Friday, 30 May 2014

The Present and The Past

The relationship between events and wine, celebrations and wine, weekends and wine is vivid in sobriety as we cope with our ‘Firsts’. The first time we do something or go somewhere usually associated with drinking alcohol, we cannot help but make a comparison between the two instances. ‘Firsts’ are difficult enough yet have the added challenge of internal background chatter: ‘The last time I was here I was......, the last time I was here I did........, the last time I was here I said.....’ underpinning the reality that the last time you were here you were drunk and were having a good time, this time you are sober and you think you are missing the fun. Thankfully these feelings change as sobriety establishes itself; we realise that talking rubbish and throwing up was never fun at all and we stop missing it. With time and practice, we discover where the true fun comes from, and accept it exists to varying degrees at different times 
Initially I swapped wine for an alternative drink. I stuck to my favourite savoury snacks and found ginger beer and lime to be a drink with strong flavours that I enjoyed instead. I really did enjoy this drink and in particular, I took delight in drinking it quickly, drinking as much of it as I wanted and drinking it earlier in the day without comment! Gradually the need for a wine substitute lessened and I began punctuating my evenings with cups of tea and sweet treats. I love them all: biscuits (plain and chocolate), cookies (soft and gooey), cakes (bought or baked), scones likewise, chocolate (preferably Dairy Milk but any type will do) or ice cream (preferably disguised as a chocolate bar or lavished with an indulgent sauce). Breakfast cereals too, all of them, mixed up and crucially, able to be eaten in large quantities without a noticeable absence from the packet.
I have always been diet conscious (some would say obsessed) and have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the calorie count of many foods. Sweet sugary snacks have always been on my shopping list but had been strictly rationed in the past; limited by my discipline and my over-riding desire for wine. I have always wanted more and more of them yet until this last year I have been able to control that excessive desire. 
Wine was my priority. I needed sufficient calories to allow for enough wine, and I bought snacks in small individual packs, meaning if I did Iose control and ate several, it was not a family sized disaster. I managed to give up wine and continue to socialise as long as there was the promise of dessert. In recent months I have more than made up for many years of never, ever, ever, even considering, chocolate brownie with warm chocolate sauce, or sticky toffee pudding with ice cream. I coped with my initial perceived hardship of going without wine by continually indulging my sugar pathways with delights previously forbidden. And that’s okay, because I no longer have the bottle of wine, do I?
Well no, I don’t but I abused this shining halo. I thought it gave me carte blanche to eat anything and everything I’d previously deprived myself of (and lately it has literally become ‘continual’.) There is a little internal rebellious me saying, ‘Well, I can’t have wine so I’ll have all the other things it precluded’. I felt justified in doing this and fell into the trap of virtuously refusing wine, for some reason also feeling freed from the dieting practices I have followed all my life. Of course this was not the case. 

My pathological love of sweet sugary food, my tendency to greed and over-eating, my constant battle to manage my weight all predated my use, then abuse, of wine. While my disordered eating had taken a back seat for a few years, being meticulously controlled in favour of my liquid love, it was never far away and had been waiting patiently to rear its head and come back with a vengeance. Which is exactly what happened. 
To read more of Cake O'Clock click here

Friday, 23 May 2014

Superb Poem

I am shamelessly re-posting here a poem that someone included for me in their reply to an article I wrote on called Banishing the Booze
It reflects the state of mind we have at all stages of Giving Up anything that is causing a problem in our lives, yet cannot easily be removed. For alcohol I am very pleased to say I am now, a 5. I'm on a different street.
For my disordered over-eating, I am a 2. Sometimes I am a 3, but usually I'm a 2. Still, a work in progress. Hope you enjoy it. Rx

1) I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in
I am lost… I am hopeless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.
2) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in.
I can’t believe I’m in the same place
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
3) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I see it is there.
I still fall in…it’s a habit
My eyes are open
I know where I am
It is my fault
I get out immediately
4) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I walk Round it.
5) I walk down another street

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

50% off Discount Coupon

If you would like 50% off the cost of my new book Cake O'Clock just click here and enter the coupon code EZ54Y prior to checking out. Hurry! Only for 1 week.

If giving up wine let your sweet tooth cause havoc with your diet, this is for you.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Truth Hurts

When I stopped drinking 14 months ago, the last thing I wanted to do was to tell people I was an alcoholic and had to stop drinking because I could not control the amount I drank. This was partly due to feeling it unnecessary to use the 'A' word about myself (I was not alone, on the streets, begging for alcohol) and I did not want labelled as such, but also because I think I didn't really want to admit it, even to myself. I had no self-belief that I could give up alcohol forever in the beginning and I did not want to feel under pressure nor conspicuous by way of a grand announcement of a new life.

So I said gave lots of other reasons to explain why I was not drinking.

I was on a health kick
I was working the next day
I had a hangover from the night before
I was having a break from it
I was trying to lose weight
I had to bring the car

anything except the truth.

I was good at this and everyone believed that each time I wasn't drinking it was just a one off. Gradually as time passed I began to tell people more details, edging ever closer to the truth. To date I have never said that when I start I cannot stop and have kept the high stakes of my sobriety secret.

Or so I thought.

It came from an unlikely source. Last weekend at the retirement party I mentioned in my last post, I spent time chatting to a man I used to work closely with on a regular basis. I hadn't seen him for 2 years, since he retired. We knew each other well and through conversation I knew he enjoyed lots of nice red wine and considered himself a lousy drunk, always becoming depressed. He knew I liked to drink a lot of white wine, and by contrast, considered myself an excellent drunk, becoming the heart and soul of the party.
Last weekend he was buying me a drink from the bar. At my request for Diet Coke, he asked if I was driving. I said, as I often do, 'Yes, but I don't drink anymore anyway.'

He looked at me, eyebrows raised, as said seriously 'All getting a bit too much, was it?'
I was caught off guard, at a loss for words. Yes, it was. Way too much and I had been powerless to moderate my intake. That was indeed why I had to stop drinking.
I felt awkward but obliged to respond.
'Errr yeah,' I acknowledged, 'I think it was. It became too much to cope with'.

He had known all along I drank too much, yet had never mentioned it in  any negative way.
I continued to feel awkward and starting rabbiting on,
'Oh around 18 months ago', I said, vaguely, as if it was so insignificant I couldn't quite remember, 'And I don't even miss it', I added to convey a sense that it could not have really been such a big deal after all then, could it?
He didn't reply so I ended the conversation with another stock phrase 'I won't go back to it now, everything's is just so much easier without it.'
The conversation moved on.

Why did I continue to feel admonished? He was in the same boat I had been. I observed him have 5 pints of lager at the party, there may have been more. Was it his own defence? Was it my overly sensitive nature?
Who knows, but one thing is for sure, the truth is out and I'm not entirely comfortable with it.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Then and Now: A Sober Night Out

Many people have recently asked when, in their sober life, the feeling of 'missing out' changes to one of 'reaping the benefits' and truly believing in them. There is no set point in time, the change is a gradual one and while you may not know when it will come, you will certainly know when it has arrived.
Last weekend, almost 14 months AF, I knew it had definitely arrived when I went to a colleague's retirement party. I had been to an identical event, in the same venue, 4 years previously, and the experience was very different.
Big dilemma. Retirement party on Friday night. Chap from work I did not know well and was not friendly with but everyone was going and it would be booze-a-plenty and a 'right laugh' so not to be missed. However I had a friends wedding on the Saturday. It was an early start, and would be a long day of continual 'celebrating' and 'toasting'. Definitely not to be missed. I could do both I thought. I wouldn't drink too much on the Friday and Saturday would be the main event.
I asked everyone I knew, about transport to and from the retirement do (it was forty miles away so a taxi was out) but all the usual non-drinkers were not going. I became increasingly desperate as I realised I was going to have to drive. I had made such a big deal about getting there I couldn't not go! Of course, driving made sense; it would ensure I didn't drink too much, I could get home easily and in good time for the next day BUT..
Well, you know don't you? I was annoyed, disappointed, frustrated, angry, that I had to pass on such a party opportunity.
On the night I became anxious getting ready: my hair didn't 'go' right, I couldn't decide what to wear, was I too casual? Too trendy? Too fat? What would people think?
When I arrived I had my gin and tonic straight away and probably had a second. My topic of conversation was mostly bemoaning the fact I was driving. I was dis-interested, thought the food was rubbish, the speeches boring, and the dance floor too empty to go near. 
I went home having had a rubbish night, glad of the big boozy wedding the next day.
A woman at work whom I have known for a long time is retiring and the party was last weekend. Same venue. Same catering. Same disco.
I was looking forward to it, to be part of her 'send off' and to see her enjoy all the well-wishing and congratulations and the happy end to a long career. 
I did not know what to wear; having recently gained weight, my preferred clothes were not flattering so I had to make do without a dazzling outfit but so what? It was not about me. No-one would be looking at me much anyway and those who were know who I am and what I am, and that does not depend on what I wear. I don't change my opinion of others because they are wearing something I would never have chosen. I got some perspective and got real.
I went in conservative black trousers and a top. I was, in younger parlance, so over it.
On arrival I buzzed around those I hadn't seen for a while or don't get a chance to have anything more than small talk with at work and really enjoyed my conversations.
At the speeches and presentations I felt so happy for my colleague. She was glowing and truly deserving of the praise and compliments she received, I felt quite emotional!
After a few not v.g.sandwiches (no change there. See? Being sober doesn't solve all your problems!) and sufficiently wired by large diet cokes, the girls and I populated the dance floor to all the usual favourite tunes. I was relaxed and had a good time (wishing it was indeed Raining Men!).
Come 10pm I'd had enough. The caffeine buzz was going, I was tired, all the important parts had happened and now it was going to be more of the same for the next three hours. I didn't need anymore, in a good way, I had had enough and the evening was over.
I left for my car noting on the way out tables heaving with wine bottles, pint glasses full of kitty money, ties loosened, shoes thrown off, loud laughter and a couple of arguments. 
I could not help feeling smug: I'd had a good night, had not spent a fortune, and would not have a hangover the next day.
Why did it take me so long to figure this out?

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Cake O'Clock

When I gave up drinking wine I substituted food into the void left behind. Mainly sweet foods, which surprised me as, like many wine drinkers, I was convinced I preferred salty savoury snacks and did not have a sweet tooth. That was before I knew wine was pure sugar and the minute I stopped drinking it I craved and craved sugar like never before.

This was ok though. Ever mindful of my diet, I knew I had loads of calories now spare and prefixed all my snacking with "Usually I'd be having wine but I'm not so...." and gave myself a licence to eat whatever I wanted, and I wanted a lot.

Chocolate, cake and biscuits (desserts, ice cream and breakfast cereals) became my drugs of choice now I no longer drank wine. These extra treats stopped me feeling deprived and allowed me to change my evening habits from wine and crisps to tea and cakes. It worked well and bridged the very difficult early days of sobriety.

But then, eating the sugary sweet stuff gained momentum. I ate more and more instead of gradually weaning myself off it as my wine free days accumulated. This was not supposed to happen and it has led to me having a steady weight gain throughout the last year that I cannot, get a grip on.

To be honest, over-eating, bingeing and starvation have formed part of my make up for many years and have been controlled only through necessity. As my wine drinking escalated, I preferred to spend my calories on that. I would only eat fruit, vegetables and salads to keep 900 calories a day for a bottle of wine. Somedays when I was really hungover I would have carb fests of huge proportions meaning that at other times I had to eat even fewer food calories (more salad and vegetables) to compensate.

To my disappointment, giving up wine has unmasked my disordered dieting and my lifelong chaotic eating patterns. I've found it helpful writing about my bizarre eating behaviour to understand where it comes from to really try to overcome it once and for all. It was difficult to write about emotional events of the past which shape the person I am today and I feel sad at many parts time and again when I read through it.

I've published it in the hope I will find others who will tell me they are the same! It's not just me! It happened with wine after all. If you are or know any obsessive dieters in continual despair over their weight and eating, point them this way and let me know what they think.

Cake O'Clock is available here

Friday, 9 May 2014

Metabolism moans

It's official. I have a slow metabolism.

I returned from my recent walking holiday in the Scottish Highlands: 20 miles per day, 5 consecutive days with 2 friends.

I ate 3 meals per day and stopped when full. Although I didn't overeat per se I had a 2 course breakfast (cereal and toast) in our B and Bs, a sandwich and 'something' lunch (sometimes a cake, but just 1!) and an evening meal from a pub-grub-type of menu but I made reasonable choices and acknowledged I was too full for dessert so did not have it, any night. I had a couple of extra snacks whilst walking. A cereal bar or two at the most and perhaps 3 or 4 oatcakes. And no booze.

Despite all the exercise, I gained 6 lbs last week. 6 proper pounds too; I waited a couple of days for all the fluid from my swollen feet and ankles to clear and 6 lbs was what was left. My jeans no longer fit. When you are 5'2" (158cm) short, 6 lbs is a lot of weight. Plus I've hurt my knee and cannot exercise although I'm wearing my nice stretchy gym trousers for the aforementioned reasons!

On the other hand, my two highly metabolic friends are slim, eat normally and are not sure what they weigh. They had a cooked breakfast each morning, lunch and dinner pretty much the same as me, with the addition of a shared bottle of wine and a gin and tonic or two. During the day they ate a LOT of snacks. One girl ate between 2 and 5 full sized Mars bars each day (in response to feeling dizzy and faint before each one) and another had a massive Toblerone of duty free proportions which she munched steadily through.

Did they gain weight? They don't know, because they don't weigh themselves but their skinny jeans still fit and they looked at me in surprise when I asked because "No-one could gain weight doing all those miles per day!"

But I can and I did. The harsh reality is that I need very little food to maintain a status quo. Much less than I would  like to eat and much less than I have substituted in the place of wine.

It all boils down to choice. What do I really want? And do I want to be slim enough to enable me to make the sacrifices which are required. I feel like I will have to remove the next thing that brings me pleasure from my life too, to do so.

I don't know. I'm still considering this. It's not fair but then that's life isn't it? I like eating. I like food. I like sweet things. But just as with wine, I never know when enough's enough.  I am going to think carefully about my aims for my weight and how I will address my diet demons. I don't want to battle with them for the next 30 years as I have for the previous 30 years.....tbc

Wednesday, 7 May 2014


Since giving up wine, I have replaced it with sweet treats. I know this is a common phenomenon amongst the newly sober but as always, I never know when to stop.
Within a year I have gone from a life of continual dieting; eating little more than fruit, vegetables and crackers and topping up my daily allowance with a 900 calorie bottle of wine, to a complete cake-fest which has now reached the stage of anything goes (and anything does indeed 'go'.)

I survived my early wine free nights out as long as there was dessert.
I managed my early wine free nights in with tea and biscuits.
And crucially, I have dealt with any stressor in my life by eating cake.

It has got to the stage where my weight has increased, my clothes are tight and I dare not wash my jeans lest they shrink back to their original size and no longer fit. I've also had enough. I don't like what it is doing to me. I don't like over-eating, yet I continue to do it, sabotaging my own efforts.

With the week on week rise on the scales continuing, I have reached action point. I have to do something different so I'm changing my focus from my food to my mind. I'm trying to STOP before I eat and think about why I'm doing it; if hunger is not the cause, then food is not the solution and never will be, no matter how much I eat. Food will never fill the void and whatever is missing will remain absent. The problem remains unchanged, unsolved, the only difference being I've now eaten a pile of junk crappy processed sweet treats too! Great.

I'm hoping it is proving so difficult because it is the early days. I tried and tried and kept trying to give up drinking before ultimately being successful. Maybe the cake thing will take time too.

Why is it so difficult to control what I put in my mouth?

Anyone else have this difficulty? I'd love to hear your solutions too!
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