Burn the bridges

bridges

January is a bit of a shit month when you live in England. The softly twinkly Christmas lights and roaring fires have been replaced with cold dark days and broken resolutions.

We spent December in Africa with my family and we had an absolutely glorious time.

Flying with young children as opposed to toddlers/babies is just a dream. They had their own seats, they watched movies and loved the aeroplane food. Contrast this to a flight we were on a couple of years back where my son projectile vomited over me just as we took off. Yes I have another vomit story in my already full arsenal of vomit stories.

I could see he was going to throw up and I had no choice but to turn him towards me and ‘take one for the team’ as it were. I couldn’t very well let him vomit all over the passenger in front of us. Of course like a good perfectionist I took two changes of clothes for the kids but neglected to bring a change of clothes for myself so I spent the entire flight drenched in a sour vomit smell whilst trying to calm down a feverish/ vomity baby.

This time my son seemed to be totally obsessed with the safety instruction pamphlet. He re-read it several times and kept on practicing the brace position and checking for the oxygen masks. I’m not convinced that he completely understood what it all meant; I mean he wasn’t so much worried about a plane crash as much as he loves gadgets and things to play with.

When we arrived it felt like I never left and at the same time felt like I had been away forever. It’s seemed surreal, as South Africa is so remarkably different to England; it’s almost like another planet! I’d been away for two years which is simply too long for me.

My mum had a hard year and had several issues with her health so the reunion was bittersweet. The last trip to South Africa is when I realised that my body wasn’t cooperating anymore and I had terrible shakes every morning. This time I was sober so I feel so incredibly privileged to have been totally conscious and awake for each precious second I could spend with her.

My old friends from school came over one Sunday for a braai. A braai is not a just barbeque. A braai is an occasion, it’s a verb in its own right and it’s a way of life in South Africa. I was very anxious to see my friends, as these are the friends I used to drink with. My anxiety levels were through the roof and I didn’t really know what I was going to tell them.

They asked me why I got sober (again) as you may be aware I’ve done this many times before so should be a dab hand at it. I told them the story and they laughed. This is the kind of situation where only a very old friend can get away with laughing at your darkest story. After that was out of the way they said they always knew I had the alcoholic gene and we left it at that. I was happy to leave it there and didn’t feel the need to argue the ‘alcoholic gene’ point.

After the heavy stuff was out of the way we had so much fun! We reminisced, told stories, and laughed till we cried. I drank my non-alcoholic beer which really helped in that particular situation. I feel that there is a time and a place for the non-alcoholic beverage. At home I don’t need it but in the company of old drinking friends I did, it really helped me feel less conspicuous.

The rest of the holiday I spent my evenings knitting and drinking chai tea with my mum. Although I’m not attending AA meetings I have been working through the steps and the 9th step is making direct amend to the people you’ve harmed (except when to do so would injure them or others.) I made amend to my sister, brother and mum. I haven’t done it with my dad yet, I have some more issues to work through and don’t really know how to approach that.

It felt good to own my side of the story and to apologise for my destructive behaviour. I held myself very gently through this because the only way to get through step 9 is to feel compassion for the person you were and to realise that that person was doing the best they could at that time. I have to approach all of these things with self-love because without that I fall back into self-hatred self-harm and addiction. When I talk about self-love I don’t mean ‘permissive’ – I mean …gently hold yourself accountable, understand why you were they way you were then ‘do better’ in Maya Angelou’s words.

It was exceptionally difficult to leave my family in Africa and come back. It’s always a very emotional farewell, I can’t actually put the feeling of loss into words it’s just too great. It feels immense, like an enormous vice is clamping my heart tightly and I can’t breathe. I have been numbing out my depression with sugar, tv, social media and have had several dinking thoughts come up. I found myself thinking I could just slip back into drinking for a while and drown my depression and anxiety with a bottle of red.

Then I realised that I don’t have that option anymore because most people who know me know I’m in recovery. My family, my children and all of my closest friends all know the deal.

This is why we have to tell our nearest and dearest to be accountable otherwise its way too easy to just disappear into a bottle of whiskey.

We have to burn the bridge between active addiction and our new life so that when the bad days come we look for a way through the pain not around it.

Yes I am sad to be away from my family but I am so grateful and privileged to have been able to be fully present and sober to enjoy every precious moment with them.

Sobriety does deliver on all of the promises alcohol ever made to me but sometimes when life really sucks I still just want to check out. I still feel that thirst for oblivion sometimes.

Stay vigilant I tell myself…the pull towards oblivion can get really strong but for today I’m sober and a happy to be so.

Snake oil

snakeoil

Dopamine is really interesting…its the promise of reward not the actual reward itself that keeps you drinking/drugging/spending/sexing…

A fellow blogger post this video over a year ago. I wanted to share this with you because we are approaching the festive season and everything around us is saying DRINK!

This little guy illustrates the drinking cycle perfectly. I feel so sad for him and I feel such empathy for everyone who is still stuck in this loop. Its just hell. The good news is that there is hope.

Please remember this video when you see the bottles and bottles of alcohol being shoved into your faces during the Christmas period. The stuff in the bottles is called ETHANOL not fucking wine!

Ethanol is used in toiletries, pharmaceuticals, and fuels, and it is used to sterilize hospital instruments.  It’s poison and its addictive. They can dress it up however they like its still the same rubbish.

The pomp and ceremony around the wine and champagne makes me laugh! Parading around the table with a £400 bottle of wine, pretending that its anything other that fermented fucking grapes that gets you drunk is just ludicrous.

At least I was never under the illusion that I drank for the taste, I knew I was drinking  for the effect.

DO NOT FALL FOR THE HYPE, SOBER PEEPS!!! Alcohol, like so many other ‘quick fixes’ is selling a lie. The dopamine lie to be more specific.

So when you are at the office party and a well meaning colleague tries to convince you how bloody marvellous her glass of Bolli tastes and “you simply MUST try one”… you just remember what’s in that glass…

Turn on your heels safe in the knowledge that you haven’t missed out on anything except a bullet.

xxx

A rainbow scarf & my quest for zen

knitting

I thought I would write a little update on quitting smoking and binge eating sugar at the same time.

I’m off the fags, so that’s a big win. My lungs are starting to clear up and I’m feeling much better. This is week 3…It was hard for the first 5 days and then in the second week cravings seemed to come when stress hit but other than that I felt ok. Cravings are really weird. When you really sit with a craving and let it be there without acting on it or fighting with it, it dissipates in a matter of minutes. When the craving hits and you are busy doing other things and you don’t have time to sit and work through it is where the real challenge lies. You have to learn to remain present in the midst of acitivity and turmoil.

I also haven’t been drowning myself in vats of ice cream to substitute, yay for me. I wish I could say I’ve managed to do this because I have become enlightened and now only need fresh air, kale and water to survive. Alas this is not the case, the way I’ve managed to accomplish this seemingly impossible feat is by knitting. A suggestion given to me by the lovely SoberIsland. Proper knitting, with yarn and needles and everything !

Oh yes, I knit now. Honestly, if you told me two years ago that my future self would be a happily sober, herbal tea drinking, yoga doing, scarf knitting individual I would have laughed in your face and then probably would have slapped you for suggesting such an outrageous thing.

Knitting is the perfect hobby for this obsessive compulsive addict. I love the repetitiveness of it, it makes me feel safe and happy. I knew I was hooked when Friday rolled around and I felt proper panic because I didn’t have enough yarn for the weekend. You know what they say…once an addict… I suppose, strictly speaking I haven’t truly managed to deal with cross addictions because I’ve substituted smoking and eating sugar for knitting. Progress not perfection hey? As far as addictions go I think knitting is pretty innocuous. Never had a knitting hangover, can’t black out from it and I’ve never regretted what I knit the night before.

I finished my first scarf a couple of nights ago. I used rainbow yarn, (the closest I could get to unicorn yarn). I absolutely love it and I felt a great sense of accomplishment when it was finished. The only flaw (if this could be considered a flaw) is that it’s the longest scarf I’ve ever seen. It turns out didn’t know when to stop,  every night I kept telling myself just 3 more rows and before I knew it I had knit 6.

 

Cigarette flavoured ice cream

icecreamSo last week I tried to stop smoking for the gazillionth time. I fared pretty well until Mr Hurrah and I had a massive fight on Sunday.

I was standing outside in the shed where I used to sneak drinks…eating an ice cream and smoking a cigarette at the same time. Yes that is physically possible and no I wouldn’t recommend it. It takes a lot of coordination not to drag on the ice-cream and eat the cigarette.

As I was smoking the cigarette and angry eating the ice cream it occurred to me that this is perhaps not what sobriety looks like. What the hell am I doing? I’m not coping with life I am trying to distract and numb myself out with two things that aren’t even mind altering. I suppose that probably depends on how much ice cream you can consume in one sitting, is a sugar coma even a thing?

So in an effort to be accountable I am going to track my progress here. I’m quitting the fags cold turkey tomorrow and going to try my best not to substitute the fags for food.

Cigarettes are lethal and don’t DO anything. I think part of the reason I’m finding it difficult to quit this time (I quit for 7 years before my kids were born) is because I feel a loss of my rebel identity. I never pegged myself as a non-smoking, non-drinking kale eating yogi. The things is smoking doesn’t make you a rebel it’s just nicotine addiction that makes you sick.

The food thing is harder…when I stop smoking I feel more hungry and I ‘reward’ myself with food. Eating a whole box of ice creams isn’t fun. You feel sick afterwards and sugar is its own little hamster wheel of craving and bingeing.

Being mindful, present and noticing my triggers before it gets to crisis point is the only way this ‘new me’ is going to really recover. Yes, I didn’t drink so that is at least something but part of recovery is learning to deal with life’s ups and downs without clutching at old crutches that aren’t good for you.

I would love to hear what cross addictions y’all are struggling with, if any?

Wish me luck sober peeps, I sure need it. xxx

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

The tigers and the strawberry

tiger

I’m feeling weird these days. OK, but weird.

The whirlwind and pink glow of early sobriety is fading and the over excitement is settling. I’m looking around my life and realising how much of it is about escaping the present moment. TV, eating, working, podcasts, busy work, (blogging even) all designed to keep me from being quiet with myself. What the hell am I so afraid of? I’ve had weird moments of insane joy (don’t know if I’m losing my mind here people). Small flashes of intense joy, just being with my children looking at their faces really BEING THERE with them. I’m oscillating between these small flashes of joy and flatness. I also have these thoughts of how I had a narrow escape from death. I feel as though I’ve dodged a massive bullet by being able to get sober again and it’s making me really emotional.

I’ve been reading Pema Chödrön’s book ‘The wisdom of no escape’, I highly recommend her book, the teachings can very happily sit next to any religion you practice.

In the book she tells a Zen story about some tigers and a strawberry. I’m changing the monk to a woman because that’s the way the author told it and because I can…

There was once a woman who was being chased by a ferocious tiger across a field. At the edge of the field there was a cliff. In order to escape the tiger, the woman caught hold of a vine and swung herself over the edge of the cliff. Dangling down, she saw, to her dismay, there was another tiger on the ground below her! And, furthermore, two little mice one black one white were gnawing on the vine to which she clung. She knew that at any moment she would fall to certain death. That’s when she noticed a wild strawberry growing on the cliff wall. Clutching the vine with one hand, she plucked the strawberry with the other and put it in her mouth.

She never before realized how sweet a strawberry could taste.

One could simply interpret this as “when your life was in danger or you have a near death experience life becomes really clear and you appreciate the present moment so much more.”

Another interpretation is that the tiger below represent the anxiety of the future (and also our inevitable death) and tiger above represent the pain of the past.

The vine is the material world and the mice the passage of time. They are black and white because they symbolise day and night. This represents how each cycle of day and night brings us a little closer to death.

The strawberry symbolises the energy, beauty and vitality of the present moment. It is always there, available for those who are willing to bring awareness to it.

We are all born with one foot in the abyss, it’s the human condition. I once heard a talk where the speaker suggested you set an alarm on your phone each hour to remind yourself of the pure miracle of your existence! It’s a bloody miracle that you are alive and that you are breathing, each moment is a miracle. How quickly we forget this and take it all for granted.

Chewing my arm off…

pic
My word for this year is self-care and the first and most important part of that puzzle is stopping smoking. I smoked for a very long time then stopped for a very long time so I know it’s just bullshit drug addiction that does nothing for me. All that being said I’ve been using it as a placebo prop to manage stress which is ridiculous especially because Nicotine is a stimulant and it causes your heart rate and blood pressure to skyrocket.

Now that the Christmas hysteria is over I need to put my big girls pants on and sort this shit out.

So today is day 3 AND I want to chew my arm off and punch people in the face and steal my children’s sweets…

I don’t want to be a smoker; it makes me tired and costs an absolute fortune. I want to do YOGA and lots of it! I want to be one of those people who jumps out of bed in the morning, drinks hot water and lemon, meditates and stretches! I can’t do proper Ujjayi breath if I’m smoking fags all day because I start coughing and spluttering like an 80 year old, which is very attractive I can tell you.

If memory serves I think the intense craving will go by day 5 so I’m hanging in there.