Category Archives: Life changes

Happy on my Birthday

If i’d had the type of birthday I had this weekend even ten years ago I would be feeling miserable, unloved and hard done by right now. For my birthday I went for a walk in the countryside with my partner, I read the paper with football on in the background, had an afternoon nap, received and sent messages, had a takeaway curry, watched some telly and went to bed. No meal out (still a possibility here until lockdown this coming Thursday), no alcohol, no meeting up with friends, no special outing and it probably would have been like this even without the pandemic.

Ten years ago I would have been thinking why was my life so dull, devoid of event, empty. I certainly would have consoled myself with drink; oh yes indeed. I would have used the excuse of my birthday to drink copiously until I felt even worse than I did, fell asleep and lost the next day to a hangover.

Happy birthday to anyone with a birthday in the next 365 days!

So this weekend I had what I would have previously labelled a shit birthday. The strange thing is it wasn’t a shit birthday. It wasn’t great but I had a good day; relaxed, couple of nice presents. It was Ok. I didn’t feel aggrieved or that I was missing out on anything. I was quietly content. I was intrigued- why was I content with a situation that previously would have made me miserable?

One possibility is that I have learned to expect less. Maybe life has become uniformly flat and and my suffering was bourne out of a desire to see life delivering more than it ever could. Expect less, suffer less. In one of my favourite plays, Arthur Miller’s View from the Bridge,the lawyer Alfieri tries to understand the tragedy of Eddie’s overpowering passions. He concludes,”Most of the time we settle for half and I like it better.” The message for me? Rein in those passions and desires. You may lose something in the process but you’ll survive. I’m not sure that’s the whole story.

The other possibility which I think applies more is that the things that I felt were important previously simply are not anymore. Was I really having fun down the pub, drinking pints, seeing unpredictable situations emerge, hoping deep down inside for some flirtatious encounter? Enveloping myself in the illusory cloak of being alive . Looking back it all seems like desperate attempts at finding validation, connection, excitement and to deny the existential truth of our mortality. Sorry if that sounds heavy and morbid, it actually is the opposite. If those earlier attempts to find joy, meaning, escape all fell flat what else was there?

I suppose it’s the feeling I have now that one doesn’t have to look so much out as in. If I can look at myself, be by myself and find that Ok, I don’t need to find external elements to give me a sense of contentment. I can then focus on what is around me already. It’s about accepting that we are here for a brief time and that that window of consciousness that we have is incredible and to be cherished not lamented before it’s time is up. It’s the old cliche of being able to be in the here and now, appreciate the people we have in our lives, love others and accept their love and extend our own resources to help others. Doing the small stuff is what often gives me pleasure, so on balance, my birthday was not a washout, it was a day where I could enjoy and appreciate being alive. Maybe I’m just getting old, but here’s the odd thing. I wish in a way I would have been able to look at life a little more this way when I was younger. Chasing illusions, desperate for some peace and some answers. That sounds like regret but it’s not really as you can’t get to your final destination without passing through some dodgy stations. It’s another day today, let’s see what that brings, see what tiny but important impact I can make. Right now it’s time for tea and toast- magic!

Call That a Diet Jim!

Let’s start with the good news – I’ve lost 3.5 lbs! The less good news – 4 days ago I’d lost 4.5lbs. I know, I know don’t weigh yourself everyday . I can’t help it- it’s just the way I am. Ah, that’s it. It’s the way I am so my diet needs to take that into account. Let me revisit my bold proclamation last week:

“So phase one is basically eat healthily, one big meal a day and cut out the snacks and crap- and zero added sugar. I won’t of course forget to exercise. Right, I’ve gone on long enough in this post so I shall stop there and start day three of my new diet plan.”

The Devil finds many ways to tempt poor old Jim

So spoke Jim- Bollocks and bullshit diet I should have called it. ZERO SUGAR- ah that should mean NO sweet things like ice cream, cakes etc, shouldn’t it. Well in my little chart/spreadsheet I recorded many an instance of sugar related eating; cheesecake on two days, cheesecake plus custard on another, Ice cream last night. I could go on….

And yet I’m not despondent. Overall I’ve lost some weight and my main objective was to switch to a cereal less breakfast of fruit and yoghurt every day with a minimal lunch and lots of exercise. Those things I achieved but the one big meal often turned into two normal three course meals rolled into one. But slowly does it. This is not like giving up the booze, this is a gradual realignment with food and eating habits, not an all or nothing exercise. I know that in the morning I can deal with only having a small amount of food, it’s the evenings when I like to eat, hence having my main meal then. This week I shall maintain the good changes and target this need to reward myself by eating sugar based desserts. I’ve cut out chocolate and snacks so this targeting of one specific area seems doable. I will substitute fruit and /or bake my own low sugar healthy alternatives.The proof will definitely be in the pudding .

Cutting down the carbs whilst eating good whole foods in sensible portions is my long term aim. I strongly believe that the other two elements which are easy to incorporate into any eating plan and which help one lose weight without even having to diet at all are:

1 Stop eating once you are full. I had it instilled in me that you had to finish what was on your plate. Rubbish. When you’re full-stop eating . Put the rest in your recycling. It’s OK. It’s not a sin to discard food you don’t need. After a while you will naturally adjust your portion sizes.

2 Eat mindfully and slowly. It takes twenty minutes for your brain to register that you are full from when you start eating, so give your body the chance to register the food you’ve eaten. Slow eating means you are more likely to notice being full and can stop. Eating mindfully (not watching telly at same time) helps you focus on the food, it’s flavours and slows down the process. Enjoy the food, not woof it down. That is especially aimed at me!

All I need to do now is follow my own advice!

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

Dissecting My Unexpected Craving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s long overdue.

Jim X

3 Months AF – YIPPEE!

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

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

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

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

Anyone seen my mask? Hello, is anyone there?

Jim X

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

9 Weeks and Hello Again Dysphoria

9 weeks without alcohol. Good.  But I am not managing my time well.  I like blogging , I like catching up with other blogs but it seems to get harder finding the time to do it.  It has been a full on week and two things have dominated; my therapy work and organising a fund raising concert in the New Year. Excuses, excuses.  Oh and  I had my birthday on Thursday. Interesting.

I went with some friends to the pub.  Potential sticky social time but in the end OK.  The pub does a draught non alcohol beer which is unusual and allowed me to feel like I was having a good time on my birthday. The truth is I wanted a drink.  Not a,”I’m a hopeless addict give me a bloody drink,” type desire more a “It’s my birthday, I love the slightly euphoric feeling alcohol gives me, surely if life means anything it’s about being able to enjoy a wide range of experiences and sensations, it’s only a bloody drink,” type desire. But I didn’t drink and that’s because I always have to have that one or two extra and I’ve decided not to.  Sensible but slightly boring.  I guess I’m feeling that way because I’m not getting that whole, “Wow my life is so much better now I’m not drinking,”vibe. Or is this my dysphoria rearing it’s ugly little head again?

BACK TO THURSDAY.

One of my friends, who I mainly know through table tennis, noticed I wasn’t drinking “real” beer.  We spoke about drinking and I was amazed when he told me he had stopped for a whole year a few years ago because his drinking had become problematic. I was intrigued.  He said he regularly had blackouts not recollecting drinking sesssions so decided to stop. He always intended it to be a year and after a year he started drinking again but now does so moderately. Amazing.  That night he had one vodka and orange, a previous time I’d been to the pub with him he had had one pint. He is a moderate drinker and a reformed drinker who clearly before had suffered from Alcohol Use Disorder.   It was an eye opener.  Moderation is possible, but then he is a very focused individual.  It was interesting in that he said he needed a year off in order to recalibrate his drinking, gain perspective and make firm plans about how he was going to change his attitude to drinking.  Sacrilegous as it may sound I did wonder if that could be an option for me.  Stop for a year and try the moderation path.

Who am I kidding! Moderation is not my way.  There was half a chocolate cake left on Friday. Enough for 6 people.  I ate the lot. It was there, my though was best finish it.  I was the same with wine.  I never understood why people bought bottle stoppers, once the bottle was open, finish it.  When I smoked, exactly the same. Consume, eat, drink, covet. Greed, excess or numbing some emotional pain?  Certainly when I don’t have a drink like today I’m prone to dysphoria as mentioned earlier. A glass or three often disippated the mood, made me lighter.  Now I have to ride the mood, see it through.

I have clients who experience dysphoria and I’m often surprised that when I tell them that that is what they are describing it’s often the first time they have heard of the term.  I tell them them that what they are describing; feelings of unease and a general non-specific dissatisfaction with life has a name.  I suppose they haven’t heard of it because it’s not a condition as such more a description of a mood state but a mood state that can be very commonly experienced.  People with depression often experience dysphoria but it’s not a mood state reserved solely for those with a mental illness. I would often experience dysphoria but my wonderful, euphoria (yes, it’s the opposite to dysphoria) inducing wine quickly snapped me out of it. Of course it doesn’t really work.  It’s an illusion.  You end up drinking too much, getting anxiety about your drinking, the unease and unhappiness return and one ends up writing a blog about giving up alcohol on WordPress. Full circle.

My dysphoria is often Sunday based.  I know it passes. I’ll be slightly grumpy and pissed off until it does so.  Then I’ll be OK.  Then I’ll be able to feel good about being 9 weeks Alcohol Free. Anyone know a good therapist?

Jim x

Two Months Alcohol Free and Busy as the Proverbial Bee

Let’s get the self pitying stuff out the way first.  It’s 2.30 am, the clocks have gone back which means in England; damp, dull, grey little England, we will be consigned to our days getting dark around four in the afternoon.  It gets worse, much worse- I have a cold! Not the greatest tragedy ever to afflict a person, granted, but I hate colds and they make me feel sorry for myself. Also it’s my blog and if I want to moan about a cold I can. Oh and to compound the misery I over ate last night using the “feed a cold” excuse to eat in quick succession: scotch eggs with rhubarb chutney, crisps, chocolate, yoghurt and then more chocolate.  Now I’m up becasue I have an upset tummy. Life can be cruel sometimes!

Ok that’s the self pitying done with so now where am I in this Alcohol Free adventure?  8 weeks AF today.  That’s OK, pretty pleased with that and just two weeks away from breaking the 10 weeks I went without a drink earlier this year. Yesterday and Friday also represented the first weekend where I did not suffer the anxiety pangs and cravings which I had every time I got to Friday evening up until this current weekend.  That association seems to be slowy dissolving.

So progress is good and yet it has been quite a while since my last post.  I suppose the fact that this going without booze is getting slightly easier means slightly less motivation to blog and yet I have been wanting to sit down and write a post, see how my other boozeless, blogging buddies are doing. So what is going on?

The simple answer is that I have suddenly become very busy.  My days are getting filled with things to do; appointments, deadlines, correspondence. It has left me little time for this blogging  and it takes an upset stomach in the middle of the night to create the time and space to sit down and write.  The busyness is a direct result of giving up the booze. Being sober, knowing there will be no hangovers, having more energy has meant that I started to

Screenshot 2019-10-27 at 03.51.57.png

Oh look, Jim’s a busy bee! 

fill my time and now I think I may just

 

 

have overdone it, stretching and commiting myself a little bit too much.  But then that’s how I am. That’s how I used to drink; just drinking that little bit too much, insisting we open just one more bottle of wine.  Yep, slightly excessive but at least now the excess is in doing productive things, things that give my life meaning and purpose, the holy grails for those of us without faith.

One of the things I’m overdosing on is Spanish.  I use a site called Conversation Exchange

It’s brilliant for finding people who want to learn another language and you learn theirs. I’ve been chatting to one Spanish guy on Skype for 3 years now.  Once a week we chat for an hour; 30 minutes in English, 30 minutes in Spanish. We have become friends, we improve our language skills and it’s free.  With my extra time and energy I logged onto CE to see if I could find a second person to chat with.  Trouble is I hadn’t  logged onto the site for three years and logging on again meant I came up first when Spanish speakers were looking for potential English partners. Without thinking things through I was getting requests to chat and being someone who finds it hard to say no, I have now got two new language buddies and another one scheduled for Tuesday. Having chatted to the two new people, (a retired guy and a successful business woman) I can’t suddenly cut them off but it means 3 or 4 new time commitments each week.  I’ll see how it goes because having to speak Spanish is fairlydemanding and exhausting, I have to think and concentrate! At least my Spanish should improve and in reality what a nice bonus from going Alcohol Free.  I guess I shouldn’t moan, I should celebrate but it does mean less time for other things.

The other area where I am getting busy is my therapy work.  I use a site to get my leads and there seems to be a big upswing in people looking for therapists in my area.  I have a room set aside at home for this but I only usually like to see a couple of people a week but now I have 5 clients and they are all sticking with it.  That’s good as I love doing that work but it does involve assigning a lot of time to it.  I tend to spend as much time thinking about clients, making notes and reading around issues as I do actually seeing them so I am spending a lot of time focusing on these clients and their issues at the moment.  But I wouldn’t change this.  It’s what I love doing. Being Alcohol Free has also given me a new found enthusiasm for what I do. Talking to clients about the possibility of change knowing that you are engaging in a process of change yourself feels very empowering and tangible.  Change can happen, it’s possible, it’s not always easy but with support it can happen.  I know giving up the booze is not like trying to overcome anxiety or a lifetime of feeling inadequate but it is similar in terms of developing the motivation and understanding to make small steps in changing in thoughts, feelings and perspectives.  Those things can instigate and sustain change.

So there we have it.  Two months without booze and the bonus of more time and energy. Time to improve my Spanish and developing my therapy work(and I never got onto the music which I also spend more time on) . I mustn’t in all of this “busyness” neglect the blogging and reading others’ blogs because it really has helped and the support on here has been wonderful.  I must also make sure I  do not neglect my very supportive partner who is becoming increasingly intrigued about what my going boozeless is all about. In short I need to monitor how I use this increase in productive time and not overdo things. I need to leave some unscheduled time and not overfill my time like I did my wine glass! Moderation, ah, if only.

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

In Praise Of One Year No Beer -OYNB (credit where credit’s due)

This post is all about why I am finding being alcohol free easier than I ever thought possible. Sure there are some tough times, cravings and difficult situations but I feel after nearly two weeks that this really is it. I’m hoping this is not false optimism and my instincts tell me the optimism is justified. Even if I have a little lapse, that’s all it will be because I’m going into this alcohol free journey with expectation and enthusiasm rather than a mindset of deprivation, negativity and loss. For me it’s all been about the mindset.

In January I decided to try going alcohol free to see if it would lower my cholestrol, improve blood pressure and help me lose some weight (doctor’s orders). I knew I was drinking too much, particularly binge drinking at weekends and it was taking its toll. When I’d tried to stop drinking for a few weeks before it always ended up as failure and looking back it was because I saw it solely as depriving myself, giving up something I liked but couldn’t control and if I didn’t make it that was my fault, my failure. It all felt negative. Change based on principles of deprivation, loss, will power alone, guilt, moral weakness and probable failure is not likely to be successful . I’d read the books that most people read but didn’t like the tone, the evangalism, the judgmental tone in most of them. I’ve got nothing against people who drink, I’m simply someone who is not good at being a sensible drinker. Alcohol is a powerful drug and for various reasons I am not someone who can use it in a responsible and healthy way. Something had to change.

I then stumbled across two British men who had created a community based around giving up alcohol initially for a month. They referred to what they had set up as ONE YEAR NO BEER. they devised an approach that suited them. Suddenly there were two people speaking my language. They are two men that liked a drink but drank too much sometimes and were fed up with two day hangovers and the impact alcohol was having on their health.

The key thing was this- they focused on the positive, cool aspects of giving up alcohol- improved health, well-being, weight loss, more time, better concentration and sleep. They looked at the work of Professor Moore who conducted a massive study of the effects of giving up alcohol for just 4 weeks. The results were staggering in terms of health benefits. Prof Moore suggested that if someone ever produced a pill that could replicate what 4 weeks without alcohol could do everyone would be clamouring for that pill. Powerful stuff.

Suddenly the picture changes- going alcohol free is going to open up an enhanced experience of life. I knew this deep down but seeing it spelt out like it was by these two men hit me like a thunderbolt. I couldn’t wait to go alcohol free. That was certainly a reframing moment. At the same time alcohol was at the centre of so much that I did so it was going to be a mixed process; there was going to be some loss and physical reactions to stopping but there was also going to be much to look forward to. I went on their website https://www.oneyearnobeer.com and downloaded their 28 day challenge (not sure if that i still available). I adapted it for my own purposes and turned it into a 3 month challenge. I kept a journal. I logged the changes. For me knowing it was three months gave me an escape clause. This was time limited. I could give it a real go knowing I could drink again after 3 months. During that 3 months without alcohol I felt great; I lost 12 lbs, better skin, improved sleep (although not for the first 4 weeks), more time, more energy, more motivation, lower cholestrol, reduced blood pressure. My doctor was impressed. All I had really done was cut out alcohol. I was happier. The only downsides were some of the anxiety I mentioned in a previous post and the adjustment of tackling social ocassions without booze.

Three months without hangovers! Being able to do productive things on a Saturday morning, this was great. After 3 months I decided to go back to drinking, that was the original deal with myself but part of me didn’t want to. Of course when I started drinking again my drinking was even heavier than before. It was as if I wanted the contrast. As I started drinking again the conviction slowly develped that I wanted to go back to how I felt during that 3 months without alcohol. I reread the booklet written by OYNB authors – Ruari and Andy and set the target date of September 1st. I knew enough about myself to know that moderation was not going to work. I drank alcohol like I do everything else- excessively. I wanted to experience those highs of not drinking again. Going alcohol free had been a positive adventure full of transformation, promise and tangible benefits. It was the magic pill that cost nothing.

Andy and Raori from OYNB

So there we are. Many elements have coallesced to give me this desire to live my life alcohol free. Without doubt though Ruari and Andy from OYNB have been a huge influence and I wish to thank them for sharing their thoughts and insights but most importantly for reframing going alcohol free as a positive choice rather than one stemming from a feeling of failure or moral ineptitude. If you are thinking of going alcohol free or want to give it a go I recommend checking out their website. Their approach spoke to me and felt right. I didn’t join one of their online programmes or communities because I personally felt I had enough knowledge and motivation to go it alone. Except of course I’m not alone, there is this marvellous community of bloggers here all looking out for each other. If I had rushed into this sobriety or filled my head with an AA style approach going alcohol free would not be working for me, I know that. It’s all about finding a way that works for you. Reading what Ruari and Andy had to say, being inspired by fellow bloggers who were enjoying alcohol free lives and dipping my toe in the water with a three month challenge all helped me start this journey that is more exciting than it is scary. Alcohol free living – what a pill!