Tag Archives: early sobriety

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

One year!

It’s been ONE WHOLE YEAR since I had a drink. Can you believe it? I knew today was The Day but I still checked my sobriety app just to make sure. I swear it winked back at me. Hello, it said. I’m still here. You don’t check me very often any more but rest assured I’ve been here all along, quietly counting every day. And today is a real milestone.

It’s true, I don’t count the days anymore, because sobriety is the new normal. If you’re reading this from the sidelines, let me tell you – it’s pretty awesome. I am happier, thinner and richer. I sleep better. I have more control over my life. I don’t have as many secrets or as much guilt. I have more time to do stuff. If nothing else, life is just simpler. Controlling my drinking was like trying to keep the lid on a can of wriggly worms. I had to put so much energy into keeping the lid closed, but every now and then it would blow right off and I’d be clearing up for weeks.

When I first stopped drinking, one of the things that scared me most was how I would find my ‘off switch’. Before, drinking an entire bottle of wine had seemed like a pretty good way to close down my stressed out, racing brain, or turn off any unwelcome emotion. Alcohol allowed me to check out of life for a bit when things got difficult.

So what happens when you take that option away? Really, your only choice is to man up and start tackling things head on. It’s hard at first. Really hard. But if you keep doing it again and again you build emotional muscles that Popeye would be proud of. When you finally get ‘it’, and you do something like go to a party and mingle and have fun it’s a great feeling because that is the real you doing it. There’s no falseness.

It’s not always rainbows and glitterballs, but that’s because life isn’t like that. We all have crap days, but they’re easier to deal with when you’re sober. A hungover, emotional, miserable person does not always make the best choices (that’s what I’ve found anyway!). I’ve been quite ill this week. I think it’s the first time I’ve been poorly since I stopped drinking. It’s been a timely reminder of what it’s like to have a hangover. I am not used to operating at less than 100% any more and god, it is horrible.

I’ve made quite a few changes in my life over the past year. I’m in the process of buying a flat right next to a beautiful national park. I always thought I was a glamorous, city girl but actually I’ve realised I need green spaces in my life. I want to live near cosy cafes and fresh air, not clubs and kebab shops. I’ve got a new part-time job and have put a lot of work into making myself happier in my career. Change is happening slowly, but that’s ok because I’m pretty patient.

Of course, I couldn’t have done any of this without you lovely people. This big, supportive, sober blogosphere has got me through the hardest of times. Everyone needs a support network and if you can’t find the help you need in your day to day life I think it’s brilliant that you can get it here. When I look back on my previous attempts at stopping, it seems crazy that I thought I could do it all on my own. So, I want to end this with a big, big thank you to all of you out there who read and comment and blog. You rock.

xxx

 

A visit from the wolf

The other night I went to a lecture hosted by a writer I particularly admire. I was there with a friend and we were offered free drinks as we waited for it to start. There were bottles of red and white wine near the entrance, plus a pretty good collection of soft drinks. I’m sure that when I was still drinking – and therefore looking for an excuse to drink at every opportunity – events like that never seemed to offer alcohol. On the rare occasions they did, most people had just a teeny, tiny glass of wine. I, on the other hand, would try not to look greedy as I poured myself as much as I thought I could get away with.

Of course now that I’ve stopped drinking it feels exactly the opposite – everyone is knocking back loads of wine! But I know that really, the only thing that’s changed is me. Maybe one day I’ll get to a point where I don’t even notice what other people are drinking. It hasn’t happened yet. I am great at making idle chit-chat whilst keeping an eye on who’s had what.
 
Anyway, I digress. The talk began and as is always the way with these things I managed to sit behind two really tall people. So I had to lean slightly to see through the gap between them. As I was doing this I realised I’d accidentally moved my head very close to my friend’s glass of white wine. I could smell it really strongly and for the first time in ages I thought “Hmmm. That smells great” followed by “a glass of white wine would very nice right now….”
 
That’s what I really wanted to write about today because feeling like that pissed me off. I did always love white wine, but I haven’t craved it for ages. In fact nowadays I usually recoil slightly at the smell. It seems a bit sour and vinegary, especially when someone is breathing wine fumes on to me (yuck). But there was something about that cheap glass of wine that smelt so nice. And for a little while I felt really sorry for myself, unable to drink with the grownups, surrounded by people looking elegant and cool and intelligent as they sipped their wine slowwwly. 
 
I tuned out for some of the talk because I was busy thinking about the wine and whether it meant anything that I thought it smelt nice. I spent a bit of time wondering why that Wolfie voice comes back just as you think it’s given up. Why – when everything seems to be going so well, at last – am I suddenly wishing I could drink like a ‘normal’ person again? Blah blah blah. So many annoying and boring thoughts. 
 
Fortunately the feeling didn’t last long. I was distracted by the man on the other side of me who laughed really loudly and then started to cough over me. I could smell his bad breath. (Seriously, I think I have a heightened sense of smell these days, because I notice everything. Bad breath, BO, wine … an open bar of chocolate 100 metres away? I’m on it).
 
I’m feeling much better now and I’ve had a great weekend. Another busy one, with late nights and lots to do, so I am tired and in need of an early night. But as always, tired and sober is much better than feeling tired, hungover, depressed, miserable, guilty…. you know the rest!   

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… ) 
 
 

A Christmas party I’d rather forget

I still cringe when I think about last year’s work party.

It was at a fairly small bar in town, midweek, and people started gathering around 6.30pm. I turned up ready to start drinking on an empty stomach. I knew the bar served very little in the way of food, but there was no way I was going to eat beforehand. Why would you want to slow the alcohol absorption? I wanted to have a nice time and that meant getting drunk. 

I remember buying a round of drinks right at the start. We love buying rounds in the UK. Half way through my first drink, more people arrived and a friend topped up my glass of wine. Then someone I’d bought a drink for got me a drink. Then I started talking to some other people and I must have been gulping my drink because I finished before anyone else was ready to get another round in. Rather than wait for them, I went back to the bar and got a drink for myself. So greedy. I think I moved on to gin and tonics. (Doubles, obviously).

I remember the Secret Santa because I got some awful, ugly scarf as a present, but – as you have no idea who bought it – I had to make a big show of absolutely loving it. After that was over some of the tables in the centre of the bar got pushed aside, the lights dimmed and the music turned up. A few people started dancing, but it was a bit weird because the bar was too small. It was like being at a wedding reception, when everyone stands round watching two people sway awkwardly on the ‘dance floor’, ie a few square metres of laminate flooring at the end of the room.

The next thing I remember is a load of people gate crashing the party. I work in TV for quite a big broadcaster and after a while I realised the gate crashers were actually radio journalists from the building next to ours. I recognised one of them – let’s call him J – as we worked together several years ago. I knew he liked me because he’d told me so on many other drunken occasions in my early twenties. He’s alright looking but unfortunately he’s really boring and has an ego the size of the planet. Oh, and he thinks he’s God’s gift to women.

Anyway, all of sudden I think it’s a great idea to dance with him, in front of everyone. Suddenly we’re dancing really close and I’m aware people are watching. But I don’t care because wine is running through my veins and I’m so sexy, right? We start kissing, proper full on cringey snogging, just metres away from my colleagues, bosses, editors, my line manager and just about anyone that matters. Someone takes a photo and threatens to put in on Facebook.

After a while, the people J arrived with announce they’re going. He suggests we go too. Can he walk me back to my flat? Through the drunken haze I think: yes, that is probably a good idea. It’s freezing cold and all the way home J keeps saying “Wow, this is a nice surprise!” By the time we get to mine I’ve started to sober up, but when he asks if he can come in I still say yes. After more kissing and god knows what else, I realise that having sex with J is going to be a very bad idea. I tell him this and he thinks I’m joking. It takes ages to convince him that yes, I do actually want him to get dressed and walk home in the cold at 2am. Eventually he gets the message and leaves, thank goodness.

It took months for people to stop teasing me about The Christmas Party Incident and much longer for me to be able to look my boss in the eye. Journalists have a reputation for being heavy drinkers but it’s a bit of an old cliché now. No one I work with has long boozy lunches or ‘meetings’ with contacts in the pub. So my behaviour stood out and although I laughed off all the banter and jokes, privately I was mortified at being so out of control. I knew I drank too much when home alone, but this time I’d done it in public.

This year’s work Christmas party is going to be different, because a) I don’t drink anymore and b) I’m not going. It clashes with something else and to be honest I’m pleased to get out of it. As it happens, quite a few people can’t make it this year so a group of us have organised something else, a kind of alternative Christmas party night out.

It’s in a few days time and I’m looking forward to it but I also feel nervous too. I’ve been a bit of a hermit recently as sometimes going out just feels like hard work. We’re all meeting at someone’s house first, where I’m sure I’ll be offered a drink. So straightaway it’ll be hard to get a soft drink discretely. I think most people know I haven’t been drinking recently but they might be surprised that I’m still not drinking. They always seem to think it’s just a temporary thing, but maybe that’s my fault for letting them think that in the first place.

Anyway, I’ve bought a new dress and I’m getting my hair cut that day, so hopefully I will feel good and look great… and have a fun, SOBER night out.

How did we normalise abnormal drinking?

I came across this article and blog last night.

http://veronicavalli.com/2013/07/how-did-we-normalise-abnormal-drinking/  

It’s good isn’t it? It voices something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. I think it was whilst I was at university that I decided that fun= getting drunk. Until then I’d enjoyed getting drunk (and perhaps more so than any of my friends) but drinking hadn’t been the only way to have fun.

Most people rein in their drinking as they get older and acquire more responsibilities like jobs and children etc. (I didn’t cut back but I’m talking about normal drinkers here, or at least what society considers ‘normal’) What I’ve noticed is that even though normal people may start to drink less frequently, they still consider drinking to be the best way of having a good time. Sure, they’ve grown up and moved on from alcopops and shots to fancy wine …but basically they still look forward to consuming a lot of alcohol in one go because that is the best way to have ‘FUN’.

So if binge drinking chardonnay is considered ‘normal’ that must make people like me abnormal, right? It certainly feels that way at times. What’s annoying is that whilst I can have a good night out sober, me not drinking seems to offend other people. If they don’t notice I’m on lemonade then it’s fine, but once they do the spell seems to be broken. Perhaps they’re worried I’m judging them? Looking down on them from my sober high horse?  

I’ve been thinking about this a lot this past week as I’ve RSVP’d to a few Christmas invites. The festive party season is starting to feel like yet another hurdle to get over when really it should be fun. So I am going to try and come up with a little Christmas party survival plan. Let me know your thoughts and tips…