Category Archives: change

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.

Screenshot 2019-09-29 at 21.03.35.png

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

Yes , It’s Bloody Hard , But It’s Worth It!

This giving up the booze, giving up a way of living that did, at various points give us some joy or relief otherwise we wouldn’t have done it, is difficult. Giving anything up that has become ingrained is hard but booze has so many components; it affects you physically and makes changes to your brain chemistry, it has social and cultural elements and creates a strong psychological attachment. Added to that, those that are seriously dependent on alcohol will suffer serious debilitating withdrawal symptoms and experience a changed brain chemistry that will often put having alcohol as a higher priority than their own survival!

So, fat chance of giving up then?

No is the answer, because people do give it up.  Some bloggers on here have been sober for years.  I’m a newby and luckily didn’t get to the point where stopping gave me terrible withdrawal symptoms, but I’m not stupid or naive.  I know that more people go back to booze within a year than stay off it.  I need to keep reminding myself it’s hard and that it can go wrong and the way I deal with that is threefold:

1  I look and constantly remind myself of all the positive aspects of being sober.  It’s a great state to aim for and maintain.

2  I will  treat the dreaded possible relapse as firstly a minor lapse if it’s literally one drink, one mistake, a “I fell off my bike so I’d better get back on quickly,” moment or regroup, learn and try again (definitely no self flagellation or recrimination) if it’s a full blown relapse.

3 I will bathe and luxuriate in the mutual support of other bloggers.  ( I have oddly come to think of a few of these,often anonymous, unseen bloggers as good friends.  Not surprising given their big hearts and openness). I hope those in a similar situation would agree that the support of other bloggers and reading their stories and their joys and frustrations makes an incredible difference in terms of maintaining sobriety. I would add though that some bloggers disappear and I’m assuming it’s because they are either confident in their alcohol free lives or they have started drinking again.  If the latter, that seems such a shame because their stories are more the norm and not everything goes the way we’d like.  In my view if someone has stopped drinking for a year, a month even a week, that’s a success that can never be taken away.  Going back to drinking is not some personal failing it’s what can happen to any of us, and hearing about it and what’s been learned could be useful for all concerned. After all this is a process not a fixed point.

Going back to point 1, let’s get positive, because giving up the booze should be less about what’s been given up, less about what we are not doing and more about how great and beneficial going alcohol free can be.

Tonight I’m going to join a bunch of people who are going to be attending a small music evening in a wood somewhere in Suffolk.  There will be folk singers, a sea shanty group, violin players and I’m going with my friend and we shall play a few songs.  It’s in a private wood and the owner has laid on a barbecue and loads of drink both alcoholic and soft. Should be a great, enjoyable night.

Here’s the thing. If this were two months ago I wouldn’t be going. Why? Well, it’s because I’m going alone meeting my playing companion there. I have to drive and I would not have been able to countenance a night like that in the past and not being able to have a drink. In other words I would rather NOT have gone than have gone and not be able to drink. That’s grim. Tha’s terrible. It puts drinking ahead of music and socialising, and that happened a lot.  What I probably would have done is I would have been manipulative and invited a friend who lives nearby and subtly persuaded him to give me a lift. Once there because I never drink before performing I would have persuaded the organiser to put me on first or second finished playing and then the evening would have truly began- I COULD DRINK.  I would have got pissed, probably tried to play again , embarrassed myself, think I’d had a good time, lose friends and spend two days nursing a hangover. What a fucking joke.

Screenshot 2019-09-21 at 09.15.38That’s the negative. Here’s the positive.

Instead tonight, I’ll drive, play whenever the organiser suggests, take my own interesting non alcoholic drinks, be prepared to tackle some cravings as I watch everyone drinking, remind myself of what I’m gaining, and enjoy the music and companionship instead of focussing on the next drink and getting drunk.  Why oh why did it take me so long to get to this place?

 

Jim X