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Love yourself Sober. Love your life Sober.

The idea for my blog has come about as result of my journey through sobriety so far.

It’s about what I absolutely love about living life sober, it’s about making that choice that goes against the grain: the joys, the challenges and the stuff of life. It’s about it being the best kept secret too.

I had no idea when I binned the booze and started this  journey of the unexpected gems that come up when you live your life sober. When you live your life sober, you really live.  It’s not always easy and those early days are tough, right? But it is SO WORTH IT.  The energy, peace of mind, confidence, resilience and sheer bad-ass-ness that comes from living sober should be bottled, frankly.

This site is in progress and I am gradually uploading old blogs from my early sobriety, white knuckling through the first few weeks without the old Pinot and more recent ones as I write them.

There will be practical guides with tips on how to socialise, survive the summer holidays, Christmas, navigate ‘wine speak’ at the  school gates, get through your first holiday sober and sometimes just get through the day.

I will also be covering topics which are close to my heart for the sober toolkit : wellness and self care strategies, parenting sober, mindfulness, connecting with others, the importance of awe, self-compassion and sober treats and rewards. I also love neuroscience , so there’s plenty of that too.

Please enjoy looking around my site. I hope you  will love sober too.

Kate x

The Narrative of Sobriety

 

I had the great privilege of seeing a great poet/singer Kate Tempest open Brighton Arts Festival last night and it got me thinking ….
She was saying how important the arts are because to her everything is about narrative. The stories we tell ourselves and each other, stories in the news, stories of our lives and by watching and engaging with stories told through the arts we engage with our own with more awareness.

I thought this was very interesting and as with everything I hear or read that interests me I put it through the sobriety filter. It occurred to me that one of the reasons soberistas is so incredibly powerful is that it has allowed us to share our narratives , become part of a collective narrative and then reflect on our own again. This connection causes transformation.

I have written before about sharing our stories when my rabbit died last year and I became very reflective after watching Bright Eyes from Watership Down on youtube and burying him in the woods with my then 8 year old son so that he could be reunited with the Great Rabbit Spirit.. Old Mr Pi had some story going on that day! And actually and I feel this coming full circle again. In sharing our stories the conversation has grown and enabled me to piece mine together.

Before I found www.soberistas.com my narrative around drinking was that I had a problem but sobriety looked like meetings in church halls , calling yourself an alcoholic and never being able to have any fun ever again. So it was a miserable frightening narrative. What I found by reading peoples’  stories was that actually our narratives and lives are not like this. We know how it is to really struggle with something that the wider society tells a story about being normal and perfectly acceptable. Something we feel we need and cant imagine life without. But in the inevitable shadows I found humour, sunshine, survival , wellness, growth which outshone it all and helped me to write a new story for myself.

My story now is about a rich palette, I’m a self-care evangelist still with the training wheels on, I am engaged and show up and I find a resilience and balance and humour in me that I wasn’t aware I had. I am learning my own mind, how it ticks , to engage more skill fully with the chitter chatter and I am learning to meet my feelings head on. It’s bloody glorious.

Being controlled by alcohol does’t need to be the narrative. New stories are born every day, just by making different decisions and taking different actions. I read one ista struggled so much last night she got into the pyjama armour, another came back from her first AF holiday, someone told their other half their worries and found support. These stories of us living sober are incredibly powerful. I literally do not know where I would be without you all. So choose the words you want , the labels you want or don’t want too. I can take wisdom from others’ journeys and narratives but they are not my own, some thing fit, some things don’t.

Somethings in this narrative seem to be universal – the need for support, the addictive voice , the playing it forward , the all things shall pass, the books , the need for sugar! But I love to hear peoples’ stories – they are so powerful , the slip ups ( I don’t like hearing about the slip ups but they are very helpful and generous- you know what I mean – I appreciate people sharing them as I hope me talking about mine have helped ) the get back ups, don’t ever feel like you are wrong or a failure and I will try not to either.

So please keep sharing your stories over the sober blogosphere and I promise to keep sharing mine to add to this incredibly rich narrative. I wanted to post this picture too.. of something I couldn’t have imagined before I stopped drinking having fun with my OH without a glass of wine in hand , of going out and having a truly cracking night – of watching some art, of ordering tea in pubs at 10.30pm , of taking pictures of graffiti just for the hell of it – this is a reminder that lager and wine or whatever your poison is in it’s rightful place – in the bin! Let’s have the real stuff of life. Not that bullshit poisonx

Love HK X

Back to School, back to me.

Made it through the summer hols! I was feeling a bit liminal myself with work this week. It’s the time of year where I find out if our members have signed up for another year and therefore whether I have a job or not .. The responses are trickling through and the prognosis seems good so far.

With the kids back I have been putting myself back together with yoga and early nights and a bit of decluttering. By Thursday the anxiety was only coming in waves occasionally and now I really do feel much better . I realise now that when adrenaline overdrive happens with me, as a result of overwhelm and drop in self care the feeling is a big trigger – its very physical and over-thinky all at the same time.

I was thinking about time today and special moments and gratitude. I was reading a ‘Momastery’ post ( a mum blog) a friend shared with me – It was about how whenever you are moaning about parenthood, people tell you to ‘enjoy them while they’re young’ and you have that guilt of not enjoying it enough. Had that guilt all through the summer. I totally identified with this.

She was also talking about time and our experience of it… Bear with me! There’s “chronos time’ which is normal time , is the slow clock ticking of day to day parenting , when you are counting the minutes till bedtime and the drudgery of it all and then ‘kairos’ time’I think it was – time of god.. where you are suddenly slow- mo’d and you see your kids, you sense the preciousness of the moment. God – moments.

I have written about this before actually about these feeling like you are shifting gears and witnessing memories as they are being made. They have a different feel to them, a space and a light quality to them for me, and like she said this heightened sense. And you get a funny mix of chromo and kairos moments being a parent… like REALLY mundane and then really special – I was just thinking how many more ‘Kairos moments’ I get sober. I talked about the sober bubble before, those little moments of feeling enough, expansive , light , without burden, connected and alone all at the same time. I didn’t have a sober bubble before I got sober. And that’s the truth of it.

I had, as my anxiety subsided, a fair few Kairos moments this week. I had one at dusk, harvesting lavender from a huge bush in my front garden with my daughter ,chatting to my neighbour. I had it going for a run with my son having a run round the block and stopping to look at the moon. I had it kicking through some leaves as I walked back through the woods with the dog on the first school run of the new term. I had it today in a beautiful country park watching my kids swim. My daughter ran out and lay on me wrapped in a towel, then my husband and the dog was snuggled into my back. I looked down at them and thought ‘My loves.’

Perhaps Kairos is what we get when we feel gratitude. I could not experience Kairos when I had had a drink because alcohol numbs you. And I couldn’t have those moments after drinking because I would be hungover and miserable. But these moments seem to be all around. I am moved to tears by the sky, by a song. I get goosebumps talking to people, I get anxious for sure, I get down , I get tired too. But I sense the preciousness of things and I can access this treasure chest somehow. I’m grateful for that. That is sobriety.

I didn’t get that many Kairos moments over the summer holidays lol.. Maybe that’s part of it too. That you have to have a bit of time for yourself and enough peace and quiet to be able to appreciate, have the self care, be well enough. I am grateful to have got through the summer hols as I was really starting to unravel by the end. I am so relieved to be back in the routine, and although work is stressful, I have jury service looming, money is tight , somehow it doesn’t seem to burst this sober bubble right now.

Sober love
KX

Booze n Yoga – a different kind of Vin-Yasa?

‘Scuse the yoga pun….I have to share this in the only place which will understand my gobsmackedness at this concept.

I met up with friends on Tuesday this week. We went to do The Crystal Maze together for a birthday – which was great but is off the subject!  After we had done it we went to the pub whereupon two bottles of fizzy piss were ordered and I had an AF lager. Fine. Not a problem.

Friend starts talking about her business  ‘Disco Yoga’ . Now I love to dance and I love to do yoga and I love a bit of glitter so my ears prick up at this point. The idea is that you get all jazzled- up with colours and bindis etc and do yoga to music – I’m kind of down with that – although I use the mat to tune out the noise and beats of life and get into it in a mindfulness way but hey , still an open mind.

THEN she says you hang out and have cocktails afterwards and the idea is that it’s social, you feel virtuous but it’s like a social thing at the same time and a bit of fun. Screeeech. Put the brakes on. Rewind… I was like …Is nowhere bloody sacred these days???? How is the connected, peaceful, mindful, tuning in of yoga attuned with taking a poisonous addictive carcinogenic drug, which causes numbness and a disconnect.? I couldn’t say that obviously because that would make me RUDE and a kill-joy ( in that company) . When I came home and told me OH about it he said I was being ‘judgemental’ and ‘Pouring piss on her business idea ‘ and I said ‘I am allowed to be judgemental’ ( Great comeback – hot- see what I did ?) And actually if you think about it she is pouring piss on her business idea. I wish I ‘d thought of that then….

It got me thinking about how irritated I am that alcohol not only gets marketed as ‘ You cannot access fun/joy without me’ and ‘You cannot connect with others without me.’ But it also gets marketed at women in particular as self-care ( Oh go on, you deserve it, a little bit of what you fancy, don’t be so hard on yourself, mummy time, girls time, ooh a lovely glass of … just to soothe those nerves ‘ etc etc.

Faux self- care , which numbs, disconnects, poisons us, destroys our brain cells , causes cancer , puts us at risk, addictive and a drug. It makes me livid. I bought that for many many years and now I am learning about self care and self compassion ( where you are mindful, want the best for yourself and do not choose quick fixes that lead to longer term unhappiness) Source Dr Kristin Neff , I cannot believe what a free pass alcohol gets. They will literally start it marketing at babies next .. I’m convinced of it! G &T Rusks anyone? FFS.

Lovesober blog and website coming soon.

Queen of Hearts

I have been pondering Valentine’s Day and was planning to write about relationships and friendships and how to reframe Valentine’s Day a different way that widens the net greater than romantic love but I keep coming back to this. Self- love.

They say the most important and fundamental relationship you will ever have is with yourself. That one relationship affects all the others. And that love of self is often elusive. The way we regard ourselves, speak to ourselves, hold ourselves in esteem is often not equal to how we treat or view others. We are mean and critical , we do not acknowledge our efforts or achievements, set ourselves impossibly high standards , set ourselves endless to-do lists and are generally our own worst ‘frenemy. ‘

Self- love was to me, for many years, a sort of floaty concept that I didn’t really understand. I thought it involved the odd manicure or facial. I also knew it meant ‘not beating yourself up’ about stuff but that was about it really.

It was only when I stopped drinking and then after a few months sober, that I really began to delve into this topic at all. At first I was just concentrating on not drinking , reading lots of quit lit and getting those days notched up as my brain developed new neural pathways, eating lots of chocolate and just sticking with it. To be honest , from what I can gather that’s all many of us can do and that is fine. Enough. One step at a time.

About a year ago I discovered sexysobriety.au.com, an online coaching program which was all about self- care as an approach to sobriety. As I worked my way through the program: journalling, reading, watching inspiring interviews and ted talks , something started to happen. As I concentrated, not on the steely mission of giving up drinking, but rather filling my life with good stuff , my perspective started to shift and a connection was made. It started simply with a little ‘sober treat’  every day like a candle, a new journal , heart shaped post-its to keep my inner toddler happy.

I discovered mindfulness, sitting with a cup of delicious coffee in the garden instead of beavering on with work and then thinking ‘ Where has that coffee gone?’. I looked at sobriety as an adventure, began to try new ways of socialising and connecting with people that were on my terms- instead of expecting me to sit in a pub with a lemonade, meet me for a hot chocolate and a walk !

These little acts of awareness and self-care literally changed my relationship with myself. I prioritised myself in little ways, I made myself queen in tiny moments throughout the day. I served others I love too of course, making dinner and picking up the kids, working etc … but I took those moments for myself.

I thought about the woman I am and want to be and I got rid of old clothes , those old pre-baby spectres that hung in my wardrobe gathering dust, taunting me and I invested in just a few key pieces that reflect my life – great  wellies and a wax jacket for dog walking and some new exercise gear , a great pair of skinny jeans which I live in and dress up and down as I need. I realised I had neglected socks.. I love socks and have nice pairs now. This may seem superficial but it stopped me scrabbling around through old crap feeling irritated before the school run. It lowers stress so I am less triggered by that. It makes me happy.

Instead of feeling depleted and like I was still sort of making an effort to be sober (like I knew I was being ‘good’ and I ‘shouldn’t ‘ drink because it’s ‘bad’ for me, and I have a ‘problem’ with it ) I started to consciously  fill my life with this stuff that made it fun and easier in little ways so I was less triggered and looking to soothe the nerves or reward myself wth a glass ( bottle) of Pinot.

Later I watched webinars by Tara Brach and  Dr Kristin Neff as this self-regard/self-care practice continued and turned into self compassion. I became more attuned with my internal dialogue as a) I wasn’t drowning it out with wine and b)  I was tuning in/ leaning in. The dots of wellness seem to get joined up gradually as we journey towards a greater regard for ourselves bit by bit.

After a while I came to get a clear picture of what I like and dislike, I recognise a feeling which means ‘this is not Ok’ – in other words I discovered my boundaries ( again a concept I had heard of but I had no idea what they were). I have stood my ground with people ( I hate conflict) I have learnt to not let my inner bully run the show ( big one)  because I have a sense of how I feel when it takes over now. I put myself to bed when I feel poorly, I turn stuff down, I say ‘no’. I am learning that it is ok if people don’t like or agree with me.

Also I’d like to mention here that my relationship with alcohol before I quit was one of the most significant in my life. I was married, had children and friends, but I spent as much time thinking about, deciding whether or not  I was going to drink that day, recovering from it, regretting it , arguing with myself, feeling ashamed, as I did interacting with real people whom I love.

And my relationship with myself was constantly being damaged as I set rules and targets which I consistently failed to meet ( I’ll only drink one glass, I’ll only drink at weekends etc) And when I finally booted the booze out I began to meet my own goals and targets and my self- trust grew, prompting that blossoming self- esteem.

The greatest act of self – love I ever did was to make the decision to stop drinking alcohol. To stop something that was damaging me and my self-respect and self- esteem. That was the start of it and the one huge , fundamental building block or cornerstone of my palace. There rest has been and is continuing to be built and furnished with layers of wellness and good stuff. I know for me, from past experience that without sobriety as that cornerstone, the rest of it does not have a foundation.

So this Valentine’s Day , if you are on your sober journey take a minute to reflect on the fact that you did the hugest act of self- love you could possible do. You committed to yourself. You chose you, your life , your wellness, your present and future above alcohol, which for many of us was a great ( although a false, needy and damaging bad bf ) ‘love’. We are still unfortunately at a stage where this brave, passionate, brilliant  choice gets mirrored back to us negatively by society, so reward yourself and talk yourself up!  Get that pair of shoes, or book that break away with a friend , have a romantic walk with your OH or hug your kids, take a long bath, buy yourself some fresh flowers … but remember that you did that one fundamental thing which was you chose to heal that relationship with yourself which all others come from. Remember, you are Queen of your own heart now.

Some fun self- love stuff you can do:

* Sober treats: Anything big or small.
* Love letter to your self, your partner , your kids.
* Pinterest dream board of your hearts desires
* Heart post its with love messages to yourself
* Fresh flowers
* Scented Candles
* Rom com/ Bodice-ripper
* Date with yourself : cinema and hot chocolate
* Date with a friend:
* Random act of kindness:
* Walk by the sea/ nature /park.
* Bake some red velvet cup cakes
* Creative project – drift wood, pepbles, photos on your phone
* Star-gazing

Have you tried everything?

Blog from March 2016

This is one of my old blogs from last year. I am gradually loading them all onto this site and then will organise them all! I read this today and although it’s a year old I wanted to get it up. The abiding message of lovesober.com is that I love being sober – Which I do! Because it rocks. But.. it’s not always easy, we still have bad days and sometimes things suck. So it is not always about punching the air , sometimes it’s just about slogging it out and reaching for that over-arching happiness that sobriety brings to life not the quick -fix that feels better in the moment and then comes back to bite you.

This is probably really obvious to everyone but me but when I get a craving I need to really ask myself, ‘Have I tried everything that I can think of to meet whatever need that is manifesting as a craving for a glass of wine?’

Today for instance, it is coming up to the dreaded TOTM and this does seem to go hand in hand with wine witch activity. I went to Cannes on a press trip and aced that despite the gratis fizz in my room, the ‘obligatory’ cocktails and winning a bottle of pink champagne. I even managed to sidestep the vodka in a starter (??)— but now I am back to earth with a bump and have had a stinking cold for a week. I did not detect any particular wine witch activity but didn’t and now suddenly she’s banging on the door.

Today I felt like drinking shandy at midday. I also have been missing time with OH which used to be staying up till the wee small hours drinking wine and playing music. I do miss that and I have only just allowed myself to admit that. I haven’t been able to look at things I miss because it gives WW a foothold. So there’s a need for adult time? There’s a need for a delineated section of something away from work/kids/housework. So that’s not really a want for wine , it’s a want for what picking up a glass symbolised.

I am also going to Florence in a couple of weeks with my mum to do the art and churches and have had all sorts of little murmurings ‘If I really want a glass of wine in Florence I’m going to have one.. just a holiday thing.’ Thing is I know one will be *more and then I will have a wrecked sleep and spoil the art and churches. And have to live with the fact that I drank despite my aim of living alcohol free , for very good reason. It’s so effin annoying though gggrrrrr. And what is that need? The need for ‘time out’ a ‘treat’? To be free from ‘normal’ rules? Again, it’s not the wine, it’s the image of myself in Italy with a glass of wine. It’s my own story-telling.

I remember that thing about dumping a really bad BF – You have to totally break up with him ( booze) to leave yourself free for the love of your life. You can’t just shag him at weekends and have a holiday fling with him because he will get his hooks back into you. Don’t cheat on Mr Right! ( AF)

I also noticed I was being critical about my weight today. I’m in pretty good shape to be honest actually but it goes on round the middle so I was cross about that today and thinking I should ‘give up’ carbs for a bit before I tucked into some toffee cheesecake. So there’s a bit of being critical there. The inner meanie having a dig.

Anyway back to the issue … To be honest on closer examination all this is quite pissy and lazy isn’t it? Nothing dreadful has happened. I want to have a treat … eat some feckin’ cheesecake then. I miss OH so book a babysitter, actually we have now tried to book baby sitter Friday so we can go and have a steam and sauna and then go for dinner together. I am letting my mind flirt with the wine witch without trying everything first. Or even really try to fix the actual problem.

Some days you just can’t be arsed can you? The endless energy that goes into really meeting your needs. Or I can’t. I get fed up of being motivational and good and all mindbodyspirit. Why can’t I have a FUCK IT moment?

But I have sort of made a pact with myself that if I am really craving, or under full frontal wine witch attack, I promise I will do everything I can think of first before I have a glass of wine. If I have done EVERYTHING then I will have one. ( This is just a mind trick to take the pressure off and to fool myself into thinking there is some choice in the matter)  But I need to have chocolate , go for a run, buy something, scream into a pillow, log on, turn on tune in drop out to some vacuous TV. I have to get the suit of armour pyjama on , get into the duvet fortress. I also HAVE to sleep on it. I also HAVE to give it at least a few days if its over TOTM. Bet it goes by the second thing you try. Or the third. Then if its still there I’ll just have to go to sleep and then the problem is solved. That’s a good one because when you wake up the next day you are SO happy you didn’t drink.

Also I was watching an interview with a lady who I think had been sober for eight years was a musician (yes, ears prick up) and she was saying that she did find some things less enjoyable when she stopped drinking so she told herself that either a) she realised that she didn’t really enjoy them as much as she thought or b) if she really wanted to do them she would have to become the kind of person who would do that thing sober.. like get up on stage or whatever. I like that. It’s like there was no bargaining .. I either just don’t do it or I woman up and become that person. Alcohol isn’t the answer to these things and often it was a mask or a way to shoe-horn our way into doing stuff and we thought we enjoyed it. So now it’s rewriting the rule book and using the right tool for the job.

Anyway I hope this helps others.. just stopping and thinking ‘Before I reach for that drink , have I tried absolutely EVERYTHING first?’

Sober love
KX

My idea for lovesober.com is in the title I guess. When I started contemplating giving up drinking, when I had become concerned about my drinking I was , as I saw it faced with a terrible prospect – BEING SOBER! What? Live without that precious nectar alcohol, the magical elixir that everyone wants and loves? How awful! I knew I wasn’t happy with it , it had become all too easy to look forward to that glass of wine ( or three) at the end of a hard day and the hangovers were shocking – but to me sobriety meant dusty church halls and people bemoaning the fact that they ‘can’t’ drink. Not an attractive prospect … After all I wasn’t that bad. I have a home and family , a good job. I was not sitting on a park bench with a bottle of white lightening.

I did give up alcohol with the help of a fantastic online support group – Soberistas-and what I found was that rather than being a miserable deprived existence , being sober choosing to live life alcohol free (AF) is actually great. I feel about a million times better without a weekly hangover , doubts and remorse, and all that time I spent dealing with alcohol I know spend pursuing personal goals , health and happiness. If i had known I was going to feel this good I’d have done it years ago!

So why didn’t I? A big factor in my continuing to drink alcohol despite being very uncomfortable about my relationship with alcohol was that it didn’t occur to me . Sobriety I have often said, cannot be stumbled upon until all the wheels have fallen off the wagon. It is so lauded , celebrated and expected in our culture ( and aggressively marketed ) that I thought sobriety was only for ‘alcoholics’ who ‘couldn’t ‘ drink. It was not on my radar as a perfectly acceptable lifestyle choice – people who don’t drink are often perceived as boring or treated with suspicion in a way they would never be if they didn’t smoke or take cocaine. After all alcohol is a drug , it’s just legal one.

I believe that a lot more people could be reached and helped to knock drinking on the head before the wheels do come off the wagon if we debunk the myths around alcohol and living alcohol free, challenge the stereotypes of what alcohol problems and use actually look like. This is a big conversation. We can look at the myths, the marketing , our norms and values as a culture and the true cost of alcohol use and misuse in the UK.

When I quit drinking , it was hard at first. Anything new takes a while to get used to right? But it wasn’t dreadful! I have documented my first year of sobriety in my blog here. And fairly quickly through reading great quit lit, making on-line buddies, discovering how to really look after my self-care , I dived into a wellness journey, living in an authentic way much more inline with my true needs and values. Which made me HAPPY. When you stop drinking alcohol you can’t hide you see, and as you live your daily life and deal with its ups and downs it generates a confidence so after a while , if you were to ask me if I would go back to drinking I would say ‘Are you mad?’. And I see this with so many of my sober friends.The conversation is not ‘I can’t’ but rather ‘Why on earth would I?”

So this website is all about the fun and learning I have had and continue to have in my sober life. From surviving the summer holidays, coping with Christmas, socialising to really important topics about self-care and the science behind happiness I want to get the message out there.

I love sober and I think you might just too.
Kate x

Waiting in the Wings

This feels like one of the most important blogs I have ever written for myself, and it was sparked by a  blog on Soberistas this week. The writer mentioned was that her drinking hadn’t really accelerated over the years perhaps for the reason she had been blessed by favourable life circumstances.

This resonated with me so loudly I have not been able to stop thinking about this and how it relates to me. And if this resonates with even one person then I will be glad I put it out there.

So, my drinking history (potted) is as follows. Started as a teen, covered up all the anxiety and social anxiety. Far too good a fit. Uni, was mostly AF, very moderate, early twenties experimented and did a lot of drinking – lager, which then became wine, whilst sticky pub floors turned into cocktail bars. But my outsides were no different to any other successful young journo I knew. We were all on the lash. At twenty-five I went to counselling and told the counsellor I thought I had a drink problem. He asked my how much I drank and I said generally half a bottle of wine, a couple of times a week. He laughed me out of the room.

At twenty-eight after a huge heartbreak I hit the bottle to drown my sorrows and then decided to try AA. This period of my life, aged twenty-eight to thirty, by the way, was the heaviest drinking. My regular, not nightly bottles of wine (but more regular than I wanted) did not fit with the old men I found there. The reasons I was drinking might have though. I was thirteenth-stepped by someone so I didn’t go back anyhow – I stopped drinking for a few weeks and then started again.

Then aged twenty-nine I found myself in a flat in Munich where I was working, drinking wine on my own one night, and thought ‘This can’t be normal’. In my early thirties I told a life coach I drank whatever mood I was in. I was drinking about two and a half bottles of wine a week (half a bottle twice a week and Saturday night was often a binge of a bottle and a half – then smoking, loathing and shame) and binged occasionally big time at parties, but actually I was a lot more moderate than when in my late twenties. My fear I think was based on the faulty off switch…literally sometimes not there. Thirties continued in this pattern.

At thirty-eight after my son was born this pattern continued…I told the doctor that I was concerned about my drinking and that I drank two and a half bottles of wine a week (still) and she told me that was too much and offered alcohol counselling. They asked me questions like did I have DT’s and was I drinking daily, asked if I had a social worker then suggested I moderate. At forty-two I went to Addaction and said I was concerned about my drinking and that I was drinking about two and a half bottles of wine a week (still). They asked me if I had DT’s, asked the units, asked if I had a social worker and suggested I moderate. It wasn’t accelerating, you see. I had hit this plateau, holding pattern.

All this time I knew I had a problem with alcohol. It is only now that I understand it causes me shame, anxiety and exacerbates the underlying anxiety. I now know that the fifteen years I was counting units obsessively is called ‘moderating’ (or attempting to…that bloody prison), the ‘never again’ conversations with myself, the bingeing at the weekends, failing to moderate.

I was in this holding pattern I would say from aged thirty to forty-three. It was affecting my mental health. Not one ‘expert’ asked me about how it felt, what was happening in my head. Why, even though I had been counting my units for a decade, nothing had changed, and why I was so concerned. And I couldn’t articulate it at the time. They didn’t ask why and I couldn’t explain why it had wound itself round situations, moods, feelings, in and out of days, weeks, months, years, like bindweed. Too significant. Too central.

They looked at units, intake and asked questions that just seemed to alienate me further because I wasn’t that bad. It was bad enough for me but I was not bad enough to fit into their box. And maybe I would never be…who knows? One alcohol counsellor said she would find it highly unlikely I would ever become chemically dependent on alcohol! SO???? Because I wasn’t drinking daily, because I was deemed ‘just over’ healthy limits of drinking, it ‘looked’ kind of manageable – I could just tweak it a bit apparently, because I wasn’t backing out, because I wasn’t missing work. Honest to god, it seems you have to set the bar so low before anyone takes you seriously about alcohol. Perhaps this has changed now? Who said, alcohol always gets a free pass?

I have said before, you literally cannot stumble upon sobriety until all the wheels have come off the wagon. But I was trying to give up all the time. My relationship with myself, my self-trust was being battered all the time because I’d fail to stick to the limits I was imposing upon myself, my relationship with alcohol, the long love affair was fucked… it was bad enough.

When I read the other blog this week, a light bulb went on. You see I always KNEW I had a problem with alcohol. Knew it just wasn’t a good fit. That drug didn’t suit me…doesn’t it sound so ridiculous when you say it like that? It was like it was there, waiting in the wings to become a fully blown addiction…but it wasn’t yet…I wasn’t drinking daily, or having blackouts generally…one or two a year perhaps but again it all looked ‘normal’. I lived with that fear for years. I feel that I have gone by the grace of god to be honest, if something awful or tragic had happened, my problem drinking/moderating/binge/moderate cycle could have tipped over into full-on dependency and addiction in the classically understood sense. Again, it might not have…it’s speculation…but all I know is that I have been living with the kernel of something for years.

To be honest if there were no consequences to drinking I’d have liked to be a bit drunk most of the time. It’s just that the circumstances weren’t right, thank god. And that I had high standards around other aspects of health which kept me straight; a good job, great friends, a great man despite the chaotic early twenties. I just think I had enough tent pegs to keep me from flying away. Also I think it could have been anything…I’d have liked to be a bit drunk a lot, because I suffer from anxiety and my nervous system seems to be wired in a particular sensitive way to be literally wired and ‘ON’ all the time. So it could have been Valium or doughnuts perhaps. I just chose a very easy, acceptable, expected, widely available, ‘normal’ drug as my medication.

This is why I am so passionate about talking about a spectrum of dependency, to open this conversation, a wider net to catch those, who like me didn’t fit into any care…not that bad wasn’t denial, it was just not bad enough to qualify for support for anyone given the models that I was aware of, to fit the boxes or the check lists… to actually have a conversation with me about sobriety…whilst I got more and more desperate.

Also, partly, it didn’t occur to me because of this society in which we normalise problem drinking. I even wrote a feature about this for a national newspaper years ago, anonymously questioning alcohol’s place in society. It is such a misconception and the stereotypes are SO unhelpful to many. Outsides and insides etc.

That’s why I hate rock bottom stories in the press, why I love to promote AF living as an amazing life choice because I feel so strongly you should not have to be at rock bottom, by yours or anyone else’s definition, before anyone suggests sobriety to you. You should not have to wait before your ‘life has become unmanageable’ till someone really listens. Thank god for Soberistas – it enabled me to access some support around this and to come to understand it. I could finally have all these conversations and get to grips with this miserable relationship…but I had nowhere to go before that.

I want to challenge alcohol’s central lauded position in society, I want to challenge the stereotypes, the labels – I mean, use them if they help you, that’s fine…but it’s wider than the accepted labels and I think slowly things are catching up – thanks to the anecdotal evidence all over the internet perhaps? I want people to know that alcohol is an addictive drug. I want choice around this, transparency, positive role models so people do not have get into a right state before booting the paint stripper out. For myself, I feel grateful I understand now that life without alcohol is so much better. And I thank Lucy Rocca and the women and men I have met on Soberistas for sharing their journeys from the bottom of my heart.

When I went to the first ever Soberistas meeting in 2013, when I had been AF for six months…it was so, so hard and it was still early days! When we were sharing our stories I spoke about about my units not looking much but it being about my relationship with alcohol being fucked up, and felt a fraud in a way, so strong were the stereotypes and conditioning around what alcohol problems looked like to me still. But people ‘got it’. I was so relieved to meet a group of women with similar stories, some who drank much, much more, and I don’t – not for one minute – want to trivialise how it must be if your drinking has literally taken over – and no judgment – this is a strong, addictive drug. But I firmly believe the problem is the drug, not the person.

Some of these wonderful women I have become such good friends with, they will always be my sisters. And people who have been vital to your sobriety, you have a special bond with right? Like war buddies. I am so relieved to have a tribe. I am so relieved I fit somewhere, that I can speak my truth and not be judged or undermined here. Even if our experiences differ there is space to work it all through. And we get that we are all dealing with alcohol problems and then getting on with the business of joyful, sober living, which is sometimes not joyful, but so much better than living with the lunatic.

If you are reading this and think ‘I’m not that bad,’ ask yourself…Is alcohol costing you more than money? Do you feel ashamed of yourself? Are you sick of hangovers? Do you just suspect somewhere that this is not just about having fun? Is it in any way impacting negatively on your life? Yes? Then you qualify for sobriety!!! It’s a fit! You need it! You do not have to wait till things get awful or worse to choose that path. Don’t wait. Don’t wait for a ‘rock bottom’ to give you the unerring proof – you will find the proof and piece it together on the journey, once you stop drinking. That gives you the clarity and space to understand it all. Read all you can, get to know the subject, debunk the myths, the stereotypes, use the language that works, explore the blogosphere for approaches that serve you. Get to grips with the fact you may have been neglecting your emotional self-care for years. Treat yourself like a child, one step at a time and do it! Please give it a go.

It’s such a relief to make all these connections now, join the dots, understand my shame response, the people pleasing, understand that if I drank again the supposed best case scenario is going back to ‘moderating’, which was exhausting and demoralising and exactly what I was trying to get away from all those times I sought help. But it’s taken three years to even get to this point! (Three great years, I hasten to add…)

And now I understand, that waiting in the wings is a far more sinister player, a response to alcohol that never changes. Is that me or is that alcohol? Who cares? Both? It’s a human response to an addictive drug. Chicken and egg. I’m fine without it, just not with it, so my money’s on the drug. And I might not be so lucky in future. Just because I’ve been able to pick it up and put it down in the past doesn’t mean I will be able to again. And even if I could, I choose not to. Sobriety is the safe path and the good friend. And alcohol is the enemy. Let’s not pretend otherwise. Let’s not forget.

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