Wednesday, 31 December 2014

10 Ice Breakers When Partying Sober Tonight

Having a conversation with anyone when you are newly sober is a daunting prospect for most of us. In the early days our anxiety is high and our confidence is low. This time of year with its many parties and social occasions can fill you with dread, particularly if you tend to be shy or quiet by nature and relied upon a few drinks to bring you out of your shell.

In-keeping with New year lists, here are 10 conversation openers you could use at a party when you do not know what to say. It doesn't matter if they sounds contrived. Once the conversation has started it should be self-perpetuating. Try to avoid asking closed questions that can be answered with a solitary 'yes' or 'no'. Asking questions makes people feel flattered that you are interested in them and paradoxically, it makes them think that you are interesting too.

1. Have you travelled far to get here?
2. How do you know…? The hosts or the person who introduced you to each other (then left).
3. What did you do for Christmas?
4. Have you had some time off work over the holidays?
5. Your hair/ dress/ handbag /skin is gorgeous. What's your secret? (You may need to substitute with shirt/ beard /watch!).
6. What resolutions have you made yet?
7. 'Hi, I don't think we've met before. I'm Rachel'. Insert your own name here obviously. Only the very ignorant will not introduce themselves in return.
8. Are you working tomorrow? (You, of course are, that's why you're not drinking and will be leaving shortly.)
9. This venue is X,Y, Z. Have you been here before?
10. How old are your children? (Be sure they have children before you ask this.) People with children will happily talk about them all night.

Remember conversation is a two way process, one person shouldn't be doing all the work. If your companion repeatedly gives mono-syllabic answers and does not offer further chat then be kind (it could be their first night out sober too!) and move on:

'It was lovely meeting you; I must go and speak to X before she leaves. Excuse me."

Socialising sober is exhausting. Trying to be heard over the noise (music?) is tiresome and headache inducing. You can make it easier on yourself: do a quick round to show face and leave early. Don't bother saying good-byes as it starts questions about why you are leaving so early. Drunk people don't tend to notice anyone sober going AWOL so I just slip out quietly. You don't even need to go to the party at all if you'd rather not.

However you handle it, don't worry about it. It does not matter a jot in the bigger picture. If you do decide to go, plan what you will do about drinks, driving and conversation before you go and have a very happy hogmanay.

With best wishes for 2015.

Rachel x

Sunday, 28 December 2014

10 signs you are ready to stop drinking

I guess we have all made some attempt(s) to give up alcohol in the past. Whether it's a day or two off, a severe hangover leading to great announcements that we will never drink again to several weeks or more, something always sends us back to the bottle.
The truth is, you will only stop drinking when you, really want to stop. And want to stop so badly you can make the leap of faith and believe that it is possible there is life beyond booze.

Here are some of the signs I, and perhaps you, will recognise as signifying the time to stop has finally arrived.
  1. You open the wine with dismay thinking 'Here we go again'. 
  2. You notice the repeating pattern of: Plan to restrict, get drunk, regret it, plan to restrict... yet you cannot stop it recurring.
  3. You no longer have enough time to spend a whole day incapacitated by a hangover.
  4. Your hangovers last two days (or more...)
  5. You avoid socialising so you can drink more at home, alone.
  6. You hate the feeling of helplessness you have as alcohol dictates your life.
  7.  You have no idea how to stop. (This was me. Sometime told me to 'Just stop.' Sounds simple eh?)
  8. You think stopping drinking would be preferable to your life at present. In fact, anything would be better than your life at present.
  9. Those around you stop giving you a hard time about your drinking and allow you to drink. They know you need a certain amount to function and do not wish to stand in the way of that.
  10. You begin to ask others how they stopped drinking, you read sober blogs, you buy sober books and you question your belief that you could not cope without it. You begin to wonder if maybe you could? Surely not all sober people are making it up or telling lies about how it is actually ok, or even better than ok?
Personally I was completely sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.

Best wishes if you are starting to stop.
Welcome back if you have not given up on giving up.

Happy New Year to you all. 

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

10 Christmas Signs Alcohol is a problem

apart from reading this blog of course!

Christmas is a time of celebration, family gatherings and over-eating. If alcohol or drinking take precedence over these, it could be they are more of a problem than you think. The reason I know this is because I have done all these things in the past. It strikes me now how transparent they appear.
  1. You leave beer and whisky out for Santa on Christmas eve. Generous measures of course.
  2. You drink Buck's Fizz. The only alcoholic drink deemed socially acceptable at breakfast. Taking the cheapest fizzy plonk you painfully 'spoil' it with as little orange juice as possible.
  3. You drink sherry mid-morning, even although you don't like it. 
  4. You suggest a little drinky as an 'aperitif' before Christmas dinner. All the better on an empty stomach.
  5. You are more interested in the wine than the food presented to the table.
  6. You worry there will not be enough alcohol around, aware the shops are closed.
  7. You devise ways to hide your alcohol consumption lest family members notice how much you drink, or worse, remark upon it.
  8. You encourage others around you to drink more than they would like. 'Come on, keep me company, it is Christmas after all.'
  9. You would rather the guests left and you could drink in peace.
  10. You refuse any invitations that might involve driving.

Next time I will list the ways you know you are ready to give up. Just in time for New Year. 
Have a great Christmas and thanks for following. Rx

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Some Surprising Sober Statistics

This week, one of my tweets highlighting free soft drinks for designated drivers from Coca-cola, (in the UK only I'm afraid) was picked up by a member of their research team. She provided me with some statistics from research carried out this year. Coca-Cola launched its Designated Driver campaign in partnership with THINK! (the Department of Transport's road safety campaign) currently celebrating its 50 year anniversary. I thought sharing some data here would be a nice change from my own musings and opinions.

Of those polled, 87% reported still having a great night out sober with more than half planning to take the role of driver a second time during the festive period. Apart from the clear head the next day, almost three-quarters looked forward to saving £50 over 2 nights out and over half of friends benefitting from a sober driver would contribute to petrol and parking costs, as well as buying the driver soft drinks throughout the night.

Times are changing and it is now recognised women made up an increasing proportion of those caught drink driving and 92% of the British public would be ashamed to drink and drive.

Disappointingly, almost half of designated drivers are offered alcoholic drinks, 'Not even just one? 'cos it's Christmas?'

These findings are almost identical to what we, the sober population, know about alcohol. Once we get over mourning its loss from our lives, we continue to reap the benefits and have fun too, albeit a very different type of fun. One of the main benefits I feel is that when I drive to a party, it is by choice rather than necessity. When I used to drink lots of wine, the worst thing was driving and not being 'allowed' or 'able' to drink and therefore 'missing out'. Not wanting to drink and not needing to drink remove alcohol from the equation and replace the negative mindset with a positive one.

The 87% who still enjoy themselves sober is surprising because we have an ingrained feeling that alcohol equals enjoyment and more can only be better. 87% probably mirrors the population of 'normal' drinkers: those for whom drinking is not a problem and therefore, not drinking is not a problem either.

I've written lots on how to party sober but one activity I laughed at on Coca-colas guide to partying sober was to take photos of the 'fun' and 'antics' of drunk people. This really appealed to my sense of humour although will no doubt add to the suspicion often levelled at the sober ones. You can join in the conversation on twitter using #DesignatedHero

Whatever the reason you are staying sober this Christmas you will enjoy the festivities minus the hangovers and the other negative effects of alcohol.

I've never regretted not drinking. Have you?

Monday, 15 December 2014

Helping You to Help Yourself

One of my Sober Buddies is Louise Rowlinson. As well as being a Public Health nurse she has walked the same path with alcohol as many of us here. What struck her was the lack of support, help and guidance available. Many realise their GP is not best equipped nor able to help us and the waiting list for CBT is often 6 months or more. The other option is AA, which many are reluctant to attend especially at first when anxiety is high and confidence low.

Louise created and delivered the ideal package to fill this void and has made it widely available and affordable using the Udemy platform. Here she tells us more about it.

A Hangover Free Life Udemy course:

Since I stopped drinking in September 2013 I have saved over £2650, lost 12lbs in weight and symptoms of anxiety or depression have all but gone. Life is better in every way! 

Before stopping, we think quitting drinking will be impossible and too hard, so we decide not to even try, but this course will give you all the information and tools to make it possible. 

There are presentations, an e-book, hand-outs and online resources for you to use. The course is designed to be completed in 3-4 hours but deciding to change your relationship with alcohol, and doing so can be a much longer process. 

This course gives you lifetime access; it will be there for you as long as you need it. 

It looks at ways to cut down through moderation, gives you the structure and time to reflect on your drinking while thinking about stopping or preparing to stop. 
It gives you knowledge about the impact that alcohol has physically and emotionally and the skills to manage life alcohol free.  Once you are living hangover free, tools are provided to ensure that you can stay that way as long as you wish. 
It details supportive resources in terms of books, films and online communities. A one-on-one support consultation via email, telephone or Skype is included in the course, should you wish to take advantage of it. 
This course is for you if you want to look at, and change, your relationship with booze, whether temporarily or permanently. What have you got to lose? You can always go back to drinking if you change your mind. Although you might find, like me, that life is so much better without it that you'd rather stay hangover free. 
Enroll now! 
Until New Years Day the course is going to be available at a 50% discount so half price at $25 (£15.50).  If you're looking for a surprise treat for your holiday season sober first aid kit, the brilliant idea from Living Sober (amazeballs Mrs D and SueK!) or would like to forgo a bottle of Christmas spirits this year then this could be for you!!

Discount : Use this discount code to access :)
Five star reviews for A Hangover Free Life Udemy course:
If you are serious about stopping drinking alcohol or cutting down, the course will help you plan, action and sustain this momentous change. 
The information given is an accessible mixture of evidence-based theory from a nursing perspective, and personal experience. The lectures, resources and support included in the course comprise a powerful yet compassionate package. 
It's not easy getting your life back from alcohol's clutches when you have been drinking too much for too long, but this course will help you do it. Highly recommended.
Helpful for Anyone Affected by Problem Drinking 
Louise Rowlinson has combined her professional background and personal experience to create a course to provide guidance to those who are worried about their drinking habits, or those who know they have a drinking problem and are not sure how to get help. She addresses moderation, along with abstinence, in a course packed with useful information, resources, and referrals to online communities dedicated to reduce alcohol abuse. The course materials are presented in an easy-to-follow and honest manner. I feel it is helpful not only to those with a drinking problem, but to those who are family members or friends of problem drinkers. It explains the effects of alcohol use on the body and mind, which makes the often misunderstood issue of alcohol abuse easier to comprehend. Would definitely recommend this course.
Packed full of information and tools! 
What I liked most about this course is that it's written by someone who has been through addiction herself and is passing on her understanding and tools using the benefit of her professional background. It's written really clearly and speaks hard truths in a sympathetic and matter of fact way. 
If you are wondering whether your life could be improved by changing your relationship with alcohol this course will guide you through that decision making process and give you the techniques and support you need to make that change. Highly recommended.

About Louise Rowlinson:
I am a public health nurse who wanted to offer an aid to help with reducing alcohol intake or quitting the booze. This course, my e-book, my blog and all the resources are based on my own experience and from all the knowledge and skills I’ve acquired as a general nurse with alcoholic liver disease experience, psychology graduate, research assistant to Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Samaritan volunteer, post graduate specialist community public health nurse but most importantly as a person who was psychologically dependent on alcohol and who is now in the early stages of recovery.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Drink Driving and the Law: Part 2

It's been one week since my last post which stated the new law in Scotland; that of a reduced, allowable, blood alcohol concentration. Since then, an astute reader contacted me and suggested I had held back on my last post. She felt it was artificially truncated and that I hadn't said all that I honestly felt about the subject.

She was right.

The truth is that drink driving is a massive social taboo. As such it is never spoken about, not even between the best of friends who discuss everything else generally considered taboo. My personal opinion is that many of us drive when we know we are 'likely to be over the limit' but think on balance, that we'll 'probably be okay'. We think we'll probably be okay because it's only a short journey or we live in a rural area and are unlikely to be stopped by the Police. There's also the arrogance borne of having a couple of drinks, the feeling of invincibility when we truly believe we are fantastic, sassy and can have it all and still drive home with a casual 'it'll be fine'. There is also a layer of naivety that those things only happen to other people.

So we do not allow our thoughts to dwell on the thought of losing our driving licence or having a criminal record and declaring it at work or to insurance companies. And we certainly do not consider that we may injure someone, or worse. We don't think about it because it is just too awful to play the movie to the end.

My movie would indeed be awful. A drunk driving conviction would threaten my career, restrict my ability to fulfil my home commitments and above all, would leave me walking an eternal road of shame. No matter what price I paid, I feel I would never be entirely absolved of the crime. All these reasons prevented me from habitually drinking and driving.

My nights out involved significant taxi fares and I was happy to pay them. The three occasions I remember, when I did drive knowing 'I was probably over the limit' but would probably get away with it, happened when I had an impromptu drink. It was always unplanned. As you know, for me one drink, impromptu or not, was never enough and a second followed. Two drinks doesn't sound a lot but two large glasses of wine is 2/3 of a bottle which most certainly does sound a lot. Once home safely, I stopped to consider the risk I had taken, I was truly horrified, terrified, to the degree that it was not common practice for me. Not that this makes it any better.

There is an interesting article here recently written and published in The Observer magazine by editor Lucy Rock which explores why there has been such a rise in women drinking and driving.

So there it is in its entirety. I had not divulged my thoughts and feelings last week because no matter how infrequently I did it, or how long I have been sober subsequently, the facts remain unchanged. And what ugly thoughts they are.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Scotland's New Drink Driving Law Today

From today in Scotland, the legal drink driving limit of blood alcohol level is reduced from 80 mg to 50 mg per 100 ml blood. This means it is lower than the unchanged level in England and Wales, and is equal to that in Europe.

Yesterday, the coffee rom chat amongst my fellow Scots was not focussed on the safety aspect of this change nor did many consider the risk drink drivers pose to others. In the true British way of drinking, the chat was about how much you could still drink and not get 'caught' or worse still, get unfairly caught the morning after. The anti-establishment vibes of flirting close to the line and 'getting away with it' were paramount. I heard no chat of 'best not to bother drinking anything if you're driving' which is more appealing to my 'all or none' mentality.

Further, I heard on the radio that certain outlets are giving drivers free top ups of coca cola or diet coke all night after purchasing their first glass. I did not catch the details- anyone know where this applies????

My overall reaction to the change in the law is that it is a move in the right direction for public safety as a whole. My more personal feeling is one of relief. I don't have to bother about the new lower limit, I don't have to decide whether to buy a breathalyser self testing kit or not, I don't have to concern myself with the morning after. In many ways, this new change is not relevant to me, in my individual life. I'm glad I don't need to study the factors affecting metabolism and blood concentration of alcohol nor bemoan being able to drink even less while factoring a host of unknowns into the risk assessment.

All or nothing is the way I am and today brings another reason that as far as alcohol is concerned, I'm glad it's nothing.

Monday, 1 December 2014

My First Love

For those of you who missed this article on Soberistas, here it is again. Enjoy!

My First Love

‘Come on,’ you called ‘let’s spend the evening together. We’ll have fun!’.

I was torn. Undecided. I had planned a trip to the cinema with a friend yet despite having you all to myself the last three nights, I was tempted. We were seeing more of each other and I knew things were becoming serious. It was hard to resist such an attractive proposition.

I always enjoyed being with you and you’re right; it is fun. You make me feel special, beautiful and tell me I am charming and clever. I enjoy being a little wild and carefree with you. We are extravagant; money is no obstacle. You make me forget all my troubles and am freed from mundane responsibilities of daily life. My other commitments lose their importance in comparison to spending more time with you.

We have spent several nights together. Talking and staying up into the small hours of the morning. Why do you never stay the full night?  When I wake up at 3am, anxious or scared, you are never there. Sometimes I am glad about this because my sparkle has subsided and I am tired, restless and can feel a headache developing. I am no longer the same attractive, flirty person of the night before.

There are times when I need you though. Bad times when I am sick or shaky or feeling anxious and depressed. But still you are never there to rescue me. You don’t want to know about the downs and it seems you do not care about my health or wealth. Deep down I know you are a fickle, fair-weather friend.

In the morning I vow not to see you again. I will ignore your calls and will not allow myself to be led astray. You are not good for me; my nan would have called you a ‘bad ‘un’ and I agree. We’re finished.

By lunchtime I wonder if I’ve over-reacted and been too hard on you. We each have our faults and you are no different. Besides, I love you. I want you.

In the middle of the afternoon I decide I will answer when you call. And you will call, as you do each day around five o’clock. Sometimes earlier, occasionally later but you can always be relied upon to come back.

I will agree to see you again tonight despite my better judgement: I know you are no good but I am drawn to you regardless. I cannot say ‘No’.

I pick up the ‘phone and call my friend. I plead off the cinema trip claiming a headache. It’s not really a lie: I did have a headache today although it is almost gone now. I can hear the disappointment in her voice and feel bad that she had arranged a baby-sitter specially. But not for long. I do not dwell on my guilt. Instead I reach up for my favourite heavy crystal glass. Next, I go to the fridge and open the door. There you are, reliable as ever, waiting for me to take you out so we can spend time together. 

I unscrew your top and listen to the satisfying glug as you fill my glass with amber nectar. I sit back and relax and wait for you to bring the feel good factor to me once again.

Follow @SoberRachel