Category Archives: blogging

What Can I Say?

My last post was erroneously titled “Back Again.” That was 2 months ago and I wasn’t back again. I dropped by, wrote a few words and disappeared. Aware that I wasn’t really “back again” I felt that what I should do is face the fact that doing the blog didn’t have the same motivational pull it used to have. I started it to help me stay the course in what I thought was never going to work, namely giving up booze. But it did work- the writing things down, the comments, reading other blogs; all of that was a massive part of being able to give up and stay alcohol free.

But then , like so many other things, not drinking became normalised. No more Friday night anxiety crisis, no internal wrestling. I gave up and life carried on. Other than the odd time when I’d remember my drinking days and yearn to join in, not drinking became what I did, a part of who I now was. I no longer wanted to drink. I preferred not drinking. So doing the blog began to lack a purpose. I know others have found it useful and that makes me feel a little bit guilty. Suppose others read my blog, think, “yes, if he can do it so can I” and then suddenly the posts stop, some might assume I’d cracked and gone back on the juice. Added to that is maybe a feeling that having been supported by sober bloggers meant that now is the time that I should do the same for others maybe starting out. But it that just didn’t work for me.

So a few days ago I resolved to do a final post saying I’m still here and happily alcohol free and that I would post something if that ever changed. I also was going to say I’d be happy to communicate directly with anyone if they wanted my support. That was the intention. The final post.

Then a couple of days ago I was chatting to my Spanish friend who told me she had been reading my blog, had no intention of giving up alcohol but just enjoyed the posts. That was unexpected and intriguing. I guess it was also helping her with her English and if she reads this I fully expect a comment written in both English and Spanish! I told her of my plan to wind up the blog but with that incredible insight that women seem to have so much more of than us chaps, she said, “if you don’t want to write about alcohol all the time write about different things.” Pretty obvious really.

So then I said, “So what should I write about?”

She said, “Ask people who read your blog (which is now probably just one or two) what they would like you to write about. That might be a good start.”

So I’m going to give that a go as a way of getting back into my blog. I’m reaching out to Blogland- If anyone wants to, then please fire some questions at me, name some topics that might be interesting for me to reflect on and write about, crank up my rusty blogging engine to get me going. Alternatively just ignore me and I’ll go sulk in the corner with my fragile ego. It’s down to anyone foolish enough to be reading this – give me questions or inspiration. Let’s see where “BLOG PHASE 2 – Post Alcohol Musings” takes me.

Oh and a final alcohol free related point. Gordons 0% “spirit” is very nice!

I’m ready and waiting!

Jim X

Ramblin’ Man

Happy New Year to anyone reading this. Before I start this incoherent ramble a message to any new readers who are trying Dry January. For whatever reason you have decided to give up alcohol for one month. Stick with it. At the very least it will give your liver a well earned rest but it could well be the start of a fascinating, sometimes uncomfortable period of introspection and change. Nothing to lose and lots potentially to gain.

OK down to business. This is a tough post because I haven’t posted for a while and I’m not sure what I want to say. Having said that I have felt a strong urge to post and yet have been putting it off. So this is a more than usually self indulgent post, a shambolic attempt to figure out what if anything I have to say and where if anywhere this blog is going to go. If that all sounds like an existential crisis, it’s probably because it is one. I’ll just dive in.

The “not drinking “is going well. I’m still not drinking but not drinking, the original rationale behind this blog, is beginning to feel like an irrelevance. I don’t mean that giving up booze wasn’t a big deal and important. It was and it is, it’s just that now that being sober has become a set part of my life, I can see that drink was just a manifestation of deeper issues. I focused on alcohol because it was an issue in my life but its absence has starkly highlighted other issues in my life. As alcohol has moved into the background, other things have moved into the foreground. Alcohol kept some things in their place but like some semi permeable membrane it let other things through.

I’m grateful to myself that I stopped drinking but the landscape that has been revealed by its absence is not always comfortable. One example; feelings and emotions. With alcohol I could dampen down those unconscious emotions and conscious feelings. One example from my youth. Crippled by anxiety, I wanted to simultaneously approach girls and run away from them. A few drinks and those emotions and feelings subsided. I no longer feared rejection, I stopped worrying what people would think of me, I stopped comparing myself to other guys. It was liberating and I could join in. I felt normal. An illusion maybe but I had experiences I may never have had. Of course if I could go back to my younger self I would help me to understand why I had such shockingly poor self esteem at that point in my life. I see that now but at the time I just felt defective and alcohol made it seem OK for a while. And so it goes on and builds up. That’s why, with the perspective of not having drunk for 16 months, I can see that my dependence on alcohol was not about the alcohol per se, it was what the alcohol was helping, and later,not helping me deal with.

So having given up, I can see why I was attracted to alcohol and why bad habits developed but recently I have had something else to contend with. Alcohol helped suppress some difficult emotions but it also let others through particularly as I became older. Through necessity and application I managed over the years to control my feelings. I learned to shut down, to blank off difficult stuff. I became good at that. People dying, yeh let’s deal with that, divorce; let’s not let that get you down. I started to take a perverse pride in how I was able to deal with stuff that others couldn’t understand were not breaking me. But these things always come with a cost and that cost for me was a neutral emptiness or maybe better described as a gnawing, nagging emptiness, a void where I knew there should be something. Then I’d drink and the dam would break. tears would flow and I’d allow myself the misery and sometimes ecstacy of feeling. Of course with alcohol it’s impossible to regulate where things would go. Sometimes I would wallow in regret and anger, at other times remember wonderful times where there was a promise of a fantastic future. But the alcohol has stopped. The membrane now holds up and very little gets through. That, I’m realising is not good. I feel sometimes like the physical lock down we have all had to experience for me has been accompanied by an emotional lock down. Safe, sanitised but not how life should be. And where alcohol would, in the past, help me deal counter productively and self destructively with some of this “stuff”, other coping strategies have now tried to take the place of drink. The “stuff” is still there and needs dealing with. That’s why I say the alcohol feels irrelevant. It’s not a part of my life and I’m tremendously happy about that, but it was only a symptom, a reaction to other things, and unless I deal with those other things, alcohol and similar coping strategies will always be pulling at me trying to lure me into a false sense that all is OK.

Not sure that I have expressed what’s really going on but still trying to get a sense of it all. Maybe with it being a New Year I might let my blog go in a different direction. Like may others, food has taken up some of the slack left by booze. If booze was never really the problem but became the problem, perhaps the same applies to food. If that is indeed the case I need to deal that and unpick what the food is really feeding. What is the real hunger? Let’s see where that goes.

Happy New Year. Jim X

Thank God for Sober Heroes

It’s everywhere isn’t it? The references to booze, no wonder it’s so bloody hard to give it up. The other day I’m looking at a website and an advert pops up. Campo Viejo wine. I loved it and those bloody tailored advertisers knew it. Bastards. Not only that, the advert talks about all the things we are missing in this pandemic and shows an idyllic summer setting, with an outside meal being set up. Sun shine, family, Meditteranean country setting, friendly chat and then the uncorking of wine and the glug glug as it’s poured into glasses. The not so subtle message; wine is the oil of social interaction, the gift of the gods that makes life so much more pleasant. As I say, bastards. It’s an advert, I don’t get taken in by adverts but those associations are so powerful that I can feel myself willing to jack in a year plus of sobriety to reconnect with that old life and down a glass or two of Campo.

But it’s an advert. It’s designed to trigger us and make us want to rush out and buy the wine. I notice there’s no one at the table passed out with their face in the bloody lasagne or a pissed uncle boring everyone with his outraged stance on politics, ranting and raving after drinking one too many or cutting to aunt Sofia in the local hospital hoping for a liver transplant after a life of excess bloody Campo Viejo.

But that’s just one advert. I watch my favourite programmes. They all arrive home and open the wine to relax, they go to bars and order a beer. Everyone is drinking. It’s inescapable. Here the message is a little more subtle. Normal people drink small amounts but do it all day long. It’s nice, it’s what normal people do, it’s part of what makes us human. You, sober viewer are abnormal. Come on join the party. Bullshit I scream but it’s like i’m constantly having to be on my guard to challenge and counter these perpetual, persistent messages. Even bloody Bake Off has people sticking rum and other spirits in their cakes. Wink, wink , oh a cake laced with booze is so much better and naughtier than a sober cake. Well I’m a sober muffin and I’ve had enough. I can be as naughty as a gin soaked chocolate eclair on a good day. I don’t need a drink, I don’t want a drink. I know what drinking does, it’s not romantic, it doesn’t relax me, it doesn’t enhance life. So what to do when faced with this constant onslaught?

This is where my sober heroes come in. The ones who prove to me that you can be cool, talented, smart and sober. (let’s leave Donald Trump and Hitler to one side for the moment- they give sobriety a bad name). I still remember the guy at my drama group when I was in my twenties who loved to party, was a hit with the girls, was at ease socially and loved to dance. It was a shock when I found out he never drank. It was so unusual back in the 80’s. He didn’t need a drink to have a good time. That stuck with me. Then came my obsession with the Irish musician Christy Moore. Gave up when it was getting out of hand and recently heard him speaking about how his life has been so much better since he stopped drinking. Sober heroes, role models. We need them. Then there’s the American Writer Raymond Carver. Ah, a true hero. A great writer and for much of his life a true alcoholic. It nearly killed him. He stopped suddenly by himself and did the best writing of his life. He also found love with another writer, Tess Gallagher, whom he married and they had 11 great years together. Here’s what she said about Carver, I’ll leave it to her:

Raymond Carver- A Great Writer and a great role model for what sobriety can do

Instead of dying from alcohol, Raymond Carver chose to live. I met him five months after he’d made this choice, so I never knew the Ray who drank, except by report and through his stories and poems. One result of his decision to stay sober was that he became an internationally respected master of the short story, a writer who, at his death, was called by the London Times ‘America’s Chekhov.’ For me, the best result of his choice was that we found each other, and could write and live together, challenging, inspiring, and supporting one another in this new life we created day by day.

Every artist and writer faces the challenge of how to honor his or her intensity while not being consumed by it. Ray was nearly consumed by his. The decision that changed his life happened on June 2, 1977, a date that, if it were up to me, would be declared a holiday to honor all those who make it out of alcoholism. When I go to his grave now (he died at the age of 50 of lung cancer caused by smoking), I find messages from those who, as he did, want to stay sober, and who lean on his humility and generosity of spirit. They leave him notes: ‘Ten years sober, Ray! Life is sweet, you bet! Thanks, man.’

Ray and I always celebrated the anniversary of his sobriety by doing something simple, like eating chocolate after a nice meal at which we’d toasted the occasion with sparkling apple juice. I’d give him a gift: one year a stuffed elephant to remind him of his story by that name; another, a briefcase in which to carry his newly drafted short stories.

I think, in the end, Ray managed to exchange a deadly intoxication that would have killed him for an intoxication with language and story-telling. Ray had been ‘in the drink,’ as the Irish say, for 25 years by the time he finally quit for good. It took the wounded grace of moments added to moments for him to inch his way free and later, at age 50, finally sit on the mountain of 10 years of sobriety. He considered his decision to stop drinking the single most important event of his life. He wrote this poem shortly before his death on August 2, 1988.

Here’s the poem that Carver wrote:

Gravy

No other word will do. For that’s what it was. Gravy.
Gravy, these past ten years.
Alive, sober, working, loving and
being loved by a good woman. Eleven years
ago he was told he had six months to live
at the rate he was going. And he was going
nowhere but down. So he changed his ways
somehow. He quit drinking! And the rest?
After that it was all gravy, every minute
of it, up to and including when he was told about,
well, some things that were breaking down and
building up inside his head. ‘Don’t weep for me,’
he said to his friends. ‘I’m a lucky man.
I’ve had ten years longer than I or anyone
expected. Pure gravy. And don’t forget it.’

So Campo Viejo- next time you try to lure me in – I shall remember my heroes and the wonderful “Gravy” of sobriety. Thanks Raymond, Christy and the guy from my drama group (and all the wonderful inspiring sober bloggers). You remind me why not drinking is the better choice.

Out of Isolation

Having seen some old friends return on here over the last few days I decided I have three ways of treating this blog:

1 Carry on as I have done these last few months- dipping in and out – making the occasional comment and infrequent post

2 Ending the blog on the basis that I have nothing more of real value to say

3 Reengaging with the blog in a new way; with a commitment to reading, commenting and posting on a more regular basis

Option 1 doesn’t really work for me . As in my drinking days I’m an all or nothing type of guy so this option doesn’t do it for me. Maybe it reminds me of previous relationships; one foot in, one foot out.

Option 2 would work in the short term but would feel like abandoning something that has helped me enormously and maybe even helped others in small ways. That’s it then, it has to be Option 3; coming out of blog isolation. I need a proper reengagement; not the manic engagement of my first few months on here but regular posting and reading. Sometimes it takes something simple like someone saying they like reading one’s posts to realise that we do this fundamentally in order to connect. Sure I like to entertain sometimes in my posts, maybe (that means definitely) I also like the feeling of my fragile ego bathed in the warm glow of feedback sometimes. More recently I had to experience a negative response not just to my posts but to me as a person. I think that unnerved me more than I realised . In Transactional Analysis talk it took me back to my Child ego state; once again reexperiencing the criticism of father and brother, believing that maybe I was a fake, that I was a crap person and wanting to lash out like a child. It was a good reminder to self about how fragile we can be despite the insights we gain and how important it is to respond as Adult. It proved to be a valuable lesson. That’s the thing with connection we can’t control how it’s going to go and how it may affect us but it’s better to take that risk than stay isolated.

Well that’s the navel gazing out the way. Isolation in my title also refers to the past couple of weeks where I self isolated following finding out that the friend I spent 6 hours with working in my garden tested positive for coronavirus. We broke concrete, moved pots, spoke a starnge mix of Spanish and English and I was convinced that when he told me two days later that he tested positive that I would soon succumb. That in itself was a strange prospect. Sitting at home waiting for Covid to strike not knowing (I’m in my 60’s) whether you are going to have a few days of feeling a bit rough or being hospitalised and dying or any number of in between states. So there was a certain amount of anxiety. Of course you start scanning your body and “finding” symptoms. I took the tests and bizarrely it came back negative. I could do a whole post about how the track and trace system didn’t bother to contact me despite my friend telling them of our contact, of his boss pressurising him not to say he caught it off other workers, how those other workers continued to go to work despite symptoms because they were on zero hours contracts and couldn’t afford the loss of pay but I won’t. I think most of us know many of the systems in place are not up to the task in hand and that there is a high level of non compliance and restriction fatigue.

I will try and do my bit; I’ve alerted someone to the factory in question , I am joining an NHS panel trying to improve track and trace and I follow the guidelines logical or not.

So a good week overall. I’m alive and Covid free. Work is going well, I’m out of isolation and looking forward to nurturing my slightly neglected blog once again. Oh and I’m still not drinking.

Stay safe all. X

The bitter taste of success

I didn’t want it, I didn’t ask for it, I don’t like it, but my buttons have been well and truly pushed. I have, like some other bloggers on here, managed to go alcohol free for just over a year now. I have known for probably 20 years or more that my drinking was problematic. I sometimes drank to excess, I always drank more than was good for me, I planned my days and weeks around drink and it was a constant battle preventing myself drinking even more than I was. I damaged friendships with my drinking, I upset my children on occasions and 3 marriages probably attest to the fact that it had an adverse effect on my relationships. I tried cutting down but I eventually came to the conclusion that I had to stop. I prepared for that, I researched it, I sought the support of bloggers and I set a date. 1st September 2109. I haven’t had a drink since. Has it been easy? No. Have I wobbled? Yes Am I proud? Yes.

So what’s the problem? Well I have been on the end of some strange comments by one person in particular seemingly annoyed that I have so far succeeded in giving up and then even more strangely suggesting that the only reason I have been able to be successful is that I don’t really understand addiction. Presumably the logic runs that true addiction in insurmountable so anyone giving up wasn’t really addicted in the first place. This I find insulting and is the logical refuge of the alcoholic who isn’t ready to let go of their addiction or sees it as somehow on a different scale to everyone else’s.

I certainly can see that addiction or dependency is a scale and some are further along that scale than others but to attack someone’s sobriety by saying you couldn’t have been an addict because it was so easy to give up is essentially saying true addiction can be proved by constant failure. That simply is not the case. Overcoming addiction is tough, it will be tougher the greater the extent of the addiction but anyone who is dependent on alcohol and who manages to stop deserves a pat on the back because it is bloody hard. And people on all points on that scale have successfully given up. They don’t boast but they rightfully are proud.

It’s hard going sober because it’s not just about the alcohol, it’s about how we change with the alcohol, how we socialise, it’s about giving up taking part in something that is woven into the fabric of our culture, resisting the urge to just have that pint or glass of wine with friends, colleagues, lovers. I’m pleased that I gave up alcohol. It was certainly not easy and I’ve never glossed over the struggle. What made a difference was reading about the others who have successfully stopped. Those stories showed me it can be done. There was a peer pressure of not wanting to let people down although most bloggers would never knock someone who did have a slip up.

Maybe one or two people just don’t want to see others succeed. That success can make their own difficulties in stopping seem like failure which of course it isn’t. We each of us have to find our own way of combating this dependency on alcohol and I think that peer support is crucial. To undermine someone’s attempt at stopping by saying your success show a lack of understanding of addiction is contrary to the spirit of mutual support which sustains these blogs. Maybe those that say such things need to look at their own dependency and ask themselves whether they really want to give up or are ready to give up. Addiction can be a powerful friend that some might be too reluctant to part company with. You can’t help somebody that doesn’t want to be helped.

Just for the record. The topic in the above rant has not been the reason I haven’t been on the blog recently. That has been down to a couple of trips in my Campervan and having more work than expected. Now I have got this triggered response out the way I’m hoping I can reengage with my blog and calmly reflect on an interesting experience I had a couple of weeks ago.

Jim X

One Year without booze- now there’s a surprise!

On the 31st August last year I went for a meal to my favourite restaurant. I knew the next day I was starting a new life without booze so this was my no holds barred goodbye to booze feast. It felt like my last supper or maybe more like the last meal for an inmate on Death Row. It had all the hallmarks of some strange self created ritual. Waiters brining me a succession of favourite drinks; Czech lager to start, white wine with the starter, red wine with the main, dessert wine, liquors. It was my last night and nothing was going to stop me. I went home and drank gin and tonic until midnight. I half wanted to make myself sick, to wake up with an horrendous hangover to have that abiding memory, to stir my resolve for future times when I might weaken. But no, a month of constant drinking had increased my tolerance levels. I felt fine the next day. At the time I just wanted to enjoy my last day with drink. Looking back I can see I was indeed making a ritual of it, a rite of passage, an identifiable marker between one phase of my life and another. Having created that day of overindulgence and expense my new life of sobriety had to work. and it did; for today marks a full year without booze. I’m surprised that I have able to do it and I’m also proud as anyone who has done this should be. It was the right thing for me, but it has come at a cost. Crucially, I must add, a cost well worth paying.

Kinder Scout- Fond memories from being there in March and heading back there soon-nothing to do with the post but I love the Peak District!

Sure, pubs and restaurants just have not had the same allure since I gave up and that is a loss as I loved pubs.. I remember doing my counselling course back in 1990 and in one group exercise we had to revisit loss in our lives. It involved visualisation and we were all instructed to start our journey of loss through our lives from a place of warmth, comfort and safety. We started there and we ended up there. After the session we shared our “safe” places. For most it was either a family home or somewhere they had been with their family. My place where I felt most comfortable? – an English country pub with a log fire and beer. Says it all really but it made a few of my fellow students smile. Now I avoid pubs and a sadness for me is the realisation that much of my love of pubs was not the cosy surroundings or friends, it was the beer. Pubs were places I drank and I could drink there with an abandon I never could have at home. Some good times, some wasted times.

Even now I sometimes miss the experience of going for a walk and enjoying a cold beer sitting by a river or village green, so yes, I did enjoy a drink sometimes.

Then I remember how I needed a drink at other times; to overcome some social anxiety, to fit in, to feel normal.

Then there were the times when I hated drinking but I did it anyway- feeling lost, heavy with dysphoria, drinking to block or obliterate, torn in two hating it but watching myself pour another one.

So I happily exchanged the occasional enjoyment of booze for being able to rid myself of the need and hate it often brought me. It became an easy and obvious transaction. In many ways my life was on the line. Probably it was the best deal I ever made; but a deal is a deal and a deal involves parting with something. That’s the thing that needs facing and confronting.

Who needs a drink when you can walk in places like this

If I have a message for anyone who has got to the place where they know in their hearts that moderation will not work for them and alcohol is having too many negative impacts on their life; it’s this. You will be giving up more than a drug, you’ll be giving up lots of associations. We live in societies where alcohol is woven into the fabric of our social, cultural and psychological lives. When the physical craving is gone the other cravings and pressures will still be there. That’s when you need to remind yourself of why you are doing this. Get through that and you start to see the many advantages; health, sleep, relationships, productivity, financial – the list goes on. Never take those for granted. And be prepared for a battle.

So one year, great. I am pleased but it’s tempered by a realisation that I could have done a lot more with my life if I had stopped earlier. As I have said before, this blog has been key to me doing a year successfully. People sharing stories, the positive, the negative, ups and downs, things that have worked, traps to be aware of- all of this has helped me. I’ll also add that I’m quite competitive so there was no way I wanted to come on here and say I’ve had a drink. I like to win, fairly of course and so far in this “game” I feel like I’m 2 sets to love up. Games can change in an instant so as I go into year two, I’ll enjoy the feeling of winning at the moment but I won’t let down my guard.

Again for those in the early stages of going alcohol free; it’s a very individual experience but with many commonalities; you have decided it’s worth it, my advice is to plan for it, make a proper commitment to doing it, prepare for it, get support, always remind yourself why you’re doing it and what benefits you’ll get and strengthen your resolve. There will be times when you’ll want to abandon this challenge but you can get through those tough times and you’ll be stronger each time you do. On these blogs are stories like mine; people who didn’t think they could ever give up booze who are proving they can. Ordinary folk with extraordinary support. If we can do it with support so can anyone, so can you.

I shall celebrate today with AF sparkly wine and an Everleaf and tonic. I’ll also be able to carry on and meet some friends and play table tennis afterwards. No muggy feeling, no wasted day, no hangover. It’s great being sober! Life is fuller, richer.

No brainer really!

Jim X

Nearly a Year- But Sorry, no thanks to the “Give up the Booze” evangelists

In two days time it will be one whole year since I stopped drinking alcohol. I was always looking forward to that anniversary and planning the big, one year anniversary post and yet here I am, on the cusp and I haven’t got a clue what I am going to say- I’ll probably do something on what I personally have learned over this last year in the faint hope that others may find something useful in that to help them as they attempt to move away from alcohol. But I’m not at that point- yet- a couple more days should do it and I do feel incredibly proud of myself in achieving what will be something I never really thought I could do. Support, of course, is crucial but I wanted to say something today about something that perversely I have not found supportive; and that is the evangelical tone of many of those who write books on giving up alcohol.

Like everyone in the position of contemplating giving up alcohol I read some of the books aimed at kick starting a new life free of booze. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty that is good within those books but they are written ultimately to sell, to make money for the authors and to do that you need an unequivocal voice. That voice, that message is usually, “alcohol is a dangerous toxic drug, we have been manipulated into wanting it and it’s no fault of ours if we get hooked.” For me that was a real turn off. I drank because I liked it. Yes it’s a drug, but that’s the whole point of it. If I’m thirsty I drink water. I drank alcohol because i wanted the effect it gave me. Being a drug it then becomes hard to moderate especially in a culture where it is so freely and cheaply available, but that’s not alcohol’s fault, lay that one on society, business and government.

The evangelicals try to make out that developing a problem with alcohol is not a failure of individuals and again I don’t agree. I tried many times to moderate and despite some success I realised that when I did drink I often drank far too much- because I’m like that. Many of my friends do know how to enjoy alcohol moderately but I am not one of them. If I could drink moderately I would not have given up alcohol. It’s that simple. So my pride in giving up is tempered by a sadness that I couldn’t get to a point where alcohol was just a small pleasure in my life and not the dominating presence it became. But I am OK with that. I do not need to demonise drink in order to be OK with not drinking. As time has gone on I’m getting to like not drinking but the truth is it would be nice to think I could have the odd glass of champagne at a wedding or a glass of wine with a meal. That won’t happen because I’ve worked hard at giving up and I’m not a moderation type person.

The evangelicals talking about toxins and all the rest really have missed the point that humans have always imbibed toxic substances to alter consciousness. Alcohol, weed, peyote, tobacco, you name it we humans have tried it. Even in the Amazon rainforest they lick the backs of certain frogs to get a psychedelic hit. It’s universal but the thing that marks traditional cultures is that taking such substances was always associated with ritual which meant taking such drugs was limited and done in a revered, constrained manner. The problem with alcohol in our societies is that it’s been made into this readily available commodity that we are encouraged to drink at parties, weddings, celebrations, work dos, days out, days in, meals out, meals in, when cooking, when watching films, when friends come round, when meeting friends , new job, leave job, BBQs, when stressed, when relaxing, basically all the bloody time. That is why it becomes hard to moderate and bloody hard to give up.

So there we have it the evangelicals didn’t do it for me with thier black and white thinking. The support for me, as I have said before, has come from fellow bloggers both on line and sometimes in private off -post communications. The messy, confused, contradictory world of blogging showing that giving up is a struggle, that people do miss their booze sometimes but carry on because it is the best way forward for them. Acknowledging that we miss the crutch of alcohol sometimes but also knowing that mutual support from fellow bloggers is a much more consistent and longer lasting support than any drink could ever be.

So the evangelical “Give up the Booze” writers carry on. You have helped many people I know and you don’t sell books by saying giving up booze is complex, full of grey and with contradictory feelings. You sell those books by giving a nice, clear, missionary style message that’s full of can do and ” see the beast for what he is.” But it’s not for me. Give me the messy, anguished, nuanced and human world of the blogger any day. Nearly there.

Rant over. 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

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

It’s not my fault- it’s my biology etc

I haven’t blogged or commented on blogs for what seems like ages. I then avoid looking at mine and other blogs through a combination of shame and reduced motivation. The Jim machine is grinding to a halt.

Hold on a minute, this isn’t the Jim way! Where’s your energy, your positivity man? Goddamit you’re British, show some resolve. OK OK, so how to get out of this black hole of lethargy and procrastination?

I know, I’ll take my lead from Trump. I need to find someone or something to blame. That’s the real man’s way of dealing with a crisis. So let’s play…… THE BLAME GAME!

The first person to blame is my partner. God, that feels insensitive but hey I’m desperate here. Nearly 4 weeks ago she came off her bike and slid along the road on her face. She fractured her upper jaw and damaged her teeth. No dentists operating but there are emergency hubs so we’ve been travelling back and forth getting that sorted. I hate to use that as an excuse but in reality it has been tough physically and emotionally for her and it’s meant, quite rightly that I’ve spent more time looking after her. Her not being able to chew properly has meant I’ve become really good at soups and smoothies. Thankfully she is slowly on the mend and we console ourselves that it could have been much worse.

That brings me onto my main excuse for not blogging- My Biology and Evolution. Stick with me here. The scientist, Amy Arnsten was writing in an article I read a few weeks ago that in times of stress basically our primitive brains come to the fore and the stress hormones kick start the old flight or fight response. The impact of stress also tends to reduce the impact of our “pre frontal cortex” or more sophisticated part of our brain. I’m doing a poor job of this I know but the bottom line is that the chronic stress of living in these current days is affecting our ability to focus and concentrate. Apparently it’s not just me and it’s not laziness, it’s good old neuro science.

This reduced working of our “thinking, reasoning” brain and the increase in stress hormones doesn’t just lead to an inability to focus, but also leads to an overall lack of motivation. Arnsten explains that an often forgotten part of our flight or fight response to danger is to “freeze”, which can feel a lot like mental paralysis. “Losing the ability to have really motivated, guided behaviour can be linked to all these primitive reflexes,” she says.

For many people, this has led to what Arnsten calls a vicious cycle of losing focus, beating yourself up about it, and then making your prefrontal connections even weaker . “Why understanding neurobiology is so helpful is that you can watch yourself in that downwards spiral and you can say, ‘This is just my biology, evolution is making me do this, this is normal neurobiology, and I don’t have to blame myself, it’s okay,’ she argues. Arnsten is my new hero!

So there we have it. A convoluted way of saying it’s not my fault that I’ve been remiss in my blogging. But having said that, non- primitive brained Jim intends asserting himself and getting back into blogging and I’m looking forward to catching up on other’s blogs.

Time to make another smoothie. I’m coming!

Jim X