Sober Dating: How NOT to Accidentally Shag a Tory.

” I like the confidence, the fun and the safety that comes with sober dating far more than the blur and uncertainty I was sat in before, it just takes a little more practice to get comfortable.”

I know, I know. It’s hard to imagine this 29 year old, with a bum hip and verbal diarrhoea could possibly be single. Though you can now add ‘diarrhoea’ to my search history so that’s unlikely to stand me in good stead. God damn you spell check. But somehow, somehow…it is true. I am yet to find my person, which often takes me down the ever entertaining trail of going on ‘dates’. Even writing that makes me eye roll and I’m not really sure why.

I just wrote this sentence “Dating is never something I have been very good at” and then stared at it for a fair while wondering if that is actually true. The problem with the ‘fuzzy round the edges’ years of merlot (and the rest) is that they are hard to reflect on in any real way. I’ve had what I thought were great dates in the past, ‘thought’ very much being the operative word here. It’s easy to feign a great connection when you’re both so drunk you can laugh at a leaf stuck to someone’s shoe for 20 minutes.

It’s also hard to label what exactly quantifies a ‘good date’, I’m much better at saying what I DON’T want rather than what I DO want. So I can only speak for myself, but one thing I can say for certainty is that what I do want has changed a lot since binning the booze. Dating has also been one of the hurdles I have really struggled with in sobriety, it doesn’t mean it’s worse in sobriety, it’s just VERY different. Change is hard and it’s exhausting that absolutely everything changed when I stopped drinking. Which leads me to childlike tantrums at times, my brain being like “No, for fucks sake can I just have this one thing”. No, Suzy, you can’t, and on reflection it’s probably for the best.

Taking the red wine and tequila haze out of the picture when I think back to drinking on dates, there are definitely things (*cough* people) I would never have done if I hadn’t been drinking. It’s easy to focus on the negatives but there are some brilliant things about meeting people with a clear head. So I did done did a list, I like lists.

The best things about Sober Dating, in my very much not-so expert opinion:

  1. Holy red flags batman – When drinking it was so much easier to ignore red flags. I know now that there are people who don’t get past three messages that I likely would have met before. Toxicity can be hard to spot in these weird times, and even weirder apps, but it’s a hell of a lot easier with a clear head.
    Example: – “You’re just not like other girls”. Translation: – “I actually really hate women but you seem alright”. – Other girls are excellent and I don’t like it when people insult them to compliment me.
  2. You’re cute but not “ruin my life” cute – I’m genuinely happy single. I’ve mentioned before that I always used to say this, but now I mean it. Sobriety has given me a self love and value for myself that is great to carry into dating. Which in itself makes it easier to set my own boundaries on what I need from a person. Which for me is about not making a person a priority, who doesn’t feel the same (this is a difficult one if they have a particularly nice beard though I must say).
    Example: – “Life’s just really busy for them right now”. Translation: – “If they can’t find two hours to go for a coffee, they don’t want to enough, or they shouldn’t be dating anyone” – Harsh but fair.
  3. Listening and (actually) hearing – No they are not the same thing. I thought they were but they fucking aren’t. This one for me is about being clear headed enough to also listen and respect other people’s boundaries too. Not thinking I can change someone, or that I can be the person to make them want things they don’t (or can’t), and, more importantly, walking away if what I want and what they want don’t match. This is hard to do anyway, but being sober and listening better go hand in hand for me.
    Example – “I’m not looking for anything serious right now”. Translation – “They are really, truly, 100%, NOT looking for anything serious right now” – Which can be fine, if I’m feeling the same.
  4. “Let me read you a poem about my vegan bicycle” – When you get hammered with someone on a date, you instantly have something in common. You’re both hammered. It creates a kind of false chemistry and I found it was easy to get along with someone that outside of the blurry haze I’d have zero to say to. Alcohol is a synthetic conversation starter and a fake social lubricant. It’s harder for me now to make a connection but not if I’m with a person I get along with, meaning I’m pickier than ever but it’s worth the extra effort for something real. I’ve also let go of a lot of the self consciousness and become more comfortable with who I am. Which means I have stopped pretending to like things I don’t like to create a semblance of a connection. It never works and it’s irritating for everyone involved.
    Example: – “I like kale, Morris Dancing and think Trump had some interesting points” Translation: “Run!” – Hey that might be someone’s perfect person, but it’s a no from me…I dunno actually, surely the Morris Dancing is non-negotiable.
  5. When it comes to the real stuff, opposites really don’t attract – This one’s controversial. I get that. But I’m not talking about Marvel vs DC here. More the fundamentals. I mean…Marvel vs DC is pretty fundamental in my world. But. Morals and values are just head and shoulders above the rest if I’m looking for mutual respect. I could not and would not date someone who does not agree that my Trans friends should be able to pee in whatever toilet they’re comfortable with. I couldn’t date a “not all men” or an “all lives matter” person. For me it’s a fundamental and impressive ability to miss the point and not listen, so I would never get past that. The fact I may have accidentally shagged a Tory at some point during my drinking days still haunts me…so go, please, save yourselves from this torment.
    Example: – “You just can’t say anything these days/it’s political correctness gone mad!”, Translation: “Just throw the whole man away and start again” – Not harsh enough, and definitely fair.
  6. The ‘Skin Suit’ Paradox – My skin has never looked better since I quit drinking. Incidentally my likelihood of getting murdered and turned into a skin suit is drastically reduced. It’s ironic really. I hate that being drunk as a woman makes me more vulnerable or some how invalidates my right to be safe in this twisted society. This needs to change. Any person should be able to walk down their high street stark bollock naked and drunk as a skunk and still not be touched by anyone, unless they are helping them to safety. That said when I think back to some of the risks I have taken in the past when half cut it honestly makes me shudder. Safety when dating is a real and tangible concern for most of us. Being sober on dates means I am not so likely to put myself in dangerous situations or miss signs that someone is a risk. This is hands down my favourite thing about dating sober, and has probably had the biggest positive impact. Needless to say it’s easier to relax and enjoy someone’s company if you don’t feel like they’re sizing you up for their basement cage.
    Example:– “Would you like to come back to mine and see my collection of china dolls”, Translation: – “You have walked into a low budget horror film, partner up, find the exits, don’t run UP the stairs.” – I love horror films and true crime so it’s possible I’m a little too into this one. But in all seriousness if you don’t feel safe fuck being polite, you can apologise later, you can not get un-murdered!

Just writing that out and reading it back alone has helped me think differently about sober dating as an experience. If I’m being really honest there was a (sizeable) part of me that missed the reckless abandon that came with being drunk and the synthetic chemistry it creates with another person. But the bad stuff about it really IS bad. I like the confidence, the fun and the safety that comes with sober dating far more than the blur and uncertainty I was sat in before, it just takes a little more practice to get comfortable. I’ll just have to go on lots of dates with lots of lovely non-toxic people. Gutted.

Plus I’m less likely to end up with a woman hating, unavailable, racist, Morris Dancing, Tory, murderer…

…so if that’s not motivation I’m really not sure what is.

Suzy.

Sober Musings: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired and other Dwarves.

” I can only speak for myself but it is amazing how often I have linked cravings to alcohol to one of these four fundamental human feelings”

Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. I’m not naming dwarves. Though I do feel like me and “Hungry” would get along like a house on fire. I have never understood that expression. Shouldn’t it be “like a house AND fire”, but even then how flammable is this house? Why such a depressing choice of phrase? Super don’t get it. Might Google it. Annny way, I fear I will circle back to this at some point but should probably crack on with why we’re all here.

Thanks to Boris, and his minions at Track and Trace HQ, I have been ordered to self isolate as apparently I have come into contact with someone with the plague. 10 days. At home. On the hottest week of the year. I mean it’s actually sunny in the North of England right now….I cannot stress enough how much of a rarity this is. I saw a flying pig through my sky light earlier. Yeah I have a sky light now #humblebrag. But yeah, the self-isolation thing is less than ideal, I’m sat here on day 5 really struggling to form thoughts and figure out what I’m trying to say…which explains the quicker than normal digressions and that really is saying something. Please note if you have seen me in recent days these blogs run a little behind the actual life timeline. You’re safe and there is no need for panic nor chemical decontamination…at least from me…I don’t know what you do in your personal life and I’m not here to judge.

My annoyance at being on house arrest, for lack of a better term, is dwarfed only by my overwhelming urge to not accidentally kill a pensioner by breathing so, needless to say, I am fully committed to the government allotted hermit time. Karma is a mistress and I don’t feel much like handing her an enormous spanking paddle this year. Trying to keep perspective and ‘cracking on’ are strong points of mine and I’m flexing them hard. That said, one of the problems with house arrest in early sobriety is that it gives you a LOT of time to think. Did you know Deliveroo delivers alcohol….at 3am….because I didn’t…and now I do. Why did I look that up? You’d have to ask my brain. Did I order some? No I did not, because the logical part of me, that seems to radiate from the base of my stomach for some reason, called me an idiot and made me go to sleep.

Your brain in simples terms, is an arsehole. It’s simple to retrain that’s for sure but ‘simple’ and ‘easy ‘ are not the same thing so, for me, its been important to take steps to make this process as easy as possible for myself. Which is why HALT has been so important. HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) is a concept that’s well known to the recovery community, in that these are the physical and emotional feelings most often linked to lapse and relapse. Bradford Health sums it up beautifully writing “It seems simple enough, but we are susceptible to self-destructive behaviours when these basic needs are not met, including relapse. Fortunately, hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness are easy to address and serve as a warning system before things reach a breaking point.” (It’s a good article – https://bradfordhealth.com/halt-hunger-anger-loneliness-tiredness/). Now, “easy to address” is debatable depending on circumstance, but having a basic awareness of fundamental and in-built triggers is never a bad thing.

Feeling Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired does not mean an inevitable lapse or relapse as, though negative, they are pretty normal on the spectrum of human experience, and something everyone can and will experience in their day to day. I can only speak for myself but it is amazing how often I have linked cravings to alcohol to one of these four fundamental human feelings, and, learning to have an awareness around this had been hugely helpful.

But I want to add one more. Happy. I know…now I really am naming dwarves.

Feeling happy and connected to people has huge links, certainly in the UK, to alcohol. We use alcohol to celebrate, as a social lubricant, to make events feel special and to boost our mood, pretty much as standard. My last relapse before this time around (because it WILL be my last relapse so help me goooood) was at a gig when I was dancing and having a great time with people and thought “this is a perfect time to have a drink, I don’t feel unhappy at all”. It ruined that night for me. And the subsequent days. I learnt a lot that night and it just cemented the fact that, for me personally at least, alcohol makes bad things worse and ruins the good…every time.

So back to HALT, feelings I am having to constantly check myself on while self-isolating, and feelings that I myself cope with in the following ways:

  • Hungry – Well…I like….eat. Most of the time I feel less shitty if I eat something healthy but sometimes sugar is your goddamn best friend (she says having ordered cookie dough at 21:45 last night…I love living in the city sometimes I really do).
  • Angry – For me exercise really helps with this. That and ringing my friend for a rant, you know that one friend everyone has who knows you’re secretly a garbage person who hates everything but loves you any way (she knows who she is, I love you dude).
  • Lonely – This one is my BIGGEST fails on this list. When I get lonely I tend to withdraw from people. Which. Is. Always. Stupid. It is one of the self destructive behaviours from my past that reaaaalllly clings on. So I do have to push myself out of my comfort zone with this one and actually reach out to people. It’s gross and I hate it. But I’m learning.
  • Tired – Another tough one as I have had insomnia and sleep problems since…well…birth. I’ve learned a lot about how resting isn’t just about sleep and I have a new habit of lying down and staring at the wall and somehow feeling better afterwards. I think that might just be a me thing. But yeah, sit down and take a break I guess. Find an interesting wall?

It’s hardly groundbreaking stuff but I guess the fundamental takeaway from this is, do not ignore your feelings. I know for me it never worked when I was drinking and it certainly doesn’t work now, so I have to pretty much check in on myself all the time. Sometimes it’s day to day, sometimes it’s hour to hour and sometimes it’s breath by breath. But the more I do it, the more it builds into something that’s normal and simple.

I did google the house on fire thing by the way.

“The Phrase ‘Get on like a house on fire‘ means , as fast as a house would burn; very rapidly or vigorously. If two people get on like a house on fire, they like each other very much and become friends very quickly”

Humans are fucking weird.

Being Your Own Sober Supporter

” The best person to know exactly what I need and want is me. In all things. And the answer is almost always chicken wings.”

So in case you don’t follow my instagram (@thenowineshine shameless plug) I have been milking my one year sober for all it’s worth, and I am 100% not sorry about it. It’s been a crazy and weird year even if you’re not sober, and I for one think I deserve to eat as much celebratory cake, main line chicken wings and drink as many bottles of alcohol free fizz as I god damn please. One bloody year bloody sober…I mean it’s just the tits. It’s been a lovely time of celebration and achievement, but, like so many things in life that you wait for with baited breath…in all honesty it’s also been a bit of an anti-climax.

I’m not trying to be negative, I didn’t come this far and work this hard to end up thinking my way out of happiness and achievement, more just honest. I guess a naive part of me thought perhaps something would feel different about being one year sober, some magical switch flick where everything would be instantly locked into place. I imagined the world shifting and waking up feeling different. Instead I woke up tired, in need of a coffee and unsure what to do with my day…which is a pretty standard bank holiday Monday feeling for most humans I believe.

I do feel proud and I do think this year has set me up pretty damn well for the years to come (“years to come” oh god too real ahhhhh). Lockdowns alone have been a great learning experience in coping with that old ditty that the brain likes to play “Nooooo one would knooooow if you had a driiiiinnk”. It’s a really tough thought process to talk your way out of, mostly because it’s true, but what it has given me is a deep understanding of how much I want to be alcohol free for me. Oooo that rhymed. Spitting bars over here. In all seriousness figuring out that you want to be alcohol free and you want to do it for you, is one of the biggest battles in my opinion. The reason for this is going to sound shady but bear with me here.

Someone once told me “your sobriety will never mean as much to other people as it does to you”, and it’s 100% true. This is not a criticism of people! It’s happens with almost all things in life. First wedding anniversaries and eighth wedding anniversaries usually look pretty different. People never make as bigger deal of the second baby as they do of the first. And, as with many other things in life, as time goes on the celebration of sobriety and the big milestones do get less. I think it’s easy to see this as a negative but I don’t actually think it is. Slowly the people around me are just seeing me…but sober. I am just a sober person now, a person who doesn’t drink…”Oh that’s Suzy she doesn’t drink actually”. It’s quite nice in its own way. It’s not possible for the people around you to throw you a parade for every milestone in life and it’s unfair to expect that from people…especially if you don’t bloody ask them to in the first place (guilty as charged). It must be infuriating for the people around me sometimes and it’s a trap I’ve fallen into so many times. I think we’re taught to be humble and not ‘make a big deal’ out of our own achievements in the stiff upper lip, “getting on with things”, British way that is, in my opinion, super unhealthy. This soberversary has given me a chance to be reflective about it, why do I make other people’s reactions to my achievements and milestones the reason for my own happiness. It’s a doozy, and I don’t have the answer yet, but I’m learning.

I made a big adjustment for my One Year Sober. I have learnt over the last few years of my life that I have so many amazing and super supportive people I think, at times, I forget to support myself and forget to celebrate myself. Partly society insisting that humbleness is the hallmark of a successful human, and partly just that I don’t like inconveniencing others. The problem with not wanting to inconvenience others is you mostly end up doing it any way by over complicating things or ending up compromising and not happy. It’s an anxiety minefield that is just no fun for any one. But this was different. I celebrated my One Year Sober with a quiet and peaceful sense of achievement, and it ended up being really great. I didn’t look outward, waiting for others to celebrate it, I decided to turn inwards and treat and pamper and celebrate myself!

The truth is that people can be as supportive and as present through this journey as it is humanly possible to be, and many of my bestest and closest really have been! But. The biggest thing I have learned is that, fundamentally, you go through this alone. It’s a process of self-awareness, self-discovery (both good and bad) and self-love. It’s you and only you talking yourself down at 3am when you can’t sleep or at 3pm when the sun is shining. It’s you walking down the booze isle, by mistake, closing your eyes and knocking into a display of Ferrero Roche, and having to embarrassingly realise how hard it is to restack a pyramid of chocolate, that you knocked over, at speed….100% true (sorry Morrisons).

So yes on my One Year sober I did wake up tired, in need of a coffee and unsure what to do with my day…but I also smiled to myself a lot that day. I was reflective and peaceful in a quiet sense of achievement and happiness.

I had a beautiful breakfast made for me by a beautiful friend, I watched ’28 Days’ on the train home, I blew out a big ‘1’ candle on a cake (both of which I bought for myself), I had a bubble bath and ordered myself a big ol’ mountain of chicken wings. It really was the best day.

The best person to know exactly what I need and want is me. In all things. And the answer is almost always chicken wings.

One. Year. Sober.

” The easiest way to describe the self awareness side of sobriety is that it’s pretty much like being repeatedly punched…by you. But it is worth it.”

One year. 12 months. 52 weeks. 365 goddamn days.

Story time.

“I wake up. My head feels like it’s being squeezed by a firm yet squishy vice. Every time my head moves it’s like my stomach has a surprise for me that I won’t like. My brain is loose, like unbolted furniture on a rocky ship and feels like it’s smashing against the inside of my skull. My mouth tastes like old wine, old cigarettes and the outward layer of skin is missing, stripped. I didn’t brush my teeth. My room smells of take away grease, sweat and that charming old booze and cigarette smell. I have no idea what I said or to who last night past a certain point but the slow rising anxiety sets in. I scramble in a panic around the room. Phone, keys, purse…one or more is missing. On some days I find it, on others it’s gone forever. I’ve lost another coat or jacket or scarf (alcohol aside this was hands down the most expensive part of drinking for me). I don’t remember getting home. I cry for a bit then try and drink water and fail. I decorate the plug hole a few times. I press my face against the fridge door because it’s cold. I look at the puffy, grey face in the mirror and remember a flash from the night before and shudder. ” – Taken from previous blog post “FAB?”, check it out (or don’t if you don’t like being told what to do).

It has been one year, 12 months, 52 weeks or 365 goddamn days since this was my reality.

There has never been a more important time than right now to read that story back. It feels like it was 3 weeks ago and also seems like a different lifetime all at the same time. It’s both good and really hard to look back at that puffy faced, corroded and lost version of myself. I had no idea what was coming in this year, a year that has passed by in a weird shifting awareness of passing time.

The worst thing over the last year has been the realisation of just how far reaching my problems with alcohol were. It bled into everything. I was haemorrhaging happiness and creating way more problems than I was solving and the reality of this, and figuring out how to forgive myself, was a real tough process. It’s a process I’m no where near done with yet. The easiest way to describe the self awareness side of sobriety is that it’s pretty much like being repeatedly punched in the face…by you. But it is worth it.

The best thing is hard to put a finger on. There’s the obvious stuff like actually having money rather than a constant financial fire pit that I just couldn’t understand. Feeling and looking younger than I actually am for the first time in my life, I am sooo not mad at the sober skin. Getting Sunday mornings back, even if I decide to do nothing with them they are there! I feel like if I had to pick one glorious thing it is how connected I feel to everyone in my life. Connecting or reconnecting with friends and family in a real and tangible way and being able to be there for the good and the bad.

It’s all connected in one big circle. The negatives of the new found self awareness are far outweighed by the putting aside of the childish selfishness that came along with my drinking. I feel like others like me more, and that’s excellent, but I think that is completely informed and fed by the fact that I actually like myself more.

I once read that “once you’ve got sober, no one can tell you anything about yourself you don’t already know”. I don’t know if I can buy into that 100%, but that’s more my complete lack of ability to believe in any kind of absolute truth (commitment makes me panic even if it’s committing to a fucking concept apparently!). However, it’s a point that I understand now more than ever. No one is perfect, it’s not possible, but I do feel like the I’m a pretty good version of whatever the hell I am.

One year sober is a huge achievement. And when I look back at just how much has changed for the better I think of the next year with excitement. But! The pandemic has been a blessing and a curse for sober folk every where, and lot of ‘firsts’ that are normal to experience in the first year simply haven’t been possible. I am excited and wary in equal measure as I’m going into this new post-pandemic world one year sober and there are so many obstacles to come.

I know I can do it, or keep doing it as the case may be, but being aware and ‘not getting cocky’ is always a good thing to live life by in my (not at all expert) opinion. So be prepared for another year of rambling, existential crisis’ and general nonsense expressed through the power of profanities.

Who’s excited *raises hand*

The Business of “Sober Sex”

” I’ve never felt sexier than I do sober and that’s probably because I’m not wildly swinging from dribbling drunken moron to clinically depressed.”

This title is perhaps misleading. I’m not meaning that I’m considering making sex a business. That said, I think it might just be the most honest living known to man, shout out to all the sex workers out there being their best selves, but just not really my bag. More just a very repressed British way to talk about sex, bonking, intercourse…shagging if you will.

I have written, deleted, re-written and edited the living hell out of this post, over and over, for the last 3 months. Aside from that very much being my normal chaotic writing process, it’s probably been the most challenging post I’ve written in recent months. Those who’ve read through my posts, shout out if you have, know this is surprising as I don’t hold back from spilling my guts about some of the worst parts of my drinking history and, well, just my existence in general. I don’t think it’s really about the subject matter either, I’ve never really bought into the whole ‘slut shaming’, ‘sex is embarrassing’ rhetoric, so I couldn’t really figure out why this kept tripping me up. Eventually when I sat with it I think it’s about figuring out how much of my deepest self I really want to give away in this blog. Truth is if I’m editing myself or what I want to write this whole thing becomes meaningless. So if you are someone who knows the face behind this blog, particularly if you know me well, proceed with caution…there’s some pretty gnarly honesty coming your way.

“Sober Sex” is a concept that I’m still getting my head around. Even writing about it with the decision to be totally honest I’m finding myself deleting, retyping and retouching, it’s hard to just flow on a topic that is, for me at least, so very personal. A sprinkling of society, a big old blast from the past and most of all the ‘imposter syndrome’ of why I feel in any way qualified to write about this in the bloody first place. All very reassuring for the reader I’m sure.

Real talk time.

“Promiscuity” when I was going through my journey of recovering from quite a severe mental health illness was literally listed as a symptom on my paperwork. I can still see the letters in front of my face, it was really jarring. It’s a word I still hate to this day, and I’ve never heard it used to describe a man which is another eye-twitching annoyance but slightly off topic. I’m not saying it wasn’t true, not all sex is healthy and sex has in the past been a distraction to help me ignore glaring issues…remind you of anything else? At least I was on brand.

So how do you take something that has been framed as a reason for your own destruction and make it different? Let alone positive?

So I read everything upon EVERYTHING out there. From sober bloggers, to NHS websites, to articles. It helped a little, there are some amazing voices out there (@tawnymlara to name one) and it made me feel a little less weird and detached for sure. However the truth is that the overarching theme in most peoples sober stories is that ‘casual sex’ and ‘promiscuity’ seems to be something that is left behind in sobriety. But what if that’s not your reality? Granted not all sex is healthy, but I can’t help thinking that’s not the sex’s fault! I’ve had some pretty great sex with people I loved that ended up being no healthier than the guy saved in my phone as ‘guy from gym’. Maybe true, maybe not.

I’ve never felt sexier than I do sober and that’s probably because I’m not wildly swinging from dribbling drunken moron to clinically depressed. Neither made me feel particularly goddess-like which I think is fair. I can’t help feeling society takes sex and attaches it’s own agenda, of morals, of ‘what kind of person you are’ and of meaning that sometimes just isn’t there. I don’t feel like sex is a simple as cracking your neck but I also I don’t always feel the need to have a deep spiritual connection to someone to have sex with them. This, in itself, I have found can sometimes put me in certain boxes of judgement in society that I’m not comfortable being in.

I guess for me it’s the respect that is fundamental. If two people are in a room knowing exactly why they are there with no expectations moving forward that is pretty mutually respectful in it’s own way. Just like if two people chose each other and only each other that respect is there…or it’s assumed to be. In fact maybe the first scenario is, in many ways, more honest if anything, certainly in my experience anyway. I’ve had so many different kind of relationships from long term ‘wife’ territory, to an open relationship, to a polyamorous relationship with an existing couple…. but what I’ve never had is a sober relationship of any description. For all the bad about alcohol it is, unfortunately, a rather effective ice breaker.

I’m very aware that I’m usually quite good at tying these posts up in neat little bundles, they tend to have a point but this one feels like it’s not really heading anywhere. I don’t have an answer, maybe I never will. But I guess what I’m saying is sober sex is one thing and sober casual sex is another, and I’m still trying to figure out how this fits into my new life. My new me.

I’m at a weird cross roads in this journey, not just in sobriety but in life. I don’t particularly want to find my future husband annnd I don’t particularly want to sleep with the random Deliveroo driver either. I guess there is a holy grail middle ground but in truth, isn’t that what everyone is looking for, their own holy grail middle ground…if anything to be honest this is probably one of the few things that sobriety hasn’t changed.

So I supposed the neat take away bundle from this episode of “my brain chats utter shit” is…I’m figuring out; how to be comfortable with my own sexuality, how to understand what that even means to me, and how it differs from other people, how to have the right amount of sex, but also not knowing how much that is, but also how to have better sex, while being totally present, being unsure what level of emotional connection I have or even want with the person, and being unsure what kind of partner I want or if I want one at all…*breathe*….and I’m finding it all a little confusing. No shit. And that’s not even adding in being sober. *Internal screaming*.

Have I had less sex in sobriety, definitely. Have I had better sex since being sober, 100% yes. Sobriety gives you a freedom to live how you want to live and it’s easy to forget that dating and sex was pretty damn complicated before sobriety. Sex or no sex, booze or no booze, the whole “I don’t have a clue what I want” thing is pretty much just life at this point…surely?

I can’t help but think this calls for research.

“I volunteer as tribute!”

Sober Musings: Yoga Makes Me Want a Cigarette

“Who knows what kind of bendy, healthy, tambourine playing person I may well become? But for now, I’m just me but sober.”

I’ve been quiet on the blogging front for a few weeks struggling with the inevitable writers block that comes with ‘ticking along nicely’. I’m not wishing unnecessary drama into my life but it does make for good writing if nothing else. “Today I ate a banana which was only ok” is hardly life changing reading no matter how much you jazz it up. It’s made me turn inward and be reflective as to why I feel I’m pulling away from a sober community that has done so much good for me so far and, I think, I’m starting to get somewhere. There’s a trend in the sober community that I’ve noticed many times when browsing the shiny happy instagrams. People are so bloody healthy.

Green juices. Clear skin and yoga. It’s amazing and aspirational to look at, but for a chubby blonde from the north east, who starts the day with swearing rather than affirmations, it’s also at times a little alienating. I can’t stress enough this is really not coming from a place of judgement, I think it’s amazing to be a meditative, celery juice drinker, who understands what ‘macros’ actually are. But. I can’t help but feel lacking.

What’s kept me going in my sobriety above anything else is crying into black coffees and chain smoking. The occasional fried chicken binge with fizzy cola bottles for dessert. I run but so I can eat…a lot. I do yoga but find myself red faced, huffing, puffing and feeling like a slightly sweaty bread roll rather than a graceful pretzel. Does anyone else’s boobs smother them? Any one else’s belly get in the way of forward bends?…No….Just me? I sometimes feel like I’m an outsider in the sober sphere. I find myself editing my life to only show the shiny happy parts of sobriety and it’s left me feeling, at times, like a bit of a fraud.

It’s the human condition to compare yourself to others as much as we love to post inspirational quotes about how unhealthy this is. For me it’s not about wanting those people to ‘do worse’ but pushing myself to’ be better’, but, better at what?! You put me in a room with the heads of social care, NHS England and the prime minister to discuss drug and alcohol policy…I reckon I could hold my own. Put me in a CrossFit class and I’m not really sure if even my best-est better can even marginally compete. And that’s just it, ‘comparing myself to others’ is natural, ‘competing with others’ however, is a god damn slippery slope with nothing at the bottom but self loathing and feeling inadequate. I soooo did NOT spend all this time and effort to quit drinking to end up in a pit of self loathing, in a round about way I can achieve that with two bottles of Merlot and my face book messenger history thank you very much.

There are so many things that I am good at, but all I’m doing is focusing on the things I’m NOT good at, which is never going to lead to being happy realistically. The whole ‘shiny happy healthy club’ is a fuck load of effort if you end up only just about feeling like your half succeeding and I guess, for me, it all comes down to a kind of toxic positivity. All the bending and green juices is all very instagram-able but it really doesn’t make me, personally, happy. I will choke down a green juice so I don’t feel like crap but I’m not going to pretend it tastes better than a Slush Puppie, I can’t be that person because I’m not. I can only speak for myself and I can only speak for myself now. Who knows what kind of bendy, healthy, tambourine playing person I may well become? But for now, I’m just me but sober.

I am moving more. I am eating better. I am for damn sure the healthiest I have ever been….and I am flawed and impatient and weird and I like it. I quite like me.

Might well be the first time I’ve ever written that and meant it. It’s nice.

I do take it back about the tambourine though… we all have our line.

Drinking Doesn’t Just Happen

“That. Is. Ok….I’m thinking about booze a lot….So what?”

Lock down life is ticking along. I realise considering I’m, you know, ‘writing a blog’ I should be more descriptive but there is literally no other way to describe it for me right now. It’s not particularly good, it’s not particularly bad…it’s ticking along. I’m lucky enough to have had the new life experiences of being in a new city and this for sure has broken some of the endless feeling of ‘just existing’. I’m grateful that I chose this time to move despite it’s challenges.

The high from moving to a new city and living alone is far from over, it still makes me happy everyday, but there is a gentle lapping dread deep down that I feel like I can’t ignore. Don’t get me wrong I’ve been giving it a pretty good shot and succeeding for the most part. Pushing it down with coffee and crime shows has been a welcome distraction. I’m pretty good at avoiding potential problems. In fact I’m pretty damn good at ignoring glaring problems too, *que nods from anyone who’s had a drinking problem*. I’m determined to let that shit go as it’s nothing if not toxic but it’s process. Turns out eating nachos and watching YouTube videos of cats is not an antidote to unexplained existential dread…it’s a great distraction though. Getting things out, however hard it is for me to do, is one of the few things that helps when my thoughts are creeping. I need to make sure that I’m the one in control and sometimes that means…I have to…”talk it over”…*gags*.

I was trying to figure out the uneasiness rising over the last week or so and then I remembered that absolutely everything had changed. Literally every single thing in my life has completely and utterly changed. So I’m thinking it’s probably quite normal to feel unsettled and weird and that’s not even factoring in staying sober. You’d think I would have considered this, I know you really would, but nope just went straight for the “I’m probably just losing my mind” train. I’ve moved away to a new city, I’m living alone for the first time, away from my support network, adjusting to huge changes, anxious for the future, nervous about the pandemic and trying to establish myself as competent in a new high pressure job. And….being honest….I have been thinking about drinking a lot. It’s been on my mind and it makes me feel so much more unsettled than any of the other stuff. Little thoughts here and there. Sometimes even little fantasies, but mostly just intrusive thoughts at strange times of day. They seem at random, I doubt they are, but the point is they are there.

Then I remembered.

That. Is. Ok….I’m thinking about booze a lot….So what?

Two things get me through when the thoughts start creeping in….you know the ones. “Well it a new city and new friends…they might not think you’re fun?” or “You’re seriously never going to sip a nice whiskey again?”. Now this bastard of a thought has been particularly prevalent. Hot take: alcohol free whiskey…NOT A THING! I’m tangent-ing again aren’t I.

Two things that I remind myself of all the time:

1.) A thought can’t make me do anything and..

2.) Drinking doesn’t just happen.

It used to really feel like it just happened, my god did it feel like that, but I now look back and I know that was because I had no control of my drinking whatsoever. I just took the steering wheel and passed it to alcohol, too drunk to care if we crashed. It doesn’t just happen. I don’t think about drinking and all of a sudden there’s a glass of Merlot in my hand, there are so many small decisions and actions from thinking “I’m going to have a drink” and then actually having the drink in my hand and drinking it. So much of this process for me has been taking myself off autopilot. Wrenching the steering wheel back and putting on the fucking breaks.

I am thinking about drinking a lot. I don’t like that I think because it scares me, the thought of starting drinking again. I just keep reminding myself that being scared that I’m going to drink says a lot about how much I want to be sober, and I choose that.

Drinking doesn’t just happen, these thoughts don’t mean I’m going to drink, and I know from going through this that I don’t fucking want to. Not even a little bit. I choose nachos, cat videos and existential dread, with both hands firmly on the steering wheel.

Change Inspires Change

“I was able to keep going, gloss over things and anesthetize myself, but whenever I stood still I wanted to pull my skin off. I was completely unable to be still.”

I’ve been quiet recently in the blogosphere but for good reason as I’ve been focusing on creating what is, essentially, an entirely new existence. House moves are in the top three most stressful life experiences, up there with changing jobs and break ups. Annnd I’m changing jobs too…just to spice things up a bit more. Why have a stress level of 8/10 when you can have a 10. Of all the things I have kept from my messed up relationship with alcohol being very “all or nothing” is, for sure, the number one character trait that effects me day to day. It is, however, significantly more productive these days. The lockdown does mean that I’m basically eating cookie dough and watching Netflix in my pants in new surroundings so it’s not completely the ‘life overhaul’ I was promised…but the potential is palpable.

I’m living alone for the first time in my life after spending the last 8 years in shared houses, living in one room for most of lockdown, and it is fast becoming second, after quitting drinking, for best life decision I have ever made. I pee with the door open. I walked around naked (for the grand total of 45 minutes as it is really not warm here and losing a nipple will probably hurt my dating game). I have a whole fridge and freezer to myself. This may not seem like a big deal but I do not miss playing ‘food Tetris’, as I would call it, trying to get a weeks worth of shopping on my one shelf in the shared fridge. I can walk around in the middle of the night….I mean I don’t because you know…monsters…but I CAN. I decide if I’m hot or cold and have free range of the thermostat. This has been great as in my last shared house I lived with people who had primarily lived in hot countries previously meaning ’30 degrees’ was standard and I spent a lot of time feeling like jerky. I sleep, eat, relax and work in different rooms and this has probably been the biggest change that has helped my mental health. Having a bedroom that is just for sleeping has improved my sleep problems noticeably and immediately, something that years of specialists, acupuncture, and sticking lavender in every orifice couldn’t touch.

It’s a weird time for such huge change given the global pandemic and the intense restrictions we currently live under here in the UK. The lockdown was originally a fantastic reason to be a big ol’ scaredy-cat when it came to moving away from everything I knew. BUT. It’s ended up being the perfect time to move, in so many ways. Before I moved I was not seeing my friends or family, not able to go out and socialise, adventures on pause and sitting around trying to figure out if a 10pm chocolate gateau is in fact essential shopping (defiantly is). To be totally honest none of that has really changed but, by moving, it at least feels in some way like life is moving forward which is so important generally but especially essential in sobriety. Getting sober for me is freeing, creates new adventures and gives me the ability to be present and enjoy new experiences more, however, in these weird times I’ve found I’ve had to get creative in finding new adventures. Perhaps moving across the country is a tad on the dramatic side…that “all or nothing” business springs to mind again.

I’ve read so many times that change inspires change and I feel like I’m living that right now. Quitting drinking made me acutely aware of the things I wanted and the things I didn’t, the things I loved about my life and the things that felt like they no longer fit. Deciding to move and doing it probably would never have happened if I was still drinking. I’m just going to say the thing you’re not supposed to say as a sober person, but it was way easier to think that I was happy before I quit drinking. But it wasn’t real. I was able to keep going, gloss over things and anesthetize myself, but whenever I stood still I wanted to pull my skin off. I was completely unable to be still. There is a peacefulness to being sober that creates this ‘head space’ thing every one used to talk about.

“Headspace and Gateau” is pretty much the tag line of a sober lock down for me….great album name…watch this space!

Sober Musings: I Suck At Goodbyes

“When you reach out to people, celebrate them for being exactly who they are, you stitch yourself into the fabric of people’s lives.”

So I’ve been a bit radio silence these last few weeks. I’d like to pretend it’s because I’ve been busy with an interesting life or working on world hunger. But I’ve mostly been mainlining pringles and watching Ru Pauls Drag Race. Both pillars of a happy lock down life for me don’t get me wrong, but hardly the actions of a ‘deep thinker’.

I’ve noticed at times with this blog I stumble and struggle to write, not because I don’t have anything to say but because I’m waiting for an event. Waiting for something life changing, meaningful or a milestone that is outwardly significant. But, lately in these weird lock down times I’ve come the realisation this process is so new and strange that everyday is in some way significant. Plus it’s pretty difficult to ‘try’ and be profound that’s how you end up with Trump *shudder*.

And so “Sober Musings” is born. Those weird and wonderful thought processes that I’m now sober enough to contemplate and, sometimes, conclude about. These thoughts do primarily just tap dance around my head like a burlesque dancer on speed but, perhaps, writing them out might help her to calm the fuck down.

This week is, as it happens, IS a big event. I’m moving away from the small town that has been my home for nearly nine years. It’s been my home through uni, new jobs, getting sober (the first, second and third time) and just the whirlwind of bad and good decisions that has been my twenties. It’s full of memories and friends that have become family. I’m swapping this for an anonymous big city, full of new adventures, new people and new opportunities. Naturally I’m really excited in a “what the fuck have I done” kind of way. I keep swinging from excited to overwhelming regret to physical anxiety and it was really worrying me but when you add it up into a simple formulae it’s hardly surprising….

First year sober x Global pandemic % “Hey let’s move to a place where I don’t know anyone” + New job and new team =

…..I really don’t help myself sometimes. But I sure know how to keep things interesting!

With the world as it is I couldn’t have a leaving party or even say goodbye face to face to some of the people I love the most in the world. Don’t get me wrong, there are much bigger and more pressing issues in the world, but it’s all relative and for me that has probably been the worst bit of this whole thing. It feels a little like I’m just disappearing and I have a deep anxiety of losing friends I never thought I would. This week I’ve been contemplating how I’ll be remembered when I’m gone…which then spiralled into how I’ll be remembered when I’m actually like GONE gone. I know it’s a doozy. It used to terrify me. I would feel panicked that I wasn’t remarkable. It’s one of the reasons I always make a point of reading plaques and names on benches. Something I only noticed about myself recently. They matter to me, I feel I some how owe them my time. I feel both sad and touched in equal measure that the words are someone’s mark, a nod to a life.

It’s hard to be honest about but I think in a desperate attempt to feel like I was valid in the world there was always a selfish factor to my good deeds before. Charity and kind gestures that are so “instagramable”. Posting philanthropy on Facebook and watching the likes roll in. I used to think this came from a place of self-indulgence but having this headspace has made me realise it’s more likely a deep insecurity. I used to have a real need to ‘matter’, to influence and to ‘leave a mark’. Not bad things in themselves but often wildly misplaced in my weird brain. I so wanted and needed to be seen as a good person I would cling to big gestures and forget about the place it matters most.

The truth is that being a good friend means you’re always remembered, something I’m clinging onto for dear life as I move away from people I love so much. When you reach out to people, celebrate them for being exactly who they are, you stitch yourself into the fabric of people’s lives. Maybe being remembered by few as someone who made their life a lot better is, in many ways, more meaningful than being recognised by many. Hardly ground-breaking stuff but it’s one of the many things I understand better with out the blur of the booze.

I feel like now I do really like who I am while, at the same time, while getting comfortable that it’s unlikely I will change the world in any large way. Focusing instead on a little closer to home. The ripple effect of being sober changes so many things, but the thing I notice and enjoy the most is the fact I’m so much more aware of others who are close to me. It’s made me a better friend and allowed me to put my own shit to one side from time to time to¬†show people how much they actually mean to me. I like making people smile, making people feel listened to and I feel in these last seven months I’ve taken than from external to internal. It’s not perfect, nothing is, and I don’t get it right all of the time but I know I’m a little closer than I was 7 months ago. I’m taking that as a win.

I really do suck at goodbyes so I don’t intend to say any. It’s only goodbye if you decide it is. It will be a new city and new memories, and when this weird world allows, people who feel like home. That’s the shit that matters.

I’m Alcohol Free…Pass the Brie!

“Merry Christmas to all.
May it be full of love in it’s many forms… mine will take the form of brie!”

It’s that time. The C Word. Not the bad one. Well that depends who you ask. Snowflake stickers are peeling in shop windows. That sexy M&S bitch is whispering over slow pouring gravy. Cheese is suddenly on special offer and, if you listen closely, you can hear the sound of various fruits being soaked in booze in preparation. It’s time.

I love Christmas. I honestly think it’s a bit magic. I’ve been lucky enough to be warm, fed and loved at Christmas time in my life and it’s something I don’t take for granted. I could understand someone less fortunate having a very different outlook on the whole thing. That said Christmas seems to have one thing in common whether you live in number 10 downing street or at a number 10 bus stop. The entire nation appears to wake up and starts drinking at 11:00 in the morning.

The new Tier 4 for some, and the shortened festivities for all, take this Christmas pressure up to a solid 324/10 and I think everyone is confused, anxious and frustrated. Not the most festive of feelings for the world right now and for many drinking to forget will be common place. Alongside the normal drinking to celebrate and, to be totally honest, I don’t blame a single person. Getting blotto in a Christmas hat is one of the few Christmas joys left for many this year and one that it’s hard to disparage given the utter inept fuckery that this year has been.

For me drinking is the only thing that could make this weird dystopian Christmas even worse so I’ve had to dig deep and find different coping strategies. This is not a list I recommend to any one particularly more my own mad ramblings…

  • I plan to spend as much time in my pyjamas as is humanly possible (I’m currently figuring out if there is, in fact, a way to shower IN pyjamas…watch this space)
  • I plan to walk in the northern countryside (always gives me Dickensian vibes which in itself is quite Christmassy in a “how does anything actually grow here” kind of way)
  • I plan to eat ‘almost’ an entire wheel of brie (As a lactose intolerant person this is very much going to become everyone else’s problem later in the evening…charming I know)

And

I plan to be kind and non-judgemental of those I love no matter what their choices this Christmas.

The government are struggling with unprecedented times, I get that, but the thing that has got me clenching my teeth is the way they have managed to turn this all around on the people. Creating a culture of finger pointing, mob justice and blame on each other to turn eyes away from themselves, their uncertainty and the advice they ignored for months.

Human beings are not chemically or biologically designed to live in a state of high alert for a year. After a certain point it comes down to the simple fact that brain chemistry trumps right or wrong, and people are, understandably, struggling.

I refuse to pull others apart for whatever decision they make this Christmas. I refuse to make judgements on who a person is or the kind of life they lead based on their struggles because, fundamentally, so many people were kind and non-judgemental to me when my drinking was at it’s worst. They did not define me by it. And I plan to return the favour in this small way.

Merry Christmas to all.
May it be full of love in it’s many forms… mine will take the form of brie!

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