4 years ago I watched the London Marathon and decided that I was unfit and needed to do something about it. I drank and smoked and jokingly described myself as ‘allergic to exercise’. So I bought the trainers and consulted websites and the journey from unfit couch potato to runner began. I was very unfit and the first weeks were hard. At that point I had no intention of running a marathon and if you had told me that I would I probably would have stopped running then and there thinking that this was an unachievable goal for me. But a friend of mine was turning 50 (on the day of the London Marathon!) who was a runner and wanted a running buddy and yep you guessed it I signed up. I had to break the training schedule down as looking at runnning 26.2 miles just seemed WAY to big a challenge for me to get my head round, so I entered a 5k fundraising race first, then a 10k fundraiser, then a half marathon increasing the challenge bit by bit. On the actual day of the marathon the thought that kept me going during that long run was ‘just keep putting one foot in front of the other’ and that’s what I did.
My journey from nicotine addict to non-smoker and dependent drinker to sober has been the same and taken considerably longer time! Smoking has taken me 15 years of attempts and drinking has taken me 10 years. That’s the thing about all changes really they start with a single step and at that time we probably have no intention of ending up where we do but we just keep putting one foot in front of the other, ten minutes without a drink becomes one hour, becomes one evening, becomes one week, becomes one month and for me has now become 10 weeks 🙂
Why is it when we c*ck something up we come down on ourselves harder than a ton of bricks, berating and belittling ourselves, but when we do something well it passes by almost unnoticed or we assign the success as down to something other than ourselves? In psychology this is known as the fundamental attribution error and I’m really good at this type of thinking and in the past it quite often led to me picking up a drink!
So having publicly called myself out for not handling a situation with my kids well earlier in the week I am now going to pat myself on the back for doing the opposite. Same scenario, just before school, when everyone is in a hurry but this time I didn’t yell but stopped and listened and rather than make a child cry I helped them dry their tears and go to school with their head held high rather than their head dropped low.
I don’t know if it would have played out the same had I had a hangover but I believe, and feel, that the clear head is helping me be more patient and have more compassion than I was capable of before. When I don’t quite manage to handle something as well as I could I am quicker to see the need for apology and to move to repair the damage more swiftly. Both lead to less shame and guilt and therefore less desire to pick up a drink!
I’m also not very good at recognising that doing something well for yourself is something worthy of pride. So with pride I say day 69 🙂
So Alcohol Awareness Week here in the UK turned up some tv programming and journalistic gems. I particularly liked this part of a piece in The Telegraph:
‘Alcohol, as I know to my cost, is both physically and psychologically addictive. A recent Netmums survey found that 81 per cent of those who drank alcohol drank more than the safe drinking guidelines, saying they did so to ”wind down from a stressful day’’. And 86 per cent thought they should drink less. Alcohol as a way to wind down makes a certain sense, but if it’s the only way you know, and you are doing it every day, at some point it becomes an addiction.
The stats paint a grim picture, one that is wholly at odds with the way the alcohol industry would like us to view its products. Alcohol is glamorised in our society, and it’s everywhere. In the late Sixties, when the tobacco giant Philip Morris bought the Miller Brewing Company, it brought the same marketing techniques to alcohol as it used for cigarettes. It turned it into a lifestyle choice, by sponsoring sports teams and associating itself with an outdoorsy type of health. It learnt how to segment the market, and the wine and spirits industries quickly followed suit.
Spirits, for instance, were always seen as the preserve of the “older” drinker. How could they catch the youngsters? Thus was born the alcopop, known in the industry by the pessimistic title of “starter drinks”: they’re sweet, brightly coloured rum and vodka concoctions in ready-to-drink formats. I have always thought that the alcopop, more than anything, illustrates the cynical and profit-obsessed motives of the drinks industry. They are private companies with only one aim in sight, to make more money by getting us all to drink more, so in the advertisements people are smiling, always happy, always up.’
Day 68 🙂
So last week a very old friend of mine, who I hadn’t seen in a couple of years, came to see me. We shared a house together another lifetime ago when we were in our mid twenties and single and living it large. Alcohol was a big part of that life and three day weekend drinking benders were common for my friend.
Fast forward to now and their experience they shared last week seems almost miraculous to me. They had continued to drink this way until last year when they abstained for a month and then began a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for 7 months. They recounted to me how now they can open a bottle of wine drink a glass and then put the cork back in and leave it. From the person who, by their own admission, previously if they’d opened a bottle of wine they would have finished it, probably opened another one and then finished that. They drank until they passed out and could not stop but now they could stop and they did. I am SO pleased for my friend and that they seemed to have turned themselves and their relationship to alcohol around.
Cue the voice in my head – well if they can do this why can’t you? And believe me this is a genuine question, not just a weaselly worded reason to start again. I had always pledged to stop for a year at least and that still stands but I couldn’t help but think that if I had a course of CBT within the next year might I be capable of the same? Could I go back to being a ‘normie’ if I unpicked the unhelpful thoughts, feelings and behaviours that have surrounded me and my relationship to alcohol until now?
I know that they are them and I am me and what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another but I just can’t shake the idea that maybe if I could sort me, then it would sort my unhealthy maladaptive overuse of alcohol. The whole is it me or the alcohol question …..
I don’t know the answer to that and will think on. My friend was also adamant that this turn around has been helped by giving up their diet coke habit which was also out of control and that this has made a huge difference. But that is a conversation for another blog 🙂
My emotional thermostat seems to have moved to a setting of high which is feeling really overwhelming. Previously it ticked along at low pretty much all of the time and if I was in danger of it warming up and me beginning to feel stuff then I would just cool it down with some liquid numbness. Thing is now there is no more liquid ‘comfortably numb’ my thermostat has begun to overheat and my emotions are in danger of boiling over. Everything seems to be so close to the surface and when I handle things cack-handedly with my kids and I upset them I feel their pain as if it were my own 🙁 They cry and I want to cry ……
I make amends immediately to smooth over the upset that I have caused and apologise for my over-reaction but it all feels so raw. Like I am experiencing distress that has been buried for the longest of times and has finally been exposed. This feeling stuff is for me the hardest part of not drinking but I know it is something I just have to keep experiencing and that in time the emotional thermostat will find a more balanced setting.
It was Alcohol Awareness Week here in the UK last week and this programme aired as part of it:
Are Britain’s middle classes drinking too much? Experts say yes, so Fiona Foster meets some secret drinkers and examines the impact that alcohol is having on their health.
https://www.itv.com/itvplayer/tonight/series-17/episode-36-tonight-britain-s-secret-drinkers (there were some versions showing up on Youtube if you’re outside the UK and can’t watch, or you can do as Belle did and use a proxy)
It featured Lucy Rocca from Soberistas and was VERY good.
So today is day 28 of my new blogging life and day 64 of my now sober life. I said on day 1 of the blog that I would review at this point. What I didn’t expect when I started this journey was that this many people would be interested in what I had to say, that people would take the time to comment, would decide to follow my writing and that they would share/like/link my blog on their blogs. Thank you so much to all of you (you know who you are) 😉
I’ve enjoyed writing every day and I guess I could now argue that my creative ability as a writer has been proven by the fact that something I wrote got published in a UK national newspaper and I got paid for it! So now I just need to keep proving that I can remain sober 🙂
It’s my hubby’s birthday today which has got me reflecting on birthday’s of old.
High days and holidays were always a bit snarky for me. We have this deal in our household where we share everything – cleaning the house, laundry, getting up with the kids – all split 50:50. So on birthday week-ends we have the ‘do you want the lie-in on your birthday or the day after your birthday?’ conversation. When we drank this was problematic as ideally you both wanted both lie-in’s on the days around your birthday – then you could really let rip with the excess, as too much booze meant staying up late and therefore an insufficient amount of rubbish sleep and need for a lie-in (however short). But this wasn’t fair so whatever day you chose there was almost always a day that you had to get up with the kids with a monster hangover, ‘cos hell we drank on the eve of the day and on the day itself – why wouldn’t you?! Those mornings I was grumpy with everyone – the kids for getting me up, my hubby for not letting me have both lie-ins (!) and myself for drinking too much. Happy Birthday indeed!!
He had the lie-in this morning. As for me – no resentments, no grumpiness, no problem getting up with the kids – even though I have a cold 🙂
A cold started yesterday evening and has now fully descended. Cue sneezing continuously and my nose running for England. When I was a teenager at the first sign of a cold my Dad would make me a hot toddy. Whiskey, cold remedy, honey and lemon saying ‘it will help you sleep’. So every time I had a cold this was how I treated it.
Today came home from work climbed straight in the bath with a hot lemon and honey and then straight into bed. Went out like a light for 3 hours. No need for alcohol when you’re not feeling well as just fighting an infection will increase your need for sleep. Another personal myth and reason to drink gone – RIP medicinal wolfie 😉
This was what was written on my blood results today – next to my liver function tests. ‘A OK – no further action required’. Words cannot express how glad I was to see that written. My results were within normal range and the years of abuse hadn’t taken a permanent toll on the health of my liver. I said ‘thank you’ to the universe.
And then the voice started in my ear ‘well if your liver is okay then you can start drinking again’ Yep that’s right my alter ego wanted to celebrate me not knackering my liver by the age of 45 by having a drink!
I had a long discussion with the practice nurse saying that I had drunk heavily in the past and hence the stopping and she was kind and supportive and ticked the box ‘teetotal’ on the screen. Now how can I have an alcoholic drink if my health records say that – you know what you can do wolfie don’t you? 😉