Category Archives: Sobriety

Reminder to Self about Why I Now Don’t Drink

Meals out, parties, even carol services; alcohol is ubiquitous, you can’t avoid it. When something is so widespread it can create the impresssion that it must be OK. Well it isn’t. When I grew up, smoking was everywhere, it must be OK, it wasn’t. The ubiquity of alcohol creates its own pressure to conform.

It’s everywhere, that means it must be OK, everyone uses it, don’t be a minority party pooper, join in have a drink, lighten up.

In the face of that, those of that have made a choice not to drink for whatever reason need to ocassionally shore up our defenses against the constant waves of alcohol consumption pressure. For me it’s the health aspects. I want to live a long, healthy life. I want to continue learning, loving and interacting, being physically active and energised. Alcohol works against all of these. It depletes, damages and diminishes.

Alcohol is a recognized toxin as are its byproducts. Acetaldehyde one of the by byproducts created after drinking alcohol is a known carcinogen so can anyone explain how a substance that causes cancer and shrinks the brain can also be recommended in moderation. It also damages the kidneys, liver and affects sleep adversely. Some research says moderate alcohol helps the heart. I think if we are looking for something that can help the heart, perhaps diet and exercise should be looked at.

When I now go to social events I see the initial euphoric effects of alcohol. The first drink and dopamine release occurs, the drinkers are momentarily relaxed, happy and I feel deprived. My AF beer does not cause dopamine release. But then I watch because hardly anyone stops at one (and they are still going to get the byproduct damage of Acetaldehyde) and at that point the depressant nature of alcohol kicks in. The conversation deteriorates, expressions change, potential hangovers develop like mini pregnancies and my dopamine levels start to rise as get the thrill of not needing this poison to enjoy myself.

So Jim, if you feel a bit left out this Christmas, re read this and remind yourself that you have given your brain, body, future self the best present you could possibly ever give. The gift of being alcohol free. That’s got to be worth celebrating……mine’s a Seedlip and tonic please!

El Soberista now takes on Los Bastardos

Last post was self congratulatory. I’m done with booze, I don’t need it.  I’d taken on the drunks and heavy boozers, the tipsy and sodden losers and I had won.  I had faced them fair and square and was pleased with my life alcohol free or LAFing as I now call it. But this weekend a new breed of drinker entered my domain… Yes, I came face to face with ………

LOS BASTARDOS
Now Los Bastardos are that breed of drinker that can enjoy one glass of wine and make it last 2 hours.  That’s who have been staying with me the last two days. Nice people, sophisticated people.  That’s what makes them bastards. It’s easy to dismiss and feel aloof about pissheads and drunkards but moderate, sensible drinkers project a calm self assurance and discipline that screams,”oh so you have a problem Jim, you can’t drink in moderation so now you’re missing out on this wine, brought to you direct from the wine god Bacchus, an elixir, life enhancing, so smooth and velvety , poor Jim, you weak, pathetic excuse for a human being.”

Anyway they arrive Friday night, conversation a little awkward.  They are quite formal people. I feel a bit anxious. I find it hard to speak, is there a speech therapist in the room! The booze would have helped, but I’m stranded.  I open the wine they brought; a really nice full bodied Rioja.  They also bought me some Trappist beers. This was turning into some kind of sadistic torture.  “Here we are Jim, really good examples of what used to be the centre of your life. Here they are, they’re yours.. But you can’t bloody have them!” Bastards!

As the evening wears on I feel more relaxed and don’t really miss the wine.  What intrigues me is how slowly they drink. With me, the first glass was a palate cleanser. Down in one, quick alcohol shot and now let’s enjoy the second, make it last, let’s see, about 10 minutes.  That’s how to drink. But they sat there, drinking slowly, enjoying, savouring it.  I knew they were doing it deliberately, taunting me; the bastards.  I wanted to reach for the Rioja and bludgeon both of them over the head with the bottle.  Death by Rioja. Everyone would be bemused, Netflix would make a documentary about it but I would know why they had to be dispatched.  Instead I smiled and poured them more wine.

Towards the end of the evening, the bottle was finished. 3 people, 3 hours, 1 bottle.  Who are these people? I knew as host I had to offer more booze.  All I had were a few bottles of very expensive Chinon given to me as part of a retirement present. “Oh yes please,” they exclaimed.  I opened it, my wine! I poured it, my present! They supped it, those bastards.

The bastards had a nice evening and in truth so did I.  I didn’t really miss the drink but the evening highlighted for me why I’ve embarked on this journey. I was not and I doubt I ever could be a moderate, one glass an evening guy. In truth I’m not sure I would want to be. Everything in excess isn’t that what they say? It was an interesting experience and all part of the journey and of course my guests were far from being bastards.  The only bastard was my resentful, bitter, selfish former self trying to raise his pathetic, drink loving head. Down Boy!

Onwards and Upwards my friends, keep LAFing!

Jim x

3 Months – Thank You Bloggers!

New territory for me. 3 whole months living alcohol free. Now officially the longest I have gone without booze in 45 years. I will pat myself on the back and say well done.

“Well done Jim.”

It’s good to be proud when one achieves something but it’s also smart to remind myself that it’s still relatively early days but already there are significant changes that make me optimistic. I’ve negotiated some difficult social situations; pubs, meals out, visiting friends etc. I have ridden the anxiety of not having a drink at weekends ( my particular area of greatest struggle) and I’m slowly seeing that there is life and fun away from booze.

So all good and yet I know, 100%, that I would not have reached this particular milestone if I had not started blogging. Writing things down has really helped me crystallize my thoughts and helped me articulate why I’m choosing to do this. But it’s not that that has been the real help, it’s the other bloggers sharing their stories on their blogs and taking time to offer support and encouragement with their comments. I have pointed this out before but who cares, I’ll say it again, the support from the sobriety focused blogging community is phenomenal. It’s unconditional and effective, oh and unlike most things in life, it’s free!

Now when people start giving out thanks there’s a danger of leaving someone out but I’d rather take that risk than not mention just a few of the people that have genuinely helped me. Anyone reading this and thinking “I need some inspiration and support” could do themselves a favour and read some of the following blogger’s stories. I’ve actually dipped into many blogs over the past 4 months but the ones you gravitate to are the ones where there is resonance, where there is some meeting of minds. This is the great thing with blogging, the variety, you find the people that you can relate to and that will be different for different people.

Where do I start? I know. Wendy at untipsyteacher . Years of sobriety under her belt, a fellow teacher Wendy is just pure positivity and support for others. She’s done it, been there and shows that giving up booze is not the end it’s the beginning. The other blog which I remember from a couple of years ago is Addy’s at alcoholicdaze. Addy is like a mother figure for me. She tells it like it is. She has seen where full blown addiction leads and shares her story so that others can change before it is too late. Her story and her loss always stuck in my mind. It made a difference. Then we come to Nelson. Not everyone succeeds with sobriety and it’s particularly difficult the more advanced the dependency. Nelson reminds us that it is tough, it can be a struggle. Nelson shares that struggle and I’m sure he knows that one day he will get there and his fellow bloggers will always be there for him. In this community there is no failure, just “pick yourself up, dust yourself down and start all over again.”

Lime twister at moderatelysober has just completed one year sober and for me those stories of achieving longer periods AF are inspirational. There’s always the struggle but also the successes. The same with functioningguzzler, who manages to convey positivity no matter what life throws at her.

Now if Addy is my mother figure, Wendy my eccentric, lovable aunty, then Dwight at fadedjeans is the wise compassionate granddaddy (of course a metaphor and not a reference to Dwight’s age😉). He constantly supports others and drops in little pearls of wisdom. Lovely stuff.

Completing the family would be Anne at nomorebeer2019. Sorry Anne but you’ll have to be cast as my daughter figure. I feel very close to Anne because we started our journeys at the same time and being competitive there was no way I was going to let her win this giving up alcohol game. Anne articulated many of the feelings I also went through but she started her journey against a really difficult emotional backdrop. Suddenly my minor obstacles seemed inconsequential.

Then there’s Nadine at sobrietytree. I can’t put Nadine into a neat Jim category so I’m not going to try. What I will say is she started before me but made it feel like we were starting together. Nadine showed me that it’s OK to open up, express ALL the emotions, that sobriety is also about acknowledging what has been lost as well as gained. Her’s is a nuanced picture.

Another blogger I must mention is drgettingsober. Her blog is important to me as I too work in a helping profession and she has the humility to express her struggles. She demonstrates to me that helping others doesn’t mean you don’t sometimes need help and support yourself. We are in this together and mutual support is the name of the game.

Finally I want to mention a couple of newbies, Clairei47 and Lia at nomorenomore. Lia I remember from a previous blogging adventure. She really helped me decide to give up from reading and communicating with her and the favour has been returned by her deciding to quit recently and I’m now able to offer some support back. Similarly Claire is now at two weeks and gaining so much I think from the support of many of the people I have already mentioned.

So there we are. I’ve only mentioned a few of the many bloggers that have helped and inspired me to get to 3 months. This blogging community is real, it’s authentic and it works. Like others I have sometimes gone “off blog” and communicated directly with one or two people and that brings a whole new level of support and virtual friendship.

Please forgive me if I’ve not mentioned the many other blogs that I’ve looked at and been inspired by but this post is already too long and I’ve got breakfast to prepare. So please take this as a thank you to all bloggers who take the time to share and to support others. Bloggers are a great bunch. Long may it continue.

Thanks.

Jim x

El Soberista v Los Barrachos – A linguine western

Tuesday 26 November. Jim’s first attempt at drinking at a pub with his heavy drinking football playing compadres. His first major showdown. Would he survive…………


It was a cold, dark evening. Jim knew this was a showdown. One man, armed only with a bottle of AF beer was taking on the the fearsome 9 man posse known as “Los BARRACHOS” or “ The drunkards” as they were known is this part of wild Essex (cue Sergio Leone soundtrack).

It wasn’t going to end well for one party and Jim knew the odds were stacked against him. Los Barrachos we’re heavily armed; lager, bitter and most sneakily of all, Jim’s former friend, Gintonic. There they were, lined up on the table mocking Jim’s feeble looking excuse for a beer.

The 9 men appeared to be friendly but Jim was on his guard. He knew that when he wasn’t looking one of them might try and slip him a beer. Jim stayed alert. He entered the bar and a hush descended across the room. Jim heard a whisper, “Apparently Jim’s not drinking, do you think he’s gone a bit funny in the head?”

Jim swung round , “That’s right amigos I’m not drinking alcohol, and it will be a brave hombre that tries to buy me some!” One of the Barrachos reached for his glass. “Not so quick, my friend,” and with that Jim grabbed his AF beer and lifted it to his lips. He gulped the golden liquid, wiped his lips. First blood to Jim. One of the Barrachos stood up.

“Bloody hell guys he means it, Jim’s not drinking real beer!” Immediately two of the posse fainted on the spot, two reached for their beers and drunk their entire pints in one long swig. Another, one of Jim’s former drinking compadres had tears in his eyes.

“But Jim, you were our leader, you showed us how to really drink. You were the first to say stupid things, the first to inappropriately chat up the bar maid, your hangovers were the stuff of legend, what’s to become of us now, oh Jim please just have a fucking drink!”

Jim was unmoved. He surveyed the bar. The two men were still flat out on the floor from shock, there were looks of disbelief, lots of tears and some anger.

It was carnage.

Jim stood still and proud. He’d won. He was resolute. Jim didn’t want the glory or to gloat in his victory. One the Barrachos gave a knowing smile, the look one man gives another when conceding defeat. He reached out his hand to Jim. Jim looked him in the eye, acknowledged the gesture and shook hands. It was over. No blood was spilt and Jim had found a way to co exist with Los Barrachos on their own turf. One man. One AF beer. A show down to defy belief. This was a day that would be talked about for a few minutes. Jim knew he had to mark the ocassion.

“Anyone fancy some crisps?”

(Fade music with a lingering shot on Jim’s slightly smug face)

 

12 Weeks- In Need of Some Stimulation Man!

First things first. Tomorrow marks 12 weeks of being Alcohol Free, 3 months sober; now officially the longest I have been without a drink since I was about 17. So it’s a significant event for me. How do I feel? Proud, surprised, curious and appreciative of all the benefits particularly this; being awake on a Saturday morning without a fuzzy head, full of energy ready to take on the day. And yet…. There’s always a but with me I know. Being honest with myself I feel the tiniest bit bored!

On the face of it, everything’s fine. Moved a year ago, got the house sorted, started a little therapy business, that’s doing well, enjoying my activities such as table tennis league, volunteering, packing my days with useful, noble activities and intent and I am deeply appreciative of what I have but I do miss a bit of stimulation, of things being unexpected and out of the ordinary, of excitement.

Writing this I feel a bit childish and immature, excitement at your age Jim, get a grip I want to respond but it’s what I feel and I would always say to clients, recognise and acknowledge your feelings, so I need to do the same for myself. I think this is clearly linked to the removal of alcohol from my life. Alcohol often made life seem exciting. When I went drinking with friends say at the end of term when I was a teacher we would all drink far too much and something always happened. One person might blurt out something that had been unsaid for years, someone would make a pass at someone else, there might be an impromptu song and no one quite knew where the night would take us, who we might meet, where we would go or how we would get home.

In reality, drunken nights out are just that, there’s no real excitement or change just the sensation of it and then a terrible hangover lasting days fed by greasy food and sweet pastries. I’m glad I’m out of that but at least there was a suggestion of something different when drinking and that is something that is a little bit missing now. Life is more measured and predictable but I miss the craziness and looseness one gets when drinking. Seeking those states is why I ended up drinking too much, I became a stimulation junkie ironically using a substance that is a depressant.

Not sure where this reflection is taking me. I think what I’m trying to say is in order to get some of the buzz and fizz back I need to find alternative ways to get some excitement and unpredictability back in my life. Knowing my past, that slightly worries me, I know where the search for stimulation can take me. Sitting in my garden being mindful of nature is great but it’s not going to provide that missing “je ne sais quoi”. Maybe I need to start rock climbing or buy a motorbike, take a year out and do some travelling? Oh god, am I having my second post mid life crisis? It needs some thought. I know playing music gives me a buzz and I no longer do any drama which I really enjoyed so there are avenues to explore. Either way after 12 weeks I need to find real stimulation after having escaped the illusory excitement of alcohol. All part of this journey I suppose.

Have a good, sober weekend folks but do something a little bit crazy.

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

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

Odds and Sods and 0.5% Beer

I’m aware I haven’t posted anything for a while which is probably no great loss to the world of blogging but in terms of charting my progress for myself I need to put that right and provide an update if only for myself.

In some ways I think I have been avoiding posting because I simply needed a break from writing, reading and thinking about alcohol and associated issues.  It was beginning to feel a little bit too self absorbed and intense so a few days away from that has been good for me.  It’s probably a good indication that the alcohol free business is going pretty well that I didn’t feel the need to write about it. And it is going pretty well.  No great compulsion to drink, no cravings but then no real situations where I would feel the pull of having to have a drink. Yes, I miss a glass or two of wine at night but set against that are the benefits that are definitely now coming through of slightly better sleep, some weight loss, near normal blood pressure and generally feeling a lot better physically and mentally than I did 7 weeks ago.

Friday though will be a challenge as I’m meeting an ex colleague who now runs a small school for young people with challenging behaviour.  She is a drinker in my mould.  She likes to go out and have a drink or 6.  Prosecco is her go-to tipple as it increasingly seems to be for many women of her age (she’s 42) and she really can knock it back. In the past we would meet up – drink, loosen up, swap confidences and have many a laugh. She’s a good friend but she knows I’ll not be drinking and I know it won’t be the same kind of evening.  That said it should still be good fun and I have suggested a meal out as that takes the focus away from just sitting in a pub drinking all night.  I’ve also chosen to meet up in a pub that I know stocks some great Non Alcoholic beers.  These have been a real help for me but I know they are not for everyone trying to stay alcohol free.

On this subject, yesterday I took delivery of months’ worth of alcohol free drinks, some are zero % and some have 0.5% alcohol but that means they can still be officially described as alcohol free.  For me these beers have been a godsend, giving me the taste and feel of beer but without the alcohol kick or desire to start drinking “real” beers and spirits.  I know this is controversial as some see these very low alcohol drinks as possibly leading to relapse but for me this is not the case.  This is a key point for me.  Everyone’s place on the alcohol consumption continuum will be different.  I was never a down and out drunk or someone who frittered away my savings, career and relationships in favour of a drink.  I was a sociable drinker that on many ocassions drank too much.  Most of the time I enjoyed it but I didn’t want to continue to compromise my health and general well being.  These new range of alc free beers FOR ME are great.  I can enjoy the taste (and sorry Naked Mind writer, people can and do enjoy the taste of beer and wine) and it helps one “fit in” at the pub.  The great thing is that some brewers like Brewdog (Nanny State) and Adnams (Ghost Ship 0.5) Screenshot 2019-10-16 at 17.56.27.pnghave made non alc beers that now are good drinks in their own right not some poor excuse of a drink.  Some say they are still alcoholic drinks and it’s true that there is a very small amount of alcohol in some of these drinks (up to 0.5%) but it is such a small amount that it would be near on impossible to drink sufficient to equal even one pint of normal strength beer. We also need to remember that our guts produce alcohol naturally when we eat and digest yeasted products and even the humble ripe banana contains trace amounts of alcohol.  So alcohol is a naturally ocurring substances and I can drink these drinks without feeling the urge to drink real alcoholic drinks. I respect the idea that for some people drinking such drinks will be a “no-no” but for me they are a massive help in staying alcohol free and they work for me.

So Friday will be meet at the pub, couple of Non alc beers or possibly tonic and lime and then a Chinese meal where I shall drink Jasmine tea.  Not rock n’ roll but should be OK.  I know I’ll have the urge to drink but with 7 weeks under my belt I feel confident that I’ll get through the evening.  I’m hoping that the day will come when I don’t just look at evenings such as these and hope to “get through” them but actually enjoy and prefer them being sober.  Time will tell.

Tonight I’m down the pub but playing music so no problems as I never used to drink and play anyway.  I’ll also be with my playing companion who also doesn’t drink.  That definitely makes things easier.

Be interesting to hear what others out there think about the non alcoholic beers now on offer.  One thing’s for certain, the market for alternatives to alcohol based drinks  is growing as is the range of alternatives on offer.  That has to be a good thing.

Cheers!

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