Thursday, 25 June 2015

End of Term Update

It's the end of term this week in Scotland. School is well and truly out for summer because it's pouring of rain and the kids are bored already!

I've not blogged much of late for a variety of reasons. The main one being that I am in a period where sobriety is easy. It is second nature at the moment and I am reaping benefits from minimal effort. I'm enjoying the good effects, I'm benefiting from it making life easy and it is helping me to get everything done and dealt with, with minimal fuss. Yes, times like this are easy, and I have no desire to drink at all.

I've been out quite a few times in the last 2 weeks. With a lot of evenings out I'm pleased I can make it to all of them. There were only so many hangovers I could deal with in any given time period.
I had a business-type meeting with a friend last night in a pub from 8-9pm. I was so pleased that I was happy with my soda and lime and thought how awful it would be to be wanting a drink and not having one, or having a drink and wanting ten, despite having driven there!

Being sober is making life easy for me right now and is making me feel happy despite the rain!
I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts.

Hope you are finding sobriety fun too.

Until next time,

Thursday, 18 June 2015

What it's Really Like Now....

Many people want to know when you stop wanting to drink, particularly at nights out. They can manage not to drink but do so by denying their want and cannot wait for it to go away.

So, here's the truth, as it applies to me at 2 years 3 months sober.

Last week I was at a formal-ish work-related dinner. It was the kind where you meet for drinks in the bar beforehand, are presented with a flute of alcoholic fizz at the door, and the wine is already on the tables when you enter the function room.

I was running late, slightly on purpose, and missed the pre event bar meet up. I don't mind going to these but find it's just more time to speak to the same people I'm going to be with all evening so no desperate need to meet up earlier than is required.
I turned up in time to get the taxi.
As we entered the venue I walked past the fizzy wine and grabbed a glass of weak-looking orange juice. The first minute sip revealed it to be Buck's Fizz. I put it down and asked for the real orange juice.

I don't know if that toxic sip set my mindset haywire but we took our seats at a table and I really wanted a glass of wine. There were no soft drinks on the table, only 2 bottles of white and a bottle of red. The conversation was already in full flow interrupted only by 'Red?', and 'White?', then 'Neither???' It was a warm evening and inside the heat was oppressive.

My annoyance with the whole thing was rising and I was feeling bitter and wanting. After 10 minutes I broke free and went to the bar to buy a drink. I ordered a soda and lime and a couple of pints of beer for others. I was pleased to find the soft drinks were free, so I made mine a pint of soda and lime.

Back at the table I gulped my thirst quenching drink with pleasure. It tasted fresh and crisp and was just what was needed. My negative vibes began to abate immediately.

I needed a drink. I had a drink.

What that drink contained was not important. It was that my needs were being met. I had a drink the same as everyone else. For me it was thirst quenching and cooling. I relaxed.

I resumed my part in the conversation and confirmed casually to the chap seated beside me that I no longer drank alcohol having given up 'a couple of years ago now'.

The meal was Indian food which I never enjoyed drinking with wine. The two don't seem to go together very well. Many others also avoided the wine and drank pints of lager to wash it down. I continued with my pints of soda and lime (ice cubes and straw) and really enjoyed it. Needless to say, by the time the starter had arrived I was glad I hadn't had the wine.

It seems that as time goes on, the process speeds up. The cycle of wanting, resisting, and relief at our success becomes shorter and shorter and rather than having to manage the whole evening before feeling the relief of sobriety the following morning, it now comes within a period of no longer than 15 minutes.

So there you go. It becomes easier. It becomes quicker. And it becomes second nature to manage the situation in other ways. This will happen for you too. Just keep going and give it time.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Alcoholism: A Lifestyle Choice or a Disease?

I have read many articles in the last week or so about the death of politician Charles Kennedy which is alleged to have occurred secondary to complications of alcoholism. The eulogies are very open about Charles having had a long standing problem with alcohol and the efforts he made to control his drinking patterns.

They have made me contemplate again whether I believe alcoholism to be a disease from which we suffer or a lifestyle choice we perpetuate.

Until now I've sat on the fence about this. To date I've not formed an absolute opinion one way or another because it's difficult. But now it's time I got off the fence.

I do not believe alcoholism is a disease. I believe it is a choice. While it shares many features and patterns of diseases, the bottom line is that without alcohol, there is no alcoholism. It's true that some of us are more pre-disposed to having a problematic relationship with alcohol than others, but similarly some of us in that same group choose not to pursue the relationship.

  • Despite the affects of alcohol being progressive, removing alcohol halts this progression. Not so if a patient with lung cancer stops smoking.
  • Though multi-faceted, problems always begin with voluntary intake of alcohol. This is not so with other diseases. 
  • People become alcoholic because they drink alcohol. Some people get terrible diseases for no apparent reason.
In some ways the discussion is purely academic. Does it really matter whether problems with alcohol meets some specific criteria that define it as a disease process? Should we take the literal meaning of the word and agree that alcohol causes us dis-ease?

In my opinion, the only reason it matters to make the distinction, is to be clear that we have a choice. We can choose not to drink. We can choose to stop, to avoid, to say no thanks. We are not powerless, helpless or unable to battle against a relentless driving force. We just believe we are and those thoughts influence our actions.

To choose the correct actions we have to manage our thoughts and the first step is to re-assert that we are in control and we alone decide what goes into our own bodies. 

Think as if you are a strong person and refuse to be a passive victim.

I await your conflicting opinions with great anticipation.

p.s. (and yes, I think the same premise applies to obesity, but I'll keep that for another day).

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Then and Now : A First Class Train Journey

Rarely do I travel First Class which is perhaps why it is always so memorable for me, for a variety of reasons.


The timing of the train required some consideration. It was important to avail oneself maximally of the free bar service and nibbly food. It had to be early, but not too early, bearing in mind that once I’d started drinking I would continue and once I start drinking there is a finite number of hours until I ‘fall asleep’.

For my journey I had an array of reading material ranging from magazines requiring little concentration to documents that counted as work. It didn’t really matter because I never really read anything properly because I was observing the stewards and their work routines, keeping half an eye on the lookout for the service trolley. 

It is hard to miss it though. It can be heard clinking and twinkling as glass and cans bump against ice buckets and cups. The stewards offer their array. What would I like? I pretend to consider the question, wearing a look of first surprise, then uncertainty followed with a distinct nod to confirm that yes, I would indeed treat myself to a glass of white wine. Oh and another too, yes, go on then, why not?

Despite the anticipation, the wine would disappoint. A generic white variety. Not particularly well chilled and served in a plastic ‘glass’. Not that any of that would stop me from drinking it you understand.

And I had all the food offered. The snacks, the lite bites, and every course of the evening meal. There is something about free stuff that makes it irresistible, especially when alcohol has loosened my control over what I eat.

I considered the rate at which I drank: fast enough to ensure room for a healthy top up when the trolley made its return journey but not so fast as to be notable to my travel companions.

As well as regular service and top ups, the best thing that can happen on the train is the staff to change at Preston. A fresh crew board the train and take over the provision of service anew. Imagine, the drinks trolley coming around and no-one knowing how much I’d already had! (Unless the other passengers were keeping count?)
Time to hide the evidence of that which had gone before and get ready to act surprised, considered and accepting of the first drink offered.

I arrive at my destination, over full, slightly drunk with an intense foraging want for more of the same.


I look forward to a productive train journey. Five hours of peace and quiet to do as I choose. I time the train to optimise my arrival at the destination. I have a bag of my favourite snacking food bought at the station. Some of it over-priced, but never mind, I'm worth it! I  look forward to an unlimited supply of tea, diet coke and sparkling water once on the train.

The drinks trolley begins its work. I watch others consider their options and choose their poison. I am fascinated by the drinking habits of others. Some, I can tell are as I was: pretending to be startled, not having heard the clanking of bottles of booze, before a fun flippant acceptance of a beer as if this was no big deal. Another has had one beer and looks shocked to be offered another. A lady with a half glass of wine remaining asks if coffee is available and a gentleman, later offered port with his cheese and biscuits, shrugs as he accepts and pops the bottle away in his briefcase. 

The ‘free’ food is no longer appealing. It never was really but it lent some acceptability to the booze and tackled the emerging munchies. It is a cheap perk and it’s not really free. We do pay for it, often in more ways than one. I eat my chosen snacks mindfully throughout the journey.

I read, catch up on emails, do a little work then reward myself with magazine time. I arrive fresh and relaxed, having enjoyed the ‘me’ time but now ready to get my plans underway. 

I’m so pleased to be no longer beholden to booze.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Self Support Structure

My last post on my Sober Infrastructure obviously rang bells with many people due to the number of messages and emails I've received. These have made me continue the contemplation.

In the same way that drinking to excess regularly is a self perpetuating process, I have discovered that staying sober is exactly the same: the longer you don't drink, the harder it is to drink. This is good because it means in weak moments it is increasingly difficult to action any fleeting temptation.

With time we develop an in-built safety mechanism.

My extrapolations of 'What ifs' and 'How would I manage that' have come thick and fast since I first thought of them. So many difficulties and obstacles to drinking now prevail in my life.

How would I explain to my children whom I have reassured I don't drink?
How would I cope with the school disco runs next Friday night?
How would I stay responsible for my son's first weekend away from home? What if I needed to collect him early, meaning late at night?
I would have to restart taxi-ing to and from nights out, at great expense and some inconvenience
Would I lose respect from all those I have oh-so-casually told that I don't drink?
What about my anti-depressants which only work in a booze free body?
What about my daily calorie balance? I'd have to seriously start exercising again, which for some time I have been loathe to do (and have decided it's ok not to bother).
How would I continue to fit all my projects into my life if I devoted any time to drinking?
What if one or once really wasn't enough? What if I was back to square one, adding my advice to that of others who say 'Don't do it, I wish I hadn't'.

Of course I would. All these things would happen to me- I'm no different to anyone else who has tried it and my conclusion would be the same. Rue and regret.

The thought of diverting my life to unravel and undo all that I have changed fills me with dread, embarrassment and a true sense of unmanagability.

I'm glad I have learnt so much from my mind wobble without having to play it out in real life.

I will not be taking that road.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Development of a Sober Infrastructure

Just as drinking wine consumed and infiltrated every aspect of my life, I now find that being sober has done the same.  *Warning: may be trigger-y to some readers*.

On Saturday I contemplated, quite rationally, choosing to step off the wagon. I tried to avoid my black and white, all or nothing thinking and see the reality of having 2/3 of a bottle of wine being just  that and no more. Could I drink wine one day and then continue the next as if nothing had happened?

I checked the fridge and there was a bottle of mediocre white wine languishing at the back that would do. I suppose.

I thought some more about having it, and some more again about the consequences of doing so and found my reasons for not drinking have changed somewhat from those I held firm over the last 2 and a bit years.

I accepted I was a bit down, a bit bored, a bit meh, and that wine would take my focus away from this negativity. I also noticed it was 4.30pm and the wine drinking would be over by 7pm. What would I do for the rest of the night? Drink more? Switch back to tea?

What if?

Would I blog about drinking alcohol? Would I dare? What would you think? Could I credibly continue to write a blog with sobriety at its core? Would I do a good bye post or just change the focus, perhaps to one of moderation? No, I didn't want that feeling of having let myself down and besides, moderation; been there, done that, works for some but not for me.

What about my forthcoming meeting with my sober friend? Would I tell her or would I keep it secret? If I told her could I really sit with a glass or two of wine while she stayed firm in her sobriety, that sobriety that brought us together?

What about my work colleagues to whom I've stated that I no longer drink? We have an overnight trip coming up, how would I explain that I was drinking again? (Ironic since I debated so much about how to tell them I had stopped!)

What about tomorrow? Would I really be able to shake it off and convince myself there was no harm done and no fuss to be made? Or would I begin a downward slide into lethargy, disappointment, despair and self-loathing at my choice?

What about my current diet with its base in high protein, low carbs, even less sugar and NO ALCOHOL? Its success would suffer too. Mmmmmm.

All of a sudden it seemed that my whole life was set up and around not drinking. It just no longer fit in and it was certainly not worth all the effort it would take to shoehorn back in.

 To begin to drink again would be as big a change now, as giving up was then.

All along I knew I didn't really want to drink and that wine would not be a helpful option but I had wanted to explore some of my thinking around this. By the time I had finished my thinking it was 8pm. I was still a bit bored but my mood had perked up after having cake for dessert and I was horrified at the thought that I could have chosen to drink only a couple of hours beforehand.

I removed the wine from the fridge and put it to the back of the cupboard just in case I take leave of my senses again.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Looking back...Moving Forwards

This week saw my new book published: 'The Secret to Being Fashionably Sober and Fabulous' which depicts the ups and downs of the (cliched) sober journey in the medium term.

Inevitably it has made me take stock and look back. It is helpful at any stage of sobriety to change your focus, look away from the difficulties that lie ahead and instead examine how far you've come, how much you've achieved, and how much you've changed.

For me this is a paradox of being so much yet so little.
So much has changed, yet so little changed.

As I failed in every way to moderate my drinking I spoke to a healthcare professional in an informal phone call. I was expecting sympathy and agreement about how it was just too hard and despite really trying, I could not go without even a little wine. I remember wailing down the phone 'But I don't know how to stop,'

To which he replied 'Just stop'.

A single, simple, change bringing unbelievable changes one hundred fold.

Follow @SoberRachel