SoberMe

My Not So Secret Diary

Trying and Failing and Trying Again

Trying and Failing and Trying Again recovery blog after addiction living alcohol free family smiling mum and dad and toddler son little boy smiling selfie overcoming together My Not So Secret Diary
My husband and I with our littlest boy.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but sobriety is hard. Especially for those of use who have had years and years of ingrained use of alcohol in our lives.

So much of our culture involves drinking. It is as normal to expect a drink of wine or beer as it is to expect a cup of tea. So when someone realises that alcohol has become a problem in their lives it isn’t just the drinking that has to stop, they also have to entirely relearn the way they live. I know because I did it. I didn’t do it on the first attempt either, it wasn’t that easy. It took me about six years, maybe more to really believe and understand that I had a problem. Coming from a family that always ‘enjoyed a drink’ I grew up expecting that that was the normal way to relax, that it was okay in the evening to always have a drink with your dinner and more after. It was so normal that I really didn’t think for a very long time that I had a problem, and even when I questioned it, I wondered how many people would believe me. I honestly thought they would think I was after attention. I wasn’t, trust me, no one in their right mind would put themselves through recovery unless they had to.

So, in the summer of 2015 I stopped drinking. I knew I had a problem, I relied on it too much. Tearfully I spoke to my husband about it. He agreed with me, he knew I liked to drink, he also enjoyed a beer in the evening, but the difference was, he could leave it, I couldn’t. He was supportive and helped me get through the first couple of days. It was a Wednesday and Thursday I remember because I had to take my daughter to a hospital appointment. It was immensely hard, but I did it, and two days in I felt better than I had in ages. My appetite began to come back, and the anxiety I always felt, the hyper-vigilance causing me to be constantly on edge eased off. I felt so good that I convinced myself that I didn’t really have a problem and by the weekend I was confident that I had over-reacted. So I had a few drinks. Moderation doesn’t work for me. Within a very short time I was right back where I had been again, except possibly worse, because now I really knew that it wasn’t possibly a problem, it was definitely one.

I couldn’t imagine life without wine. How would I relax? How would I reward myself after a day? How would I switch off in the evenings? There were so many questions. So many I couldn’t answer and so I did what I always did when I had a problem and drank.

In the spring of 2016 I tried again. Again I failed. And again I got worse because the thing is, one glass of wine is not enough for me, and that one glass that I couldn’t resist always made everything come tumbling back down.

That was my rock bottom. I knew I had to do something serious. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own and I knew I couldn’t go on the way I was. I didn’t like myself anymore. Every day was a battle. I grew to resent the wine I loved so much, I hated the hold it had over me, and yet I just couldn’t say no to it. More than once I smashed a glass, literally throwing it across the room in frustration because I didn’t want it and yet I needed it. I have never been so conflicted in all my life, and yet the times I had tried to stop drinking just resulted in making me like I couldn’t do it, that I wasn’t strong enough to do without it. And that made me resent it more, but regardless, every night I still poured a glass or two, or three, or four. I was over the two bottles of wine I used to limit myself to now, and ashamed of the recycling I was putting out each fortnight. I would try to hide it, or take it in the car to the recycling bank, embarrassed that the neighbours would see. My excuse was that the kids enjoyed smashing the glass, and they did, but they wouldn’t have minded not doing it either.

That was where my love of drinking stopped, when I realised it controlled me, and although it was the scariest thing I have ever done, admitting my problem and learning to confront it saved my life. It changed me as a person, or maybe it didn’t, instead maybe it gave me back the person I was before all the drinking. It wasn’t easy, trying and slipping up and trying again, but each day is easier.

I have a lot of memories, a lot of regrets and wishes that I had stopped long before, but of course I couldn’t. I had to get to the point I did to finally make it through that time. I had to get to the bottom to be able to climb back up. However, it still surprises me that these memories spring up from time to time. Of course it knocks me, and I wish I could change things, but then I wouldn’t be here where I am now, surrounded by people that love me.

Life isn’t fluid. Nothing comes with a plan. I know that I wouldn’t have chosen to become addicted to alcohol, but if I didn’t I also wouldn’t be here writing to all of you, and that matters to me. I have rough days, but I actually like who I am now and so does my family. What they get now is an authentic, honest me. Not a wine-addled mess. They might not always agree with me, but they know what to expect most of the time. I am loved and I am cared about. I am lucky.

Recovery is a challenge, it is a journey, but it feels amazing to come out the other side. The wobbles get less wobbly, and everything gets clearer. Stick with it, be patient, be kind to yourself. Find new hobbies. Everything will be all right in the end. If it isn’t all right, it isn’t the end.

Much love to you all.

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Alcohol Free Bars

“…we are starting 2020 with a celebration. A celebration of alcohol-free.” When an article starts like this, it’s definitely going to catch my attention! Brewdog, a craft beer company, are announcing their first Alcohol Free Bar, which opened this week in London.

Okay, so I know that alcohol removed beers and wines can be a point of controversy for lots of us that no longer drink alcohol, but isn’t it refreshing to see something where not drinking is for once being promoted. Although a pilot scheme, everything on offer in the bar is alcohol free, making sure there will be no room for error when ordering at the bar, and I have to say, I think it’s a great idea.

I’m not sure that I’ll be making a visit any time soon, because I don’t really know where I stand on drinking anything that resembles alcohol now, but the idea of being able to is nice. Knowing that if I did go there, I wouldn’t be the odd one out, or the only one not under the influence. Claiming that this is the world’s first alcohol free bar, I love the fact that there is a venue which isn’t focused on wine or beer sales, and yet is still providing a bit of a vibrant atmosphere.

This month, The Brewdog AF Bar are running “Drink All You Can Jan,” where they are providing free refills which makes a pleasant change to all the traditional Dry January campaigns. It feels like for once, we don’t have to feel like we might miss out by choosing not to drink, but instead we get to participate in something a little bit fun and quirky.

Finally something in the news that I approve of!
🙂

Here’s the link if you’d like to read more, and if any of you have been, let me know, I’d love to know what you think!

https://www.brewdog.com/blog/we-are-opening-the-worlds-first-alcohol-free-beer-bar


Thanks for reading!

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P.A.W.S

PAWS sobriety and mental health blog My Not So Secret Diary
Running has really helped me.

You may or may not have heard of P.A.W.S. and if you haven’t, you might not have been able to identify your feelings or know that this is a condition that affects between 70% and 90% of us in recovery to some degree or other, both emotionally and psychologically.

So what is it?
P.A.W.S stands for Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. It's symptoms affect those of us who were addicted to alcohol or drugs, but it doesn't happen so quickly as you might think, actually occurring after the initial withdrawal is over. In fact, P.A.W.S can occur two months or more after the substance has been removed from the system, and the affects can be felt for weeks, months or years, depending on the individual.

There has been much research into P.A.W.S in association with alcohol addiction, with medical reports being published since the 1990's so it isn't a new thing, but it isn't hugely common knowledge either. In fact, I think it is one of the most important factors of recovery, one that you should be prepared for, and I for one certainly didn't know anything about it beforehand.

The symptoms.
As a sedative, alcohol decreases brain activity, and of course, the brain comes to see that as normal. Once you remove that inhibitor your nervous system can go into overdrive. There are a lot of symptoms associated with P.A.W.S, and each of them individually are quite normal and common. The accumulation and severity of them is down to physical differences in people, the type of substance that is causing the addiction and the amount that is taken. The effects come and go, lasting for a few days before easing up again, which can be a bit of a rollercoaster, but if you are prepared from them, it can make your recovery more successful.

Here’s a list of the main symptoms:
• Stress - The effects of P.A.W.S. can leave you with a low tolerance to cope with stress. Even the smallest thing to other people can seem like a really big deal, and considering you've probably given up your biggest coping tool, it is easy to understand why things are more difficult. New coping strategies are the way forward here, but believe me when I say, it takes time.
• Concentration difficulties - yep, I had problems stringing coherent sentences together at times, it seemed like I was losing my mind. I also used to forget what I was saying, mid-sentence. (I still do that sometimes!) It seems some of the neurotransmitters in the brain have to fight back and repair themselves in order for us to regain our ability to think clearly. The good news is, it is usually only temporary.
• Mood swings - I don't know about you, but I had them when I drank too. When I stopped they just got much more tearful.
• Cravings - Although the physical addiction might have worn off, there might (for some time) be psychological cravings which might try to tempt you back. Don’t give in to them, they get weaker with time.
• Anxiety - so not only is our brain learning to be without something that helped to keep it calm, but it is also having to adapt to function without it going forward. This can make you feel terribly anxious.
• Depression - these addictive substances have a lot to answer for! Your brain needs to readjust to learn to be without whatever it is you used to take. When you stop it is a shock to the system, however prepared you are. Again, it is normally just a temporary set-back.
• Insomnia and sleep disturbances - I was told I would sleep better when I stopped drinking. I do now, but it took a long time to get there. Not only do many addictive substances affect our sleep patterns, but our subconscious thoughts, like wanting a drink, can affect our dreams when we finally do drift off. It can be a bit of a nightmare. Sorry!
• Anhedonia - (the ability to find pleasure in normally pleasurable activities). Most addictive drugs affect neural pathways. When we stop taking them, it takes a while for the brain to balance out again and start to make normal levels of chemicals that make us feel good again. Until then things can be tough.

What can you do to help?
• Knowing that these symptoms are possible, and that they may be long term can help, if you aren’t expecting them, it can be easier to relapse.
• By gradually reducing the amount of alcohol consumed before stopping altogether, the intensity of the withdrawal may be lessened, although long term symptoms still seem to be quite strong. Try to remember that these symptoms may come and go, and although not pleasant, it is a normal part of recovery.
• Exercise can help, not only as it helps your body and brain recover, but as a bare minimum, it can work as a distraction to the way you are feeling.

It might seem a bit doom and gloom, but after I got to about two years of sobriety, I really began to wonder if my anxiety would ever get better. It got me down. I was meant to be healing and I still felt like a nervous wreck, in many ways, I actually felt at times worse than I did when I was drinking, which made me sad, because I was doing all the right things. Learning about P.A.W.S. helped. Having a reason, a cause, meant that I wasn't going mad and it wasn't my fault. It meant that my brain was healing. Other people might not understand, but I do and that helps. I would say after three years, I began to feel different and a lot better than I had in a long time. But everyone is different and not everyone will experience this for the same time I did. I think I am a minority in that!

If you are in recovery or experiencing any of this, then good luck, my thoughts are with you.

Once again, thank you for reading.

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