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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Update on my Sober Meeting

Last month I wrote about feeling I had moved onwards and upwards to a new 'experienced' level of sobriety when I was asked to meet with someone struggling with their drinking. It was not to 'help' them but rather to allow them to speak openly to another who would listen and identify without judgement.

I was nervous about this. It was truly a new 'First'.  I reflected back to the time when I required someone to fulfil this role for me; when I needed to talk, out loud to a real person, instead of writing and reading, surfing and blogging. I needed someone who would address the elephant in the room  head on.  I did not want to be fobbed off or fed excuses: 'You're no different to everyone else', 'Everyone gets drunk now and then', 'Stop worrying so much', 'You're not that bad'.

But I was and I almost needed someone to confirm that my bottle of wine per night was not normal and my concerns were rational and valid.

So I went along to meet this friend of a friend, reassuring myself that she would be more nervous than me while trying to articulate in my mind what, exactly, I was so worried about.

I was anxious on many levels. I was worried she would turn out to be my next door neighbour or someone I recognised (or worse, that she recognised me!). I was worried about what to say, how to start the conversation, which is weird as one thing I never am is stuck for words. I wondered how I would recognise her. Should I stake out the place early to spot her arriving? Should I arrive early and wait to be recognised and found by her? How would she recognise me? How would I recognise her? We had not got as far as carrying a rose with rolled up newspaper under an arm.

But I knew. I could spot the signs. My eyes were attracted to a woman in the queue, about my age. She looked nervous and agitated, slightly shifty. In a coffee shop queue? As she approached the seating area she caught my eye and I nodded. She looked shy and sheepish, as if I was about to berate her. She looked slightly sweaty, not in a post-exercise, red faced healthy kind of way but rather as if she was coming down with 'flu. (Though to be fair, this may indeed have been the case.) I wondered if she was hungover. I wondered if she felt lucky to have had wine the night before knowing that I had not. I wondered if she felt sorry for me, being 'unable' to drink, as I felt previously towards the sober population. (How could non drinker Andy Murray celebrate his first Grand Slam win properly without a drink? Such a shame. Surely that would take the shine off his victory? I honestly believed this.)

After a few preliminary opening remarks, I brought up the topic of alcohol in the way someone had once done for me. When I didn't know where to begin I was relieved when a stranger said 'Let me tell you my story' so I did the same and from that point on our conversation flowed. It sounds a little condescending, but truthfully I felt so happy I recognised everything she said and I had to stop myself from repeating 'I used to be like that', 'I used to do that', and to let her talk. It was good to be reminded of just how despairing those days were, and in her it showed. Her demeanour was one of despair. Her posture, her tone of voice and her turn of phrase were those of someone who felt lost in a maze, helpless and bewildered, unsure what strategy to try next, wondering if she would ever escape.

I had been there many times. My strategies had not worked and I was more than worried, I was a little scared I could not escape. During my last hangover I was scared that if it was not enough to stop me drinking, what ever would make it happen?

Failure was not an option. 

I did not allow myself the luxury of thinking through a variety of outcomes and eventualities. I had to succeed. I did succeed. And I continue to succeed. I succeed at not having any wine, today. Simple.





Friday, 17 October 2014

Holiday Time

Tomorrow is my last day of holidays. I've only had one real wistful pang for wine this time. It didn't last long and it was easy to distract myself until it passed. 

I have made things easy for myself though. I've avoided the bars and caf├ęs where drinks are served at sundown and the food service has not yet started. 

My OH has had a few beers. That is, one beer on a few nights. Watching him have one beer with his meal then make a cup of tea reminds me how I could not drink like that. I know if I ever give it an inch it will take a mile and more. 

So, one more day equals two more ice creams and two more chocolate treats before back on the dieting bandwagon on Monday. 

Hope you are all happy and sober this weekend too. 
Rx

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Boozy Dreams

Boozy dreams does not refer to the disjointed dreams and disturbed sleep of being drunk. Instead it refers to the way in which alcohol features in my dreams. Personally I'm quite fascinated by this. I always have vivid, weird dreams and usually remember them.

THEN: (the early days of abstinence)

My head was full of 'giving up'. How many days, how was I doing, what was I next worried about, how on earth would I manage in the longer term (never referring to it as the F word)! My dreams reflected my day time thoughts and I regularly dreamed of getting drunk and awful things happening. It wasn't dreaming as in longing for drink, it was getting drunk and thinking 'oh no, I've slipped up' and I would feel that I'd let myself down. I'd be annoyed that my campaign to go AF has failed and confirmed my deepest thoughts: that I could not do it.

I would wake up in the morning, transiently feel gloomy about it until reality kicked in and I realised it was all a dream and that my sober mission remained on track to fight another day.
The strength of my in-dream and out-of-dream feelings showed me how much it meant to me but at the same time what a huge challenge it was. I realised then that I did not want to slip up and did not want to return to drinking; my dreams had played it to the end, reminding me of the ultimate outcome.

NOW: (18 months-plus a little bit! )

My head is no longer full of 'not drinking' thoughts throughout the day, even at the weekends, even on Friday nights. My longing for wine has gone and my feelings of deprivation at social events has disappeared too; I'm pleased I don't drink and happy to remain sober and confident, without bad behaviour. My last 'pang' occurred in a supermarket recently, in the home section funnily enough. I walked past some lovely crystal wine glasses and thought 'they look nice, wouldn't it be nice…' before I closed my mind to those thoughts and moved on.

My dreams are weird. More than once in a dream I have been at a lengthy social occasion. I have remained AF until the last hour when I get a bit bored and suddenly think 'I know, I'll have a glass of wine.' I know I don't drink in my dream but this seems okay. I heed the warnings that I can't and should not try to moderate but I don't feel that far down the slippery slope. I have eyes wide open and want to have A single glass, just really for something to do, that I can do on my own at the bar because I am tired of socialising, but I'm sure I will still be a non drinker. The following day I will revert to my normal AF state without a second thought to my one glass of wine. Suddenly I realise this is what normal people do and I shouldn't be making such a song and dance about everything. In the dream, it remains calm and not catastrophic. I have my glass of wine, it is slightly disappointing and doesn't taste as good as I'd expected, but that's it. No second glass. No genie out of the bottle. No calamity and no chaos. Not like me at all in fact!

 I can see how dangerous I would think this sounds if I read it on another blog but I honestly have no temptation to actually have one drink, ever. I know what will happen and I know I cannot ever drink like a normal person and accept that I will not drink at all.

My dream occurs regularly and I'm intrigued. Is it a warning? Does it reflect a secret desire to be able to do this? How does booze feature in your dreams?


Sunday, 28 September 2014

Then and Now: Saturday Night Texts

THEN:
I would send texts during the evening to those who were not out with me along the lines of ‘remind me to tell you what x just said!’ and if I was at home I would be texting everyone to follow up on previous discussions or to make plans, suggest ideas, all of which I felt had to be done THIS MINUTE, because it seemed like such a good idea, right?
If I’d been out, once home I would text everyone about what a great night we’d had, how we must catch up again and generally confess too much love for ones I do not love.
I would immediately confirm the dinner date I’d hastily arranged earlier in the evening with one of my new ‘best friends in the whole world who I really love’ and had hugged to prove it. As we were chatting I would always say ‘You should come round for dinner one night soon, so we get catch up again and the boys can meet’ Because we are so sure they will get on well together (!). This was perhaps always, even subconsciously, a date to allow more drinking, me having found a like minded, equally paced drinker.
The next day I’d scroll through the lists of texts. Noting the worst ones had not received a reply. Groaning as the potential fiasco added to my hangover made everything seem worse. Why did I say that? Did I really say that? What did I do that for? Were they as drunk as me?
Then I have to decide how to carefully word my morning after texts to sound casual and being of a general ‘Hi again’ nature, but really to provide an opening for the other to comment on the state I was in the night before, without having to ask directly. (This would incriminate me you see.)
If they don’t, then I worry it was either too embarrassing for them to mention or they were  also so drunk they did not notice my behaviour. I hope it’s the latter but I have a nagging feeling it’s the former.
All in all it serves to compound my hangover and darken my day further on a day that I have limited ability to function even at the most basic level. I do not need this.
NOW
Last night , Saturday, I had a text conversation with a friend to arrange a walk this afternoon. This morning I can remember all the details of the arrangements.(I hope she can too!)
I replied to a few emails which had been lingering in my inbox for a few days. Ones that needed a little time and concentration. I have no need to worry that I’ve made a mistake, emailed the wrong person, forgotten the attachments (although I do that sober too), or copied in people who I absolutely should not have copied in.
I read and commented on a few blogs. I took in what I was reading and made some useful (IMHO!) contribution to discussions in the comments section. Pertinent comments, appropriate comments, generally free from typos and comments which had travelled the right way through the BS filter between having the thoughts and typing them out on the keyboard.
This morning I am pleased I can stand by any comments I made as being what I really meant and not a passing glib thought whilst drunk. I am pleased I have no damage control to consider, or to worry about. I am reassured I have not offended anyone, been inappropriate to anyone or loose tongued and gossipy at the expense of anyone.
I feel calm and relaxed. The day ahead seems simple and uncomplicated. It just ‘is’, with no undercurrents of what ifs and what might be’s.
Why did I ever drink so much? I can’t explain that but I do know that I can’t do anything to change the past but I have definitely made a positive change for the future.
Enjoy the rest of the weekend. Rx


Sunday, 21 September 2014

Then and Now: A New Car

I am shortly to collect my new car. It has been so long a process that I've had no particular excitement about it. I'm not really into cars-my top concern is reliability. But this morning I became all excited about it and it reminded me of my relapse when I last got a new car.
THEN:
Three years ago, I was on Day 19 of becoming AF for the first time (excepting pregnancy). It was a Saturday and I had friends and their kids coming round for drinks and dinner. They were good friends and us girls drank a lot and the men only a little. I hadn't planned what I was going to say to my friend. Why wasn't I drinking? It was all too new and fragile to risk telling her the truth. I was convinced this was not to be forever, I was coping with a 'just one more day' strategy and was already growing tired of it. I was anxious about what I'd say, anxious that she would be disappointed if I wasn't drinking and worried I would sound like an alcoholic. And then I would look like an alcoholic too, when this dry run came to an end and I started drinking wine again. This episode with her was my inspiration to write "How to Tell Them You Don't Drink" (and deal with the questions they ask) shortly afterwards.
I didn't realise it at the time but I was having far too much internal chatter about what would happen after the AF period. Should've kept it in the moment.
I rushed to collect my new car. Forgot to take some documents so rushed home again and back to the garage becoming harassed as I knew dinner for the guests was not well on in preparation. The handover of the car took aaagggggggeeeeeeessssssss. Who knew I would have to sign 50 forms! I was late but I was elated when it had its corny unveiling ceremony in the garage. (This is important to the outcome, I promise).
I drove home, a bit jerky getting used to the different controls, but as fast as I dared, already late. I arrived home at the same time as the guests arrived. There was plenty of oohing and aaaaaahing over my new car and they had brought champagne, insisting we celebrate with a glass, before the men went back out to sit in and admire the car further.
As I opened the champagne I was fully intending still to have a soft drink. I'd poured 3 glasses and the fourth stood empty, waiting.
I had to make a spilt decision without great explanations. Ironically I was now keeping it in the moment and I poured the bubbles into the fourth glass too, thinking how excited I was and how I felt warm and cosily cocooned with good friends around me. Without a glass of alcohol it would just not be as good. Hell, I deserved it too. I'd done 19 days and had suffered a lot of misery and deprivation in that time. It was time to give myself a break.
I never intended it would only be one drink: I knew that the decision was to drink as usual or not at all and I had chosen the former. And that included the next night and the next night and then there seemed no point in having one or two nights off the booze because I had a party coming up at the weekend. No, I'd have to wait a while until my diary was clear of, well, everything really, so I could 'have a good go at it.'
It was another 5 weeks until I had my second attempt at being AF.
(for info it failed after a week or so and my usual drinking returned with a vengeance culminating in the time where I knew, I just knew, I had to stop. End of).
NOW:
My car loan arrived in the bank this morning and I felt all excited. I got out the car brochures that were filed away and tried to remember the colour I'd chosen. I oohed and aaaahed with the kids about which side they would each have in the back and commiserated with them that there was no sun roof! Again, it's Saturday afternoon, I'm max-ed out on retail therapy from this huge purchase. I'm looking forward to roast chicken followed by pancakes and butterscotch sauce (pre made for micro-waving, don't be impressed) tonight and then to see what Cheryl has done with her hair and make up tonight on the X factor. I'm going to change my bed and enjoy clean sheets tonight. I might even finish my jigsaw today! (Living the dream, I know!) Loads of options.
Alcohol could not be further from my mind.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Crossing the Chasm

I'm definitely at a point of transition. In the last week I've recognised another stage I've reached along the sober path. I'm glad because I have spent a lot of time without any further change or improvement and thought I had reached my status quo. But apparently not. To those who told me it would keep on getting better, I now believe you. Here's my sober path.

  1. Newly sober. Here I was finding my way, wondering how long I could last. It was hard. I thought about it every day. Alcohol free time was counted in hours, progressing to days.
  2. Novice. Progress was counted in days then weeks. I experienced some of the amazing highs that come with freedom from alcohol, those psychedelic rainbow days where I felt invincible. It was still hard and my conversation was peppered by thoughts of 'oh, but I don't drink now'. The future felt scary but I acknowledged that yes, I was managing without alcohol.
  3. Improver. As time elapsed and the first months being AF clocked up I was learning all the time. Life was a series of 'firsts' as I went about my usual activities, experiencing them all for the first time sober. This was scary and each brought a challenge I wasn't sure I could succeed at. But I did. I took them one at a time and sure enough, it began to get easier. My thinking changed from 'oh but I don't drink' to 'It will be fine, I'll drive…' and I stopped considering whether I would be drinking or not, my default was that I did not. Ever. I thought about it much less and had a Friday night where I almost forgot it was Friday Night!
  4. Intermediate. Between six months and a year of sobriety the novelty had worn off. I'd blogged about the benefits, supported and given support, been through most of my 'firsts' and now took the clear head and masses of weekend time for granted. I no longer had great highs but neither did I have terrible cravings. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and got on with life the way it now was. I was still reluctant to imagine my AF life too far into the future. It still overwhelms me with a sense of impossibility. This period culminated in my first sober birthday. I thought this would be a fantastic day when I marked my great achievement but instead I actually forgot it was 'the day' until the evening and I did not feel I deserved a pat on the back. I felt that it had taken me long enough to wake up and smell the coffee, long enough where I'd repeated the same mistakes over and over again.
  5. Experienced. this week I've had to count up how long I have been AF when someone asked me. (18 months). I had two social events and, wait for this, I was looking forward to remaining sober! I was surprised and shocked in equal measure and never, ever, would have believed that I would ever honestly prefer not to have a glass of wine when it was offered. THIS, I feel, is true progress, to a new state of not just accepting but really embracing the concept of sobriety; feeling it is a positive choice I continue to choose as opposed to a life sentence I am serving. Then, a true first. Someone was put in touch with me, by another sober blogger, as we live close to each other. The 'newbie' needed to speak to someone real, in real life about their attempts to give up alcohol and would I meet? It was a big decision for me but all I could think about was how, three years ago, I wanted the exact same thing. I wanted to pour out to a real person all my ifs, buts, and failed attempts at moderation, and I wanted reassurance that I could do it by seeing someone who had succeeded. Someone agreed to meet me, more than once and left the door open. I got the feeling she would have preferred not to meet, but she did and I appreciate that to this day. I had not yet reached the stage where I knew I had to give up but it was a big step in that direction. I feel I owe it to something or someone to do for another what someone once did for me. I feel instead of 'paying it back' I'm 'paying it forward' and spreading the benefits. So I will meet this new friend and I will tell you how I get on!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Things You Never Said When You Were Drinking

1. No thanks, I've had enough

2. No thanks, I've got a big day tomorrow

3. No thanks, I'm driving

4. No thanks, I'll be hungover tomorrow

5. Let's get this one, it's less ABV%

6. Lets have a night off the booze

7. Let's go to the cinema instead of the pub

8. Let's take the car

9. You're not really my best friend, I'm just drunk

10. I don't really love you, I'm just drunk
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