Lockdown is winding down in the UK. Hurrah! I can play walking football from Monday, I can meet my sons outside. I can have friends over for a BBQ. But what am I regaled with on the telly night after night? Pubs! Wall to wall coverage of pubs; pictures and videos of pubs, shots of beer taps lining shiny bars, pub owners relishing opening their doors, interviews with people saying how they have booked tables at pubs for the next 3 months. The coverage gives the impression that all of us are just drooling over the prospect of going to the pub and downing pints- and if you’re not then you must be plain weird! Far less coverage has been given to the thousands who have developed alcohol problems over the course of the last year. That’s not such a nice image.Oh no skip that one, next ad for beer please.
So, I for one am not looking forward to pubs reopening. Good luck to those who are but sitting round for hours watching people get either bit merry/very merry/slightly pissed/pissed/trollied(London expression I believe) or completely wasted (except for nominated driver who has to pretend to enjoy this spectacle) is no longer my idea of a good time.
Since giving up I’ve realised I can talk absolute garbage, be silly, lark about all whilst being absolutely sober. I don’t need a drink to be bonkers and have a good time, amazing; and had I realised this years ago I could have saved myself a fortune. Still I hopefully have a few years of playful and childish behaviour ahead of me. Last week I met up with my two boys and their mother. We met in a park (pubs closed ) had a picnic and played catch/rounders/ frisbee/football/walked. No one drank as most of us were driving. Afterwards we all agreed it was a lovely day. Maybe because we hadn’t been able to meet up for months or maybe it was not drinking and doing something other than sitting around a pub table downing pints. Interesting, even my sons noticed that!
Just had another ping whilst writing this – pubs opening up tomorrow near me- arghh – it doesn’t stop. I know. I have the answer. Someone out there please give me a million pounds so I can open a pub called “The clear head” or “sober as a judge” and I’ll be a pub stocking all The AF drinks and mixers, delicious mocktails, incredible coffee, all sorts of teas and maybe one beer and bottle of spirits for the desperate ones who can’t face a day out without their fix. They’ll be games and music and activities. Now that’s a pub I would look forward to going to tomorrow.
Well, here we are again. Back in blogland. I have been very remiss. Not reading, commenting or writing on WordPress but staying pretty chilled all the same. I think I’ve been hibernating like a little hedgehog, curled up in a tight ball waiting for the vaccine spring to wake me from my slumber. Staying in my nest thinking it’s not worth getting savaged by the Covid fox just weeks before putting on my astrazeneca suit of armour. To be honest it’s been quite pleasant; daily walks, food deliveries, bit of online work, lots of reading and the luxury of not really having to do much at all. I was expecting to stay like that until about March but then just a couple of days ago I got the message to book my vaccination. That was a surprise and so I went today and had it. Brilliant. I have to say, the vaccine rollout is one thing this government has got right and that’s probably because it’s been organised by the wonderful NHS rather than outsourced to some incompetent private company run by the husband/wife/brother/sister/friend of a sitting conservative MP. Enough of the politics, it’s great that so many people here are now getting the vaccine and with that the prospect of “not quite normal” ” normality” returning fairly soon.
Maybe that’s what’s prompted me to write. I’ve had the vaccine and that marks my own wake up call to start doing some of the things that I have put on hold. My first step was rereading my last post and boy what a miserable read that was. I wonder if anyone else has had that sensation of reading a previous post and thinking, “What was going on there?” I was in full feeling a bit sorry for myself mode and painted a slightly skewed picture of what was going on for me at the time. Oh well, that was then and this is now. Maybe the growing distance between me and my drinking days is gradually giving me a much clearer idea of the how’s and why’s of my drinking and allowing me to find new ways of being and feeling in situations that previously were always marked by a desire to drink. With that distance comes a realisation that I didn’t need drink as much as I thought I did. That in turn means I can look forward to a booze free life from here on in without the trepidation I had when I first embarked on sobriety.
Do I still miss drinking? Very occasionally, but it really doesn’t feel such a big deal and all I have to do is remind myself that I was rubbish at moderation, remember the hangovers and the central place booze had occupied in my life and all I feel is self gratitude for making and sticking to that decision to give up.
That will do for today. I have more I’d like to write about but if I keep that in store maybe that will prompt me to do another post within the next few days and not leave such a big gap as has happened this time. I have no doubt that writing this blog helped me make the massive beneficial change of giving up booze and I am curious to find out if it will help in one or two other areas. Let’s see. I know I’m not the only one to have let things slide but I’m looking forward to doing a bit of catch up with the other blogs of old friends.
It’s everywhere isn’t it? The references to booze, no wonder it’s so bloody hard to give it up. The other day I’m looking at a website and an advert pops up. Campo Viejo wine. I loved it and those bloody tailored advertisers knew it. Bastards. Not only that, the advert talks about all the things we are missing in this pandemic and shows an idyllic summer setting, with an outside meal being set up. Sun shine, family, Meditteranean country setting, friendly chat and then the uncorking of wine and the glug glug as it’s poured into glasses. The not so subtle message; wine is the oil of social interaction, the gift of the gods that makes life so much more pleasant. As I say, bastards. It’s an advert, I don’t get taken in by adverts but those associations are so powerful that I can feel myself willing to jack in a year plus of sobriety to reconnect with that old life and down a glass or two of Campo.
But it’s an advert. It’s designed to trigger us and make us want to rush out and buy the wine. I notice there’s no one at the table passed out with their face in the bloody lasagne or a pissed uncle boring everyone with his outraged stance on politics, ranting and raving after drinking one too many or cutting to aunt Sofia in the local hospital hoping for a liver transplant after a life of excess bloody Campo Viejo.
But that’s just one advert. I watch my favourite programmes. They all arrive home and open the wine to relax, they go to bars and order a beer. Everyone is drinking. It’s inescapable. Here the message is a little more subtle. Normal people drink small amounts but do it all day long. It’s nice, it’s what normal people do, it’s part of what makes us human. You, sober viewer are abnormal. Come on join the party. Bullshit I scream but it’s like i’m constantly having to be on my guard to challenge and counter these perpetual, persistent messages. Even bloody Bake Off has people sticking rum and other spirits in their cakes. Wink, wink , oh a cake laced with booze is so much better and naughtier than a sober cake. Well I’m a sober muffin and I’ve had enough. I can be as naughty as a gin soaked chocolate eclair on a good day. I don’t need a drink, I don’t want a drink. I know what drinking does, it’s not romantic, it doesn’t relax me, it doesn’t enhance life. So what to do when faced with this constant onslaught?
This is where my sober heroes come in. The ones who prove to me that you can be cool, talented, smart and sober. (let’s leave Donald Trump and Hitler to one side for the moment- they give sobriety a bad name). I still remember the guy at my drama group when I was in my twenties who loved to party, was a hit with the girls, was at ease socially and loved to dance. It was a shock when I found out he never drank. It was so unusual back in the 80’s. He didn’t need a drink to have a good time. That stuck with me. Then came my obsession with the Irish musician Christy Moore. Gave up when it was getting out of hand and recently heard him speaking about how his life has been so much better since he stopped drinking. Sober heroes, role models. We need them. Then there’s the American Writer Raymond Carver. Ah, a true hero. A great writer and for much of his life a true alcoholic. It nearly killed him. He stopped suddenly by himself and did the best writing of his life. He also found love with another writer, Tess Gallagher, whom he married and they had 11 great years together. Here’s what she said about Carver, I’ll leave it to her:
Instead of dying from alcohol, Raymond Carver chose to live. I met him five months after he’d made this choice, so I never knew the Ray who drank, except by report and through his stories and poems. One result of his decision to stay sober was that he became an internationally respected master of the short story, a writer who, at his death, was called by the London Times ‘America’s Chekhov.’ For me, the best result of his choice was that we found each other, and could write and live together, challenging, inspiring, and supporting one another in this new life we created day by day.
Every artist and writer faces the challenge of how to honor his or her intensity while not being consumed by it. Ray was nearly consumed by his. The decision that changed his life happened on June 2, 1977, a date that, if it were up to me, would be declared a holiday to honor all those who make it out of alcoholism. When I go to his grave now (he died at the age of 50 of lung cancer caused by smoking), I find messages from those who, as he did, want to stay sober, and who lean on his humility and generosity of spirit. They leave him notes: ‘Ten years sober, Ray! Life is sweet, you bet! Thanks, man.’
Ray and I always celebrated the anniversary of his sobriety by doing something simple, like eating chocolate after a nice meal at which we’d toasted the occasion with sparkling apple juice. I’d give him a gift: one year a stuffed elephant to remind him of his story by that name; another, a briefcase in which to carry his newly drafted short stories.
I think, in the end, Ray managed to exchange a deadly intoxication that would have killed him for an intoxication with language and story-telling. Ray had been ‘in the drink,’ as the Irish say, for 25 years by the time he finally quit for good. It took the wounded grace of moments added to moments for him to inch his way free and later, at age 50, finally sit on the mountain of 10 years of sobriety. He considered his decision to stop drinking the single most important event of his life. He wrote this poem shortly before his death on August 2, 1988.
Here’s the poem that Carver wrote:
No other word will do. For that’s what it was. Gravy. Gravy, these past ten years. Alive, sober, working, loving and being loved by a good woman. Eleven years ago he was told he had six months to live at the rate he was going. And he was going nowhere but down. So he changed his ways somehow. He quit drinking! And the rest? After that it was all gravy, every minute of it, up to and including when he was told about, well, some things that were breaking down and building up inside his head. ‘Don’t weep for me,’ he said to his friends. ‘I’m a lucky man. I’ve had ten years longer than I or anyone expected. Pure gravy. And don’t forget it.’
So Campo Viejo- next time you try to lure me in – I shall remember my heroes and the wonderful “Gravy” of sobriety. Thanks Raymond, Christy and the guy from my drama group (and all the wonderful inspiring sober bloggers). You remind me why not drinking is the better choice.
Let’s try and cut to the chase. I’m 11 months without a drink. There is no physiological need for me to drink, any physical dependency is long gone, but I’ve had urges, oh yes. Like many others I’ve had to reflect on all of this. There were lots of reasons I had for giving up (see crap graphic that proves my art teacher was correct when he told me NOT to pursue art at school), health, hangovers, impact on others, blah, blah, blah. But, like others giving up wasn’t a one way street. I was not some down and out drunk. I drank too much on occasion, I took it to excess sometimes, but…. I enjoyed it, I loved it, the drinking in company, different wines with different foods, getting slightly tipsy, switching off for a while, losing the anxious straightjacket for a few hours, I was a drinker, an unapologetic, “you only live once, you boring bastard,” drinker.
Now when I get the urge it’s when I’m with family or friends, pubs, restaurants, BBQs, where the norm, the expectation is that everyone will drink. At those points, despite the growing AF drink selection, I am an outsider. The UK is a drink based culture and I am now the outsider, constantly reminded of that every time there’s a meet up in a pub, house, anywhere.That gap between what I’m trying to be and what the social expectation is, that is what creates the unease. That’s what is fuelling the urges, the thoughts of why not go back to something I loved.
I knew the “something I loved” was no longer good for me and I took the decision to part with it and yet the pressures, enticements and yearning remained. That’s when it hit me. This is no longer a battle with alcohol. 11 months without, I’ve won that battle. No, for me this is now about who I am and how I identify myself, that’s where the tension comes from, I am convinced of it. For 50 years I developed the identity of a drinker. I was known for it. People told stories about my drinking, my drunken exploits. IT WAS WHO I WAS. My drinking defined me and wherever I went,I went with a drink in hand. Booze and me melded into one seamless identity. We went to places we felt comfortable; pubs, restaurants. I hosted social events so i could be Jim the Drinker. I had an identity and, good or bad, it was a consistent identity and we all need one of those.
Now. After 11 months I realise that smashing that identity is at the heart of my sometimes malaise. I have ceased to be the same Jim to many people. I don’t like sitting in pubs anymore. Many of the things that helped define me have gone. I have been stripped naked and it feels raw at times.
This growing realisation about identity being the crucial element in my current position in relation to alcohol is important for me. It’s helping me understand why the separaration has been painful at times. I didn’t fully appreciate how difficult giving up my identity would be. When I had the urge to have a few pints with my son and a few others, it wasn’t the drink calling me, it was my old identity. Give me the props of my old identity; pub, drink, silly conversation and for a moment I’d be back to the old me. The safety and warmth of a distorted identity. I was missing being me.
Wait a minute I thought. Does that need reframing? Was I missing the old me or had I simply not worked at creating a new me.
This seems to be the issue for me at least. I gave up an identity, failed to see the enormity of that, and did not take the time to build a new one. In the absence of a new secure identity I understandably felt drawn to the comfort of the old one.
So now after 11 months it is finally time to say goodbye to the old identity of Jim the drinker. It served its purpose, it was good while it lasted but it had to go. No more regrets. It had to go and I’m glad its gone. My task is to now build a new identity and be secure and happy in that. No more looking back. It feels like a time of grieving has come to an end and a time for renewal has begun. Maybe a time to feel both glad and proud to be sober? Brave enough to finally ditch one identity and embrace another.
I feel like an agoraphobic who has just let the situation get out of hand. You know, the longer you leave it to take those tentative steps outside the harder it gets. That’s how its felt with blogging, you leave it for a few days, then a couple more. You realise you really should look at some of your fellow blogger’s blogs and make a few comments. Show you’re still part of the community, but you don’t and then guilt kicks in. You deal with that by more avoidance and pretty soon it feels as if you’ll never get back. I say to myself that maybe I don’t need to blog any more. I started it to help me give up the booze, well job done, its been 9 months without drinking. No need to blog anymore. Except of course if everyone did that who’d be there to support the newbies? More guilt.
Time to stop the rot, open that metaphorical door and step out into open air of blog land. I’ve missed it. I’ve missed the interaction. I’ve missed giving and receiving the support. I know why I’ve been absent. Family issues, lack of focus and motivation; all, in the end, excuses. So what to report?
I did nearly start drinking again. For real.
Not in some miserable, what’s the point kind of way more in a “it’s a sunny day, I miss the warm fuzzy feeling of enjoying a great wine whilst sitting amongst the flowers and feeling at one with the world” kind of way. This must have happened to a lot of ex drinkers I’m guessing. That remembrance of why you used to drink in the first place-it was fun, enjoyable, it made you feel good. I loved my beer and wine and for a couple of weeks I thought to myself ,”Why on earth are you denying yourself Jim?”
Fuck the blog I thought, fuck that austere, fun-less world you’ve inhabited for 9 months. Life is too short. Others manage it. Everyone else on the regular Sunday Zoom family quiz was knocking back the booze and enjoying themselves. Stop the nonsense and live a little I would say to myself. You can be sensible. I pictured myself as a sensible drinker once more enjoying all the pleasures of booze without the downsides. I’d learnt my lesson so can I now join the living and go back to sociable drinking.
I came close, very close.
I put forward some damn fine reasons for me to start again. But something stopped me. I knew this was a big decision, a fork in the road that would shape my life’s journey for months or years to come. I gave myself a week or two to consider. If I felt the same way after a couple of weeks, I’d pick a day and I’d open a cold Guinness that I kept in the garage fridge, then I’d have one of my Belgian Trappist beers also in the garage. Oh this seemed a great day in the making. After the beers, my visualisation was showing me, I’d have a glass or two of a lovely Malbec that’s sitting in my wine rack and finish off with some large gin and tonics. Oh dear. I saw it all clearly. That’s when I realised I can’t go back to drinking. I wasn’t envisaging a single beer or a glass of wine, I was imagining a full blown binge drinking session which is exactly what would have happened. I don’t drink because I’m shit at moderating and before I know it I’d be back to hangovers, excess weight, irritability etc etc.
This, it strikes me is the real challenge of staying sober. Reminding oneself of how bad things had been, how easy it would be to return to those grim days, the days obsessing about alcohol, planning things around the next drink, moving quickly from the first enjoyable drink to the 6th or 7th where you start to feel rough and wish you’d never started. Looking back helped me make the right decision for my future. I gave up drinking for good reasons and those are still pertinent. It’s not always easy staying sober but it’s definitely better than what was there before.
A few days after my Jesus in the desert moment I decided to expand my range of alcohol alternatives as a distraction and investigated the making of Kombucha. I love drinking interesting tasty drinks and felt that Kombucha could fit the bill. I’ll leave the report on that episode for the next post. Suffice it to say I’m hooked. My moment of temptation had passed.
In conclusion I’d say to anyone in the early days of giving up, yes, you’re more than likely to miss alcohol and start to think you could have a different relationship to it if you started again. Those feelings of missing the booze do go and just remind yourself of why you gave up in the first place. I know I have more freedom, peace of mind and happiness sober than I ever had whilst drinking, For that I’d happily forgo the very transient, fuzzy feel good of what was often only ever the first few beguiling sips of alcohol. I made the right choice 9 months ago and it’s still the right choice. It’s good to be back.
Ok a short post- mainly to share some observations for what they are worth
1 I love Jacinda Ardern- New Zealand’s PM. Really I do! Last year she impressed me with the way she dealt with the awful incident of the terrorist who targeted Muslims. Now she is impressing me with how she and her country is dealing with Coronavirus. Decisive, effective, compassionate, empathic and to top it all, she and her ministers take a voluntary 20% pay cut. So yeh- I love that woman and I wish my country had a leader like that.
2 Leading on from point 1. When reading about Jacinda I was struck how many of the countries dealing most effectively with the crisis in the world are led by women. Check out this article, makes fascinating reading. Certainly makes you think.
3 My last post about how now is actually a good time to stop drinking resonated with a few readers. Made me realise that I was so lucky to have given up on 1st September last year. I’ve given my body a fighting chance of being better prepared should I contract this bloody virus. But then I thought,”Was it luck or was there something in the Zeitgeist that led me to giving up drink at that point.” I’m beginning to thing there was a confluence of factors; greater awareness of the damage we are doing to the planet (good old Greta!), more people shunning the handed down assumption that to have a good time you had to do things like drink, a growing distrust of how big business encourages unhealthy habits, and a realisation that we can shape our own destinies.
4 I look around now and see many people overeating, drinking more excessively, basically a lot of people who do not seem very fit. Not all by any means but a lot. I see a divide according to class and inequality and realise that for all the talk about public health, successive governments, in the UK at least, have simply not done enough to promote good public health. School playing fields have been sold off, public spaces reduced, no real money has been put into cycling and building a network of safe cycle paths, there’s still no minimum alcohol unit pricing in England despite the evidence that it works (as in Scotland) and the suspicion reemerges that governments have a bigger interest in tax receipts from the food and drink industries than really making a difference to public health. We have neglected real efforts to help all sections of our societies healthy, and now when having a healthy body is the one defence we seem to have against the virus we realise just how important health is. We have a pandemic that people like Bill Gates warned us about 5 years ago but for which there was little to no preparation. We merrily boozed and chomped our way through more than we ever needed. Governments could have spent time and money preparing for a pandemic but that costs money and some governments think we all want a low tax, consumer society where we can consume scarce resources and eat and drink ourselves senseless above all else. Maybe they got that wrong. Maybe that’s not how many felt before the crisis and even more feel differently now.
Maybe the Zeitgeist is about to change. Let’s hope so.
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:
“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.
Well it’s the 29th February, I’ve spent the morning waiting by my phone waiting for the leap year proposal but it looks like it’s not going to happen. Scarlett Johansen! That’s it, we’re through, you had your chance so no running to me in a few days time, banging on my door and pleading to let you into my life.
As you can see, the absence of alcohol for 6 months has not curbed my tendency towards self delusion and narcissistic fantasy, but it has nevertheless been a very interesting and surprising journey. Talking of journeys I’m day one into my first holiday since giving up the booze. I’m writing this in a small cottage in the Peak District, ready for a week of bracing walks amongst the beautiful hills of this part of England. Normally such a week would be full of bottles of wine, gin and beer and my “treat” would be to have six or seven consecutive hangovers simply because I can.
What a relief and freedom to not have that to look forward to. Sure I’ll miss drinking some ales in the many local pubs (I’ve booked a cottage with three pubs within 100yards !) but I’ll be able to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to embrace this fantastic part of England, fully aware and alive.
6 months, yes I’m happy and pleased with that. Never thought I’d manage it and once I got through the first couple of months it’s been a surprisingly straight forward journey. It’s only been that way I’m sure because for me I’d had a trial run of three months last year and then prepared for giving up by drinking all through August as my way of saying goodbye to a friend who’d outstayed his welcome. That worked for me but probably wouldn’t for others.
I know giving up has been good for me and I’ll not go through those benefits as anyone reading this will know already about the health and psychological benefits. What I find myself reflecting upon is the issue of moderation. Many of the other bloggers have been here and when one has shown the will power to stop drinking an addictive substance, the thought obviously strikes you that well I’ll utilise that same will power to moderate. In other words- I stopped drinking because I couldn’t moderate. I have shown great willpower so I should be good for going back to drinking as a moderate drinker.
On one level I know it’s a false belief, an illusory promise of joining the legions of moderate drinkers who enjoy the pleasure of drinking without any of the disadvantages.
But I need to settle this in my mind once and for all. I think I have. For me moderation is not my way. My attraction to alcohol was the drinking excessively and becoming inebriated. I’m an excessive sort of person so abstinence actually suits my personality more than moderation. I was of the school of thought that said if one drink is good then 6,8,10 drinks must be 6,8,10 drinks better. Having been that kind of drinker I’m not sure I could be that guy with one pint or one glass of wine in his hand all night.
Then there is the biggest argument against me being able to moderate and that is the nature of alcohol itself. It’s a psychoactive drug. It loosens the control aspect of our brains allowing us to be more uninhibited, freeing us to say and do things we might not normally do or say. That in itself is problematic and I’m sure I’m not alone in cringing at the thought of things I’ve said and done whilst under the influence of alcohol. And that is the point. Moderation is essentially about control. It’s setting limits and saying this much and no more. The trouble with alcohol is I set those limits when sober and try and implement those previously set limits whilst under the influence of the very drug I’m trying to limit. Between the rational setting of limits and the implementation I have drunk alcohol and loosened the sensible, rational part of my brain so at implementation of moderation time, my controlled loosened brain is saying, “don’t listen to that moderation nonsense, enjoy yourself, don’t be boring, go on, have another drink”. So I have another drink and the good intentions evaporate as my rational brain disconnects completely until the next day I berate myself for not moderating.
That seems like a kind of hell to me. So sod moderation. There’s sound reasons why it’s not going to work for me. Yes I’ll miss a beer, wine, gin ocassionally, but not as much as I’d miss the life I enjoy now if I did start again. I think I’m effectively saying I’m glad I stopped, I enjoy being sober, it’s a gift in terms of quality of life being sober, and I’ll pass on that offer of a drink thanks.
Right, off for a walk! No proposals but feeling good all the same.
At doctorgettingsober’s suggestion here are some pics from my first local walk.Not sure what Rheas are doing here!
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.
In my last post our immature, childish Jim was let loose and ranted on about how Dry January spoilt his sense of being special. Well it’s time for grown up Jim to redress the balance.
So here goes, Dry January is a great idea.Simple.
It was interesting that some USA bloggers were unfamiliar with the concept. Over here in the UK we have had to put up with numerous American imports; trick or treat, line dancing, McDonalds and that great celebration of crass materialism, Black Friday. Thanks a lot.
Well in return I think the US should import Dry January. It’s a simple concept. During January, when typically very little happens, quite a few people try going a whole month without drinking alcohol. It’s a noble concept that harms no one and eases the pressure on A-and E departments, relationships and policing.
Some people say it’s tokenism and I get that. Many who start crack after a few days but a significant number stay the course. From that experience some cut back on their overall alcohol consumption whilst others extend the experience into other dry periods during the year.
For me Dry January was my first tentative step towards giving up alcohol let’s say for the foreseeable future. I first tried it about 6 years ago and although I did manage the whole month, it was tough. It really struck me that I had never gone so long without a drink since my late teens; even in January there were so many events and encounters that involved alcohol. I experienced cravings, feelings of denial, but also towards the end of the month better sleep, loss of weight and it became clear to me that alcohol or the absence of it were significant issues.
The first month of stopping drinking is always tough so the Dry January experience really does highlight how we have become physically, socially, emotionally and psychologically dependent on this drug alcohol.
Dry January helped me see this and gave me that distance from alcohol which aids reappraisal. More, less successful Dry Januarys followed and led to alcohol free days in the week and ultimately to a more alcohol free months at different points in the year. Going back to the alcohol always resulted in the pattern of excessive drinking returning within days and so finally I arrived at deciding it had to go completely. That was 5 months ago and there’s no doubt, the first month was the toughest.
Dry January gave me the perspective and courage to go long term alcohol free and I’m now in that place where I don’t feel I’m being denied or missing something, quite the opposite. I feel I have discovered a better way of being by being AF. It’s healthier, liberating and life enhancing. There are some downsides at times sure but I am in no doubt whatsoever that going from Dry January to Dry Life was one of the best decisions I have made. So shut it Jim junior, Dry January is cool or as the Spanish say, “Chula.”
For the Americans reading this take Dry January, promote it and make it your own and please, please, please take back Black Friday and bin it.