Warning sign?

OK so my husband and I went on this romantic mini break to Venice and it was absolutely amazeballs! We aced sober air travel and romantic dinners with no red wine in sight. All was well but…

When we were at the airport my husband said something that worried me. I brushed it off and hoped that it would go away but it’s gnawing at me. He said that he’s been toying with the idea of drinking but only when we are not in England. In other words, limiting our drinking to holidays only.

I dismissed it straight away as being silly and explained how much better off we are not drinking at all.

I have no desire of urge to even entertain this idea because I know how this deal works. First you limit it to only holidays abroad, then it becomes all holidays, then it becomes weekends and before you know it you are back on 2 bottles of wine a night.

What worries me is that he is thinking about it.

We have always been on par in our excesses. We’ve also tried to get sober together, many many times. Almost every time he started drinking again and I joined him soon after in lengthy relapses.

I’m not blaming him for my choices I fully own my decisions however I’ve always known in my heart of hearts that I wouldn’t be able to stay married if my partner wasnt also abstinent.

I’m in this for the long haul, I do not want to start the drinking roller coaster again so I am slightly apprehensive that if he’s playing with these ideas it could spell trouble on the horizon…

 

 

 

 

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Romantic getaway, sans red vino

Sober firsts.

There are few things to make me feel so exposed and naked as sober first events. It’s like I’m terrified of what I might do to ruin it or that it will prove that life sucks without the boozy haze.

Airports used to be a very boozy affair. We would have our first couple of drinks to celebrate the fact that we managed to pack our suitcases before the taxi even picked us up.

Then tipsy, tipsy through bag check and passport control. We’d manage to get to a restaurant just in time to top up the alcohol level whilst checking the gate information.

On the plane we’d get as much down the hatch as the air hostess would allow, then sleep. We’d buy a bottle of something at duty-free just to make sure we were stocked and onwards drunkety-drunk to our destination.

This time we had a far less chaotic journey. We drove to the airport ourselves, we were early. Had loads of time and everything felt calmer. Except for this exposed feeling, except for all these cues telling us to DRINK. Caviar House, Pubs, Duty-Free temples to alcohol.

I practiced ‘reversing the brainwashing’ as Annie Grace recommends in her book. When I saw people drinking I just reminded myself that they were drinking a poisonous substance called ethanol that almost destroyed my life.

The feeling of deprivation subsided and made way for a feeling of intense gratitude that I get to not drink, I get the second chance at a life fully lived not in the grips of addiction.

The mood lighted and my husband and I started joking around like we usually do, he made me laugh so much I was gasping for air. We were fun without booze we never needed it to be exciting, we were spontaneous and fun without it.

It felt weird and awkward to begin with but I hope that the more we do things sober the easier it will get. It will become the new norm and I’m creating a bank of ‘sober’ memories to replace the alcohol soaked ones.

 

 

Saturday morning

It feels so good to wake up with a clean conscience and a full memory!

I used to black out often, especially towards the end of my drinking, even when I wasn’t drinking all that much. My brain just decided to short-circuit.

I lost count of the times I had to ask my husband how I got to bed or what happened the night before. It became normal. I dreaded going out with people for fear of what I would do and how drunk I would get. I didn’t trust myself anymore.

All feels ‘right’ with the world when I wake up not having drunk the night before.

Waking up after having drunk alcohol felt like fear. Firstly fear of what happened because I couldn’t remember half of the time. Then fear in my body a really shaky feeling inside like my skin was crawling.

I feel normal today, no fear just regular normal me and that feels great!

 

 

 

Rage & craving

OK, I knew everything was going too well.

Yesterday my husband and I had a fight. I had forgotten to do something and he said some pretty hurtful things. I completely lost the plot. I screamed at him in front of the children.

When we got home I went into the kitchen to wash the dishes and make dinner. I was seething with rage. I don’t mean anger, I mean blind rage that wants to annihilate everything in its path. Everything came bubbling to the surface. All the unresolved fights we’ve had, all the passive aggressive things he did and the insults that I’ve had to swallow.

I wanted to drink, I wanted wine on such a visceral level my body was absolutely aching for it. I needed oblivion and out of this intense emotion. The rawness felt like it was going to swallow me up if I didn’t do something about it. My fight or flight response was full throttle, I was trembling and breathing really quickly. Through all of this I kept washing the dishes , dish by dish, over and over.

By some miracle a voice in my head said : “If you drink tonight, you are going to be in a pile of self loathing tomorrow, do you have the strength for another day one?

I didn’t and don’t have the strength for another day one. I can’t do that to myself again. I’ve done it too many times.

So I kept washing dishes. I made dinner. I laid on the couch and text my old friends who made me laugh and forget about all of it for a while.

This morning I don’t have a hangover. My husband’s apologised but I’m still angry. I will spend time today and do a worksheet (Byron Katie) on the issue. Have a feeling this might need 2 or 3 worksheets.

I survived the rage, it didn’t swallow me up. Still here, day 81!

 

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

So yesterday I sat down and wrote out all the horrible things I did while drinking. The things I could remember that is!

I cried, I howled and I breathed through it.

I wrote apologies to my children for being an absent mother and for being aggressively hung over for most of their lives.

Facing it wasnt as bad as I thought it was going to be.

I realise now that yes I did all those things and yes its totally deplorable and awful but that doesn’t define me.

That  was a drunk mess who thought she had no other option.

It’s like that quote from Maya Angelou.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

 

 

Facing the guilt & shame

I have been dreading this.

Woke up this morning a cold sweats. I had a dream that I killed someone and tried to bury the body and it was about to be discovered. (I didn’t actually kill anyone by the way, I’m pretty sure that this dream is a metaphor for my drinking problem)

So I know all my instincts are saying that its time to face the shame and guilt I have around what I did at the height of my drinking. Things I’ve been afraid to admit to myself. Memories that I’ve tried to bury really deep.

I have to write it down and then burn it.

I am so shit scared of going there. I’m scared if I write it down it makes it real and then I’ll just disintegrate into a pile of shameful blubber. The useless pile of crap I think myself to be when I really look at how I was, how much I drank and what a shit mother I was to my gorgeous children.

Fuck it, I can do this, I have to…

 

How do you know if you are drinking too much?

I’ve been thinking about this question that plagued me for the best part of a decade. I completed all the quizzes that were available online. I’ve always found the question of units perplexing.

All of the tests said I was possibly drinking at harmful levels but it was never really clear…Allow me to simplify this little conundrum.

So how much is too much?

You know you are drinking too much when:

  1. You obsess about drinking
  2. You can’t have fun without alcohol
  3. You need alcohol to de-stress

THE END!

 

 

Music

I’ve noticed that Music is a big trigger for me.

I absolutely love music, love bands, gigs, festivals and I love to dance! In the last couple of months sober I have noticed that music automatically makes me think of drinking. It’s not so much that I’m craving alcohol while listening to the funky soul sounds of James Brown. It’s more a like fond memory of being drunk and enjoying myself to that particular song.

The two memories are so entwined it’s exceedingly difficult to differentiate one from the other.

I listen to music frequently, I listen to it when I run, when I work and when I’m in the car. This means I am being bombarded ever so subtly by ‘happy’ drunk party memories on a daily basis.

Warning signs are going up for me considering I have been very prone to relapsing in the past. If I am to make this a lasting change I need to find a way to reverse these thoughts or reframe them in a new way.

‘This Naked Mind’ by Annie Grace and Allan Car’s the Easyway to control alcohol have provided me with a method I base my recovery on.

The premise for these books is that there is no true pleasure inherent in the consumption of alcohol. The ‘perceived’ pleasure is a combination of a couple of things:

  1. The dopamine lie – Dopamine is released in the brain promising something amazing is on the way and makes you excited to get it.
  2. The relief you feel when you allow yourself to do something you’ve been denying yourself.
  3. The relief of the physical alcohol withdrawal if you’ve reached that point down the rabbit hole.
  4. The social situation you find yourself in when alcohol in being consumed that is truly pleasurable in and of itself, being at a concert with friends, camping at a music festival, dancing and partying the night away with your mates.

Reframing the memories and remembering the event or song itself rather that the drunkenness, perhaps trying to  remebering the outcome of the night which was inevitably chaotic, or recalling the black outs.

I don’t want to unneccesarily obsess and demonise the memories so much that it becomes a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ moral thing in my head because I know for a fact that this leads to relapse for me. My ‘willpower’ eventually runs out and doing the ‘right’ thing very quickly becomes ‘Fuck It!’

Maybe its more about making new memories and having those on tap too.

In the words of Jame Brown:  “Get up offa that thing, and dance ’till you feel better!”

 

Taking the roots out of a tree

I watched the Louis Theroux documentary Drinking to Oblivion last night, where he spent time at King’s College Hospital in London. He interviewed  patients whose alcoholism has put them in A&E and some who ended up in the specialist liver centre.

One of the people he interviewed was a Cameroonian lady called Aurelie who lives in a council flat in Brixton.

She is 43 years old and drinks on average 5 to 10 K Cider a day. (Scarily this did not seem like such a massive amount to me.)

Her eyes were the sorrowful, testament to the tough life she’s lived so far. She was shacked up with this guy that said he was her boyfriend but treated her like absolute shit. Louis asked her why she stayed with him and she said that no one else would want to have her as a partner because she was worth nothing.

The most poignant part of the interview was when Louis asked her if she thinks she can at least try to stop drinking for the sake of her health. She thought for a bit and said “No, I don’t think so, because it would be like taking the roots out of a tree.”

Let that sink in for a minute…

The roots out of a tree.

The two main functions of roots are to deliver water and nutrients to the plant or tree and provide an anchor that keeps the plant or tree in the soil.  Without the roots the tree can’t live.

This is the dark place down the rabbit hole where alcohol is your only coping mechanism for all your emotions. Sad, angry, disappointed, scared, anxious, disillusioned, depressed, irritated  – DRINK

Alcohol has been at the core of my life for years. I’ve taken it away and it feels really scary! It feels Naked, exposed and really raw. I have to learn how to cope with everyday emotions all over again. To be honest I don’t think I ever actually knew how to cope with my emotions at any point of my life because I started drinking at 14.

I will not let alcohol be my root anymore. I will replace it with things that are truly nourishing and grounding. Exercise, healthy food, walks, ‘the work’ by Byron Katie. It feels a bit overwhelming but I know that if I don’t, I’ll may be joining Moroly at the liver unit at King’s College Hospital sooner rather than later.

Actually come to think of it there is something that is way more frightening than ending up in the liver unit of some hospital. The fear of a life half lived. That is what alcohol addiction guarantees and has been delivering on its promise to me for years.

It will take away all your curiosity, your natural awe and wonder for life and replace it with a homogenous dazed existence where all you are doing is either coping with a hangover, planning when you can next take a drink or getting wasted. A life where the authentic joy and splendour of life is replaced with a dangerous chemical that hijacks your brain.

That is way scarier than the liver unit or feeling my emotions in all their raw intensity! So what if i cry over everything these days? I think I’m going to make it.

 

 

 

Coming out…

I’m coming out, so you’d better get this party started!

A very dear friend of mine announced on Facebook that she wasnt going to drink anymore. She’s not an addict at all, she’s just decided that alcohol takes more than it gives and decided to quit, publicly.

That got me thinking, should I come out to everyone? The crucial difference between my friend and I is that I was a proper drinker. I mean the dedication I had to drinking and getting drunk was quite astounding. Whereas she was never much of a drinker to begin with.

It’s incredibly scary to out yourself as a person that used to be addicted to alcohol. You’ll notice I’m not using the term alcoholic because I abhor the word. I have a fear about exposing myself in that way. I’m scared of the judgement and of the pity! Oh god the pity people feel for the ‘poor addict’ who can’t party anymore!

I’m terrified of what something like that can do to me professionally as well. People are very quick to make snap judgements and I don’t want prospective clients or employees to think I’m flaky or in some way a risk because I’m in ‘recovery’.

A big part of me wants to throw caution to the wind and tell the world because I’m so proud and happy to be sober! Maybe when I’m more established in my sobriety a year or two down the line I’ll revisit the idea.

For now, I’ll just be anonymously ‘hurrah for coffee’