids were in bed.  You can listen to it if you haven’t already here.

For me it was one of the Bubble Hour’s best shows as it featured people whose blogs I had read and followed since my journey towards sobriety began.  Putting voices to their names was the most amazing experience.  Hearing them all together describe their journey from drinker to long term recovery was both inspiring and reassuring at the same time.  I know I had read their journey’s already but hearing it somehow made it more concrete and more real.

I appreciate I am probably coming over a bit ‘gushy’ about this but hearing them talk about their efforts at moderating before they stopped and the ups and downs of the journey just resonated with me in a way I wasn’t expecting.  It made me long to sit and talk with other sober journeymen in the real world over a cup of coffee or tea that the virtual blogging world does not as yet offer.  I felt the same when I ended the Skype chat with Veronica Valli.  Pumped up, alive, renewed, motivated.  The sharing of success and difficulties is both envigorating and humbling at the same time.  I can only imagine this must be what it is like when you attend a recovery meeting and pushes me ever closer to the step of seeking out other people on this journey in the non-virtual world.

I want to belong to the sober community as much as I wanted to belong to the drinking world when I drank.  I want to be buoyed up by the infectious nature of being around people who are rocking it in sobriety but mostly I just want to give Mrs D and UnPickled a hug and say thank you.

Mother’s little helper …

This article was featured in a UK Sunday newspaper this week-end and it is really very good.  The title of this blog post is taken from the article which you can find here.  It is written by a member of the Soberistas community and spoke to me completely as to why I stopped drinking and why I’m out here in the sober blogging community.

My favourite bit is this:

Instead of finding ourselves among a bunch of losers with an incurable disease – the stereotype, however unfairly, of the “recovering alcoholic” – we’ve discovered a community of funny, clever, like-minded people with full lives and bright futures. And it’s wonderful when someone reaches that eureka moment, realising that being alcohol-free is not something to be afraid of – it’s something to enjoy.

That, of course, is the great thing about an online support group. People too ashamed to seek professional help in the real world can tackle their problems in this virtual realm, welcomed by others who understand and will offer support from their own experiences.

I am a member of Soberistas and agree with everything written by Kate Baily.  Lucy Rocca has provided an oasis of sobriety in a booze-soaked world.  There is also this thriving sober community outside of Soberistas of hundreds of smart sassy people sharing their journeys from alcohol-fueled regret to sober confidence.

This week-end I also watched the film The Anonymous People and the message regarding the value of these kinds of communities, whether virtual or real, was palpable. These sober communities gave me somewhere to go and be heard and to hear and support others in their journeys.  As was often said in the film ‘helping other people stay sober helps me stay sober’ and that is both a powerful motivator and a positive force for good.

A Royal Hangover

Last night I had the most fantastic conversation with Veronica Valli.  She writes a blog which you can find here and she wrote the book ‘Why You Drink and How to Stop: The Journey to Freedom’.

During our long conversation about our journeys through drinking and drug taking (we were both part of the rave generation) to sobriety she mentioned a film I hadn’t heard of and I’m so glad she did.

It’s called A Royal Hangover and looks superb.  The synopsis reads:

Forget the bad weather. Forget the crooked teeth. Forget the quiet, reserved, tea-drinking aristocrat. We are fast painting a new image of Britain: an image of a nation with a drinking problem.

British adults now drink on average 180 bottles of wine a year, or 1137 pints of beer. This means that we Brits now officially drink more alcohol than we drink tea. We drink when we go out, and we drink when we stay in. We even drink BEFORE we go out to drink. It’s almost as if alcohol has become an essential prelude to any form of social engagement: a beer before the date with the hot girl, a couple of vodkas before work, a bottle of whisky before that dreaded trip to the dentist.

Whereas alcohol consumption across Europe has steadily decreased over the past 40 years, in Britain it has risen dramatically, with nearly a 50% rise in alcohol related hospital admissions in the past 10 years alone. Alcohol abuse causes 20,000 deaths and £22 billion of damage to our society each year, and we are showing no signs of slowing down. We start drinking younger and are drinking more and more.

Here is the trailer that was only released on Monday to wet your appetite:

If you would like to see more clips and read more it about it you can do so here: http://aroyalhangover.com/index.html

I am very excited about this and am not sure when it is due for release but will be following any news avidly and will let you know the minute I hear when it’s out 🙂

Edited to add:

I had an email from Arthur Cauty the Director, Writer and Producer of this documentary and if you can help with promoting this via your social media networks then even better!

Hi Lucy,

That’s very kind of you to feature the film on your blog – we appreciate all the support and promotion we can get. Simply posting the trailer on twitter, facebook etc, or inviting people to our Facebook page is a huge help if you’re able to do that.
Thank you very much!
Arthur

The Anonymous People

I was reading the book High Sobriety: Confessions of a Drinker by Alice King last week and in it she wrote that it was thought that 1 in 6 Britons have some sort of problem with alcohol, either through their own drinking or someone else’s.  To me this seems huge and largely unacknowledged.

The UK 2011 census states that the current UK population is 63 million. That means that potentially we have 10 million people where alcohol is a problem for them. The Govt monitors alcohol statistics via the Alcohol Annual Report and in 2012-2013 less than 110,000 were in structured treatment. That’s only 0.01% – the literal ‘tip of the iceberg’.

I admire this American films courage immensely and feel that we need to be acknowledging and owning our problem in the same way here.  You can read more about what the US are doing here.

Edited to add: thanks to soberlearning for letting me know that you can watch this film on 1st March as they are doing a free 24 hour open stream at hazelden.org/social

Dying for a drink

I read this with interest recently:

Russian men losing years to vodka

Russian men who down large amounts of vodka have an “extraordinarily” high risk of an early death, a new study says.

Researchers tracked about 151,000 adult men in the Russian cities of Barnaul, Byisk and Tomsk from 1999 to 2010. They interviewed them about their drinking habits and, when about 8,000 later died, followed up to monitor their causes of death.  The risk of dying before age 55 for those who said they drank three or more half-litre bottles of vodka a week was shocking 35%.

Overall, a quarter of Russian men die before reaching 55, compared with 7% of men in the UK and fewer than 1% in the United States. The life expectancy for men in Russia is 64 years, placing it among the lowest 50 countries in the world in that category.

Alcohol has long been a top killer in Russia and vodka is often the drink of choice, available cheaply and often homemade in small villages. Previous studies have estimated that more than 40% of working-age men in Russia die because they drink too much, including using alcohol that is not meant to be consumed, like that in colognes and antiseptics.

Drinking is so engrained in Russian culture there’s a word that describes a drinking binge that lasts several days: zapoi.

You can read the full article here.  This matches my experience on an alcoholic liver disease ward that the majority of patients were male, late 40’s to early 50’s, who were drinking primarily spirits.  The average male life expectancy in the UK is 80 so drinking knocks an enormous 25 years off their life.

I thought I’d end this post on a more cheery note by wishing you a Happy Valentine’s Day. The biggest gift that Mr Hangoverfree and I have given ourselves today is sobriety and choosing not to celebrate with champagne but with chocolate.  In the eponymous words of Renton in Trainspotting ‘Choose your future, choose life’.

Preparation

So on the cycle of change I had now moved from pre-contemplative to contemplative to preparation.  This stage is crucial.

For 10 years of my working life, l left the NHS and used my nursing skills and knowledge in the corporate world of medical sales and marketing and one of the best things I learned is the 7Ps rule; Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

OK it could be argued that extensive preparation was just a way of procastinating and putting off the eventual day of stopping.  But I felt that this was really important and as I am now on day 127 I would be justified in saying it worked 😉  Just be mindful of wolfie using preparation as a ruse to keep you drinking!

I always start with information and am a bit of a luddite in that the first thing I reach for is a book.  I read a mixture of resource books, autobiographical and fiction.  So these are the books that I have read:

Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp

The Sober Revolution by Sarah Turner and Lucy Rocca

Ice and a Slice by Della Galton

Last Orders – A Drinkers Guide to Sobriety by Andy McIntyre

Why You Drink and How to Stop by Veronica Valli

Restore Your Life: A Living Plan for Sober People by Anne Geller

Dry: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs

Journey Through Thinking about Drinking Towards a Safer Relationship with Alcohol by Stuart Linke

The final book I read before stopping as it required me to continue drinking until I finished reading it was:

Easy Way to Control Alcohol by Allen Carr

Most of these books I read after stopping, not before, as it helped me in the early days to read about other people’s experiences.

The book I’m about to start reading is Between Drinks: Escape the Routine, Take Control and Join the Clear Thinkers by David Downie.

This list is by no means exhaustive as there are many more books!  What books have you read that I haven’t that you would recommend to someone reading this? 🙂

Edited to add: 31/05/2015

These are other books I’ve read since I originally wrote this post almost 16 months ago:

Beyond Addiction by Foote, Wilkens and Kosanke

Almost Alcoholic by Doyle and Nowinski (I’ve written several blog posts about this book which you can read here and here)

Drink – The Deadly Relationship between Women and Alcohol by Ann Dowsett Johnson THIS IS AN EXCEPTIONAL BOOK!

Mrs D  is Going Without by Lotta Dann

Sober is the New Black by Rachel Black

Staying Sober – How to Control The Demon Drink by Binki Laidler

The Good House by Ann Leary (I found this one really triggery even though I read it when I was well over a year after stopping so proceed with caution)

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

As I read more I’ll continue to add them 🙂