There by the grace…

Went to the shops the other day to get some bits and pieces. While I was standing in the checkout line there was middle aged woman that looked really unsteady on her feet. Her face was red and sweaty and she was clutching two bottles of white wine.  She was talking to one of the shop assistants a slurry voice when I heard the shop assistant say really loudly: “Are you drunk again, dear?”  He gave me a knowing look and a sly smile as if to say: “watch how I humiliate this piece of trash”

I could see this was turning into a scene and just felt so helpless. People were starting to talk in muffled whispers. There was laughing and pointing. When she got to the front of the line she became louder and more animated which of course caused more looks of disdain.

I waited in my car to see if she was ok and also to check that she wasn’t getting into a car and driving! Thankfully someone else was driving the car she go into, she left.

I started crying in the car park. Uncontrollable sadness overtook me. I was heartbroken by people’s reaction to her! I cannot believe how she was treated like absolute shit! Like a second-class citizen. Like a fucking leper. I’m so heartbroken that people don’t know that she isn’t choosing to be that way! She is addicted! That removes your choice and addicts need care and understanding.

I could be that woman! I was that woman! I always sent my husband on last rounds drink runs to the shops before the shops close at 11 so HE was her too!

Our society has such a fucked up view of alcohol/ drugs and addicts. Just because their Facebook/ money/shopping/TV/game/approval addiction isn’t plastered across their face doesnt make them better that the woman in that shop! I commiserate with food addicts so much because they get the same disdain from society; their addiction is obvious for everyone to see. My addiction was easy to hide for a long time but towards the end it wasn’t anymore. My skin, my breath my sweaty face was there for all to see.

My heart goes out to that woman in the shop with her two bottles of Pinot Grigio. There by the grace of God go I.

I can’t vs. I don’t

party

One of the things that used to rope me back into drinking is the fear of social occasions never being the same again. I was also terrified of the reaction of my friends and acquaintances when I quit. What would they think? I thought that by not drinking I would be the dry drip putting a dampener on the party.

I was scared to let everyone down. I was also scared that they would find out how addicted I had become so my excuses were always flimsy at best.

‘No thanks I’m driving’, ‘I’m on medication’, ‘I have Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo’ (This outlandish one I used to get out of a hen weekend where there was going to be lots of boozing) One of my personal favourites I used very often is ‘I’m on a detox/cleanse’.

Looking back now, I know that I was keeping that back door wide open in case I couldn’t cut it sober. I couldn’t possibly be on a detox or cleanse forever. I tried many times so I was tired of failing and perhaps in my heart of hearts I was hoping that an extended break from alcohol would re-set my software and allow me to drink like a normal person. Of course, no matter how long the break of sobriety was I always eventually returned to my usual level and with each lapse, the consumption revved up a gear.

I was ashamed of being the one that couldn’t drink, the one that wasn’t allowed because ‘she can’t handle it’. Why was I the chosen one that turned into the incredible hulk with an insatiable thirst while everyone else has a fabulous sparkly tipsy time? It wasn’t fair, dammit!

I guess if you have an AA coin and you are ‘out’ this shuts people up much more quickly.

Would you like a drink? No thanks I’m, an alcoholic.

—-Insert crickets chirping, tumbleweeds blowing and a look of panic/sympathy/social awkwardness across the hosts face.—-

Perhaps I will get to that point one day where I can say those words in front of anyone. I am just not ready for that yet.

I also used the words ‘I can’t drink’ in my internal dialogue. When I looked at alcohol I would look at it like an old sexy boyfriend that was bad for me, I would still lust after it.

These days something has shifted massively for me. I know I’ve tried before but there is a knowing in me that wasn’t there previously.

‘I don’t drink’ versus ‘I can’t drink’ are two very different statements. ‘I can’t drink’ implies that I am not allowed; I am being deprived of my choice. ‘I don’t drink’ is a powerful affirmation. It reinforces in my mind that I am not making any sacrifices, that I am making the most positive choice for myself, for my mental and physical health.

You may enjoy this article that explores this in more detail:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/heidigranthalvorson/2013/03/14/the-amazing-power-of-i-dont-vs-i-cant/#476f57cbd037

When I’m offered a drink these days I just say ‘I don’t drink’. I say it with conviction as if I’ve always been a non-drinker (this takes practice and sometimes you have to fake it till you make it)

By starting off in that frame of mind I can answer the following questions from a powerful place of positive choice instead of being rooted in shame.

This is the way the conversation has gone.

Friend: Would you like a drink?

Me: No thanks I don’t drink anymore.

Me: Like forever? Yes forever.

Friend: Why, we used to have so much fun drinking wine together?

Me: I just don’t like the way it makes me feel anymore. I don’t enjoy it at all.

This is met by a quizzical stare and a rapid change of topic.

Of course, my nearest and dearest know that I am addicted and they know the hell it has caused me. It’s important for the people closest to you to know so that they can support you.

Brene Brown talks about people having to earn the right to your hear your shame story. I don’t feel its necessary to go into so much detail with people I hardly know or people that are fair weather friends I used to party with.

The other point I wanted to make is that not drinking isn’t weird. We weren’t born ‘two drinks below par’. We are perfect and complete. We don’t need to pour alcohol down our throats to fit in.

People aren’t walking around asking a recovering heroin addict if they just want one ‘little bit of smack to take the edge off’ Or asking them why they cant just have the one. (Forgive me, I don’t know the heroin lingo, so I don’t know if you even call it smack.)

The fact is that I am addicted to a highly addictive, socially acceptable legal drug. That doesn’t make me weak or strange or unique even. It’s just the way it is, and I choose not to drink anymore because life is so much better and easier without it.

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The dopamine lie

drinks
(poto credit addisonmagazine.com)

I’m sure you’ve heard the quote “One drink is too many and a thousand is never enough”

When I was drinking I never left a party early. I was always the last one at the bar, scared to miss out because I believed there was something wonderful and amazing around the corner, I just had no ‘off switch’.

I was listening to the willpower instinct written by Written by: Kelly McGonigal. In the book, he talks about dopamine and the role it plays in addiction.

Dopamine is the brain’s major reward neurotransmitter pathway. It’s basically the sex, drugs and rock and roll chemical of the brain.

In the past it has been thought of as the brains ‘reward chemical’ however new research has now proved that this isn’t completely accurate.

The firing of dopamine neurons occurs when a pleasurable activity is expected, regardless of whether pleasure actually happens or not.

Dopamine’s role in pleasure and reward is that it’s like a little red flag to your brain, saying “hey, pay attention, this is about to feel good, and you want to remember this so you can do it again.”

By jacking up dopamine levels in your brain, alcohol tricks you into thinking that it’s actually making you feel great (or maybe just better, if you are drinking to get over something emotionally difficult). The effect is that you keep drinking to get more dopamine release, but at the same time you’re altering other brain chemicals that are enhancing feelings of depression.

When you are stuck in this chemical loop there is no way out.  I just need to reiterate this, the dopamine doesn’t make you feel good it is telling your brain something great is on the way…this is why when you are drinking you never quite ‘get there’ This is why a thousand will never be enough!

This was a revelation to me in so many ways. It explained so much about why I had the compulsion to keep drinking.

A couple of videos by Annie Grace I’ve found that are related and that you may find interesting:

does alcohol make you happy?
https://youtu.be/oYW9V1EVP5U

Is drinking a habit?
https://youtu.be/2d2SZdGiY38

High from drinking?
https://youtu.be/01g8mYXVQQY

Have a lovely sober Sunday! xxx

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One year ago…

brave

One year ago today I had my ‘god moment’ of realisation that alcohol was going to kill me if I didn’t stop drinking.

When I woke up that morning still in my clothes from the night before, confused and battered, I knew something major happened.

I realised that this stuff was playing for keeps. This seemingly innocuous substance that you can buy at the corner shop with your milk and bread, is a deadly poison.

Alcohol knows no class or creed. It doesn’t care if you are prince or pauper. It is the great leveler of men and women. It will strip away your confidence your dignity your moral fiber your values your hopes and dreams and it will damage everyone who you come into contact with.

Alcohol is a liar and a thief, a silver tongue liar that promises to be the answer to all your problems. A thief of time not only a thief of the time that you spend being inebriated but also a thief of the time you need to spend hung over and sick from its effects on the body, mind and soul.

Alcohol is also a great teacher of truth. It promises to make you drunk and it delivers on that promise time and time again. We go back to it expecting different results every damn time and are so baffled as to why we just cant ‘get a grip on this’.

Alcohol is overrated! Being drunk stops being fun when you are addicted you don’t get the same high and so you spend your life chasing it, the only satisfaction you get from drinking is relief of the cravings you had.

Alcohol is dangerous. It’s more dangerous than heroin or crack according to an authoritative study: read more here

The amount of misinformation out there about alcohol is mind fucking baffling! A lot of which is perpetuated by AA! The fact that alcohol is highly addictive for human beings in general and not just a small genetically predisposed percentage of society should be common knowledge but it’s not.

Alcohol is a drug. There is no difference! The fact that society has been conditioned to think of these things separately shows how brainwashed we are.

One year ago today I woke up. I woke up out of my addicted sleep where the denial was keeping me soft and warm. I woke up to the cold hard facts that my addiction and my life had become totally unmanageable.

I would love to say that I stopped drinking after that but I had several lapses since then.
I’m 6 months sober and can honestly say that I am so fucking glad to be rid of it.

I have a lot of work to do, I realise that. I obviously have a lot of anger towards the substance and towards myself for allowing this to continue for so long.

One day I would like to get to point of neutrality where alcohol doesn’t phase me at all. I would also like to fart rainbows and poop glitter, don’t know if those things will ever happen.

It’s just too raw still. I need to just be where I am. I am sober, I am alive and I am so fucking grateful to say those words.

Have a lovely  weekend my gorgeous sober peeps.

xxx

How to deal with stress without alcohol

appendix

OK so my major trigger when comes to booze is stress and overwhelm. Had another incident this weekend where I needed relief from a really stressful situation and my brain was screaming wine! I feel like I need a list to refer to in these moments because when the stress hits, my brain short circuits and my prefrontal cortex (the part of my brain that wants the best for me) basically does a runner.

So here is my handy list of things you could do when you feel like the world is caving in AND are going to explode and all you want is a drink to prevent yourself from spontaneous combustion:

(Kindly note that this list is for me and may not be everyone’s cup of tea, also if a similar list exists I apologise in advance. I promise this came straight out of my head but I don’t live in a vacuum so may have inadvertently picked some ideas up elsewhere. )

  1. Go back to bed and hide under the duvet. I know, this sounds like so grown up! Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. I’ve used this one a couple of times with great success, it does get tricky if you have kids because they eventually find you and then think you are playing hide and seek.
  2. Go to your room and scream into a pillow, this one also works well but our walls are quite thin so I think the neighbours have heard me a couple if times. Who cares right?
  3. Go for a run or fast-paced walk. This is excellent to burn off all the stress and bad energy. This also has the added bonus of putting some space between you and whatever is causing the upset. Before you get your running shoes on you have to make sure someone is at home to look after the kids (this is probably why I don’t use this one very much;)
  4. Have a dance party. If you are feeling really angry then play Rage against the machine or something similar really loudly and sing along. “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me, fuck you I won’t do what you tell me, Motherfuckkkkkeeeerrrr!” I love this one, but I have scared our postman away on one occasion. He still can’t look me in the eye. Also if you have children best to only use this one when they are in school;)
  5. Get your Eckhart Tolle on. Put on your headphones on and put an audiobook or youtube clip of Tolle on full volume. You can’t stay stressed of angry when you listen to the soothing tones of Eckhart’s voice.
  6. Sniff something. Nope nothing illegal over here, just take a big whiff or diffuse some lavender oil. When you stimulate your other senses you can jolt yourself out of the stress response by bringing yourself back to your sense perceptions.
  7. Write it down. Journal the fuck out of your journal, if you rip the paper and break the pen in the process then so be it. Just get all the negativity out on paper. You will feel so much better and lighter afterwards.
  8. Kickboxing, go do a kickboxing class or dvd. Amazing amount of stress relief in that.
  9. Do the work. (Byron Katie) This one may need to wait till you are calm. Do a worksheet on the person or situation that is causing the upset and set yourself free.
  10. Talk to someone. Your sponsor, a sober friend or family member. Sometimes we need connection in those moments (This is a very difficult one for me to do)

Please add any other suggestions you may have to the list. Bear in mind this needs to be accessible for someone to do when they are VERY REVVED UP and HIGHLY STRESSED.

Am I an alcoholic?

mshanaganLaura Mckowen has written an article that everyone who has ever asked this question needs to read: http://www.lauramckowen.com/blog/2017/4/15/am-i-an-alcoholic

This is one of those pieces where whilst reading it I shout halleluiah, amen and testifyyyyyyy at the the top of my lungs. Yip I am the crazy lady alone in the house shouting at her computer.

Do yourself a favour and read it. I fucking love it.

xxxx

Shame and vulnerability

shame

I visited a friend today, one of the mums that I used to drink with at play-dates. It’s all the rage now, play-dates sozzled in wine. This seems to be socially acceptable… in the circles I moved in at least. Since I got sober I’ve realised that my circles may have been limited to people that like to get plastered all the time, addicts like hanging out with other addicts, who would have thought? We used to crack open the Prosecco after the school run on a Friday and thought nothing of drinking the night away.

This is the friend that inadvertently helped me reach my rock bottom moment so in a way she sort of saved my life. This may sound melodramatic but I wholeheartedly believe it to be true. Our friendship was for the most part based on the mutual love of getting drunk. I knew in my heart of hearts that the dynamic would change and that the friendship would probably just fizzle out on it’s own. The thing is I didn’t want her to feel as though I was rejecting her because she is addicted to booze. I also wanted to keep channels of communication open so that if she ever felt like talking to someone about her problem she can talk to me. I never had anyone to talk to in real life because I don’t know anyone that is in recovery from addiction.

Back to my friend… She asked me to go around for coffee today. The atmosphere was strained and I didn’t really feel like we connected. She kept asking me if I’m STILL not drinking and also seemed quite uninterested in my answers as she kept looking at her phone.

She started telling me about an incident where she got really drunk and was talking about ‘the switch’. I think most folks with a drink problem will instantly know what ‘the switch’ means. That’s where something clicks in your brain and you aren’t there anymore, usually this is where things go south and you black out. I was saying that I had experienced it many times when she replied under her breath…”I know, at least I was never as bad as you. I mean I’ve been bad but never THAT bad.”

And there it was. The shame. I felt like I was punched in the stomach. The blood drained from my face and my heart sank right into my feet. The fucking intense shame that I thought I had dealt with in the last year just morphed into little fire ants scratching and scurrying around my skull. I was gobsmacked, she thought I was worse than her!?

I made an excuse and left very quickly. I cried all the way home.

After I calmed down I realised that she is obviously in really deep denial and is looking to justify herself by calling me out as the delinquent alcoholic.

Brene Brown calls shame the most powerful master emotion; she says it’s down to the fear that we are not good enough.

The shame is what keeps us stuck in our addiction and I recognise that my friend was trying to protect herself by calling me the one with the problem. I was in deep denial too and hated hanging out with people that threatened my lifestyle. People that didn’t drink enough or didn’t drink like I did made me feel shame about how I drank, because my conscience knew I was self-harming with alcohol.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ~Brené Brown

Who drank the most is actually irrelevant. There is always someone worse off than us when it comes to alcohol; this is the trouble with the stinky man on park bench alcoholic stereotype. The one who stops is the alcoholic while the one who carries on drinking to oblivion just likes to have a good time…until they are the stinky man on a park bench.

Well, I’m calling bullshit on all of that. I’m also calling bullshit on the shame I felt today, fuck that. I’m not drinking anymore and that is something to be proud of.

As for my friend, my door will be open if she ever wants to talk. I’m going to look after myself and keep clear. Like Byron Katie says “Staying in my own business is a full-time job.”

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Happy F!

fword

Thank you for all the lovely messages and support. I am relieved and happy to report that I am still sober!

It was touch and go there for a while I won’t lie. One day after a disagreement with hubs I drove to the shop in a rage. I stormed in and got to the wine aisle and froze. I just stood there for what felt like an eternity when one of the assistants touched my arm and asked if they can help me. I quickly said no thank you and walked to the cashier fully intending to buy a pack of cigarettes and instead walked out the shop with some extra chewing gum. I think Aspartame is the lesser of three evils, no?

I don’t want to drink anymore, it’s a bullshit coping mechanism that threatened to destroy my family. These days I can actually look at myself in mirror without despising what I see and I’ll be damned if I throw that away just because I’ve had a stressful couple of months. In fact, I am much more capable of coping with all of this sober than I ever was when I was drinking.

So onwards and upward sober peeps. Happy sober weekend!!!

 

 

Warning lights

far_side_cartoon

The cravings are coming thick and fast these days. I’m seriously having an uphill battle here. I feel really irritable, tired and want to curl up in sleep in a darkened room. I don’t want to see people, I hate everyone. Most people around me aggravate me and basically humanity as a whole sucks. As you can tell I am a regular ray of sunshine lately and it must be truly amazing to be in my presence. There is no farting glitter or pooping rainbows at casa Hurrah these days, just big, irksome rainclouds that won’t stop raining. My poor family are just patiently suffering through it. We had a meet up with friends yesterday and it just turned out to be ‘another thing to get done’ before I can rest.

I’ve also been feeling very uncomfortable in my own skin recently. I’ve picked up weight and feel like my skin is crawling with all the sugar and excess coffee. I can’t really stand to look in the mirror at all so I run past them like a mad person. During this stressful time of working so much and little sleep I really haven’t been paying attention to my nutrition, exercise or rest. These crucial things have all been on the back burner in favour of surviving because work and money has taken up all my time in the last two months. My word for the year is self-care and yes I stopped smoking and yes I’m not drinking but I am NOT taking good care of myself at all.

As you may or may not know I have been prone to relapse in the past, I’ve seriously lost count of the amount of times I started drinking again after making a solemn vow I’ll never do it again. I could call myself the ‘relapse queen’ but I won’t because I would like to stay stopped this time and don’t fancy being remembered as that.

Basically, I can feel myself slipping, so I’ve done a bit of research about relapses. This is my new thing now, I’m documenting my sober journey like an annoying little detective. (Sorry, but I’m seriously irritating myself to no end)

A relapse doesn’t happen all of a sudden. It just feels like it does, every time I’ve relapsed it felt like waking up out of a dream and not knowing how it happened. Like I had no say in it, it felt like my conscious choice was non-existent and my addicted mind took over my body. It felt very similar to the fight of flight response when your reptile brain is left in charge while your prefrontal cortex is taking a little holiday.

A relapse is a process,  not an event. It can start weeks or months before you actually pick up a drink.

The three stages of relapse:

Emotional relapse
You are not thinking about drinking but your emotions and behaviors are setting you up.
· Anxiety · Intolerance · Anger · Isolation · Not asking for help · Poor eating habits · Poor sleep habits – Not making recovery a daily priority

Mental relapse
You’ve started entertaining the idea of drinking, and the tug of war starts. You glamorise drinking and pine for the ‘good ol’ days’

Physical relapse 
It’s difficult to stop a relapse when it get’s to this point. (not impossible but much harder)

It appears as though there is a substantial amount of time prior to the relapse that gives you the opportunity to turn it around which is great news.

This is one of the reasons why AA’s maxim ‘one day at a time’ works so well. Staying sober is a daily practice of self-care, self-love, self-reflection.

This is not an easy thing for an addict to do. We tend to be all or nothing, go big or go home kinda people so the slow and steady, small steps every day is very foreign to me. I get obsessed so when I work that’s all I do, there is no balance!

I’m off to take a walk and then early to bed.

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”
— Buddha

Craaaaving

angel
So yesterday I had one of the strongest cravings I’ve had since I quit. I was at my desk working, listening to some music and it just hit me out of nowhere. “Wine! I need wine, I need to drink wine, I need relief, I need to let go!”

I have been going through a really stressful time. Working all the hours God sends, looking after kids on my own while hubs was on hols. Of course, when he came back he admitted that he drank on the trip.

This hamster wheel of sobriety/drinking that we’ve been on in the last 10 years, when he started drinking again I started right back there with him.

Not this time baby! Aint no way I’m going there again.

I didn’t engage with the thought. I didn’t rationalise or even deny.  This is where I usually would start having a conversation in my head that would go like this:

Alcohol voice: I need wine.

Voice of logic: You can’t have wine, you are addicted. This never ends well for you.

Alcohol voice: But I’ve had such a stressful time and I deserve some relief, the ONLY thing that will give me the relief is wine.

Voice of logic: No! You want to be sober, it’s better for you. You love your sober self and your sober life.

Alcohol voice: If hubs is going to get plastered you have the right to get plastered too! He can’t have fun without you. Why does he get to drink and I can’t?

Voice of logic: You really shouldn’t it’s bad for you. You are addicted and you can’t control it.

Alcohol voice: Fuck it! Fuck it all! Life’s short, you deserve a break. This whole thing is in your head, you are totally fine, everyone drinks!

Voice of logic: Now that you put it like that, I have been very stressed and everyone around us drinks. Yes fuck it! Bring ALL THE BOOZE YOU HAVE.

This would trigger a relapse that could last for months or even years.

Instead of having a conversation with the craving I just accepted it, breathed and waited for it to go. The thought got smaller and smaller and disappeared. It took about 15 minutes for it to go away completely.

Still sober baby!

xoxox