Category Archives: support

Small Reminder to Self about Why I Don’t Drink Anymore

First off, what’s happened to my good intentions? I was going to blog more regularly, really I was. I was intending to read other blogs, make comments and generally be a more responsible, committed blogger. Sounds very much like my approach to giving up drinking; a good idea that just took me a bit of time to get round to. At least with blogging it’s only been just over two weeks. My decision to finally give up alcohol took slightly longer; maybe 30 years give or take.

The reason it took me so long to finally quit booze was down to one main reason, DENIAL. Good old denial, it keeps us following the same tired old path regardless of the evidence in front of us. Denial is sneaky though. It concedes a tiny little bit. In my case I knew that drinking excessively was bad for me, I knew I didn’t want hangovers that lasted two days and the wasted days that entailed. I knew that dependency creeps up on you. Despite that , denial is a strong adversary to our good intentions. Here are some of my favourite denial soundbites; a top ten” Jim’s favourite denial tracks” if you like:

  • You’re doing a demanding day time job- you can’t be too dependent
  • Jim, it’s OK you don’t drink in the mornings
  • You only lost your licence once and that was 30 years ago
  • Your liver function test was fine, you’re fine!
  • That homeless guy clutching his cheap cider- now that’s a guy with a drink problem
  • You’re overthinking it, just enjoy life
  • If your’e worried just moderate a bit
  • Everybody has one too many occasionally
  • You deserve a treat
  • Churchill drank far more than you Jim and he won a war and was a national hero

You get the picture. I could add another twenty justifications for my drinking and one of the “sobering” aspects of being sober is the stark realisation of how much denial there was in my relation to booze. Had someone confronted me at the time however Mr Denial and Ms Protect would have emerged to defend my drinking at any costs.

I was thinking about this in relation to a little trip I have planned. Next weekend I’m off to see my son and his girlfriend for an outdoor meal at a pub near where they live. I’m not seeing them at Christmas as I am not keen on catching Coronavirus by sitting for hours in a heated enclosed room with several people in close proximity to me. So outdoor pre Christmas meet ups is my preferred option. No problem… except, in my drinking days this would have put me in a highly agitated state. Driving somewhere like a pub and not being able to drink alcohol was my personal nightmare. I hated it. I couldn’t envisage sitting down, seeing drink all around me and not having a drink. Here’s another list. Jim’s “What I used to do when invited for a meal/pub/party/ far away”

  • Work out cost in terms of time and money of trains and taxis (not always feasible or desirable)
  • Find some way of manipulating someone else to give me a lift
  • Find some way of manipulating other parties to come nearer to where I live
  • Work out how many units I could drink and still legally drive and how much time that would necessitate me being at the venue
  • Arrange to drive, get a lift back and get someone else to drive me to venue to pick up car next day
  • Consider the horror of going and not drinking alcohol at all (very rare)
  • Decline the invitation rather than the hassle and torture of any the above

The scary thing is I was thinking this last week that the last option of declining invitations rather than not being able to drink was quite a common one. Just consider that in all its sad truth- I actually occasionally used to make decisions not to see family or friends if it meant I couldn’t drink. Drink before relationships. There it is in black and white. No denying that one and I may well have done that this weekend. I know I would have probably not gone, or tried to get them to meet me somewhere else or have driven and not drank but spent most of the time thinking about the fact that I couldn’t have a drink rather than enjoying their company.

Reading that back it’s horrendous the grip that alcohol had over me, preferring it at times over spending time with family. Wow. Next time I feel tempted to drink, this will be one of the scenarios I will remind myself of. To be free of that power and grip that alcohol had over me, that I often denied to myself, is the gift I gave to myself 15 months ago and it keeps giving. People mean more than drink. Obvious really when the fog of denial has lifted. I just need to remind myself of it now and then. Sober batteries fully recharged!

Jim X

Out of Isolation

Having seen some old friends return on here over the last few days I decided I have three ways of treating this blog:

1 Carry on as I have done these last few months- dipping in and out – making the occasional comment and infrequent post

2 Ending the blog on the basis that I have nothing more of real value to say

3 Reengaging with the blog in a new way; with a commitment to reading, commenting and posting on a more regular basis

Option 1 doesn’t really work for me . As in my drinking days I’m an all or nothing type of guy so this option doesn’t do it for me. Maybe it reminds me of previous relationships; one foot in, one foot out.

Option 2 would work in the short term but would feel like abandoning something that has helped me enormously and maybe even helped others in small ways. That’s it then, it has to be Option 3; coming out of blog isolation. I need a proper reengagement; not the manic engagement of my first few months on here but regular posting and reading. Sometimes it takes something simple like someone saying they like reading one’s posts to realise that we do this fundamentally in order to connect. Sure I like to entertain sometimes in my posts, maybe (that means definitely) I also like the feeling of my fragile ego bathed in the warm glow of feedback sometimes. More recently I had to experience a negative response not just to my posts but to me as a person. I think that unnerved me more than I realised . In Transactional Analysis talk it took me back to my Child ego state; once again reexperiencing the criticism of father and brother, believing that maybe I was a fake, that I was a crap person and wanting to lash out like a child. It was a good reminder to self about how fragile we can be despite the insights we gain and how important it is to respond as Adult. It proved to be a valuable lesson. That’s the thing with connection we can’t control how it’s going to go and how it may affect us but it’s better to take that risk than stay isolated.

Well that’s the navel gazing out the way. Isolation in my title also refers to the past couple of weeks where I self isolated following finding out that the friend I spent 6 hours with working in my garden tested positive for coronavirus. We broke concrete, moved pots, spoke a starnge mix of Spanish and English and I was convinced that when he told me two days later that he tested positive that I would soon succumb. That in itself was a strange prospect. Sitting at home waiting for Covid to strike not knowing (I’m in my 60’s) whether you are going to have a few days of feeling a bit rough or being hospitalised and dying or any number of in between states. So there was a certain amount of anxiety. Of course you start scanning your body and “finding” symptoms. I took the tests and bizarrely it came back negative. I could do a whole post about how the track and trace system didn’t bother to contact me despite my friend telling them of our contact, of his boss pressurising him not to say he caught it off other workers, how those other workers continued to go to work despite symptoms because they were on zero hours contracts and couldn’t afford the loss of pay but I won’t. I think most of us know many of the systems in place are not up to the task in hand and that there is a high level of non compliance and restriction fatigue.

I will try and do my bit; I’ve alerted someone to the factory in question , I am joining an NHS panel trying to improve track and trace and I follow the guidelines logical or not.

So a good week overall. I’m alive and Covid free. Work is going well, I’m out of isolation and looking forward to nurturing my slightly neglected blog once again. Oh and I’m still not drinking.

Stay safe all. X

One Year without booze- now there’s a surprise!

On the 31st August last year I went for a meal to my favourite restaurant. I knew the next day I was starting a new life without booze so this was my no holds barred goodbye to booze feast. It felt like my last supper or maybe more like the last meal for an inmate on Death Row. It had all the hallmarks of some strange self created ritual. Waiters brining me a succession of favourite drinks; Czech lager to start, white wine with the starter, red wine with the main, dessert wine, liquors. It was my last night and nothing was going to stop me. I went home and drank gin and tonic until midnight. I half wanted to make myself sick, to wake up with an horrendous hangover to have that abiding memory, to stir my resolve for future times when I might weaken. But no, a month of constant drinking had increased my tolerance levels. I felt fine the next day. At the time I just wanted to enjoy my last day with drink. Looking back I can see I was indeed making a ritual of it, a rite of passage, an identifiable marker between one phase of my life and another. Having created that day of overindulgence and expense my new life of sobriety had to work. and it did; for today marks a full year without booze. I’m surprised that I have able to do it and I’m also proud as anyone who has done this should be. It was the right thing for me, but it has come at a cost. Crucially, I must add, a cost well worth paying.

Kinder Scout- Fond memories from being there in March and heading back there soon-nothing to do with the post but I love the Peak District!

Sure, pubs and restaurants just have not had the same allure since I gave up and that is a loss as I loved pubs.. I remember doing my counselling course back in 1990 and in one group exercise we had to revisit loss in our lives. It involved visualisation and we were all instructed to start our journey of loss through our lives from a place of warmth, comfort and safety. We started there and we ended up there. After the session we shared our “safe” places. For most it was either a family home or somewhere they had been with their family. My place where I felt most comfortable? – an English country pub with a log fire and beer. Says it all really but it made a few of my fellow students smile. Now I avoid pubs and a sadness for me is the realisation that much of my love of pubs was not the cosy surroundings or friends, it was the beer. Pubs were places I drank and I could drink there with an abandon I never could have at home. Some good times, some wasted times.

Even now I sometimes miss the experience of going for a walk and enjoying a cold beer sitting by a river or village green, so yes, I did enjoy a drink sometimes.

Then I remember how I needed a drink at other times; to overcome some social anxiety, to fit in, to feel normal.

Then there were the times when I hated drinking but I did it anyway- feeling lost, heavy with dysphoria, drinking to block or obliterate, torn in two hating it but watching myself pour another one.

So I happily exchanged the occasional enjoyment of booze for being able to rid myself of the need and hate it often brought me. It became an easy and obvious transaction. In many ways my life was on the line. Probably it was the best deal I ever made; but a deal is a deal and a deal involves parting with something. That’s the thing that needs facing and confronting.

Who needs a drink when you can walk in places like this

If I have a message for anyone who has got to the place where they know in their hearts that moderation will not work for them and alcohol is having too many negative impacts on their life; it’s this. You will be giving up more than a drug, you’ll be giving up lots of associations. We live in societies where alcohol is woven into the fabric of our social, cultural and psychological lives. When the physical craving is gone the other cravings and pressures will still be there. That’s when you need to remind yourself of why you are doing this. Get through that and you start to see the many advantages; health, sleep, relationships, productivity, financial – the list goes on. Never take those for granted. And be prepared for a battle.

So one year, great. I am pleased but it’s tempered by a realisation that I could have done a lot more with my life if I had stopped earlier. As I have said before, this blog has been key to me doing a year successfully. People sharing stories, the positive, the negative, ups and downs, things that have worked, traps to be aware of- all of this has helped me. I’ll also add that I’m quite competitive so there was no way I wanted to come on here and say I’ve had a drink. I like to win, fairly of course and so far in this “game” I feel like I’m 2 sets to love up. Games can change in an instant so as I go into year two, I’ll enjoy the feeling of winning at the moment but I won’t let down my guard.

Again for those in the early stages of going alcohol free; it’s a very individual experience but with many commonalities; you have decided it’s worth it, my advice is to plan for it, make a proper commitment to doing it, prepare for it, get support, always remind yourself why you’re doing it and what benefits you’ll get and strengthen your resolve. There will be times when you’ll want to abandon this challenge but you can get through those tough times and you’ll be stronger each time you do. On these blogs are stories like mine; people who didn’t think they could ever give up booze who are proving they can. Ordinary folk with extraordinary support. If we can do it with support so can anyone, so can you.

I shall celebrate today with AF sparkly wine and an Everleaf and tonic. I’ll also be able to carry on and meet some friends and play table tennis afterwards. No muggy feeling, no wasted day, no hangover. It’s great being sober! Life is fuller, richer.

No brainer really!

Jim X

Nearly a Year- But Sorry, no thanks to the “Give up the Booze” evangelists

In two days time it will be one whole year since I stopped drinking alcohol. I was always looking forward to that anniversary and planning the big, one year anniversary post and yet here I am, on the cusp and I haven’t got a clue what I am going to say- I’ll probably do something on what I personally have learned over this last year in the faint hope that others may find something useful in that to help them as they attempt to move away from alcohol. But I’m not at that point- yet- a couple more days should do it and I do feel incredibly proud of myself in achieving what will be something I never really thought I could do. Support, of course, is crucial but I wanted to say something today about something that perversely I have not found supportive; and that is the evangelical tone of many of those who write books on giving up alcohol.

Like everyone in the position of contemplating giving up alcohol I read some of the books aimed at kick starting a new life free of booze. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty that is good within those books but they are written ultimately to sell, to make money for the authors and to do that you need an unequivocal voice. That voice, that message is usually, “alcohol is a dangerous toxic drug, we have been manipulated into wanting it and it’s no fault of ours if we get hooked.” For me that was a real turn off. I drank because I liked it. Yes it’s a drug, but that’s the whole point of it. If I’m thirsty I drink water. I drank alcohol because i wanted the effect it gave me. Being a drug it then becomes hard to moderate especially in a culture where it is so freely and cheaply available, but that’s not alcohol’s fault, lay that one on society, business and government.

The evangelicals try to make out that developing a problem with alcohol is not a failure of individuals and again I don’t agree. I tried many times to moderate and despite some success I realised that when I did drink I often drank far too much- because I’m like that. Many of my friends do know how to enjoy alcohol moderately but I am not one of them. If I could drink moderately I would not have given up alcohol. It’s that simple. So my pride in giving up is tempered by a sadness that I couldn’t get to a point where alcohol was just a small pleasure in my life and not the dominating presence it became. But I am OK with that. I do not need to demonise drink in order to be OK with not drinking. As time has gone on I’m getting to like not drinking but the truth is it would be nice to think I could have the odd glass of champagne at a wedding or a glass of wine with a meal. That won’t happen because I’ve worked hard at giving up and I’m not a moderation type person.

The evangelicals talking about toxins and all the rest really have missed the point that humans have always imbibed toxic substances to alter consciousness. Alcohol, weed, peyote, tobacco, you name it we humans have tried it. Even in the Amazon rainforest they lick the backs of certain frogs to get a psychedelic hit. It’s universal but the thing that marks traditional cultures is that taking such substances was always associated with ritual which meant taking such drugs was limited and done in a revered, constrained manner. The problem with alcohol in our societies is that it’s been made into this readily available commodity that we are encouraged to drink at parties, weddings, celebrations, work dos, days out, days in, meals out, meals in, when cooking, when watching films, when friends come round, when meeting friends , new job, leave job, BBQs, when stressed, when relaxing, basically all the bloody time. That is why it becomes hard to moderate and bloody hard to give up.

So there we have it the evangelicals didn’t do it for me with thier black and white thinking. The support for me, as I have said before, has come from fellow bloggers both on line and sometimes in private off -post communications. The messy, confused, contradictory world of blogging showing that giving up is a struggle, that people do miss their booze sometimes but carry on because it is the best way forward for them. Acknowledging that we miss the crutch of alcohol sometimes but also knowing that mutual support from fellow bloggers is a much more consistent and longer lasting support than any drink could ever be.

So the evangelical “Give up the Booze” writers carry on. You have helped many people I know and you don’t sell books by saying giving up booze is complex, full of grey and with contradictory feelings. You sell those books by giving a nice, clear, missionary style message that’s full of can do and ” see the beast for what he is.” But it’s not for me. Give me the messy, anguished, nuanced and human world of the blogger any day. Nearly there.

Rant over. 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

The Impact of Coronavirus on Mental Health- A personal view

I was very touched today when Drgettingsober commented on my last post saying that she was worried that I hadn’t been around for a couple of weeks. I was really taken aback that she should say that but then I reflected that I have felt the same when certain bloggers haven’t appeared for a while. It means there’s a real, genuine care out there. A concern for how people, we haven’t met, but we know from their posts, are doing. That seems to be something special and so in light of that I’m going to do my bit and post a bit more regularly.

I had thought,”who cares about whether you drink or not when all this other stuff is going on,” but of course this forum is about so much more than that. On the drinking side I’m just glad that I now don’t drink; firstly I want to be fully aware and cognisant of what’s going on so that I can make good choices and secondly my immune system is my personal doctor and drug supplier that will hopefully get me through this crisis. I don’t want that amazing ally to be weakened and compromised by alcohol.

So I thought I’d make a couple of observations about the impact of the virus on mental health. I volunteer with Samaritans which for those not in the UK, is a national helpline for those in need of a confidential talk with a supportive listener. It’s often referred to as a suicide helpline but this is only a part of what the service offers. People ring in who are lonely, had a bad day, have ongoing mental health needs, maybe suffering abuse; basically people in distress. As you can imagine the topic that comes up all the time at the moment is the virus situation. For those with mental health needs the fear and uncertainty has just added an extra layer of anxiety thus adversely affecting most people’s emotional well being. Our role is to listen and understand, to be a compassionate point of contact for people who may feel frightened and isolated. We can also signpost to organisations that can offer direct advice and additional support.

Going on duty I was expecting the negative aspects of how the fear and anxiety was impacting on people’s mental health. How do you reassure those with pre existing anxiety and OCD issues? It’s not easy. But then another theme emerged which really surprised me. Some of this came from callers but also a friend who suffers from anxiety and depression. The surprising theme was that now others were experiencing what they had been experiencing for years they felt strangely comforted. Staying at home, living with anxiety. This was becoming a “normal” situation suddenly for so many and a few who suffered from depression actually felt better knowing that they were not alone. It’s a strange kind of logic but I get it. There is a comfort when after years of feeling you are missing out on the regular stuff of life, that others are going through the same thing, albeit involuntarily. My friend with depression also feels more positive now in that he feels he can help others and this has boosted his confidence and self esteem. Some who are isolated and have been for years showing empathy for those that now have to feel isolation maybe for the first time. Surprising stuff.

All of this shows me we have to be careful in assuming this crisis is a one way ticket to a worsening mental health situation. Of course many will have increased anxiety and feelings of hopelessness but others will be strangely comforted and energised by no longer feeling they are the only ones suffering. Also in our physical isolation many of us are reaching out, using means such technology and music to connect, setting up neighbourhood help schemes, applauding health workers every night at 8pm (Spain) and looking at creative ways to maintain our lives in difficult times. That’s got to be good for our collective mental health.

One thing that the Samaritans work shows me is that just being there for someone, the simple act of listening to someone who needs to pour it out, can make a big difference. Not everyone is going to experience worse mental health in these tough times, some may even see an improvement, but being there for each other will make a difference. Just like it does on these blogs.

Take care all. Jim x

Samaritans Here’s a link if you want to find out more. Oh, and volunteers always required 🙂

Lazy and Complacent- Almost!

Two weeks!

I’ve not posted in over two weeks, not really read other blogs or made comments. I feel so ashamed it has made me even more reluctant to come on here. But now I have to face up to my dereliction of duty. I hid my head in shame until an angel showed me the light.

Claire (ditching the wine) recently emailed me a spoof Jim blog to spur me into action. I was touched.  Someone cared.  She wrote, pretending to be me:

“I know, I know. You are such a caring, lovely bunch, your first thoughts are bound to be ‘Why? Is he ill? Is he on a bender? Has he struck up a recording deal and is now planning his world tour?’ Nope! Afraid not. Basically he’s just become very complacent. This also translates as being a lazy arse. He can’t be bothered with his blog any longer. He’s sober now. Moving on. He’s leaving all your bloggers behind. He might ‘pop’ in from time to time, to keep the fans happy but otherwise he doesn’t need it. “

Now I know Claire was/is being ironic. She is a nice, caring and compassionate person as are all the lovely sober bloggers and yet….  there was an uncomfortable accusation within. Could there be a germ of truth in what she had to say? Sure, I could make excuses and to be fair, they are pretty good excuses; work, commitments, planned big events,  relationships etc but these affect everyone.  I carved out time before, so what’s happened? What’s different? I think Claire hit the nail on the head; COMPLACENCY!

20 weeks sober, Christmas and new year successfully navigated, cravings and urges to drink very intermittent; yes I suppose there has been a bit of complacency kicking in.

Claire continued to write;

We all know this isn’t about what we write, or whether we are 5 days, 5 months or 5 years sober. This is about community, support and connection. We all need help it at different times, and when we feel strong that’s the time to help others that don’t. Jim will learn. He’ll see it eventually.

She’s right of course (God it’s so hard to admit that!), giving up booze and the boozing way of life is not a static thing it’s an ongoing process and I only got to where I am thanks to those who are further on the journey but looked back down the path shouting their support and encouragement.

So thanks Claire.  I needed that proverbial kick up the pants.

Complacency? Yes a little and that can be a bad thing.  Last week I played a table tennis match and met a new player on the scene.  He was very defensive in the warm up.  No attacking shots.  “This will be easy,”I thought to myself. “Just attack and he’ll fall to pieces.” Except he didn’t.  He returned every shot, did so with unexpected amouts of backspin and wore me down into a frustrated mess. I underestimated him. HE BEAT ME! How dare he! I was supposed to win.

Pride and complacency, right before a massive fall.  It happened in table tennis, it could happen with alcohol. I can almost hear that voice,” You’ve done brilliantly Jim, you have shown you can master alcohol, you are the Uberfuhrer of Soberistas.  With that amount of control you’d be fine at just allowing yourself the odd glass of Merolt/Shiraz/Malbec.Go on man, live a little, you deserve it, sod all this denial.” Get thee behind me Bacchus!

Yep the little voices are still there, tempting me so no room for complacency.

Then there’s the need to reciprocate.  I have benefitted massively from the likes of untipsy teacher and others who have been sober for years.  They continue because it’s not just about one journey, not just about them, it’s about supporting others; it’s about community. I need to do my bit. I still need the support or may need it.  I need to try and support others as well in whatever way I can. So  thanks Claire, for prodding, poking fun, bullying in a nice way and cajoling.   I needed that.

Now I just need to think what to post!

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

Good Article by Jack Monroe – Well Worth Reading

Just a very quick post about a really interesting article I read in today’s Observer newspaper.It is written by Jack Munroe,who is a food writer and activist and who gave up alcohol around this time last year. Much of what she says resonates with many of the posts on our sober blogs and interestingly she talks about the absolute importance of having support.

Reading the article made me feel even more lucky and fortunate that I am part of this fantastic sober blogging community. Try and check out the article for yourselves it’s definitely worth a read. Jim X

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/society/2019/dec/29/my-year-of-sobriety-jack-monroe

Thanks Claire for providing the link!

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