Sunday, 27 July 2014

Fun Friday, Sober Saturday, Serene Sunday....

Apologies for the lack of Friday alcohol free tip this week- international travel (sigh...) but here I am home again and despite my moans and musings of the last two weeks I am very glad I've remained sober in the sun. The longings do still come. I am getting better at managing them, delaying them, and waiting for them to pass but blogging about them here is a great release. I know that I will not receive responses such as 'just have one', 'start again tomorrow', 'if you really want it then have it!'
I will receive encouragement and strength to wait, to sit it out and be returned to my usual sensible sober self. I hope it also shows that the risks and temptations are there in the longer term too. I have not 'cracked it'; it is far from 'job done, let's move on'. It still needs effort and work, as anything worth having does and is never easy. So I continue...

My tip was to find a drink that you really like. This can be harder than it sounds. For instance, I enjoy a cold diet coke (has to be from a can) but I don't enjoy a second or a third one so much and absolutely DO NOT WANT the fourth.

In the beginning I enjoyed slimline ginger ale with lime cordial. I loved the fiery taste and I loved that I could drink it as early in the day as I wanted, as quickly as I wanted and I could have as many as I wanted without guilt!

Now I enjoy this drink occasionally and have become a big fan of sparkling water (living the dream- I know!) I don't have it on a night out but for everyday, all times of day, with meals or between meals, it is my go to staple. I love it refreshingly cold and it has made me re-think diet coke; I appreciate how overpoweringly sweet it is and often, prefer sparkling water.

I'm still loathe to 'spend' calories on drinks and do not like my teeth and mouth feeling sugary and coated so I have not explored cocktails and have only the occasional appletise or other fizzy fruity drinks (usually after the third diet coke!)

I have gone NOWHERE NEAR non alcoholic wine or beer. It's too close, too tempting and I've mixed reports and opinions about the wisdom of these drinks so personally, I've decided to stay clear of them as I don't think they would help me the way they do help lots of others who swear by them.

So, what are you drinking today?

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Weight Wise Wednesday: from the sun lounger

All I can say today is

Do as I say, not as I do…...

….and it would be a good start to limit chocolate ice creams to one per day!

(still, less than a bottle of wine, no?)

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Then, Then, Then and Now: Holiday Update

I've finally relaxed into my holiday and have gotten over my stupid desire for a glass of wine. Here I have recapped how my holiday-ing has changed in the last 2 years.
THEN (Way back then)
Holidays were an excuse to drink more than usual every night, start earlier, have an afternoon beer instead of ice cream and it was excusable being drunk; after all I was on holiday. There would be tears, emotion, good chats and great chats but the common factor was that I would be drunk, drinking, hungover or deciding it must by 5pm somewhere in the world.
On day 3 of AF I went on an all inclusive holiday. I was terrified: nervous I wouldn't be able to avoid drinking and worried that if I started I wouldn't be able to stop. Luckily at the time failure really was not an option; I could not bear to envisage what might happen if I didn't stop then and fear kept me sober.
I used 2 strategies to get through that holiday, both re-framing my usual thoughts. Firstly when I decided each night that I would have a soft drink, I promised myself it was just for tonight and tomorrow night, if I really wanted a drink, then I could choose to do so. If being sober on holiday was so awful I would not continue doing it. But I would try it. What did I have to lose? I gave it a go.
Secondly the Soberista counsel suggested I would be mad to spoil a luxury holiday with booze. Why not see it as time out of life, to pamper and indulge myself from outside and within? So I did this too. I thought I'll do it for this holiday and if it's rubbish, I'll go back to drinking next year.
At 6 months AF I was in a self catering apartment in Majorca. This holiday had been earmarked well in advance for drinking on if I really wanted to. Drinking was to be my reward for 6 months AF, partly because I could not imagine my usual routines minus G and T while getting ready after a day in the sun; minus wine with dinner and missing out on an opportunity to have lots and lots. But when it actually came, I decided No. This AF business is going okay, I'm going to do it a little longer and I am going to see what this holiday is like without alcohol too. (and if it's rubbish I will go back to drinking next year. See the pattern?) I had a great holiday and was really pleased I had chosen to remain AF, rather than being forced to be so, with no alternative option, as I had felt last time.
At 16 months sober I am so enjoying my holiday, unblemished by alcohol. My early morning coastal walks are not spoiled by a headache and nausea, my sunbathing likewise, my diet is not be sabotaged by carb attacks on the ice cream freezer. I am enjoying my books and can remember where I left off the day before and what was going on! At night I am not agitated to leave the apartment, desperate to get to a restaurant and willing the waiter to come swiftly. I am not suffering that irritating hiatus between finishing my g and t in the apartment and wondering when and where the next drink will come from.
I am now, going with the flow enjoying the slower pace of life. No hurry to get a drink. No alternatives motives and agendas influencing the family options. 
Just me, just being me.
What a relief!

Friday, 18 July 2014

How to Tell if You Drink Too Much?

 This Fun Friday Fact is a bit of tough love I'm afraid.

How do you tell if you drink too much? There are so many variables to consider it is very difficult.
How much is too much?
Can it be too much if it is less than your partner/friend/ colleague or Doctor drinks?
Can it be too much if you suffer no hangover the next day?
Can it be too much if it's only in the evening/in the pub/in the house/ or on a special occasion?

The sobering thought is that yes, these statements  and many more can all be true. In the lead up to stopping drinking we will all have wondered if we do actually drink too much. A lot perhaps, but too much? That's something different. We may have asked other people, we may have read information on the internet, we may have gone to an AA meeting and seen others more severely affected and been falsely reassured.

The fact is that normal drinkers do not think about their drinking. It is no big deal for them. They have one or two, stop when they reach their limits and don't over do it. It's the same way that naturally thin friends often do not know how much they weigh.

I am sorry to break the news that if you have gone as far as to find this blog, read it after realising it is a sober blog and are still reading this article here, you most likely do drink too much. I can also say from personal experience and the benefit of hindsight that you almost certainly know you drink too much but are reluctant to believe it, knowing what it may mean for your future.

Advice is something we ask for when we know the answer, but wish we didn't. Erica Jong.

Knowledge is power and if you now know and accept you drink too much, you are in a much better position to start addressing it.

Baby steps remember.

Have a great sober weekend.


Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Weight Wise Wednesday

Today's tip is easier said than done, but in having said that, it should be easier to do with food than with alcohol.


Personally I find it very difficult to stop at one (cake, biscuit, bar of chocolate) and I'm hardly finished the first one when I'm getting the second. SO this week I'm going to Stop. And Think. I can have another one, tomorrow. Not today, not straight away but more like normal people who have one at a time, perhaps each day. Hopefully by avoiding a total ban on favourite foods it will be possible to avoid that 'deprivation leading to immediate craving' thing that always happens.

So, it's food. We cannot abstain. Let's try to moderate.

Let me know how you get on.


Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Holidays Are Hard

Getting sober is one thing but staying sober is a whole load of other decisions which must be consistent and correct. In many areas, I lose interest after 18 months and become lax, slap dash, then move onto something else.

I'm on holiday and I must admit, I'm struggling.

The last 2 evenings I've thought a lot about wine. How I would like a glass. Could I risk one night 'off'? How it would enhance the enjoyment and how it would console me when the kids play up. How it would make me feel dreamy and romantic and gently blur the edges. Isn't going on holiday about getting away from it all? Wouldn't wine help me do that?

These are dangerous thoughts and it has taken a lot of effort to contain them and revisit them to date. And they are still there. I have been playing the movie to the end: I would have a bottle of wine in the evening I know, so I'm not pretending it would be only a glass or anything, I would stop drinking as it would be bedtime and although I would want more, I would accept that this night was over. The next day I would regret it but I would cope with the hangover and think it not too bad. I would then wonder if I had been over reacting with all this sobriety stuff? I think back to others' stories, how without exception they regret drinking, without exception advice us not to try and without exception end up back where they once were, trying to turn day zero into day 1.

I think about this and wonder how I could do it to not have these eventualities. Would it just be one night? Every other night? Weekends only?

The fact that I have spent so much time thinking about all these issues tells me it is wrong. I should just forget it all and not even go there to consider it.

The over whelming issue that has made me continue to abstain is this very fact: drinking and wine has occupied a large proportion of my thoughts in the last 2 days, to the exclusion of many other things. This is typical of what the wine itself would do; lead to continual bargaining, rules, new rules, changing and modifying the rules before eventually saying 'sod the rules'. No matter how much I want wine I DO NOT WANT to go back to how life was before I stopped and I know that if I have wine tonight, I will have it again tomorrow, and more the following night and continue for the rest of my break and take it back home with me at the end.

bashing it out on the keyboard has helped a little but I remain frustrated that I will not allow myself to drink- tonight.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Fun Friday Facts: Sober Saturdays

The First Fun Friday Fact to help your sobriety tonight is to focus on Sober Saturday.

When I first stopped drinking wine I used to crave it terribly in the early evening hours, usually from 5pm onwards but often earlier on holidays and socialising days. I was tempted to give in each and every day and continually thought 'How can it be so hard NOT to do something?'

But I struggled through the evenings, feeling safe by 9pm when I would give in and agree with my sensible sober self that it was so near bedtime now there was no point in opening the wine. I would head to bed earlier than usual, thankful to have survived the evening without succumbing.

The next day I felt great. Elated. Excited. Buzzy. And so, so glad I had not given in to my moments of weakness the evening before. I vowed that come 5 o'clock again, I would remember this high feeling again and this would entice me to do it again. And again. Just for one more day.

So instead of bemoaning the loss of Friday night fizz, focus on Sober Saturday. What will you do? What will you achieve? How will you feel? What will you regret?

The choice is yours.

Have a lovely sober weekend.


Thursday, 10 July 2014

How to Tell if You're an Alcoholic

This is a question I often asked myself when I was hoping I wouldn't have to stop drinking. I know from other sober blogs and fora that many people wonder the same thing. Why? Because if we don't meet the criteria to be labelled an alcoholic then we are okay, aren't we? We are not that bad, need not worry and can carry on as we are. Deep down we know that's not true.

Asking whether or not you are an alcoholic is the wrong question.

What we need to know is whether or not we have a problem with alcohol. 
 This week new guidance issued to GPs in the UK shows a simple way to decide.

Previously, the GPs would ask you about the number of units of alcohol you consumed per week. You would answer, telling the truth divided by 2 (or 3 or 4) and they would compare this to the weekly recommended limit of 14 units for women and 21 for men. Translating a bowl of wine into units and multiplying by number of top ups and 7 days in the week quickly gave us a huge number. But this number was not particularly meaningful to us on an individual, personal level.

Now it is simple. The Doctor can ask 2 questions.

1. Have you ever done anything you regret whilst drunk?

2. Have you ever had more than 6 drinks in one sitting?

These we can immediately relate to. These are easy questions to answer with a simple Yes/No required.

So have you? Have you had more than 6 drinks at one sitting OR regretted anything that's happened whilst you were drunk?

If so, relax. You're not an alcoholic, but you do have a problem with alcohol.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Weight Wise Wednesday

In an attempt to give this blog some structure I am going to post regular updates twice per week. 
These will be Weight-Wise Wednesday tips for eating and weight loss, and Fun Friday Facts about enjoying the weekend without alcohol.

I would love to hear any ideas you have for these slots. Hopefully we can share our top tips for managing these challenges and add some news tools to our armementarium in the war on booze and chocolate.

So here is my first suggestion.

Food (read chocolate, cakes, biscuits, or whatever your weak spot is) cannot be kicked into oblivion in the way alcohol can. We need food to survive but we do not need large quantities of it. Our food intake must be moderated, and we all know how difficult that can be. Moderation involves limits and restriction and to do this, we need to know the starting point.

Knowledge is power so track what you eat and you be surprised at all the extras that slip under the radar and into your stomach without you really noticing. It doesn’t matter what you use: a pretty notebook and special pen, your computer or smart phone, or an app specifically designed for the purpose (my fitness pal has a good one). Take note of everything that you eat or drink in a day. Calculating the calories is a helpful guide in addition, but much of the benefit comes simply from writing it down. By doing so you remember it, acknowledge it, and may think twice about eating it. If you feel too embarrassed to write down ‘1/3 of a broken biscuit’ for the 5th time it may be enough to stop you eating it or the next time, to have one full biscuit, allow it, enjoy it and account for it.  

Try tracking. Just this once. Just for today. Just do it!

Monday, 7 July 2014

Holiday Highs

I go on holiday this weekend. 2 weeks of bliss in the sunshine where, crucially, very little is required of me and I feel absolved of all my usual responsibilities and commitments. Nothing has to be done. There is no schedule. Love it. This year I’m actively looking forward to not drinking; not having a fuzzy head to hamper an early morning walk or being exacerbated by the sunshine. In the last 18 months, and 3 holidays I have changed from missing alcohol and wondering how I’ll cope without a drink, to being okay with being sober, and now to welcoming it. This is progress.

I used to get very stressed in the lead up to a holiday. Finishing off things at work, packing and personal grooming. Somewhere I had to find time to apply fake tan (preceded by exfoliation and moisturizing), have a pedicure, do my nails, pluck eyebrows etc.

Now I do it differently.

I view my 2 weeks away as a spa-type sanctuary break where I pamper myself, having lots of time to do so rather than a rushed effort before we leave home. I also have lots of time now I no longer ‘relax’ with afternoon cocktails, pre dinner gin and tonic and an evening’s worth of wine. So I pack fake tan, exfoliating mitt, manicure set and polish, eyebrow waxing kit (another first; slightly nervous about that) and throw in a few extras that I never get around to during normal ‘life’: a face mask and a deep conditioning treatment for my hair. 

I give my skin and hair a break by wearing no make up and not using straighteners, wax or hairspray for the 2 weeks. You may be horrified by this, I know many see holidays as the time to dress up and party in style but I have reached the comfortable phase of family holidaying in a villa with evening entertainment based around a stroll and an ice cream or a family movie with popcorn on the sofa.

This simple way of life is conducive to healthy eating and drinking copious amounts of sparkling water and I come home rested and truly refreshed as opposed to exhausted, dehydrated and several pounds heavier.

If you are trying your first break without alcohol this would be a good mindset to adopt: rather than missing out on the ‘fun’ you usually have drinking, plan a detox, nurturing, self indulgent break. Just do it once. This year. If it’s awful you can always return to your old ways next year, or you may surprise yourself by preferring this stable, lower key version of events and stick with it.

Whatever you decide: Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

A Sober Interview

This week has seen my interview for Smashwords Authors published. Follow the link if you want an inside look at why I write and what I write. Click Here

Follow @SoberRachel