Tag Archives: 100 day challenge

No highs, no lows

Yesterday Carrie wrote a great post about missing the chaos of drinking. When I read it I realised that this was something that’d been niggling away at me. Like Carrie, I sometimes miss the recklessness and sheer abandonment of getting totally shit faced. Plus, drinking was my hobby. It filled my time as well as conveniently helping me experience and process a range of different emotions. It was there when I wanted to celebrate and it was there when I was sad, or stressed, or bored. Without alcohol life sometimes feels a bit empty. Even though all these great things have happened since I stopped, and I don’t have any real urge to drink, life feels a bit boring at times.

I’m sure I read somewhere that when you quit drinking the lows stop being so low and the highs are even higher. Well so far I haven’t really found that. I’m just going steady, somewhere in the middle. So yeah, the lows aren’t as low but where are the highs?

The other thing is that since I’ve stopped drinking I can’t really let myself just ‘be’. I’d quite like to spend a whole day in my pyjamas watching crap TV but because I used to do that whilst knocking back wine, I don’t want to tempt fate by doing it sober. I don’t want to risk getting bored because that seems a bit dangerous. So like some weirdo control freak I plan what I’m going to do on my days off. Even when I haven’t got much on I’ll work out exactly when I’m going to do things like go the gym and will mentally create a little schedule for the day.

I guess drinking just disguised a lot of the little holes in my life but now I can’t hide from anything. I have to actually experience every single emotion. And all this endless self-analysis is a bit of a bummer sometimes. Sometimes I’d just like to not think.

Doing too much?

I finally have a few days off work and boy, do I need a break. I’ve worked eight out of the last ten days, all twelve hour shifts, and it’s been pretty manic following the tornado earlier this week and the terror attack in London yesterday.

I wouldn’t normally work so many days in a row but I was offered the overtime and I thought the extra money would come in handy. Before I stopped drinking, I was always reluctant to take on extra work. This is because a) working interfered with my plans to drink and b) I never had the energy. I felt I needed all my time off just to stay sane.

Since I’ve stopped drinking I’ve had so much more energy and most of the time I feel very strong, like I can do anything. I can’t think of another way to describe it. Last month, when I went to a stop drinking seminar, one of the things that really struck a chord with me was when the therapist described problem drinkers as ‘strong willed’. He argued that you have to be pretty strong and determined to put up with the hangovers, the tiredness and the problems that drinking creates in your life. I really liked this description because it’s so different from the qualities we normally associate with boozers. And it’s so true. You do have to be pretty hardcore to go to work with an epic hangover and act like you’re totally fine.

In all aspects of my life I’ve started saying ‘yes’ more often, whether it be taking on extra shifts or going out with friends. ‘No’ tended to be my default answer before. In the past I’ve turned down nights out because I’d already planned to get wasted on my own. What a loser…

On the whole, this new ‘can do’ attitude is a good thing. It’s just that this week that I’ve done a bit too much. I’ve not slept enough and tiredness has chiselled away at the logical part of my brain.  Fortunately I haven’t had any urges to drink this week, but I’m not sure what would’ve happened if I did. My sober car has been plodding along without driver.

So I think the lesson for me has been that I can’t take things for granted. Just because things have gone ok so far I still need to be nice to myself. I need to get enough rest, eat properly, exercise and do my ‘sober homework’ (basically – reading blogs and listening to downloads of the Bubble Hour). And that’s exactly what I’m going to do today.

Sobriety rocks

I cannot believe it’s been six weeks since my last drink! I haven’t been sober for this long since… 2002? That’s when I left sixth form and discovered alcohol properly. I’ve had a few sober stints here and there. I managed a month in August 2011. Last year there were a couple of booze free fortnights and several ‘detox’ weeks. At the start of this year I decided to have a dry January. Even though the whole world seemed to be having a month off the booze, I didn’t make it past the second week.

What has made it different this time? I’m not sure. Maybe I’d reached that point where enough was enough. The 100 day challenge has made a huge difference. It’s such a brilliant idea. A hundred days is do-able and much less scary than giving up ‘forever’. By the end of the challenge I know I will have some distance between me and alcohol. Like splitting up from a toxic but long-term boyfriend, alcohol and I need a trial separation first.

Since I’ve stopped drinking, I’ve noticed lots of changes and benefits – some big, some small. Some days it’s easy to take it all for granted and forget how things used to be just a few short weeks ago. So here’s my list of all the things I love about not drinking. It’s a work in progress. Let me know what’s on yours.

Money: I had no idea how much I was spending on alcohol because I tended to pick up a bottle of wine here and there. It’s still hard to put an exact figure on it, but nights out + plus several bottles of wine a week, (and all the extras that came with that, like taxis, takeaways and days off work) were a real drain on my finances.  

Skin: It’s taken a while, but my skin is looking much clearer. I never have a puffy face and my eyes are brighter.

Weight: Two people have asked me if I’ve lost weight! I’m back in my skinny jeans so I don’t really mind that the scales say I’ve only lost two pounds….

Sleep: I get eight hours solid every night. No more waking up at 4am for me. I love my bed.  

Eating better: I always liked cooking pretty healthy food but could never be bothered. Now I think about what I’d like to eat and I actually go to the supermarket before the fridge is empty. Just like a real grown up.  

I get things done: I’ve always been a list maker, but I was also a great procrastinator. I love getting things crossed off my to-do list. 

More energy: This must be linked to the sleep/food thing. 

I feel happier: I’d noticed that drinking made me feel very depressed the day after a big binge. But I’d almost got used to the constant stream of negativity that ran through my head every single day. If I wasn’t worrying about drinking I was hating myself, feeling guilty and disgusted at my lack of control. Getting rid of all that noise has been pretty amazing.

Memory: I can actually remember the plot lines on TV shows so I don’t have to keep watching the same episodes twice!

Time: This is a big one for me. It feels like finally, there are 24 hours in a day. Drinking steals time from you. There’s the time you waste when you’re thinking about drinking, the blurry hours lost in drunkeness and the time spent recovering from it all. That process can swallow up days at a time. How I ever got anything done I will never know…

The things drink makes us do…

keep calm2

I was going into my flat yesterday just as my neighbour was coming out. He caught me by surprise. I’ve not heard a sound from next door recently so I actually thought he’d moved out. I didn’t make eye contact. We don’t these days – not since the night I tried to kick his door in.

Yes, that’s right – well brought up, polite, middle class me, tried to kick his door down a few months ago. I think it was in February. I was, you guessed it, drunkety drunk drunk drunk. He’d been playing his music too loud, again. All I could hear was the pounding bass, booming from a speaker I’m sure he deliberately pointed at my wall. 

During January and February I’d knocked on his door countless times to ask him to turn it down (nicely). He always would, begrudgingly, before eventually turning it back up again. Anyway, this one night I’d been drinking, home alone, and I just lost it. I went absolutely nuts. I banged on the wall that separates our two flats and yelled SHUT UP! To which he replied F**K OFF! So I marched myself round to his door and rather than knocking I started kicking it, again and again and again.

I can only imagine what I looked like, in my spotty dressing gown, pink pyjamas and slippers. When he finally opened the door we had a screaming match in the corridor which ended in me yelling “I HATE YOU, YOU’RE RUINING MY LIFE!”. So, just a tad over dramatic there. 

Maybe he was drunk too. Maybe he’s also ashamed of the way he behaved. But he doesn’t play his music loudly anymore. He doesn’t make eye contact with me either.

Although this particular outburst was very out of character for me, it’s fair to say drinking made me more angry, compulsive, reckless. I did lots of stupid things when drunk. Even when I was sober I was irritable and prone to rash decisions. I used to think I was just being ‘honest’ but actually I was just grumpy and negative. My Dad once said to me that he thought I took after his mother, because I always see the glass half empty. That hurt, particularly as he was right. 

I’m not saying that I’ve come over all zen like and calm since I stopped drinking. Not at all. But I am much better at controlling anger and stepping back. I still bash out angry emails to people when I’m annoyed. I just don’t send them. I wait until the next day, when I’ve calmed down. In general, I feel much more positive about life. Drinking made me feel so depressed the day after. Taking away those dark, hung over days has made a huge difference to my overall mood. Will I ever become a glass half full person? I hope so…

Adjusting to life as a non drinker

To what extent should you change other parts of your life when you stop drinking? I was thinking about this in a club late last night, as I pretended to be having a great time, dancing away with the rest of the hen party I was with. The evening had been pretty hard work. There’d been drinks in a bar, a meal and then dancing. I only knew about half the group so there was a lot of small talk to start with. Quickly, everyone else bonded over wine and rounds of shots. Booze is great at making strangers the best of friends. Without alcohol, I did not feel that fake intimacy. There was nothing to numb the pain from my high heels. I wasn’t interested in any of the sweaty men in the club. I wasn’t really in the mood to dance. I felt very, very tired. Oh god, I thought. Have I become boring?

I think some people would say I shouldn’t have gone last night. It was always going to be an evening that revolved around alcohol. But I knew I’d be able to handle it and I did. If I’d been having a bad day, or was unsure of my ability to turn down a drink I wouldn’t have gone. Early on I decided to tell a few people about the 100 day challenge and they said very little about it. The only person who really didn’t get it was the bride-to-be, who got so drunk she kept forgetting what I’d told her. We had the “come on, just have one…” conversation about three times.

I’d been determined to go last night. To be honest, I think I was on some mission to try and prove that being sober doesn’t have to stop me living a normal life and joining in with my friends. I am still a fun person who can party with the best of them. I am. Aren’t I?

The problem is, the new me just doesn’t seem to like clubbing anymore. I loathe any event that’s just an excuse to drink. Which is a bit of a problem seen as drinking is our national pastime. Some of my oldest, closest friends are big drinkers. It’s their hobby, just as it was mine.

Over the past few weeks I’ve found it very hard to predict how a night out is going to go. Sometimes, I can meet friends in the pub or go to a house party and have a brilliant time. Slightly drunk friends can be funny and great company and often they don’t notice that I’m not drinking. But other times they really, really aren’t nice to be around. They can boring and repetitive and I sit there feeling excluded and resentful. 

What is the solution to this? I’m not sure. Do I get a bunch of new, sober friends and ditch all the old ones? Unlikely. Maybe I just need to get better at working out what makes a good night and what makes a bad one.

A few days with family

So after making the big Not Drinking announcement on Sunday, it wasn’t really mentioned again, not in any significant way. Still, something felt different and I can’t really explain why. I felt a bit antsyWhen I go back to my parents I usually feel like I’m escaping for a bit, like I’m on holiday. They live in the middle of nowhere, on the edge of a farm. The house is surrounded by fields, woods and a lake. There are horses, pigs, sheep and some very free range hens who wander all over the place. You can’t get a decent mobile phone signal. Their internet connection is really slow. Normally I like all of this. But this time I felt a bit too removed from the safe, sober bubble I’ve created in my normal, day-to-day life.

Will this feeling change over time? I hope so.

In other ways, the trip home was a success. Not drinking changed my behaviour and I felt more ‘present’, if that makes sense. I wasn’t obsessing about how much wine I had left in my glass, which meant I could focus more on everyone else. I was more patient with my sister and her idiot boyfriend. I didn’t need to make crafty suggestions like “let’s sit outside before dinner” which actually meant “let’s have a few beers before we eat”.

I didn’t spend hours upstairs in my room drinking on my own. Even typing that sentence makes me feel a bit sad. Who goes home to visit family only to shut themselves away? In recent years I started bringing my own supply of alcohol home with me and at the time it honestly seemed like the logical thing to do: if I had my own supply then it didn’t matter how much I drank with everyone else. I didn’t need to worry if my glass wasn’t refilled at dinner.

Sad isn’t it? That’s not even the worst part. My own, personal supply would nearly always run out. Not having a car and with no shops nearby, this would leave me with no option but to steal some from the wine cupboard. It didn’t matter what it was. I’d pour it into a glass and run upstairs with it, instantly feeling better because I knew it was there if I needed it. What kind of 29-year-old does that? I can’t believe I never got caught.

So… in summary, a tricky few days. I wanted to drink more than I have at any other point during the last 32 days. But I didn’t. At times it felt like it would be easier just to start drinking again. I must keep reminding myself that’s not actually true. It’s just the little voice in my head, the alcoholic devil on my shoulder trying to trip me up.