Tag Archives: Alcohol dependency

I’m pissed off and I WANT A DRINK!

This is the first day in just under a month a when I really want a drink and feel sorely tempted. I can almost feel the sensation of how a big gulp of wine would soothe my troubled brow. I’m not in a pub, out with friends, I’m at home alone and just really pissed off.

It doesn’t help that in the last few days, without going into detail, I’ve had to show positive regard to an ignorant rascist, listen as two young people with outwardly everything to live for tell me that they are planning on ending their lives, hear that many of our female politicians have had death threats made against them and try and be upbeat when a sobbing man tells me he cannot get the help he needs from the NHS because he has had his quota of “free” counselling.

All this has been going on whilst having essential building work done on my house that has made me feel that I’m living under siege and the costs keep rising as more issues are found.

On top of this my body acts as though it has aged 10 years in a day. The final straw today though was finding that my car has been bashed by a red car in a nearby car park. No note or apology but I think I know the car in question and tomorrow there could be a showdown. That should guarantee a sleepless night.

This all reminds me of how I often felt when working full time. Being a deputy principal in a school, managing staff, parents, disputes, working weekends, drink was a way of switching off and putting stress to one side. We all know the perils of that but it seems really tempting right now. I suppose that’s why I’m writing this post; get through it, get through it.

Pause.Stop. Breathe. Relax.

The car’s just a bloody car, the building work will get done, money will sort itself. The encounters though, yes they were upsetting but at least I was on the right side of them. Mine are minor troubles, some people see nothing but darkness and joy never seems to visit them. My problems are as nothing compared to them.

Ok, I think I’ve regained some perspective. I’m pissed off but I DON’T NEED A DRINK. It won’t help. It was close though.

Jim x

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andy and Raori from OYNB

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

It’s Bloody Friday- Sodding Craving Time! AARGGH!

I knew this would happen. It’s my 6th day without alcohol. Sunday to Thursday all pretty good. Sleep not great, no sweaty shakes or massive cravings and then comes Friday. I’ve been dreading today because I know for me that my drinking patterns and my cravings are more social, associative and conditioned rather than psysiological. No cravings until today. Simply because it’s a Friday. When I did a three month challenge earlier this year the same thing happened , the craving mainly came on those days and ocassions I and many others associate with drink. And it is strange because I know alcohol is an addictive drug and changes our brain chemistry and yet it seems that the associations alcohol has for me with certain days and ocassions cannot be explained by addictive properties alone because if it was just about dealing with withdrawal that withdrawal and its effects should be consistent and they are not.

When I was drinking and trying to moderate, it was the same. My non alcohol days tended to be Mondays and Tuesdays. Wednesdays and Thursdays were usually not too bad but Friday was when my drinking gloves came off, so to speak.

I think it goes back to my teaching days. Working in a London secondary school through the 80s and 90s was tough and emotionally exhausting. Friday night was when we separated work from the weekend. Drinking was the fast route to fun, abandonment, dodgy romantic liasons and leaving work behind. The trouble is you do that for 20 odd years and when work changes the conditioning still kicks in. I’m semi retired now, Fridays do not have the same end of working week connotations and yet I still feel the same build up towards wanting and expecting a drink. Today I knew I was not going to have one and boy did the cravings start.

I decided to divert myself. Get on the exercise bike, cook some apples, move plants, more exercise- inside I was screaming at myself-“But I want a drink I don’t want any more fucking excercise. Get a beer, sod the blog, enjoy yourself.” I cooked a dinner, I wanted wine. My partner who normally doesn’t drink fancied a beer. (She doesn’t khow I’ve stopped drinking but just thinks I am on a health kick). What is going on, who is doing this to me? I turn on the telly and the two presenters on the BBC One Show start pouring vodka. 7pm on a family show and they’re bloody drinking vodka, the bastards. A guest on the show, Ben Elton, is offered one. He tells the presnters he loves vodka and says “I’m an evangalist for booze!” Suddenly I feel like I’m the only person in the whole country not having a drink. The impulse to get myself a drink was strong. I really felt I was missing out.

BUT THEN……..

I reminded myself of the many things I’ve seen in other people’s blogs about resisting cravings and reminded myself that I would not be able to have one drink and stop. I also reminded myself how I’ve started to feel a lot better physically and that I have to see things through because things do become easier and better. Then I thought, “I know I’ll write a post about it.” Purge those feelings in a hastily thrown together post which is what this is.

How do I feel now?

Better. It’s 8 pm. The worst is behind me. They’ll be no hangover tomorrow and I’ll have met my first big challenge. I’ll say it again- the knowledge that people in this blogging space are either striving to overcome their physical or psychologiacl dependance on alcohol or have succeeded in doing so is a massive support. For me as well having had that 3 month no alcohol challenge earlier in the year has really helped prepare me for nights like tonight. It really can’t be underestimated how tough giving up the booze is. Depite all the benefits we know about, many of us enjoyed our booze and its not easy saying no to it especially when it’s celebrated constantly in front of our eyes. But just because it’s ubiquitous doesn’t make it right or good or desirable. I’ve made my choice. I want to enjoy my life sober and if a few tough days is what it takes to achieve that so be it.

Right, feel better now. A cup of tea I think.

Jim x

Man About to Give Up Alcohol- Exclusive Interview

Our correspondent, Yura Kiddinme, talks to a slightly confused Jim Simmonds about his upcoming challenge and his new Blog, “former drinker”

YK: Good morning Jim, thanks for doing this interview. I’d like to talk to you today about your new blog entitled “former drinker.”

JS: Hi Yura, yes I’m very excited about the blog and glad to talk about it with you.

YK: Great! so Jim the new blog is all about giving up alcohol.

JS: that’s absolutely right Yura a brand-new blog all about giving up alcohol.

YK: Jim I’m going to ask you straight, forgive the directness: are you an alcoholic?

JS: Great question Yura. The answer is a resounding “no”. Sure, I drink very heavily, can’t seem to moderate how much I drink, I also obsess about alcohol whenever I have to go into social situations and it’s beginning to affect my health and well-being. Other than that though I’ve got it completely under control.

 YK: Yeah okay Jim. Maybe when we finish this interview you might want to look up the term denial. Anyway let’s press on.

J S: Absolutely

YK: I guess it’s early days but how’s it going Jim with this “giving up alcohol?”

JS: Ah, well you see I haven’t actually started giving up yet, that is still a few days away.

YK: But Jim, you’ve called your blog “former drinker,” how does that work if you’ve not actually given up drinking yet?

JS: That’s an excellent question. You see I will be a former drinker but that will be in a couple of weeks time. In the meantime I’m gearing up to being a former drinker. It’s all about the preparation.

YK: Right so you’re still drinking, not strictly speaking a former drinker then are you? At least I suppose you’re using this time before stopping drinking to wind down your alcohol intake, is that right?

JS: To be honest if anything my alcohol consumption has been ramping up these last few weeks. In fact I’m probably drinking more now than I’ve had in ages.

YK: Jim I’m not getting a good feeling about all of this; so you’re telling me that in the run-up to not drinking you’re actually drinking more than ever before? That hardly inspires confidence that you can I give up. So why the increase in alcohol consumption?

JS: Yes I can see you’re a bit confused, it’s a bit counterintuitive. Reality is I like drinking…

YK: Woah…let’s stop there Jim. You’re about to give up alcohol and yet you’re telling me that you love drinking. Jim are you an idiot?

JS: That’s  interesting and you’re not the first person to ask me that question. But let me explain. I love drinking but I can’t carry on drinking.

YK: you love drinking but you can’t carry on? What is going on here Jim? 

JS: Look, I drink heavily, I like my drinking but it’s got to the point where I cannot be moderate in my drinking so what’s happened is I’m spending too long thinking about it and planning around it, it’s affecting my health, my sleep, my weight. I love it but I also hate it and it’s time for the alcohol to go.

YK: okay I think we’re getting somewhere now Jim. It’s harmful, you can’t moderate so you are giving up. So why not just give up now, why the delay?

J S: Will two main reasons I suppose. Firstly if I’m going to give up alcohol and it’s something I like then I want to enjoy a few days where I can drink before I finally put it behind me. Secondly I think I want to drink excessively so I actually remember what it’s like to feel sick of drinking, to wake up with a hangover, to feel nauseous, to experience bad sleep, excess weight.  To remember  those things, I think, will help me in the future.

YK: Jim this seems a very unique approach to abstinence. Are you sure you’re not just mad?

JS: look you got to do what’s right for you. In my mind this approach makes sense, it feels right therefore that’s what I’m going to do.

YK: I can respect that Jim if it’s an approach that brings results, then why not go for it. I’m guessing that you’ve experienced other success using this simple approach in other areas of your life Jim?

JS: actually no, not really. For example I’ve been trying to lose weight for several years now using my own individual approach. In fact this year I managed to lose nearly a stone in weight believe it or not.

YK: that’s brilliant Jim and how’s the diet now.

J S: well I’ve actually put it all on in the last couple of months and in fact got even heavier than I was at the start of trying to lose weight.

YK: so could we say that’s been a little short of success?

JS: no I think we can call it an abject failure.

YK: Jim again this is not exactly creating a feeling of confidence in your new venture. Why do you think this giving up of alcohol will be successful when you’ve experienced so many failures in trying to change in the past?

JS: I’ll tell you why. Because earlier this year I vowed to give up alcohol for three months and I succeeded and so I now think I’ll give up for a year and I know I can follow that through.

YK: and how was it giving up to 3 months, did you find it difficult?

JS: sure it was difficult but I found that it was socially and psychologically more difficult then it was physiologically. So staying at home during the week and not drinking was not too bad but as soon as Friday came along I could feel that old association of “it’s the weekend’ treat yourself’ let your hair down, have a drink.” When I went out to a restaurant I could suddenly feel that craving because of the association that every time I go out for a meal I drink alcohol. Every time I socialise with friends in the evening I drink alcohol so it was the associations that created the real cravings and that I found interesting.

YK: and Jim you say you’re going to do a year. Why not just give up completely and be done with it?

JS: When I gave up to 3 months,part of the reason I could do it was that I knew that it wasn’t a once and for all decision. I knew That I could go back to it after three months if I wanted to which is what I did. But there was also part of me wanting to not go back to drink.I think if I said never again when I next had those real cravings I’d give in as I couldn’t imagine dealing with those cravings for the rest of my life.  Having a craving but only having to deal with it for weeks is easier. So if I say one year I I can imagine that, I can imagine a year without drinking knowing that if it was an awful experience if I felt I was missing out socially and in other ways I could go back to it but what I’m hoping for is that with one year under my belt, feeling physically better and being  more productive,I’m hoping that I will say no way am I going back to drinking. That will be the point when I can truly think of myself as a former drinker.

YK: okay Jim well you certainly have a very individual approach to this and I’m guessing once you get into not drinking you are going to become something of Crusader, waging war against the evil drink?

JS: no, not at all. Believe me, if I could drink moderately and sensibly like many of my friends I would carry on drinking. My problem is for lots of different reasons I’m rubbish at moderating my intake and that’s not just alcohol. I’ma bit excessive all round. So no, those people who enjoy a little drink, fine no problem. But I know there are plenty of people like me and worse where drinking has really messed up aspects of their life. Now if one of those persons rethinks their relationship with regard to alcohol that would be a bonus.

YK: okay well thanks Jim that was very informative. I hope, against the odds, that you’ll be successful in your campaign to stop drinking. I shall follow your progress keenly by reading your blog. I wish you well.

JS: Thanks. I’ll drink to that. Well for the next week and a bit anyway.

RIP David Berman so sad that he took his life last week. Loved his music with the Silver Jews. Just listened to the purple mountains stuff he was about to tour with- “all my happiness is gone” track that says it all – not able to overcome those demons- the music lives on!

Alcohol is not the problem- I am

Well let me qualify that attention seeking title. Of course alcohol is a powerful, addictive psychoactive drug that can play havoc with minds and bodies and cause numerous problems for individuals and societies; but, if alcohol by itself was the problem, everyone who drank alcohol would be a problem drinker and that is again clearly not the case.

FINDING YOUR PLACE ON THE CONTINUUM

like most things, alcohol use and abuse is on a continuum. Obvious I know, but for me, I need to remind myself of that. I have enjoyed alcohol for many years and I’m already missing the thought of it three weeks before giving up. I am giving up because I’m rubbish at moderation and its impact on me means its time to choose- carry on with the alcohol with the negative impact it now has and risk early death and impaired living or give it up together and face the inevitable struggles and changes that go with abandoning a massively entrenched pattern of behaviour.

I’m recluctantly going for the second option. I say reluctantly because I would love to be able to be like my partner- a moderate, take it or leave it drinker. She can have a small glass of cider one day and then happily have no alcohol for weeks or months. She can enjoy A glass of wine and leave it there. I can’t. I have the cider, then want another, then maybe some wine and on and on it goes. I don’t get overly smashed because I have built up tolerance. I’m not at rock bottom,I don’t get aggressive but I know I can never be a moderate drinker. I have drunk heavily since college days, reining it in sometimes for work and family but drinking heavily to the point where I know it’s now doing me harm.

I’ve chosen to drink heavily over the years and the result is that I have lost the ability to control it when I do drink or I spend massive amounts of energy trying to control it in such a way that I do not enjoy myself. So there we have it, my partner and many friends are at the sensible end of the alcohol use spectrum and I’m going towards the other end.

Tried moderation

Yep, tried the moderation bit. I was so reluctant to give up my lovely alcohol and it’s seductive sensations that I was determined to control and master it. I counted units, kept bar graphs, had reminders on my phone to keep track of my drinking but all to no avail. Once I was in the pub or opened that wine, felt that first pleasurable wave of comfort, little voices would start saying, “You deserve this Jim, don’t become a miserable bastard like those abstainers, enjoy yourself- go on – have a drink boy.!”

So what’s different about me?

Yes this is the crux? Why do some people develop a problematic relationship with alcohol whilst others are fine? It will be a different answer I suppose for each drinker who develops a problem although there will be many things in common. For me it was growing up in a drinking culture, being anxious around girls, having an addictive risk taking personality, lots of reasons. But the reasons are, in a way, not important – I am where I am. Knowing what I know, I can now safely say that I need and want to try giving up alcohol completely.

Abstinence is easier than moderation

In January I had to lower my cholesterol. My doctor was suggesting statins. I didn’t want that and said that I’m sure if I cut out booze I would lose weight and less weight and no booze would bring my cholesterol down. It worked. I gave myself three months and my cholesterol lowered. I went back to the doctor but she said risk was still there due to a family history of heart attacks. back to square one and I thought,”why did I bother?” and started drinking again. But during that three months I noticed some strange things and that is what helped me reach my conclusion to stop drinking in three weeks time. More of that next time. This post has gone on long enough!

Thanks for dropping by

Jim x PS any constructive criticism/advice on blog (layout/content/organisation what’s missing) gratefully received

Song to check out – “I drink” by Mary Gauthier. Now an ex drinker. Great song by a great lady- one day I shall attend one of her songwriting workshops!

Building Up To a Big Change

Frogs- Proof that change is possible!

Much of my social life has been built around booze and trips to pubs. I enjoy trying new wines and beers, I like getting squiffy- in short I shall be giving up a lot.  So, not a decision to be taken lightly. It’s about weighing up pros and cons and it now feels like I’m in a relationship where it used to be great but has now gone sour-it’s doing me more harm than good- so it’s got to go. It will be hard.  It also has to be a journey that’s more than just about giving up alcohol. It’s about discovering new ways of being, of socialising, of drinking liquids that are great but non alcoholic. My world is about to change. Alcohol has been my “friend” for nearly 50 years and losing her will feel like a bereavement, but one of us has to go and I don’t want it to be me!

As I shall be starting on my journey in a fresh way I thought I should start a new blog, so if you have followed me on “Sweet Poison” or stumbled across this and want to follow my new journey please join me; I’d love the company and also your insights and advice. I hope that if I stumble across some new insights/strategies/surprises along the way these may in turn prove useful in some way to one or two people out there.

All scary but exciting stuff for me anyway. I aim to stop drinking on 2nd September. I will post a couple of pieces on here about my preparations and a little bit more about why I have taken this decision. On a broader front I want to look at why we all find it so difficult to make the changes we know we should make but which often elude us. That’s maybe for next time.

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Just a nice picture of some flowers- why not

Thanks for stopping by and I’d welcome your company on my new journey. I hope it is going to be transformative.

Jim x