I’ve been asked several times this week about my story, about why I’ve given up alcohol, about my ‘breaking point’ and about how I gave up.
I’ve touched on my story in some of my earlier blogs .. I’ve always had ‘an addictive personality’. This actually translates into ‘greedy piggy with no off switch’. Like many, I started experimenting with alcohol in my mid teens .. I distinctly remember downing awfulness like White Lightening cider and blue 20/20 and I also distinctly remember being sick the next day. One of my first memories of getting horribly drunk was about aged 16, at a house party and being sick into a bush from a balcony. And I’d had spaghetti for dinner.
In fact, I was nearly always sick the next day. To the extent that it became normalised. Go out, get drunk, come home, pass out. Next day, sick. Then we started drinking before we went out to ‘save pennies’. However, as the tolerance grew, I don’t think we saved any money, we just drank more. And more.
And basically that’s how I spent the next 20 years. In a vicious, self harming scenario of eat, drink, sick, repeat. Like some kind of slow, torturous death.
Alongside this self abuse, I was also getting myself into stupid relationships with men who were in even worse situations than me. They say you attract what you are and from where I am now, I can so see this is true.
The last person I was seeing was a totally damaged soul. I guess you could argue that I was too. And between us, we created more damage than either of us needed or could cope with. And it was this relationship that finally caused me to hit rock bottom. And ‘they’ say that until you hit rock bottom, you can’t start climbing back up. I knew that, for as long as I was drinking, he would continue to be a part of my life. And that had to stop.
So, in autumn last year, I decided I was going to give up alcohol for 2017. The plan was to stop drinking at midnight on 31 December 2016 and restart again on 1 January 2018. I would write a blog as an online diary, to record the highs and lows of an alcohol free life. If I’m honest, I expected far more lows than there has been and kind of imagined it would be a bit of a whinge fest! Luckily it couldn’t be further from this and instead, is one of the best decisions I ever made.
Then, out of the blue I got the opportunity to change my job after 11 years in the same company. Whilst it was the best thing to happen to me, I think subconsciously it stressed me out .. in addition, the ex was still playing me like a pawn in his game and then the flu literally floored me.
As you can see from my ‘before’ photo, I was sad, tired and ill. Drained by life. And so my year started early on 27 November 2016 at approximately 2am. My last drink, a large vodka, was ceremoniously poured down the sink before bed. And that was it. No more.
People ask whether I’m tempted to drink. The simple answer is no. I have too many embarrassing memories to think of that put me off ever picking up a drink again. Do I miss my old life? Of course I do but slowly, the craziness is becoming a distant memory. I do not want to be sad anymore, a pawn in someone else’s awful life. I want to be the Queen in my own life, happy and in control, and you know what, I think I’m well and truly on my way there 🙋🏻🐟
One of the parts of soberdom that I am still not finding easy, is partying in large numbers. I appear to be able to do anything that revolves around food (nothing new there) but really struggle when drinking is the main focus.
This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship with parties over the years. I think I’ve mentioned before, that I would always be the last to leave. But now I’m questioning whether that was because I was having such a great time or was just too hammered to even think about leaving.
When we’re young, and invited to a school friends party, there’s always something to keep us entertained. It could be going to an activity centre, or McDonalds or party games. There’s always something ‘to do’.
In the teenage years, it gets more awkward ‘pre alcohol’. The rigid school discos, where, despite the excitement crescendo beforehand, everyone ends up stood on the perimeter of the dance floor, wooden and scared. Until, five minutes before the end, someone, from deep inside their soul, gains enough confidence to enter the dance floor zone and then all the sheep follow. And the next day, everyone raves about what a great time they had.
Then, in the later teenage years, a new friend ‘alcohol’ joins the throng. And changes the way we party forever. No other activities are required, no one lacks confidence, the dance floor is rammed. We all have the best night ever. Or do we? I certainly never had the best morning after.
Since parting company with alcohol, I feel I’ve reverted back to an awkward pre alcohol teenager. I don’t quite know where to put myself. I’m stood on the perimeter, looking at the dance floor, wishing my confidence would return. Not that I particularly want to dance, I just want to relax, to get into the party mood. But I find it hard on sparkling water. I don’t feel ‘sparkling’. I feel quiet and dull. And these are definitely two words I have never heard used about me.
So where to go from here? It’s a toughy. I could politely decline invitations but that’s just being mean to myself. I have tried the ‘going early, coming home early’, but that just made me mourn my old life. My gut instinct is that I just need to ‘get over myself’ but unsure how to do it!
For now, I’m going to go with the flow and hope my awkward teenager phase passes swiftly. And hope that I locate my confidence and get back on the metaphorical dance floor again. Sober.
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
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