Tag Archives: alcohol

Hello from Kenya

Just thought I’d write a quick update to let you know the latest from me. It’s been a while since my last post because I had a busy week or so getting ready to come on holiday.

Below is the view from my balcony. I’m finally here, near Malindi in Kenya, doing a holiday that I started saving for right after I decided to stop drinking. I can’t claim it’s been entirely funded by booze money but not drinking has played a huge role in getting me here.

This is a holiday of two parts: firstly a fitness break on the coast and later a safari in the Masai Mara. I’m half way through the fitness bit. It’s not a bootcamp by any means (there’s no yelling and no one is forced to do anything) but it’s fair to say every bit of my body aches! The food is super healthy but delicious – lots of fresh fruit, fish and veg. Last night we had chocolate mousse made from cocoa and avocado (weird I know) but honestly, it tasted like the real deal.

I got into fitness holidays whilst I was still drinking as I knew I needed to give my body a break. I never had any problems stopping whilst I was away and I always came back feeling amazing, determined not to let my good habits slip… But within a day or two I’d have found a reason to drink again. So it’s nice to come away this time knowing I’m not running away from anything (apart from a bit of a sugar addiction)

I’ve spent the last few days running, climbing, swinging from monkey bars and swimming. In fact yesterday we swam 3.8km out to an island. To a runner like me, a few km didn’t sound that far but it really was! I thought about giving up half way through but pride wouldn’t let me. Plus we were in the middle of the sea, so quitting wasn’t really an option…

I thought that whilst I was away I’d have a break from blogging and even thinking about sober stuff, but it hasn’t worked out that way. I couldn’t believe it when I got on the plane and ended up sat next to a man reading a book called ‘I Need To Stop Drinking’. (I was reading his kindle out of the corner of my eye). It looked a good book, from what I could read. Then, when the air hostess came round guess what he ordered? A glass of wine! I smiled to myself because I for one read plenty of those kind of books whilst still drinking. I really wanted to say something and had to resist the urge to launch into a big ‘you can do it!’ type speech.

Three flights and a two hour taxi ride later I arrived at the hotel to meet the other people doing the same fitness course. As we’re chatting one of the guys tells me he’s not had a drink for two weeks in preparation for the course. I nod in agreement but don’t say anything. Then, without prompting, he starts to tell me how he thinks he drinks too much. How moderating is so hard, etc etc, and after a while it seemed weird not to tell him about my history. So there I am, jet lagged, in a foreign country, telling a complete stranger how I quit. He had lots of questions and being able to help him made me feel great. I felt like some kind of ambassador for the sober club.

The other funny thing about being here, in the middle of nowhere, is that I don’t have a phone signal most of the time, but I can get wifi! I’m trying not to check Facebook or my emails too much but it’s been great to know I can still read blogs. My support system is still in place.

After I leave here I really am going to the middle of nowhere, to a lodge powered by a generator for two hours a day. So my next post will probably be from England…

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Half marathon: done

run to the beat

As I lined up at the start I thought “why am I doing this?” As I ran the final few miles – which were uphill – I thought “I am never doing this again…” But guess what. By the time I was on my way home (wearing my medal like I’d just won gold at the Olympics) I started to think “Weeeell it wasn’t that hard. Maybe I should do another one to try and improve on my time…”

Gotta love that thinking.

Now the question I’ve been asking myself is: Would I have been able to run a half marathon if I’d still been drinking? I’d like the answer to be no (because that would be much more satisfying and frankly, a better post) but I suspect that I would’ve made it, just. I’ve white-knuckled my way round races before.

Last December, in the middle of the party season, I ran a very hilly 10 mile race. I’d not been drinking the night before but I had drunk a lot in the days leading up to it. In fact I hadn’t done much training at all as I was arrogant enough to think I’d be able to wing it. Look at me. I can drink and still stay fit. There’s nothing wrong with me. I’d not bothered to research the race so the never-ending hills were a surprise. I did manage to cross the finish line but needless to say it was a painful experience.

Yesterday felt different. Yes, it was tough and I was nervous, but I felt quietly confident that I could do it. I had prepared for it. I had done the training, I’d put the work in. I just had to put everything into practice. When I was drinking I always had lots of big ideas (I think I signed up to the half marathon before I quit) but I rarely saw them through to the finish or if I did I was very half hearted about it. 

On a slightly different note, a weird thing happened to me on Saturday night. For the first time in ages I had huge wobble about whether I should stay sober.   

As the race was in London – and I live in the north – I stayed overnight with an old school friend. We were making dinner when wine came up in conversation and I told her that I’d stopped drinking in April.  

So far, no big deal. I’ve told lots of people that I don’t drink anymore and I usually give them a brief but honest explanation. This time I found myself telling big fat lies. I ended up saying I’d quit as part of a running related health kick because I’d started to ‘react badly’ to alcohol. (“React badly”? WTF?! Talk about an understatement) I certainly implied it wasn’t a permanent thing. 

Later, as we talked about my birthday plans (next month) I found myself actually believing the lie that I’d told earlier. My friend said: you can’t celebrate your birthday without a drink! Once the race is over the health kick will be too, right? And I found myself thinking the same. It wasn’t just a craving or a fleeting thought – it was a full on “why have I stopped drinking? I can’t remember” type moment. That uncomfortable feeling lasted the rest of the evening and I was relieved to have the race as an excuse to go to bed early. I crawled into bed to read some blogs and try and sort my head out.

I woke up feeling fine and the night before felt like an odd dream. Still, it’s bugging me. It strikes me that the longer you’re sober the easier it is not to drink. But the further you get away from your last drink the harder it is to remember all the downsides.

I think on Saturday night two things happened: firstly I chickened out of telling one of my oldest friends the truth, probably because it would hurt if she reacted badly. Secondly, I got caught up romanticising the idea of going out like a ‘normal’ person.  The truth is, drinking with my normie friends was never very satisfying as they never drank nearly enough. They don’t drink to feel numb or sink into oblivion. That’s how I drank. They drink to feel tipsy and silly and to celebrate a special occasion – and I am still a bit jealous that I can’t do that.

Stop drinking, save electricity

Thanks for all the comments on my last blog. I am feeling much better. I suppose in the grand scale of things I was never feeling that bad, because lets face it, a couple of bad sober days are never as bad as drunk, hungover ones… But still, it’s good to be out of that place.

One thing that kept me going when everything else failed was the idea of having to reset my sobriety app. Honestly, it’s ridiculous how much I love that app. It really appeals to the perfectionist in me and I would hate to go back to Day 1. I’ve always been the kind of person who does something really well or not at all. (So I suspect if I did relapse I’d apply the same logic and would go on a huge bender).

Sometimes I forget to check the app for a while, or I work nights and get a bit lost with the days, and it’s always so nice to check it and see that it’s just been quietly counting away. (Day 120 by the way)

I am reading the Sober Revolution by Lucy Rocca at the moment (thanks for the suggestion Lily). Lucy set up Soberistas – a website I stumbled across last December. It was one of those ‘ah ha’ moments when I realised that other people drank exactly the way I did and were worried about it too. In fact some people seemed to drink less than me but they’d decided to stop anyway. It was enlightening.  

Lucy’s book is really, really good and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s thinking of stopping drinking, or who needs a reminder of why it’s a brilliant thing to do. I love the way she compares alcohol to a bad boyfriend – you keep going back for more even though he’s making you feel like shit.

Here’s a piece of good news to end on. A few days ago I got my electricity bill for May to the beginning of August (I pay mine quarterly). I was sorting it out online when I noticed that it was thirty quid cheaper than last year’s bill. Same flat, exact same time period, same payment plan. In fact I think if anything, electricity bills have gone up since then, haven’t they?

Probably after I’ve posted this I’ll remember that I got rid of some huge, energy guzzling appliance in April… But I’m sure I didn’t. And I haven’t suddenly become really energy conscious. I went away for a week in June, but I did that last year too. Last summer the weather was rubbish but I didn’t have the heating on or anything like that. So there can only be one conclusion folks: getting sober reduces your electricity bills.

When I was drunk I did have a habit of putting things in the (electric) oven and then passing out, waking much later to discover burnt food. I’d also have the TV on for hours and hours. I was either drinking and watching TV or I was slumped in front of it hungover, watching mindless rubbish.

Nowadays I actually remember to turn the oven off. I don’t watch as much crap TV either. My newfound ability to Get Things Done means that even if I’m at home all evening I probably won’t sit in front of the TV all night because I’ll have other things to do.

So, there you have it – one benefit you probably hadn’t considered before!

A step closer to the truth

I can’t imagine ever having the confidence to shout about my sobriety but the other night I made some progress. I went out for dinner with a friend from university. I lived with R for several years and she’s one of the few people I’ve kept in touch with since graduating. I only live a short train ride from the city we studied in, but for some reason I don’t go back there very often.
 
I arrived a bit early so had time to wander round on my own first. It was nice, walking around in the sunshine past all our old haunts; the cheap bars, the pubs … the dodgy clubs.
 
I tend to look back fondly on my student days, which is odd as they weren’t always that great. I spent a lot of time feeling like I didn’t quite fit in. I remember wondering if I’d picked the right subject or chosen the wrong university because something wasn’t right, but I could never put my finger on it. A few days after I graduated I bumped into a girl from my course and she told me she wished she’d got to know me better. It pretty much summed up my time there: I wished I’d done it better, got more involved, been more present.
 
At uni I considered my drinking to be fairly normal, carefree even. I was surrounded by people who liked going out and drinking a lot (hardly surprising, but whilst they would grow out of it, I would not). Even then I was always the one who could drink the most and I would often drink alone before we went out. I kept bottles of gin in my laundry basket, but thought nothing of it.
 
Anyway – back to the other night. The first thing R said to me was “I need a glass of wine – it’s been that kind of day”. I felt a pang of sadness. We’d been great drinking buddies. As students we drank cheap shots and pints of lager and blackcurrant (classy stuff). A decade later we’d moved on to nice wine and fancy cocktails. The alcohol was more expensive but the principal was the same: booze = good times.
 
As she dithered over whether to get wine, or a cocktail, or maybe a beer I found myself saying, “Well I’m not drinking at the moment so I’ll probably just have a diet coke but you go ahead and have some wine … ” That was new territory for me. The last few times I’ve been in that kind of situation I’ve mumbled something about being on a diet or having a headache or something.

I could see R was surprised, but she was totally fine about it. I mean, totally fine. That threw me a bit and I volunteered a lot of information that I probably didn’t need to. I’d been so prepared for the “WHAT do you mean you’re not drinking?!” response that I’d had from other people that I kept rambling on, saying things like, “I just felt I was drinking too much… it’s very easy to do that when you live on your own… It was making me feel so depressed and I feel so much better now …. I’m not sure how long I’m going to keep it up for but I don’t really have an end date in mind…”

So I missed out the gory details but it was much, much more than I’d told anyone else. Later in the conversation we even got talking about the reaction other people have to teetotalers and how some people think you’re boring if you don’t drink. I thought R might say something like, “well I’m not surprised you’ve stopped because I always thought you drank a lot” but even if she was thinking that she is far too nice to say such a thing. I have a vivid memory of her coming into my room one night in our final year and spotting two bottles of red wine by my bed. I remember her saying something like “when have you been drinking those?” and being really baffled as to why I’d drink red wine in my room.

Her reaction was a nice surprise because some people haven’t been so tolerant. It’s been a while since I’ve got any real grief over not drinking (partly because I’ve been avoiding those kind of situations) and I think I’d started to blow things all out of proportion in my head. It’s nice to know that not everyone is going to be a total jerk about it. Maybe I have changed too? I feel more comfortable being sober. I’m secretly really proud of it … so I am not prepared to take any shit from anyone who has a problem with it …

Cleaning and complaining

I’ve been in bad mood these past few days. I feel really, really annoyed about not being able to drink. The pink clouds have gone. Although I’ve been focused on the 100 day challenge, in the back of my mind I’ve always wanted this to be a more permanent decision. Suddenly, the idea of not drinking ever again is depressing.

The weather is great and the rest of the world is sunbathing in beer gardens. I hate them. I turn on the TV and everyone is opening bottles of white wine. Two friends got married last weekend and Facebook is awash with pictures of them clutching glasses of champagne.

As someone who doesn’t have a boyfriend, never mind a potential husband, maybe it is a little ridiculous to worry about how I won’t be able to have champagne on my big day. And with my logical hat on, I know that being sober would not stop me having a magical wedding. But still.

I keep thinking – was my drinking really that bad? Cos it definitely wasn’t as bad as some people’s. I have what you might call a high bottom. I never got caught drink driving, I never lost a job and I never ended up in a police station. I just quietly got shit faced on my own.

It occurred to me today that if you told me I could never eat chocolate again I’d be pretty gutted. I love the stuff. I’m not addicted to chocolate but I’d really miss it. I’d probably think about it a lot and obsess about it. Therefore, the fact that I have wine on the brain doesn’t necessarily mean that I have a problem. Right?

I guess the difference between my passion for chocolate and my passion for alcohol is that chocolate has never caused me any problems. I have never called in sick at work, passed out on the sofa or done things I don’t remember after eating too much chocolate. I have never started eating chocolate and found myself unable to stop. I’ve never stumbled around looking for a late night chocolate shop.These are the kind of random, swirly, angry thoughts I’ve been having this week. Big old pity party for one. Turns out anger makes me pretty good at cleaning though. Over the past few days I’ve spent hours on my hands and knees, scrubbing the floor of my balcony, after I realised the wood floor was actually supposed to be light brown and not black. I meant to do that last summer. I also meant to buy patio furniture but never got round to it. But I’ve finally got it all done. A few days ago everything was dirty and green tinged. Now it’s all shiny and clean and my new red patio furniture looks pretty ace. It’ll be a great place to drink wine I mean, it’ll be a great place to drink Virgin Mojitos. 

Day 50

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Wowee – I am fifty days sober today!

All in all, it’s gone pretty quick. The first few weeks dragged, but then somehow the numbers just started ticking over.

You know what? Sometimes this sober stuff is hard work but most of the time it is pretty damn amazing. Today the sun is shining and I feel GREAT!

I kind of celebrated my 50 days yesterday when I got a bit carried away shopping for summer clothes online – that’s how I justified the cost anyway – today I am going to a spinning class and then eating ice cream. Cos that’s how I roll these days….

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…

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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.