Humans are habitual. Fact. We like repetition and we all have addictions. We especially like doing things that are bad for us and love to indulge in modern day poisons! Why can’t we turn our habits around and be addicted to the good stuff?! It’s rare to be addicted to vitamins or lettuce or burpees.
One of the common words used about alcohol is that it is a reward, something to look forward to. We like the ritual of drinking .. buying a beautiful bottle, chilling it, pouring it into a lovely glass, decorating it with fruit and ice, savouring it, feeling ‘normal’ once the ritual has started. But once the ritual becomes more frequent, and the feeling is related to normality, the habit is formed and the love affair starts to dissolve.
Is there anything quite like the first drink of the day? That first sip .. the relief that we made it. I don’t think so. But once we start, we just can’t stop. Realistically, ‘just the one’ should do the trick, to raise the dopamine levels, to bring temporary joy from the day. But not many people that stop at one and more than one is a habit.
Cravings for alcohol are worse in a trigger situation. Trigger situations are caused by habit and need to be broken to survive alcohol free. Mine is, or was, getting home from work on a Friday night after a long week. 3 months on, it’s becoming much easier. I have replaced my wine with Elderflower Presse. I still have it in a lovely glass and I still decorate it with ice and lime and I now look forward to it in the same way I did a Sauvignon. After all, I deserve a treat too! It has just taken time to become the better option over the poison I was rewarding myself with before.
There is nothing wrong with spoiling yourself with alcohol free products if it makes your sober journey more successful. Changing your habit to something poison free is always going to be a better alternative. Avoiding trigger situations in the early days also helps with recovery. Don’t put yourself in a temptation situation unless you are totally sure you can resist. Habits are not easy to break but they are easy to replace. Transfer your love of the bad things to love of the good. And reward yourself with permenant goodness rather than a temporary high. Remember, what goes up, must come down! And usually that isn’t pretty!
‘Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going’ Jim Ryun
It’s quite interesting what people think an alcoholic is. The age old description is someone who drinks in the morning or someone who ‘has the shakes’. Or someone who drinks out of a brown paper bag to hide their habit. I mean really? Even that would cost you an extra 5p these days!
Everyone has a ‘vision’ of what an alcoholic is but it is unlikely to look like themselves. My personal definition is anyone who cannot control their intake of alcohol or drinks to excess, with negative consequences. I think your personal definition is dependant on your own alcohol intake. If you have a couple of glasses on a special occasion, then you’d consider me to be a raging alcoholic, however I didn’t drink in the morning, or out of a paper bag, so maybe I wasn’t after all?
I know that writing about my ‘habit’ has created some discussion about ‘my problem’. Some people have said ‘they didn’t know it was that bad’. But that’s dependant on your definition of bad isn’t it? I didn’t fit in with the stereotype but once I got started, there was no stopping me. And for me, that was a problem. Throwing up all the next day, that was a problem. Losing my free time at the weekend, eating rubbish, getting fat. That was a problem. But did I escape being an alcoholic because I didn’t sip out of a brown paper bag on a park bench at 8am? It’s questionable.
It is also interesting that people feel there must be something sooooo wrong if you don’t want to drink alcohol. Why has it become so normalised to partake in ingesting poison? If you politely decline heroin, that doesn’t make you weird or boring? That makes you an intelligent human being so why is alcohol so different?! So acceptable??!
I prefer to categorise myself as the ultimate binge drinker. And eater. And smoker. Nothing could satisfy the beast. And the more I drank, the higher my tolerance became. I do think it is a problem to drink for 12 – 15 hours at a time, to drink a bottle of wine before leaving the house for a night out, to forget doing the things the night before. On a programme I saw, it described drunken black outs as your brain being physically unable to make memories. How sad is that? That I actually chose to do that to myself? It makes me shudder and I intend to never do that harm to myself again. #day91 🙋🏻🐟
‘They’ say that you can’t truly love somebody until you truly love yourself. I’m not sure that is exactly true. I have been in love and still hated myself inside. Sometimes I think it is far easier to love someone else and deflect attention away from yourself.
This week, I’ve been thinking about to my history with men. It’s a colourful story. Most have or have had issues with alcohol. And of course, that was part of the problem. Did I naturally attract someone with the same problem as me or did we fuel each other? Did I deliberately look for someone that enjoyed drinking as much as me? And visa versa? Or did I just get myself into such scenarios because I was generally pissed?
My first serious boyfriend was an alcoholic. I was 18, he was 30. I didn’t even know what an alcoholic was but soon found out. He was drunk most of the time, smoked like a chimney and was bleak. Being so young, I didn’t really understand what a problem he had but definitely remember thinking it was my fault when he’d had one too many. I began to count the number of drinks he consumed, to gauge what kind of night I could expect and took that counting habit forward into my next relationship, paranoid it would be the same. Years later, after no contact, I received a call from him to say he was clean and that AA had suggested he apologise to people he’d upset in the past. Nice sentiment AA but sadly, the damage had already been done.
My last relationship was pretty dire. It mostly centred around alcohol and arguing. Totally damaging and unfulfilling. At this point, I can safely say that there was little love for myself. I was more than happy to hide my unhappiness in a massive G&T and crack on. Inside, my self esteem was dying and I was feeding it with anything in sight, gaining weight and sadness. I have questioned whether he did the damage to me or whether I damaged myself. The answer is probably a bit of both. Things came to a head in November when drunk, I completely lost my mind, and decided that I couldn’t feel this way about him or me anymore and put a stop to it. And alcohol.
My aim going forward is to meet someone lovely. Who already loves themselves. And likes Elderflower and early nights. I can no longer tolerate the drama that alcohol attracts and need someone that feeds my self esteem nice things, like lettuce. I’m starting to love myself again slowly. The weight is coming off and I feel happier. Just got gotta get my head around sober, beer-goggle free dating and I’m anybodies 🙋🏻🐟 #day84
It’s hard to say exactly when it all went so wrong. Like most people, I was aware of alcohol at a young age. My parents and their friends drank; we were allowed a sip of beer or wine on special occasions.
As a teenager, it was always drink to excess. I think we all started on the cheap stuff .. raspberry 20/20 (weirdly coloured blue), Brody cider (under the guise that if we drank 200 bottles, we got a free bottle opener) and who can forget White Lightning? And throwing up on it.
My taste in wine was abysmal to start with. My favourite was sweet German Hock or Liebfraumilch. Shudder. But luckily (or unluckily), my tastes then matured to drier wines such as Sauvignon or Pinot. In my early twenties, I was nearly always sick the next day after drinking, and this became the norm, accepted as a consequence of a good night, in or out. I was also known to have a good cry on most occasions. Even though I generally had absolutely nothing to cry about. Friends used to joke that after 5 glasses, the tears would start. And this was before we left the house.
By now, I was also binge smoking too. The two, for me, go hand in hand. I wasn’t someone who smoked in the morning and could go for a whole week without either drinking or smoking. But let me loose on a Friday night, and boom, I consumed everything in sight. Then, after spending all day Saturday in a coma, vomiting regularly, I’d then have a takeaway to make myself feel better. Writing it down, it actually sounds like a form of Bulimia, definitely a form of self harm.
Into my thirties and forties, the pattern didn’t really change. Most of my female friends were getting pregnant, which at least gave them 9 months off the sauce. But I just carried on. Buying and consuming more and more and more. And still smoking like a chimney. And putting on weight. And hating myself.
Something had to give. I was sick of being sick. I was sick of being fat. I was sick of the smell of smoke in my hair and on my clothes. I was sick of being a slave to something that was damaging me far more than I realised. And so I stopped. All of it. And now I’m getting slimmer. And I don’t smell rank. And I haven’t cried. Repeatedly. About nothing. And I’m filling my lovely, clever body full of good stuff, to say sorry for the nightmare I’ve put it through. And I don’t intend to stop. #day77
I don’t know if it’s just because I’m sober but alcohol seems to be everywhere I look at the moment. Social media is rife with the ‘celebration’ of Dry January being completed, the invention of ‘Smashed Saturday’ to glorify getting annihilated and now the build up to Valentines Day which simply must involve Prosecco in order to have a good time.
On TV, particularly on Emmerdale this week (don’t judge me), that there was a drink for every occasion. Emmerdale centres around a pub for a start .. everyone is in there .. all of the time. Where do they get the money from?! It’s not a cheap night down the pub these days! I know, I know, it’s ‘just a soap’ but soaps are extremely popular in the U.K. and audiences are very influenced by storylines within them. This week, white wine was seen in abundance in several abodes, wine was served with olives at the book club and there was even a boozy hen night held in the pub with the ‘ladies’ vomiting freely all over the bar. Beautiful.
Similarly, alcohol is served on reality shows such as Big Brother, to encourage stupid behaviour and get more viewers. Shows such as this are very popular with under 18’s and are therefore condoning drunken behaviour and making it acceptable to the younger audience.
In the supermarkets, there is also great joy that it is now February and the drought is over. There are offers galore tempting all those martyrs who survived a sober January to get smashed. It really does make me question what the actual point of Dry January actually is? I seriously doubt there are any major health benefits if you just intend to get obliterated the moment the clock strikes midnight on 31st? And believe me, I used to be one of those people.
On some of the sites I now belong to, there is much discussion about the art of moderation. Lots of people complete Dry January in an attempt to analyse their drinking habits and then plan to ‘moderate’ going forward. Sadly, my belief is that if you need to think about your drinking habits AT ALL, it is unlikely that you will be able to moderate. After all, if you could’ve drunk in moderation, you would’ve done right? And therefore wouldn’t be sober now? It’s an interesting concept and not one that I will be trialling. I can almost guarantee that any attempt I made at moderation would, without doubt, end in disaster and back to square one. And I’ve come too far to go back now. #day70