Seeing is Believing

This morning I was on my way down to the park in the drizzly gloom, pram in front of me and dog at my side. I was dressed in a beige puffer jacket, jeans and Uggs (I know, Uggs and rain is not a good mix but they are so warm I can’t get them off my feet). The clothing is important – you’ll see why in a sec. I stopped at the zebra crossing – large, brightly painted white and black stripes complete with two flashing yellow lights, one at either side, and was about to step on to the road when a car zoomed past, completely ignoring the pedestrian-friendly crossing.

I gesticulated, as you do, although mildly as I had the baby with me and I don’t want to influence her gentle manner with my intolerance of bad driving, and then continued on my way across the road and on to the park. As I walked, I became aware of the sound of a car’s engine to my left and looking across I saw the angry red face of the man who had just almost run me over. Winding down his window, he began to shout at me for not wearing brighter clothes (should I be equipped with a high-viz jacket in order to safely negotiate a zebra crossing?). I was rather restrained in my response, although I did tell him off for being so aggressive.

He drove off and I embarked on an internal muttering for the duration of the fifteen minute walk to my destination. Should I be wearing bright clothes? Should I have smiled at him as he almost took me, my baby and the dog out in one foul swoop, hurtling along in his clapped-out Golf at 45 miles per hour in a built up area? Should I have given him more of a ticking off when he drew up alongside me and berated me for my beige clobber?

Half an hour later and I was just leaving the park when I looked up and saw two gentlemen in their 70’s jogging along the pavement close to the park’s entrance. ‘How lovely,’ thought I, ‘that two men in their twilight years go jogging together. Not often you see that.’  And then, as they neared me and I caught a closer look, I saw that one of the men had no vision whatsoever and his friend was linking his arm through his blind companion’s and steering him along a safe route. This was a kind and wonderful thing for the friend to do, but I couldn’t get over the massive amount of determination and fearlessness in the face of adversity demonstrated by the blind man. I was so impressed. If they had both had their sight I would have been impressed; given that one of them was putting all his trust and faith in his friend, and that they were both tackling disability and their mature years with such optimistic gusto, and doing it in the cold and the driving rain, I was nothing less than blown away.

I didn’t give another thought to the arse with the bright red face, and was filled with a sense of all humanity being utterly fantastic all the way home.

Happy New Year!

I am not the party animal that I was in my youth. Long gone are the days when I would buy a ticket in October for an all-nighter New Year’s bash, costing around £50, only to get completely out of it by about 11pm, thus never being able to recall whether or not I had actually enjoyed the night or not. I remember a few New Year’s house parties which started out as brilliant occasions, full of friends, fun and lots of alcohol, but all ended in some disaster or other (one springs to mind immediately, when me and a friend shaved off a male guest’s fairly long hair at about 3 am (with his consent, I add), only to show his new look off to his wife who proceeded to have a fit of the histrionics, accusing us of making her husband look as though he were in receipt of chemotherapy. The whole party then joined in the slanging match for a good couple of hours, before everyone staggered home in the early morning light to sleep it off. The husband wore a hat constantly for the next couple of months). wine

The first New Year’s Eve do that I went to as a drinker, aged somewhere in my mid-teens, I became the ‘girl who cries at parties.’ I have absolutely no idea as to what I was crying about, but do remember heaving over the toilet bowl for a while before finding some kind bloke who put his arm round me and attempted to force strong, black coffee down my throat. I remember nothing else. After sleeping it off, I awoke in the morning to find that I had inadvertently become the talk of the party, a strange girl (I had been invited by the two sisters who hosted the bash, but knew no one else there) who had spent hours on end gasping and dripping snot all over the shoulder of their mate who had kind of missed the party because of me. Apparently prior to that, I had also thrown a beer over some other bloke’s head who tried to snog me under the mistletoe, but whose advances were not, it would seem, particularly sought after.

It will probably come as no surprise to you then, when I tell you that I haven’t bought a hot ticket for a posh do somewhere in town tomorrow night, but am instead staying at home with my girls. This is not because I no longer wish to socialise now that I no longer drink alcohol, but because from experience I know that most people (read, people who drink) view NY Eve as an occasion which warrants getting lashed, and I do hate being around people who are hammered.

So, in continuation of our little routine that we followed last year, my eldest daughter (almost 14 and therefore this could potentially be the last New Year’s Eve that she wishes to spend with her old Mum) and me will be baking Nigella Lawson’s chocolate orange cake, which is heaven on a plate, and intended to serve about ten but easily polished off by two greedy girls enjoying their own private NY party. As that culinary delight bakes in the oven, we will get stuck into a load of beauty treatments; manicures, pedicures, facials and cucumber slices on our eyes and laugh at some really awful celeb magazines. And then, cake semi-cooled but warm enough to still feature its pièce de résistance, the molten, gooey, utterly delectable chocolate orange centre, we will stick Jools Holland’s Hootenanny on the TV and stuff our faces – marvelous.

This little party of ours also has the advantage of allowing for a meaningful New Year’s Day, rather than one spent, as I have done frequently in the past, with the mother of all hangovers, periodically throwing up and lying in a darkened room wishing that the train would stop running over my brain. I love the sentiment of the first day of a new year, a whole fresh 365 days, plain and untainted, free to do with whatever you choose, and so I value being with it sufficiently to enjoy it.

Whatever you do, I hope you have a great night, and a fantastic 2013.

All or nothing

I am a Libran, although have never held much faith in astrology as I am one of the least balanced people I know. I do not do moderation; everything is full throttle, all or nothing, Spartan or full blown luxury, pouring with rain or dry as a desert.

In some respects, that has helped me stay sober, but it also helped lead me to the place where I ended up, prior to quitting drinking; at least a bottle of wine a night, and virtually every social occasion ending up with me drunk and passing out. I remember going skiing with a friend a few years ago, and getting up at 7 am each day to spend eight hours on the slopes, before getting stuck into the après ski at 7 pm and boozing until 2 or 3 am. We maintained that pace of life for the entire week; healthy, fit and active in the daylight hours, completely out of it and chain smoking for most of the night. That was a microcosm of how I used to live.bright_sunrise_breakwater_beach

Being a person who has routinely entered into everything in a full-blown, give-it-all-I’ve-got kind of way, or who hasn’t bothered entering into it at all, has made this whole sober living business reasonably simple for me. Over Christmas, there was never a point where I thought I could just have one glass of Champagne, because I knew that it wouldn’t have ended there; one glass for me would inevitably have led to the entire bottle, my brain whirring away at a hundred miles an hour as it attempted to plan how I could manage to get hammered without anyone noticing. Foolish thoughts, the thoughts of an addict, but very real and most definitely guaranteed to take place as soon as a few drops made their way into my bloodstream.

And so, in that respect it’s easy; it’s a case of have a glass, drink the bottle, fall over, pass out, hate yourself, argue with someone/everyone, say stupid things, act like an idiot. Or, alternatively, drink something with no alcohol in it and do none of that stuff – a clean, straightforward, simple decision and one that I always take these days.

In other ways, it isn’t easy at all – there are occasions when those around you are getting drunk and letting their hair down and you feel as though you are a little too straight-laced, too conscious. There are times when it seems as though it is the correct way to behave; having a drink and acting all tipsy – Christmas and weddings being the two that instantly spring to mind – and being a non-drinker has the effect of making one stick out like a sore thumb, sobriety becoming a defining characteristic that you would rather people didn’t notice about you. But then it once again boils down to the above choice, and I am left with no choices at all – being the sober and straight one is infinitely more appealing than being the passed out inebriated one.

When I drank, my life tended to undulate in an entertaining (lively and slightly wild, not usually in a positive way) and often destructive pattern of highs and lows, peaks and troughs; swinging wildly from this situation to that, always some drama to contend with and some fallout to tidy away. Living without alcohol means that there is none of that – life is simple and rhythmic and controlled. And I prefer it that way. It also occurs to me that I could harness that very un-Libran quality of mine and use it to achieve some pretty impressive personal goals; if I throw myself into (for instance) running, with the same level of gusto that I once applied to drinking alcohol, then I could become better than I ever imagined that I could be, at that and boundless other ventures.

Food for thought for 2013…

Merry Christmas to all Soberistas’ Followers!

I just wanted to write a quick note to wish you all a merry Christmas and to say thanks for following this blog, commenting and showing your support. I hope that at least some of my ramblings have had the effect of making those of you who are dealing with the after effects of too much drinking and not enough self-love, feel a little less alone and somewhat more hopeful that life can be good again…

And now, the day before Christmas Eve, here are the things that I will be doing to ensure a happy Christmas Day, spent with my lovely family;

1. Definitely no alcohol – it’s Mock Champagne all the way for me, served in a crystal champagne flute. No hangovers, no embarrassing behaviour to apologise for on Boxing Day, no arguments with OH and less calories on top of a calorific and almighty Christmas Dinner (the first that I will have cooked for 12 years, but I am not scared, people – I will, after all, have a completely clear head).

2. A long run, early on Christmas Day morning – this will get me energised for a busy day, help me to keep on top of my weight and give me an extra boost of endorphins to make the present opening even more fun. Oh and it gets the dog tired out too!

3. A reasonably early night on Christmas Eve (after putting out Father Christmas’ mince pie and carrot for Rudolph) to make sure I am up, bright and full of beans at 6 am with the baby (pre-run) and able to last all day without running out of juice and hitting that mid-afternoon slump.

Thanks again, and I wish you all a great Christmas!

If tomorrow is the end…

If the world ends tomorrow, then I don’t think I would be wracked with guilt and regret over mistakes and wrongdoings in my life. I have made mistakes, and too many to mention, but I feel that since giving up alcohol I have strived hard to iron out my creases (metaphorically speaking – the physical ones are all too apparent, a sorry sign of my diminishing youth), and for the most part have succeeded.

As a drinker, I would have told a very different story. There wasn’t one aspect of myself that I felt fully happy about, not one characteristic that I genuinely felt proud of. I knew nothing of living life to the full, consistently fell short of my maximum potential and had the self- esteem of someone who persistently lives out her life in the shoes of a drunken, moody, instant-gratification-seeking narcissist. Not that I wish to be too hard on myself but that was me.

Addiction generally makes one self-serving and it is a hard habit to break, much more difficult than resisting the demon drink. For months after I gave up, I would often be about to totally disregard someone’s perspective or needs because they differed from mine, only to force myself to try a new method; self-sacrifice and a teeny bit of empathy. Over time I have rewired my brain and now I do think about consequences to a greater degree than merely how they will impact on me.

Learning not to be selfish breeds an altogether new phenomenon in the brain of the ex-addict; liking yourself, thinking you are ok, maybe even a nice person. And beginning to like yourself sets off a chemical reaction of its own; slowly, methodically, the building bricks of self-respect undergo a metamorphosis from a scattered pile on the ground, to a solid, well-constructed wall, sturdy enough to weather a few storms. Once you have built your wall, you’re all set – ready to face the world and all that it throws at you.

As someone who drank almost every night, mostly to excess, I had no walls, no defences to fight the fight with. Whenever something troublesome cropped up in my life, I drew on the old tried and tested (and routinely failed) methods of manipulation, crying, neediness and ultimately, giving up. I had no balls, no faith (I don’t mean that in a religious way, but faith in a better life, faith in the sun coming out again, faith in finding the way out) and no gumption. I have all those things now (again, with the balls, I speak metaphorically).

So if tomorrow is the end for us all, I feel like I have done the best I could have done with the cards I got dealt. And you can’t really do better than that.

That was then and this is now

When I drank alcohol, this was my life; get up with a hangover, slap on tonnes of make up in an effort to disguise this fact, eat something fattening and carb-tastic for breakfast, not go for a run, stumble down to the park with the dog, hurry back home feeling slightly queasy, take daughter to school, catch bus to work feeling exhausted and a bit anxious, buy a large, full fat latte and a cake for energy purposes, experience a sugar crash mid-morning due to fatigue, carb-loading and sugar frenzy, drink more coffee, eat large and fattening sandwich with fizzy drink for lunch, drag myself through the afternoon, get home, eat an unhealthy dinner, stick the TV on, drink more wine to eradicate all of the above, and then slope off to bed feeling desperate for sleep.alcoholic

Today I got up at 5 am with a very poorly baby. She had some milk and then returned to her cot for an hour and a half whilst I did a monumental pile of ironing (multiple washes went on yesterday due to the baby being sick on an hourly basis) and made everyone’s packed lunch. I took daughter number one to school, returned home and went for a long-ish walk with the baby and dog. Then I spent a couple of hours walking around the downstairs of the house with a crying baby over my shoulder, before eventually settling her after a dose of Calpol about 10:30 am. Whilst she slept I crammed in about four hours’ worth of work into one, before she woke up and we started walking about again for a further two hours.

Mum arrived as back up mid-afternoon, providing some alternative form of company to the little bundle of snot and tears (poor thing), and kept me company for a while. I then took the baby to the doctor’s (viral, nothing he can do, just Calpol, fluids, sleep), brought her home and left her with Other Half whilst I went for a five mile run, came back, cooked dinner, ate it and then set about completing all the work that I didn’t get done today.

And during all of the pacing, consoling, cuddling, working and running that I ploughed through today, I never once felt tired, angry, impatient or grumpy, and nor did I feel the urge to consume three times what I should in calorie intake, and nor did I consider for one second buying or drinking a bottle of wine to cope with my day. I just got on with it, like normal people do (with a bit of help from Grandma and OH).

I think that I am not bothered by booze anymore. I think I am as I was intended to be, and it is such a relief.

No Words

I was going to write about being cross with my other half yesterday, for coming home late, rather the worse for wear after his work’s Christmas do, making a chicken sandwich and then leaving the chicken and butter out on the kitchen side all night rendering both useless and causing me to throw the two inedible items into the bin.
Then I was going to tell you about how I drove up to my lovely parents’ house, and how they had a chat with me about giving him some slack, showing him a little understanding, talking a bit of sense into me.
And then I turned the television on and listened to the news on the Sandy Hook killings. And nothing else matters.
So I won’t be writing about the above, or anything else today. My thoughts and love are with all those affected by the inhumane actions of the killer, of which there are no words to describe fully, but especially with the families who have had their beloved, beautiful children taken away from them.

What Christmas Means to Me

It’s that time of year again when everything goes slightly nuts and the world turns a little bit Technicolor. Christmas can be overwhelming for many people, for a myriad of different reasons. Personally I have struggled with the festive period in the past because I was a single parent and had to share my daughter with her Dad on Christmas Day, because I went wild in the drinks department (more than usual) and got even more hammered than my standard level of drunkenness, and because I suffered worse consequences as a result of being more sozzled than normal for much of the holidays.

christmas micah story

Being drunk and then hungover, and having to deal with the associated mood swings in between, rendered me completely unable to be content with life’s simple pleasures. I was forever searching for happiness, but was unable to find it when in the grip of alcohol. I therefore turned to increasingly inconsequential means in my efforts to locate that elusive state of mind; retail therapy when I had no need for new stuff (and could ill afford new stuff) romantic dalliances that kept me enthralled by their complicatedness and emotional rollercoaster turbulence, radical life changing decisions, the list goes on…

What I did not have when I regularly drank alcohol, was an appreciation of the simple things in life, of what is truly of worth in our little worlds. I have spoken to many people who have given up drinking and who have since enjoyed similar moments of wonder at seemingly banal things; watching the rising sun, waking up feeling healthy and full of energy, seeing flowers in bloom bursting with colours never noticed before. What those people all have in common is the experiencing of an almost evangelical awakening in the weeks and months after ditching alcohol, when suddenly they are filled with a sense of clarity; life becomes obvious; it all falls into place.

As time goes on, this awareness grows stronger and stronger in me; I just know what I want, who I am and what life is all about. I understand me, I get it. And no time is it more prevalent than at Christmas when it can appear that all around you are losing their heads in a sea of alcohol.

For me, it has become wonderfully apparent that the next couple of weeks are about my two gorgeous girls having a special and happy time surrounded by their family who adore them, having more time than usual to spend with my other half, sharing delicious food and having a good laugh together. It’s about appreciating everything that we have, remembering people who aren’t so lucky, and trying to do something for them too.

The Art of Resistance

wine

I am currently in my twenty first month without alcohol. I rarely feel the urge to go and get drunk, although I would be lying if I said that the thought had never entered my head during that time.

Usually as a result of being depressed, or something not going my way, or worrying about family or money, I have once or twice slipped into that mental place which is only a small step away from the wine aisle in Tesco. It is a fleeting thought which maybe lasts a couple of minutes; the pros and cons are weighed up, I quickly come to realise that there are no pros because I play the movie to the end, and we all know how the movie finishes. Then it’s all cons, I know it will go exactly the way it went last time and in the long run I would lose; the knowledge that my children are happy and secure, my partner, my self-respect and my happiness, lots of money, any chance I have of regaining my figure after having a baby in my late thirties (I have discovered that the human body is not quite so resilient at 37 as it is at 23, which is when I had my first baby). In the end, I lose.

Those thoughts go at one hundred miles an hour, I take a sharp intake of breath and then begin to think how best to snap out of my mood, now that I have come to the realisation that booze isn’t going to be involved in the process.

Previous to my giving up alcohol, I would often experience these thoughts, instances of ‘shall I, shan’t I?’ and the wine would always win. Even if I was on the wagon at the time, as soon as I had one of these moments I would give in to it and go get drunk. I have since named these few seconds of internal conversation, a debate between the good and the bad, the devil and the angel, as ‘Fuck It Moments.’ And now that I am entering into my third calendar year of sobriety, I have developed an acute awareness of when I am suffering from such an attack on my state of mind and, where booze is concerned, I deal with it pretty well these days (if I do say so myself).

Fuck It Moments (FIMs?) do not just happen in relation to drink – I routinely experience FIMs when I am trying to lose weight, and this particular manifestation I have not mastered. Yet. My weight is hovering around the 140 pound mark, and my pre-baby weight was about 132 pounds, so I really want to drop that last half a stone. I start off each morning with porridge, low fat almond milk as a substitute for cows’, some vitamins, juice, all going great. Feeling a little peckish around mid-morning but stave off the hunger pangs with a small banana and a glass of hot water with lemon. Oh, so virtuous, smug and on the way to thin again. Until lunchtime, when, overwhelmed by hunger, I scoff a sandwich, apple, yoghurt, and three (count them, three!) chocolate biscuits. Oh god. I want to rewind, I feel a bit sick, I am thoroughly annoyed with myself.

What got me there? What led me to eat three chocolate biscuits? A colossal FIM, that’s what. I opened the biscuit barrel, I stared down into the shiny wrappers, I knew that in that selection of bad boys lay a few thousand calories just waiting to latch on to my hips, and after due consideration, I cast aside the lid, stuck my hand in, grabbed three and said an almighty Fuck It.

Such wayward behaviour is not going to lead me down the path of slimness, back to my size 10 jeans and the gorgeous dress I bought just a couple of weeks before I discovered I was pregnant and have only worn once. I know this, and I also knew, back in the day, that every time I cracked open a bottle of wine, I was heading for misery – maybe not on that night, but on a night to come for sure if I carried on. But I did it anyway, and continued to do so until I hit a large enough, nasty enough, frightening enough rock bottom, for me to successfully eliminate those alcohol FIMs from my life for good.

Now I need to do the same for the biscuit tin FIMs. And I don’t really want to hit three hundred pounds before I am so full of self-disgust that I never want to taste the sickly sweetness of chocolate ever again; I’d rather banish my biscuit FIMs quite a long way off that point.

More self discovery, more alternative coping strategies, more soul searching…here we go again.