Tag Archives: relationships

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:

  photo

photo2

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.

I want my pink clouds back

I’ve been feeling a bit fed up for the past week or so now. I don’t really know why. I realise that good days and bad days are part of life, but part of me still thinks hey, I made the effort to get sober, don’t I deserve rainbows and glitter balls EVERY day? Wasn’t that part of the deal?

There hasn’t been anything in particular that’s been making me feel down. I’ve been working a lot and not sleeping enough. I’ve been on a few unsuccessful first dates. One was with someone I really liked but he wasn’t so taken with me. Sober rejection sucks.

The novelty of not drinking seems to have worn off. It’s been replaced by a niggling feeling that being sober is just, well, a bit annoying. I don’t feel like I’m about to start drinking again, in fact I haven’t really thought about that at all. I accept the fact that I cannot drink normally and so by far the best option is to not drink at all. I get that. But I’m still a bit pissed off about it.

Say what you like, but alcohol is a social lubricant. When it’s used in the right way it seems to help the world go round a little smoother. It bonds people together. It’s a shared interest/hobby that lots of people enjoy but I can’t. And sometimes I just want to do what everyone else does.  

Of course I don’t miss the epic hangovers, the slurry, sweaty, sleep disturbed nights. That was the reality of my drinking and it wasn’t glamorous. I think what I’m actually grieving for is the normal, take-it-or-leave-it relationship with alcohol that other people have but I never had.

Is this Wolfie, taunting me? I’m unsure. Is it Wolfie who voices thoughts like, ‘well I bet you never thought you were signing up to all this recovery work when you stopped drinking… All this thinking about not drinking, the blogging, the meetings … it’s a bit like hard work isn’t it?’

Talking of meetings, I haven’t been to one for at least a fortnight. I just can’t seem to make time to go to them. When life gets busy they’re the first thing I stop doing. I’m good at maintaining other things, like going to the gym, because I know exercise keeps me sane. I still read blogs, even if it’s just a few on my way to work. But AA just falls by the wayside.

This afternoon I definitely could have gone to a meeting and in fact I was planning to go. When I came to leave it suddenly started to pour with rain. Now even I know that’s a lame excuse. In the end I decided I would stay at home on the condition that I work on a job application that needs submitting this week. Do you know what I did instead? I went on Facebook. And then I wrote this post.

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 …

The strongest cravings take you by surprise

Today I was on my way home when I found myself walking behind a cute guy in a smart suit. He was carrying a few groceries in a see-through plastic bag, like he’d just swung by the supermarket. There was a stick of French bread poking out the top of the bag, but what caught my eye was a bottle of red wine that seemed to be looking straight at me.

I could murder a glass of red wine, I thought. I miss it so much.
 
I looked at the bag more closely. I bet he has some cheese in there too. That’s what I’d buy. Bread, cheese and a bucket of wine. Maybe he’s going back to the flat he shares with his girlfriend? Maybe they’re going to have a romantic night in. Not only did I long for the wine but I yearned for the whole picture: the thoughtful boyfriend, the night in cuddled on the sofa, the sophisticated chit chat over a glass or two. 
 
I am never going to have that now.
 
The guy walked into my building and we got the lift together. I turned my back on him and pretended to study the wall.
 
Where did that intense craving come from? I haven’t lusted after wine like that for weeks. I’m tired today but was in a pretty good mood at the time. I’d just had a sports massage – a necessary evil – and was congratulating myself on being proactive and doing something about my aching legs before I got injured. Before I stopped drinking I’d have never got round to that kind of thing.
 
The wine wasn’t even nice wine. I’m pretty sure I recognised the brand – it was the cheap stuff that’s normally on offer. He hadn’t even picked decent wine and still I wanted it.
 
It wasn’t long before the craving passed, maybe twenty minutes or so. As I write this, several hours later, I feel absolutely fine. It’s as if I’m writing about another person. Weird. I’d still like a cute boyfriend who brings home dinner though…

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.