Monthly Archives: February 2020

6 Months- Time To Reflect

Well it’s the 29th February, I’ve spent the morning waiting by my phone waiting for the leap year proposal but it looks like it’s not going to happen. Scarlett Johansen! That’s it, we’re through, you had your chance so no running to me in a few days time, banging on my door and pleading to let you into my life.

As you can see, the absence of alcohol for 6 months has not curbed my tendency towards self delusion and narcissistic fantasy, but it has nevertheless been a very interesting and surprising journey. Talking of journeys I’m day one into my first holiday since giving up the booze. I’m writing this in a small cottage in the Peak District, ready for a week of bracing walks amongst the beautiful hills of this part of England. Normally such a week would be full of bottles of wine, gin and beer and my “treat” would be to have six or seven consecutive hangovers simply because I can.

What a relief and freedom to not have that to look forward to. Sure I’ll miss drinking some ales in the many local pubs (I’ve booked a cottage with three pubs within 100yards !) but I’ll be able to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to embrace this fantastic part of England, fully aware and alive.

6 months, yes I’m happy and pleased with that. Never thought I’d manage it and once I got through the first couple of months it’s been a surprisingly straight forward journey. It’s only been that way I’m sure because for me I’d had a trial run of three months last year and then prepared for giving up by drinking all through August as my way of saying goodbye to a friend who’d outstayed his welcome. That worked for me but probably wouldn’t for others.

I know giving up has been good for me and I’ll not go through those benefits as anyone reading this will know already about the health and psychological benefits. What I find myself reflecting upon is the issue of moderation. Many of the other bloggers have been here and when one has shown the will power to stop drinking an addictive substance, the thought obviously strikes you that well I’ll utilise that same will power to moderate. In other words- I stopped drinking because I couldn’t moderate. I have shown great willpower so I should be good for going back to drinking as a moderate drinker.

On one level I know it’s a false belief, an illusory promise of joining the legions of moderate drinkers who enjoy the pleasure of drinking without any of the disadvantages.

But I need to settle this in my mind once and for all. I think I have. For me moderation is not my way. My attraction to alcohol was the drinking excessively and becoming inebriated. I’m an excessive sort of person so abstinence actually suits my personality more than moderation. I was of the school of thought that said if one drink is good then 6,8,10 drinks must be 6,8,10 drinks better. Having been that kind of drinker I’m not sure I could be that guy with one pint or one glass of wine in his hand all night.

Then there is the biggest argument against me being able to moderate and that is the nature of alcohol itself. It’s a psychoactive drug. It loosens the control aspect of our brains allowing us to be more uninhibited, freeing us to say and do things we might not normally do or say. That in itself is problematic and I’m sure I’m not alone in cringing at the thought of things I’ve said and done whilst under the influence of alcohol. And that is the point. Moderation is essentially about control. It’s setting limits and saying this much and no more. The trouble with alcohol is I set those limits when sober and try and implement those previously set limits whilst under the influence of the very drug I’m trying to limit. Between the rational setting of limits and the implementation I have drunk alcohol and loosened the sensible, rational part of my brain so at implementation of moderation time, my controlled loosened brain is saying, “don’t listen to that moderation nonsense, enjoy yourself, don’t be boring, go on, have another drink”. So I have another drink and the good intentions evaporate as my rational brain disconnects completely until the next day I berate myself for not moderating.

That seems like a kind of hell to me. So sod moderation. There’s sound reasons why it’s not going to work for me. Yes I’ll miss a beer, wine, gin ocassionally, but not as much as I’d miss the life I enjoy now if I did start again. I think I’m effectively saying I’m glad I stopped, I enjoy being sober, it’s a gift in terms of quality of life being sober, and I’ll pass on that offer of a drink thanks.

Right, off for a walk! No proposals but feeling good all the same.

At doctorgettingsober’s suggestion here are some pics from my first local walk.Not sure what Rheas are doing here!

Jim x


Reflections on a Tragedy

In the UK this week, a woman of 40 took her own life. Caroline Flack was a well known TV presenter and was about to stand trial for a domestic violence incident where she had had an argument with her boyfriend back in December. Police were called, he didn’t want to prosecute but the Criminal Prosecutions Service decided there should be a prosecution. It is a tragedy. She was a widely respected and beautiful woman who was really good at her job.

I mention Caroline because as soon as a situation like this happens everyone has an opinion and everyone starts apportioning blame. The fact is we will never know exactly why Caroline took her own life but we do know there was a history of depression and anxiety, that she suffered cripplingly low self esteem, that there was the impending court case, that she was not being able to have contact with her boyfriend despite it being Valentine’s Day ( he stood by her and did not want the case to go to court but they were prohibited from seeing each other) and factors that we don’t know about. she was also worried that her career in TV might be over.

What I have left out is the way she was treated by mainstream media and “social media”. Some of the papers that wrote salaciously and intrusively about her personal life only weeks ago suddenly showed hypocritical concern for her once she died. Some removed negative stories that they had previously written about her. Everyone in the UK is familiar with the poison that comes from certain papers.

But it is the role of social media that comes up time and time again and did so again in this case. The blanket term social media gets used indiscriminately and often gets the blame when something like this happens. People had indeed used platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to both praise and attack Caroline. When she briefly dated a young man 13 years her junior she was called a “paedophile” by some users, others labelled her a “whore” when she attended court back in December for wearing a short skirt. Uncensored, hateful, unjustified misogynist bile and hatred, the dark side of social media. When I tell people I blog the reaction often is, “ Be careful, blogging is part of that social media stuff, it’s dangerous!”

I then have to point out that there is nothing bad about social media in itself, it’s how it’s misused that is dangerous. Yet, certain forms of social media do lend themselves to being misused more than others. I use Facebook just to hear what’s going on in my local neighbourhood and occasionally to send birthday greetings. But I do see people who use it to continually receive acknowledgement that they are OK as people, “you look great babe”, “fantastic” often short, vacuous words and phrases that prop up often fragile egos. It’s like a collective dumbing down of communication. Even death is now often reduced to cliche and trite sentiment on some of these platforms. Real, raw naked grief is often replaced by safe, surface sentiment,”RIP, she’s with the angels,”. Maybe I’m being unfair but I worry that the flip side of this is the short, empty hateful message equally devoid of depth but so harmful to the recipients.

Then there is blogging, and what I have learned is that blogging is a form of social media but it stands apart from the others in that in the blogging world people genuinely spend the time trying to connect to each other. Bloggers tend to support one another but it’s support that comes with weight and depth and meaning. People take time to read each other’s posts , take time to reflect and comment on what people are sharing. The trolls tend to stay away because it’s not short snappy communication. Speaking personally I have learned and grown through the blogging experience. Many times I’ve read posts and thought, “Oh yes, that’s a good point” or “I think I’ll try that”. Maybe I’ve been lucky in that the area I blog in is people giving up alcohol and trying to improve their lives, but I think it’s more to do with the format, that taking time to compose and develop their thoughts, to show meaningful concern and compassion, to give honest feedback but always without venom or belittling anyone. Of course if celebrities blogged I’m sure they would still attract the negative responses, but it does seem to be the platforms such as Twitter and Instagram that the trolls really home in on. They drop their globules of poison and move on.

If someone vulnerable asked my advice on using social media I would say, think about starting a blog, share only what you feel comfortable about sharing and be prepared to be supported in a meaningful way. If you go for other forms of social media you might get more instant gratification but be prepared for the people who troll that world just looking for opportunities to abuse, denigrate and destroy.

What seems really sad is that celebrities are pushed to have a social media presence. The TV networks encourage people to comment on Twitter and the presenters are expected to respond and post. What then happens is some users attack, denigrate and wear down the celebrities and where those celebrities have underlying issues the pressure from negative comments can be catastrophic. Caroline Flack was under a lot of pressure from her impending trial but the hurtful, cruel treatment she received online must have contributed to her fragile state. In this, our blogging community it’s a testament to the integrity of fellow bloggers that meanness, denigration and undermining are so rare. People are kind, constructive and supportive. We don’t always agree with each other but there’s always a huge amount of mutual respect. It would be great to see that replicated across other social media but whilst we have people who pour bile and vitriol from the safety of their smartphones, it seems we are going to have cases of people being damaged by exposure to unwarranted abuse.

I am just so pleased that within this form of social media, our blogging world, people can express themselves honestly and openly without fear or abuse and in the knowledge they will be accepted and held. Caroline Flack said in her last Instagram post that she had accepted shame and toxic opinions for over 10 years as being part of her job. It shouldn’t be something that anyone ever has to accept and it seems such a tragedy that she never experienced the positive experience online that many of us have been fortunate to experience with our blogs. That’s something this community can and should be proud of.

Jim x

Sex and Alcohol

Someone at some point had to raise it (please no puerile sniggers) so let it be me. Sex and alcohol. They go together like bread and butter, Fred and Ginger, Boris and Donald. It’s also Valentine’s Day so what better day to address this primary drive. I must admit to being surprised that it’s not come up much before on these blogs as the two seem so entwined in both positive and negative ways. For us men, booze has always been a double edged sword (Is it possible to write about this subject without unintended innuendo?).  It gives us a confidence to approach a potential partner and yet too much booze can lead to the onset of the euphemistic “brewer’s droop” .  Shakespere as always puts it much better in one of the few funny moments of Macbeth when Mc Duff comes to wake Duncan and has a brief encounter with the drunken porter:

Macd: Was it so late, friend, ere you went to bed,”
That you do lie so late?
Porter: Faith, sir, we were carousing till the second cock; and drink,
sir, is a great provoker of three things.
Macd:What three things does drink especially provoke?
Port: Marry, sir, nose-painting, sleep and urine. Lechery, sir, it provokes, and unprovokes; it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance; therefore, much drink may be said to be an equivocator with lechery: it makes him, and it mars him; it sets him on, and it takes him off; it persuades him, and disheartens him; makes him stand to, and not stand to; in conclusion, equivocates him in a sleep, and, giving him the lie, leaves him.

Of course alcohol as the drug that enables us to relax and give us confidence has an element of truth but when you give it up you see this for what it truly is, a myth. We are not going to examine my sex life you’ll be pleased to know, but I can say that I have had meetings with people and functions where previously I would have said to myself that I had to have a drink and now realise that I do not and probably never needed one. Yes I get a bit nervous sometimes but that soon passes and I now hardly ever yearn for the anxiety reducing qualities of booze. 

Alcohol and sex. Common bedfellows. Laugh a minute. Lose your inhibitions and have a good time. Meet people and enjoy yourself. All part of the cheery mythology of drinking. But there’s a dark side.

The darker side of this is that booze certainly lowers inhibitions and that means the drive for sexual activity becomes less restricted.  That may or may nor be good for some people but it also accounts for many instances of sexual assault, rape and unwelcomed sexual advances.  The soporific qualities of booze can lead to some people becoming victims of sexual activity that the only fully realise after the event. Or they may become so drunk they are incapable of giving consent and for some twisted individuals a lack of consent becomes bizarrely some kind of green light.  

The fact is a high proportion of rapes and sexual assaults take place where alcohol is involved and an article in the Guardian some years ago suggested rather than fixating on the role of “Date Rape Drugs” we should look at the role of alcohol itself.

While fears over exotic rape drugs might be unfounded, rape is all too common and alcohol frequently plays a role. Rather than fixating on unlikely scenarios of drink spiking, we might be better served by reexamining our collective relationship with alcohol and reinforcing the message that sex with someone incapable of giving consent is assault.  (Guardian 2014)

Of course not everyone who drinks behaves in this way but drink does seem to make people do things they might not normally do. The crime statistics show that a high proportion of crimes are alcohol related and the figure is staggeringly high when it comes to crimes involving violence as this quote from a Government Crime survey illustrates:

Victims perceived the offender(s) to be under the influence of alcohol in 53% of violent incidents measured by the 2013/14 CSEW. This is equivalent to an estimated 704,000 ‘alcohol-related’ violent incidents. While the volume of incidents has fallen, the proportion of violent incidents that were ‘alcohol-related’ has remained relatively steady over the last ten years. Crime Survey 2014

Writing this I’m now aware I’ve moved from a light hearted let’s look at alcohol and sex, titter, titter, to looking now at the dark underbelly of alcohol and sexual violence. That was not my intention, but maybe it says it all that once you scratch the surface of our relationship with alcohol, what seems like a harmless pleasure turns into a something altogether much scarier and harmful. Drink doesn’t turn people into violent offenders and rapists but it certainly seems to encourage those harbouring those dispositions. It will be interesting to see if, as the consumption of alcohol declines, we will see a corresponding decline in rapes, sexual assaults and violence.

Sorry folks, not a chirpy Jim post, not a consistent post. A rambling, confused post and a real downer of a Valentine’s Day post but maybe a good reminder of why many of us have turned away from this most damaging of drugs. It harms us individually and collectively in so many ways and clouds our judgement and decision making. I’m glad I have put it behind me. I know what Love looks like and I certainly don’t need a bottle of prosecco to recognise it.

Personally I cannot see one advantage that drinking alcohol would make to one’s sex life. If you need a drink before making love maybe you’re with the wrong person. If you’re sober and with the one you love that’s as good as anything this life offers.

Happy Valentine.

Enjoy being sober with the one you love.

Jim x

I Have Failed.Sorry.

There, I’ve said it. Failed. Not succeeded. A miserable excuse for a human being. I can no longer consider myself a true member of the sobriety club. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m still not drinking. I haven’t touched a drop in 5 months and yet I still consider myself a failure. Why?

Well, and I feel able to share this in this supportive blogging community, I can’t do yoga. No not just I can’t do yoga, I won’t do yoga. Contrary to what other bloggers say yoga for me is an anxiety producing activity and brings back yoga based PTSD.

So there’s my failure. I haven’t incorporated yoga into my sobriety and that makes me feel deficient. I look around at the other sober bloggers and it seems they are all doing a swan, or lotus or communing together on some retreat whilst I do the “slump” or the “piggy” watching some Netflix box set. The other sober bloggers are just so wholesome and in touch with their feelings and their bodies and I’m still trapped in a viscous circle of sausages, sitting on my arse and reading juvenile comics.

The caring amongst you will,I know, say, “Come on Jim, you too can do yoga, give it a try. Yoga people are inclusive, welcoming and non judgemental.”

The thing is I know that’s not true. You see I HAVE tried yoga and that’s where the trauma kicks in. Just the word, YOGA, brings me out in an anxious sweat. I went to a yoga class 20 years ago. They sat crossed legged and I couldn’t do that. The teacher vindictively singled me out and offered me a cushion for me bum. She seemed ostensibly to be concerned for me but her true purpose was humiliation. I knew they were all laughing at me, inside. I continued. I struggled with each position but I persevered. I looked for too long at one woman and received a withering look. Oh God I was now seen as the creepy voyeur. Could it get any worse. Yes. I lay on my front and had to do something strange with my legs. They parted and I farted. Not gently and softly but loudly. There were titters. My heart rate went through the roof.The teacher smiled and said that happens a lot. And this was meant to be relaxing! I was in pieces. I left that hall and never went back.

So yes I have failed because unlike all you sober bloggers I can never go back to yoga and each time one of you speaks about the wonders of yoga it brings back so much pain. It hurts.

Here’s me doing some moves outside on my own. Just to prove I can do it. I look pretty good for 64 right? 😉

This has not been an easy post, sharing such trauma, but I know you will understand. Thanks for listening.

Jim x