Tag Archives: birthdays

18 months and 31 years

So as of today I am exactly 31 years old and 18 months sober. Both of these facts seem quite surprising. Two thoughts spring to mind:

1. Where did the last year go? I’ve not spent any time comatose on the sofa or lost whole days watching TV. I’ve been fully present in my life and yet time has still run away with me! I think it’s because turning 30 seemed like such a big deal last year, I let my guard down after that and quick as flash, 31 comes rolling in. Or more precisely: 31 and no boyfriend. (Big sigh…)

2. How did a stay sober all this time? It’s not very British to heap praise on oneself – but flipping heck, I’m dead proud of myself. If you told me on day 1 that I’d still be on the straight and narrow eighteen months on I’d never have believed it.

As many of you know, I stopped drinking on April 6th 2013 because I thought that would give me a good six months to prepare for the big three zero. I did not want to carry my destructive drinking with me into my thirties. At the time, I had no idea whether the significance of the date would really motivate me to stick with it. I’d made those kind of big promises to myself before.

In fact at the end of 2012 I vowed that I’d have a whole year off alcohol – not a drop would pass my lips until 2014. I even booked myself onto a fitness bootcamp so I’d get off to the best possible start. I spent New Year’s Day being made to run up hills by very attractive former marines. Everything was great – until I got home. Left to my own devices I slipped back to my old my ways just five days later.

Five days. I was so annoyed with myself about that. I think that’s why I drank so much between January 2013 and April 6th, when I finally stopped. I’d spent a lot of money on that bootcamp and I was pissed off that I’d thrown it all away. I’m definitely a perfectionist so if I screw up I’ll make sure I do it good and proper. For a couple of months I was hell bent on drinking whatever I wanted, regardless of the consequences.

I’m conscious that sometimes this blog makes it look like I just decided to stop drinking one day and everything was hunky dory after that. But it really wasn’t like that. There were many, many failed attempts before things clicked into place – I just didn’t write about them.

When I look back on all the other times I tried to quit, the thing that makes April 6th different to previous attempts is that a) I found help and b) I realised I wasn’t alone. It wasn’t intentional – I stumbled across Unpickled’s blog by accident. On a whim, I decided to start my own blog because I like writing. I thought it would keep myself accountable and, like writing a diary, it might help me make sense of my thoughts. Without realising it I was building a sober support network – and this opened the door to a world of help and understanding. If you’re reading this, then you’re part of my sober network. It may not be conventional; it doesn’t involve meetings, and you can be as active or inactive as you like – but hey, it worked for me. Thanks very much for being part of 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…!

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.