Today, it became clear that this was the day I’d been preparing for. This was the day that all early mornings in the rain & the walking & the weight loss & Soberdom was all about.
And I didn’t even know it.
Pre Soberdom, I hated trainers & rucksacks & mountains & exercising & ‘wasting’ a day in the sun. I would never have been up before sunrise on holiday .. I would’ve only just got in .. and would’ve hated getting on a bus full of strangers, out of my comfort zone, to go & see waterfalls & pagodas & trek through the Doi Inthanon National Park.
I would’ve been hungover & moody & dehydrated .. in fact, the thought of doing anything like today would never have entered my head.
Today, after bolting down a coffee & a banana for breakfast, I was picked up at 7am in a van by my tour guide Boon. My fellow passengers were 3 solo girl travellers from Lithuania, Austria & Germany plus a lovely family of 4 from France.
We headed out of Chaing Mai at rush hour. This translates to no one going anywhere very fast but use whichever means possible to undercut each other, the size of the gap between vehicles irrelevant.
Our first stop was the waterfall .. it was spectacular! We walked up to it for photos then had a coffee, sitting & chilling & marvelling at its magnificence. Then we all piled back into the van to the next stop.
When we arrived at a clearing on the side of the mountain road, we were told this was where our trek began with a small Thai man who apparently spoke good English. This was a blatant lie but his lack of English actually made the trek far more real & endearing.
The trek started uphill. I was thankful for my recent trip to Manchester & my hill climbs! For once, I wasn’t the heavy breather at the back, the one in the stupid footwear, the one struggling to keep up. I was strong & confident & raring to go.
The trek took us through forests & through strawberry fields where we ate the fruit fresh from the ground. We saw coffee plants & bamboo & ate cinnamon fresh from the tree. We trekked on paths I would’ve been petrified of before & crossed rickety bamboo bridges to get to waterfalls on the other side.
Lunch was at a traditional Thai village. It was truly gorgeous .. rice, fresh soup, chicken & cashew nuts & vegetables, followed by fruit. Nothing was too much trouble and after all the energy exerted in the morning, was very welcome.
After lunch, we got back in our trusty van & went up to the Royal pagodas at the top of the mountain, built for the former King & Queen of Thailand. Each pagoda is at the top of a massive set of steps and is very opulent as are the grounds surrounding each one. We then headed back home.
I feel like I’ve just woken up. That this is what it’s all about. Getting out there, seeing things, immersing myself in culture, seeing how other people live. It is not about sitting by the pool & downing gin or hangovers & endless late nights.
It is about the moment, the here & now, being present.
Some people have asked if I feel safe here. I can honestly say I’ve never felt safer. I feel invincible, untouchable, ‘with it’ .. I simply can’t understand why I haven’t done this sooner and know, without doubt, that I will definitely be doing it again.
The Soberfish has landed! And has a bed! And WIFI! And survived 2 planes, 3 airports, 1 security check from hell, 1 baggage claim from hell & 1 taxi ride like no other!
I have no idea what the time is. Well I do but my body is all over the place. I can’t imagine doing this type of travel with alcohol in the mix. It will be interesting to see what the jet lag will be like as my last long haultrip, pre Soberdom, was to Vegas & the tiredness was pretty horrendous. I’m praying for a miracle this time.
The flight from London to Mumbai was pretty good. As I’m tight and refuse to pay any extra for the seat I’d already paid enough for, I checked in for free within the last 12 hours before take off & by some small miracle (even though I obviously saw the seating plan), bagged a seat with an exit directly behind it so had no annoying person kicking me for 8 hours. Result!
The people next to me were fairly calm & normal .. the people in front of me were not so calm & normal. There were severe ‘chair wars’ for the first few hours .. the guy next to me battling back and forth with the bolshy teenager in front. Luckily I escaped the agro, even when she moved to the seat in front of me. I swear it was my PMA (positive mental attitude) that did it .. or maybe it was just because she finally fell asleep.
Mid flight however, I had a massive wave of anxiety .. it literally overtook my rational mind .. ‘what the ACTUAL f**k was I doing?’, ‘what if I miss my connecting flight?’, ‘what if I get lost?’, ‘what if my bag doesn’t get there?’.
Jesus. #overthinkersanonymous anyone?
I literally had to ride it out, patiently telling myself ‘it’ll be fine’ and ‘it’s a bit bloody late to start freaking out now’. Like most unwelcome thoughts, it passed and was replaced by excitement again. A pure emotional rollercoaster!!
My anxiety reminded me of alcohol cravings. It arrived out of nowhere .. unnecessary, irritating, fierce. It’s quite interesting that if you remove any options … in my case, to escape and run .. and HAVE to deal with it, it will eventually go away. It’s all about confronting how you feel head on & battling it out. Ahhhh the power of the mind.
Soberfish 1 Brain 0 ✅
In other news, the J Pillow is the best £19.95 I’ve ever spent. And I had an aisle seat! It’s like your own personal portable shoulder without protruding bone. Who needs a man?!!
I urge you to get one, even if it does look a bit phallic. For extra kudos, you could even pair it with a Love Honey blindfold like I did … now that’s what you call cougar fashion.
The flight landed 45 minutes early in Mumbai which was extremely lucky as the fiasco that was the security area took way longer than the 2 hour stopover. There were hardly any staff so they were multitasking spectacularly badly between check in staff, baggage control and any other jobs that may need a human! It was more Faulty Towers than Faulty Towers. Just what you need with no sleep!
And now I am here. The final destination for the next two days. I’m writing this by the roof top pool, surrounded by high buildings and smog. And it’s hot. Gloriously hot. I plan to have a snooze and a shower before going for a wander nearby and grabbing some food.
Until later Fish Followers 🐟🐟
#day442 (I think) the adventure has begun
So you’ve done it. Achieved the unthinkable. Battled through the cravings & the moods & the misery & remained sober for 31 days of hell. So now what?
Dry January is a brilliant concept to give your liver a break after the excesses of Christmas. It is also good for your dire bank balance & for the diet that you started with gusto & will contribute massively to your new gym regime. But tomorrow is February. And you’ve been paid. And it’s a Thursday, which is almost Friday yeah? And you’ve been sooo good right?
I was always part of the ‘it’s February 1st, let’s get slaughtered’ brigade. I can barely remember any February 2nd’s. Being ‘allowed’ to drink again meant the diet was ruined, the gym forgotten, the cigarettes started again & I got well & truly smashed.
So, does that make 31 days of abstinence a complete waste of time? Well, yes .. and no.
My attitude today is ‘you’ve done 31 days, why stop now?’
My attitude before Soberdom was ‘I’ve done 31 days & that’s quite enough, thank you very much’.
Of course, everyone has their own reasons for giving Soberdom a go but one of the common reasons is the illusive ‘off switch’. It would appear that quite a few of us have been a little bit faulty from birth! However, if you’ve completed Dry January though, you’ve kind of proved that the off switch does exist, even if it’s a little loose in its socket.
Dry January has probably made you assess your drinking habits and a month of abstinence might make you determined to be more mindful going forward rather than give up for good. I wish you all the very best with this but my personal experience is that by the end of February, you might be right back where you started.
The longer I remain sober, the more I can’t see the point of intentionally picking up a drink after a period of abstinence. I mean, if you’d given up smoking for 31 days, you’d be chuffed and have no intention of doing it again right? And you certainly wouldn’t celebrate 31 days free from heroin by shooting up a syringe.
Why is alcohol so different?
Over the last month, I’ve read numerous posts about people being disappointed they are not losing weight quickly enough or that they are feeling impossibly tired or feel unable to stop feasting on sugar. These are all common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. After all, you’ve been systematically putting a drug into your body for the whole of your adult life. Did you really expect no comeback for the years of self abuse?
In my experience, the first 3 months of Soberdom are the hardest. It takes roughly 90 days to see proper results such as weight loss, clearer skin, boundless energy & steadier emotions. Of course, there’ll be exceptions to the rule but I think you need more than a Dry January to get the results you want.
Tonight, there is a New Moon, the symbol of hope & new beginnings. You’ve done so well! Do you really want to undo all that hard work & go back to the start? Do you really want to contaminate your now alcohol free body & reward yourself with the hangover from hell? I hope the answer is no and that you will continue your already amazing journey into a new, fresh month. Give yourself the gift of an alcohol free February. I promise you won’t regret it!
Alcohol is a drug. Fact. Alcohol is highly addictive. Fact. Alcohol kills people and causes disease. Fact.
The more I learn about alcohol, the more shocked I am that it is still legal. One description of alcohol is –
‘A colorless, volatile, flammable liquid synthesized or obtained by fermentation of sugars and starches and widely used, either pure or denatured, as a solvent and in drugs. Also called ethanol, ethyl alcohol. Intoxicating liquor containing alcohol‘.
The words used to describe alcohol are wholly unpleasant and don’t make it sound like something pleasant to ingest however, when disguised in a beautiful wine bottle or hidden in a can, we quaff it back like it’s the freshest water from a Highland spring.
So why are people still swallowing it? Why are people spending hard earned cash on something that may ultimately kill them?
I believe part of the problem is that while you’re drinking alcohol, you can’t see the damage that is being done. Yeah, you get a hangover but 24 hours after the event, you feel well enough to carry on right? Yeah, your skin is dry but that’s just your skin, right? Yeah, you vomit after a night of hard drinking but that won’t damage you inside will it? Yeah, you feel low after drinking but that’s because of the stupid things you did, right?
Wrong. Every time you drink alcohol you’re causing damage. You just can’t see it and therefore it is easy to ignore. Alcohol has now been proven to cause some cancers, liver disease and mental disorders to name but a few. And yet the shelves of supermarkets are emptied each weekend in a frenzy to get hammered.
I am well aware I was one of the sheep who downed alcohol like it was going out of fashion and at the time, I didn’t care about the consequences. But I do now from the other side of the fence. I find it fascinating that we treat cigarettes in such a cloak & dagger fashion but continue to proudly display alcohol in front of our children. I find it unbelievable that alcohol can be advertised at 8am while our kids get ready for school. I find it incredulous that it is legal for anyone over the age of 5 to drink alcohol. Yes, you read that right. Age 5.
Unbelievably, it’s only 25 years ago since I smoked a cigarette on a plane. I was on holiday with my mum and her friends and we all sat on the back row in the ‘smoking area’. How ridiculous does that sound now? The ‘smoking area’ that filled the whole plane with smoke! The fact we actually smoked on a plane! And yet it wasn’t really that long ago and look how our attitudes have changed towards smoking. I’m convinced the same will happen with alcohol when we understand exactly what we are doing to ourselves.
Perhaps it’s time we started to see adverts on TV about what alcohol can do to a person. Perhaps it’s time to display photos of damage caused by alcohol on bottles of wine. Perhaps it’s time to face up to the fact that alcohol is a poison and will cause damage no matter how little you ingest.
Perhaps the time is now.
When I came up to London yesterday, I knew I had a couple of hours to kill between going to the hairdresser & taking my 97 year old grandad to a prearranged hospital appointment. I also needed to fit my walking in but had no idea where I was going to go.
Lightbulb moment ‘I know, I’ll practice using my gut’.
I had about 3 hours before the hospital appointment on the other side of London so thought I’d head that way so not to be late. As I was driving, I saw a sign for where I was born & brought up in North London so decided to go back to my roots and take a wander round.
I arrived at my old town that we left when I was 16 & recognised nothing. It felt weird, looking for something, anything to jog my memory. Suddenly, I saw a road name I recognised & drove down it. Still nothing. Until I got to the end and it was like my memories just unfolded before me. There was the church and the bus stop and the bend in the road leading up to where I used to live. Ironically, I also remembered that I’d actually had a dream about the exact same spot just a couple of days before. Coincidence?
I followed the road up towards my old house, memories flooding back of friends I’m no longer in touch with & boys who broke my heart & school & snow & my first job & Christmas & a happy time before alcohol came along.
It was quite emotional but I’m not really sure why. Nostalgia I guess. I was very conscious that my memory had distorted things beyond recognition when actually lots of things like hills & houses & shops & stations hadn’t really changed.
As I left my old town and drove towards my grandads, I saw even more places I recognised .. schools & a memorial & a hotel & the photography shop where we’d had our professional baby photos taken in the late 70’s! Obviously a successful business! I drove past the hospital I was born and then into the countryside where the tears started to flow.
Like I say, I’m not really sure what I was crying about. A build up of stuff I guess but it came out and that was ok.
When I got to my grandads care home, it was obvious he had deteriorated massively since I last saw him. He was frail, weak, mumbling gibberish & in my opinion, in no fit state for a trip to the hospital. But he has a pace maker which needed to be checked so off we went.
My heart was breaking in the car. He’s deaf, has dementia, has no idea what’s going on and can’t communicate. It was getting dark and he was probably frightened. The traffic was heavy and I knew we had a mission ahead when we got to the enormous hospital in Hertfordshire. Parking was always a nightmare but again, I was using the power of my mind, willing for there to be a space near where I needed to be.
As I turned into the car park, there was a space. I was overjoyed. This made my life a whole lot easier and I quickly parked. But, as I did, I heard the most awful noise next to me and turned to see my grandad had been sick literally everywhere.
I panicked. What the hell was I supposed to do? Luckily, I guess, he didn’t have a clue. I leaped out of the car to his side and grabbed some wipes I handily kept in the glove box and started the clean up operation.
In the midst of the nightmare, something just took over me to get the job done. It was cold, he was freezing, it was dark, we had to get into the hospital and the car was in a state. I bundled him into a wheelchair, wrapped him in my shawl and got inside. There, I just lost it. It was so upsetting and I found myself starting to think about having a cigarette. Just something to take away the awfulness of the whole situation. The planning in my head started. ‘After I drop him off, I’ll just go to Tesco’s to get some cleaning products and buy a packet of 10. I’ll only have one. No one will know.’
But similarly to alcohol, I know I won’t have one. And I know no one will know. But I will know. And that is enough.
Eventually, I got my grandad safely back to the home and knew that was probably the last time I will see him. I got back into my foul smelling car and drove away sobbing. Life really is so bloody cruel sometimes.
I drove to Tesco’s, still battling inside. I was aware the battle was more about cigarettes rather than a large glass of Sauvignon but to be honest, either would’ve done. Instead, I bought a massive packet of Mini Eggs & did the lot. Boom. The craving was gone.
Emotionally drained and exhausted, I finally arrived at my friends last night, my happy hair photo a distant memory. So do redheads have more fun? The jury is definitely out but they definitely have more drama for sure.
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