“Trick or tequila?”

“It’s all a bit Black Mirror right now lets be honest.”

I am, for all intents and purposes, a spooky bitch. The ultimate spooky bitch some may say. Halloween is honestly for me just the most wonderful time of the year. The weather turns colder and the leaves warmer. The big jumpers come out paired with the even bigger boots. Soups, warm bread and stews. Pumpkin lanterns lit with soft tealights. Cinnamon spiced coffees (pumpkins are not spicy folks) and dark evenings in. And, in the past, a great excuse to add Baileys to pretty much anything hot or, sometimes, cold.

Red wine by the pub fire. Whiskey, hot, with honey. Spiced rum. Bottles of red covered in blankets on the sofa. Beers with pizza and horror films. Crazy Halloween themed gigs, tequila shots, metal bands and stumbling around in fishnets, animal ears and fake blood. Drinking to stay warm, drinking to feel festive and drinking to fight off the blues as the evenings get darker.

So this year it already looks pretty damn different in the weird world we are living in. Masks that were once playful are now mandatory. The huge Halloween ragers that took up two to three weekends of my October are a pipe dream. Trick or treating that’s supposed to be funny and whimsical is now socially irresponsible. This may be the first Halloween little kids in fairy wings get bundled into the back of police cars (the evil part of my brain thinks that could actually be really funny). It’s all a bit Black Mirror right now lets be honest. Made worse by the fact this was THE Halloween. Saturday night. Full Moon. THE. ONE. But it’s up in the air, dystopian and strange. And that’s not even considering that I’m actually sober….first sober halloween…in a global pandemic. Christ on a bike.

A normal Halloween for me is the definition of a ‘high risk situation’. Triggers are defined as “the cause of something”, in the context of this blog this is drinking rather than chocolate chip cookies or sex (though both are wildly appealing right now). A trigger for me can be anything from an internal feeling of worry, to the external sight of a sophisticated woman sat with a glass of red. Both make my head go straight to the whole “maybe you can just have one” song and dance (yes there’s a dance now). High risk situations are events or places that contain a number of triggers, what ever they may be for the person specifically. For example:-

Triggers: pub, music, other people drinking, the smell of mulled cider, celebration, feeling cold, feeling tired, being dressed up, feeling nervous, socialising, feeling nervous about socialising…you get the idea.

High risk situation: A bloody night out for Halloween! (god dammit).

It’s one of the few occasions where the COVID world we live in may actually be doing me a favour. This year Halloween would have been fucking carnage. It would have been all kinds of ridiculousness. I had four parties to go to before the virus stepped in and put it’s foot down. And they would have been messy. The kind of 4 am, taking mirrors off the walls, empty bottles of spirits kinda parties that made me excited and fearful in equal measure, even before I quit drinking. So maybe this is a good thing. If I’m honest a big part of me feels I would rather have struggled at a great party then find sobriety easy on a dull evening in, but in the general theme of ‘focusing-on-what-I-can-control’ it’s probably going to end up being an easier ride overall.

So here’s some good things that I can think of about a sober Halloween:

  • My intricate three hour face paint/FX make up (I told you I was extra) will likely actually stay in place… well assuming the facemask I have to wear doesn’t rub it off…so maybe scratch that.
  • I can dance around and sing to a band with out being drunk….oh no wait it’s against the law…never mind.
  • Ok so sober doesn’t have a ‘bed time’ and at least I get to stay out late and party like I used to…oh nope pubs close at 10pm…ok maybe plan B then…..
  • I could try and pull a pumpkin of some kind, that might pumpkin spice up the evening…nope sex with people from outside your household is now illegal (because THAT doesn’t make it hot!).

…. NEXT Halloween. I’m going to count NEXT Halloween as my first proper sober Halloween.

I never thought that the first time I would get genuinely angry at the pandemic would be because I’m not allowed to go out dressed like a twat until the early hours of the morning. But it’s also kind of reassuring. There’s a big part of me that was worried that…well…a big part of me would disappear when I stopped drinking. That I wouldn’t be me any more. As much as I hate to admit it drinking was a big part of my identity, my personality even, and I’m still learning what that means for me moving forwards in a dry life. It turns out being sober doesn’t change who I am, I am still a spooky bitch who want’s to go out and be irresponsible in daft face paint, booze or no booze, and I’m keeping that.

So I’m planning a face mask friendly full face of spook and figuring out how to mull something alcohol free.

Tea. Turns out that’s tea.

Strike While the Iron is…Slightly Warm?

When it came to my drinking I struck while the iron was slightly warm and, in the long run, it stopped me getting burned.

Said no one ever. Apart from a friend of mine the other night and my non-alcoholic cocktail nearly came out of my nose. That is some funny stuff.

In the interest of full disclosure (says the anonymous blogger) the last couple of weeks have been really hard. It seems this process finds new and interesting ways to spin me out as the days, weeks and months go by and it’s annoying but certainly not boring. This last week I’ve felt wobbly recently, restless and unsettled in being alcohol free. My mind kept casting too wide a net, thinking about the life to come with out alcohol and it made me feel ungrounded and unsure. It appears I have inadvertently settled into overthinkers anonymous and made my self a horrible little anxious nest hole there. It’s hard to get off this particular freight train of thought once it gets going. It stopped at the usual stations. Calling at “Fuck I’m seriously never going to drink again”, now approaching “What about festivals?”, our next station is “Maybe I can drink when I’m retired”…. I’m in my mid (late *sob*) twenties and I’ve somehow got into planning a piss up for my retirement ….needless to say I lost the thread a little there.

I ate cake, I ate salad, I ran, I rested, I wrote this blog, I completely ignored this blog, I saw friends, I saw no-one all while drinking endless cups of tea but the mile a minute mind was still strong. So I did something I really never thought I would possibly do in all of my days on this planet. I went to my first AA meeting. I have to say I didn’t enjoy it at all, but, it did help one particularly weird and spun out Thursday evening. It seemed to be a lot of lovely supportive people being sober together so I guess that’s never a bad thing. However it felt a little stiff, like a church service with slightly more interesting sermons and the talking in unison bit felt a little like that scene in Indiana Jones before they pull out that guys heart, except with less interesting outfits. One thing I did notice though was I felt a little separate from most of the stories. Both the speaker and others in the group shared a barrage of stories of black out, waking up in police cells, days and days in hospital, losing all their money, losing their families and being totally consumed with drinking and nothing else. I was in awe, they’re fucking rock stars for getting sober and helping others on their journey too. But I have to be honest and say that was really not my experience of drinking. Perhaps I got lucky, perhaps I had better support systems, or perhaps I quit in the nick of time, but either way I felt strange sitting and listening to this as I didn’t really felt like I could relate. I felt kind of like a fraud.

Rock bottom is something that gets talked about all of the time in recovery and sober communities. People say over and over that rock bottom looks so different from person to person and it’s impossible to compare and contrast. In my opinion it can be down right dangerous. Looking at someone’s rock bottom and saying “well I’m not as bad as that guy” allows you to ignore the slow and steady steps downwards and miss the little warning signs on the glaring messed up journey to the crash. Rock bottom might be a police cell or it might be waking up the morning after a dinner party, not being entirely sure what you said but having horrible half memories of awkward silences and side glances and knowing you did something. *Shudder*. Both are valid and both are real. Neither cancels the other out as ‘better’ or ‘worse’…but it is understandable that those two people may not feel like they have a shared experience.

AA say that you should ‘focus on the similarities and not the differences’ and it’s pretty true. They’ve got some great one liners. I don’t think I’m going to be a person who goes to AA every week, but, I also am now not a person who would stubbornly rule it out completely. I feel this journey is all about being open minded and what’s nice is I now feel like if I was struggling or needed grounding that I wouldn’t be afraid to go to a meeting. I see it more as a sober insurance policy. It’s ok to need it, you’re grateful to have it if you do need it, but you hope to god you don’t.

There are so many ways to justify drinking too much especially in a society where most avenues, events and even emotions are pointed to alcohol. It’s easy to just keep waiting for rock bottom but I honestly believe if alcohol is taking from you, then you’re already there. I don’t judge anyone on their rock bottom, just their today. It just so happens I didn’t have to get wrestled by Rozzas or wake up in hospital to decide, and for that I’m grateful.

When it came to my drinking I struck while the iron was slightly warm and, in the long run, it stopped me getting burned.

Apart from by endless cups of tea….they’re bloody dangerous!

Roses are Red…so is Wine?

“I have to be the love of my own life.”

“Don’t date in early sobriety”…how may people much smarter than me have written those words? Hundreds. How many times did I read them? Thousands. How many times did I listen? Hmmm let’s think that would be… zero. Will I ever learn? The part of my brain that is fundamentally self-destructive says “no”. I used to think that was booze, it’s not, apparently I’m incapable of taking advice. My counsellor deserves a raise for sure.

I dated another human…I’m guessing you kind of got that part. He was lovely, respectful, funny and seemed to really like me. He had a good job, good taste and made me feel very special and cared for but with out being dis-empowered. Unfortunately he was also, it would appear, full of shit. That’s perhaps a little harsh but I’m writing this while crying and trying not to text him so I need to believe that right now. Plus we don’t know him in this blogo-sphere so in the words of Chandler Bing “we know me, we like me, please let me be happy!”. Overall it’s actually really not about him, we only dated around 5 weeks, he’s actually a lovely guy, I had such a good time with him and I want him to be happy, blah de blah…<insert me being the bigger person here>.

But.

It’s opened up a really raw vulnerable and rejected place that I have not been for a long time. I have been single for 18 months but for around 15 of those months I was drinking. I’m out of practice any way and doing this sober is totally new. I spent months trying to build up my confidence, then building up my sober confidence (a different beast all together) and finally settled into being in a state of being semi-comfortable with who I am. So this was a side swipe to this comfortable state to say the very least. Worst of all it’s made me remember all my past self-destructive break up rituals. I feel like I’m on a cliff edge or a really high diving board but I don’t get to decide when I jump because some invisible force will push me towards the old pattern…wine and chats, cocktails and crying, shots and clubs and dancing and blurring everything out and I’m not allowed to do any of it. No. I am allowed…I just don’t choose it. But if I don’t choose it I have to feel it. All of it, like right now. All the rejection and feeling foolish and inadequate and ugly and angry at myself for trusting someone and angry at him for making me think this was going to be different and breeeeathe.

Christ that sounded bloody dramatic! I just read that back and even I’m sick of the sound of myself…it’s a break up not a fucking Sylvia Plath poem. Don’t get me wrong I’m allowed to feel however I need to feel but I need to keep some semblance of perspective on this whole thing.

It’s no coincidence that I feel like I’m spinning wildly out of control, and that I’ve gone against the general advice out there from people who have been doing this longer. So I’ve been reading about it and it does help. I don’t know if I buy into the “don’t date for a year” rhetoric because I really don’t believe you can put a time frame on emotional management or on progress. I reckon for some it might be 6 weeks and some it might well be 6 years and both are fine if you feel safe. But you have to know the risks. It’s sensible in early sobriety to try and think logically, stay grounded and keep your head level. Now, I don’t know about you, but when it comes to love for me ‘being grounded’ and ‘staying level’ becomes much more complicated. Love makes you kind of an idiot if you’re lucky and a bumbling blinding moron if you’re not. American psychotherapist Anita Gadhia-Smith said it in the harshest way I can find (I like tough love) when she says “The person can fail you, and relationships end”. Ooooof gut punch but so bloody true.

She also said this one and it’s hard not to feel personally attacked…“Most people in early recovery aren’t stable emotionally, and relationships in early recovery are fraught with volatility and emotional instability.”

Yeah alright Anita you been reading my blog have you.

At the end of the day if you jump into something with both feet because someone’s telling you they’re here for it and then they do a U-turn you can’t internalise that shit…however many days sober you are. Shit will happen in love, health, finances, families and well just life. But I know for a fact that, on reflection, I poured hope and happiness into that relationship, which is not wrong but when it didn’t work out I realised I did not have it to spare. I need that love and hope for myself and my own journey for the foreseeable. No matter how level headed and logical you are in a relationship you can’t avoid making a little bit of your happiness dependent on the other person, and I’m not in a space to do that now.

I have to make myself happy right now. I have to be my own number one right now. I have to be the love of my own life. I have to get onto the Anne Summers website…RIGHT NOW.

Just kidding….Love Honey is where it’s at!

Crying on the Tube…and other short stories

“It’s easy in the world of shiny Instagram posts and shared success to forget how hard the journey to those achievements can be.”

Overall I try to stay positive when it comes to the weird loop the loop called life. I’m a dance in the rain, seize the chicken, stop and smell the sultanas, pee into the wind kind of person…I know none of that’s right but I’m banking you know what I mean. If you’re new to this blog I bank on this a lot.

I try and make this blog happy, shiny and positive because that is what it feels like being alcohol free most of the time and certainly in the long run. If I can’t make it that happy or shiny or positive I try and keep it practical, useful and matter of fact. All great. Happy is great. Useful is great. But lately to be totally honest it feels like lying by omission. I don’t think this blog has been all sunshine and rainbows but lately it’s been more Disney than Grim’s Fairy tales. The Disney is entertaining but Grim’s is the real shit.

I am now 100 days sober and I can not stress enough how amazing it feels. It’s just like everyone promised but better. That said the journey to 100 days has been fucking overwhelming at times to put it nicely! Anger and sadness are both really regular visitors to my alcohol free brain. It’s easy in the world of shiny Instagram posts and shared success to forget how hard the journey to those achievements can be.

It’s a common quote in recovery communities, “The good thing about not drinking is that you get your feelings back, but the bad thing about not drinking is you get your feelings back”. After years of drinking emotions get pushed to one side and then suddenly pop back up and it can be deep and at times inconvenient….That is a motherfucking understatement of the highest order. I would loooove to be able to say I have been totally rational, well adjusted and healthy over the whole process but it’s a hard no. I have had days where I feel like I’m bossing it and days where I am a swamp demon and, certainly in the beginning, I had really no idea which would come and when. It made making plans a little tricky.

So it’s time. No more lying by omission. I’m putting it out there in the hope you, yes you…the one who’s struggling…will feel less alone. The one who feels like they might just be losing their mind. This is for you because a.) you’re not I promise and b.) I get it!

Here is a list of some of the weird/sad/angry things I have done in the last 100 days:

  • Had three baths in one day because I had no idea what else to do with myself (I was sat in the last one all pissed off like “this was not the right thing at all”)
  • Cancelled and remade plans with the same person no less that five times in one afternoon (luckily she knew I was quitting drinking but still, what a patient friend, 100% full marks)
  • Forced everyone after a gathering at mine to take not only their left over alcohol home, but the alcohol of other people who had already left with them because I couldn’t have it in the house, and then cried for an hour panicking that I sounded like a junkie (this was 100% the right decision and I look back now on it with real pride)
  • Called in sick for work because I felt so overwhelmingly sad, I did not tell them that (I feel like this is valid and should be accepted with in reason).
  • Thrown out a full packet of biscuits because I tried to open them three times, couldn’t and flew into an irrational rage.
  • Furiously walked to the shop to buy biscuits because I had just thrown out a full packet of biscuits that I tried to open three times, couldn’t and flew into an irrational rage (incidentally also the ‘day of three baths’).
  • Told a taxi driver he was a “see you next Tuesday” because he made a comment about a women’s skirt being too short (I kind of stand by this one).
  • Wrapped my phone in socks and put it in a kitchen cupboard because I could not cope with getting another bloody supportive message from another bloody supportive person (this was a weird one…I’m not sure why the kitchen…and I’m even less sure why I didn’t just turn it off).
  • Seriously considered asking the pizza delivery guy to come in and have sex because I hadn’t yet had sex with someone for the first time sober and wanted to just “get it over with” (Luckily I remembered I was NOT in a porn film and would also likely just scare him/scar him for life/get arrested).
  • Cried…full on Disney princess sobbed… on the tube in London (I swear to god I STILL don’t know why).
  • Stood in the kitchen, of my shared house, fridge open, eating custard out of the pot with a spoon for 25 minutes (this was because a dog died in a film, again I kinda stand by this).
  • Got so angry on a run I shouted “Fuck this” much louder than I intended because I had head phones in and frightened a small child (she was fine…probably).
  • Walked sideways down an aisle in a shop, like a crazy crab lady, because it was nothing but booze on one side and I didn’t even want to look at the stuff (it worked).
  • Ordered breakfast, lunch and dinner on Just Eat because I did not want to leave my house (My bank may have been looking at my statement like…”Jesus she’s going through some shit”).
  • Forgot my friends name and then cried (I’ve known her for nine years….nine)
  • Took all of the alcohol out of the fridge in a friends house that I was house sitting and put it in the basement so I didn’t have to look at it and then put it all back so they didn’t notice, and then cried because I couldn’t handle it (She offered to move it and I said no because I’m an idiot…and she’s amazing).
  • Bought myself a bunch of flowers and threw them out the next day and cried because “I didn’t want to watch them die” (seriously…I mean…WTF?).
  • Burst into tears every time the Clover advert comes on TV with the family having a lovely dinner (yes as in the butter advert, they have ALWAYS made me sad and I don’t want to open that door).
  • Burst into tears because the person I was routing for did not win Come Dine With Me (On reflection they didn’t really deserve it)
  • Screamed at the top of my lungs because I accidentally deleted a very long carefully written email by mistake (I work from home and my housemate came down to check I wasn’t dead…mortified)
  • Burst into tears because the magpie that lives in my garden got a magpie wife (They had been flirting from different trees for ages and I’m so happy…I was so routing for them)

Sooo yeeeeah. It’s a lot of stuff. It’s a lot of being a little bit mental. A lot of my emotions being totally in charge of me rather than the other way around. A LOT of bubble baths, packets of biscuits and trash TV…and not all of it was relaxing (please see above).

That list does make me laugh now which at the time I never thought would be possible because, as funny as it is with hindsight, it was so raw at the time it was really hard to distance from it. There were times when I really had to remind myself why I started and times when I really thought I might actually be losing the plot completely. It takes time for the shitty, up and down, chemical shit storm to pass. If you’re in it this is the hardest thing to hear but, honest to god, it does get better. You’re brain figures it’s shit out in the end but Christ alive it sometimes takes it’s time.

So be nice to yourself, remind yourself why you started and maybe even keep a list of your lunacy. You never know people might read it and laugh one day, maybe even you.

On a much more important note I cried again writing about The Magpies. I’m just so goddamn happy for them, it’s been the best will they won’t they, since the Ross and Rachel fiasco. But you know…not fundamentally problematic.

Does “Shit” Really “Just Happen”?

“It was all me. It was all an active choice. They. Were. My. Choices. Weirdly….that is not a fun thought for me!”

Control is a tricky beast. Not just when quitting drinking but kind of in general. We’re developed into these amazing complex, enlightened beings with all these amazing in built features like capacity and emotions and beliefs. The same three people can read the same sentence and it can some how evoke hundreds of varied emotions, opinions and thoughts in all three. I mean how cool is that?! That said. There is sort of a circuiting error built in. Fundamentally as part of being enlightened, complex beings with a bunch of amazing features…annoyingly, the ability (and tenancy) to make terrible decisions “just because we fucking can” is also built in. I mean who’s bloody idea was that.

Choices are a great thing, but control over choices can be a slippery little bastard. I’ve noticed in life it seems that it’s really easy to end up looking around and not realise the impact of your choices or maybe not even feel like you made any at all. It is a weird separate feeling and is hugely unsettling in my experience. Elizabeth Gilbert the writer of Eat, Pray, Love (I’ve only ever been good at one of those things FYI) sums it up way better than I ever could with this “Hadn’t I wanted this? I had actively participated in every moment of the creation of this life. So why didn’t I see myself in any of it? “. That thought has always stayed with me when ever I look around and realise I’m not happy. “I have actively participated in every moment of the creation of this life”. Basically “it’s all my fault”…it’s hardly surprising that this isn’t really a fun thought process, but only through reading about it have I discovered that not only do other people not necessarily think this way, but it’s not necessarily bad either. Again that complex being thing kinda comes into play here.

“Locus of control” is a concept that is not only super interesting but makes you sound well clever when you drop it into conversation. The concept was developed by Julian Rotter in 1954, and “is a theory of personality psychology”. I know, it sounds very fancy. A person’s “locus of control” can be internal (you’re the boss of your life) or external (life is the boss of you). So for example someone who’s locus of control is very external may say something like “bad things just happen to me”, where as a person with an internal locus of control might say “bad things happen because I make bad decisions”. I can not stress enough how simplified that is as a description so sorry to anyone who is super into this stuff I’m just trying to get by.

Now as with most things there is a right one and wrong one, but I guess sometimes your supposed to be in the middle sometimes or some shit, but through reading I really couldn’t figure out in black and white, from a reputable source, a right or a wrong…typical commitment phobic psychologists. Psychologists in my experience tend not to tell people they’re feelings or thoughts are ‘wrong’…apparently it’s upsetting or something I dunno. But they tend to get around it with varying negative or positive descriptors of each option e.g. “we’ll simply described these two ways of thinking (one that’s obviously bad and one obviously good) and you can decide which one you want to be”. The clever devils.

I feel like now I’m just rambling but bear with me here. I do have a point.

Here’s what I know, as that’s really all I can talk about with any kind of authority. Drinking was my choice, drinking too much was my choice, bad things happening because of my drinking was my choice, and continuing to drink too much even though bad things were happening was my choice…and that stings. I ruined relationships, I slept with people I shouldn’t have, I was rude to strangers, I was rude to my friends, I got myself into debt, I had life ruining anxiety almost all of the time, I ended up in the hospital, I left work short staffed calling in sick and then I fucked up at work when I was there (not my current job thank god because boy do I love it). It was all me. It was all an active choice. They. Were. My. Choices. Weirdly….that is not a fun thought for me!

When I was drinking heavily I never made the connection. I was one of ‘those people’…I was totally external. I think I may have actually said the words “drama just seems to follow me”…”bad things just seem to happen to me” or even “what did I do to deserve this karma”…Christ it’s so self indulgent now I look back. I want to grab old me and shake me. “Stop drinking until you can’t function as an adult you silly cow”, ahhhh hindsight.

When it comes to quitting drinking, which is what I’m supposed to be talking about before I go off rambling, I’m a firm believer that you need to be the boss of your own life. It seems in recovery having in internal locus of control (I’m the boss) is good, as it feels like you have more power over the world around you and your own life. You’re less likely to be swung by others, have stronger self efficacy and take more responsibility for your actions…and none, I repeat, none of these things were feelings I had when I was drinking. These are all fundamental and required in learning to take control and say no to anything bad, but especially alcohol, and most importantly it do take time.

I stopped externalising the bad things in my life as ‘bad luck’ or ‘shit happens’ and turned the magnifying glass internally asking myself “why did I do this?”, “why did I make that choice?” and “why do I keep allowing this to happen?”. This kind of self awareness is not exactly a laugh riot in the beginning, but it probably saved my life.

It’s not about blame or beating yourself up or dwelling on shitty things you’ve chosen, easier said than done I know! It’s about one simple question “what’s going to be different this time?” and most of the time the answer is “me”.

So choose. If tough stuff comes up, which we all know it will, remember you are neither hopeless or powerless, you do honestly decide.

I can speak from experience that it does take practice but it is possible. Even if you do have to wake up in a hedge at a stately home still in a dress you wore to a wedding and only the one shoe as part of the process.

Cinderella lied to us guys. If you end up going home with one shoe it is not a fairy-tale…you’re just drunk. And their aint no birds or mice to help me get dressed in the morning let me tell you.

The Big Nine-Oh

“From alcohol to cocaine to chasing pigeons around singing Barbara Streisand songs…the first 90 days can be a mine field!”

90 fucking days.

Even writing it make me feel emotional, elated and in a little bit of disbelief (plus the ever so slight, tiny, weeny feeling of being the smallest bit smug).

90 fucking days alcohol free.
90.
NINE OH!
2160 god damn hours.
129600 sodding minutes.
Over 7 billion bloody seconds.
Ok I’ll stop…. but come oooon that is so cool. I did that. ME!

90 days is always significant in the recovery community and is widely recognized as a really bloody significant milestone for so many reasons. I watched so many of you gorgeous, supportive shiny happy sober people reach 90 days and I ached for it. It went from seemingly impossible, to possible, to probable and now it’s here. And it’s just as great as every one said, so few things in life are but this one absolutely fucking is!

A lot of it is statistics, boring and slightly depressing though true, it is just a fact that most lapses and relapses happen in the first 90 days of quitting whatever your particular vice may be. From alcohol to cocaine to chasing pigeons around singing Barbara Streisand songs…the first 90 days can be a mine field (don’t chase pigeons around minefields kids). And as you may know from my previous blog post “The Fuck It Button” it’s taken me at least three tries to quit all together (30 days, 41 days, 67 days and now here we are). There’s no shame in it. I read “The Fuck It Button” back now on my 90th day with so much god damn pride. Not just for putting it all out there but for keeping on keeping on because sometimes that’s really all you can do to get to where you want to be.

I wanted this to be an inspirational blog and I wanted to be able to motivate people and be all amazing and shit. But actually what this has become is so much better than that and probably a lot healthier. In those fleeting, and sometimes less than fleeting, moments that I want to drink, that I feel uncertain or I think too much about the bigger picture and feel like I’m drowning…I scribble down one sentence that sums it up…and I write about it. This blog started out for you but it ended up being, accidentally, for me. It’s been a form of therapy, self care and anger management all at once.

I don’t want to play down how amazing being alcohol free is, and life is infinitely better, but being alcohol free in the last 90 days has also been really hard, and there have been so many unexpected challenges, but there has also been some unexpected gems of support. From a close ex-drinking buddy of mine also starting a sober journey of her own, to the Club Soda Mindful Drinking Festival (google it), to being sent extra alcohol free drinks to try by the company I buy most of my alcohol free drinks from (The Alcohol Free Co. they’re just excellent people)…some times it really has felt like the universe is screaming at me. The kindness and wisdom of so many has got me through and I am grateful for all of it.

Kindness is actually physically good for you. When you pay someone a compliment, or do something nice for someone it releases Serotonin in their brain. Serotonin is a lovely little neurotransmitter that is thought to regulate mood, happiness, and anxiety, meaning when you get a hit of this you get a hit of basically natures purest form of happy (a neurotransmitter that is also released by alcohol but with some pretty gnarly consequences and mood drops the next day). But here’s the extra cool bit. When you do this nice thing/compliment you also get a hit of Serotonin. Being nicer, kinder and doing nice things for other people makes your brain happy and gives you consequence free hit of actual cold hard happiness.

Headache free happiness.
Un-jaded joy.
Grusome free goodness.
Ouch free optimism.
Panic free pleasure.
Self loathing free Serotonin.
I’m going to stop before the thesaurus in my brain implodes, but you get the idea.

So I’m ending this one with a challenge.

Don’t panic we’re not talking Takeshi’s castle or the huger games here….mind you could you imagine Takeshi’s castle but everyone was drunk. Or “The Sober Games” as a film. I would totally watch both.

Whether you’re reading this on your own sober journey, to support someone else or just because you followed an Instagram link and are now highly confused (hullo by the way)…do something nice for someone today. Anything, send someone a card for no reason, make someone dinner, smile at someone or send someone a nice message (Disclaimer: if that person has a restraining order against you then don’t do any of the above, you’re kind act can be leaving them alone.). Whether you’re on a sober journey or not kindness is universal.

I could share a million tips and tricks that got me to 90 days and I have in this blog on a number of occasions but, when it comes down to it, kindness is the foundation on which I built this new life.

I would not have got to 90 days with out kindness in it’s many forms.

So go forth and be nice to people…I don’t think that is ever bad advice.

To the next 90 days! It’s going to be a ride!

Shark Infested Custard

“You don’t have to vomit on someones child, punch a waiter or wake up in A&E with your private parts in a traffic cone (two lies and a truth there)”

What’s yellow, grey and dangerous?….. Grey Area Drinking.

I mean it’s unlikely to get a laugh around the Christmas table but, in my experience swimming around in that category, it’s pretty true. The term ,’ alcoholic’, is fundamentally flawed, in fact that’s a polite way of saying I actually really fucking hate that word. A lot of people don’t like it because of the connotations, brown paper bags, bus benches, liver damage…for me it’s the wiggle room. There are so many ways NOT to be an alcoholic.

  • I don’t drink in the mornings
  • I don’t drink everyday
  • I have job
  • I don’t drink as much as him/her/them
  • I don’t ever feel like I need a drink
  • I don’t spend my last £5 on booze
  • I wouldn’t drink that bottom shelf stuff
  • I’m a happy drunk
  • I only smashed up my own flat that ONE time
  • I only fall over, bruise myself, vomit and black out SOME of the time
  • I only accidentally punched that child ONCE
  • I was arrested for peeing, it’s a human right you know

You get the jist.

There’s a concept that’s emerging with the help of the sober community, recovery services, health services and just some beautiful self aware souls around “Grey Area Drinkers”. When I first read about grey area drinking my immediate thought was to shove my fingers in my ears and make a loud noise so it couldn’t get in, but it did anyway, and it stuck. Too close to home.

There are so many resources that explain it so much better than me and my brain. Jolene Park’s amazing TED talk on Grey Area Drinkers sums it up beautifully when she talks about the kind of drinking that doesn’t have that soul crushing, vomit inducing, life ruining ‘rock bottom’ but still feels wrong and uncomfortable. Adrian Chiles documentary ‘Drinkers Like Me’ opened up the conversation about Grey Area Drinkers and how normalized it is in so many subsections of society, to drink too much with out question and with in the realms of normality.

Grey Area Drinking is comfortably where I was sitting before I decided to plunge into the alcohol free life head on, after a few rather sizeable bumps (and yes sometimes that was very literal). When I quit drinking it was amazing the amount of people who took it upon themselves to tell me I did not have a problem with Alcohol, it was wildly unhelpful at the time but I’m not mad at it now. It’s just evidencing the point that people have a tendency to have one linear view of problematic drinking as one linear path. I guess my what I’m getting at is, why wait? I feel totally and completely comfortable that I quit drinking at the exact right time in my life. Why wait until it’s a raging problem? It was time. With every year that went past I really do think, for me, it would have become more difficult, the boundaries pushed further, more stresses and more importantly more reasons to drink. If quitting has taught me anything they’re not hard to find.

There’s a lot of fancy ways to look at this, assessments and questionnaires and literature and it’s always good to access these. But when I broke it down into “what really were the things that tipped me off” and I think I have four:

  1. Do you feel regretful, ashamed or worried about your drinking, or your behavior when you’re drinking?
    Thought: “I wish I hadn’t drank so much/said that/did that ect”.
    Also know as “Hangxiety” it’s no fun and ruins many a morning after wondering if your the bride noticed you called her dad a fascist then vomited in a portaloo (might be a true story…I’ll never tell).
  2. Are you the “all or nothing drinker”, you’re either sober as a judge or 10 sheets to the wind?
    Thought: “One, why would I have just one?”.
    People who can have one glass of wine or beer and be done AMAZE me! I never left a glass of wine in the bottle because there was no point, I would never have just one glass of wine…. unless the glass was the size of the average flower vase.
  3. You downplay your drinking to other people (maybe even to yourself to be fair) and people don’t notice just how much you’re putting back?
    Thought: “I better not drink this week I had a pretty heavy weekend…apart from today of course, oh and the meet up on Tuesday, and that dinner on Wednesday…and the christening Thursday ect”.
    Again this links back to why people who couldn’t fathom why I quit despite my huge unit count per week. This is, I think, because I held my alcohol well and was generally functioning in life. I would drink with lots of different groups of people on a three day rotation so that people wouldn’t notice just how much I was out. I lied to myself constantly, and others by omission, and rarely had more than two days off drinking per week.
  4. You’re reading this blog….I mean why…why this blog…I’m neither funny enough nor interesting enough to grab your attention if you’re not seriously thinking about making a change to your drinking (as much as I’d like to think so).
    When I started looking into the sober community so much of what I heard resonated with me, it woke me up.

So that’s how it started for me. Four basics that for me made me step back and reevaluate. To be honest the above are a great start but number 4 jumps out. I do believe that if you’re worried about something it’s often sensible to listen and change, or at least explore it. To me it seems that people with a perfectly normal relationship with alcohol don’t tend to worry if they are alcoholics, and tend to not read sarcastic, anti-establishment, swear-ey blogs about being alcohol free (*waves*). It’s kind of the first clue.

There doesn’t have to be a rock bottom. Or maybe there does but maybe it doesn’t have to be so dramatic, traumatic or life ruining. One of my favorite quotes is “rock bottom is whenever you decide to put down the shovel” and it’s something I think often. You don’t have to vomit on someones child, punch a waiter or wake up in A&E with your private parts in a traffic cone (two lies and a truth there), you can just stop because you DON’T WANT to vomit on someones child, punch a waiter or wake up in A&E with your private parts in a traffic cone. It’s actually very sensible when you break it down logically.

Many people change their drinking and cut down successfully with out cutting out alcohol all together and it’s always a good place to start. My path is different and for me quitting drinking all together is the path of least resistance, at least in the long term. It makes the ‘maybes’ and the grey foggy questions all wonderfully black and white. Plus I’m kind of lazy and it’s just less effort, for me, to say “I don’t” then try and count units, or drinks or try and wrangle myself away from the second bottle.

I’m putting down the shovel.

I’m stepping out of the custard.

I’m doing the YMCA. I really did for a bit in the kitchen earlier (This one isn’t mandatory…I’m not sure why but it did cheer me up).

Most importantly if you are thinking about making a change to your drinking just do it, even if it’s just for a bit. Because I really can promise you one thing, you honestly don’t have anything to lose. Apart from more bad memories.

Real Punks Don’t Drink

“A big fuck you to, fundamentally damaging, societal norms and a way to make people question the status quo.”

Sid Vicious once said “I’ve only been in love with a beer bottle and a mirror.” That kind of statement, for many people, is the definition of punk (I’m assuming this was before he started advertising Country Life butter…that nearly made me hang up my leather jacket for good). Since I quit drinking not only have I become, more, aware of how much alcohol runs through the veins of society, but also how much it defines personal identity for so many people.

As you may have guessed from the My Chemical Romance reference in a previous post I have always been on the side of society defined by copious amounts of eyeliner, an excess of safety pins and ear splitting rackets. In my teen years I actually managed to secure a free nose job, procured by someone mashing the back of their head into my face in a mosh pit. We stayed friends for years, nice guys as it goes.

So when it came to drinking less one of my first thoughts was that it would quite simply “ruin my image”. I identified as punk, swimming against the tide and not caring what people thought about my life, or music choices. I’m a musician and for me my drinking and my music were intrinsically linked. There were so many triggers in it for me from being creative, to song writing to ‘dutch courage’ for stage fright. As well as the thrilling and problematic belief of so many that to be a true creative you must be tortured, unfulfilled and perhaps a little drunk. People used to ask me tips for song writing and I’d reply with one word “whisky”. The 27 club was a distinct possibility for me but came and went, it was touch and go at times let me tell you.

Even lock down has brought out people’s inner “fuck the establishment” Joey Ramone-esque character…but probably not in the best way. Mask protestors spring to mind. That’s not punk that’s just being a twat. There are hundreds of rules and restrictions that are all somehow enforceable by police, but also nail bitingly confusing which is enough to give anyone anxiety. But sex with some one from out side your household is definitely illegal….thanks Boris. There’s a great way to get people to be fluffy and complaint, ban orgasms. That said technically you can have a socially distanced group wank in the garden, with two other households, so things may get exciting on google maps in the next few months.

I’ve always wanted to be a rebel. Something I was shiiiit at in school. As a kid I wanted so desperately to get good grades and be liked by my teachers. I wanted to be the golden girl but at some point that changed. My Rebel Yell, Joan Jett, and (let’s face it) Avril Lavigne style, now I think about it, started to emerge around the age of 14, probably around the time I started drinking. Not often but drinking none the less. So I guess me, society and Sid Vicious all marry punk and booze however unhappy that marriage may make us.

So what if you want to quit but don’t want to give up the anarchy?

I genuinely think by stopping drinking you’re literally already a god damn anarchist of the best kind! I was recently lucky enough to talk to Dr Richard Piper the founder (or co-founder of that bit I’m unsure) of Alcohol Change UK around society and sober shaming. When he asked me about my sober journey one of the biggest things I stressed to him was my fundamental belief of one fact.

Being sober is fucking punk!

I used to believe that drinking too much was an act of rebellion, that it defined a big part of my punk identity. But then I realised that’s absolutely eye rolling-ly impossible for two reasons: A.) You are quite literally doing what everyone else is doing with out questioning it and B.) it’s quite literally what the ‘establishment’ WANT you to do. That said I do not necessarily see every single person who drinks as sheep drinking gin and tonics or as the enemy, you do you, but for me not drinking is starting to feel like a form of cultural activism. A big fuck you to, fundamentally damaging, societal norms and a way to make people question the status quo. I feel like I’ve woken up, looked around and thought “nope”.

Dr Piper has a similar belief (but more eloquently put with much less swearing) which is one of the pushing beliefs behind Alcohol Change UK. Who by the way have some of the best resources when it comes to cold hard facts about alcohol and drinking, and are leading the way in changing the conversation. In making a world where saying “I don’t drink” is met with shrugs or even “good for you-s” instead of disbelief and derision.

I’m excited for that world, and I want to be a part of making it. However small.

Now let’s put down the booze and go and have a lovely socially distanced group wank in the garden. That’ll show them.

I’m not sure who, but it’ll sure show them!

“They can take our wine…but they’ll never take OUR FREEEEDDOOOOM”

“I caged myself for years”

After the floaty, saccharine sweet and (boarder-line irritating) happy pink cloud days passed I was left feeling restless, despite being horribly busy. Though excellent, being euphoric and mesmerized by the clouds, and the sky, and the lamp shade, and the sound of the washing machine and that tissue blowing in the wind was less than productive to say the least. Even the ‘pink cloud’ level happiness couldn’t stretch to the beautiful lines of a full work email or a pile of laundry. The chores had some what piled up while I was lying around marvelling at, well, anything that wasn’t useful.

There’s a good chance the pink cloud will make another appearance at some point soon, as long as I stay alcohol free, a tasks that’s seemingly less impossible with more days and, importantly, more rules. And fuck me do I have a lot of rules and limits for myself in my early sobriety and, though I do think it’s pretty sensible giving myself boundaries, it’s a bit of a fucking drag sometimes to be honest. Not the rules themselves per say more the energy of being self aware, accountable and boundaried, all day, every damn day. None of those qualities have ever been my strong point before to say the least, no shit Sherlock. The list is as long as my arm but the concise versions/headliners are as follows:

Stay. Fucking. Hydrated. (Simple but first on the list for a reason).

Tell people I’m not drinking at the earliest opportunity (Without being annoying, torurretes-ey, and you know in the context of a party and/or a conversation…I don’t just shout it at the postman).

No holidays away for the first 6 months (Perhaps excessive for some but this one is specific to me, travel is an ENORMOUS trigger for me for sure).

No all inclusive holidays ever (Don’t lie and pretend you don’t try and drink your money back…we’ve all done it…there’s only so many tiny soaps you can steal).

Make sure, where ever possible, I’m not very hungry (No brainer).

Make sure, wherever possible, I’m not very tired (Easier said than done).

Speak to at least one person everyday (not necessarily about recovery).

Log days on my sober app (I use I Am Sober but there’s loads of great ones).

Mark days off on a calendar (The physical act feels fucking excellent).

Write in my journal every day (Journalling is different from blogging, you guys could not PAY me to publish my journal)

And last but not least, try in some way to figure out self care and then apply it liberally to my life.

They’re painfully simple but they are working for me. Most of them came from a long list of fuck ups and miserable plunges back to day one. My mum once told me “treating yourself like a precious object will make you strong” and I have never quite nailed it until now. Self care is probably the biggest thing I have changed this time around and could, and will, be a blog post of it’s own.

So the proof is in the pudding. Oooo pudding that is definitely one! I’m starting to think that the idea for the first doughnut was literally sent to earth, by a higher power, for people quitting drinking. In the last five days I have eaten cookie dough, ice cream, chocolate, sticky toffee pudding, custard, milkshakes, cookies, licorice, ginger biscuits and chugged endless hot chocolates. Did I mention I’m lactose intolerant. It’s making life more than a little exciting let me tell you, but maybe not in the most positive way.

When I’m not eating chocolate, or on the toilet, I am to be honest actually struggling a little. It’s hard to stay busy and connected in a world that’s limiting what you can do and who you can do it with. I’m sure this isn’t the only blog that has popped up in the lock down world and it won’t be the last. I am unbelievably in favor of the COVID lock down measures, and I believe everyone should act like they may give it to their elderly immuno-compromised mother. So if you’re looking for a rant from the foolish folk who protest about wear a mask then I’m afraid I can’t help you. I’m trying to be more ‘Namaste’ and less ‘I’ll cut you’…but seriously if you think a mask is against your human rights you’re a moron, and a dangerous moron at that. Stay the hell away from this blog…and my Nan.

I think my point is (yes I forgot could you tell?) that for me early sobriety has been all about rules and limitations. Things I must do and things I must not. And lock down and the world in general has been all about rules and limitations. Things I must do and things I must not. And whether it’s getting or giving someone COVID-19 or going back to drinking…they’re both just too high stakes to fuck it up. It’s making me get under-boob sweat just thinking about it. It’s a lot of pressure and it’s understandably really hard to feel free.

And then I thought about it, like actually properly sat and thought about it, and I can sum it up in one overarching thought…

“Yeah cause you were so fucking free when you were drinking right?”.

There it is. The thought that sprung to mind as I was sitting feeling frustrated and caged. The freedom isn’t about going out or seeing loads of people. It isn’t about music festivals, or gigs, or open mics. It’s not about Camden market, the Yorkshire Dales or Newquay beach. It’s not about holidays, trains and planes and cars. I was doing all of that stuff and more before and never really felt free. I did all of these things scanning for pub doorways, watching clocks until an acceptable hour to pop a cork or watching the levels of peoples glasses hoping they will drink faster, so I could refill mine. I caged myself, for years.

Yeah really fucking free.

The world will restart, but my drinking won’t.

I’m excited to be free. I’m grateful to be healthy. And I’d like to thank the academy and Jesus for doughnuts and Netflix.

A “Pink Cloud” Kinda Morning

Before entering this weird journey called sobriety “pink clouds” were, to me, a particularly potent type of ecstasy going around the north east in my late teens. I never partook. That sounded like it was out of some kind if superior moral compass (in case you haven’t got the general vibe of this blog) it wasn’t. I was too busy applying Dream Matte Mousse, drinking Sainsbury’s basics vodka and necking off with, pretty much, anyone who listened to My Chemical Romance. I stand by the band. “MCR 4 lyfe”, could have so easily ended up as a drunken tattoo…Jesus.

Wow that is for sure the fastest I have had to type “I digress”.

“The Pink Cloud” is a concept in the recovery community that was originally coined in AA, but that never made it into The Big Book. From what I gather it’s caused by the weird fog and messed up brain chemistry starting to lift, after years of drinking. ‘I Am Sober’ (who’s app is excellent by the way) describe it as a feeling of being “elated, suddenly filled with emotions that have long been suppressed”. Millie Gooch founder of the @sobergirlsociety describes in a recent Instagram post that it’s basically “sobriety’s honeymoon phase but with less bonking”. That did make me laugh.

I’d been excited for this as soon as I read about it and today it finally happened. I danced around the room this morning to the theme tune of the American Office (that I normally skip out of irritation). I picked flowers from the garden, that immediately died and I just laughed. I tripped over taking the recycling out and rolled around pissing myself laughing in a pile of bean cans. I smiled at my house mate, who was hugely confused…we don’t really speak. I sniffed my house plant…I mean it’s literally just a plant…I think I was going for a ‘stop and smell the roses’ type thing but it was just a plant so it smelled mostly of mud. It was nice. I grinned and sighed starting out at the trees drinking coffee, very much like the weird lasses in French films who seem to not have a hobby or a job. I swung wildly from elated and euphoric to peaceful and one with the universe. People talk about being “high on life” but I was absolutely off my tits on sobriety.

*Downer alert* I know that this doesn’t last. That for some people it’s a day, or days, or weeks and that for some people it comes and goes. I have no idea what kind of “some people” I will be. People tend to lapse or even relapse when the Pink Cloud fades and normal life and all it’s crap comes flooding back in. But I just can’t be arsed to care. It’s too good to ruin with my old cycles of over thinking my way out of any enjoyment.

Before I was alcohol free I would have totally freaked the fuck out about when it was going to end. Bought extra booze to get through the inevitable drop. The entire premise of drinking is “what goes up must come down”. Going from dizzyingly euphorically drunk to soul destroying-ly debased and hungover was fucking horrific every-time. By the end of my journey with alcohol I would stay up later, drink longer just for fear of waking up poisoned and cripplingly anxious. AA have a saying which is ‘drinking is borrowing happiness from tomorrow’ or words to that effect and it was an absolute reality for me.

But maybe this is different? I guess what I’m saying is I’m down with the pink cloud. I’m staying present and keeping that whole one day at a time thing in the front of my psyche. But that’s not really what’s making me love it so much. I love it because I went from feeling kind of good all the time to totally fucking great. Which means, applying the “what goes up must come down” principle, the absolute worst that can happen is I go from totally fucking great to kind of good all the time. And that is a lot easier to take.

So I’m going to stick on some My Chemical Romance and dance like a twat.

I will skip the Sainsbury’s Basics Vodka (which is the right call even if you’re NOT quitting drinking).

Luckily I don’t think they make Dream Matte Mousse anymore. I just heard a thousand faces sign with relief.

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