A visit from the wolf

The other night I went to a lecture hosted by a writer I particularly admire. I was there with a friend and we were offered free drinks as we waited for it to start. There were bottles of red and white wine near the entrance, plus a pretty good collection of soft drinks. I’m sure that when I was still drinking – and therefore looking for an excuse to drink at every opportunity – events like that never seemed to offer alcohol. On the rare occasions they did, most people had just a teeny, tiny glass of wine. I, on the other hand, would try not to look greedy as I poured myself as much as I thought I could get away with.

Of course now that I’ve stopped drinking it feels exactly the opposite – everyone is knocking back loads of wine! But I know that really, the only thing that’s changed is me. Maybe one day I’ll get to a point where I don’t even notice what other people are drinking. It hasn’t happened yet. I am great at making idle chit-chat whilst keeping an eye on who’s had what.
 
Anyway, I digress. The talk began and as is always the way with these things I managed to sit behind two really tall people. So I had to lean slightly to see through the gap between them. As I was doing this I realised I’d accidentally moved my head very close to my friend’s glass of white wine. I could smell it really strongly and for the first time in ages I thought “Hmmm. That smells great” followed by “a glass of white wine would very nice right now….”
 
That’s what I really wanted to write about today because feeling like that pissed me off. I did always love white wine, but I haven’t craved it for ages. In fact nowadays I usually recoil slightly at the smell. It seems a bit sour and vinegary, especially when someone is breathing wine fumes on to me (yuck). But there was something about that cheap glass of wine that smelt so nice. And for a little while I felt really sorry for myself, unable to drink with the grownups, surrounded by people looking elegant and cool and intelligent as they sipped their wine slowwwly. 
 
I tuned out for some of the talk because I was busy thinking about the wine and whether it meant anything that I thought it smelt nice. I spent a bit of time wondering why that Wolfie voice comes back just as you think it’s given up. Why – when everything seems to be going so well, at last – am I suddenly wishing I could drink like a ‘normal’ person again? Blah blah blah. So many annoying and boring thoughts. 
 
Fortunately the feeling didn’t last long. I was distracted by the man on the other side of me who laughed really loudly and then started to cough over me. I could smell his bad breath. (Seriously, I think I have a heightened sense of smell these days, because I notice everything. Bad breath, BO, wine … an open bar of chocolate 100 metres away? I’m on it).
 
I’m feeling much better now and I’ve had a great weekend. Another busy one, with late nights and lots to do, so I am tired and in need of an early night. But as always, tired and sober is much better than feeling tired, hungover, depressed, miserable, guilty…. you know the rest!   
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26 thoughts on “A visit from the wolf

  1. lovinglife52 January 26, 2014 at 9:48 pm Reply

    I can remember the smell of wine getting to me – a night in Ronnie Scotts stands out in my memory. Smell is a very powerful sense and you do always smell a liquid before drinking it! It will set off old paths in your mind that will expect the reward of alcohol after sensing the aroma of wine. Over time, I learnt not to welcome the smell of wine and so it does not affect my emotions in the same way.
    You are doing well facing up to all this and it can be hard in the media industry where drinking is a big part, but I can assure you it is possible to remain alcohol free in this environment and quite a few people do.

    • soberjournalist January 27, 2014 at 11:27 am Reply

      Smell is a very powerful sense! I think a lot of it is about reprogramming your brain – training yourself not to like the smell of wine and associating it with different things, like hangovers!

  2. Anonymous January 26, 2014 at 10:55 pm Reply

    Seriously, Kate. You are doing soooo well.
    I am (along with a lot of other people) nearly at the end of Dry January and going on to do Dry February. It’s not plain sailing but then what is? I have been so inspired by your blog and have told lots of people about it for them to read too. Spread the encouragement. I have never replied to a blog before! Wine breathe is gross, who wants that? Not me.
    Thank you again.

    • soberjournalist January 27, 2014 at 11:29 am Reply

      Thanks for your lovely comment and congratulations on taking on a Dry February as well! The first month is definitely the hardest, so you’re over the worst!

  3. Teetotal January 26, 2014 at 10:55 pm Reply

    The phrase “drink like a normal person” troubles me, as though drinking excessively is abnormal, I don’t think it is. Alcohol is a drug and it makes lots of normal people drink more than is good for them.

    And for me the “cool and intelligent” people are the ones with the strength to resist the drug and the cultural pressure.

  4. Q January 27, 2014 at 9:39 am Reply

    I enjoy your blog because it reminds me of myself, not least because i too am a journalist. I didn’t realise i had a problem until i actually had to write about alcohol and health in my 30s and toted up around 50 units that week. Yet I’d had a ‘normal’ week, a single guy in the city with an active social life. Around three pints or a couple of large glasses of wine a night with various friends and contacts, mon-thurs, a ‘heavier’ friday and saturday night, plus a boozy sunday. 50 units, ‘harmful’ drinker. And thinking on it, i always insisted we catch the early evening film so there was drinking time after, and a quiet night in meant ‘just’ half a bottle of wine…. And then there was my mid twenties when i was living alone and basically going up the wall… A bottle of wine a night, plus stella chaser if it didn’t do the trick…

    So over time i managed to get it down to around 35. Then i got into a relationship and managed to get it within the government guidelines (21-28). Now my weekly limit is 14, which i rarely exceed – last week it was 5, and for about 6 months earlier this year i managed to not exceed 6, including a two week holiday. But i am also helped by living in a country without a british drinking culture. On a trip back to the uk over christmas i drank what i wanted, and that is generally my rule for holidays. A reward! As it happened i didn’t drink much, because i don’t these days.

    We all have to adopt strategies right for us. Abstention would have been too steep a slope for me at the beginning. I needed to self medicate, to turn down the noise of my life. Although i didn’t realise it at the time (i thought my worrying was normal) i suffered from anxiety, and i had many of the characteristics of a Highly Sensitive Person (google it), and alcohol helped take off the ‘edge’. Being an extrovert who hated being alone didn’t help either in a culture dominated by booze. Subsequently CBT/ mindfulness meditation has helped me manage my anxiety, reading helped me understand my personality and provided strategies to manage better. Not being on my own is good. My problem was not really with alcohol, it was with who i was and the environment (age, relationship status, culture) i found myself in – i became dependent on alcohol to just survive.

    Living abroad, being in a relationship, a daily dose of magnesium, exercise, meditation or prayer, being involved in non alcoholic activities, and most of all understanding myself better… All these things have contributed to my low alcohol life.

    Of course i could be back in the uk and out of a relationship tomorrow. Because of my personality i will always have to keep an eye on the units (i still evidently have an ‘issue’ with alcohol, after all i read your blog!) but by focusing that famous willpower you have written about better understanding ‘my’ version of normal, alcohol does not scare me any more. It is not the centre of my life – i am. And that seems like progress.

    Thank you for the great blog and good luck!

    • soberjournalist January 27, 2014 at 11:33 am Reply

      Great to hear you have changed your relationship with alcohol. I think you might be the only moderation success story I have ever heard! I did try to cut down, but I found it too hard and I always felt like I was depriving myself, even if I’d had quite a bit. Somehow having nothing doesnt feel as tough, for me at least. It sounds like you changed quite a lot in your life and I think that is key strategy – you can’t keep doing the same things and wondering why nothing changes! Thanks for getting in touch.

  5. sharonwhale2 January 27, 2014 at 10:49 am Reply

    Hi, just had to let you know how great your blog is. Briefly this is third
    time lucky for me. 30 days in Oct 2012, 60 days Summer 2013 and
    now 25 days and counting 2014 – that’s a quarter of the way to 100! Your
    Blog and information contained has kept me sane thank you – I’m
    optimistic of a sober future starting with 100 days . 🙂

    • soberjournalist January 27, 2014 at 11:40 am Reply

      Congratulations! You sound like you’re doing really well. I did a lot of stop-starting in the past, maybe stopping for a week or month at a time, and then for some reason it just clicked last year. I hope you’re rewarding yourself with lots of treats – like cake. Good luck and let me know how you get on! 🙂

  6. Anonymous January 27, 2014 at 11:18 am Reply

    just be aware,,,,,,,,,,however long you are sober, ‘IT’ will always come out and bite you on the bum, when you least expect it.

  7. KT January 27, 2014 at 12:50 pm Reply

    I still consider ex boyfriends and smoking once in a while, but I’m not going to do anything about it. Likewise the drink: what’s changed is that when I’m contemplating wine on the way home, my subconscious is exploring it knowing it’s not going to buy any, whereas previously it was working out where to stop and get a bottle. I don’t worry about it too much. You don’t have to pretend chilled white wine isn’t nice, you just have to realise that if you drink some you’ll be thinking about nothing else for three weeks while you dry out again. That feels rubbish. I used to have an internal battle every single night in the traffic – I really want a drink – but I don’t want to drink – I’m going to die – I don’t want to die – all the while knowing that I was going to stop and buy a bottle or two, it was inevitable. Now I occasionally get a pang when I drive by a supermarket / garage / off licence that I once stopped at, but I know I’m not going to stop. I do occasionally stop for chocolate. Mostly I just listen to the radio and mosey on home and am not troubled by it at all. The end of that internal maelstrom is wonderful – just quiet. Lovely.

  8. James January 27, 2014 at 5:27 pm Reply

    I’m on day 29 here and over the weekend I absolutely ached for a (okay, many) beer(s), and it surprised me because I’d been going along the last couple weeks thinking that the big cravings had all gone. The nice thing was that it made me angry – angry that something in a bottle could still have that kind of control over me, and just strengthened my conviction that I’ve got to see this through and keep to my decision to stop. But wow the way it hits you out of the blue is bizarre.

  9. Louise January 27, 2014 at 8:30 pm Reply

    Hungry, angry, lonely and tired is a useful acronym to keep an eye on. One of the benefits of AA is the tips of a support group. Well done for spotting your wolf, it’s good to hear you doing well. Take care, xx

    • soberjournalist January 28, 2014 at 8:11 pm Reply

      Thanks – that’s HALT isn’t it? Good advice.

  10. lucy2610 January 27, 2014 at 10:05 pm Reply

    Just out of interest – who was the writer and was it a good lecture? Wolfie sneaks up on us when we least expect it!

    • soberjournalist January 28, 2014 at 8:10 pm Reply

      It was Michael Crick – the writer and political broadcaster. I like him, he’s very cheeky!

  11. Lauren January 28, 2014 at 2:38 am Reply

    I just discovered your website last week and feel like I am reading my own thoughts. I am a 25 year old female who just passed my 2 year sober anniversary (27 months to be exact). I always wanted to write something like you have but find reading it helps me just as much. I had this same exact experience with red wine once with the smell, I will never forget the craving when I am otherwise pretty okay! Going through a tough time right now contemplating drinking again, mostly to feel “normal”, but it seems these feelings come in waves over the past 2 years. Your website came along at the right time! Thank you 🙂

    • soberjournalist January 28, 2014 at 8:08 pm Reply

      Wow congrats on reaching 2 years. So far I’ve found the feeling come in waves too – it’s quite odd really. It’s great to hear from someone younger than me! It’s not easy to be sober in your twenties, when everyone else is drinking. But hey, who wants to follow the crowd? X

  12. Lee Davy January 30, 2014 at 3:21 am Reply

    went to a vegan restaurant tonight. It was a great place with a really cool vibe but I was annoyed that they were serving alcohol. My thought process was as follows: if they are giving up meat & dairy because of the love for animals then fine – offer booze – but if it’s because they are trying to be healthier – well the hypocrisy just drives me nuts.

    Just like you, I tend to see drink everywhere, but I do have different reactions to alcohol than you do, and that’s interesting to me.

    I never crave alcohol and never have. I find in my experience that people who do crave alcohol, after quitting, do so because they are exercising some sort of willpower. I liken this to a diet and it never ends well because you always feel like you are missing out on something.

    You are missing out on nothing.

    Allen Carr’s Easyway to Control Alcohol helped me quit without a single craving and it was the same when I quit smoking. I’m not sure if you have checked it out but if not then I suggest you do as it will really help you avoid these ‘cravings.’

    Lee Davy
    http://www.needyhelper.com

  13. sweetheidi12345 January 30, 2014 at 5:15 am Reply

    I am so glad to have found your blog along with many others I have read tonight. It is encouraging to see read about other peoples victory over alcohol addiction.

  14. Mrs D January 30, 2014 at 9:42 am Reply

    yeah i get annoyed when those thoughts come .. and now what happens is I think to myself ‘oh god am I going to have to blog about this.. people will think I’m dumb to still be having pangs.. I want to be an example of a solidly sober person who cruises through life with no pangs’.. then I think ‘that’s bloody bollocks! we live in a world awash with booze and we’d have to be dead not to have the occasional thought about drinking again.. especially as we used to down the stuff like it was going out of fashion’.. plus a healthy dose of ‘MUST ALWAYS BE HONEST ON MY BLOG!!’ sorry for yelling there. I’ve been out of the sober-sphere loop for a while what with moving house etc.. hope you are well and happy. Great that your blog has found wings and seems to be getting lots more feedback and (hopefully) hits.. it deserves to. You write well and you seem incredibly honest and upfront and real. Hooray for that. Sending love from New Zealand xxx

    • soberjournalist January 30, 2014 at 1:10 pm Reply

      Yes! I know exactly what you mean. I worry that in blogging about the odd pang, I’m making them more of a deal than they really are, and that might put some people off stopping in the first place. But I think you have to be honest, or else what’s the point? I’m fine thanks, just cruising along at the moment, which is a nice place to be. Hope the house move has gone ok and it wasn’t too stressful! xxx

  15. carrieonsober January 31, 2014 at 2:07 pm Reply

    Hope the cravings have passed and Wolfie is back in his box. I have had some pangs for red wines these past couple of weeks, chocolate always helps!
    It’s January, no money, endless rain, not much sunshine, is it any wonder we have a longing for something? It;s just that our brains forget that it’s not actually wine we need or enjoy anymore…
    Wine would make everything worse. Deep breaths, early nights, treats and maybe it’s time to start thinking about the next holiday!
    And January’s almost over…YAY!!!
    Lots of love,
    Carrie x

  16. Anon February 1, 2014 at 11:29 am Reply

    100 days today. Quietly working myself through this and occasionally reading the odd blog to get a bit of inspiration. Thanks for yours. It seems everybody loves an analogy so here’s my contribution, analogyholics beware!  
    Mine is one of a game of KerPlunk. The game as a whole is me, the marbles stuck at the top are each part of my true self and the sticks penetrating through me have found their way in over years of alcohol abuse/dependence whatever you want to call it. It seems as each month goes past a stick or two is removed and, every now and again, a marble falls through and is set free. Sometimes this can come as a bit of a surprise and you find yourself doing or saying something you didn’t think you had within you or just forgot was there! Frightening and liberating at the same time and almost always a positive experience. 
    Not all the sticks have been put there by alcohol I know, some have found their way in through experiences in my younger life and I’ll have to work on ways to remove them over time.
    You probably saw this coming a mile off but I can honestly say I’m slowly loosing my marbles and it’s fantastic!

    • soberjournalist February 1, 2014 at 1:00 pm Reply

      Actually I love the analogy! Congratulations on reaching 100 days! You must be delighted, well done 🙂

    • Lee Davy February 3, 2014 at 5:29 pm Reply

      I too want to say thank you for sharing this analogy as it’s fantastic.

      It’s wonderful to lose your marbles.

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