Tag Archives: anxiety

Dissecting My Unexpected Craving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s long overdue.

Jim X

I Have Failed.Sorry.

There, I’ve said it. Failed. Not succeeded. A miserable excuse for a human being. I can no longer consider myself a true member of the sobriety club. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m still not drinking. I haven’t touched a drop in 5 months and yet I still consider myself a failure. Why?

Well, and I feel able to share this in this supportive blogging community, I can’t do yoga. No not just I can’t do yoga, I won’t do yoga. Contrary to what other bloggers say yoga for me is an anxiety producing activity and brings back yoga based PTSD.

So there’s my failure. I haven’t incorporated yoga into my sobriety and that makes me feel deficient. I look around at the other sober bloggers and it seems they are all doing a swan, or lotus or communing together on some retreat whilst I do the “slump” or the “piggy” watching some Netflix box set. The other sober bloggers are just so wholesome and in touch with their feelings and their bodies and I’m still trapped in a viscous circle of sausages, sitting on my arse and reading juvenile comics.

The caring amongst you will,I know, say, “Come on Jim, you too can do yoga, give it a try. Yoga people are inclusive, welcoming and non judgemental.”

The thing is I know that’s not true. You see I HAVE tried yoga and that’s where the trauma kicks in. Just the word, YOGA, brings me out in an anxious sweat. I went to a yoga class 20 years ago. They sat crossed legged and I couldn’t do that. The teacher vindictively singled me out and offered me a cushion for me bum. She seemed ostensibly to be concerned for me but her true purpose was humiliation. I knew they were all laughing at me, inside. I continued. I struggled with each position but I persevered. I looked for too long at one woman and received a withering look. Oh God I was now seen as the creepy voyeur. Could it get any worse. Yes. I lay on my front and had to do something strange with my legs. They parted and I farted. Not gently and softly but loudly. There were titters. My heart rate went through the roof.The teacher smiled and said that happens a lot. And this was meant to be relaxing! I was in pieces. I left that hall and never went back.

So yes I have failed because unlike all you sober bloggers I can never go back to yoga and each time one of you speaks about the wonders of yoga it brings back so much pain. It hurts.

Here’s me doing some moves outside on my own. Just to prove I can do it. I look pretty good for 64 right? 😉

This has not been an easy post, sharing such trauma, but I know you will understand. Thanks for listening.

Jim x

11 Weeks – Anxiety Down, Frustration Up

A quick post, mainly so I have a record of how one element in my early sobriety has changed. The weekend anxiety syndrome, that horrible unease I got around Friday night and lasting into Sunday has completely evaporated. I knew it had to be conditioning as it only occurred if I didn’t have a drink on those days. For me, and I guess, a lot of others drinking alcohol and the arrival of the weekend were inextricably linked. Drink + Friday = Feeling good, No Drink + Friday or Saturday= unease, anxiety, agitation.

When I stopped on 1 September I would say my first 6-8 weekends were blighted by this unease and nearly made me question my decision to go AF, but in the last few weekends that anxiety has not just lessened it’s disappeared, vanished. I know if I went to the pub on a Saturday it would re-emerge but that’s more about the pub/booze/good time association but even that is lessening.

So anxieties due to social conditioning and association definitely on the decrease. Anyone out there in the early days of sobriety, if my experience is anything to go by, IT DOES GET EASIER!

I won’t go on to mention lots of the benefits, we all know about those. So what could be the cause of the frustration?

For me I’m starting to see a pattern. People now generally know I’m not drinking and as we start gearing up for Christmas meals, social events and drinks parties, the word seems to be out; need a lift? Ask Jim!

Now I don’t mind giving a lift or two, helping someone out if I’m going their way but what I’m experiencing is almost being treated like a taxi service, “Oh Jim, you know the meal we are arranging, as you’re not drinking we thought we’d go to that nice country pub and maybe you could pick us up and drive us all there.” The other three all live in different places and what would have been a 20 minute journey for me will now be an hour’s journey, sit watching them neck bottles of wine, likely pick up an equal share of the bill half of which will be alcohol related and then spend another hour dropping the piss heads back home. You know what, it’s not bleeding fair. I don’t like it. Saying “why should I give you a lift” seems churlish, so I’ll do it. But I’m now getting the same with another social event and I can feel the goodwill withering. I wonder if this is a common pattern for others that have gone sober?

I suppose I could always buy myself a little peaked cap, install a meter and make a little cash on the side and just call myself “Jim’s Taxi Service” but in reality I’ll just grin and bear it. But it is annoying and it is frustrating, or am I being a miserable, cantankerous old bastard?

Anyone need a lift?

A little bit of blogging does you good!

Yesterday was a funny day. Funny strange that is. Let’s backtrack; I’ve been writing my blog for a month now and my intentions were to:

1 Have an online record of moving from alcohol dependency to sobriety, reflecting and hopefully learning on the way

2 Get a bit of support from people either going through the same thing or having successfully arrived at sober living

I’m really pleased to say that both of those goals have been realised but the experience I have had after one month has been so much more than that and very surprising.

Surpise number 1: the flow of comments and interest. I had blogged previously about trying to moderate my drinking. That was two years ago and in the course of blogging I had a few people who commented and I did the same. Only a small number but really useful. For me blogging wasn’t about getting lots of followers but an attempt to become part of a close knit small group of supportive bloggers. That’s how it was until yesterday. Then out of seemingly nowhere I had triple the views I normally have, a bunch of new followers and lots of comments. That was kind of nice but why yesterday? Was it that I suddenly appealed to more people due to my elegant writing, the opening up of my tortured soul, familiarity with my posts and a desire to read them all over again? No, of course not. I think it was down to one word: anxiety. That word being in the title of my last post and a tag seems to have been the reason for a lot more traffic. A surprise certainly, but a nice one, it just means you send you’re day responding to comments. A good way to spend some time.

Let me clear something up about that last post. The anxiety I was talking about was a situation specific, time limited anxiety. It was linked to me not allowing myself to drink at a time when I habitually drank. I didn’t like it. It put me on edge. It triggered some other darker feelings. But it passed. Real anxiety, clinical anxiety is a whole different phenomena and in no way did I want to suggest that’s what I was going through. I’ve seen people with chronic anxiety and it is a debilitating condition that can wreck lives. What I experienced was an episode, an acute short lived experience of anxiety that I overcame. The comments I had were amazing and an eye opener about what others have had to endure and suffer from.

Surprise number 2: The amazingly supportive community of bloggers out there. This has been the real revelation for me. In just over a month I have had numerous comments and ALL of them have been supportive, encouraging and positive. When people talk about online worlds and social media you often hear of bullying, trolls and negative responses. I’ve seen none of that. And it’s not just on my blog. When I read other blogs and comments it’s the same and that is a really wonderful thing to witness. It’s a picture of how this world could be if we truly valued and respected each other. Bloggers do it so why not politicians, religious leaders and others in positions of influence?

For me I would go so far as to say that the support and genuine interest of a few bloggers has helped me successfully manage my first 10 days of sobriety. It’s the quality of the support that’s really impressed me. It’s been much more than “10 days, well done Jim” type of response although that is always welcome. It’s been people sharing their own experiences to help shed light on mine or to offer advice and information that could be the thing that gets me through a sticky patch. Sometimes the comments can be very direct but that’s ok, I like direct and I can choose to act upon or not any advice coming my way. The point is in this blogging community people genuinely care for one another and want to see others moving forward and succeeding. No bitchiness or point scoring. They’ll be one or two just looking to pick up likes and followers but that’s ok. They still give. Oh and there are some big egos out there but hey that’s also ok. If a blogger feels a bit better about themselves that’s a good thing and it could be one of the few places they receive such positivity.

Is it all positive, this blogging business?

I would say the only negatives I can see for myself are:

A. It can be addictive. I’ve heard others mention that and I say this half jokingly because an addiction that does no harm physically and where the outcome is to connect with others in a positive way is hardly a bad thing

B. I have to be careful here. Maybe, just maybe we are too nice to each other. What I mean is that in trying to be supportive we sometimes sugar coat things or avoid any constructive criticism. You can be critical and supportive at the same time. I was a teacher for many years and just giving glowing feedback did not help students make progress. Purposeful, relevant feedback did. Having said that I know I’m now going to get some critical feedback of my own. That’s OK I can take it, just be gentle with me ! 😉

Jim X

Anxious about my Anxiety

Tell me about it Munchy…
When I decided to give up the booze it was mainly about wanting to improve my health. I wasn’t the stereotypical down and out drunk. I was someone who found it difficult, when I did drink, to drink moderately and I was fed up with the constant battle. I’d tried a three month no alcohol challenge, saw the numerous benefits and gradually came to the conclusion that the drink had to go. Not an easy decision; I was going to be giving up a lot but the pros of giving up outweighed the cons. Now, after a week of sobriety some unsettling thoughts and feelings are starting to emerge. It’s getting uncomfortable. I’m getting anxious.

It started on Friday when I started to get what felt like cravings and I wrote about this on my blog. Saturday and Sunday were the same and I realised the cravings were being fed not so much by a physical need for alcohol but by a desire to quieten down some of the uncomftable feelings welling up inside me.

One of the most pervading feelings was one of anxiety, a sense of unease, edginess. I know some will say that’s part of the withdrawal from alcohol but it’s a feeling I used to have even when drinking regularly. This was not addiction speaking, it was dissatisfaction and ennui. Saturday I prepared a meal, but there was no fun or joy in it. I cooked, we ate, watched TV, slept. Great, is that it? At least with a glass of wine I’d get a reprieve from those feelings. It made me relaxed, I could look at life and smile, pretend and believe that life was OK. Take the drink away and it all looks a bit bleak. I even had the fleeting thought that,”if this is what life is going to be like, get back to drinking, at least you’ll enjoy parts of the ride.”

I know, I know, this is all part of the sober journey. Dealing with the difficult stuff. For me though the difficult stuff is facing up to the fact that there is not enough happening in my life. It’s also maybe the recognition that without the booze I have to confront the fact that I find intimacy difficult. Spending time being with someone, anyone, without the mask of alcohol just brings on these waves of anxiety.

I think I said earlier in this blog that I haven’t gone too deeply into the origins of my drinking behaviour, the whys and wherefore of my drinking because that’s the past and I wanted to focus on changing the present but this last weekend in particular highlights that I do need to understand why I maintained my drinking habits. Without understanding that and finding alternatives I know that I may be drawn back to alcohol as a way of just dealing with shitty feelings.

The anxiety I felt this weekend was part craving but for the most part it was borne of seeing my current life in the full white glare of sobriety. Stuck in a village, trying to be a loyal, loving partner, tinkering on the edges of life, somehow strangely lonely and isolated. Boy, no wonder I drank! But I’m not drinking and I don’t intend starting again so something has to give or change. I can’t spend weekends like this last one, feeling anxious and disattisfied. A silent, shuffling presence just wanting to be on my own. On top of that waves of feelings of loss come back. My marriage to the mother of my sons 15 years ago, the death of a best friend last year, losing my brother, son and father in the space of three grim years 10 years ago. This is not self pity, everyone has to deal with loss, but alcohol can sometimes can just take the edge of it. And maybe, just maybe I never gave myself the time and space to grieve fully.

This blog has helped. Externalising the thoughts and feelings by writing. Getting feedback and support and being able to offer it sometimes. There does emerge a real sense of community when you blog, a knowledge that you do not have to deal with things alone. Of course some things do need to be dealt with internally and alone and maybe I have put those off for too long. I am someone with enthusiasm for life, who likes to laugh and that’s the fella I need to rediscover. Yes, without booze I may get a bit anxious, feel that life lacks something, but I should also, without booze, be in a much better position to do something about it.

Jim X