Tag Archives: friends

Leftovers – Part 2

Thanks for all your comments on my last post. That’s one thing I love about the sober blogosphere – you ask one question … you get 40 answers.

I got rid of the wine. As many of you pointed out, the fact that I’d written an entire post about it was proof that it was bothering me in some way. Your responses made me think about the importance of boundaries and how they vary from person to person. What feels right to me might feel wrong to you. And if – like me – you cleared the house of alcohol before you stopped drinking then you’re bound to feel differently to someone who happily left half a bottle of wine in the fridge.

In a way, I felt annoyed that I was letting this one, pathetic bottle of wine play on my mind so much. I feel so happy and confident in my sobriety that I had no intention of drinking it. And yet … it was kind of troubling me. It didn’t feel right having it in the house. In the end I took it with me to a party and it got drunk pretty quickly.

I haven’t got much other news, but life feels really hectic at the moment, almost uncomfortably so. I’m working lots, drinking too much coffee and not getting enough sleep or exercise. I’ve been away the past couple of weekends. There’s very little food in the fridge, my flat is a tip and there are piles of stuff everywhere. I don’t feel on top of things. Written down it doesn’t sound like very much, but this kind of life-craziness led to me black out drinking in the past. That was my response to stress. When the going got tough, I pulled the shutters down and mentally checked out for a while.

When I first stopped drinking I wondered how I’d manage without that escape; that ability to completely leave your conscious self and the rest of the world for a while. One of the biggest surprises about sobriety is that I actually like having to be more present. A weekend spent tidying up, cooking and paying bills might not sound crazy and fun, but at least I’m getting things done. The reality of my drinking was hardly glitz and glamour; more often than not it involved waking up at 3am on the sofa, face down in a glass of wine. And when I think of the hours spent hungover, wasted in front of daytime TV … well, I wonder how I ever got anything done back then.

So that’s why I’m quite looking forward to a ‘boring’ weekend at home. Sure, there’ll still be a bit of escapism, but it’ll come in the form of catching up on The Great British Bake Off, going for a run and getting my nails done. And that’s fine by me.

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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.

Coping with life’s ups and downs

Wow. It’s been a long time since my last post. I seem to have got out of the habit of blogging recently but rest assured I’m still here – sober, drinking tea and eating ice cream.

My life got a bit crazy at the end of May, when I found out I needed major surgery to remove an ovarian tumour. I’d been admitted to hospital with unexplained, excruciating stomach pains. (I’m no wimp but I’ve not known pain like it). A scan revealed a cyst the size of a large orange. Although ovarian cysts aren’t that unusual – and most are totally benign – the doctors weren’t sure about mine.

I was told countless times that it was very, very unlikely to be cancerous. But it’s hard not to be scared when you’re allocated a cancer support nurse and talked through exactly what will happen if the results aren’t good.

When I first stopped drinking I often wondered how I’d cope in future if something very bad were to happen. Were there exceptional circumstances in which it was ok to relapse? Perhaps if something happened to my family, or my house burnt down? What if I found out I only had a few days left on the planet. Would it be ok then?

Well I’m pleased to say a brush with cancer didn’t rock my sober boat. And that’s all it was, thank goodness. A near miss. The results were all totally clear. It’s hard to describe what a relief that news was. I’ve been left with a great big ugly scar up the front of my stomach and I’ve lost an ovary. But that’s all. And that seems a pretty good outcome in the grand scheme of things.

In the run up to the operation, drinking didn’t really cross my mind. Once or twice I did think ‘this would be a good excuse for a relapse’, but I didn’t feel that pull to drink. Besides, I had so much other stuff to do – like move house. I was warned that post op I’d need six weeks off work, lots of rest and I wasn’t to lift anything heavy. So all of a sudden there was a real rush to get as much done as possible before life was put on hold for a bit. It was incredibly stressful at the time but looking back I think being busy was a good thing; the night before the op I was up late cramming my belongings into boxes.

My family were brilliant during this time and so were my friends. I was lucky to have lots of visitors both times I was in hospital. Surprisingly, many of the people who came were actually friends I felt I’d drifted apart from, because of being sober and not going out as much.

Before the op I did wonder if my drinking history had played a part in my illness. I guess I’ll never really know the answer so there’s probably no point dwelling on it. In hospital it was comforting to be sober – I had to fill out countless pre op questionnaires and it was very satisfying to answer the ‘how much do you drink?’ question with a big fat zero. Post op I feel that by being sober I’ve given my body the best chance of healing properly.

It’s exactly six weeks since my surgery now and I thought I’d have written about all of this a lot sooner, but somehow I just didn’t. I guess sobriety isn’t dominating my life in the way it once did. Does that make me sound complacent? I hope not – I think it’s a good thing. Sobriety is a bit like driving; it’s hard at the beginning but you get better with practice. I don’t feel like a learner driver anymore, but I know I’ll always need to keep my eyes on the road.

I was catching up on some episodes of the Bubble Hour yesterday and it was just so lovely and familiar and comforting that it prompted me to write this. The awesome thing about the sober blogosphere is that it’s always there, just waiting for when you need it. And I definitely still need people in my life who get what it’s like not to be able to drink normally.

Some sober awesomeness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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…!