05 September 2021
My sober Saturday has consisted of a long walk across the moor to a secret swimming spot we like. It’s been too long since I last swam as I’ve had to wait after getting my tattoo. I couldn’t wait any longer and I was so glad I went, the cold water is so relaxing and there’s nothing like it to sooth my mind. Feeling properly chilled out now!
So this popped up on my news app today.
It’s an article about the possible food shortages happening in the UK because of a lack of delivery drivers. I get the need to be prepared but I think it’s laughable that the photo they used is of the alcohol aisle. I mean, what message are they trying to send? That we might struggle without food, but we can’t cope without alcohol? It’s ridiculous that by choosing this photo, they are literally reinforcing the place alcohol seems to have in our society and I know for one, this is exactly the sort of reassurance I would have looked for to normalise my drinking. It makes me cross, why couldn’t we have a photo of the bread aisle instead?!
When you’re new to sobriety, breaking into a world that is different from what you know, it can feel scary. You may not know who to talk to, or even how to talk about the way you are feeling and what is going on for you. You might feel afraid of putting yourself out there, nervous of the reaction you might get.
I remember having a friend over for a cup of tea one Saturday afternoon. It was quite rare for me to do something like that, but I was at a point where I knew things had to change, pushing myself out of my comfort zone. The thing that sticks in my mind most of all is not the fact we had a lovely afternoon, but rather the fact that I actually felt jealous of her for not needing to drink, and envious of the fact she could drink tea in the evening. Obviously, I didn’t know how she felt, it was just my observation, but I did know that I wanted to feel like that too. I wanted to feel normal for want of a better word, I just had no idea of how to get there. I didn’t know how to change, and I felt stuck.
I remember buying myself nice water bottles, thinking that if I had something pretty, I wouldn’t miss the alcohol so much in the evening, but it never worked. I found it incredibly hard to adjust the way I thought about alcohol, and although I knew it was making me ill, and affecting my mental health, I didn’t know how to kick it for good. Living without wine was a terrifying thought. In the day I’d carry my water bottle everywhere with me, thinking that if I could keep on top of my thirst then I wouldn’t think about drinking. It didn’t fix it, but it did help. In the evenings, I had a teapot, and we made making tea a bit of a ritual. Again, it didn’t fix me, but it helped.
I think the hardest thing was being alone in my thinking. I wasn’t on my own physically, because I’ve got an amazing husband and family who have stood by me through everything. The difficulty is, it’s hard for even the most well meaning of people to understand when they haven’t been there. It’s all the little things that are impossible to explain, because you don’t really even know yourself. I didn’t have a sober community at the beginning, and I wish I had, but in honesty, there weren’t many face to face groups that I felt comfortable going to, and the online community wasn’t so accessible.
Things change though, and I slowly I began to find a community of people like me. I was stunned to realise that I wasn’t the only one, that there are actually so many people in a similar situation to me. It was incredibly reassuring because I wasn’t on my own with my thoughts anymore. Sharing my story, and hearing the stories of others took away the power and the shame that I had been feeling. I can’t erase the past, but I’ve seen other people move past it, and in turn, I’ve learned to move on. I suddenly felt like I was part of something, and having the companionship, understanding and support of other people, regardless of where we all were in our journeys really helped. I don’t think it matters if you’re on day one or one thousand, we all need support, and finding my tribe has been amazing.
If you’re in recovery, don’t muddle through on your own. Reach out, make friends, get support and when you’re feeling better, give support to those who need it too. It’s empowering to be part of a movement, and one where you get to take back control of your life is pretty rewarding, so come and join us. We’d love to meet you!
Take care of yourselves,
I’m in Prima Magazine today, talking about overcoming my addiction.
I feel really strongly that we need to break down the stigma and speak out about these sorts of things. It’s the only way we are really going to be able to help ourselves and other people break free from the cycle.
There isn’t a typical addict or addiction, it can happen to anyone. But the thing is, we can overcome it, and living alcohol free can be bloody brilliant!
I’d love to know what you think!
Did I mention that today I am 5 YEARS SOBER?? No? Well, let me tell you again, today is my soberversary, and I am so proud to say that I have been sober for five whole years! I never in a million years thought I’d be able to say that, but I can, and guess what? It’s bloody amazing!!
And just in case you are wondering, yes, today is better to celebrate than my actual birthday!! xx
I used to think I’d miss alcohol. That’s actually a lie… I used to think I couldn’t live without alcohol.
We are conditioned from childhood to use alcohol in almost all situations and to go against that is like swimming against the tide. It can be scary.
I’ve started living again since I stopped drinking. I go where I want, when I want to. I don’t have to worry about whether I can because I’ve had a drink or staying at home so I can drink. I’ve got no limits and no restrictions. I feel very free.
We went out yesterday, it was quite a party atmosphere watching the #tourofbritain come through, and in the park lots of families were stretched out enjoying themselves and the sun with a pint. I didn’t feel the slightest bit envious, and I know for a fact that the people drinking didn’t have a better time than me because they were drinking. It’s an eye opener sometimes, to realise that we aren’t missing out by not drinking, it’s just a myth and to be honest, I prefer my well being to a hangover.
In short, sobriety gives me freedom.
Five years ago I was at the beginning of my journey. It was one of the toughest times in my life, I’d tried to stop drinking several times before but it had never lasted. Normally a few days off would convince me that I didn’t really have a problem, or that I could moderate. Of course, having just that one never ended there, it was always a very slippery slope for me.
The last time was different. I knew I couldn’t moderate. I knew one would never be enough, and more to the point, five years on, I still know that now. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t romanticise it, or miss it, it’s just that if I ever think about drinking, I know for sure that one would lead to more. At the end it wasn’t even the taste I wanted, it was that ‘feeling’. But that feeling got harder and harder to reach, not only because my tolerance was so high; I was drinking between two and three bottles of white wine every night without fail, by myself; but because most nights ended up with me blacking out.
Blackouts are scary. You’re there but not there, able to function and hold a conversation, but your brain is physically unable to store the memories of the things you’re experiencing. It chips away at your self confidence, as you try to remember what you said or did or didn’t do the night before. Even the most simple things disappear, like the end of a book or a film, or a conversation and it can be hard for other people to understand, as they know they’re talking to you and you’re answering. It’s just your brain isn’t quite there with you in the way it should be. I found mornings became a bit of a mission as I tried to piece things together from the night before, without of course giving myself away. It was exhausting.
For me the 8th September is a special day. It marks the anniversary of the day I finally kicked alcohol to the curb. I’m not saying it was easy, because believe me it wasn’t, not even when I was 100% committed to doing it. Just trust me when I say the difficulty was worth it. I don’t think I really had a choice in the end, I knew things were going to end badly if I carried on drinking, I wasn’t able to limit myself and in actual fact, trying to do that just made me feel worse, because I was always trying to work out how and when and how much I could drink. It widened the gap between me and ‘normal’ drinkers and made me realise how much I relied on wine. It’s even more poignant at the moment because I’m coaching a group through their first 60 days of sobriety. Seeing them back at the beginning makes me realise not only what I’ve achieved, but how far I’ve come. It brings back the feelings I had, and it makes me grateful for everything I have. Seeing others at the start of their journey makes me a little emotional too if I’m honest. I just want to fix things for them, but I know from experience that while we all need support, in reality the only person who could fix things for me was myself.
I honestly never thought I’d be able to say I’m five years sober. I never thought I’d want to stay sober, but I do, and I’m not only looking forward to the next five years, but the rest of my sober life. I’m in charge of myself again. I don’t rely on something else to help me achieve a feeling, I rely on myself. When I feel stressed I go for a run or a swim. When I’m worried I talk about it, when I need to escape I pick up a book, and when I’m happy I laugh. It sounds so simple, but for so many years I didn’t do that, instead I opened a bottle, until I forgot why I was even opening it, and that my friends is something I really regret. I can’t change that, but I can keep moving forward, and if I can help others on my way, then that makes everything feel better too.
Thanks as always for listening.