Category Archives: Sobriety

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

Kombucha! Koming at Yer!

Yes I know it’s trendy and and seen as yet another middle class “must have” but that doesn’t mean it’s bad or should be dismissed. On that basis we’d have to say goodbye to yoga, almond milk and blogging. No I’m going to put potential ridicule to one side and embrace the fact that I am a Kombucha convert. Now, I’ve come to Kombucha the long way, having heard of it years ago but never really having enough interest to find out more let alone brew the stuff. Going sober and reading numerous Sunday supplement articles changed that.

After years of experimenting with various gins (way before gin became the go to drink it seems to have become today) and various mixers, I was a keen sampler of distinctive drinks. Alcohol carries taste and the range of great drinks you can create is limitless and fairly easy. But after 40 odd years of making and shaking I give up the alcohol. Suddenly making an interesting complex drink became a challenge. I tried the exorbitantly priced “spirit” alternatives of which my favourite is everleaf. It’s a complex non alcoholic base for mixers but costs £18 for just 50cl – in other words more than most gins, working out at a staggering £36 per litre. Then I looked again at Kombucha. It ticked a lot of boxes; it was made by brewing, it was simple tea transformed by fermentation into something quite unlike tea, the process reminded me of when I used to make my own wine and beer, it involved a magical process with new magical elements such as SCOBYs, it had limitless possibilities in terms of flavourings, it was relatively easy to set up and get the equipment and it was cheap. Importantly it was something I could create myself and learn to make better and better as time went on. Yep, Kombucha ticked a lot of boxes and humble Jim could be transformed from the saddo that doesn’t drink alcohol any more into …. The Alchemist, The Kombucha King, The Creator of Magical Elixirs.

https://happykombucha.co.uk/pages/how-to-make-kombucha

Without delay I ordered my SCOBY(look it up if you want to know more), my glass jars and stoppered bottles and finally I was ready for brewing! Now, brewing and fermentation when making Kombucha does produce some alcohol but most of this becomes transformed in the process and if there is any alcohol it’s around 0.5% the same as some of the “AF” beers I drink and ripe bananas. For me, with a keen nose and brain for alcohol I have honestly not sensed any in all the Kombucha I have made. I do realise that for some though this could be an issue.

Moving on- I’ve now completed two brews and have to say I have fallen in love with Kombucha. Like a lot of fermented foods, its full of the healthy bacteria your gut needs and I’ve been drinking small amounts everyday to get my body used to the influx of goodness. It really is a magical drink. The secondary fermentation in bottles gives rise to a natural carbonation and there’s something really wonderful about pouring out this frothy drink that started life as a humble drink of tea. Then there’s the taste- well never having tried Kombucha before it’s fantastic to experience a wholly new taste, tart, fruity hard to describe. What’s great is you can brew it for longer or shorter and this will affect the acidity and sweetness- in other words each time you brew you are creating a drink that’s truly unique and which costs pennies. Once you are up and running the SCOBYs grow and can be used for the next batch and you are left with tea bags and sugar as your only costs.

Oh, one more small cost, the flavourings. Ah the flavourings. This is what makes me most excited. When you bottle your Kombucha you can add flavourings and this is when things really open up. Basically use your imagination. I’ve already experimented with things like chillis and ginger and then on the sweet side with strawberries, grapes and cherries. My favourites so far? Well the strawberry Kombucha is delicious and I also flavoured one bottle with just cut up root ginger. That’s quickly become my morning staple.

Enough! You can tell I love the stuff. I love the alchemy of it and the acquiring of knowledge around it. Like bread making, it’s simple but you need to work at it to get it just as it should be. Us non alcohol drinkers deserve a rich array of drinks which we can enjoy and for what it’s worth I’m putting Kombucha out there as something well worth a try. You can buy it ready made, but come on, where’s the fun in that!

Jim X

The Bloody, Sodding Liebster Award

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

Here are the so-called Rules

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

Answers to Claire’s/ Anne’s questions:

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

11Facts about Me:

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

My nominees :

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

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

Jim X

Returns and Temptations

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

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

I did nearly start drinking again. For real.

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

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

I came close, very close.

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

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

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

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

Jim x

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alcohol and the Immune System

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe. Jim X

Fact- Being Sober Doesn’t Improve Common Sense

This is a tough one. A laying bare of the soul, an admission of fallibility. Six months sober and there are many pros; improved sleep, lower blood pressure, clearer head in the morning, you know the list. I had also hoped being sober would also improve my powers of common sense, help me make sensible decisions, make other men envious of my day to day problem solving capabilities but alas I have to confess that that has not been the case. To put it bluntly I still do very stupid things that would indicate to some people that my brain has failed to make the necessary synaptic connections necessary for daily survival.

Knowing this blogging community is so caring as well as sharing, I will expose my recent example of crass naivety, stupidity, lack of common sense or whatever you choose to all it. I know you will be kind not cruel.

I’m on holiday in the Peak District and I chose yesterday to go walking up Kinder Scout, which is the highest point in the peaks.I’m a Londoner now living in a flat area of the UK and not used to hill walking. My first proper walk therefore was to walk the most difficult of hill walks in the Peak District. You can already see where this is going!

I have a guide book that says don’t attempt this by yourself(I did), take a whistle in case you get lost (I didn’t) and don’t attempt to go off course to reach the high point marker(I did). It also said if inexperienced don’t try the walk in winter as the weather can really turn (I ignored that).At the car parking I secretly scoffed at other walkers with their poles (it’s not Everest I smirked to myself, and left mine in the car.)

I set off and within 200 yards realised I’d already gone wrong going the wrong way on this circular walk. Oh well I thought I won’t turn back I’ll just read the guidance backwards, silly old Jim. Let’s cut to the chase. First part of the walk was great, lovely scenery, a few houses, sheep. This is easy. I then had to climb a path and as I ascended it all changed. There was snow and ice on the ground, the temperature dropped and there was no longer a recognisable path. There were one or two walkers however and some rocky outcrops mentioned in the guide so it was all ok.

Then it changed again, hail started coming down, there were peat bogs, it was getting colder and there was nothing that looked like a path. I ended up walking across snowy drifts and falling over. My feet disappeared into peat bogs and the other walkers were nowhere to be seen. That’s ok, I thought, I’ll use google maps. Great idea Jim, you’re on a barren hill side miles from anywhere and expect a signal?

At this point I wanted to cry and be cuddled by a mother figure. I wanted to escape into mindless eating of my sandwiches. Who, I thought, is going to fix this. Then out of the snow I saw a walker. He said I needed to go down hill about 100 yards and I’d find the path. I did , but lost it again soon after. I realised that I’m rubbish at hill walking. I fell again and kept walking into rocky blind alleys. I found a waterfall. That was in the guide book. I started to walk up the waterfall thinking the rocks in the stream were the path. A young couple came along and started shouting at me. They had that look on their faces that suggested concern and maybe incredulity. The look said,”what the fuck are you doing!” But they said, “get out of there, it’s dangerous” and then told me where to pick up the path. I carried on and again, over heathland, the path disappeared. I had a map that had I looked at would have shown me that going back down to the river would bring me to where I had parked my car. But of course I didn’t bother with the map. Instead I walked over another hill and when I could get google maps realised I’d gone an additional 3 miles out of my way and had to do the last 2 miles walking on narrow country roads.

My 6 mile 3 hour walk had turned into a 10 mile 5 hour walk. I had exhibited mind blowing stupidity and a complete lack of common sense. Before I reached my car I saw a pub. I was not tempted. If I can be this stupid without a drink I thought, what would I have been like with a few inside me.

Hopefully, yesterday was a lesson or two learnt. On the positives, I got lots of exercise, I’m alive and the scenery was heavenly!

Here are some pics from my walk of shame! Jim x

Be kind in your comments. My self esteem has taken a battering!

Before the walk
This is easy!
Ooh that’s interesting so the weather changes as you go higher?
Snow, wasn’t expecting that!
Where are all the people and houses
Ok it’s lovely but where’s the path!
I reach the summit but I wonder why the sky is that colour?
I try walking up a stream- frantic walkers tell me that’s not the way
Help! It’s snowing and I’m lost!
At last! Signs I’m heading in the right direction

Sex and Alcohol

Someone at some point had to raise it (please no puerile sniggers) so let it be me. Sex and alcohol. They go together like bread and butter, Fred and Ginger, Boris and Donald. It’s also Valentine’s Day so what better day to address this primary drive. I must admit to being surprised that it’s not come up much before on these blogs as the two seem so entwined in both positive and negative ways. For us men, booze has always been a double edged sword (Is it possible to write about this subject without unintended innuendo?).  It gives us a confidence to approach a potential partner and yet too much booze can lead to the onset of the euphemistic “brewer’s droop” .  Shakespere as always puts it much better in one of the few funny moments of Macbeth when Mc Duff comes to wake Duncan and has a brief encounter with the drunken porter:

Macd: Was it so late, friend, ere you went to bed,”
That you do lie so late?
Porter: Faith, sir, we were carousing till the second cock; and drink,
sir, is a great provoker of three things.
Macd:What three things does drink especially provoke?
Port: Marry, sir, nose-painting, sleep and urine. Lechery, sir, it provokes, and unprovokes; it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance; therefore, much drink may be said to be an equivocator with lechery: it makes him, and it mars him; it sets him on, and it takes him off; it persuades him, and disheartens him; makes him stand to, and not stand to; in conclusion, equivocates him in a sleep, and, giving him the lie, leaves him.

Of course alcohol as the drug that enables us to relax and give us confidence has an element of truth but when you give it up you see this for what it truly is, a myth. We are not going to examine my sex life you’ll be pleased to know, but I can say that I have had meetings with people and functions where previously I would have said to myself that I had to have a drink and now realise that I do not and probably never needed one. Yes I get a bit nervous sometimes but that soon passes and I now hardly ever yearn for the anxiety reducing qualities of booze. 

Alcohol and sex. Common bedfellows. Laugh a minute. Lose your inhibitions and have a good time. Meet people and enjoy yourself. All part of the cheery mythology of drinking. But there’s a dark side.

The darker side of this is that booze certainly lowers inhibitions and that means the drive for sexual activity becomes less restricted.  That may or may nor be good for some people but it also accounts for many instances of sexual assault, rape and unwelcomed sexual advances.  The soporific qualities of booze can lead to some people becoming victims of sexual activity that the only fully realise after the event. Or they may become so drunk they are incapable of giving consent and for some twisted individuals a lack of consent becomes bizarrely some kind of green light.  

The fact is a high proportion of rapes and sexual assaults take place where alcohol is involved and an article in the Guardian some years ago suggested rather than fixating on the role of “Date Rape Drugs” we should look at the role of alcohol itself.

While fears over exotic rape drugs might be unfounded, rape is all too common and alcohol frequently plays a role. Rather than fixating on unlikely scenarios of drink spiking, we might be better served by reexamining our collective relationship with alcohol and reinforcing the message that sex with someone incapable of giving consent is assault.  (Guardian 2014)

Of course not everyone who drinks behaves in this way but drink does seem to make people do things they might not normally do. The crime statistics show that a high proportion of crimes are alcohol related and the figure is staggeringly high when it comes to crimes involving violence as this quote from a Government Crime survey illustrates:

Victims perceived the offender(s) to be under the influence of alcohol in 53% of violent incidents measured by the 2013/14 CSEW. This is equivalent to an estimated 704,000 ‘alcohol-related’ violent incidents. While the volume of incidents has fallen, the proportion of violent incidents that were ‘alcohol-related’ has remained relatively steady over the last ten years. Crime Survey 2014

Writing this I’m now aware I’ve moved from a light hearted let’s look at alcohol and sex, titter, titter, to looking now at the dark underbelly of alcohol and sexual violence. That was not my intention, but maybe it says it all that once you scratch the surface of our relationship with alcohol, what seems like a harmless pleasure turns into a something altogether much scarier and harmful. Drink doesn’t turn people into violent offenders and rapists but it certainly seems to encourage those harbouring those dispositions. It will be interesting to see if, as the consumption of alcohol declines, we will see a corresponding decline in rapes, sexual assaults and violence.

Sorry folks, not a chirpy Jim post, not a consistent post. A rambling, confused post and a real downer of a Valentine’s Day post but maybe a good reminder of why many of us have turned away from this most damaging of drugs. It harms us individually and collectively in so many ways and clouds our judgement and decision making. I’m glad I have put it behind me. I know what Love looks like and I certainly don’t need a bottle of prosecco to recognise it.

Personally I cannot see one advantage that drinking alcohol would make to one’s sex life. If you need a drink before making love maybe you’re with the wrong person. If you’re sober and with the one you love that’s as good as anything this life offers.

Happy Valentine.

Enjoy being sober with the one you love.

Jim x

I Love Dry January

In my last post our immature, childish Jim was let loose and ranted on about how Dry January spoilt his sense of being special. Well it’s time for grown up Jim to redress the balance.

So here goes, Dry January is a great idea.Simple.

It was interesting that some USA bloggers were unfamiliar with the concept. Over here in the UK we have had to put up with numerous American imports; trick or treat, line dancing, McDonalds and that great celebration of crass materialism, Black Friday. Thanks a lot.

Well in return I think the US should import Dry January. It’s a simple concept. During January, when typically very little happens, quite a few people try going a whole month without drinking alcohol. It’s a noble concept that harms no one and eases the pressure on A-and E departments, relationships and policing.

Some people say it’s tokenism and I get that. Many who start crack after a few days but a significant number stay the course. From that experience some cut back on their overall alcohol consumption whilst others extend the experience into other dry periods during the year. 

For me Dry January was my first tentative step towards giving up alcohol let’s say for the foreseeable future.  I first tried it about 6 years ago and although I did manage the whole month, it was tough.  It really struck me that I had never gone so long without a drink since my late teens; even in January there were so many events and encounters that involved alcohol.  I experienced cravings, feelings of denial, but also towards the end of the month better sleep, loss of weight and it became clear to me that alcohol or the absence of it were significant issues.

The first month of stopping drinking is always tough so the Dry January experience really does highlight how we have become physically, socially, emotionally and psychologically dependent on this drug alcohol.

Dry January helped me see this and gave me that distance from alcohol which aids reappraisal.  More, less successful Dry Januarys followed and led to alcohol free days in the week and ultimately to a more alcohol free months at different points in the year. Going back to the alcohol always resulted in the pattern of excessive drinking returning within days and so finally I arrived at deciding it had to go completely.  That was 5 months ago and there’s no doubt, the first month was the toughest.  

Dry January gave me the perspective and courage to go long term alcohol free and I’m now in that place where I don’t feel I’m being denied or missing something, quite the opposite.  I feel I have discovered a better way of being by being AF. It’s healthier, liberating and life enhancing.  There are some downsides at times sure but I am in no doubt whatsoever that going from Dry January to Dry Life was one of the best decisions I have made. So shut it Jim junior, Dry January is cool or as the Spanish say, “Chula.”  

For the Americans reading this take Dry January, promote it and make it your own and please, please, please take back Black Friday and bin it.

Jim x

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jim x

Piss Off Christmas

Thank God that’s over. Celebrating the birth of a dead Palestinian who talked about selflessness, living a simple life and love by stuffing our faces, getting pissed and using up precious world resources; do me a favour!

Anyway hope you all had a lovely time!

I feel sorry for Jesus having to see his name taken and twisted in the way it has been done. He would have been outraged. Presents? Yeh ok give something to the poor kids whose parents have to rely on foodbanks and can’t afford presents or who get themselves into debt trying to give their kids something. Food and drink? Well there’s plenty of people out there who would love a decent meal once in a while. Booze? Really!

Let’s face if Jesus were around now he’d be writing a sober blog on WordPress and joining protesters on the street.

I think next Christmas (is it too early to start planning?) I’m going to redefine Christmas. This year I had to do Christmas the way others think it should be done. No more. I don’t want to spend a week eating huge amounts of food and watching people get pissed and me feeling bored. Of course I want to be with family and friends but “being” can happen in better ways than this gross out binge fest we currently call Christmas. It needs some thought.

Others have commented how being sober is actually a form of rebellion in the same way that drinking used to be. I think that is spot on. The expectation in my culture is that you should drink, you need to drink, events and places are centred around drink but no more. To rebel means defying expectations, to create new forms and practices, to say that there are different alternative ways of being.

Sober rebellion, the irresistible rise of The Soberistas, that’s going to be my 2020. Bring it on baby!

Jim x