29 November. 2020
I wrote something similar to this last year, because much as Christmas is an amazing, magical time to be with your family and friends, it can be a pretty stressful time too, especially for those of us who are sober, and even more so for those of us who are newly sober or struggling with recovery.
Of course, things are going to be even harder this year with the added complication of Covid-19… I don’t even know what to say about that element, so I’m not going to, it’s just something else to deal with. My point is that whether you’ve been sober for years or you’re only a few days or weeks into sobriety it can be a hard time. Everywhere we turn, we are reminded how Christmas is marketed with alcohol as an integral part of the festivities. Of course, there are the predictable elements, of making sure all the presents are bought and the shopping is done, but also there are other factors, like going out for meals or parties and meeting up with friends and family, some of whom you might not see for the rest of the year. It can be exhausting, and that is before we even talk about not drinking. Whether it is your first Christmas without drinking or you’ve done a few, it can prove a bit of a challenge.
This is not a definitive guide, it’s just a few things I’ve picked up along the way and hope will help. Please let me know if you’ve got any other ideas that I can add to it. 😊
🎄 It’s not just you! (#1)
There are many people who choose not to drink. It’s a struggle to stop, but you are not on your own, even when it feels like it.
🎄 Only go to the events you really want to. (Probably much easier this year with all the tiers and restrictions!)
It’s hard enough to psych yourself up for things you want to do. Don’t use your energy going to things you aren’t feeling up to. It’s likely that it will end badly or put you off going out to other events. It may see scary to let other people down, but it might be better for you in the long run.
🎄 It’s not just you! (#2)
Other people have struggles too. You could feel awkward but they probably can’t see it, just like you can’t see their insecurities.
🎄 Don’t be afraid to leave early.
You might have had a good time, you might not, but don’t feel you have to stay to the end. Leave the night on a high and you’ll probably feel more up to another night out. Stretching it out could ruin it for you and to be honest, if everyone else is drinking, they might not even notice you go!
🎄 It’s not just you (#3)
Keep remembering, you aren’t alone. It’s a hard fight, but there are other people wanting to do it, doing it or having done it. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. Just keep going.
🎄 Have an escape plan.
Like me, in the beginning you might not want to make it common knowledge that you aren’t drinking. I kept it private for a long time, and so it could work for you to have a plan, just in case things get too much. If you have a back up plan, you can get away when you need too.
🎄 It not just you (#4)
There are so many people out there in exactly the same place as you!
🎄 Have an excuse!
If you really want to go and really don’t want to tell people the truth, and are afraid that it will be awkward, just have an excuse ready. Maybe you’re on antibiotics? Maybe you’re in training for a marathon? Maybe you are driving? Not that you need a reason!
🎄 It’s not just you (#5)
I think I’ve covered that it isn’t just you, but keep remembering it, it really helps!
When things are hard remind yourself that you can drink, you just make the choice not to. When things get really hard, remind yourself why you made that choice.
Support groups might work, but they might not. You don’t have to meet people to have support though, there are plenty of online groups you can join. Likewise, I found reading so helpful, other people’s experiences helped me remember that I wasn’t alone, and that other people had walked the same path before me and survived. In fact, not only had they survived but it was worth the struggle.
🎄 Enjoy it!
Remember this, you will probably have a fab time. You’ll remember everything you say, and everything you do. You don’t have to worry that you might have ‘one too many’ and embarrass yourself and when someone else does, you’ll remember that too!
I hope this helps, even just a little bit, I know that I felt nervous before my first couple of non-drinking events, and even now, I don’t choose to go to many. I’d rather do other things now, so they have to be good for me to go!
Let me know how your festive season goes though, and if any of these ideas work for you!
28 November. 2020
The festive season will soon be upon us, and how we all deserve it this year! What a bizarre year it’s been. Wherever we are in the world, things have not be exactly normal. At present we are in the midst of our second lockdown, due to be removed at the beginning of December, but in reality, who actually knows?
While many things will be different, maybe we won’t be able to spend time with our loved ones in the way we are used to, maybe we won’t have the parties we expect, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy ourselves. The thing that worries me most is that as a means to enjoy themselves many might overindulge, but that’s up to them, it’s a personal choice and I’m not judging, it’s just an observation. I wonder if we’re all allowed back together, if there will be many drink fuelled arguments as people who haven’t seen each other suddenly get to visit again? Maybe I’m just seeing the negative side of things though and forgetting the positives.
I’m not sure what our plans for Christmas will be. It’s hard not to know what the situation with Covid will be in a month or so, and therefore be able to plan. Our 15 year old son Barn is seeing a lovely girl from another country right now. She’s going home over Christmas and so they’re spending a lot of their day currently doing their allocated walk to and from school together. We’ve spoken about her staying longer here, or maybe Barn going home with her for a few days over the holidays. But of course, even this can’t be set in stone, because we don’t know how travel restrictions will be affected between the UK and mainland Europe between now and then. While I’m relaxed about most things, there’s no way I’d risk him going if it was likely he’d get stuck there.
It’s the not knowing that gets to me, but I find often that I stress out more when I lose control. I’m not a control freak, but it does seem to be when things happen that are completely out of my control that I worry more. It’s like a little buzzing in my head, and it’s hard, because there is very little any of us can do to help except to follow the guidelines. I read about this before, in the first lockdown, and the reason for much of our fuzziness and additional stress is called the Allostatic Load. Basically it means we’re subjected to quite a lot going on, but with no real means to tackle it. Therefore, we can’t really deal with it in the way we would normally. Think of it as us being wired with the fight or flight response, but here, we can’t do either, we’re just confined largely to our homes, waiting for the solution to be brought to our doorsteps, hopefully in the form of a vaccine. But who knows when that might be or how effective it’ll be? It takes all the power away from us and leaves us with only the unresolved stress.
I’ve never followed the news as much as I have done this year. All the notifications pop up for me, but I’m not really sure why, it’s not like the statistics really affect me. All I can do is what everyone else does too, and that’s as simple as doing what the government tells us and hoping they’re getting it right. There’s not a lot else we can do really is there?
I hope Christmas and New Year are times when we can all enjoy ourselves. I hope many of us get to see our loved ones. Maybe we need to take this opportunity to remember that Christmas is meant to be about family and while most of us love to get a present, I certainly do, that we can simplify it a little? If there’s one thing I’ve gained this year it’s the need to shop and buy a lot less than I did before. I don’t go out, so I don’t shop, but actually, I don’t miss it. Other than the clothes we need, I only buy food and books, so things are a lot less frivolous for us. I quite like having a reason not to go out. I feel less frivolous and more appreciative of the thing we do have.
It’s going to be different this year, but I’m sure we’ll all get through it. Just remember to take care of yourselves and those close to you.
Thanks for reading.
27 November. 2020
I’m always cautious of how others will perceive me, and for that reason, I don’t always make it obvious about my recovery and sobriety. It’s not at all that I am ashamed of it, I just don’t want to be judged and so it’s almost easier to keep it to myself, those close to me, and of course those of you who read my blog. It’s not that it’s a secret, I just don’t really advertise it either if that makes sense. I’d prefer to chat with people who I know won’t judge and who will understand, rather than take the chance on the unknown.
It’s funny really, because I get so caught up in what people might think of me, that I forget that sometimes they might be thinking the same thing about themselves, or may perhaps be worried about someone close to them. There’s a person I know who has come across some of my sober thoughts, and not questioned it. I felt it was because they didn’t want to pry, but it made me feel awkward, they almost knew too much about me without asking any questions that I felt I had to avoid it. It’s tricky because everyone should be allowed their privacy, and yet for some reason I feel guilty when I am not such an open book as I intend to be. Recently it came up in conversation that this acquaintance of mine has a close family member with a drinking problem. It’s not my business and I don’t know the details, and even if I did, I wouldn’t share it, but I am under the impression that it is something that has come and gone over the years. It just goes to show that when you think everyone is looking at you and thinking badly of you, they aren’t. Sometimes there is more going on for them than we can see. It’s not always about us. There’s also a lot more people out there in a similar situation than most people would realise.
My eldest son has never been that talkative with me about my recovery. I’ve always been as open as I can, and answered any questions the kids have had, but I also don’t want to push it on them, or for them to think I’m lecturing them into a life of sobriety, because that isn’t my intention. Just because one drink is never going to be enough for me doesn’t mean that it’s the same for everyone. Our middle two kiddies chat openly about it with me, but it isn’t the same between me and Joe. I often think that as the oldest, he must remember more than I’d like, which makes me feel pretty bad. Recently, he’d been talking to someone older that he knows well, who confided that their partner had a drinking problem. Again the details here aren’t the important thing. It was more that initially I felt cross that my son had been unloaded onto, and that it was something that was probably far closer to his heart than the other person had realised. I’m not saying my reaction is the right one, I just was surprised and it caught me off guard. I hate that I’ve put my kids into a situation where they can feel uncomfortable about something that isn’t their fault.
Joe and I had a conversation about the conversation he’d had, and it was lovely, which I found really surprising. While I thought it might have upset him, instead it was just a catalyst to get us to talk. I could tell him things I honestly don’t think I’ve ever told him before. He told me that he hasn’t drunk alcohol in a while, he only drinks when he goes out with his mates as we don’t have any in the house, but that when he does drink, it’s to get that feeling of being drunk. I laughed and told him I never drank to get drunk. It’s true, I didn’t, even when I was drinking 2-3 bottles of wine a night by myself. I so don’t miss that! In surprise he asked me what I did drink for, and I told him, it was always just to take the edge off, but that after a while one glass didn’t cut it anymore, then two didn’t and so on. It’s a slippery slope when you drink every night as I did. It was lovely to be able to be so open with him and to feel like I’d had the chance to get everything off my chest. I told him I sometimes still felt ashamed, but he was wonderful, and told me that I’d fought my way through it and had nothing to be ashamed about. That just about made my day, it was so lovely to hear.
We can all look at others with judgement, as humans none of us are perfect, but most of us are doing the best we can. It’s a hard old road for any of us, before we add in complications like alcohol and recovery. The thing I’m trying to remember is that what works for some people doesn’t work for everyone. What works for me might not work for you, and what works for you won’t necessarily work for me. That doesn’t mean either of us are wrong. Sometimes it takes trial and error to find out what will work for us, and that means we need to summon up the resilience to try again when we don’t succeed at first.
Thanks for reading and take care.
17 November. 2020
I still remember the things I did before. Not all of them necessarily, but enough to have regrets.
I don’t like talking about it in general, that time I mean. It’s something that I’ve overcome and I’m pleased and I’m proud of myself, but remembering the events and the moments individually is not always nice. It reminds me of a different me, one who wasn’t as strong as I am now, one who couldn’t stand up to her demons and couldn’t say no to several glasses of wine.
I’m reading a book by Bryony Gordon right now, and she is more honest and upfront about her drunken escapades than I think I ever could be, and I tell you all a lot! It’s interesting how we all deal with things differently, but how many of us use sharing to heal. It’s almost as if by sharing, we can let it go. That’s how it works for me anyway.
I let wine slip into my life slowly and unnoticed until it ruled me, and like an unwelcome house guest, once it had it’s feet firmly under the table, I couldn’t evict it. It infiltrated every area and made me feel like I was missing out without it. Relearning how to be without it wasn’t easy, in fact, it was the toughest road I’ve ever walked, but strangely, it was also the most rewarding.
While I don’t like all my memories, now I can see that even the ones I don’t like helped shape me into the person I am now, and I have a lot of happy memories mixed in there too that I don’t want to forget about.
I can’t change the past, but I’m not sure, despite my regrets, if I’d want to now. I quite like the person I am now and although I took some knocks and bumps along the way to get to where I am, I’m going to keep going.
Just remember, we’re all doing the best we can.
Take care of yourselves, and thank you as always for reading.
15 November. 2020
For years I felt like I never quite measured up. I (rightly or wrongly) felt that others looked down on me. I felt like a kid in many ways, never quite managing to feel like the grown up that I tried to act. I compared myself to others and always felt I was lacking. I was sure one day I would get there, but I wasn’t sure what needed to change to make that happen.
They say that people almost stop developing when they begin to drink heavily. It’s thought that without experiencing life fully with a barrier of alcohol there, that we live in a bubble, and fail to experience things in the way that non-alcoholics or non-drinkers do. Of course back then I didn’t know that, I just knew that wine relaxed my mind at the end of a long day. I’ve said before, I never drank in the day, so I always thought I was fine. The fact that in the evenings I put away 2-3 bottles of wine by myself didn’t even occur to me as a problem until everything came to a head. When it did I was a bit of an emotional wreck, (that’s an understatement.) I panicked all the time about every little thing. I’d burst into tears at the drop of a hat or have a panic attack for no apparent reason. My temper was awful too, and I swung between hating myself and wishing people would see the effort I was putting in and be proud of me. I felt like I was on a rollercoaster. It was hard enough for me, but looking back, I hate to think what I put my family through.
I still didn’t really realise what an effect drinking was having on me. I think because I didn’t drink in the day I felt like I was okay, that the effects would have worn off. But of course the amount I was drinking each night meant realistically that wasn’t possible. The hardest thing was realising that the one thing I thought I could rely on to help me was actually the one thing making me worse. I’d read so many stories about how life improved quickly for those who gave up drinking that I thought that was also how it would be for me. It wasn’t. Eventually breaking the habit and stopping drinking was made more difficult as it was like opening a can of worms with my emotions. My hectic mind became even more scatty. I couldn’t do anything by myself and I was scared of my own shadow. I couldn’t think straight and when I could, I was just thinking about the lack of wine in my life. I hated wine by then. I envied those who didn’t drink. I envisaged myself not needing it, not wanting it, but I couldn’t imagine how that would be. I imagined being strong and healthy and calm, but it was so hard not to drink. Many nights ended up with me in tears as I tried to get past that witching hour of around 6pm. If I could get past that it was easier. Not easy, but easier. My mind raced, but I couldn’t distract myself. That took a long time to develop.
After the initial cutting down and withdrawal, the aching bones, the sweats, the lack of sleep… physically everything started to get better, but emotionally I was still all over the place. I struggled to explain myself and I worried constantly about everything. When I look back now I see how far I’ve come, I know I’m not perfect by any means, but it really is like looking back on someone else, rather than myself.
Learning to deal with raw emotions was something I hadn’t planned for. Without that buffer of wine everything is very real, whether it’s good, bad, happy or sad. I feel it, but now I deal with it rather than push it to one side. I don’t try to cover it up, and when I do struggle I talk about it. Like recently just before we entered our second lockdown I started worrying again about all the things I needed to do. I heard someone on the radio describe it as it feeling like the day before you go on holiday, and that seemed about right. I’m just trying to deal with life, the kids, work, everything, like we all do and then we get Covid and lockdown thrown at us. It’s a lot for anyone and I couldn’t think clearly for a bit, but instead of letting myself wind right up, I went and told Lee all about it. He couldn’t fix it for me, but by letting him know how my mind was buzzing it helped me release my thoughts and relax a little.
While I found learning to deal with my feelings hard, it’s been good. Simple things give me so much pleasure. I notice much more too. Things that have always been there but maybe I didn’t see. I’m trying to remember to slow down and be grateful for all I have.
It’s a funny old world out there at the moment, but I’m sure we all have something to be grateful for.
12 November. 2020
Letting go is often easier said than done, well at least it is for me. I’ve often wondered why I remember things so well, especially the things that I’d rather forget, it’s not intentional. It’s not even like I’m holding a grudge, because often, it’s not just other people I remember things about, it’s myself too. Sometimes the thoughts will come out of nowhere and I’ll suddenly be caught in a spin remembering something I said years ago, and I mean literally years ago. I doubt anyone else would even remember, and yet, there I am beating myself up about it. I doubt I can be the only one, although when I mention it, many people tell me I just need to let things go, to forget about it.
I’ve often said, we can’t change the past, so there’s no point in regretting the things that have got us to the point we are at now. My mistakes have gained me my sobriety and for that I will be eternally grateful, but of course, that doesn’t mean I am proud of everything in my past. I’m not sure anyone could say they were proud of everything though?
Mistakes in many ways shape who we are. We grow and we learn and we can’t always get everything right. We are human after all. I suppose the most important thing is that we learn from our mistakes. That we try not to repeat them and actually use our experiences for good, rather than continually reminding ourselves what failures we are, because largely we aren’t, even when we make mistakes. Most of us are trying to do the best we can, and we have to remember that. In that way, reflecting on our mistakes is no bad thing, if it helps remind us what we have learned and what not to do moving forwards, but that doesn’t mean we should let ourselves become overwhelmed with what we should not have done.
Sometimes we can’t fix past mistakes, sometimes things are set in stone, or forgotten even, with others moving on. Sometimes however we can fix things. We can face up to our mistakes and try to make situations better. I’m not saying it’s easy. In fact sometimes it is anything but easy. It can be terrifying to own up to something, to admit something you aren’t proud of, and yet, when you have dealt with it, it relieves a weight from your shoulders that you possibly didn’t even know you were carrying. Guilt and memories are funny like that. We think we’ve packed them away, we think we have moved on, and that they are safer left in their boxes, but sometimes, opening and unpacking those things, and confronting them, makes us feel so much better in the long run.
It takes time. I couldn’t have dealt with facing up to everything at once. Nor could I have listed everything I wanted to deal with, but actually over time thoughts unearth themselves. Four years into my sobriety I still get confronted with random thoughts from out of the blue, but now I decide what to do with them, whether I want to confront them, or whether actually they are silly memories that I need to let go. That’s important too. We mustn’t feel that we have to deal with every little thing, because everyone makes mistakes or says something wrong, or at the wrong time. It doesn’t make us bad. We aren’t bad people.
I try to remember that no matter what, I can’t change the past, I can’t go back, and do you know what? I wouldn’t want to. I’m a firm believer in thinking everything happens for a reason. The things I’ve done helped me become who I am, and I can’t assume that’s just the good things. It’s all the things, good, bad and indifferent. We need to remember that, and be kind to ourselves, not just the bits we like, but all of who we are as individuals. We should let people in, let them care about us, forgive us, and be kind. Being hard on ourselves is difficult for those around us too. It can be wearing for those who care about us if we are always down on ourselves. Even when we don’t mean to be.
Life throws us challenges, as long as we continue doing the best we can, it’s all we can do, and sometimes, we need to accept that is enough.
Take care, and remember to be kind to yourselves.
06 November. 2020
My notebook goes everywhere with me. It’s in my bag even when I know I won’t have time to get it out. It’s by my bed, even when I’m sleeping. I find it reassuring to know it’s there, that if I have an idea or a thought, I can right it down and ultimately let it go.
I was never one for journalling or writing a diary. I’ve always loved writing, but anything too personal scares me, because once it’s out there, everyone knows. That’s one of the reasons I am so grateful for all of you who read my blog - because you are all so kind.
For someone who has a lot of thoughts, it’s amazing the clarity that I get from writing. It helps me sort, uncover and work things out, even when I had no idea something was playing on my mind or hadn’t realised I was overthinking. It relieves the pressure and although I am clearly thinking, in a funny way it stops me from overthinking.
I like writing in my notebook more than typing at times. Typing feels a little like work. I spend a lot of time in front of a screen, so the softness of the paper and the feeling of actually creating something myself rather than generating it on a computer is nice. Research shows that we activate different areas of our brains when writing by hand or by typing and I find, on a computer or iPad, it is very easy to be distracted. My notebook has no distractions or notifications popping up! Also, we often cross out mistakes when we are writing, and are more likely to go along with them, sorting them out later, whilst on a computer, we can lose a lot of precious time writing, rewriting and editing our words, maybe aiming for perfection. At times typing may be better as it is more than likely quicker than writing longhand, but writing by hand works the brain in a different way. Forming letters with a pen is more taxing and you find yourself thinking more as you’re writing at a slower pace. Your brain focuses more on what you are doing, understanding and learning. Typing is different, as you’re only pressing the right key, it is more mechanical as the same movement generates whichever letter you use. The activation of different areas in our brain when handwriting can help create new ideas that we might not have otherwise had and due to it’s slower nature, so, not only is it soothing, but can help us think through our ideas more clearly as we write them down.
I’ve found writing very therapeutic, it’s not always nice bringing up the past, but it does seem to be the most effective way of sorting through and packing things away. It’s certainly helped me! Give it a go - you don’t have to show anyone!
Take care and thanks as always for reading.
02 November. 2020
A friend of mine shared a post recently which I read with interest. It was like it had been written by me….
The subject was anxiety and anti-anxiety medication, which I have been taking for the best part of a year now. It focused on the way anxiety affects us although in fairness, it could have been written about many mental health issues.
I’ve had a life time of trying to cope, trying to seem okay when I wasn’t, covering my worries and of course, drinking far too much. Overcoming and living with any mental health problem is hard, but as many people will know, it is worse when you’re also trying to overcome an addiction. For a while I lost myself and then afterwards, I spent a long time rebuilding myself.
Something really clicked for me at about three years sober which coincides with the start of my blog. Sharing my experiences and taking about it has really helped me. Connecting with those who understand and perhaps have experienced something similar helps too. I guess there’s a reason why they say that the opposite of addiction is connection.
Reading the post I did was interesting because much as I feel stronger now than I have done in years, it’s always nice to feel like I’m not the only one, and to have my feelings validated. The post goes on to explain that for some people (like me), sometimes things just don’t sit right. We excessively worry. We notice the small things that others don’t. We wonder what we’ve done wrong even when we haven’t and we apologise far more than we need to. We think everything is our fault. We wonder about the authenticity of the intentions and comments of others. But, we don’t need to be told we’re over-sensitive because actually, we’re not. We might just be more sensitive than others but does that make us wrong? I don’t think so.
I was told the other day not to be so ‘precious’ about something. It’s not a term I like anyway, but I found it hard that day because I actually worked up the courage to voice a concern I had and then felt mocked by the response. I find simple things like that hard, because I don’t want to upset people, ever, so I tend to ignore or avoid, even when I feel hurt. Responding to a comment that was ‘apparently’ a joke about me was difficult, but I did it. To have it laughed off was annoying. It’s taken me a long time to get to where I am, and I’m not saying I want special treatment, but sometimes a little understanding would help. Just because mental health problems are not visible, does not mean they aren’t there, that we don’t struggle in the same ways as someone with a physical affliction.
I suppose what I’m saying is that I hope in this crazy, upside down world where we all live, that we can all show a little more kindness and consideration for each other. We don’t have to ‘get’ everyone and their struggles, but we can try to be empathetic and compassionate.
Be kind to yourselves.
Thank you for reading.