Tag Archives: Music

Musical Evenings, Pubs and Restaurants- The Real Tests for a Former Drinker

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. Screenshot 2019-09-24 at 13.39.24.png 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. Screenshot 2019-09-24 at 13.42.45.pngRestaurant 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. Screenshot 2019-09-24 at 13.40.34.pngI 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.

Jim x

 

 

Yes , It’s Bloody Hard , But It’s Worth It!

This giving up the booze, giving up a way of living that did, at various points give us some joy or relief otherwise we wouldn’t have done it, is difficult. Giving anything up that has become ingrained is hard but booze has so many components; it affects you physically and makes changes to your brain chemistry, it has social and cultural elements and creates a strong psychological attachment. Added to that, those that are seriously dependent on alcohol will suffer serious debilitating withdrawal symptoms and experience a changed brain chemistry that will often put having alcohol as a higher priority than their own survival!

So, fat chance of giving up then?

No is the answer, because people do give it up.  Some bloggers on here have been sober for years.  I’m a newby and luckily didn’t get to the point where stopping gave me terrible withdrawal symptoms, but I’m not stupid or naive.  I know that more people go back to booze within a year than stay off it.  I need to keep reminding myself it’s hard and that it can go wrong and the way I deal with that is threefold:

1  I look and constantly remind myself of all the positive aspects of being sober.  It’s a great state to aim for and maintain.

2  I will  treat the dreaded possible relapse as firstly a minor lapse if it’s literally one drink, one mistake, a “I fell off my bike so I’d better get back on quickly,” moment or regroup, learn and try again (definitely no self flagellation or recrimination) if it’s a full blown relapse.

3 I will bathe and luxuriate in the mutual support of other bloggers.  ( I have oddly come to think of a few of these,often anonymous, unseen bloggers as good friends.  Not surprising given their big hearts and openness). I hope those in a similar situation would agree that the support of other bloggers and reading their stories and their joys and frustrations makes an incredible difference in terms of maintaining sobriety. I would add though that some bloggers disappear and I’m assuming it’s because they are either confident in their alcohol free lives or they have started drinking again.  If the latter, that seems such a shame because their stories are more the norm and not everything goes the way we’d like.  In my view if someone has stopped drinking for a year, a month even a week, that’s a success that can never be taken away.  Going back to drinking is not some personal failing it’s what can happen to any of us, and hearing about it and what’s been learned could be useful for all concerned. After all this is a process not a fixed point.

Going back to point 1, let’s get positive, because giving up the booze should be less about what’s been given up, less about what we are not doing and more about how great and beneficial going alcohol free can be.

Tonight I’m going to join a bunch of people who are going to be attending a small music evening in a wood somewhere in Suffolk.  There will be folk singers, a sea shanty group, violin players and I’m going with my friend and we shall play a few songs.  It’s in a private wood and the owner has laid on a barbecue and loads of drink both alcoholic and soft. Should be a great, enjoyable night.

Here’s the thing. If this were two months ago I wouldn’t be going. Why? Well, it’s because I’m going alone meeting my playing companion there. I have to drive and I would not have been able to countenance a night like that in the past and not being able to have a drink. In other words I would rather NOT have gone than have gone and not be able to drink. That’s grim. Tha’s terrible. It puts drinking ahead of music and socialising, and that happened a lot.  What I probably would have done is I would have been manipulative and invited a friend who lives nearby and subtly persuaded him to give me a lift. Once there because I never drink before performing I would have persuaded the organiser to put me on first or second finished playing and then the evening would have truly began- I COULD DRINK.  I would have got pissed, probably tried to play again , embarrassed myself, think I’d had a good time, lose friends and spend two days nursing a hangover. What a fucking joke.

Screenshot 2019-09-21 at 09.15.38That’s the negative. Here’s the positive.

Instead tonight, I’ll drive, play whenever the organiser suggests, take my own interesting non alcoholic drinks, be prepared to tackle some cravings as I watch everyone drinking, remind myself of what I’m gaining, and enjoy the music and companionship instead of focussing on the next drink and getting drunk.  Why oh why did it take me so long to get to this place?

 

Jim X

Music- My Salvation?

Now here’s a funny thing. A revelation. In this blogI’ve been going on about my alcohol dependence and the problems associated with it and getting ready to stop drinking from this coming Sunday. It has seemed to me that alcohol has dominated many areas of my life and I’ve relied too much on it. But this was the revelation I have just had- except when it comes to music. This fact only struck me this morning as I started practising for an open mic night which I agreed to yesterday and which takes place on Thursday evening. The first thing I did when I agreed to perform was cancel meeting up with a friend for lunch (another stop on my long goodbye to booze). I need to practice and when I play and sing I NEVER drink!

I need alcohol sometimes to quell nerves and anxiety but I never drink prior to or during a performance. Simple reasons- it affects my voice and I make mistakes if I drink so whenever I’ve had to do music or drama based activities I cut right back on my drinking. Over the years this must mean that I have drunk far less than I would have done without having music in my life. I also prefer listening to music without booze flowing through me firstly because being an older guy I’d be fighting to get to crowded toilets every 15 minutes and most importantly music just sounds so much better sober.

So thank you music. You have helped reduce my intake over the years and shown me that you can enjoy life without booze, I’m just amazed that I hadn’t really appreciated that until just now.

My cherished Epiphone – I love you man!

Jim x