Tag Archives: Alcoholism

Introducing … The Sober School

Hello there! Long time no see! I’d like to apologise for abandoning my blog without explanation. Have no fear, I didn’t disappear because something bad happened. Quite the opposite. I was busy being sober and happy – drinking tea, eating cake, catching up with old friends, making new friends, going out with my running club, trying new hobbies, starting new jobs and all sorts of other lovely stuff. I’ve been sober for 843 days now and I really am so happy with life. I don’t take my sobriety for granted but it’s pretty much become second nature now. In fact it all became so normal that I felt I didn’t have much to say … until now.

I wanted to let you know about a new project that I’ve been working on. Ever since I got sober I’ve been telling anyone who’ll listen that there should be more help for people like me. Bright, professional women who know they’re drinking too much but just can’t seem to get out of the alcohol trap. Women who can’t bring themselves to tell their doctor how much they really drink but don’t fancy going to AA. Women who want to lose the booze, but not their social life – who desperately want to stop drinking, but can’t quite work out how to stay stopped.

Whilst the sober blogosphere is great, it’s quite a hidden corner of the internet. It took me a good few years of searching for help before I stumbled across the blogs that made such a difference to me. I wanted to create something more mainstream. I wanted to create the website that I wish had existed when I was trying to stop drinking. Something that talked about alcohol addiction in a relatable way, providing help and advice without being patronising.

So I decided to set up this: thesoberschool.com

It’s a little space online where you can find inspiration to help you stop drinking and achieve wonderful things. I have a new blog over there, plus some help and advice pages. I’m in the middle of training to be coach, because my plan is to create a course that guides sober wannabes through the first few important weeks of their alcohol free life.

There are also quite a few pictures of me on there, so if you want to put a face to a name have a look…

It’s an exciting and nerve wracking time. I’ve done something that once seemed unthinkable – outing myself to the world. I’ve reduced my hours at work and told my employers what I’m doing. I’ve also had to be really honest with friends. Until recently, even those in the know had only heard a sanitised version of my drinking story. There are still a lot of people in my life who don’t know everything yet, but I will tell them in due course.

So far the response has been brilliant. And I really hope it will all make a difference. I try not to sound too much like a preachy reformed drinker, but I really believe something big needs to change in our society. It shouldn’t be this hard to talk about being addicted to alcohol. We have no problem talking about smoking in these terms, do we?

This will be my last post on this blog. So if you want to follow my new blog, please do head on over to thesoberschool.com

I’m also on Facebook  Twitter and Instagram

Phew. That’s all for now.

Lots of love,

Kate
The Sober School Sub Mark 2
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Leftovers

Something quite strange happened to me last weekend… I bought a bottle of wine.

Yes, you read that right. For the first time in 17 months I bought some alcohol – but don’t worry, it wasn’t for me. I haven’t drunk it. In fact, the people I intended on giving it to didn’t drink it either! So now the bottle in question is sitting at the back of a kitchen cupboard, next to the baked beans and orange squash. The thing is, I can’t decide whether I’m bothered by it being there or not.

So to explain – I had some friends round on Saturday night. The plan was to meet at mine for a few drinks and then go out for dinner. I was pretty sure everyone would be intent on having a boozy evening. (I know that’s what I’d have been hoping for not so long ago….)

Whilst I have an impressive selection of soft drinks, cordials and fancy teas, I suspected they might not go down too well on a Saturday night. And I didn’t want to be a bad host. There’s definitely still a bit of me that worries about being perceived as boring. Whilst I know sobriety isn’t dull, some of my friends still think my teetotal life is a bit odd. I certainly don’t want to force my sobriety upon them.

So earlier that day I found myself in the wine aisle at Tesco, trying to buy something that didn’t scream ‘cheap and white’. It occurred to me that I actually know very little about wine, which is hilarious given the amount I drunk. I eventually chose the wine, bought a corkscrew – I’d got rid of mine a long time ago – and got the wine glasses out. And do you know what happened that evening when I offered people wine? They opted for a soft drink.

Seriously.

Did my friends feel weird accepting an alcoholic drink from me? Perhaps they didn’t fancy white wine? Maybe they just didn’t feel like drinking that early on in the evening? I have no idea. Afterall, I know a lot about heavy drinking but not much about normal drinking, so who knows what they were thinking. The upshot is that I still have an entire bottle of wine in my kitchen.

I know some people will be reading this wondering what all the fuss is. If you’ve managed to stop drinking whilst living with someone else who does drink, then hats off to you. I know that when I first stopped I absolutely couldn’t keep alcohol in my house. It was just too tempting. Besides, I wanted my home to be a sanctuary; it had to be a safe haven away from the boozy world we live in.

But gradually things have changed slightly. Over the summer I spent several weeks at my parents house – where there’s always lots of booze lying around – and I noticed I wasn’t really bothered by it. In the supermarket I no longer feel the need to walk the long way round to avoid the wine aisle.  And at parties I’m not bothered by other people drinking, because if they want to get smashed then that’s their choice.

So why the big deal about this bottle of wine in my cupboard? It’s not as if I feel the urge to drink it – I’ve not had any cravings for ages and ages. It just feels a bit … wrong. It’s like an ardent vegetarian storing fillet steak in their freezer. It goes against my whole lifestyle and belief system. And yet another part of me thinks I should just get a grip and keep it for next time someone comes round and fancies a glass.

What do you reckon? Should I keep the wine in my kitchen, snuggling up to the baked beans? Or should I give it away to a friend? Maybe I’ll leave it somewhere random where it could be a nice surprise for a total stranger.

A bit of a plateau

I’ve not been feeling the need to blog so much lately. I still check in every day to read other blogs, but I don’t feel like I have much to say about my own sobriety at the moment.

For the most part, I think this is a good thing. Sobriety is not dominating my life in the way it was six months ago. It just is what it is. When I met Belle in London a few weeks ago she said to me something along the lines of “you’re not going to slip and accidentally land in a drink anymore are you?” I forget the exact words but that was the gist of it and it was a good summary of where I am at the moment. I think – and hope – that these days I would recognise that Wolfie voice before it took hold. And I really hope I haven’t jinxed myself by writing that…

The only downside to this stage of sobriety is that it’s a bit, well, boring, if I’m honest. Secretly, I think we alcoholics like a bit of drama and chaos. In the first few months of sobriety you’re kept pretty busy with all the ups and downs, milestones, pink clouds and sober firsts. In the first 100 days you do a lot of learning. Epiphanies left and right centre, the works. But I’m on day 206 now and it doesn’t feel like a great deal has happened in last hundred days. I’m just getting on with not drinking. And that’s ok … I guess.

I’m not as broken as I once was but I’m not as fixed as I thought I’d be by now. Take, for example, the re-wiring that goes on in your brain when you stop drinking. When I first quit all I could think was ‘Why can’t I have just one drink? Life is going to be so boring otherwise.’ But after a while I got into the habit of thinking through the drink and I now accept that for me, one drink will never be just one drink. And yeah, there were some fun times, but there were a lot of bad times too. Gradually, I seem to have stopped asking myself the ‘just one drink’ question because my brain has learnt the answer.

So there’s an example of some progress. However, I feel like I have tons more rewiring to finish. I just don’t know how to go about it. Do I just wait and see if it works itself out?

The other day I was on a train, alone, and feeling a bit miserable when the food and drink trolley came round. Lots of people were getting wine and beers. I did briefly think, why not? No one will know. Which is crazy because I live on my own so can drink in secret anytime! In the end I decided against the drink, not because it was the right thing to do, but because it looked like the wine only came in those really tiny miniature bottles. I knew one bottle wouldn’t be satisfying enough, but I didn’t have much cash on me and whilst I was on the train it’d be hard to get hold of a decent amount.

It annoys me that after 206 days of sobriety that was the kind of fucked up logic I used to steer clear of the booze. Of course later I did think about all the other, more normal reasons not to drink (like, you’ve come this far so don’t throw it away now on something stupid) But all in all I feel pissed off that after all this time I am still thinking things like “I’ll say no incase there’s not enough booze for me to get properly drunk.”

When do you reach the point of never even contemplating having a drink? I hate to admit it, but when I see people drinking and having fun I still feel a bit envious. Not in a let’s-pack-this-in-and-have-a-drink type way, but seeing other people enjoying the good aspects of alcohol makes me wish I could drink normally. Ah, to be normal! Why do I crave that so much? My life has got significantly better since I stopped drinking. I should be happy with that. Most of the time I am. I know I can’t drink like a ‘normal’ person but sometimes I still wish I could. Thinking like this can’t be doing me any good, yet I can’t seem to stop it.

A day to celebrate

On Sunday two pretty huge things happened. 

1. I turned 30.
2. I celebrated six months sober.

All on the same day.

It was no coincidence – I decided to stop drinking on the 6th of April for several reasons. Firstly, I wanted to get a grip on my drinking before my 30s began. I know six months isn’t long enough to ‘fix’ anything but it’s quite a good start. Secondly, my attempts to quit for good last summer were derailed by my birthday, because I simply could not imagine how I would be able to celebrate without alcohol. It seemed unthinkable. So this year, knowing that my 30th was on the horizon – the kind birthday most people celebrate with champagne – I decided that I’d need several months of sobriety under my belt to survive.

The top line is: I did it. I really fucking did it. And I am so, so proud of myself for that.

I wish I could end this post there and say it was easy peasy, hunky dory and the idea of sinking a glass of wine didn’t cross my mind at all. But… this whole blog is about being honest, so I have to admit it wasn’t all plain sailing.

The worst point was probably on Friday night when I was sat in the bath, worrying about the rest of the weekend. I’d worked hard to plan a fun few days that were as sober friendly as possible but I was still stressing about it. I’d decided that I’d spend Saturday with friends and Sunday (my actual birthday) with family. 

My main concern had been what to do with my friends. I knew I couldn’t handle hosting a big party. It would’ve been a hassle to organise and the temptation and pressure to drink would have been too great. Maybe other people would’ve been fine with it but I just knew I wasn’t ready. Still, I wanted to do something that felt special. In the end I invited a small group of close friends to afternoon tea at a very posh hotel (think: finger sandwiches and lots of cakes … it was good). Afterwards we went to see a comedy at a nearby theatre. 

Most of the day worked out really well actually and I had a lot of fun. The bit I’d been worrying about was after the show. I’d been hoping to end the night there and slip off home, but somehow I ended up agreeing to meet a couple of people who I know are quite heavy drinkers. To be honest, I’d been avoiding them a bit over the past couple of months. They were fun to drink with but we’re not particularly close friends anymore. They couldn’t make it to the afternoon tea or theatre (or they didn’t want to, who knows). But, they promised they’d be out in town to buy me a drink later. (“You are going out after the show, right? We can meet for a drink? It’s your 30th! We’ll make a night of it!” blah blah blah). I didn’t feel I could say no.

So that’s what I was worrying about on Friday night. It felt like I’d spent the last few months building up to this big weekend, this big test, and at the last minute the pressure was getting to me. I couldn’t remember why I’d bothered. I heard wolfie in my head, reasoning that it was ok to have a drink on your birthday, for crying out loud, it’s what everybody does. I didn’t want to celebrate my 30th birthday with cake and cups of tea – I wanted to get drunk and be reckless and carefree like everyone else. I felt like knocking back a glass of wine and calling it quits. 

It’s hard, in those moments, to remember why on earth you don’t drink. There is a part of me that is still seriously pissed off that I can’t drink like a ‘normal’ person. That part of me rears its ugly head every now and then and rocks the boat. It eventually goes away again but it’s hard to remember that at the time. 

I have to Belle to thank for instilling in me the benefits of a good nights sleep. Eventually I decided to stop thinking about it and see how I felt it the morning. I painted my nails, watched TV and went to bed. And hey presto, I woke up on Saturday morning feeling lots better. Not fixed, but better. More confident. More aware of what I would lose by drinking. I remembered that it was my birthday and I could do whatever I bloody well liked.

I still thought about it on and off during the day, testing myself. Am I going to drink tonight? No. Maybe. No. Hmmm.

As I said, the rest of the day went off without a hitch. As we were standing outside the theatre, wondering which bar to go to, I thought: I can do this. I remembered there was a nice, quiet bar in a nearby hotel that did fancy cocktails for those who drank and mocktails for me. I text my former drinking buddies and told them where I was heading, making it clear it’d just be a quiet one and they were welcome to come if they fancied it, if not, no bother. 

I was half expecting them not to turn up, but they did. And you know what, it was fine. The bar was expensive so no one drank that much. I ordered my cranberry juice before they arrived and it wasn’t commented on. It was a nice few hours actually – we talked and talked and it felt good.

On Sunday I headed off to see my family, a piece of cake in drinking terms. My sobriety did come up briefly and this time I told them a much more accurate version of the truth. It wasn’t something I’d planned, it just seemed the right time. Being more open about it seemed to satisfy my parents, who I think both knew there was a bit more to things than I’d been letting on.

I want to bed quite early on Sunday, absolutely shattered. Happy, but knackered. I opened all my cards and thought I’d share this one with you:

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It made me laugh because it’s kind of appropriate and really inappropriate all at the same time. Clearly this relative hasn’t noticed me drinking water at recent family functions…!

The sugar monster

Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. White chocolate Magnums. Nutella on toast. Green and Black’s chocolate. Pick n mix sweets. Cake …. biscuits … and more cake.

Recently, I’ve been eating far too much of all of the above.

I’ve always had a sweet tooth, but nowadays I seem to love sugar more than ever. I know it’s common to crave it when you first stop drinking and I did experience that a little. In fact to start with I pretty much ate what I fancied because staying sober was the only thing I cared about.

Then, for a short time, things changed quite dramatically. As the pink clouds rolled in I began to eat more healthily. I was on a sober high. I think many of us know this feeling; after years of beating yourself up with alcohol, it feels so good when you finally stop that you just want to look after yourself by sleeping properly, exercising and eating nutritious food.

Of course, that saintly living didn’t last. Fast forward to now and I’m happy to say that tomorrow I will be 5 months sober (yippee!! I am very happy about this) … however on the way to this milestone I seem to have acquired a bit of a sugar addiction.

I’m still doing a lot of good things, like going to the gym and cooking from scratch (all made possible because of one of the best gifts of sobriety – the ability to get shit done). So that’s good. But in the evenings I find myself ploughing through tubs of ice cream and eating Nutella out the jar. I am never quite satisfied.

It’s become my way of treating/rewarding myself at the end of the day. There’s a sod-it element to it all. A ‘you’ve been good all day now you deserve whatever you fancy’ type mentality. That kind of thought process is very similar to how I justified my drinking. I also binge on sweet treats when I’m sad or unhappy. If I’ve had a bad day, my first thought is no longer ‘what am I going to buy to drink?’ but ‘what am I going to get to eat?’.

I deserve it don’t I? Just like I used to ‘deserve’ all those bottles of wine. 

What I can’t decide is how big a deal this really is. Part of me thinks: don’t worry. After all, it’s still fairly early days. Stopping drinking is an amazing achievement and if my biggest concern is about eating too much ice cream then that’s not a bad place to be. I’d always like to be a dress size smaller but I haven’t put on weight, yet. And so far overdosing on chocolate hasn’t led to me missing work, passing out on the sofa or sleeping with men I’ve only just met. 

On the other hand, I can see that using anything as a way of dealing with emotions is not wise. If (fingers crossed) I stay sober for good, will I still be doing the same thing in several years time? I remember going to restaurants as a child and always, always wanting dessert even if I was stuffed from the main course. Always wanting chocolate as my after school snack. Maybe sugar was my first love, before I discovered a much better substitute in my teenage years.

Is it unreasonable to want to be ‘fixed’ completely, within a few months? Is this my alcoholism talking, the part of me that just wants everything right now?

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 …

Day 100!

100candle

Crikey. Wowsers. Amazeballs. It has been 100 days since I last had a drink and that feels like a long time and a short time, all at the same time (if that makes any sense).

The first few weeks went so slowly, time seemed to be going backwards. But somewhere around Day 30 things just started to speed up a bit. My sober car moved up a gear. My cravings became a lot easier to manage; they came and went pretty quickly. I was on a high from all the amazing things you notice when you stop drinking: the improved sleep, the weight loss, the sudden ability to Get Shit Done. The money saved. The improved mood. The freedom from all the guilt.

A bit later, maybe around the Day 40 or 50 mark, I started to realise that I didn’t really miss alcohol itself. I didn’t miss the ‘pleasure’ that alcohol supposedly provided — that buzz. No. What I really missed was the escapism and the ability booze gave me to avoid life. The tricky thing about being sober is that you have to deal with everything that’s thrown at you. There’s no running away. You can’t block out or squash down uncomfortable emotions with a bucket of wine. Instead you actually have to deal with stuff.

And this – I realised – this is what is called ‘life’. This is what proper grown ups do.

I am still finding my feet. Alcohol was my comfort blanket, my way of dealing with everything. I’ve had to learn how to survive nights out, sober. Networking, sober. Dealing with stress, sober. Heck, even dealing with success and achievements whilst sober is a bit weird – because that was always a good excuse to drink, right? I’ve been on a couple of first dates recently where I missed alcohol. I didn’t really want a drink but I still couldn’t help feeling that it would be handy to drink. Alcohol helps people bond. It is a social lubricant. I am still jealous of people who can enjoy a few drinks, get tipsy, then put the glass down.

I’ve had to learn what I do and don’t like. Once you take the booze away, a lot of things that seemed fun – clubbing for example – don’t interest me anymore. Looking back I think I only liked going clubbing because it was an excuse drink a lot. 

I feel like this post is taking on a bit of a negative tone and I didn’t mean it to. Let me say this very loudly: I really, REALLY love my life at the moment. The other day Carrie wrote on her blog that “if this is as good as it gets then I still choose this”. I loved that because it summed up how I’m feeling so perfectly. In the last 100 days my life has improved so much that the few ‘downsides’ to being sober don’t really matter. I just love being back in control of my life.

The question now is: what next?

Well … I think another 100 days might be in order. Because 200 days has a pretty nice ring to it.