The disappearing social calendar

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(photo credit: Bad moms movie)

Since I got sober my social calendar has slowly started to clear, almost as if a little calendar fairy waved her wand and just made all the parties that used to fill up my time disappear. At first it hurt my feelings, I returned to the school playground in my mind where I was the only one not invited to the most popular girl’s birthday party. You can’t help but feeling left out and excluded.

After the initial sting of rejection faded I started questioning if I really wanted to go to any of those events and the truth is I didn’t… but you know…I would still have liked to have been asked.

The fact is that these parties were ALL about the booze and I really didn’t have anything in common with this group of friends apart from the mutual love of getting completely trolleyed off our faces.

The connection between us was paper-thin as is the connection between all drug addicts. You are BEST MATES while you are getting wasted but don’t expect loyalty or love. This is a bond born and fused in addiction and it is false.

It’s foolish to underestimate the power of the tribal mentality we have around booze and drinking to excess. We share stories of how pissed we got and then share stories of how terribly hung over we all feel the next day, a couple of us would proclaim we are never drinking again…until the next time. There is safety in numbers and there is a feeling of being normal when addicts hang out together. We cant be alcoholics, we all drink like fishes! Some are a tiiiiny bit worse than others and secretly everyone is comparing…

I’ve realised that you can party sober and you can have a marvellous time but for that to happen you need to 1) be with people you really like and have things in common with 2) be in a setting that you are comfortable with

I am also making peace with a quieter life, a steady content way of life that is filled with so much richness, love and deep fulfilment.

Drinking promised me all of the things that sobriety delivers. Sure there are fewer social things but that makes time for other pursuits that really interest me, pastimes that feed my soul. I’m making art again; I’m knitting, cooking and doing yoga.

It takes a while to find your sober feet, so to whoever is on this sober path, don’t despair if it feels like your social life is waning…sobriety is making time and space for you to find true joy and happiness.

 

 

 

 

The greatest pleasure in life…

cognitivedissonance

I was listening to an interview Belle did with BBC Three counties radio, you can listen to it here: http://www.tiredofthinkingaboutdrinking.com/2017/07/15/sp195/

The interview was supposed to be about young people and how there is a trend where they seem to be disenchanted with alcohol. The presenter was a drinker (very much in love with alcohol) and was totally gobsmacked by Belle suggestion that alcohol wasn’t required to have a good time!

How very dare she suggest such an outrageous thing! We need booze to feel good in this culture. We need booze when we feel good and we need booze when we feel bad, which pretty much means that we need booze all the time!

The part of the interview that really got me was when he said: “Surely there is no greater pleasure in life than a gorgeous glass of wine on a sunny afternoon!” Isn’t that a tragic statement?

This was my reality for many years. Alcohol was the easy sparkling route to nirvana. What could be easier than opening a bottle of wine and drinking it to change how you feel? It never in a million years dawned on me that was I was actually enjoying was sitting down at the end of a long day and just chilling out. It didn’t occur to me that this ‘liquid magic’ I was drinking was slowly destroying me and would turn out to be my greatest source of pain.

The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the feelings of discomfort that result from holding two conflicting beliefs. One of the core beliefs I held was that alcohol was necessary to have a good time. The conflicting evidence that I experienced in my life like horrendous hangovers, drunken fights, blackouts, falling over was pushed to the back to the far recesses of my mind so that I could hold on to my first belief.

We will do anything and everything to protect the precious substance and let ourselves hang out to dry! These days I can have a great time without alcohol in fact I have a better time because I can remember everything. I am free and clear and I truly connect with people when I’m out. I’ve learned to let go and dance sober, which was a massive step for me.

I went to my first sober concert to watch one of my favourite bands Guns and Roses, I had a blast, I sang and danced like a maniac, all sober! Yes sometimes I will leave a party early but the only reason is that when people start repeating themselves it can get quite tedious. I don’t leave early because I am boring now that I am sober. I’m much more outgoing now that I have found my sober feet. Towards the end of my drinking I was the most boring drunk, I would just sit in corner and go all-quiet. Lordy! Do you call that having a good time?

There is no greater pleasure in life than being able to find pleasure and contentment from within and not to be dependant on an outside source/substance.

 

 

 

Taking the power back

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Drinking has always been a big part of my feminist identity. (Yes I’m a feminist AND I still cook my husband’s dinner, these things can coexist) I am a modern a woman after all and we are allowed to drink now.  Thank god! I used to say. We’re not restricted to the side entrances of ‘ladies’ bars anymore. We can go into any establishment and get just as shitfaced as men, we’ve earned the right Goddamnit!

We work, we raise families we balance the budget and whilst doing all of this we are flagellating ourselves for not looking like a 16 year old model on the cover of Vogue who eats one piece of celery per year and then sticks her fingers down her throat afterwards.

I used to think my drunken exploits were a big middle finger to the patriarchal establishment. “Take that!: —As I’m downing garish neon coloured shots. “I’ll show you!”—As I’m getting sick round the side of the club.

However misplaced this notion was, I wasn’t alone in this thinking. I was part of the ‘ladette’ culture and not surprisingly this coincided with alcohol marketing massively pushing towards the female market.

Recent years have seen profound changes in women’s drinking habits. Part of being a modern woman is ‘doing it all’, and part of ‘doing it all’ means WINE. This idea that alcohol is somehow an inevitable part of being an empowered woman is keeping a lot of women stuck in the no mans land of problem drinking.

When I relate this to my own life I can see so clearly that alcohol has been nothing but disempowering. To a painfully awkward and slightly depressed teenager, alcohol was a quick fix to numb out all the anxiety I felt about myself, my body and about life. It helped drown out the critical voices. It helped me be more outgoing.

Of course if you start binge drinking at aged 13 the chances of you experiencing violence and or assault is increased dramatically.

The Centre of Addiction states: “Although drinking does not cause sexual assault, there is evidence that alcohol use creates an environment in which sexual assaults are more likely to occur. Studies show that 50% to 75% of all sexual assaults on college campuses involve alcohol.”

https://www.centeronaddiction.org/the-buzz-blog/addressing-sexual-assault-and-ignoring-binge-drinking

When I became a mother the disempowerment was compounded by the fact that I gave up full time work to look after the children. At the time I didn’t realise how much that choice would influence my sense of self worth. I went from freelancing in London and earning the same amount as my husband to staying/working from home earning a fraction of what I used to.

The drinking escalated at home, being a stay at home mom is NOT for the faint of heart. Nothing can prepare you for the isolation, monotony and relentlessness of it all. The sea of nappies, bottles, tantrums. The PND with both children made it gruelling instead of joyful. I felt guilty for not being the glowy mom you see in the Johnson and Johnson’s ads and so I self medicated with wine. This was a lethal combination. Trying to soothe the guilt you feel over being a shitty mom with alcohol is like pouring a massive can of petrol on a raging fire.

The disempowerment that goes hand and hand with alcohol abuse is far reaching and undoubtedly affected all the areas of my life. Drinking led to a myriad of bad choices, flaky goals and generally just coasting around looking for my next fix.

The most insidious way alcohol disempowers us is that a life fuelled by addiction will most likely lead to many unfulfilled goals and dreams. Passions are put on the back burner in favour drinking. The more the drinking escalates the more you are just playing catch up. You are functioning with a handicap, dealing with drinking time and hangover time. This really doesn’t leave much time for anything else.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes about addiction in her book – Women who run with the wolves:

“The instinctual nature tells us when enough is enough. It is prudent and life preserving. A woman cannot make up for a lifetime of betrayal and wounding through the excesses of pleasure, rage or denial.

Sometimes is it difficult for us for us to realise that we are losing our instincts, for it is often an insidious process that does not occur all in one day, but rather over a long period of time. Too, the loss or deadening of instinct is often entirely supported by the surrounding culture, and sometimes even by other women who endure the loss of instinct as a way of achieving belonging in a culture that keeps no nourishing habitat for the natural woman.”

At age 39 I feel like I’m in the driver’s seat for the first time in my life. I am now actively pursuing goals that have been gathering dust for years. Yes, it is scary and sure, I may fail but you know what, I’m doing it anyway.

Taking the power back baby!

 

 

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

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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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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

Why should you quit drinking for good? High-bottom girls make the world go round!

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Generally speaking, people are motivated to cut down on their alcohol consumption when drinking has become problematic or when they have suffered some negative consequences from drinking.

Cutting down could include trying to re-set the clock with the 100-day promise or one year no beer and then after having abstained for said amount of time hopefully you can drink again moderately.

This might work for some but it definitely didn’t work for me. Every time I started drinking again I picked up right where I left off. It might have taken me a couple of weeks or even months to return to the volume I was drinking but return I most certainly did.

This got me thinking about drinkers with a high bottom… (not the pert posterior variety I’m referring to, although that would be great to have!)

So what motivates a high bottom drinker to stop and STAY stopped? And does everyone have to reach rock bottom? Also, one person’s rock bottom can look wildly different to the next.

My bottom wasn’t that high, I looked great in hot pants when I was 18, not so much these days. (That’s the last bottom joke, promise)

I had experienced some pretty bad consequences, I was arrested for being drunk and disorderly when I was 20 (spent 2 nights in a holding cell) and suffered severely embarrassing and dangerous/violent moments throughout my drinking career.

On the other hand, I suppose you could consider me a high-bottom drinker because I was successfully freelancing from home, looking after my family, I paid rent and taxes and my marriage was intact. I worked very hard to keep this Norman Rockwell facade going for as long as I could.

Does the decision to quit drinking alcohol have to be motivated by such dire warnings as STOP DRINKING OR YOU WILL DIE?

Does that help or hinder the cause? I’m not disputing the fact that alcohol addiction can most certainly kill you. My last rock bottom moment when I fell and knocked my head on that koi pond I could very well have either died or sustained a life altering injury.

What I’m wondering is if we are framing it in the right way? You see, for me stopping drinking saved my life in 2 ways. The first most obvious are the health aspects, I have less of a worry about diseases and accidents that kill drinkers.

The second most important way it saved my life is that I am actually experiencing life. I have time and my consciousness back! I’m here! I’ve been absent from life for so fucking long.

This is how stopping drinking really saves your life – It gives you the most precious gift that anyone can have and that is time to be alive on earth! To savour each human experience, each nuance and detail, to really experience all of it, the agony and ecstasy. That is why I will never go back. Not the fear of the dire consequences that await me if I do (and I know they are real) it’s the absolute insistence of my soul to be ‘conscious’ for the rest of my life. We have such a short time on the earth why would I want to be dulled/numbed for it? We can’t numb selectively so when we numb, we numb all the beautiful splendour of life as well.

I’m not saying that when life is shit I won’t want to forget or numb the pain, I most probably will but I know that choosing to do that with booze means that I resign myself to a homogenous life in black in white when it could be in technicolour.

To be clear is a gift. Life’s downs are easier to handle sober and life’s ups are spectacular when you are awake to experience them.

So instead of the STOP OR YOU’LL DIE, we could also say: I CHOOSE NOT TO DRINK BECAUSE ALCOHOL STEALS MY TIME, ENERGY AND DULLS MY NATURAL WONDER.That sounds truer for me. Because dying from alcohol addiction can take many years, it really is a slow suicide. Also, that may never happen and you could die from something else…this is exactly the point…Do you want to spend the years you have on this planet dazed and confused or do you want to be free and clear?

It’s in everything, now even lip balm!

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Sober Pursuits has posted a very entertaining look at the everyday products that now contain references to alcohol or alcohol favouring. The most perplexing of which I think is the Gin and Tonic flavoured lip balm? Who in their right mind came up with that? Do people WANT to smell like Gin and Tonic?

Be warned it is deliciously sweary.

A quote from her:

“Serious fuckwittery. I laugh at all this shit, then do a pause *think bubble* about the insidious normalising of alcohol to the point we can namecheck it is sweets, lip balm, crisps and candles (WTF?!), and then I despair.”

Read the full post here:

https://soberpursuits.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/marketing-go-home-youre-drunk.html

I agree with her, marketing needs to go home because they are all drunk!

xxx

Sad/Mad today

I feel really sad today. I was looking through old photos of the kids on Facebook. You know the disingenuous FB posts where it says. “Here at Facebook we care about your memories look at this post from 3 years ago!”

Looking through the photos I was remembering the mother I was. I was SO fucking tired, I didn’t know what I was doing half the time and I was drinking to ease the depression.

I’m so sad for her! I want to give her a hug and tell her that it’s going to be ok and that she will get out of the fucking pit of despair that is alcohol addiction.

As I was scrolling through the posts on Facebook I came across several posts (my own) that made me angry.

Post like these
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These posts help normalise my drinking, made me feel like I didn’t have a problem because I got so many likes, laughs, comments and re-shares.

It occurred to me that I might have quit sooner if I didn’t live in this permissive enviroment where everyone is using alcohol to self medicate.

This culture we live in has a lot to anser for. It’s not fucking normal.

Sorry about the rant. I’m off for a run to recalibrate.

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