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)
This is going to be the shortest post ever from me. I wanted to say ‘hello’ and let you all know I’m doing ok. I’m going to catch up on everyone’s blogs and posts over the next few weeks and then I’ll write a few of my own.
As my lovely friend @jaquelyn3534 would say … “I’ve missed y’all”
Hello fellow bloggers … soberitsas, drinkers and all those in between. Today has been a pretty fabulous day. Don’t get me wrong, I am currently lying in a bubble bath feeling like my whole body has given up on me. I can’t move, can barely speak and I feel so darn tired I could fall asleep and drown! “What has led Claire to this decrepit but jubilant state?” I hear you all cry. One word … Rollercoasters.
Well, actually 5 words in truth. ‘Rollercoasters with my two boys’. Yep, I took them to a theme park. Alton Towers is a pretty famous park here in the UK and it has some BIG rides. The kind that every thrill seeker loves. Perfect for two teenage adrenaline junkies. So the three of us woke early, packed up our lunch and suncream (today was going to be a hot one!) and off we went. We arrived early, well before any of the rides kicked off, parked up and headed for the first ride of the day. Wicker Man. Fast, furious with so many ups and downs, you can’t catch your breath. No, the similarities to my life a few years back did not go unobserved 😊
I know some people just don’t like high thrill, scary rollercoaster rides. I can fully understand that. My two boys, however, totally LOVE them. The faster, higher, more upside down turns, the better. They used to be slightly nervous before going on but now they have not a single anxious moment. Pure excitement flows from every pore. It’s wonderful to watch and experience with them. And yes, of course I go on them all too. What kind of adrenaline junkie, thrill seeking, addictive person would I be if I didn’t?
It was truly great. We rode them all and a few of them more than once. There was a moment around lunch where I gazed wistfully at others taking a break, sitting on the grass or picnic benches, enjoying their food in a very civilised manner. Not us! Not a chance! You snooze, you lose, with my two. Onwards and upwards. Go forth into the battle!! Sitting down was for rides only (apart from the one where we were suspended face down for the entire journey around the rails!). Queues are there for consuming lunch. No time to waste. We went upside down, backwards, 0 to 60 from the get go, higher than you can imagine, vertical drops. We even flew! You name it, we did it.
I am absolutely exhausted. I have no voice left from so much screaming. We have walked 20,000 steps and more. My right leg is currently unable to move. But boy do I feel happy.
I was present for the entire day. Not once did I long to go and sit somewhere to have a glass of wine or a cold beer. I did everything the boys did. We laughed and joked when waiting. We looked out for each other on the rides. I didn’t think about getting home early to open a bottle and ‘relax’. When some rides temporarily closed for no known reason, I didn’t freak and feel stressed that the day wasn’t running to schedule. They dictated the schedule. They led, I followed. It was freakin’ awesome.
This is what sobriety is for. This is what it’s about. It isn’t the physical act of not drinking alcohol. It’s the life experiences you can relish and savour once you no longer focus your entire existence around drinking (or trying not to drink). I spent so much of my life, and my children’s lives, pent up, stressed and worried. I wanted everything to ‘work’ and be ‘just right’. I often drank to help me relax about the plan or the schedule. That was a neat trick, until it wasn’t. It made life worse in all truth. I was less present. Less of a ‘mum’. Far less fun. Now I have finally learnt I already have the ability to ‘let go’ without needing a crutch. I had the tools inside me all the time. Yes, it’s a rollercoaster and yes, it’s bloody scary. But I’m here, I’m awake and it’s completely exhilarating!
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!
I am having a rather wonderful Monday. I know, I know. You may want to reread that first sentence. It’s not often I start with a positive and recently I’ve felt more negative than usual. But not today my WP friends, not today!
I don’t normally work on Mondays but I was supposed to go into the hospital early this morning to support a family whilst their baby is in surgery. Long story but I found out yesterday that my services were no longer required and I could stay at home. After a week off on leave I had been feeling anxious about going in. Work has been really stressful and I was starting to dread this morning. However, I now feel like I have had a ‘steal’ of a day. My first thought was … ‘I can catch up with outstanding emails before tomorrow’. My second was … ‘WTF is wrong with you Claire? Will you never learn?’.
It is now approaching 11am and my boys are home schooling upstairs in their rooms. We bought a new desk for my 13 year old and set him up with his own work space. I’m hoping he’s going to knuckle down a little more but I can’t do it all for him. Ultimately, the motivation has to come from him. I have eaten a lovely breakfast, had one too many cups of coffee/tea and done my yoga practice. The weather was miserable earlier but it’s already brightening up so I’m planning a walk with a podcast to keep me company. So far, so good.
I know I have to start work again tomorrow and I know it’s going to increase my stress levels. I have to find a way to deal with it. A way that doesn’t involve returning to guzzling wine. I’ll be honest, because we should be honest with ourselves right? I have been considering drinking again. On a fair few occasions and really quite seriously. I’ve been bored, stressed, lonely and frustrated …. all triggering the old habits and behaviours. The only thing that stopped me heading out to buy a bottle of Shiraz was fear. It scares me, the thought of starting and not being able to stop. I’m a believer that it can be doubly hard to give up something a second time around. For me anyway. I can do a specific diet to the letter the first time, but once I stop it I can never do it again. I would be the same with alcohol. I’m not convinced I’d ever be able to give it up a second time around.
And that, my friends, is the crux of this sobriety thing for me. At the same time as considering having a glass of wine, I am wondering if I’d ever be able to give it up again if I did. There is the warning message flashing big and red above my head. Don’t start again if you know you’ll want to stop at some point. Why bother putting yourself through it? So I didn’t. Today I am completely relieved that I remain sober and I will find other methods to manage the stress.
Wendy from http://untipsyteacher.com recently wrote a post entitled ‘How I get out of a low mood’. I have some of the same strategies and tools and it’s so important to make use of them. Today I am using them all. I’ll finish my coffee and this post, check on my boys and then get out there for some lovely fresh air. My only decision is which podcast to choose as my companion. Not a bad decision to have.