Category Archives: alcohol

Dissecting My Unexpected Craving

On the 31st August I will have been sober for a year. Those initial cravings for alcohol are long gone but deep rooted compulsions and drivers sometimes surface unexpectedly. I find this both interesting and disturbing and I can see, in those moments, why people start drinking again. Over the weekend I experienced these feelings and it threw me as it felt like I had just set out on my sober journey. I’m going to try and unpick the thoughts and feelings I experienced, dissect them if you like, to try and help me and maybe others understand what can sometimes make us return to drinking even after months and years of abstinence. It’s individual to me but may resonate with others.

My son and his girlfriend were visiting and staying with my ex who I get on well with and who lives in the same village. On the Saturday we had a socially distanced meal in her garden accompanied by much drinking. I was on my AF beers and the afternoon went well initially with just a few pangs of wishing I could join in as the party of 6 drinkers (my partner was also not drinking) sampled a variety of wines and beers. Being sober I was aware that I was experiencing that feeling of being an outsider. There were shared experiences going on but I wasn’t part of them. The sampling of wines, the slight change in mood, the change in conversational gears. Rather than going with the alcohol flow I had to watch and note how the tempo, content and language was changing. I tried to match that, but doing it sober felt contrived. As the afternoon wore on I felt slightly resentful that me doing my “not drinking” thing was preventing me having some of the experiences I had previously enjoyed, including getting slightly tipsy with my boys. The thoughts started coming in,”Why are you denying yourself, this is the sort of situation you used to love, sitting outside in the sun, eating and drinking, getting tipsy and enjoying the loosening of social and linguistic conventions as the alcohol kicks in. Go on Jim enjoy yourself.”

The truth was that I was not enjoying myself, I was focusing on what I didn’t have, what I had denied myself. There was also anxiety lurking in the shadows but more of that later. We then played some games. Finally we had a different focus and I really enjoyed that. Looking back I realise that as a non drinker I’m often dealing with situations that are drinker focused. Sitting round a table eating and drinking for hours as the conversations become sloppy and incoherent is not what I choose to do anymore so suddenly having to do that, naturally made me feel both an outsider and uncomfortable. Luckily the near 11 months of sobriety got me through as did the realisation that I had been a different drinker to most of the others now sitting around the table. I would have got carried away. Moderation would have disappeared. I would have got drunk and maybe that realisation was also affecting my mood; the reminder that I had stopped drinking because drinking had stopped being fun,both for me and the people near me; it was fucking me up. Maybe I was just resentful that they could drink in a way I couldn’t.

I know all this feels like I am massively overthinking things but by understanding the torrent of thoughts and feelings I want only one thing; to strengthen my resolve, to not take the easy way of going back to how I used to be.

Anyway, back to Saturday. We eventually go for a walk and they want to go to the local pub. Decision time. No way do I want to sit outside a pub drinking more liquid and spending more hours watching people get pissed. I took my leave and went back home and prepared seating for when my sons and girlfriends, ex and her husband came round after the pub. They arrived. My youngest son was now noticeably drunk. A new feeling emerged, oh I recognise this one – it’s guilt. Was my pattern of drinking somehow responsible for the way both my sons drank. They certainly can put it away. The youngest one is keen on sports but when he does drink it’s often to excess; just like his dad. It was sad watching him drink.

The next day my youngest son and girlfriend left and my other son and girlfriend called on me and we went for a walk again with my ex. Of course we ended up at a pub. No contact tracing, no queueing system at the bar, it was shocking. My son was the only one really drinking as he never drives. “Just ” the 3 pints for him but again I had the feelings of wanting to be able to enjoy a pint with him but realising it would end up with another day wasted if I did. I felt strangely sad as we sat there in the sun by the river. Why? Maybe it was the realisation that I do not really want to go to pubs anymore. They had lost their allure, especially now in Covid era. For years pubs were my favourite places. I loved pubs. I have books listing the best pubs in England, I have spent some of the best times of my life in pubs. But it was the booze mainly, if I’m honest, that’s why I loved pubs. Take away the booze and their appeal has gone. Like delayed grief it really hit me that something that was a big part of my life was gone, but in order to maintain socialising I was being reminded of my grief by revisiting the source of that grief. I just wanted to get away from there.

If I’m truly going to understand the desire to drink that I experienced sitting by the river I have to delve yet a little deeper. Sitting there with my ex wife, my son and his girlfriend I felt strangely awkward, uptight, removed. I found myself thinking about what I was going to say, as if I were detached but trying to be part of the group. What should have been easy going conversation felt constructed for me and constricted. I know this is part of a long held feeling that I’m not a natural group person. My career, the things I enjoy have been based around me being in control or playing a clearly defined role. Therapist, teacher, acting, performing; those are safe places for me, they are my comfort zones. The other slightly removed, detached , with me leading the dance, that’s where I thrive. Chit chat and social conversations leave me feeling awkward. Intimacy makes me feel awkward. Not in very close friendships or a few relationships but generally. That’s where the drink used to come into it’s own. The anxiety and self doubt in those situations would eveaporate, dissapate as soon as the drink hit the back of my throat. I would tangibly feel a loosening up and a relaxation that was often missing in my body and soul. It was wonderful. But of course it came a cost and did nothing more than cover up the symptoms. Like so many others have said, take away the drink and you have to sit with and confront many uncomfortable thoughts and feelings.

We left the pub, walked home and I said goodbye to my son and his girlfriend. I hadn’t seen both sons together since March and what should have been a happy time was contaminated for me, not them, by drink and the resurfacing of uncomfrtable truths. A time to connect and do things had instead turned into hours of mainly drinking. It would be easy to throw in the towel and just join back in with the whole culture of drinking. I’d connect better with my sons, not feel awkward and I’d enjoy pubs again but that’s not what I want. I want to show my sons that we could have a great time if we got together and “did” things; visited somewhere, played, cycled. I’m writing this on a Tuesday morning without having experienced a hangover yesterday and I am so glad of that. My sons may come to their own conclusions and decisions about drinking. I am sure years of seeing me and their mum and my friends drinking so much has rubbed off on them. My quiet hope is that now, seeing me sober, the same may happen in reverse.

My “little” job going forward is to dig into the black hole of anxiety and self doubt that made drinking such a relief and release in the first place.

It’s long overdue.

Jim X

Opening Time!

It was a dream that felt like a nightmare. I was in a pub with siderooms that went on seemingly for ever. The beer was flowing from huge barrels placed on the long bars and the whole pub was filled with the noise of loud talking, laughter and shouting. There were people everywhere, crammed so close together that I could feel their breath on my face. 40 years ago that would have been a wonderful dream, a vision of heaven; now it was a COVID nightmare, a vision of hell. Later in the dream it got seriously weird.The anonymous faces took on an identity and I realised that all the drinkers were fellow bloggers. It was a sober bloggers’ pissfest. Arghhh! I woke in a hot sweat.

That dreammare got me thinking; wouldn’t it have been fun to have experienced, just once, drinking with some of the now sober bloggers. I think we would have had some night, great craic as the Irish say, well, great up to the point we all failed to put on our drinking brakes (actually this has now been established as a design flaw in the soberblogger range- they made an alcohol-fueled, super- charged model but some idiot forgot to add a drinkbrake- madness!). With no drinkbrake to apply us sober bloggers would have turned a fun night down the pub into a drinking frenzy of inappropriate personal comments, a disregard of social distancing, embarrassing dancing, rampant flirting followed by … well I’ll leave you to fill that in.

Of course the dream I had and images I’m describing are related I’m sure to the imminent opening of bars and restaurants here in the UK next weekend. Last year I was a drinker and if I were still a drinker I’d be planning which pubs to visit on that opening day. Thank God I don’t drink. Forget the nostalgia of cosy English pubs, I went to pubs to drink beer. That’s it. Since I stopped drinking I have been to pubs but without the need to go to a pub. It’s been where friends choose to meet but I’d be equally happy to go to a coffee shop, a park bench or a friend’s house. The pub is now longer the key place it used to be for me. I no longer yearn to go to pubs and I am now so gratefui for that fact.

Having seen some people (and it is only some but a significant some) overtake Coronavirus as the biggest threat to humanity out there with their astonishing complacency, selfishness and stupidity I have no intention of going to the pub any time soon. Thanks to not drinking I won’t miss the experience one little bit. In fact I’m looking forward to not going. So, thank you sobriety, you may just have saved my life in ways you couldnt have imagined. Cheers.

Jim X

3 Months AF – YIPPEE!

Unbelievable . Who would have thought it? In two days time it will be three months since I last had a life. I think back to how I was back in early March and it seems a lifetime ago- wasting my life hiking, meeting people, singing in close proximity to others and having, what I thought at the time, was the time of my life. – what a jerk. How deluded can one be. Now after three months being AF (Allthethingsthatmakelifeworthliving Free) I can honestly say I feel a completely different person. My life has genuinely been transformed. Being AF has brought so many advantages, I just wish I had discovered the AF lifestyle years ago. For those looking to take the plunge here I some of the things that I can now “enjoy” in my new AF life:

Ain't life a scream!
Ain’t life a Scream!
  • I now can now relate to other people via a fuzzy computer screen and don’t have to put up with their nasty body odour
  • I’ve saved a fortune not going into restaurants and cinemas
  • Family gatherings where you had to think of an excuse to leave early are a distant memory
  • I finally don’t have to say to people “give me some space”
  • FOMO has completely dissipated. There’s no longer anything to miss out on
  • My hair and beard can grow luxuriously for once
  • Supermarket shopping is a pleasant, ordered experience not crammed to rafters
  • Being jostled at gigs and trying to see bands over the heads of others is a thing of the past
  • I wake up each day and don’t have a clue which day it is or what I should be doing
  • There is absolutely no point planning anything anymore

So with all those benefits, have I any words of advice to others who want to experience the joys of being AF? Well, Yes, try and create your very own pandemic for a start. Maybe destroy large areas of natural habitat and start eating animals that previously were not part of the food chain. Create huge areas of humanity crammed into small places with not much money and you’ll soon get your AF life up and running. Even better, elect an incompetent set of leaders and then you can just settle back and watch your new AF life unfold before your very eyes without you having to do anything. Oh, there will be some tough times ahead, there are some downsides. The AF lifestyle isn’t plain sailing. You may have to witness some nasty scenes on television and watch the disadvantaged suffering disproportionately , but then again, we should all be used to that by now. As for the nasty images on the telly why not switch off the news, do a jigsaw, watch a cartoon or do a family zoom quiz.

Yes sir, 3 months AF. Who would have thought it? That’s a landmark well worth noting.

Anyone seen my mask? Hello, is anyone there?

Jim X

The Bloody, Sodding Liebster Award

Winning this coveted award is, without doubt, one of the greatest achievements in my already glittering career and life . Let me start by thanking the nuns at the maternity hospital who delivered me on that sunny day back in….- Oh sorry-what? No, that can’t be. What are you saying? I’ve not actually won yet? You’re kidding! Only a nominee? Ridiculous. And I have to do various tasks? It’s an affront. But, for the sake of those that nominated me I shall complete the process with an open heart,and with the attitude that such an award deserves.

Here are the so-called Rules

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you, and provide a link to their blog.
    • As the clear favourite to win this Oscar of the blogging world, I’d like to point out that I was nominated by not just one BUT TWO bloggers- Anne at nomorebeard and Claire at ditchingthewhininghabit. Thanks guys- they’ll be payback believe me
  • Answer the 11 questions given to you.
    • Claire took the trouble to write these, Anne just lazily reused them
  • Share 11 facts about yourself.
    • Believe them they will be true
  • Nominate 5-11 other bloggers.
    • fat chance- I want less not more competition
  • Ask your nominees 11 questions.
    • Sorry but I have washing up that needs doing
  • Notify your nominees once you have uploaded your post.
    • Ha!

Answers to Claire’s/ Anne’s questions:

  1. If you could have had any job/career what would it have been?  At the age of 11 I went to a chocolate factory with my school and up to the age of thirty I dreamed of being chief chocolate taster at Cadbury’s . Sadly it wasn’t to be. I had to settle on just being a UN ambassador and bringing world peace to troubled regions of the world.
  2. If you were stranded on a desert island what three items would you choose to have with you?  My Liebster Award , a mirror and a rubber chicken
  3. What the thing you like most about yourself? My inexhaustable humility
  4. If you could relive one day again, exactly as it was before, what day would it be and why? the day fairly recently when I was first nominated for the Liebster Award. My life changed forever on that momentous day.
  5. If you could only see one more band/singer live, who would it be? The Wurzles singing their classic hit- I’ve got a brand new combine harvester
  6. What is your biggest achievement in your life so far? Winning the Liebster Award
  7. What’s your favourite way to relax (keep it clean please!)? Cleaning
  8. You can have a superpower for a year. Which one would you choose? The power to defeat all known viruses and to go back in time and kiss Susan, the prettiest girl in my primary class.
  9. What’s your favourite time of day and why? That lovely 24hr spell between midnight and midnight. No other part of the day quite lives up to this.
  10. What are you most afraid of?  losing my reading glasses
  11. What are your ‘words to live by?’ “sausages used to be meatier in the 1960s” and “do you have any other AF beers besides Becks Blue”

11Facts about Me:

  1. I identify as male most of the time
  2. I wear size 9 shoes
  3. I have white hair
  4. I used to have a flat mate that drank more than me
  5. I have been married 3 times
  6. I have been divorced three times
  7. Marriage is a tricky business
  8. Divorce is expensive
  9. Im getting older with each year
  10. I hate writing lists
  11. I like it when lists end

My nominees :

  • Please God, this has to end somewhere or everyone will eventually be a nominee!

In reality of course these awards are superfluous. Who needs them? All these sobriety blogs have different and distinctive voices. They all contribute to a thriving community that provides amazing support and encouragement to others dealing with related issues. In my book they are all already winners. I thank you.

Jim X

Returns and Temptations

I feel like an agoraphobic who has just let the situation get out of hand. You know, the longer you leave it to take those tentative steps outside the harder it gets. That’s how its felt with blogging, you leave it for a few days, then a couple more. You realise you really should look at some of your fellow blogger’s blogs and make a few comments.  Show you’re still part of the community, but you don’t  and then guilt kicks in. You deal with that by more avoidance and pretty soon it feels as if you’ll never get back. I say to myself that maybe I don’t need to blog any more.  I started it to help me give up the booze, well job done, its been 9 months without drinking. No need to blog anymore. Except of course if everyone did that who’d be there to support the newbies? More guilt. 

Time to stop the rot, open that metaphorical door and step out into open air of blog land.  I’ve missed it. I’ve missed the interaction. I’ve missed giving and receiving the support. I know why I’ve been absent. Family issues, lack of focus and motivation; all, in the end, excuses. So what to report?

I did nearly start drinking again. For real.

Not in some miserable, what’s the point kind of way more in a “it’s a sunny day, I miss the warm fuzzy feeling of enjoying a great wine whilst sitting amongst the flowers and feeling at one with the world” kind of way. This must have happened to a lot of ex drinkers I’m guessing. That remembrance of why you used to drink in the first place-it was fun, enjoyable, it made you feel good. I loved my beer and wine and for a couple of weeks I thought to myself ,”Why on earth are you denying yourself Jim?”

Fuck the blog I thought, fuck that austere, fun-less world you’ve inhabited for 9 months. Life is too short. Others manage it.  Everyone else on the regular Sunday Zoom family quiz was knocking back the booze and enjoying themselves.  Stop the nonsense and live a little I would say to myself. You can be sensible.  I pictured myself as a sensible drinker once more enjoying all the pleasures of booze without the downsides.  I’d learnt my lesson so can I now join the living and go back to sociable drinking.

I came close, very close.

I put forward some damn fine reasons for me to start again. But something stopped me.  I knew this was a big decision, a fork in the road that would shape my life’s journey for months or years to come. I gave myself a week or two to consider. If I felt the same way after a couple of weeks, I’d pick a day and I’d open a cold Guinness that I kept in the garage fridge, then I’d have one of my Belgian Trappist beers also in the garage. Oh this seemed a great day in the making.  After the beers, my visualisation was showing me, I’d have a glass or two of a lovely Malbec that’s sitting in my wine rack and finish off with some large gin and tonics. Oh dear. I saw it all clearly. That’s when I realised I can’t go back to drinking.  I wasn’t envisaging a single beer or a glass of wine, I was imagining a full blown binge drinking session which is exactly what would have happened.  I don’t drink because I’m shit at moderating and before I know it I’d be back to hangovers, excess weight, irritability etc etc. 

This, it strikes me is the real challenge of staying sober.  Reminding oneself of how bad things had been, how easy it would be to return to those grim days, the days obsessing about alcohol, planning things around the next drink, moving quickly from the first enjoyable drink to the 6th or 7th where you start to feel rough and wish you’d never started.  Looking back helped me make the right decision for my future. I gave up drinking for good reasons and those are still pertinent. It’s not always easy staying sober but it’s definitely better than what was there before.

A few days after my Jesus in the desert moment I decided to expand my range of alcohol alternatives as a distraction and investigated the making of Kombucha.  I love drinking interesting tasty drinks and felt that Kombucha could fit the bill. I’ll leave the report on that episode for the next post. Suffice it to say I’m hooked. My moment of temptation had passed.

In conclusion I’d say to anyone in the early days of giving up, yes, you’re more than likely to miss alcohol and start to think you could have a different relationship to it if you started again. Those feelings of missing the booze do go and just remind yourself of why you gave up in the first place. I know I have more freedom, peace of mind and happiness sober than I ever had whilst drinking, For that I’d happily forgo the very transient, fuzzy feel good of what was often only ever the first few beguiling sips of alcohol. I made the right choice 9 months ago and it’s still the right choice. It’s good to be back.

Jim x

You Don’t Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows

Ok a short post- mainly to share some observations for what they are worth

The Lovely, Smart, Effective, Inspiring Jacinda Ardern

1 I love Jacinda Ardern- New Zealand’s PM. Really I do! Last year she impressed me with the way she dealt with the awful incident of the terrorist who targeted Muslims. Now she is impressing me with how she and her country is dealing with Coronavirus. Decisive, effective, compassionate, empathic and to top it all, she and her ministers take a voluntary 20% pay cut. So yeh- I love that woman and I wish my country had a leader like that.

2 Leading on from point 1. When reading about Jacinda I was struck how many of the countries dealing most effectively with the crisis in the world are led by women. Check out this article, makes fascinating reading. Certainly makes you think.

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/14/asia/women-government-leaders-coronavirus-hnk-intl/index.html

3 My last post about how now is actually a good time to stop drinking resonated with a few readers. Made me realise that I was so lucky to have given up on 1st September last year. I’ve given my body a fighting chance of being better prepared should I contract this bloody virus. But then I thought,”Was it luck or was there something in the Zeitgeist that led me to giving up drink at that point.” I’m beginning to thing there was a confluence of factors; greater awareness of the damage we are doing to the planet (good old Greta!), more people shunning the handed down assumption that to have a good time you had to do things like drink, a growing distrust of how big business encourages unhealthy habits, and a realisation that we can shape our own destinies.

4 I look around now and see many people overeating, drinking more excessively, basically a lot of people who do not seem very fit. Not all by any means but a lot. I see a divide according to class and inequality and realise that for all the talk about public health, successive governments, in the UK at least, have simply not done enough to promote good public health. School playing fields have been sold off, public spaces reduced, no real money has been put into cycling and building a network of safe cycle paths, there’s still no minimum alcohol unit pricing in England despite the evidence that it works (as in Scotland) and the suspicion reemerges that governments have a bigger interest in tax receipts from the food and drink industries than really making a difference to public health. We have neglected real efforts to help all sections of our societies healthy, and now when having a healthy body is the one defence we seem to have against the virus we realise just how important health is. We have a pandemic that people like Bill Gates warned us about 5 years ago but for which there was little to no preparation. We merrily boozed and chomped our way through more than we ever needed. Governments could have spent time and money preparing for a pandemic but that costs money and some governments think we all want a low tax, consumer society where we can consume scarce resources and eat and drink ourselves senseless above all else. Maybe they got that wrong. Maybe that’s not how many felt before the crisis and even more feel differently now.

Maybe the Zeitgeist is about to change. Let’s hope so.

That’s it. Just some thoughts.

Jim X

Now’s surely not the time to consider giving up the booze Jim- Oh yes it is!

It’s already a cliche, but it’s true- we are living in strange times. But also counter-intuitive times. I’ve now had people with anxiety and depression telling me they feel oddly more relaxed and better than before the Corona crisis, isolated people saying how comforting it is to not be the only ones isolated, indeed the crisis has led some to be more connected than ever before. Strange times indeed.

That got me thinking about alcohol. I haven’t spoken much about this subject since the outbreak of the virus because it didn’t seem of much consequence, I was wrong. This is the perfect time to talk about alcohol and in a rare moment of Jim giving advice I would say to anyone reading this considering giving up alcohol- do it and do it now- it’s the perfect opportunity.

Steady on Jim. People are drinking at this time and for many it’s a welcome relief, a source of comfort and pleasure, only a sadistic bastard would advise people to give up at this time of most need. What’s wrong with you, show a little compassion man.

Yes, it does seem counter intuitive but hear me out. If I were still drinking, this lock down for me would be open season for binge drinking. It would be like being on holiday; no major work commitments, unstructured days, minimal driving and no censorial judgements. It’s lock down! Wear your dressing gown all day, binge on box sets, eat chocolate and ooh look its midday let’s have a G and T. I would be knocking it back slow and steady, spending days in what I would have considered hazy, disconnected bliss. Except it wouldn’t be bliss for long. I’d start feeling rough in the mornings, guilt would creep in as would post drinking anxiety. I would get grumpy and take out my self revulsion on my partner. In short I would quickly become a mess.

So clearly this is directed not at the glass of wine a day brigade but the serious drinkers, the ones who find it hard to stop in the absence of normal restrictions. Drinkers like me (I’m now happily 7 months sober by the way). So here’s the thing. Why is now the perfect time to stop?

Reason 1 If you don’t stop it will be easy to find yourself in holiday mode and your drinking issue could easily spiral into a serious drinking problem as outline above.

Reason 2 If , like me, your drinking is conditioned to a large extent by social events this is the perfect opportunity to stop because those social triggers have ceased to exist. No pubs to negotiate or restaurants to sit in watching others knock back the wine. No family BBQs or big birthdays. No Easter get togethers or beach picnics. Some of the key anxiety producing events for people trying to stop drinking have vanished. Even if you wanted them they do not exist for the moment. So sieze that opportunity. It’s like having a head start. My first two months of sobriety were spent dealing with these social triggers and having to summon up massive amounts of will power to get me through. It seriously does get easier after the first two months so this lock down situation is like being in rehab without the £1000 a week price tag. So you can see, you would be mad NOT to use this opportunity to give up drinking if you have been seriously considering it.

Reason 3 The BIG one! This is the one that could be the difference between life and death. Seriously. Alcohol is bad for our immune system. Fact. Don’t just listen to me I’m not a doctor, but listen to these guys:

Alcohol and the Immune System

Dipak Sarkar, Ph.D., D.Phil., M. Katherine Jung, Ph.D., and  H. Joe Wang, Ph.D.

“Clinicians have long observed an association between excessive alcohol consumption and adverse immune-related health effects such as susceptibility to pneumonia. In recent decades, this association has been expanded to a greater likelihood of acute respiratory stress syndromes (ARDS), sepsis, alcoholic liver disease (ALD), and certain cancers; a higher incidence of postoperative complications; and slower and less complete recovery from infection and physical trauma, including poor wound healing.”

The word sobering comes to mind! Let’s have some more:

“There are a number of ways alcohol impairs your immune system, making you more likely to get sick.  First, it’s important to know that the microbes living in your intestines, your gut’s microbiome, plays an important role in fighting diseases. This happens in many ways that we’re just beginning to understand. When you drink a lot of alcohol, it has many negative effects on your digestive system. It damages the epithelial cells in your intestines, making it harder to absorb many nutrients. It also severely disturbs your gut’s microbiome, significantly altering the balance of healthy and unhealthy bacteria. Alcohol affects the way health gut microbes interact with the immune system. Alcohol also disrupts the gut barrier, allowing more bacteria to pass into the blood. These rogue bacteria can cause inflammation in the liver and may lead to liver damage.  Alcohol doesn’t just affect the function of the digestive tract. It also affects the respiratory system. Excessive drinking may impair the function of immune cells in the lungs and upper respiratory system, leading to increased risk for pneumonia, tuberculosis, and acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS. Because the immunity of the mucus is impaired in both the lungs and digestive tract, any disease can become more severe.” (Recovery Ways)

It’s there in black and white. It’s not controversial. Try this – https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/why-drinking-too-much-may-cause-lung-disease-070714.html It’s established and known science. With this current virus there are no drugs that can cure if, no vaccine as yet. The medical interventions are there to support the body as it fights the virus. The only thing that will defeat the virus is our own body’s immune system. Our body becomes our life saving drug store. Would you take the one thing that could potentially save your life and weaken it, damage it and make it less effective? No, of course not, but that’s exactly what you will be doing if you drink alcohol, (let’s say excessively), during this crisis. Your immune system is damaged by alcohol so if you want to give your immune system the best chance of beating this virus, stop drinking. I’m against being directed what to do but these are indeed strange times. We are told to stay in. I follow that advice because it could keep me alive. If you have a problem with drink like I had, here’s my advice; stop drinking, it’s the perfect opportunity and it could save your life.

Oh and if you do decide to stop right now, follow some of the sober blogs I follow. You’ll get the support and encouragement you need and you’ll hopefully see that giving up isn’t about denial, it’s about opportunity and freedom. Post Corona you’ll be glad you did it.

Stay safe. 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

Lazy and Complacent- Almost!

Two weeks!

I’ve not posted in over two weeks, not really read other blogs or made comments. I feel so ashamed it has made me even more reluctant to come on here. But now I have to face up to my dereliction of duty. I hid my head in shame until an angel showed me the light.

Claire (ditching the wine) recently emailed me a spoof Jim blog to spur me into action. I was touched.  Someone cared.  She wrote, pretending to be me:

“I know, I know. You are such a caring, lovely bunch, your first thoughts are bound to be ‘Why? Is he ill? Is he on a bender? Has he struck up a recording deal and is now planning his world tour?’ Nope! Afraid not. Basically he’s just become very complacent. This also translates as being a lazy arse. He can’t be bothered with his blog any longer. He’s sober now. Moving on. He’s leaving all your bloggers behind. He might ‘pop’ in from time to time, to keep the fans happy but otherwise he doesn’t need it. “

Now I know Claire was/is being ironic. She is a nice, caring and compassionate person as are all the lovely sober bloggers and yet….  there was an uncomfortable accusation within. Could there be a germ of truth in what she had to say? Sure, I could make excuses and to be fair, they are pretty good excuses; work, commitments, planned big events,  relationships etc but these affect everyone.  I carved out time before, so what’s happened? What’s different? I think Claire hit the nail on the head; COMPLACENCY!

20 weeks sober, Christmas and new year successfully navigated, cravings and urges to drink very intermittent; yes I suppose there has been a bit of complacency kicking in.

Claire continued to write;

We all know this isn’t about what we write, or whether we are 5 days, 5 months or 5 years sober. This is about community, support and connection. We all need help it at different times, and when we feel strong that’s the time to help others that don’t. Jim will learn. He’ll see it eventually.

She’s right of course (God it’s so hard to admit that!), giving up booze and the boozing way of life is not a static thing it’s an ongoing process and I only got to where I am thanks to those who are further on the journey but looked back down the path shouting their support and encouragement.

So thanks Claire.  I needed that proverbial kick up the pants.

Complacency? Yes a little and that can be a bad thing.  Last week I played a table tennis match and met a new player on the scene.  He was very defensive in the warm up.  No attacking shots.  “This will be easy,”I thought to myself. “Just attack and he’ll fall to pieces.” Except he didn’t.  He returned every shot, did so with unexpected amouts of backspin and wore me down into a frustrated mess. I underestimated him. HE BEAT ME! How dare he! I was supposed to win.

Pride and complacency, right before a massive fall.  It happened in table tennis, it could happen with alcohol. I can almost hear that voice,” You’ve done brilliantly Jim, you have shown you can master alcohol, you are the Uberfuhrer of Soberistas.  With that amount of control you’d be fine at just allowing yourself the odd glass of Merolt/Shiraz/Malbec.Go on man, live a little, you deserve it, sod all this denial.” Get thee behind me Bacchus!

Yep the little voices are still there, tempting me so no room for complacency.

Then there’s the need to reciprocate.  I have benefitted massively from the likes of untipsy teacher and others who have been sober for years.  They continue because it’s not just about one journey, not just about them, it’s about supporting others; it’s about community. I need to do my bit. I still need the support or may need it.  I need to try and support others as well in whatever way I can. So  thanks Claire, for prodding, poking fun, bullying in a nice way and cajoling.   I needed that.

Now I just need to think what to post!

Jim x

 

 

Finally – Being Sober Trumps Drinking Booze! (No Contest)

To anyone reading this who is doing dry January or is just a few weeks into going alcohol free, I know what you’re going through! It feels like denial, it’s difficult, you’re giving up something you like, is it worth it you think. These are the things probably going through your mind.

After 4 months and after experiencing many of those same mental tortures I can say this; it does get easier, you will feel the benefits, the cravings lessen, even though the pressures do not, but something else then happens. Or at least it did for me and I know for many others that have stopped drinking.

Something magical happens. A turning point, a revelation if you like. You start to see giving up alcohol as preferable to drinking it. Sounds simple but it’s actually monumental. What started as denial and giving up becomes like receiving something wonderful and it feels liberating.

I’ve had a few experiences like that in the last month but yesterday was something else. I had a day out in London where not only did I not drink, I didn’t at any point want a drink , I was pleased to be sober. No doubts no qualms. It felt quite simply great. Best day out in years.

It started by the simple act of driving to the station. Normally a day out in London in the past meant lots of alcohol so no car to station but asking for lifts or ordering a taxi. First act of liberation. I then arrived in London and had arranged to meet a small group of fellow Soberistas; a small group of people that I’d never met before but who shared the same goal of giving up booze. No difficult moments or questions with this bunch. None of us drank alcohol. That in itself was liberating. Straight into the nearest pub for a coffee. Then on to one of this great little cafes you can still find tucked away in the less fashionable parts of Covent Garden. Poached eggs, sausages, bacon, beans, sourdough, a brilliant full breakfast all for just £6.50. All the time, laughter, great conversation, more coffees, fruit juices. We were having a great time. Why did I ever believe you need alcohol to feel at ease with new people? Within a couple of hours it was as if we’d known each other for years. Simply liberating.

Then later hopping on tubes, visiting the V and A , Hyde Park, swapping stories and experiences. A great day, getting to know new people and actually listening to each other not getting slowly pissed. After a wonderful day full of enriching, warm conversations and companionship we went our separate ways. I actually stayed awake on the train, drove myself home and was then able to spend my evening productively. It was so much better than getting drunk, talking garbage and falling asleep on the train, waiting to be picked up and the losing the rest of the evening and the next day to a hangover.

During my day out I never once felt denied or that I was missing out. If anything I look back at all my drunken trips and now realise how much I was missing out on those days. Lost opportunities. For me the penny finally dropped. Life was better sober.

I hope those in the early stages of not drinking stick it out. After the struggle really does come the liberation. Many say the same thing. I have come to see that life is better, brighter and more fulfilling sober. Yes it takes time but it’s worth it. Try it but give yourself time to get the conditioning and social pressure out of your system.

As a postscript I have to add that spending the day with other sober people really made the day extra special. Thanks, you know who you are! Just think, if we were still drinking we would never have met! Let’s do it again soon. There may be some who might want to join us! 😀

Jim x