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.
Imagine you are a computer.
Then imagine all of the things you have in your life are open pages on your computer screen, for example work, family, relationships, thoughts, emotions, habits, etc.
Then think of what happens to your computer when too many screens are open at the same time. It is slow, sluggish and doesn’t work to its full capacity. See where I’m going with this?
Is it any wonder that in the modern world we get overloaded and come unstuck, using drugs and alcohol to escape into a world where none of that matters anymore??
Behind the Soberfish scenes, I’ve been attending sessions with Becki Houlston, a life coach based in sunny Bournemouth. Becki uses a system which involves identifying what exactly is slowing us down, ‘clearing’ those open screens running in the background and uses how the nervous system responds to gauge when the screens are cleared.
You could be forgiven for thinking ‘oh she’s definitely lost it now’ and ‘not more mumbo jumbo’ but I believe this shizzle really works.
Our sessions began with a fairly informal chat about my life in general. I found Becki really easy to talk to and explained about the past year, about past relationships, about where my life is at right now and where I plan to be in the future. I had also completed some forms before the first session so Becki had an idea of what I was looking to achieve.
Several things became obvious quite quickly.
One, I tend to feel uncomfortable and get defensive if I don’t feel ‘safe’. We discussed my forthcoming trip to Thailand and I was explaining how I was getting freaked out about whether to take a rucksack or a suitcase or which hotel to stay in or where to go. Becki made me see that I need to find the middle ground that made me feel safe/comfortable about my decisions rather than obsessing about the minor details and that I should be getting excited about my trip rather than working myself into a frenzy!
Two, that despite being fairly goal orientated, I wasn’t working towards any particular life goals. I explained that I had worked towards my Soberversary during 2017 and not really focused on anything beyond that. Becki suggested it was now time to make some goals to encourage what I wanted to come into my life rather than focusing on what I didn’t want.
And three, my speciality, overthinking. I’ve always been the same, analysing a situation beyond recognition and coming to my own, (often wrong) conclusions about what other people are going to think, say or do. Overthinking is an exhausting trait and clouds everything in its path. It was time to shut it down.
Becki asked me to stand in front of her, arms straight by my side but relaxed, and with my eyes shut, repeat ‘I am weakened by overthinking’. The ever cynical me expected to feel nothing but instead I felt my body gently sway backwards. The movement was very subtle but it was there. I then repeated the sentence, feeling the sway again. For me, the sway backwards indicated ‘weak’ and the idea is to keep repeating ‘I am weakened by overthinking’ until the sway switched direction to forward and therefore ‘cleared the screen’.
As the procedure is being completed, Becki is watching how the nervous system responds to the commands as the movements can be very slight. They can also be very exaggerated depending on the size of the issue and some people have been known to fall over! The larger the issue, the harder it is to clear. Overthinking dominated most of my first session and probably needs shutting down on a fairly regular basis!
So how do I feel now? Well, I must say I do feel more focused on what is important and I do feel lighter after a session. As an impatient person, I expect immediate results but understand this isn’t always possible. Perhaps impatience needs to be my next ‘screen’ to be cleared?!
I will be returning to Becki for more ‘clearing’ in the New Year and highly recommend her services. Becki can offer one to one sessions either in person, on the phone or via Skype, so distance is not a problem. This technique can be used on many different issues .. if other techniques haven’t worked for you, why not give this a go?
The absolute key to success is meticulous planning. Personally, I avoided situations where there was going to be copious amounts of alcohol. If you were on a diet, you wouldn’t hang out in McDonald’s would you?
Download podcasts .. I particularly enjoyed the Recovery Elevator (I’m interviewed on episode 125) or The Alcohol & Addiction podcast. It really helped me to listen to other people’s stories.
Buy treats. We just lurve rewarding ourselves! Giving up one thing will mean replacing it with something else. That’s the way we are made. My vices have swung between Elderflower cordial to Curly Wurlies to Magnums. Yes, I know they’re full of sugar but I gave up drinking & smoking at the same time & I’m still losing weight so WHATEVS.
Join online groups such as Club Soda Together or Alcohol Explained. These groups have been my lifelines. Lots of people just like YOU with a common goal in mind. Brilliant!
Buy your favourite alcohol free tipple. Drink it in a wine glass if it makes you feel better. If you have to drink alcohol free wine & beer, do that. If that triggers you, don’t do that. Do what is good for YOU! Get some books. There’s hundreds out there to help you. Flood your mind with sober thoughts.
Recognise your trigger times and arrange to do something. If your trigger time is Friday night, go to the cinema & eat popcorn. If it’s Sunday evening, go out for a walk. You have to fill trigger time with something else or the nagging thought will win.
You cannot do the same things & expect different results. If you expect sit in front of the tv night after night & not crave a drink, you will be disappointed. Soberdom is not just about not drinking. It is about changing your lifestyle, breaking a habit, doing something different. Try writing down how you feel, or calling a friend and talking about it or join online discussions. You have to change YOU if you want to succeed.
Wishing you all the luck in the world!
YOU CAN DO THIS XX
RE 125: Focus on the Action and Not the Results
One of the most powerful episodes I listened to http://www.needyhelper.com/the-alcohol-addiction-podcast-episode-52-kim-sandhu-on-his-addiction-mental-illness-and-recovery