I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately. I class it as research because I've been studying to become a sober coach, but not only that, I find them interesting too. I'm a little late to the podcast party, mainly I never really understood the point before, but now I get it and I’m hooked. I've found lots of new favourites!
What has seemed to come up a few times is how many people seemed to stop drinking due to a challenge. I can’t remember how many people I heard say that they joined Dry January or Go Sober for October or even just set a target of a certain amount of days. It seems I was not the only person who thought a challenge or time off drinking would solve all my problems with alcohol. I never got on with challenges. I tried, they seemed a good idea but although I signed up, I never managed to get anywhere. I never even got past the first day.
It's strange though that for a lot of us who choose to stop drinking, we seem to hold out hope of being 'normal' again one day. Looking back I think it's so sad that I ever felt that way, but I know I wasn't the only one. I chose, like millions of others do, to stop drinking before it took any more from me or before it killed me. I could have kept drinking but I made the choice to fight my way out kicking and screaming into an alcohol free world. I didn't know what I was letting myself in for, or how I'd cope without wine. I think I kept myself going in the early days by telling myself one day it would be okay, that I'd be able to have one or two, and by that I meant glasses, not bottles. Deep down I must have known it wouldn't be like that. Deep down, I must have realised that for me the chance of moderation was non-existent, I'd already proved that to myself on several occasions. I'd done well a couple of times but after abstaining, decided one glass would be okay, only to find out that it really wouldn't. I know now that if I had one that wouldn't be it. I know I’d need more. So I keep that door firmly closed. I won't let wine back into my life, not now, not ever.
I'm not sure when it clicked with me that I’d never drink again. I've seen some people realise that the benefits out weigh what went before and so its a no brainer. For me in honesty, my sobriety just unleashed my anxious mind. For a while there it would have been easier to drink and just shut it up, but that wouldn't have done me any good in the long run. Subconsciously I must have known that, because even when I wanted to, I didn't give in.
Gradually I got there and now, without a shadow of a doubt, I can say that I am free without wine. I feel lighter in my mind and calmer. I wasn't a bad person before but now I know I'm a better person.
I don't think it matters if you choose sobriety for a challenge or for a lifestyle, what matters is that if it works for you stick with it.
I used to spend a lot of time waiting. I’m not sure what I was waiting for, but I think I thought when this ‘something’ happened then things would be different. I remember years ago when I was 12, thinking on my 13th birthday, life would change and I’d be grown up, a real teenager. Of course, when my birthday arrived, nothing changed except the number assigned to me. It was the same with many other things throughout the years, but I know it’s not just me that it applies to. For some it’s an event, like assuming when we get that job, that will make us happy. For others it’s an object that they set their heart on. Others see a relationship or a weight on the scales as the target to achieve to get them the feeling they long for.
The problem is for a lot of us, me included, when we finally get that thing, we can feel a certain amount of achievement, but often it feels flat very soon afterwards. I would tell myself when I was shopping that I needed the clothes I was buying, but they’d hang in the wardrobe afterwards, often not worn and they didn’t contribute to my feelings of happiness. I wanted to achieve things, but when I realised that my achievements didn’t matter to others as much as me, it seemed a little hollow. It’s weird when you lose your way a little, and try to fill the gaps with things. They usually don’t work, and can end up making you feel worse. I know, I tried a lot of things, but as we all know, none of those things, especially the wine, did anything to help me feel better!
We have to realise that we, individually, are enough. We are all different, we all can do different things, achieve different things, but that is what makes us interesting and useful. We shouldn’t feel inadequate when we don’t feel we measure up to other people, because it is likely the other people are thinking the exact same things about us. It’s only that neither of us realise it.
When I stopped drinking, it made me realise how much I relied on external sources to make me feel complete. I didn’t like feeling that way, and it took me a long time to rediscover myself and believe I was good enough on my own, but I’m slowly realising that I am. Sometimes the simple things in life are the things that really matter and those are the things I take the greatest pleasure in now.
So if you find yourself waiting for something to happen, remind yourself that you’re here now. That you’re living in this moment right now, and once it’s gone, you can’t get it back. We might as well try to enjoy it for what it is and be grateful that we have it.
Take care of yourselves.
A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be featured on the wonderful Lotta Dann's page, Living Sober. Here's the post I wrote.
Sometimes I find myself looking back at how much my life has changed in the last few years and when I do, I never fail to be surprised. To a lot of people, learning how to live without alcohol can be a fairly simple thing. For me, it wasn't.
Getting sober was tricky, mostly because I expected the hard part to be giving up the wine, while actually, the hardest part for me was learning to live with the anxiety the alcohol had been hiding. I felt a bit cheated, everywhere I looked other sober ladies were saying how amazing they felt, and I just didn’t.
Like many, I didn’t fit into a box with a tidy description. Being dependent on wine, and lots of it, was one of the things that defined me, but it wasn’t the only thing, I was also a mother, a wife, I had a good job… The one thing I struggled with was moderating the amount I drank. I was unaware at the time that my drinking was masking a host of anxiety issues that needed to be dealt with.
I suppose in a lot of ways, I expected to be ‘fixed’ once I kicked the wine, but instead it uncovered the depths of my anxiety, leaving me feeling my moods were wildly unpredictable. Before I stopped drinking, I was anxious a lot of the time, but I managed. Without the wine in my system, I would have massive panic attacks that came out of the blue and happened for no apparent reason. It was scary and I hated them being so unexpected, they literally floored me. I worried about simple things, like going out on my own, what people thought about me or that I was doing something wrong. I couldn’t relax at all, and I felt on edge all the time. It was hard work, and I was exhausted.
I read a huge amount of ‘quit-lit’ in that time, and I felt a great deal of reassurance knowing that other people had been where I was, and that they’d got through it. Seeing others finding their way to a great life, without alcohol, was a huge incentive for me, and it made me want to keep going. I started meditating, doing yoga and before long I took up running. I’d never been sporty, so it was strange, but I found it was a way to channel my mind when I began to overthink. I also started writing, not for others, and for no other reason than to express down my feelings, but I found it therapeutic, and without realising, began to unpick a lot of the things that were going on in my mind. It was almost like once I had written them down, I could let them go.
Before I quit drinking, I couldn’t imagine what a life without wine would be like. My addiction had crept up on me; like many people, I drank to relax after a hard day, or as a reward after a good day, a celebration, a commiseration, or the sun was shining. I could find an excuse to drink every day. It crept up until one glass wasn’t enough, and then a bottle wasn’t, and then I needed two or three. That’s a lot to drink every night by yourself, but my denial kept me going because I just about held on to every other area of my life. I managed, but inside, I was falling apart.
If I was to do it all again, (which I won’t), I’d say to be prepared. It was a bumpy road, but then learning how to live without something I’d depended on is realistically going to be hard. The thing is, and this is the most important thing; now, with hindsight and a clear mind, I wouldn’t change a thing. I love being sober. I love remembering things. I love not having to check my phone in the morning to see what I may have said without meaning to. I love being present. I love experiencing the day without a buffer to my emotions. I might still get a little anxious from time to time, but I know that I’m managing my feelings now rather than just drowning them out with alcohol.
Life isn’t always perfect, but nothing is. Now I know I’m being an authentic version of myself, and I’m capable of more than I ever thought I was.
Sobriety is a gift. I have the same life as I had before, but it’s so much better, because I’m not on the sidelines watching it go by anymore, I’m in it on a daily basis, experiencing all of it.
My Dad isn’t very well at the moment. That’s a bit of an understatement to be fair. He was taken in to hospital as an emergency just over two weeks ago and has since had two surgeries. They aren’t quite on top of everything yet which is worrying, but I have all my fingers and toes crossed for him.
Dad being so poorly has brought up a couple of things for me that are unrelated to him. The first is that I am becoming increasingly scatty as I try to keep up with all the things I need to, it’s not a lot, I just feel like I am juggling a little. So I’ve been cleaning and hoovering a lot, because for some unknown reason that makes me settle down a little. Isn’t it strange how we find odd ways to cope? For some meditation works, for me, hoovering works. Well, at least it isn’t drinking wine. I am a bit worried though, I turned the hob on the other day, to boil some peas, walked away and came back to find I’d turned the wrong one, and was boiling an empty pot with a lid on it. Luckily I caught it before anything bad happened, but it was scary nether the less.
That brings me to my next point. So, my Dad didn’t know he was going into hospital, it was an emergency, and he got blue-lighted there. It’s made me think back to how I would have dealt with that back when I used to drink. I can’t imagine how I would have coped. I wouldn’t have been able to plan not to drink, in fact if I’d known I was going in, I probably would have tried to drink more in the run up, in some foolish attempt to stockpile. Of course I wouldn’t have been able to once in the hospital. I’m not actually sure what I would have done. I can’t imagine I would have told the nurses I drank so much, which would have made me effectively go cold turkey, something that I was told, because I drank so much would have been dangerous. I would have had to be pretty ill to have been able to stay in a hospital without drinking.
I guess seeing my Dad so poorly, has made me realise another one of the positives of me not drinking, although it has nothing to do with Dad really except for the fact I am able to drive my Mum about whenever she needs me, and not just in the daytime. It’s just a relief to think I won’t ever have that thought hanging over my head now if I ever was so poorly.
It’s another freedom I’ve acquired by managing to kick my habit. I have the freedom to be poorly, without still wondering where I’ll get another drink, and trust me, before I always did. Like when I had my wisdom teeth out under a general anaesthetic, it took me a day to want a drink after that, and I was in a bit of a state, all swollen and sore. I was certainly advised not to drink, but like normal, I ignored that, because I thought I’d be all right and I preferred the wine to the painkillers which I stupidly worried I’d form an addiction to!
It’s all about hindsight I guess, and while I can’t change anything that went before, I can be grateful for the change I put in place and how different I am now. I certainly appreciate the difference in my life, not just for me, but for those around me too.
Thank you as always for reading.