Category Archives: change

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

For Me It Finally all comes down to Identity

Let’s try and cut to the chase. I’m 11 months without a drink. There is no physiological need for me to drink, any physical dependency is long gone, but I’ve had urges, oh yes. Like many others I’ve had to reflect on all of this. There were lots of reasons I had for giving up (see crap graphic that proves my art teacher was correct when he told me NOT to pursue art at school), health, hangovers, impact on others, blah, blah, blah. But, like others giving up wasn’t a one way street. I was not some down and out drunk. I drank too much on occasion, I took it to excess sometimes, but…. I enjoyed it, I loved it, the drinking in company, different wines with different foods, getting slightly tipsy, switching off for a while, losing the anxious straightjacket for a few hours, I was a drinker, an unapologetic, “you only live once, you boring bastard,” drinker.

Now when I get the urge it’s when I’m with family or friends, pubs, restaurants, BBQs, where the norm, the expectation is that everyone will drink. At those points, despite the growing AF drink selection, I am an outsider. The UK is a drink based culture and I am now the outsider, constantly reminded of that every time there’s a meet up in a pub, house, anywhere.That gap between what I’m trying to be and what the social expectation is, that is what creates the unease. That’s what is fuelling the urges, the thoughts of why not go back to something I loved.

How did my son end up becoming a graphic designer?

I knew the “something I loved” was no longer good for me and I took the decision to part with it and yet the pressures, enticements and yearning remained. That’s when it hit me. This is no longer a battle with alcohol. 11 months without, I’ve won that battle. No, for me this is now about who I am and how I identify myself, that’s where the tension comes from, I am convinced of it. For 50 years I developed the identity of a drinker. I was known for it. People told stories about my drinking, my drunken exploits. IT WAS WHO I WAS. My drinking defined me and wherever I went,I went with a drink in hand. Booze and me melded into one seamless identity. We went to places we felt comfortable; pubs, restaurants. I hosted social events so i could be Jim the Drinker. I had an identity and, good or bad, it was a consistent identity and we all need one of those.

Now. After 11 months I realise that smashing that identity is at the heart of my sometimes malaise. I have ceased to be the same Jim to many people. I don’t like sitting in pubs anymore. Many of the things that helped define me have gone. I have been stripped naked and it feels raw at times.

This growing realisation about identity being the crucial element in my current position in relation to alcohol is important for me. It’s helping me understand why the separaration has been painful at times. I didn’t fully appreciate how difficult giving up my identity would be. When I had the urge to have a few pints with my son and a few others, it wasn’t the drink calling me, it was my old identity. Give me the props of my old identity; pub, drink, silly conversation and for a moment I’d be back to the old me. The safety and warmth of a distorted identity. I was missing being me.

Wait a minute I thought. Does that need reframing? Was I missing the old me or had I simply not worked at creating a new me.

Eureka!

This seems to be the issue for me at least. I gave up an identity, failed to see the enormity of that, and did not take the time to build a new one. In the absence of a new secure identity I understandably felt drawn to the comfort of the old one.

So now after 11 months it is finally time to say goodbye to the old identity of Jim the drinker. It served its purpose, it was good while it lasted but it had to go. No more regrets. It had to go and I’m glad its gone. My task is to now build a new identity and be secure and happy in that. No more looking back. It feels like a time of grieving has come to an end and a time for renewal has begun. Maybe a time to feel both glad and proud to be sober? Brave enough to finally ditch one identity and embrace another.

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

Death

Aubade. BY PHILIP LARKIN

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

Morning Folks! Is that what you wanted to see on a blog post. A first verse from a poem that’s a meditation on death and dying? In these times? Probably not.

So why have I put it out there? I think it’s because despite all the daily statistics about the numbers of daily deaths many of us haven’t quite confronted or looked at our own fears of dying and mortality. We know that we will all die but we are uncomfortable truly coming to terms with it. But this virus has shaken things up. It’s stark message is that any one of us, at any moment could be infected and could be one of the unlucky ones that ends up dying. It does affect older people more but there are plenty of younger and healthy people dying as well. It feels like it’s out there, ready to pounce and any of us could be next.

That prospect of imminent death is clearly always there but the virus has put it centre stage and made it a collective anxiety. Every single one of us could be susceptible to it and it’s very uncomfortable. It makes us consciously or unconsciously face our dread of dying. There’s no avoiding it and maybe that’s not a bad thing.

Of course for some, there is no dread or anxiety because they have faced the reality of death and come to some accommodation with it. For others death holds no fear because they are either fed up of life or have the comfort blanket of their faith to envelop them in hopes of an afterlife.

For the rest of us we can either push the subject away or confront it. Push it away and I believe it will not actually go away but will haunt your subconscious manifesting itself as unease or anxiety. Confront it, maybe for the first time in your life, and there could be a surprise.

Philip Larkin confronted death but found no comfort, only dread and some great poetry. Others though have found that confronting death is not only natural and normal but can also enhance our experience of life. To know what will inevitably come to pass can make us appreciate what we have in this very moment in time. It sounds trite but it’s true.

So, far from being depressing; confronting our own mortality, honestly and without pretty embellishments, could be the best way of enhancing our enjoyment and appreciation of life.

So let me finish with a positive view off death to counter balance the dread view of Philip Larkin. Here is a quote from a writer from the Buddhist tradition, Sharon Salzburg:

“I think [meditating on death] could make us a lot happier, we can feel free from so many of life’s irritations and annoyances and be truly in awe of the miracle of life and the time we do have. If we deeply see the folly of holding on, we can be much more in harmony with the flow of change.”

Maybe a message we will all get from this situation is a reminder that humanity and individuals are not in control of everything, that things do constantly change, our lives are indeed finite, but being alive is something we often under appreciate.

This rumination has helped me, (I tend to be more Philip than Sharon) so I’m going off now to eat a fantastic breakfast, walk outside and tell someone now how much I love them.

It’s good to be alive.

Jim X

100 Days- My, Doesn’t Time Fly- And Don’t Mention Tests

A very dear friend asked me a few days ago when I would be at the 100 Day mark and when I looked I realised it was today. So yes 100 days and like so many fellow exboozebloggers I’m slightly amazed that I have reached this point.  The feeling I have? I’d say it’s a calm, satisfied, proud and yet a not complacent feeling. There’s a little bit of relief mixed in too; relief that the anxiety, deprivation and feeling of being denied and resentful are slowly but surely subsiding.   Is there a single word for this mix of feelings?  The Germans would surely have one or be able to make one up, so in the spirit of Shakespeare who loved making up new words I’m going to coin a new word for this heady mix of feelings.  Here goes, I feel “ubersobrenicalmsatisfigolent” a catchy word you’ll surely  agree and which I am immediately going to trademark and send to the OED for  inclusion in next year’s dictionary.

So yes, feeling unexpectedly good about being sober and like Anne in her nomorebeer blog I had an experience that gave me a  real awareness that much has changed in my relationship to alcohol.  I was in London at the weekend for an old friend’s 60th birthday celebrations.  I knew this was on the horizon when I stopped drinking and was secretly dreading the ocassion. Same old stuff; would I be able to enjoy the ocassion, would I spend my time miserably pining for a drink etc etc. The key thing was that I had 3 months under my belt and had experienced  a few pub, social, restaurant type events. The world had not ended and so I approached the weekend feeling fairly confident in my powers of staying AF. In truth it was fairly easy.  It helped that we ended up playing ping pong in one of those noisy sport based bars they have now in London, but I really didn’t feel the inclination to drink. It was like the years of conditioning were breaking down around me.  I watched as people gradually got drunk and its so easy to spot the real drinkers in a group, the ones who order extra drinks between drinks. Towards the end of the evening I actually wasn’t enjoying the evening much and not becasue I was not drinking.  It was just a bit boring.  It struck me, as others have also pointed out, that before  as a drinker I would have drunk a lot and after a two day hangover might have said, “oh yeh, had a great time on Saturday… blah blah” and it would have been the drink making it seem like it was a fun night when in reality it wasn’t. I then thought about all those nights when I did drink copiously in a desperate attempt to make it seem I was having a great time.  I did have some good times when drinking, for sure, but I think a lot of the drinking ocassions I experienced were average at best, needing booze to create the impression, the illusion of  good times.

I know what for me makes a good time ; chatting to friends, walks, laughing, listening to and playing music, cuddles , good food, games. On Saturday I looked around the bar at one point and could see slurring words, nascent hangovers, women in their 60s groping young waiters. It was all a bit grim and I felt so good being sober.  Anne’s last post was saying something similar and I put a comment that ,”this drinking season may well reinforce rather than threaten our sobriety.” and this has happened for me. I’m feeling increasingly lucky and pleased to be free of drinking.  I’ve had enough of the language of denial, of being tested.  Stuff your tests, I’m done with drinking, it’s not cool, it fucks you up and it doesn’t mean you are going to be happy.  Like all drugs it peddles an illusion, it sells us a lie. Right, got that off my chest.

Sorry, got a little carried away there.

It’s coming up to Christmas, great.  Lots of things to look forward to.  Not a test in sight now, just calm, clear reinforcement of one of the best decisions I ever made. A warm feeling envelops me, not smugness , but pride, not complacency but a certainty, all feels calm.  Yes I’m feeling  “ubersobrenicalmsatisfigolent” all over  again.  Lovely.

AF Cheers everyone

Jim x

Emerging out of the Closet

I knew I had to be honest with people. I was not prepared to live a lie any longer. I knew there was a danger that family and friends would not be able to accept my new identity, my new way of life, but I could no longer live a life of secrecy and shame.  It was time to come out the closet.

I was nervous. Would I be accepted?  Would friends turn on me? What about my sons, would they now feel embarrassed by their dad’s new way of life. I knew I’d face predjudice, incredulity, mockery even hostility for what I was about to tell people. “But Jim, please give it some time, it might just be a phase, you could be back to normal in a few days.” I could hear the possible words that would be directed at me swimming around my head.

“Jim, you’ve spent too much time hanging out with those strange types on the internet, they’ve warped your thinking, influenced you, made you feel you are different than you really are. Jim for God’s sake, turn back before it’s too late.” Maybe they would say that, but my mind was made up. 

I decided to make my announcement to a friend in a pub last Friday.  I could tell she knew I had something monumental to say.  I poured myself some water.  I tried to speak but my mouth was dry.  My hands were trembling.  My friend took my hand, took a huge gulp of her red wine, looked me in the eye and said, “Jim, you know you can tell me anything.”

This was the moment.  I knew my friend would relay what I was about to say to her, to my other friends.  One way or another I would be out the closet and it would be a relief.  I coughed, straightened up and hesitated. I couldn’t do it.  My friend was now highly concerned for me.  Thinking she was changing the subject she said, “Shall I order a bottle of the Merlot Jim, I’ve nearly finished my glass and you haven’t had anything yet? Yeh let’s get a bottle, we can leave the car here and I’ll drop you home in the taxi.”

I couldn’t take it any longer.  It just came out, “I’m not bloody drinking, alright.  I’ve stopped, that’s it. Finito. Don’t keep asking me.  I don’t drink.  I have stopped drinking. I’m identifying as sober! Go on reject me, tell me to fuck off you freak, I don’t care any more. Just leave me alone.” I sobbed.

“Jim, take it easy, I only asked if you fancied some wine. Is that why you’ve been a bit tense, a bit odd?”

“Er yes it is actually, that’s my big announcement.you don’t seem shocked.”

She wasn’t. We ordered our food.

And that was it. I was Captura de pantalla 2019-11-11 a las 21.52.02.pngaccused by my friend of being a drama queen but otherwise my friend thought it was amazing that I hadn’t had a drink for ten weeks and was now determined to carry on Alcohol Free.

 

 

I went home and then told my partner.  She said she thought it was a good idea. “Well done,” she said.

I emerged from my sober closet and the world just carried on.  It was all rather underwhelming. I, on the other hand, felt great.  I had my new identity.  

To make it sound cool I call myself a Soberista, as if I am some kind of revolutionary alcohol free Mexican hell raiser.  Again a little over dramatic, but why not.  

I’ve emerged from the alcohol closet, I’m a Soberista and I’m proud!

 

 

Achievement and Loss- The 7 week Mark

Seven weeks and my overriding feeling is not one of achievement but one of loss. Why is that?My head says well done but my heart says at what a cost.  Our minds can play funny games with us and mine is currently playing the ,”Your drinking wasn’t that bad Jim, lighten up and enjoy yourself,” game.  Very seductive.  Very appealing.  Very half true!

In some ways this “thing”, this going sober, would be much easier if my drinking had been truly out of control and I was waking up trembling in the morning craving my first litre of  super strength lager. But it was never like that.  The drinking wasn’t ruining my life but it was nibbling at the edges and being a person of some excesses, when I drank, I drank with gusto. I nowfind myself remembering the many ocassions I did drink moderately (usually because it would have looked unseemly to do otherwise) but conveniently repressing days when I’d inexplicably reach for yet another drink, spending a day alone getting into a drunken stupor and then feeling shit about myself for around 3 days.  I conveniently forget  the hangovers that stopped me doing my Saturday morning runs or led me to spend a day eating fatty foods to soak up the booze. Well I’ve just reminded myself . Yes, of course there were good, sensible, rational reasons for stopping.  Health, sleep, energy, but boy can good intentions be boring.

This is the thing, despite my ego and superego (apologies to Freud) acting like some sensible parents, my instinctual, childish ID says, “Fuck off you boring killjoys, being human is about experience, we are all going to die anyway, let’s at least have some good times before the inevitable annialation!” Naughty ID! A bit of a drama queen but I get his point.  I do miss much about drinking.  I know the facts.  I know the science but stopping drinking is more than feeding yourself the sobriety propaganda. That gives you some reason and motivation.  It helps.  But I have to recognise aScreenshot 2019-10-21 at 08.18.01.pngnd grieve for what I have lost as crazy as that may sound.  Drink gave me some release.  It was a drug I chose to take because I liked its effects.  It also gave me companionship and an identity. I was bloody good at drinking so it gave me a strange kind of warped kudos and standing.   Of course there were negatives and side effects but those were understood to be part of the deal. You pays yer price.

So what am I saying? God knows. I’m suggesting I suppose that like many things, going sober is not as black and white (for me and I can obviously only talk about me with any certainty) as I thought it would be.  It’s clearly a process.  There are real pluses and I’m grateful for those otherwise I wouldn’t be doing this.  But I have to acknowledge the downsides and probably the biggest of these is the loss of identity, ritual, and shared activity that drinking gave me.

An example of this is when I eventually go to Spain to visit relatives.  I need to visit but I put if off. Why? Because I know that something will be missing. They live in Valencia and a typical day will involve late breakfast, a trip to the centre, beers, chat, meeting friends and tapas. Not much beer or wine but steady, small amounts. A light, sweet feeling of mild intoxication and then a restaurant where good food matched with fine wines is the order of the day. It doesn’t matter what anyone says, or I say to myself, spending a day like that with a non alcoholic beer or soft drink is not going to be the same.  That experience is now dead to me, it’s something that happened in another life.  It was good and it has gone.

Seven weeks.  I have done well and I have no intention of giving up my giving up, but I must also grieve and reorganise my identity. I need to find new ways of getting the comfort and buzz, that not just alcohol, but it’s associated rituals and hinterland gave me.  Maybe it’s the grieving rather than a physical dependency that makes many return to booze. Maybe knowing that that is what is going on and giving myself time will help. There was much that was good about my drinking days. Acknowledge the loss, feel the loss, grieve for it and move on. Better days await.

Apologies if this is a depressing post but these reflections have been swirling around and it helps to write them down.

Jim x

Ambivalence (Trigger Alert!)

Ambivalence; mixed feelings, contradictory views- yup that’s me right now. So i’ve been 5 weeks alcohol free and part of me feels, “great achievement” and part of me thinks, “big deal.”  Yes 5 weeks AF and I’ve had lots of benefits; no hangovers, marginally better sleep, lower blood pressure, bit of weight loss, blah, blah, blah. Another part of me misses what I’ve given up – the bonhomie of drinking, the getting slightly squiffy and the sheer delight of sampling new beers often in cosy, covivial surroundings.

Life is often not black and white and so it is proving with this alcohol free journey. I went to visit my son and his girlfriend at the weekend.  They have moved to St Albans.  My son, not knowing I’m not drinking bought some of my favourite beers and some corking wines to go with some stonking cheeses.  This used to be my heaven. I tell him I’m not drinking.  We head off to the town centre and the pub for some food and a drink.  I order AF beer. They have real beer.  I feel terrible.  Why am I denying myself? I always used to love that first hit of alcohol. Now I sit there thinking about not drinking just like before I used to think about drinking.  Brilliant, we’ve really moved on haven’t we!

Tangent. ‘This Naked Mind.’  Seemingly the bible for the newly sober, amen. I read this and bristled at some of her arguments.  I get the idea, turn people off alcohol, it’s easier to give up.  Her argument about taste though really annoyed me.  She says that alcohol is ethanol, true, and that drinking it is like drinking poison, true, and that we may learn to aquire the taste but really we don’t like the taste of alcohol, untrue. Alcoholic drinks are not just alcohol. They are often complex drinks and alcohol carries taste. Try AF wine next to real wine and there’s no comparison.  The alcohol carries the depth and range of flavours.  Good wine tastes lovely! For me denying that wine can be tasty doesn’t help one bit.  In fact it puts me off ‘sober propaganda.’ I know alcohol is not good for you in excess but you can say that about many things that give us pleasure. I like the taste of wine and a well crafted beer.  I like the feeling of getting slightly squiffy.  Let’s cut to the chase- people drink because it’s pleasurable. There, I’ve said it. Apostasy. Sacrilege.  Jim’s gone to the dark side!

No, I’m just reminding myself that I have given up something that at various points gave me much pleasure.  My problem, and it is MY problem, is that I am an excessive person and you play the excess card with alcohol and you are heading for trouble.  I know this weekend that had I been drinking, a couple of pints during the day would then have transformed into several beers later on then gin and tonic and once the wine was opened… hello hangover and a ruined Sunday. That is why I am not drinking but I wish I could be a moderate drinker. Ambivalence!

So what stopped me drinking this weekend? I was seconds away from cracking.  I wanted the companionship and lightheadedness, the pleasure of drinking in company. But I didn’t drink. I thought of two fellow bloggers in particular, Anne and Nadine, of how they are peservering and how much the mutual support means to me.  I reminded myself of why I had embarked on this journey in the first place and I also knew deep down that I’d be really annoyed with myself if I cracked. I want to see how I feel about alcohol in 3 or 4 months.  It may well be I get to a point where weekends like this one just gone do not feel like massive feats of denial.  Life is for living and I want to savour it’s many pleasures, but I also want to be healthy and there is much I want to accomplish in the time I have left.

So, I’ll continue, not in the bubbly, naive, trumpet blowing way I started out, but in a more realistic way.  Life is often contradictory, our own thoughts and actions likewise, but there can also be moments of clarity, calm and certainty.  My hope is that after wading through the swampy mire of ambivalence I’ll end up on firmer ground.

Maybe. One day.

 

Jim x

The Honeymoon is Over! Now the Hard Work Begins

Someone,and I can’t remember who, coined the term Limerance to describe those heady first days and weeks in a new relationship when you are just so caught up with your new love.  You see only perfection, not the flaws, you feel strangely optimistic and heady and the flames of passion burn strong. Oh blissful days.

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Then it changes! Time to move on to a new lover?  No, no, no. That’s bad, immature. Instead it’s time to take the relationship to a new more meaningful, mature level! You have to put the work in and sometimes make compromises.

Well that’s a little bit how it feels for me after 4 weeks of being alcohol free.  The first few weeks it was all heady optimism-; “Oh sobriety I love you, we were made for each other, let’s make love again, it’s been 30 minutes already!” (oh no that last one doesn’t really work as a metaphor does it?). Anyway you get the idea.  It was all positive, loads of benefits, saying goodbye to hangovers and seeing a lovely alcohol free life stretching out unto the sunset. Bliss. Limerance.

Then it changed! A few heady weeks of limerance and then reality sets in- this is tough, the feelings more confused, the reality more nuanced, the pulls of the past growing stronger.  Early optimism gives way to mixed feelings- feelings of loss, trouble dealing with boredom, dealing with nights out. A feeling of not being able to enjoy what others enjoy.  

Divorce is in the air!

Except it’s not.  It’s time to be more realistic, more mature.  The honeymoon may be over but the hard work begins and the true nature of being alcohol free will hopefully emerge.  I don’t want to experience just limerance in my relationship to sobriety, I want a lasting commitment where I sacrifice going off with that floozy alcohol for a one night stand for a more meaningful relationship with sobriety. Sticking with my new partner, sobriety, will give me more depth and satisfaction in the long term I’m sure.

I’ve not been a great one for relationships in the past so there are parallels for me between my new relationship to sobriety and my real life relationships.  I have in the past become restless and sought new relationships always looking for some elusive “buzz” and often ignoring what was there all along.  Steadfastness was

Screenshot 2019-09-29 at 21.08.52.pngnot a great quality of mine but that has changed markedly in recent years.

Sticking with being alcohol free is another chance for me to show that I can stick at something past the early optimistic stage and make a change that is profound and life changing.  It’s going to be complex but then so is any good relationship.

So, come on sobriety, give me a cuddle.  We’re in this for the long haul.

 

Jim X