Guest Blog – ‘Sober Revelations’ by Kate

Guest Blog – ‘Sober Revelations’ by Kate

I had been sober and ‘kiss free’ for 13 months before I felt I was ready to plunge back into the world of internet dating.

I downloaded the dating app ‘Bumble’ and started swiping. Almost immediately, I saw a friend from childhood who I hadn’t spoken to since I was 8 years old. I swiped right and it was a match, so I sent my first message “How the hell have you been for the last 20 years?” and waited patiently for his reply.

The conversation was easy. As sobriety can be a deal breaker, my profile openly stated that I was sober. He mentioned my sobriety in weird idolisation, saying it wasn’t something he could do but that he wished he could as he’d heard great things.

A few days later, he told me he had taken cocaine at the weekend. I told myself I was cool with this as he said it didn’t happen often, that he didn’t seek it out and that he just had a hard time saying no. My better judgement was screaming out but because I really wanted him, I ignored it.

Our first date was a perfect evening of staring into each others eyes and laughing and soon it was time for my first sober kiss. It was the type of kiss you see at the end of a movie when the girl gets the guy, with fireworks and incredible passion!

Things continued to progress with the same fire. He had soulful depth and had examined his inner psyche. This was something which really turned me on in sobriety. He knew what it was like to dig through the darkest places of the mind. Once, he sat with me in silence for 20 minutes as I worked up the nerve to be vulnerable to a man without liquid courage. It was all new to me. His patience turned to understanding and appreciation of my vulnerability.

In the beginning I was 100% myself and I thought he got me on a level that I’d never experienced before. He didn’t drink alcohol for our first couple dates and after that, asked me respectfully if it was ok for him to have a drink.

We would see each other 2-3 times a week until I took a trip to Denver and then things changed.

The night before I came home, he told me how happy he was with me, that he was all in and we could talk about what that meant when I got back. I felt it was finally happening for me; a healthy happy relationship would be another gift of my sobriety.

However, when I got home, he was different. Once again, my gut was telling me things weren’t right but I ignored it. A few days later he told me that he needed space and asked if we could slow things down. He told me that he sometimes got distant and it was hard for everyone in his life. Panic ensued in my body. I felt anxious. I was feeling rejection for the first time in 13 months and it hurt.

Although we continued to see each other, things were never the same again.

Desperate for his affection, I grasped at any crumb he would throw my way, however any positive moment would be quickly overshadowed by the overwhelming unhappiness he had in his life. I sympathized with him but could feel my own depression grow from his sadness. I tried to break things off with him but he told me that wasn’t what he wanted so I took that as a sign he was coming round.

From the day I started to retreat back to myself, I made a promise that I would no longer question if he liked me. I would work on me instead and get back to a self that I liked. After that, I only saw him one more time and knew it was over.

After a while, I started to wake up with a new perspective on life. I realised I’d been spending too much energy on people that did not reciprocate. I reached out one last time and he said something that really stuck “Your need for reassurances really wore me down. I think you have some issues you need to work through”.

Instead of dismissing his criticism, I chose to listen. As painful as it was to hear, he was right and I was thankful for his honesty. I had never been in a healthy relationship; all of my relationships ended up like this. Why did I think I would magically be in a healthy relationship just because I was sober now?

With his words ringing in my ears, I got on the internet for a different reason. I started reading about attachment styles. Oh hello anxious/fearful attachment! and emailed my therapist to set up an appointment. My research and digging continued and then it hit me like a ton of bricks.

CODEPENDENCY.

People pleasing, fear of rejection, low self worth, validation by others opinions of me, not trusting oneself and all was rooted in addiction. It was me; all of the above.

I realised that I had no clue what a real loving relationship was supposed to look like mainly because I’d never had a proper example. There was also a possibility that I didn’t even know what love was.

These revelations were more heartbreaking to me than the heartwrenching catalyst that had forced me to look at myself. As numbing these thoughts with drugs and alcohol wasn’t an option for me, I sought help from my therapist and did some serious reading and research.

Slowly, I began to heal. It was painful. I cried and I sobbed every day for a month but in the end, I found bravery, self confidence, and a fearlessness I had never known before. The codependent weight has finally been lifted off my shoulders and I was able to release baggage and trauma by acknowledging and forgiving myself and the men of my past.

Recently I hopped back into the dating world with my new life lens and had two dates in two weeks. Honesty, openness, and authenticity afloat, I still didn’t see either man after the first date. This time however, I moved on easily from the rejection.

I now understand that there is value in these learning experiences and will continue the inner guidance and self knowledge whilst sometime wistfully daydreaming about the man I left 5 years ago.

Written by Kate, edited by Sober Fish

https://www.instagram.com/thesoberkates

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Guest blog ‘Get Sober and Start Living’ by Stephen

Guest blog ‘Get Sober and Start Living’ by Stephen

It’s been 18 years since I had my last drink and sometimes it’s easy to forget how difficult this journey has been for my loved ones and me.

Most of my drinking career involved a conscious effort at ‘mindful drinking’, if that’s what you want to call it. I started drinking from a very young age, let’s say 14, and I drank to get drunk. It was always premeditated, which was a recipe for disaster, and came with lots of consequences.

My life has been a colourful one and although it was lots of fun in the early days, I often put myself and others in unnecessary and sometimes dangerous situations like when I lost my driving license. Let’s just say I was a bit of a nuisance when under the influence.

When I was 20, I was very fortunate to have met Dee Dee, the love of my life. I probably owe my life to her. Despite putting her through hell back, she persevered with me and helped me to become the man I am today. Sober!!!

My first attempts at ‘mindful drinking’ began the day my beautiful son, Joseph, was born. As soon as I held this little bundle of joy in my arms, I knew things would have to change. My wife transformed from my bestie and playmate, to a responsible and loving mother however, when I should’ve become more supportive, I did the complete opposite and went off the rails.

I suppose you could say my mindful era was just me trying to grow up, and without the support of my wife and kids I am pretty certain I would never have achieved sobriety and probably would no longer be on this Earth.

I tried many things to reduce my drinking. For example, I would buy a nice bottle of red wine, which we could enjoy with our food, but a couple of glasses each wouldn’t satisfy me so I started to buy a larger bottles.

Or I would stop drinking dark spirits and stick to a clear spirit like vodka because I was told didn’t have an alcoholic smell. Hmmmm.

We then agreed that I would only drink on holiday, which as you can imagine didn’t end up the best of memories for them or me.

I often found that if I had two drinks (which was never enough), things would be ok. The third drink was always my turning point. The point of no return, when all the bets were off.

I was at my worst and unhappiest from the age of 28 when my gorgeous daughter Imogen was born and age 30, when I finally decided I had had enough. I had pushed my wife and I to the brink and she was on the verge of leaving me. I couldn’t blame her.

So, after many attempts at mindful drinking, abstaining, and falling off the wagon, I finally surrendered. I realised that drinking wasn’t a possibility for me. It was no one else’s suggestion; this was my decision. I checked myself into rehab and have been alcohol free ever since.

What I have learnt on my journey is that mindful drinking is not an option for me. Drinking almost destroyed my whole life.

Alcohol brought me no benefits and since giving up, I face life on life’s terms. I have dealt with a lot of my demons, which I suppose were my triggers, and most importantly am still happily married to my wife.

Recently, I set up my own soft drinks company called Chillio Ltd, which produces Chilli and fruit blended drinks designed to awaken your senses through a natural endorphin release that replaces the need for alcohol. These premium all natural blends have been designed for the non-drinker who still enjoys a quality. I would never have achieved this if I were still drinking.

My one bit of advice I would like to give is this.

If mindful drinking isn’t working for you, get help and stop drinking completely. Get sober and start living your life ❤️

Written by Stephen, edited by Sober Fish

Twitter @StephenLaurie12

Instagram/Facebook @StephenLaurie1970

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#club365 – Kate – ‘Take One Minute At A Time’

#club365 – Kate – ‘Take One Minute At A Time’

On 23 July 2018, I celebrated 12 whole years of sobriety. My relationship with alcohol, like most relationships, was complex.

Alcoholism runs in my family and was part of my daily life from the day I was born 54 years ago.

In many ways, it was kind of my destiny; everything was already in place. Genetic predisposition, environmental factors, and psychological tendencies; my progressive descent into alcoholism was marked, like signposts, by significant relationships with men throughout my journey.

The groundwork was laid when I met my first love at 16 years old. It was a wonderful relationship. I couldn’t have created a better match for myself if I’d whipped him up in a laboratory.

We were together, on and off, for 15 years. I always knew we’d met too young; there was no way we were going to settle down and marry right out of high school or college. And, like most teens, we ‘experimented’ with drugs and alcohol.

Smoking weed was a regular activity. Weekends were reserved for parties, football games or lying around in parks with wine coolers.

I took to drinking like a fish to water. I loved it and was very good at it. I weighed around 100 pounds through my teens and twenties, but found I could easily ‘out-drink’ almost any guy I knew, no matter his size. I didn’t learn until much later in life that such a high tolerance is not a good thing.

By my mid-twenties, I was drinking fairly regularly and often to the point of blacking out. I lived a carefree lifestyle, always highly functional, but bailing on things like jobs I became bored with or places I lived.

And ultimately, I bailed on my first love, when I met Casey at age 26.

We were together for just under three years, and in that time, I transitioned from ‘problem drinker’ to ‘alcoholic’. Of course I didn’t see that at the time; this disease sneaks up on you. Nor am I laying blame. But he was my tipping point. When you find someone that you click with on several levels; emotionally, sexually, intellectually, but who also shares your propensity for drinking .. well, it was like hitting the jackpot. My relationship with him validated my relationship with alcohol, and normalized it.

Of course, we had other things in common including a wicked sense of humor, the same tastes in music (except he liked country music, which I couldn’t stand, and still can’t hear to this day without thinking of him), we both loved to dance and we both loved to read. Often, he would read aloud to me; I still miss that. Our ‘singing-in-the-car’ skills were unmatched; sometimes he’d turn off the radio and ask me to sing to him. We both loved dogs, and his big black lab, Blue, was like our child. Our being-in-motion and being-at-rest rhythms were miraculously in sync. Our sex life was magical. Whilst not overly demonstrative with his affections, once in a while he’d make a grand gesture that took my breath away. One time, I got out of the bathtub at his house to hear him yelling my name from outside, and looked out of the window to see that he’d stamped ‘I LOVE YOU KATE’ in 10-foot letters in the snow.

But most of all, we LOVED to drink. We took that shit to the next level. We never talked about it, we just did it. It was like we were two aliens who’d somehow found each other in a foreign land and were able to communicate our growing dependency on alcohol without having to verbalize it.

Previous hard-drinking weekends segued into daily drinking. A boring Tuesday became ‘a special occasion’. We’d meet at a bar after work for a Bloody Mary, then have wine with dinner, then an after-dinner drink followed by a couple of six packs of beer at home. There was always vodka at his house for me and rum for him. On weekends he’d wake me with a Mimosa rather than a coffee. Saturdays and Sundays were spent either socializing with other drinking people at some drinking-centric event, or lying around the house and keeping a steady buzz going all day and night, tangled together on the couch watching old movies. Being with someone who so validated my ‘bad habit’ was a kind of vindication; it assured me that my relationship with alcohol was fine.

When our (inevitable) split came, it was swift, ugly and traumatic. I’ve never really gotten over it. I fully embraced drinking as some kind of pacifier, drifting from one one-night stand to another. When I finally met a kind and decent man with whom I somewhat ‘clicked’, I just went ahead and married him. I mean, that’s what you do, right? It was time, I was in my thirties, all my friends and siblings were married and settled. You buy the house and you marry the guy and you have the kids and then you’re happy.

Except that I wasn’t.

And it wasn’t because he was a bad guy because he’s not. It was because by then, I was literally drowning myself every day. Every decision I made, large and small, was made under the influence of alcohol. I remember him saying to me during an argument about my drinking ‘I hope you’re happy now’ and I shot back ‘Oh my God, you think I’m happy?? I haven’t been happy in years’.

I wasn’t speaking specifically about him or even our marriage, I was speaking in general, and my own words shocked the hell out of me.

When I finally got sober, at the age of 42 with an 18-month-old son, things calmed down a bit, and I had a second child.

The longer I was sober, the more I looked around and realized that I’d make huge life-changing decisions while I was either drunk or hungover. There were so many things in my life that could be called a mistake or a life lesson, including my marriage. We are now amicably divorced and my amazing children are now 11 and 13.

Since my divorce, I’ve been on several dates but am largely focused on my children and my career, which has essentially exploded since I became sober.

Exes have approached me looking for a ‘no-strings’ hookup but one of the best things sobriety has taught me is my own worth. There was a time when I’d sleep with anyone, any time; a guy just wanting me was enough of a reason. I don’t give myself away anymore. I don’t have the time or inclination for the inevitable fallout. And while I’m open to various ages/races/persuasions/careers/levels of baggage, I also know my deal breakers. That doesn’t mean I don’t want physical intimacy, or to find someone to love me and to give my love to, to someone who wants it and is in a position to take it; it means I’m judicious about it.

In a nutshell, I don’t have time for or interest in bullshit.

I’ve had men express interest in me who then abandoned that interest when they discovered that I don’t drink and that’s just fine.

I’m 54 years old, and while I don’t feel old, I’m old enough to know what I want and, more importantly, what I don’t. I’ve been in love several times – real, true, good love; I’ve been married, I’ve had children, and I’ve had fun flings with wonderful men who I remember with great affection. I’m healthy, fairly attractive, funny, sexy, and intelligent. I’d love to think (and am fairly optimistic) that there will be someone to love in my life again, and I’m open to it (although Remy Danton really is a fictional character apparently!)

Until then, I have words to write and children to raise. I am open with them about my sobriety and my experiences as an alcoholic, and they only know me as a sober person. I don’t want to tell them what to do. I want to continue to be a living example of it.

MY TOP TIPS TO ACHIEVE LONG TERM SOBRIETY

1. Addiction can be isolating. I’m not an AA fanatic, but I feel like some kind of support group is crucial, particularly in the first year. When everything has hit the skids or imploded and it’s all so scary and horrible and feels insurmountable and impossible to face, there is no substitute for being literally surrounded by people who know EXACTLY what that feels like, people who have done the same shitty things you have – and worse – and who understand the self-loathing and survived it. It props you up when you can’t prop yourself up.

2. Look around you. I used to wonder how I’d fill my days if I didn’t drink. The universe has a way of filling in the blank spaces in ways you can’t begin to imagine. Let it happen.

3. If you can’t get your head around ‘never’, as in ‘I can never drink again’, and even ‘one day at a time’ seems to hard, try one minute.

One.

Minute.

At.

A.

Time.

Reapply as necessary.

Written by Kate, edited by Sober Fish

Facebook: kateconleychadwick

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#day600

#day600

600 days ago, I woke up with my final hangover. I was away with friends for a weekend full of boozing & little did I know, I was done.

As I came around that morning after a fractious sleep, I was dehydrated (as usual), felt sick, had a headache and had scratched my eczema so much, there were bloodstains on the bedding. I remember gulping down water from a pint glass on the bedside table but instead of being replenished, I just felt worse. My hair stank of cigarettes, my skin was beyond dry and my mood was low. How much longer was I going to inflict this harm upon myself?

On top of the hangover symptoms, I was coming down with flu. I was in a bad way. After breakfast, my friends decided to climb a steep hill nearby to shake off their hangovers before the drive home but I couldn’t think of anything worse and chose to go home instead. The real (secret) reason that I declined the hill walk was because I was massively overweight as well as totally unfit and hungover and doubted I could actually make it up (or down) the hill without having some kind of episode.

The following day started with a trip to the doctors about my eczema. It was out of control. I was a sorry itchy mess. The doctor was visibly shocked when I showed her my sore bleeding skin but at no point did she question how I’d got into such a state. Instead, I was given a stronger ointment and told to monitor it. Thankfully it began to subside that very afternoon.

At that point, it wasn’t my intention to never drink again as my ‘experiment’ wasn’t due to start until the New Year but as the hangover faded and the flu took centre stage, there was no other option than to succumb.

600 days ago, my new life began and what a 600 days it had been.

600 less hangovers

600 nights of proper sleep

600 mornings without hangxiety

600 less bacon rolls

600 days free from cigarettes

600 days of happiness

600 less fat cokes

600 reasons never to drink again

600 days of gratitude

600 days of freedom

Written by Sober Fish 2018

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Mum’s Week – ‘CatMother Extraordinaire’

Mum’s Week – ‘CatMother Extraordinaire’

I have been sober for 48 days. Quite the achievement for somebody whose automatic response to any situation was to celebrate (or commiserate) with a beer. Or wine. Or prosecco. Or gin. Good day at work? Have a drink. Bad day at work? Have a drink. Cat fallen out of the bedroom window again? Drink. You finished watching every episode of 13 Reasons Why Season 2 and only cried 8,362 times? Drink.

I have been binge drinking since I was 12 years old. Back then I hated myself. I hated everything about myself and did everything I could to try and be somebody else. The discrepancy between ideal me and actual me was so huge I could never live up to it. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t anxious. There were many factors that contributed to this and whilst I have spent my life trying to resolve these, I have always fallen back to my old friend booze to forget a problem that I could not fix.

But alcohol is the type of friend that ghosts you for months at a time. Or deletes you from social media for no reason. Or invites everyone to the pub except you. It’s not a good friend. But you’ve known each other for so long and sometimes, it’s just so hard to break the bonds of time and habit and parasitic symbiosis that you fall back to them in your weakest moments, unable to remember which one of you is the parasite.

Drinking has always enabled me to lessen the wriggling worms of my anxiety. I know they are still there and they know they are still there, but we’re all drunk and languorous. We can’t be bothered to cause problems. If I could stop there, what a delight that would be.

To have one drink, or two, to take the edge off and enjoy the moment. To stop there, with the gin glow and brighten up the world.

But three starts getting louder and louder and louder and louder.

Four starts slurring and insisting, really loudly, that they are NOT FUCKING DRUNK.

Five wants to take on the fucking world and has forgotten about the Morrisons delivery that’s just turned up at its house.

Six. Well. Six gets so wankered by 4pm on New Years Eve, that it has to have nap and leave its husband to entertain their guests until 10pm when it manages to pull its shit together and join the party.

Then appeareth the morning after the night before. The flashbacks of shameful memories that can’t distinguish between reality or dream. The sticky sweats, the sickness, the shits. The thumping of a thousand tiny plastic swords against the surface of your brain. The lethargy, the hunger, the sickness. The suffocating dryness of your mouth, infused with the taste and smell of stale beer, vomit and cigarettes.

You don’t even smoke.

The inability to keep even a sip of water down. Having to drive home knowing full well that you are not safe to drive. Cancelling plans because no, you can not get out of bed today.

Topped off with the incessant fucking writhing of the wiggling anxiety worms that are now full grown, two metre long snakes and they are beating you to death from the inside. AND NOW THEY’RE IN YOUR BRAIN. The shame spiral that swoops you up in it like a tornado and banishes all logical thought. The texts you think you should send to apologise for being a dickhead but you can’t even write them because to do so is an admittance that you have a problem and your behaviour last night is only the beginning of it. When you say never again, but you mean until the next time, the next party, the next stressful day at work, the next night.

And the cycle begins again.

There was no defining moment this time. No hellscaped hangover to promise never again. No argument with a friend that made me feel like shit. No shame, guilt, humiliation that triggered this decision. Just a butterfly effect that created a change in mindset.

My anxiety has decreased. My capacity to see joy everywhere in the world has increased. My mental health is flourishing. I have so much free time that I have almost got the house in order and started ticking off all the to do list jobs that I have been deliberately ignoring for months!

I have started writing again, with an avid passion. I wrote my first ever short story and submitted it into a local competition where it was one of eight shortlisted out of forty. I didn’t win but putting myself out there has given me feedback from publishers that I can use to develop my work. And for the first time ever, I am blogging regularly about my sobriety journey.

I start reading books and finish them within a month. I meal plan and have time to prepare my lunches for work so I can stick to a healthy regime. I exercise every day. Who knew there was so much you could do instead of being in the pub?!

I had a fear that alcohol was the only thing that made me interesting and yet, having had multiple days and nights out sober and laughing until my throat hurt, I know that this isn’t true. I’m every kind of magnificent and even more hilarious sober. My relationships have improved. I have more patience and time to be supportive, loving and to really listen. Looking after myself means I have more to give to the people I love the most in this world.

All of this motivates me to continue on this overgrown and slightly tumultuous edge of the mountain path I am on. It might not be the right path for everybody, but it’s definitely the right path for me.

Beautifully written by Kia, barely edited by Sober Fish

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