Welcome to My New Sobriety Blog

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

Oscar Wilde

I’m quite new to my relative sobriety, finding my way in a world where I’m used to being the helper not the helped. I’m thinking there might be other people out there like me, scared to come out because of their professions so if I reach you and you feel less alone then I’ve helped us both.

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A hard day to stay sober

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Yesterday I spent the day canvassing for Labour. I met lovely like minded people; I felt good about getting a flustered 81 year old Maureen to the polling station to exercise her democratic right to vote. I felt hope in humanity. By midnight I was in despair. We have the most far right government of my lifetime; a media that is their personal propaganda machine and a proven liar and cheat as prime minister. Our human rights and democracy itself is under threat. Putin’s plans to destabilise Western democracies are going rather well both sides of the Atlantic.

This morning my fear and despair are telling me I can run away from this shit show one way or another. I could emigrate – New Zealand seems attractive. Or I could retreat into my middle class bubble. I’ll be ok economically as long as I stay healthy. Or I could get pissed. Drown my sorrows; block out the uncomfortable truths.

All of these selfish solutions cement their victory though. What I’ve learnt from my experiences canvassing is that when humans get together in pursuit of a better world for all; its powerful, uplifting and nurturing for the soul. We weren’t powerful enough to win this time; people’s anger is still being played out through Brexit rather than the real issues. Some of the poorest areas voted Tory for fucks sake! If we stay connected and reach out repeatedly to those people though; listening, caring and doing what we can to help; they will know who really has their interests at heart when this government fails to deliver what it promised. The Labour centrists will want us to chase the middle ground again; but that is now so far right it would betray all our principles. We have to hold firm with belief in our social democratic plans; right policies, wrong time.

I’m going to allow myself today to wallow in my despair. Tonight I’m seeing good friends to listen to good music – that will lift our spirits. Then I’m going to make sure I stay connected with those likeminded people. I’m going to get active in my local Labour Party; join more protests; keep speaking up and speaking out all year round. Connection is the opposite of addiction. Connection will nurture the vestiges of my hope, give me the energy to continue the fight, to stand up and be counted instead of running scared.

Musings about addictions

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As I was contemplating where I’m up to in my relationship with smoking (not stopped but have cut down) and how long it will be before I decide it’s over; I got to thinking about how I got to quitting alcohol and whether that can help speed up the process this time.

I remember telling my brother Xmas 2011 that I knew I drank too much and I was going to cut down. He nodded sagely. I’d probably already started the trying to cut down; the no booze til Friday, well maybe Thursday as you’re going out anyway routine; that usually ended with a beer after a hard day tues or wed followed by wine Thursday as you may as well now and start again Monday. This went on for years. I’m sure you recognise it. The incessant bargaining with the wine witch. I didn’t know about her then though, just thought it was me myself I in the conversation.

At first I told myself I drank because I wasn’t happy in my marriage. I got divorced. I still drank. Even more. I was stressed of course, so that made it ok. I was also in a new relationship and in love. Whereas A had acted as my brakes in our relationship (or tried to) C was more of an accelerator. He would anticipate my every want and what I wanted was alcohol! Our weekends together were champagne fuelled and deliriously wonderful. I’d return home to stress at work and home; just me and my angry upset younger daughter. Wine got me through. Drinking for fun; drinking to deal with my emotions; drinking to manage stress – whatever the situation wine was most definitely the solution.

C moved up and our relationship shifted to more ordinary married life. The champagne was replaced by ordinary wine. I knew my drinking was out of control but I couldn’t talk about it. I began to realise that I had changed everything except myself. I had run out of excuses as to why I drank. I drank to drink. Simple. I wanted someone else to tell me I had a problem. In the end my daughter did and I stopped for a few months. On a Friday. No waiting for Monday. Just before Xmas. I reconnected with yoga during those months but then thought I could drink moderately again. It took almost a year of not so moderate drinking until I stopped again and here I am 8 months on; wiser and happier most of the time but still not addiction free. I have a foot in each camp – half sober, half addict. I worry this might be what leads me back to alcohol.

One of the most powerful motivators for me was not wanting to hit rock bottom – whatever that might have been for me. I’ve seen my mum living in a bedsit with a drunken partner; no money, no friends, no self respect. I seemed to be getting away with it or was I storing up a big load of trouble for later? This thought vexed me constantly. The other big motivator is my relationship with my girls and this may help with the smoking. Since my divorce I’m really conscious of being their only source of support. They don’t see much of their dad and they are both single. They have each other of course and friends but I fear not being around for them. Not enough to stop smoking so far though! Our ability to disassociate information when we want to is truly remarkable.

If I’m honest smoking is a habit and a hard one to break. I also think that staying in with C and smoking rather than going out when everyone else is drinking suits me at this point. I like our bubble; I feel safe, soothed and protected from the world. I thought not drinking would change it; it has and it’s better. Perhaps it will be better still without the smoking? When I finally get there I’ll let you know!

Time to stop smoking??

I’m not very well at the moment – chesty cough, fever and sinusitis. I managed work last week very grumpily (I tend to psychologise when I’m ill so rather than marked physical symptoms I get stressed and miserable) but had to cancel most of my weekend plans as got ill properly and took to my bed Saturday. I don’t get ill very often but when I do it usually starts me off thinking about giving up smoking. This has been on my mind quite a lot anyway. I wrote about stopping ‘soon’ 3 months ago! Since then I planned to do Stoptober but the death of a patient a few days before meant I felt too stressed; and I’ve set a few dates that have come and gone. Last night I decided I would go for a 28 day break starting today. Smoke free so no spliffs or cigs but if I’m missing it I can start again before Xmas. As I typed that I realised the complete madness of that statement. If I can go 28 days without smoking why would I want to start again? Last night the idea that I could have it back for Christmas seemed important. I don’t want the cigs back so the issue is spliff. In the past when I’ve stopped smoking tobacco completely I’ve not wanted to get stoned. When I’ve had a spliff with tobacco it’s got me back smoking cigs. Clearly the nicotine is the main addiction here but psychologically it’s the cannabis that I want to hang on to. This connundrum has kept me a smoker of something or other for many years and I want to stop. (I wrote need to stop first but then thought that needing and wanting are different things; and what I need is to own this and really want to!)

So I’ve written myself 2 lists like I did when I quit drinking (1st task of Kate Bee’s Sober School) and here they are:

Things I hate about smoking:

Coughing and shortness of breath, being unfit, smelly clothes and hair, stained teeth, anxiety about health, demotivates me and steals time that I could be blogging, doing yoga, walking dogs, riding. Internal conflict makes me grumpy, makes it hard to get up in the morning, expensive.

What I’m looking forward to:

Feeling free, writing more, less health anxiety, doing more yoga and meditation, more money, more self respect, embracing full sobriety.

4 hours later:

I was supposed to go to my book group this evening but it was cancelled as too many of us can’t make it. So I had a spliff instead – wtf is that about? How can I so easily let my good intentions be laid to waste? Feeling sorry for myself and it’s still my no 1 self soothe? Fear of embracing sobriety? Fear of being alone with my unaltered consciousness? Fear of just being when not doing? Pure nicotine craving? Old habits refusing to die? Probably all of those things and more.

When I was drinking I constantly set myself rules; starting on a Monday about when and how much I would drink that week. I inevitably broke them which meant I would wait until the next Monday to try again. Quite a few years passed before I finally admitted this approach was not getting me anywhere and the constant internal dialogue about it was driving me mad. So I’m not going to fall into the same trap again. It’s easier to say now than it’s going to be to do but I’m going to commit to stopping again tomorrow, and then the next day, one day at a time.

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A letter to my Ex

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Dear A,

You are often in my thoughts but particularly this week as it would have been our 20th wedding anniversary. It’s got me reflecting a lot on what was and perhaps what might have been. We’d already been together 11 years and had our girls when we married. It was as much a celebration of what we had as well as an expression of hope for the future. We did have more happy times ahead but somewhere we lost our way and grew apart. I’ve thought about us a lot since then, changing my view of things as I’ve come to terms with it all. This letter is to say sorry for the wrongs I did you. I don’t think you’d want me to send it to you somehow so you’ll probably never read it but I do need to say it so here it is.

You were loyal and dependable right from the start. I couldn’t quite believe my luck. I didn’t think much of myself back then so it blew me away that you wanted to be with me and treated me so well. I know I struggled to be as loyal and dependable back – especially when you were in Germany. Looking back I think it was my way of protecting myself from the pain of separation – a childhood scar that runs deep. You came back and we settled down, bought a house together. I carried a lot of guilt though. It was a crack running through the foundation of our relationship. We built over it and round it but we never really repaired it.

I think we were happiest when the girls were little. I loved being a family, loved seeing you play with them. You were so much calmer than me, more patient. Together we were a good team, yin and yang. Giving my children a stable childhood was a priority for me after the instability of my own. You were the rock that we organised around and it worked.

So what changed? I don’t think you did. You’re quite a straight forward person. I was always the emotional, moody one – searching for more; more fun, more meaning, more anything really! Easily frustrated, easily bored, often distracted. I think you felt neglected by me a lot of the time. I’m not really the good wife type much as I wanted to be. I prioritised the girls, my work, my friends, the horses over you at different times in our relationship. If you did complain I’d quickly shout you down. I’m more verbal and more domineering. I organised everything and I ruled the roost. I’ve become more aware of how controlling I can be in recent years and I’m truly sorry for that. I think it comes from a place of not liking myself very much. I needed everything to look perfect, to be perfect or risk it all crashing down. I’d justify myself by complaining about your passivity. That’s part of the story but this is about apologising for my faults not naming yours. I’m sorry I couldn’t be more accepting and appreciate the good instead of trying to make it better all the time and making you feel not good enough in the process. I’m learning to be in the moment and see the beauty of now but back then I was always chasing something more and in the process lost what I had.

Recently I’ve been wondering what part alcohol played in our eventual demise. You often said I was at my best when I was re-toxing! I don’t think my relationship with alcohol was ever healthy. The irritability and restlessness I now recognise as part of addiction were part of our daily lives and I attributed them to something else that needed sorting or changing. I’ve finally got around to changing myself instead of everything around me. We had a lot of fun times but I never really knew when to stop. In many ways you were my brakes and kept me from the worst of myself for many years. My drinking really escalated after we split up. I did care what you thought even if it didn’t always look that way. Thank you for your tolerance.

When we moved back to the UK I had an uneasy feeling that this was similar to my own childhood – moving back followed by separation. A sense of history repeating itself whether we wanted it to or not. You said you thought we would never split up whereas I’d always feared we would. We were ok for a while but you hated your job and got miserable. I think the rot really started when Button died. We both loved that dog like our first child. I wanted another and you didn’t. I later understood this was about grief but at the time I thought you were being unreasonable and selfish. Eventually you cracked and we got another dog. I don’t think you got over thinking how selfish and unreasonable I had been about it. If only we’d been able to talk about it. Soon after I got back into riding and bought horses. You didn’t approve at all and couldn’t help showing it. No big arguments just smouldering resentment. For me this was exciting and life affirming but to you it was a load of money on something that took me away from you – you couldn’t relate at all. You couldn’t share in my pleasure and the resentment on both sides became a wall between us. You’ve always been cautious with money whereas I’m impulsive. I earned more but had taken on your fiscal anxieties until the horses. Looking back I moved the goalposts without discussion and did what I wanted with little regard for you. You put up with it but didn’t like it. We started to live increasingly separate lives.

I didn’t talk to anyone about how we were. The idea of separating out our lives was too much to contemplate. Eventually I did talk to a friend and then to you. I said I was unhappy and wanted to see if we could change things; if we couldn’t then I wanted to split up. 3 weeks later I met C. I was surprised how shocked and upset you were. It seemed to come out of the blue to you whereas it had been in my mind a long time. I hated seeing you hurt so much. It was the hardest thing I have ever done – causing you and the girls so much pain. If I hadn’t have met C then I think I’d have bottled it like I did when we nearly split early on. I don’t think that would have been good for any of us though. It was too late by then. I was relieved when you met someone quickly and got yourself back together. We divorced easily without too many arguments, managing to live in the same house for another 12 months. I’m proud that we did that. I wasn’t prepared for the difficulties that came after between you and J. You were such a devoted dad I never expected that to change. I know the way I was in those early months didn’t help – I still thought I could tell you what to do and it took me a while to realise I was making things worse. You wanted distance and I had to learn that I could no longer set the terms of our relationship. I missed you as a co-parent and a friend – I still do. I think J reminds you of me and that was too much for you to bear at the time. Now it seems like neither of you know how to fix it. I hope that one day you figure it out for both of your sakes.

When you break up with someone it’s easier to hate them, ruminate on their faults and tell yourself you never really loved them anyway. How else do you walk away? I am now in a place where I can say I loved you very much and I’m grateful for the love you gave me. We were together for 24 years; raised 2 beautiful intelligent daughters and had lots of good times. I am thankful for all of it and my only regrets are the pain I’ve caused to those I love including you. Sometimes things aren’t meant to be forever but it doesn’t mean they were not meant to be. I do hope you are happy.

With love always L xxxx

6 months alcohol free

Yesterday was my 6 month milestone so a good time to take stock and reflect. Giving up alcohol has changed everything though outwardly I’m still the same person living the same life. Its very much a work in progress but this is where I’m at now.

My mindset about alcohol has changed completely which has really surprised me. It happened quite quickly this time though last time I stopped it didn’t which is probably why I started again. When I did the ‘Getting Unstuck’ course the things that really clicked for me was ‘addictive voice recognition’, playing the film forward and reading Ann Dowsett Johnson’s wonderful book ‘Drink. The deadly relationship between women and alcohol’. I read a lot of other books too but this is the one that really hit home. She describes the marketing of alcohol to women from the 1980s onwards so gives the political and social context to the rising levels of addiction. She also shares her own experiences. The take home message for me was how much we have been manipulated into seeing alcohol as ‘our friend’; the must have accessory to cope with our lives. I see that everywhere now. Collectively this is our consciousness. At work the other week when we were all reeling from the tragic death of a young person almost everyone made some comment to me about wine chilling at home. I would have done the same 6 months ago. I’d have been desperate to get home and block it all out. It’s normalised and acceptable and it keeps us all compliant non complaining consumers. I was the alcohol advertisers dream in that respect. I drank a lot and I partied hard but outwardly I was successful, healthy and happy. That wasn’t the real story of course but hey it’s all about appearances isn’t it?

I have to say the past 2 weeks have been the most testing time so far though. Not because I believe alcohol is the fixer I once thought it was, but because I can’t bear to be sad. I didn’t want a drink to take the edge off, I wanted to get smashed. Playing the film forward and recognising the addictive voice got me through this as well as posting on here and your lovely comments. I’d not realised before how unbearable sadness is to me as I’ve never allowed it for very long. At work it’s the really sad young people that pull my heart strings the most and have me reaching for my prescription pad the quickest. If my girls were sad growing up I’d take it as a personal failing on my part. I rarely talk to my friends when I’m feeling low. I hide away and feel ashamed. Writing this now is bringing tears to my eyes and a wave of sadness. I haven’t figured out what this is about or why I find it so unbearable yet – just that it has been my life’s mission to get rid of it wherever I find it.

I’ve also realised that anger can be a mask for sadness too. It’s easier to be mad than sad. It has energy and you can direct it away from yourself. Without alcohol though you really feel the guilt and the shame of dumping your own crap on your loved ones. It takes you back there quickly so you may as well allow the sadness in the first place.

So for me the biggest challenge of not drinking is managing my emotions when I have to suppress or contain them all day in order to help other people manage theirs! I started regular yoga when I first stopped drinking nearly 2 years ago and without it I doubt I’d have been able to stop completely. It’s changed how I breathe and I can now use my breathing to calm myself down. Childhood trauma sets our nervous systems to permanent high alert and rapid response but we can learn to calm it down. Meditation calms our thinking mind and gives us more control over it. These are my main tools alongside time with nature and when I don’t use them I struggle more or smoke more cannabis to get the same effect.

I had a lovely evening out with friends last night – I’m in London for the week on a course and enjoying some alone time. I didn’t even think about having a drink or feel even slightly uncomfortable. I’m used to not drinking socially now. I’m still not used to drunk people when I’m sober. This is childhood stuff too – I’m primed to notice the moment when merry becomes pissed as that’s when things could get dangerous. I’m managing it by avoidance mainly and that’s actually ok but I am going to miss out on things if I don’t get my head round it. It also means my friendships are shifting as I don’t want to hang out with the big drinkers so much these days. Ive got complicated feelings about these relationships and I really don’t know how it’s going to pan out.

So what next? I want to stop smoking both cigarettes and cannabis. (I’m having a break from the latter whilst away and actually it’s fine.) Allowing my emotions, accepting how life is, just being present and in the moment as much as I can – that’s what I’m hoping sobriety will help deliver.

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The wine witch is trying to stage a comeback

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I took my last post down as I got paranoid about someone somehow figuring out who I am and where I work as we are not allowed to discuss the details with anyone not directly connected with what happened. I knew that it was really unlikely – I guess it was more if work knew I’d put something out in the public domain and I got in trouble – anyway I worried about it intermittently all day – like a paranoid intrusive thought in between the grief so I took it down when I got home. I wanted to say thank you though for your comments from those that did see it – they really did help. You are a lovely bunch of people 💞

It’s been an intense and difficult few days as you’d imagine. I can be really strong then the tears come again. I don’t really want to eat much but I am sleeping. I am smoking a lot. I’ve wanted to get drunk the most I have since we said goodbye to C’s best friend dying of cancer in May. I haven’t but I’m away on a course next week and the sneaky thought ‘I could drink and no one would know’ has been floating around in all of this. Prior to this I was looking forward to being by myself on this trip. I’m in London and I’ve got myself an apartment rather than a hotel room as it’s a whole week. I’d been thinking about doing yoga, reading and writing without dogs to walk, horse to see to, husband to care for, mum to visit, daughters to check in with and work etc etc. I love all those things and all those people and they really don’t make demands of me but life is a constant juggle of things and it can feel like I’m always having to rush or think about the next task. I’d have course work to do but the luxury of only one thing to focus on, a few days of being a single person – I was really excited. C is coming for the weekend too. Now I’m anxious – too much freedom and no one to be accountable to except myself and I don’t trust me right now.

I’ve got a week until I go so hopefully this feeling will subside. I know it’s the wine witch – still there in my subconscious waiting for her moment. Telling me I can get away with it. Maybe it’s the smoke devil too as I am thinking that now is not the right time to stop smoking as if I do I think I’m more likely to drink next week. They’re working together the bastards. Anyway I’ve told C and I’ve told you. I’m not really a sneaky lying sort of person – I never even hid my smoking from my dad as a teenager very much – I was always more ‘fuck off if you don’t like what I’m doing’ – on the outside anyway. The remnants of the good catholic girl on the inside was ashamed of my attitude. It’s scary that I’m thinking of being so deceptive.

So I’m telling myself that if I say it’s ok to get pissed this time, then I’ve opened the door to all the other times that I’ll decide it’s ok ‘just this once’. I might manage to keep it to the heartbreak at first. Then what about all the happy occasions – weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, holidays? Then it’ll be ‘hey it’s the weekend’ and before I can say ‘Sauvignon blanc please’ it will be pretty much every day again. I don’t want that. I don’t want to waste so much of my headspace debating with the wine witch, losing and hating myself for it. That is a big gain for me – freeing up my mind from the incessant debate. I’ll check in here and wherever else I need to and I will not drink!

More musings about time

It’s ironic that since I wrote the last post about time and taking things slowly I’ve been really busy and felt like I’ve had no time at all! No time to do yoga, no time to meditate and no time to blog! I’ve missed all of them but blogging especially. Managed to keep up with reading some other blogs though. Like a lot of you have also said you are really like friends and I get a lot from hearing how things are; and what’s going on for you all as well as from your lovely comments back to me. For the first time ever as a technology Luddite I get how people can ‘live’ on line and shun the real world. It’s probably my most important sober tool.

So what’s been keeping me away from you? Work mainly. I dropped to 3 days at work 6 months ago and started working for myself a bit too. I’d said yes to too many court reports and they all came at once, coupled with lots of deadlines in my day job. It’s interesting work but time consuming and I never allow enough time so always end up getting stressed. I did notice though this Sunday evening when the laptop failed to save what I’d just done I didn’t have a meltdown! Drinking me would have been distraught – having to delay that Sauvignon blanc another half hour would have been the final straw!

I’ve also been socialising a bit more in a low key way but I think that’s how I roll these days. One on one or small groups. I saw a wonderful play – The Red Dust Road, adaptation of the poet Jackie Kay’s memoir – by chance as my friends husband couldn’t go, then I got tickets for me and my pal to hear her interviewed a few days after about the play, her life, and she read some of her poetry. I loved the book and the play and I came away from the reading a bit in love with her and her words. I was really buzzing – and sober! That was great! Words, writing, reading, people’s stories. I’m rediscovering my passion for them. For me psychiatry and therapy has always been about people’s stories; not about what’s wrong with someone but rather how can we help them make sense of what has happened to them and understand how they have adapted to survive that? The difference with writers and poets is they can say it in a way that we all feel it, we all know what they mean and it’s just beautiful.

Today was the first day I’ve not had much to do. The time went too quickly and I got down on myself for not making the most of it. I did do some yoga and meditate though; walked the dogs twice and here I am writing so I’ll take that as a good day and time well spent. I’ve lots of ideas in my head that I need to find time to write, and lots I want to read, but that sense of not having enough time is creeping in again. I’m planning to stop smoking on 1st October and I’m hoping that will create some space. It’s not so long ago that I couldn’t imagine filling the time that drinking took so this is progress. I’m going to ease off on the work though for a bit and hopefully do more blogging!

Time to heal

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I’m writing this at the end of the weekend and it’s been a nice weekend with no dips in mood or sense of missing out. Hooray! It’s just C and me at home this week. My daughters have been here on and off the last few months which has been lovely but maybe having some space and more time to myself has helped?

I’ve been thinking about time quite a lot lately. What we do with it; how we perceive it and how that’s changed for me since I stopped drinking nearly 150 days ago. That’s a long time in some ways and a drop in the ocean of my whole lifetime too.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that I’ve slowed things down a lot. I’m more inclined to take my time. I’m not in so much of a rush to finish whatever it is I’m doing and move on to the next thing. If I’ve got something to finish off at work I stay and do it. Take my time walking the dogs at the weekend. In some ways I was living life as a series of tasks to be completed – in order to what? I’m beginning to realise that the what was to drink, or rather get drunk and ‘relax’. Other parts of the day rushed through to get to the drinking part. Never fully present as part of my mind was occupied by the alcohol gremlin’s whinging. Not consciously but that inner restlessness and inability to fully relax into what I’m doing has more or less gone now.

I really noticed this on holiday with my girls a couple of months ago. We took our time doing things, savouring the moments, and I realised that on previous trips I’d always got half a mind on when we would have a drink. It was the best holiday we’ve ever had together. I was relaxed and fully present like a non addicted person! One of the biggest motivators for not drinking is how my relationship with both of them has improved since I stopped drinking. They’ve been so supportive I really don’t want to let them down.

Another reason time changes when you stop is that not drinking means learning new habits and rituals and keeping to them; whilst processing old and new emotions; re-evaluating your past, your present, your future (I might not die of liver failure now so what’s the plan for when I’m old kind of thing). All this mental work takes time; needs time – lots of it.

The time freed up from not drinking of course can seem like too much time at first . It can be hard to fill with new activities and new routines – the first part of the task.

For the whole re-evaluation part I think we need time to just be, to think, to process. Making time to write this blog is a big part of that for me.

I’ve also noticed that taking my time with life generally has created a space to properly notice things; what makes me feel happy, makes me laugh but also what irritates or angers me and how I react.

I’m slowly learning that I can pause, take a little time for some rational thought and then choose how I want to react. When I’m busier and more time pressured I don’t do this so well. I didn’t do it very well when oscillating between hungover and drunk either. I’m noticing what I’m telling myself and what emotions that leads to and I can check it and question it. I’m less inclined to get caught up in someone else’s downward spiral thinking as well. I’m in control of my mind more of the time but I have to take it slow. I’m still learning.

I saw this posted by a friend last night after I’d been writing. ‘That’s it!’ I thought. I’m taking time to heal.

The Black Dog

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Since last weekend I’ve had the week off work, spent time with my girls and my mum for her birthday and generally been quite lazy. All ok until the weekend when my mood took a nosedive after going to a friends barbecue Saturday night. I think it had started it’s descent Friday actually when I didn’t go to a party. Went to the cinema with C instead to see Once upon a Time in Hollywood but was disappointed. Didn’t grab me and transport me anywhere – I could appreciate the style and the acting etc but I was a bit bored. The feeling of missing out crept in. Saturday had a good day doing stuff with my youngest daughter. Headed over to friends with our Becks Blue about 7. I’d not done any mental preparation for dealing with it; probably because after last weekend I thought I didn’t need to. Big mistake.

I was still wearing shorts and no make up and my friend hosting had a dress on and looked gorgeous. Immediately felt under-dressed. Mistake number 2. Others arrived and it was all ok. Friend’s new man kept offering us rum punch but that didn’t bother me. Food was a long time coming as it often is at a BBQ so everyone had a few drinks. Had some good conversations but also felt really bored by others. I noticed how much people talk about drinking and alcohol – not for the first time. Long conversations about preferring less acidic wine now – ‘it all rots your stomach’ I wanted to interject but that wouldn’t have gone down well. A comment about how everyone needs to get pissed once in a while, from someone who doesn’t actually drink much – the queen of moderation. ‘It is possible to enjoy things sober’ I said but no one really heard me.

As the evening went on I was clock watching and thinking about leaving. I couldn’t help noticing how self centred and boring some of my dearest friends can actually be. The food was great and a welcome distraction. Others went to powder their noses and we left about 10.30. No one tried to persuade us to stay thank god.

Sunday morning woke up feeling really down for the first time in ages. Saw my sister who’s visiting my mum and as always talked quite a lot about family which made me feel worse. Moped about most of the day. I managed to not have a fight with C though I was making negative comments about being trapped in a place I don’t want to be, wanting to move to the countryside, feeling oppressed by the city etc. We’ve had these conversations before. C thinks it’s about looking for a geographical cure but I think it’s where the real me would be most at ease. I’m a country girl at heart. It took a lot of drugs and alcohol to make me an urban animal.

There are lots of reasons why moving isn’t an option now so no point dwelling on that. I tried to figure out what was behind my boredom last night and low mood today. Feeling left out? In part yes but I didn’t want to join in. Projecting my sense of being boring onto my friends?

(This post was interrupted by an iPad malfunction that deleted a paragraph, triggering a hissy fit from me and C finally losing his patience and pointing out that I’m magnifying negatives in my mind and that takes me to absolute statements like ‘everything is shit’ that have no basis in reality.) I got up, had coffee and cigarettes, took the dogs for a walk by myself and did some thinking.

So back to what is going on here. Maybe my friends are boring sometimes; getting wasted is boring in my mind now but if others choose to why does that bother me so much? Identification with my old self? For sure but to really be free of it I need to accept the past – I can’t change it. My negative feelings towards my friends show I’ve not come to terms with who I was. I’ve wasted a lot of my life getting wasted but there’s no point regretting it. I think I’m also berating myself for still smoking cannabis. I know that I’m still wasting time and energy I could put to better use. I’m doing a half arsed job of being sober; stuck in limbo between the denial of intoxication and full sobriety. I can’t get the denial back and maybe that’s what I envy the most?

I took a different path from usual on the walk with the dogs. I realised I’ve not been cultivating the new mental paths; gotten lazy because I don’t want to drink now. That’s the beginning of the journey, not the final destination. I’ve abandoned my toolbox, not been doing much yoga, meditation or practising gratitude. These new paths will quickly become hard to find if I don’t make a point of using them and situations that remind me of the old paths will become difficult to manage leading to negativity and unhappiness. I’m lucky that I’m good at a lot of things and I don’t tend to stick with things I’m not good at. I’m not very good at being sober yet. I need to work at this; it’s not going to just happen without effort. The difficult stuff is where the learning will be. I have to tread those new paths over and over before they’ll become my default settings. If I keep seeing the source of my dissatisfaction outside of myself and the solutions in changing them I’ll keep coming back to the black dog of depression wherever I happen to live. As I walked this morning Shanti came to mind – chanted 3 times to bring us peace from the 3 sources of suffering we experience in life. Suffering from the world beyond our control, suffering caused by others and the suffering we bring on ourselves. My black dog is fed by my mind and only by working on my mind will I ever be free of it.

The girls weekend

I’ve just got back from our annual girls weekend away. This was our 30th trip – 5 of the 11 of us have been every time -we’ve gained and lost some friends over the years. We eat, laugh, dance, sing, walk, play games and usually drink – a lot. Last year I couldn’t have imagined doing this weekend without alcohol. This year I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it.

I had two different thought processes going on beforehand in preparation for the weekend. I knew it wouldn’t work if I didn’t do some planning. The first was really thinking about the past weekends and the role of alcohol in them. The last few years I’ve been so drunk I’ve passed out relatively early; or not wanted to go on a walk the next day. My weekend was centred around drinking but for others that’s just a part of it. I used to manage the alcohol and all the other fun too – I’ve never been one for staying in bed even after the heaviest nights; but alcohol had been quietly stealing more and more from me in recent years. I thought about my friends. In my mind everyone gets pissed all weekend long. I reminded myself that not everyone drinks like I used to. I anticipated more conversations with my more sober friends and joining in more other stuff. I concluded that I had enjoyed the recent holidays less because I drank too much, and I would enjoy the majority of the holiday more this year without alcohol.

However my parallel thought process involved imagining myself feeling isolated and bored whilst everyone else was enjoying themselves; going to bed and getting woken up and getting angry. Getting irritated by someone’s comments and leaving abruptly or worse still arguing with them and leaving after a big fall out. Fears that my sobriety would somehow break the weekend and with it the bonds of friendship that have formed over 30 years. At no point did I imagine having a drink though.

Friday afternoon we all started to arrive. A drink and some food at the pub before the house. All ok. The on line shopping arrived and I started to have a bit of a wobble as I couldn’t find the Seedlip I’d asked for amongst all the wine and there was no San Pelligrino mineral water. (Can you imagine the hardship!) Stroppy words were coming out of my mouth – the enactment of ‘Mrs sorry for herself, I’m not going to have fun, it’s not fair”. I went upstairs and took a few minutes. Had a word with myself and asked what I really wanted? To spoil everyone else’s fun because of my resentment or to give it a go? Just as I decided on the latter I heard someone shout upstairs ‘found the Seedlip’.

I came down and joined in. Singing and dancing round the kitchen table as we all helped cook. For various reasons it wasn’t as mental a Friday night as it can be and I really had fun. I was pretty stoned but I didn’t drink and I was buzzing from the revelation that I could have this kind of fun without alcohol.

Saturday morning hangover free – that feeling never gets old does it? Most of us went on a walk and the day passed pleasantly. So far so good. Sat night caught me by surprise and off guard after Friday though. There was quite a lot of drinking before dinner and everyone got in the zone except me. Dancing, really into the music, loads of energy and laughing hysterically at pretty much anything. It was amusing for a while but that wore off. I danced a bit but I was tired, my hip was sore and I was probably too stoned. Conversations were brief, repetitive and dull. One friend wanted to talk about her drinking and wanting to stop herself; a conversation I’d happily have with her but not when she’s drunk ideally. I wanted to go to bed but didn’t want anyone to drunkenly try to make me stay up as I knew that would flip me into angry mode. Eventually I did and left them to it.

Sunday I was up hours before anyone else. I did some yoga and drank tea. I wanted to leave. I felt weird; separate and other. A lot of the talk all day was inevitably about the evening before and I wasn’t part of it. I didn’t go on the walk as it looked like rain. I was worrying about the pub lunch; would they all get drunk and repeat last night? I said I might go home later and kept my options open.

I ended up staying. Only a couple of people got drunk Sunday night. Everyone else toned it down a lot. They probably have every year but I’ve never noticed before! We played cards, sang along to old songs and had a lovely time.

So what have I learnt? Most importantly I have amazing friends and I genuinely enjoy their company. I was right that the rest of the weekend was better without alcohol and without a hangover. I was also right that really drunk people are not much fun even if you love them a lot unless you’re drunk too. Maybe this will change? Part of how I felt was grief for party animal me. I won’t be that person again and actually she did have lots of really good times. Paid a price but good times none the less. It’s not honest to say alcohol is never fun. I was missing out on Saturday and I did mind. Would it have been worth drinking to join in? No. I also don’t think being stoned really helped at all. It’s not a sociable drug really and I think I may have been better completely sober.

The best lesson learnt is that if I can do that weekend without alcohol I can do pretty much anything I want to! The key is ‘want to’. I actually think my partying days are probably over. I don’t want to be around people when their main purpose is to get shitfaced unless it’s something like this weekend when it’s a small part of a great time with people I really love.