Ok others have done it, so I’ll do it. A short post just to flag up that I’m still around. I haven’t posted because the posts that I drafted seem so ridiculously irrelevant. Also I can’t work out whether this crisis is turning me into a misanthrope or a lover of this strange species we call human. One minute I’m railing against the greed, selfishness and profiteering of some only to be gladdened by the selflessness of others. That’s humanity I guess, capable of wonderful acts of kindness one minute and appalling selfishness the next.
Overall I’m hoping some good will come out of all this like a collective wake up call.
If you destroy habitat and mess with nature as we do,don’t be surprised that we unleash these animal based viruses. Also let us hopefully rethink the cost of globalisation, unfettered air travel, inequality, access to healthcare and other big questions. For me it’s fascinating that in times of crisis even right wing governments can become quasi socialists. Boris and the conservatives are undertaking the biggest incursion into the private sector ever seen here in the UK. That’s good!To maintain cohesion our government has to act in a way that goes against all their principles and that’s also good. It’s almost as if they know that a society based on the idea that we need to put the collective good ahead of private profit is a rational way to organise society. Now that’s a thought and might be worth a post.
Stay safe everyone. Jim x
Oh – because this post became a bit serious and we all need a laugh, please have a look at the YouTube link below. If you’ve run out of toilet paper it could be just what you need!
Thank God that’s over. Celebrating the birth of a dead Palestinian who talked about selflessness, living a simple life and love by stuffing our faces, getting pissed and using up precious world resources; do me a favour!
Anyway hope you all had a lovely time!
I feel sorry for Jesus having to see his name taken and twisted in the way it has been done. He would have been outraged. Presents? Yeh ok give something to the poor kids whose parents have to rely on foodbanks and can’t afford presents or who get themselves into debt trying to give their kids something. Food and drink? Well there’s plenty of people out there who would love a decent meal once in a while. Booze? Really!
Let’s face if Jesus were around now he’d be writing a sober blog on WordPress and joining protesters on the street.
I think next Christmas (is it too early to start planning?) I’m going to redefine Christmas. This year I had to do Christmas the way others think it should be done. No more. I don’t want to spend a week eating huge amounts of food and watching people get pissed and me feeling bored. Of course I want to be with family and friends but “being” can happen in better ways than this gross out binge fest we currently call Christmas. It needs some thought.
Others have commented how being sober is actually a form of rebellion in the same way that drinking used to be. I think that is spot on. The expectation in my culture is that you should drink, you need to drink, events and places are centred around drink but no more. To rebel means defying expectations, to create new forms and practices, to say that there are different alternative ways of being.
Sober rebellion, the irresistible rise of The Soberistas, that’s going to be my 2020. Bring it on baby!
9 weeks without alcohol. Good. But I am not managing my time well. I like blogging , I like catching up with other blogs but it seems to get harder finding the time to do it. It has been a full on week and two things have dominated; my therapy work and organising a fund raising concert in the New Year. Excuses, excuses. Oh and I had my birthday on Thursday. Interesting.
I went with some friends to the pub. Potential sticky social time but in the end OK. The pub does a draught non alcohol beer which is unusual and allowed me to feel like I was having a good time on my birthday. The truth is I wanted a drink. Not a,”I’m a hopeless addict give me a bloody drink,” type desire more a “It’s my birthday, I love the slightly euphoric feeling alcohol gives me, surely if life means anything it’s about being able to enjoy a wide range of experiences and sensations, it’s only a bloody drink,” type desire. But I didn’t drink and that’s because I always have to have that one or two extra and I’ve decided not to. Sensible but slightly boring. I guess I’m feeling that way because I’m not getting that whole, “Wow my life is so much better now I’m not drinking,”vibe. Or is this my dysphoria rearing it’s ugly little head again?
BACK TO THURSDAY.
One of my friends, who I mainly know through table tennis, noticed I wasn’t drinking “real” beer. We spoke about drinking and I was amazed when he told me he had stopped for a whole year a few years ago because his drinking had become problematic. I was intrigued. He said he regularly had blackouts not recollecting drinking sesssions so decided to stop. He always intended it to be a year and after a year he started drinking again but now does so moderately. Amazing. That night he had one vodka and orange, a previous time I’d been to the pub with him he had had one pint. He is a moderate drinker and a reformed drinker who clearly before had suffered from Alcohol Use Disorder. It was an eye opener. Moderation is possible, but then he is a very focused individual. It was interesting in that he said he needed a year off in order to recalibrate his drinking, gain perspective and make firm plans about how he was going to change his attitude to drinking. Sacrilegous as it may sound I did wonder if that could be an option for me. Stop for a year and try the moderation path.
Who am I kidding! Moderation is not my way. There was half a chocolate cake left on Friday. Enough for 6 people. I ate the lot. It was there, my though was best finish it. I was the same with wine. I never understood why people bought bottle stoppers, once the bottle was open, finish it. When I smoked, exactly the same. Consume, eat, drink, covet. Greed, excess or numbing some emotional pain? Certainly when I don’t have a drink like today I’m prone to dysphoria as mentioned earlier. A glass or three often disippated the mood, made me lighter. Now I have to ride the mood, see it through.
I have clients who experience dysphoria and I’m often surprised that when I tell them that that is what they are describing it’s often the first time they have heard of the term. I tell them them that what they are describing; feelings of unease and a general non-specific dissatisfaction with life has a name. I suppose they haven’t heard of it because it’s not a condition as such more a description of a mood state but a mood state that can be very commonly experienced. People with depression often experience dysphoria but it’s not a mood state reserved solely for those with a mental illness. I would often experience dysphoria but my wonderful, euphoria (yes, it’s the opposite to dysphoria) inducing wine quickly snapped me out of it. Of course it doesn’t really work. It’s an illusion. You end up drinking too much, getting anxiety about your drinking, the unease and unhappiness return and one ends up writing a blog about giving up alcohol on WordPress. Full circle.
My dysphoria is often Sunday based. I know it passes. I’ll be slightly grumpy and pissed off until it does so. Then I’ll be OK. Then I’ll be able to feel good about being 9 weeks Alcohol Free. Anyone know a good therapist?
So, in my last post, I was setting off to go to a musical evening in a Suffolk wood where there would be food, drink, campfire and music. This was my first big test after 20 days alcohol free. It was the kind of evening I could not have envisaged going to in the past without drinking.
During my drinking days I would not drink before performing but once that was out the way, it would be “bring it on!” If I couldn’t have nabbed a lift or stayed over or it was too far for a taxi I simply wouldn’t have gone. In the past being able to have a drink took priority over socialising. For years I have carried this false belief that I wouldn’t be able to get through the night without a drink because drinking at such events is what I have always done for the past 45 years.
Anyway. I went armed with my non alcoholic beer and some food to share. It all went well. People were lovely, food probably wouldn’t have passed any food hygiene tests, music quality was variable, the setting and weather very un English like (i.e. warm, pleasant and dry) and the atmosphere wonderful. And only one small craving. When I arrived the BBQ was set up in a saw mill. People had put their beers and wine in a communal space and I spied one of my favourite beers. There was a brief pang, like when you see an ex lover and fleetingly think, “Oh God she was so nice why did we split up, what was I thinking?” before remembering the arguments, tears and mutual incomprehension. It passed. And that was it. No more cravings. I was surprised and a little disappointed. I wanted to experience the pain and anguish of craving so I could feel a bit more heroic, but no, never happened. The next day I asked myself why. Why did I not experience a sense of missing out or any physical cravings? Lets do a list. I like a good list. (BTW that’s a generic photo- not me)
List of probable reasons for not having cravings:
I was going to play and sing and typically I never drink and perform. I used to drink a lot after performing but the performances went on for a long time and by that time it finished it was time to drive home and any thought of wanting a drink had gone.
My playing partner doesn’t drink. This is a massive factor I think. I knew there would be no pressure, questions, offers to fetch a few beers etc. We both had an alcohol free evening. We joked, muttered some funny remarks to each other about some of the performers, behaved like immature adolescents and when we played we really bloody enjoyed ourselves. Wow, a great, fun evening without booze. It can be done. Big lesson for me.
Drink wasn’t a big feature of the evening. There was beer and wine but no-one was really drinking a lot. It reminded me that many drinkers are sensible and moderate but that was never my style. Good luck to them.
I had at the back of my mind all the benefits I had from being being alcohol free at this event; being able to drive home, no hangover in the morning, better singing, more alert, more able to enjoy the moment.
One song I sang was “Thunder Road” and singing it in a Suffolk wood by the light of a campfire, feeling truly alive was a great feeling. I also reflected on the song (I mustn’t get sidetracked into talking about Springsteen or the post will go on for ever) and how that song isn’t just about boy meets girl and leaving behind small town life. It suddenly sounded like an anthem for change. Most of us at any time can choose to do things in a different way. We can hop in our metaphorical cars and escape the place we think we are fated to be in for the rest of our lives. Just start up that engine and drive baby!
Moving on. Last night I went to a restaurant and then a pub. Restaurant was tricky at first. I always drank in restaurants. Last night it was Chinese food and I went for Jasmine tea. It wasn’t the same but hey ho that’s conditioning for you. A couple next to me enjoyed their meal and had one small beer each. That’s it. I wish I could have been a drinker like that, but I wasn’t and I’ve tried to be but it just isn’t the Jim way. If one beer is good, ten beers must be better, right? That, in a nutshell was my problem. I got through the restaurant experience and it did feel like a test and I wasn’t enjoying being in the moment. Restaurants may take a little time to adjust to.
On to the pub. Not too bad I have to say. Noone who I met there was a big drinker and the ocassion was to wish someone a happy birthday. I drank a no-alcoholic beer which was great because it looked like a pint and tasted quite good. I realised by 9 that I’d survived the evening.
All in all I have got through three potentially difficult situations and done so without having to exert massive amounts of will power. The change of mindset has definitely helped; seeing alcohol-free as being a positive choice rather than as being denied something. Plus all three ocassions were marked by an absence of drink being that big a deal even for the drinkers. Indeed in the pub out of 7 of us 4 were not drinking alcohol. The drinkers were in the minority. That helps.
The weekend after next will be my next big challenge. I’m going to see my son and his girlfriend in their new house. They love a drink and my son is a prodigous drinker (wonder where he got that from). He has a good job and doesn’t drink during the week but he does drink a lot at other times and I think part of the reason that I wanted to stop was to show him (by my actions, not preaching) that you don’t HAVE to drink alcohol to have a good time or to cover up difficult emotions. He had a tough time when his brother died and that still hangs over him so maybe he needs the sedation of alcohol for a little while longer. I hope that one day he will decide, as I did, that alcohol doesn’t change tragedy, it just dulls it a little. What one day seems to sort the problem then becomes the problem.
Enough of the problems. I feel emboldened by getting through some challenges in the last few days. This is not a journey of denial, despite some nagging nostalgia/dependency issues instead it feels like a journey of liberation and improved living and a journey I wish I had started years ago. Still I’m here, essentially intact and ready to liberate myself along my own Thunder Road.
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.
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!