I organised a party for my husband’s 50th birthday and my son’s 18th. We had it yesterday. It was lovely. Loads of family and friends getting together and catching up for the afternoon. A group of us carried on in a local pub with more friends joining later.
I have to be honest. I did drink a couple of glasses of wine. There are no excuses and I’m not beating myself up today. I’m also not about to throw away all the planning and prep that’s been happening this past few days.
I’m continuing with my plan to not drink. I’m remaining on that path even though I went off piste a little. Today I will not drink 😊
Well, I made it to day 2 so there’s my first success on this journey. I have been thinking about some of the tools I used last time I did this, digging out the tool box and replenishing it.
The Blogging Community
This was by far the most useful and valuable tool I had at my disposal. Both posting on my own blog and reading other’s posts was immensely supportive. The interaction between myself and other bloggers who were either sober, trying to achieve sobriety or simply struggling with some of the mental health issues I have experienced was the thing that stopped me drinking and kept me off it. I think it’s no coincidence for me that my decline into drinking again coincided with my withdrawal from word press and the blogging community.
Acts of self care
I have really learnt a lot about self care over recent years. What it means, why it’s important and how it is very personal to each individual. Once I started drinking again my commitment to self care waned. My daily yoga routine is gone. I spend less time planning lovely healthy meals turning to snacks instead. I start to reach for my phone rather than my book or my cross stitch. No more happy evenings with a jigsaw puzzle or taking time to meditate. I am tired and groggy a lot of the time, even when I don’t drink the night before. In that frame of mind, self care goes out of the window. It is vital to ensure you create space for yourself and develop positive habits that structure your day and calm your mind. The bath, with a few candles and soothing music. That was a huge treat for me. Cost of living means baths are a luxury but if I’m not buying alcohol, I can use the money for my bath instead.
Ooh this is such a lovely idea but so very difficult to cultivate a practice of self compassion. The book by Kristen Neff, titled ‘Self Compassion’ literally changed my life. It had such a positive impact on my mental health and reduced the rumination and anxiety that led to craving alcohol. We are human, we make mistakes and we have to hold those mistakes in a space of kindness for ourselves. Drinking inhibits my ability to be compassionate with myself and when I’m hard on myself I become depressed and want to drink. So the cycle continues.
I found being prepared was essential in achieving sobriety and remaining sober. Having the words ready when I was challenged as to why I’d stopped drinking (and boy was I challenged, a lot!), knowing what I’d drink when I got to a place or an event, taking my own drinks if possible, and planning a ‘get away’ excuse in case I started to struggle. I eventually didn’t need to do this planning as much because I didn’t really have cravings. Reflecting now however, a few months before I fell off the wagon, I did start to think about trying alcohol again in certain situations, and allowed myself to imagine it. So inevitably my resilience began to waver and I was less prepared and focussed. I had an evening out and before I knew it I was just trying ‘one’ . I don’t need to tell anyone here where ‘one’ leads do I?
I relied heavily on reading as much as I could about sobriety, about alcohol and alcohol addiction and about anxiety, depression and addiction. I learnt so much but I believe the real value is in creating a regular habit of dipping into this information, either in books, articles, podcasts, blogs etc. It reaffirms why you are sober and why you choose not to drink. It strengthens resolve and once I stopped accessing this information on a regular basis my resolve weakened quickly. Lots of literature and information to hand is an absolute must for me.
My tool box needs updating and replenishing. There will be new things to add and old things to rekindle. That’s fine. To start with I know I need to put the following in place:
Blog daily and re engage with the blogging community
I guess one of my first ‘dipping my toe back in the water’ posts should be an update on my sobriety Alcohol consumption is the very reason I found myself here in November 2019, desperately searching for answers, support and reassurance. As I built up my sober tribe and my community of support, I dumped the booze and began a journey of self discovery.
That all sounds very touchy-feely and ‘woo woo’ I know, but I have learnt so much about anxiety, depression, the benefits of self-compassion, trauma in childhood, patterns formed from the trauma, numbing, leaning into vulnerability …. the list is endless. I am slowly unpicking it all and getting stronger daily. I have to be totally honest, I am not 100% sober anymore. I recently decided to have one glass of wine. It was a decision I took a long time to make and I have some very large and strict caveats to trying this out. I know it is unlikely I can moderate. When I use the term ‘moderate’ I am talking about a glass of wine every couple of months if that. The moment I begin to ‘think’ about it, or enter into a conversation with my wine witch … I am going tea total.
When I gave up drinking I didn’t have a plan. I said ‘not today’ but I could never say ‘never again’. I reached 26 mths sober but I’d stopped counting time tbh. I have had two glasses of wine in the past 3 mths and it’s been fine. I haven’t wanted more and I certainly haven’t thought about it again. I am fully prepared to completely stop again but like many others my curiosity got the better of me. I don’t advise it to anyone else as I know the return to alcohol addiction is an extremely high probability. I have enormous support around me who check in with me daily and I am working with my therapist through this. I am also fully aware that I may just be kidding myself and any form of moderation is impossible for me.
So, there we have it. Cards on the table. I will keep being honest and open in my posts and continue to support anyone if I can.
By the way, I am in touch with Jim if anyone remembers him? He’s still very much sober and doing really well!
Gosh, after all this time I’m not sure where to start. I won’t try and fit it all into one post. I’ll take my time. Slowly does it and all that.
It’s funny really. I feel quite nervous writing a post again. What’s that all about? Maybe I’ve forgotten how you do it, the sorts of things to talk about. What if all my blogging buddies have disappeared? Maybe I’ve let people down by being absent!
First off, I have really missed everyone. My blogging tribe, sober or not, have been so important to me over the past few years. My life line on more than one occasion. I want to spend some time catching up with everyone, reading their blogs and picking up with my community once more. Therein lies the rub! ‘Time’. I seem to have had very little of it recently and I have been racing through life at high speed. So much going on and days turning into weeks, months and then bam 💥 a year has passed!
This past year has been tough. I know anyone who has followed my blog will be aware of my ongoing challenges at work and the inequality and discrimination issues I had been facing. I also reduced my antidepressants last summer and stopped taking them altogether in August. Sadly, around late November last year, I entered into another period of severe depression caused by work stress. I was signed off sick from work and took almost 3 months off. I restarted SSRIs … double the dose … and began (very expensive) therapy with a fabulous psychologist. I remained totally alcohol free and hit my 2 year sober anniversary on November 16th.
I have worked so hard to get back to good health. I have read so much literature on all kinds of things to help support my therapy and progress. I’ll share some of it over the coming months. It’s been quite a journey. I’m back in work. I’m managing much better nowadays and I think I have a far better understanding of my triggers, my behaviours and my responses than I ever had. I remain on high alert, making self care a priority and ensuring I practice self compassion. I look forward to sharing some of my experiences with this WP community once more.
Oh … and I turned 50 on May 3rd! 👵🏻 (hence the title)
I have been away on my holibobs. We went up to stay in a converted barn in the North East of England, just south of Durham and north of Yorkshire. We went with both sets of the boy’s Grandparents. Some may say that was lovely, others would call it brave. A few may consider it sheer lunacy. My parents and my in-laws actually get on very well and I find being away less stressful when we are with both sets rather than one. I suppose I find some free time and space for me if I’m not under the microscope. That said, it is quite an undertaking!
The cottage/barn was advertised as being on a ‘working’ farm. In reality, it was on a bit of a building site where a new housing estate was being developed. The ‘farmers’ had clearly sold all the farm land to a housing development company and all that was left was the farmhouse and our ‘shed’. The accommodation itself was lovely. Spacious and comfortable with a hot tub in the garden. The ‘village’ that was within walking distance did not really resemble a village and was pretty much deserted the whole time. All very strange. All a little random. Still, we ventured out each day and saw some beautiful scenery. The coast, long sandy beaches, waterfalls, gorgeous moors and countryside and stunning villages. Loads to do and see. Plenty to keep the over 70s and under 18s happy. Very poor WiFi which was a big negative for many but we survived.
On the first day we arrived, we unpacked and I watched my husband and his Dad grab their first beer, clink glasses and say ‘cheers’. Then my Dad joined in with his beer and the two Grandmas enjoyed a large goblet style glass of wine each. One white, the other red. There was lots of “… and relax” and ‘the holiday starts here …” type comments. I suddenly started to panic. I didn’t think I was going to be ok with this. There was a real sense of ‘group drink’ and I really bloody missed alcohol. I couldn’t ask them to stop but how was I going to cope? I began to get upset and dread the week ahead. Then, out of the blue, I considered drinking. Just for the week. For social purposes. My little addict voice told me all sorts of convincing reasons as to why this was a great idea. I wanted to relax and chill out. I didn’t want to be the dull grey person who would, in all reality, rather sit on her own, eating chocolate and drinking tea, whilst doing a jigsaw. Why not just do what the others do and enjoy it? It’s a bloody holiday for goodness sake!
Then my Dad began to irritate me a bit. Well, quite a lot actually. I always feel disloyal when I blog about my parents. I’ve said before that I love them and I know they really, really love me. They are just quite difficult at times. In different ways. My Dad is the most tricky though. He is a know it all. He has a comment on every subject and strong opinions to go with that. He’s fundamentally a misogynist as well as having other opinions that tip into the offensive and prejudiced categories. He has diluted this over the years but it’s always there. He monopolises conversations, rarely listens to others and is constantly in ‘impress’ mode. It is immensely annoying. Well, I find it annoying. I get snappy and a bit mean, which I know upsets him. We have had some huge fights and arguments over the years and they all had one thing in common. Booze. Lots of it. He would get louder and more obnoxious and I would get nastier and very intolerant. It wasn’t a pretty sight or experience.
So this holiday, on the first night, instead of pushing the ‘all systems go go go … let’s drink!’ button, I took my foot right off the pedal. I had a bath. I read some of my book ‘the happiness project’ by Gretchen Rubin (which I highly recommend) and made the decision that drinking would only make what was already going to be challenging, much much harder to bear. I poured a cup of tea. I went to watch tv with my eldest son and by this point the grandmas had stopped drinking alcohol. They joined me with cups of tea. The evening passed uneventfully and no argument occurred. No regrets and recriminations in the morning.
It remained the same for the entire week. I took my time out when I needed it. Not always easy when the mum and mum in law want to follow you around and sit with you and talk to you. ALL THE TIME! I completed a jigsaw and in the end all adults were clambering to get pieces in. I adored being with my boys and eventually I became less snappy and I relaxed. I did it without the help of alcohol. I found other ways to get my kicks. They might sound boring to some but they are how I find happiness and peace nowadays. No longer in a wine bottle. It’s in the nuggets of a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Who knew? 🤷♀️
I know it’s been far too long since I have written a post for my blog. I know how it feels when people you communicate with regularly on WP suddenly ‘disappear’. I know how much support and comfort my blogging tribe have given me over the past 20 months. I know all this and yet I have found it really hard to put pen to paper, or finger to keypad, and the more time that passes, the harder it becomes.
I am continuing to read posts and comment. I want to connect with and support my lovely friends on here and I really enjoy catching up with them. I find others’ posts stimulate lots of thoughts and changes for me. I just appear to have a mental block when it comes to writing my own ideas down. I guess a fair bit of my working life involves writing. Patient reports, letters, emails, documents, business cases. It can take the love out of writing. It’s a shame because I do find it extremely therapeutic and I honestly believe that without my blog I would not have achieved and maintained sobriety.
Yep, I am still AF! 20 months today actually. It’s still absolutely the right choice for me but that’s not to say I don’t continue to battle with the drinking demon voices. They come out to play and taunt me from time to time. I find that a lovely tasty AF drink takes the edge off the psychological craving. Some bars and restaurants are developing their range of mocktails and AF drinks which makes a huge difference. Sadly others seem to be stuck in the ‘becks blue’ and soft drink only days. I avoid those places like the plague. I still, as I always have, take it one day at a time and I never say it’s forever. It’s for today.
My depression (and sometimes anxiety) still like to visit me on occasion. Good of them both to hang around and keep a close eye on me! I have had a few ongoing health issues over the past couple of years … both with my mental and physical health. Nothing sinister and all manageable but enough to start me thinking I might be coming apart at the seams a little. Recent media coverage of the peri-menopause and menopause led to me contacting my GP about these various ailments. Rather than calling me a complete hypochondriac and sending me on my way, she listened and agreed that, at 49 years old, it was likely my hormones were running riot, having a little ‘reverse puberty’ party and causing me to feel, well, a bit crap. I’m going to try HRT. See how it goes and then potentially come off my antidepressants. It’s all so very exciting being a woman approaching 50. Some days I can’t believe my luck.
It’s now 1.20am on Sunday morning and I probably should try to sleep. The weather over here in the UK is lovely but very hot. We aren’t really used to it and what with my hot flushes, aching limbs and pins and needles … high temperatures mean catching zeds is not very achievable. It’s Sunday though so a siesta is definitely on the agenda later. Enough rambling. I’m sure everyone is hoping I’ll take another long sabbatical from writing after getting to the end of this post!! 😄
Well howdy doody to everyone. I have absolutely nothing mind blowing or deep to say and my life has been pretty much working, yoga, some meditation and house jobs. A little like Groundhog Day but I’m ok plodding on right now. We lost out guineapig Toffee a few weeks back. It was actually really sad. The boys were very upset and I felt like it was the end of an era! The photo is the graves of our first two guineapigs. Pretty eh? We have a new addition to keep the lone guineapig company. He’s called Scruff. I’m not sure he and Biscuit are overly happy with each other but time will tell.
I noticed on my ‘giving up drinking’ app I started on my first day sober that I am approaching 500 days. I really can’t believe it. I was so addicted to alcohol and wine I had never managed 2 days, let alone a dry Jan. I know my whole relationship with booze has changed beyond belief which is brilliant but I also recognise there are still fundamental aspects of my personality that mean if I tried a glass of wine again, I’d be right back where I started. That’s really hard to come to terms with and I still haven’t accepted it fully.
Don’t get me wrong, I know this is an amazing accomplishment. Not drinking in an evening, not having ‘at home’ drinks … that’s huge for me. I loved both at home and social drinking. Breaking the habit of sitting on the sofa relaxing with wine, or cooking dinner, singing to alexa’s playlist and glugging glass after glass … that was tough. Those cravings have all but disappeared now. The social side of drinking is however still to be addressed. I haven’t really done that. I’ve been out socially (whilst not in lockdown) and met up with friends … but I have ‘suffered’ these occasions and not enjoyed them. I am not at the same comfortable place as my ‘at home’ sobriety. I haven’t had as much experience due to the pandemic. I have anxieties about it.
I also still can’t say ‘forever’. I don’t know why. I realise I’m holding on to some fantasy of moderation. A glass of lovely red on my 50th birthday, celebratory glass of champagne at some fabulous event … you get the picture. 500 days is awesome but I don’t feel 💯 secure in my sobriety even after all this time, maybe I never will!