Tag Archives: alcohol

Spring is around the corner

I cannot believe it’s going to be the 1st of March tomorrow. Where is this year going? February has flown by and I’ve hardly posted at all because things have been busy, busy, busy.

The big thing that happened this month is that I told some real life people about my blog. Eeek. Not just any old people either – my parents. For various reasons, it suddenly felt like the right time to do so. Needless to say, it was a nerve-wracking experience, but all is good. I have been cringing a bit, thinking of the things they have read and subconsciously I think this may have put the brakes on me writing anything else for a while. But all in all, it feels great to be a bit more honest about things. Much of this blog is about drinking in secret and then getting sober in secret. All that secrecy had become a bit of a burden.

In other news, I have a new job. Well, a part-time job to be precise. As some of you will know, I have been trying to change careers for a while, but my biggest problem has been working out exactly what it is I want to do. I don’t want to write off journalism completely, but my current job definitely isn’t right for me anymore. I think stopping drinking has played a big part in me realising that. My new role can mainly be done from home, but it’s part-time enough for me to juggle it with my full-time job, for now at least. Eventually I hope it will provide a bit of a financial cushion if I decide to leave my proper job or take a year out. Who knows?! It feels like I have lots of options.

This past month hasn’t all been hard work. Last week I had a very chilled few days at a fancy spa. It was incredibly posh: think stately home, surrounded by beautiful countryside. I went with a friend and we knew as soon as we arrived that we might be a little out of place because the car park was like a Range Rover showroom. Apparently the spa has a few permanent residents who live there all the time, waited on hand and foot everyday. Can you imagine?!

My friend and I went to the spa primarily to relax, but once we arrived it became obvious that most people go there to lose weight. The food, whilst delicious, was very, very healthy. Everything was fresh and cooked from scratch. There were lots of salads, herbal teas and fruit to snack on. But incredibly, the spa also had a bar. I looked at the menu and noticed it was mainly organic wine and champagne. So no beer or spirits. But still … alcohol? In a wellbeing spa?

We were eating dinner one evening when one of the reception staff came over to our table. There had been a problem with the shower in our room and the receptionist was very apologetic about it. She wanted to get us a complimentary drink from the bar by means of apology. Would we like a glass of champagne, she wondered? My friend, who does drink, said yes. I explained that I didn’t, but that I could murder a Diet Coke or a tonic water. The receptionist looked at me like I’d just asked for a Big Mac and fries. “We don’t serve those kind of drinks here” she replied, shaking her head.

Now I know that diet fizzy drinks, loaded with artificial sweeteners, aren’t the healthiest beverages. But they must be better for you than champagne, which is loaded with empty calories and contains alcohol, a POISON. It was very tempting to point all of this out. But I didn’t. After all, the receptionist was only trying to be nice. So I took a deep breath, ordered a sparkling water and resolved that if I ever went back I’d smuggle some Diet Coke in with me …


When drinking wine is like eating chocolate biscuits

On Friday I had to interview some people who’d taken part in Dry January. Truth be told, the feature was kind of my idea, but I wasn’t expecting to actually have to do it myself. I wasn’t in the mood for talking to people who were about to celebrate their sober success by getting pissed. So when it was assigned to me, I did what I do best and put it off for as long as possible.

I’ve written before about how weird I think the concept of Dry January is. All other public health campaigns encourage people to make a permanent change to their lives. Stoptober is all about stopping smoking, permanently. Change 4 Life encourages healthy eating, forever. But Dry January? It seems to imply that a month of saintly living is enough to counteract 11 months of boozing it up.

Anyway. On Friday afternoon – after taking a long lunch break, sorting through all my emails and making several cups of tea – I finally got round to picking up the phone. Despite my reluctance, chatting to the Dry January-ers was actually quite interesting.

For starters, their enthusiasm was infectious. They’d all lost weight, saved money and slept better. They’d got lots more done on Sundays. They’d realised that it was possible to socialise without drinking. They’d started to think about how much of their drinking was done out of sheer habit. It was all I could do not to chime in with “Well, wait till you get to 10 months, then you really will feel amazing!” But as I was in the office, surrounded by colleagues who still seem to be largely oblivious to my sobriety, I kept my mouth shut.

I was speaking to one lovely lady, Helen, when something clicked for me. I was listening to her talking about her love of white wine when I realised that her relationship with alcohol was about the same as the one I have with chocolate biscuits.

Helen likes a glass of wine when she gets home from work. It makes her feel better. At first she found not drinking hard, because it had become part of her routine. I love chocolate digestives with a cup of tea in the afternoon. But if I’m on a diet (hello January) I’ll try to cut them out altogether. I found that hard to start with, but got into the swing of things after a while. If Helen has a bad day at work, she might have two glasses of wine to cheer herself up. But she’d never drink enough to get a hangover or be incapable of looking after her children. If I’m having a bad afternoon I might have four biscuits instead of two. But as much as I love them, I’m never going to eat the whole packet because I know that would make me feel ill. And eating biscuits doesn’t actually solve anything.

Crucially, I could see that Helen felt her drinking had become a bad habit, one that she was keen to get on top of. But she wasn’t obsessed by alcohol and it didn’t control her.

My relationship with alcohol was very different. Once I had started drinking I could not control my intake. It didn’t matter what I had to do the next day. Once I’d started, I didn’t really care about the consequences. But no matter how much I drank, I never felt truly satisfied or content. Left to my own devices I would drink until I passed out. After a big binge I’d be ‘good’ for a while, but even then, alcohol would still be playing some tune in the background.

I’ve never had that problem with chocolate biscuits.

I guess what I’m trying to say, in a rambling, long-winded kind of way, is that perhaps Dry January is a good thing for people who aren’t problem drinkers, but who have just got into the habit of drinking too much. People who drink wine like I eat chocolate biscuits. I still think some people might misuse it and see it as a wipe-the-slate-clean, magical detox. But there are some good points. And ultimately, anything that promotes sobriety in some shape or another has got to be a good thing, right?

Fake it till you make it

The party invite said:
As everyone is busy in the run-up to Christmas I thought I’d invite you all round in the middle of January when there is bugger all else to do. There will be mince pies and mulled wine and possibly some other vaguely Christmas-y stuff.
But mostly there will be booze and dancing. And games for those that like such things.
A couple of people have asked if partners and friends are welcome. Partners are, of course. As to friends, that’s OK too, though only if they are hot and/or interesting. Remember… BRING BOOZE.
Things like this still make me feel nervous. Not in a “how will I manage not to drink?” way. It’s more of a “am I going to actually enjoy this?” feeling. I’ve written before about the perils of partying sober. Some nights are good – and some aren’t.
One of the things I worry about most is what other people will think about me not drinking. I worry they might think I’m boring. I hate the fact that I worry about what other people think, but I do. I want to be liked. I want to be considered fun. I want to fit in.
The writer who sums this feeling up the best is Sacha Z. Scoblic in her brilliant book My Lush Sobriety. She writes:
“I still felt viscerally close to the life I led as a drinker. I was also acutely aware of my own feeling toward people who didn’t drink: that they were all totally vanilla, uptight squares who wanted me to treat my body like a temple, take Jesus Christ as my savior and drink Kool-Aid with them at mixers in church basements….”
“….So now that I was sober, I blurted out things like, “Don’t worry, I’m still fun!” even though what I was really thinking was: “Don’t even for a minute think I’m vanilla because the truth is I am so hard core I had to quit. I drank so much it was a matter of life and death. I’m like a rock star compared with you. In fact, maybe you should just call me Sid Vicious from now on. You should look at me with a touch of fear and awe because you would quiver to think about the amount of rotgut I’ve ingested over the years. So step off with your preconceived notions, O.K.?”
The party was last night.
On my way there I decided to try a little experiment. I decided to pretend to be the version of myself that I used to be after a glass or two of wine. You know – when you’ve had just enough to make you confident, chatty and relaxed. When you’re feeling a bit tipsy but aren’t yet slurring and making passes at married men.

Well, it worked. Pretty soon I wasn’t pretending to have a good time, I genuinely was having fun. As other people really did get tipsy, the good-time feeling rubbed off on me. I didn’t hide the fact that I was on soft drinks, but I didn’t stand in the corner radiating shy sobriety either (I have done that in the past). I’d brought with me some nice cordials and soft drinks that I knew I would be happy to drink all night. I was also one of the few people who thought to bring any food and that turned out to be very welcome.

The only thing that would have made the night better would’ve been the presence of some straight men. Honestly, I’ve never seen so many gorgeous but gay men in one room. Big sigh. Anyway as I went to leave my friend Yuan said “hope you get home safely and don’t feel too hungover tomorrow….” He was so surprised when I said I hadn’t been drinking at all.
It was – as always – great to wake up without a hangover today. I got up really late and feel as if I’ve had quite a lazy day, but actually I’ve still done a big supermarket shop, two loads of washing, some ironing, tidied the flat, made lasagne and I’ve written this. If I’d woken up with a hangover today I would probably still be in my pyjamas, surrounded by all the clothes I tried on last night but threw on the floor.

A crazy couple of days

Last month I was contacted out of the blue by a BBC journalist who had read my post ‘Almost Alcoholic‘. She was writing an article about the same thing and wondered if she could interview me. We chatted on the phone for a while and then I forgot all about it. As a journalist myself I know that not everyone you speak to makes the final edit. Stories often get dropped or overtaken by other news. So it was a bit of a surprise when I woke up on yesterday morning to find lots of emails and comments from people who’d read this:

I think it’s a great, thought-provoking article, published at just the right time. I know that right now, in the second week of January, there will be thousands of people wondering (and worrying) about their relationship with alcohol. These are people who looked at the wine glass in their hand on New Year’s Eve and vowed to cut down on their alcohol consumption. Perhaps they decided to sign up for charity events such as Alcohol Concern’s Dry January or Cancer Research UK’s Dryathlon. That’s what I did last year. I lasted a whole 7 days before I fell off the wagon. I was too ashamed to tell anyone. Lots of my friends were also doing it and they seemed to be having an easy-peasy time staying sober. Having ‘liked’ Dry January on Facebook my news feed was filled with irritating, “You-can-do-it!” type posts, which I read everyday, whilst drinking and googling “Am I an alcoholic?”
As a result of the BBC article I’ve gained quite a few new followers and I wanted to say a little hello. Thanks for reading my blog and I really hope it helps in some way. I clearly remember the first sober blog I stumbled across. It was by Unpickled and it was a real ‘ah ha’ moment for me. I sat down, read every post and somehow, something just clicked. So to all the new people, I wanted to say a couple of things.
Firstly and most importantly, being sober is great. If you want to lose weight, sleep better, feel happier and be more confident, then trust me, sobriety will look good on you. Last May I wrote a list of why sobriety rocks. I’m now nine months sober and I could definitely add a few more things to that list.
Not all of my posts are sweetness and light. So if you’re new here, please don’t let any of my slightly downbeat posts put you off. I write honestly about my experiences and in the past nine months I have sometimes found it hard to be young, single and sober in the boozy world we live in. I’ve had to learn how to live life without an off switch. That’s not always easy. And I’ve had to work out how to actually deal with my emotions, rather than just anesthetizing myself with a bottle of wine. But you know, as far as downsides go, that’s been about it. The only other thing I can think of is that I can’t wear really high heels on nights out anymore. Without wine, they start to feel uncomfortable very quickly. And that’s annoying because I have a lot of beautiful shoes.
There are a couple of things that have really helped me get this far. I would highly recommend Jason Vale’s book “Kick the Drink, Easily”. The Allen Carr book is also good. I actually went to a stop drinking seminar at one of his clinics which you can read about here. Every week I listen to the Bubble Hour podcast because it’s brilliant. I read lots of blogs, as you can see from my blogroll. Last, but not least, at the very beginning I took part in Belle’s 100 day sobriety challenge. If you go to her site here you will find out all about sober cars and dehydrating the Wolf. The challenge goes against the AA ‘one day at a time’ way of living but hey, I’m just telling you what worked for me. Once I realised that I needed to make a long-term, permanent change to my drinking habits I found the idea of stopping for a hundred days much less scary than the idea of stopping ‘forever’.
Talking of AA, what the BBC article doesn’t mention is that I actually went back to AA last summer for about a month. I had a much better experience the second time round and met some truly wonderful people. So it’s kind of hard to explain why I stopped going. I guess it just didn’t feel quite right and I didn’t feel like I really needed it because I was getting all the support I needed online. But I know lots of other people who blog and go to AA. So each to their own.
I am going to end this post with a link to a video that I’ve posted before but it always makes me smile: Sh*t normies say to 12 steppers
If you’re sober you will relate to a lot of it  (even if you’re not part of a 12 step programme… ) 

Here’s to a happy and sober 2014

Just checking in to wish you all a Happy New Year. I hope Christmas was good? I know I wasn’t the only one facing my first sober Christmas and on the whole I’m pleased to report it went pretty well.

There were a few challenges, as I knew there would be. There was some not-drinking awkwardness on Christmas Day when a relative handed me a glass of champagne. As everyone else raised their glasses and took a long sip I thought “Is this some kind of test? Or have they all just forgotten?” It turned out it was the latter. I didn’t want to make a scene and dithered over what to do for ages. In the end I left my glass untouched but no one seemed to notice.

I had a couple of pangs. I guess this was inevitable, especially as Christmas has always been a time that I’ve associated with drinking a lot and being ‘merry’. On Boxing Day I woke up looking forward to another day of eating and drinking, before remembering that I wouldn’t be drinking. Doh. Later we were eating delicious smoked salmon and I could have murdered a glass of white wine to go with the food. Everyone else seemed to be enjoying theirs.

Fortunately those cravings came and went pretty quickly and waking up the next day without a hangover more than made up for them. I tried not to dwell on the wolfie thoughts whenever I did hear them. In fact that is my new way of dealing with Wolfie. I don’t think about what he has to say until the next day. So far I have never woken up following morning and thought ‘gosh I should have listened to that voice telling me I was missing out by not drinking. I really wish I’d had a drink last night….’

It was great to feel ‘present’ around my family, rather than obsessing over where and when the next drink was coming from. I think I ate less and I was definitely less grumpy. All in all, being sober at Christmas was, well, not a big deal really. And I mean that in a good way. For me, alcohol had been such a huge part of the festive period that I couldn’t imagine what it would be like without it. When I tried repeatedly in 2012 to stop drinking one of my big stumbling points had been my birthday and Christmas. I just couldn’t imagine how I could ever have fun or be able to celebrate without alcohol.

I’ve been writing some New Year’s resolutions today and have been rereading last year’s list in the process. I’d totally forgotten about half of them (“be able to do 30 proper press ups by the time I turn 30” – what was I thinking?!) but there’s one I clearly remember writing: “stop drinking home alone”. With hindsight that sounds like a goal made by someone who knew she had a problem but was desperately trying to find a way to carry on drinking. Well, I think I’ve smashed that target. Sure, it took me until April to get round to it, but I had never imagined I’d stop drinking altogether. My alcohol related resolution for this year is to stay sober for the whole of 2014. Bring it on!

A Christmas food question

They say the average person consumes 7,000 calories on Christmas day. I’m not surprised. One of my favourite things about Christmas (aside from all the presents) is the food. In my family we eat the same thing every single year. It absolutely has to be turkey, with pigs in blankets, roast potatoes, stuffing, gravy, the works. All washed down with lots of red wine, of course. The turkey is followed by Christmas pudding, doused in brandy and served with brandy sauce. By late afternoon everyone will be passed out in a food coma watching crap TV. But as if by magic, a few hours later we’ll find room for cheese and biscuits, Christmas cake and half a tub of Quality Street.

No wonder I can never fit into my skinny jeans come January 1st.

Obviously this year I’ll be skipping the champagne breakfast, buckets of red wine and G&Ts. And that’s fine. I don’t feel like I’m missing out. Not at all. To be honest, the combination of all that food and alcohol made me feel unpleasantly drowsy and uncomfortable. By the afternoon I’d have a headache and would start feeling annoyed with everyone.

So I’m actually looking forward to not drinking this year. My question is this: what about the food?

I love Christmas pudding and Christmas cake, but are they off the menu now? I think the pudding probably is. It’s covered in brandy and set alight just before serving, so I don’t think the alcohol is burnt off properly. What about the Christmas cake? Made in November, it is topped up with brandy in late December.

On the other hand, what’s the big deal about consuming alcohol in food? It’s not going to get me drunk. I’d be sick before I got at all tipsy. But will it reignite my taste for alcohol? Until now I have avoided food with alcohol in like the plague. I don’t even buy mouthwash with alcohol in it, just in case.

I don’t want to feel like I’m missing out. My mum always serves the same food on Christmas day – it’s tradition. So I can’t just say “let’s have chocolate cake instead this year”. Anyway, I don’t want to kick up a fuss. It’s taken my family a while to get their heads round the fact that I don’t drink now. But not eating certain foods? I’m not sure they’ll understand that and I’m not sure I want to miss out.

Some sober awesomeness

I am writing this on the train home from London because I want to get this happy, sober feeling down on paper. This is a post for all the lurkers, who read my blog and wonder, should I stop drinking? Will it be worth it? Will I ever have fun again? Yes. The answer is yes.

I spent this weekend catching up with two of my oldest friends and I had such a brilliant time. When I first stopped drinking they were surprised but supportive. I don’t think they really understand why I had to stop, but they have always been totally fine about my decision.

Last night we got dressed up and tottered out in our highest heels for drinks at a bar in London Bridge, followed by dinner at the Shard. It is eye-wateringly expensive but I’ve wanted to go there ever since it opened. Even in the dark the view is amazing!


About half way through the meal, it struck me that I was having a brilliant time, sober. Not a brilliant time despite being sober, but because I was sober. A year ago I’d have found an evening like last night to be very frustrating. The 2012 version of me would have knocked back a large glass of wine at the bar, prompting me to crave more. I’d have joined my friends for a cocktail and would have convinced them to order a bottle of wine with the food. All night I’d be trying not to drink too fast. My eyes would be trained on the bottle but I’d be careful not to look bothered. I’d let someone else top the glasses up but when they weren’t looking I’d steal sneaky glances at every glass, to check I hadn’t been short-changed.

I’d find it hard to focus on the conversation or the food because I’d be so consumed by the feeling of not getting enough. It was miserable really. Last night it was so refreshing to not be worrying about all of that. When my friends ordered cocktails, I had a fresh cranberry juice and it tasted delicious. (I noticed they didn’t order any other booze after that, not even a small glass of wine). The food was superb and when the dessert menu came round I ordered a huge chocolate brownie, because fuck it, I can. I felt relaxed and happy.

I went to bed tired and slept like a baby. I woke up this morning feeling great. After catching up on Strictly Come Dancing (compulsory viewing) my friend K convinced me to go with her to a Sunday morning meditation class. I’m not really into that kind of thing but the new, open-minded me decided to give it a go. I found it quite hard to calm my racing brain – this might something I need to practice – but it was an hour well spent.

The 2012 version of me would have made my excuses and left London much earlier this afternoon. I’d need to get home so I could drink properly. Only I wouldn’t actually be able to wait until I got home. Inevitably I’d end up in M&S, buying those miniature bottles of wine and G&Ts in a can. I’d drink them on the train whilst listening to my iPod, hoping no one would notice. 

Sad isn’t it? I’m glad I don’t do that anymore. Tonight I am going to buy something nice to eat on my way home, have a bath and then go to bed. I have a lot to do over the next few days, starting with a spin class in the morning. I like this new me.