I like not drinking

 

Dinner party

For years I was scared of being sober.

Then I stopped drinking.

Quite often, I am reminded of why I love my life without alcohol. Tonight was one of those nights. Here’s why;

 

Whilst out tonight, my thoughts were never controlled by anxieties about drinking alcohol. All I thought about was what was happening around me; I was fully present.

I’m going for a hard run tomorrow morning to compensate for the serious lack of it recently due to the snow. I haven’t compromised my performance at all by drinking alcohol and I just know that tomorrow is going to be a great run.

My enjoyment of the evening was all real – I wasn’t acting under the influence; it was really me.

I won’t wake up tomorrow worrying about my health, something I said or that my daughter witnessed me whilst I was slightly drunk.

I got to come home and do a couple of jobs instead of letting them mount up for the morning. I know that I am 100% available for my sleeping baby, should she wake up for anything.

I ate a gorgeous chocolate pudding that roughly equated to the calories in 3 big glasses of wine.

I remember getting home.

I had a great time!

When I go to bed, I can get stuck into the brilliant book that I’m reading.

I won’t look tired/have a hangover/be sleep-deprived grumpy when I get up in the morning.

What was I so scared about? 

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I’m So Sorry For Being Sober…Not!

A recent topic of conversation on Soberistas.com has been about the embarrassment that some people feel regarding ‘coming out’ as a teetotaller, and it’s something that I have been thinking about over the last few days as a result. We live in a society that is heavily weighted in favour of alcohol as our preferred drug of choice, but also one that shuns those who are not ‘able to handle it.’ Those referred to as ‘alcoholics’ are often pitied, excluded and frowned upon for their apparent weakness and inherent inability to just have a drink with the rest of us and not cause trouble, for themselves or for us.

It is similar for those who are overweight; we as a society tend to consider them at fault for not being able to just put the lid on the biscuit tin. It is fine for ‘us’ to indulge in pizzas and cakes, chips and pasties because we know where to draw the line, but for those who continue to gorge themselves and who are subsequently obese, well, they have no one to blame but themselves. IMG_0271

Jason Vale, in his book ‘Kick the Drink…Easily!’ (of which everyone at Soberistas is now very familiar!), makes the point that other drinkers are the drinks industry’s best advertisers. Even a drinker who is on a short sabbatical due to antibiotics or pregnancy gets it in the ear as to why they are turning down an alcoholic beverage – ‘Oh you poor thing, never mind – only nine months and then we can go out and get hammered again,’ or ‘Oh no, how long have you got to take them for? Ooh, two weeks without a beer – nightmare!’

Why? Why has it become so abhorrent to society in general that some of us may choose to live our lives fully present? Is it so ridiculous that to some, their weekend may not revolve around stupidity, embarrassment, falling over, hangovers and a multitude of regrettable incidents?

I remember how I viewed those who abstained from booze when I was a drinker. Killjoys, frumpy, boring, party poopers; I would not have wanted to spend my time at a party or in the pub with a teetotaller, simply because their presence would have highlighted my weakness, my addiction. I gravitated towards those who were equally happy getting sloshed and whose idea of fun was staggering around and talking rubbish.

Perhaps it is the case that for heavy drinkers who are out to get pissed, teetotallers are their idea of the party guest from hell. But would we, as teetotallers, want to endure their company anyway? Listening to a boring, self-interested drunken idiot is my idea of hell – drunk people do not make good company to those who are with it enough to notice what they are talking about, and drunk people love being with other drunk people simply because it helps them to justify their own excessive drinking. And, of course, they are on the same wavelength; that is a very short, immature and inane one.

It is perhaps unrealistic to imagine that people who are stone cold sober and those who are absolutely out of it can get along together and have a merry old time. But then again, who would want to hang out with a heroin addict who had just shot up a load of top whack smack? But there are plenty of people who drink alcohol who do not get completely off their heads and I do think for them, it is inconsequential whether or not the person they are talking to is sober or not. And given the choice of the version of me drunk or sober, I know which one I would prefer to talk to (and it wouldn’t be the one who was slurring her words, wobbling about and flirting outrageously with every bloke in the room).

For every person who is brave enough to pour away their last bottle of wine and come to the healthy and happy choice to be sober, one more step is taken towards making teetotal living more normal, more acceptable; for every person who is strong enough to take a sober stand in this alcohol-fuelled society that we inhabit, we are building a viable alternative to the standard idea of ‘a good time.’ One day, in the not-too-distant future, I hope that it will be considered rather odd to head off to the pub on a Saturday night, spend a ton of money on a liquid that will annihilate your short-term memory, act in ways that you would never act when sober, and then as a result, waste your entire Sunday in bed with a hangover.

My inspiration – Team Soberista!!

On Saturday night I felt a teensy bit of a pang for those nights of the past, where I would stay up until the early hours with a friend, talking rubbish over a few bottles of wine. It’s the first time in MONTHS that I have had that feeling but it reminded me that you should never take sobriety for granted; it isn’t always easy and sometimes your mind plays funny tricks on you, like manipulating a memory and presenting it through rose-tinted glasses, conveniently omitting the terrible associative memories (throwing up, passing out, arguments, bad hangover, feelings of guilt and self-hatred, etc. etc.) that in actuality, are far more representative of the truth.

Anyway, I posted a blog on Soberistas.com on Sunday morning and was overwhelmed by the beautiful, heartfelt messages that I received in response. I guess I was looking for a little affirmation that sobriety wins hands down over a booze-sodden life, any day of the week. So, the following are snippets of the comments left beneath my post, Damn You Tequila!; I will look at them whenever I have another of those misguided moments of twisted recollections, and maybe they will help you too if you experience the same…thanks Team Soberista for firmly getting my head back into gear!! Lucy xx 

I think one of the biggest hurdles we have to surmount is the glamourizing of over drinking in the media; really it needs to go the way of smoking. And one more thing, the post below by your sister should be read by everyone….she says you are just as witty and more fun NOW…..that is a big fear for a lot of us and of course it is not valid but the sexy modern ladies on telly necking taunt us daily (and are role models for our children) . Anyway, good girl, and thanks

Lucy- as your big sis, I have to say that the change in you since you quit drinking has been AMAZING and even though we had a blast at times in the hedonistic days, you are much much more fun to be around these days! I don’t worry about you anymore like i used to. The nights of bundling you into a taxi are long gone thank God!! And you’re still witty as ever… Well more so actually. You have inspired me and lots of others to live a healthier life and I think you’re awesome kid! X x x

It IS hard at times, but discovering this website and other people who go through the same as me is a massive boost and reassurance that I am not alone.

Alcohol was such a huge part of who I was and I am still discovering who I am without it. I am looking forward to investigating this site further, maybe telling my story…

…creating this website which is wonderful…it is a massive help!! I think that we all would be lying if we said there wasn’t times that we don’t think we would love to share a drink with a friend or have those carefree moments. I am trying to look at alcohol as the end of a bad relationship. Even in bad relationships there were always “happy times” and you will miss it from time to time ( even though you know you are better off without it ).

I suppose we all look at the past with rose tinted glasses and become nostalgic about our drinking days at some point but just look at what you have achieved since you decided to quit!!! WOWZA!!!

I doubt you could run this site after tucking into a bottle (+) a night or even feel true to yourself if you did! The people you have helped by starting this site are testament to your serious and deliberate choice to stop the booze. You are an inspiration to many and the site is helping more people than you could ever appreciate. Thank you so much xx

I’m happy to know that others feel the same! Every once in a while I feel like I miss drinking, like sharing a bottle of wine with a girlfriend. But just like you said, it’s a choice we make & even though we have the option to throw in the towel, we stay strong and don’t.

I listened to your radio Sheffield interview and you were totally honest about how you were with alcohol and how you are now without it. It is really easy for the media to portray this nice side of alcohol but it is sad that the other side isn’t shown.
You have done so much for yourself and all the other people on this site.

Illusion of friendship

You approached me with a smile; held my hand and took me away.
We visited places far removed from where I should be,
We waltzed hand in hand, faking bonhomie.

You feigned normalcy; you slotted right into my ordinary world.
Your influence stretched to my true inner core,
With you in me, I was me no more.

We parted and I feared I might lose my way; fall to oblivion.
Without you by my side, convinced I’d stumble,
That version of me gently crumbled.

Absent, you left stealthily as you came; my paradigm shifted.
Since your departure, I emerged out of hiding,
Grasped all I am, curbed the endless sliding.

My consciousness knows no other voice; I am in control of my Self.
There is no light brighter than each untainted day,
Forever strong, my resolve will not sway.

Learning From the Past

It is coming up to the 10th anniversary of my marriage ending. He walked out on me on Valentine’s Day 2003, the day after I fell down the stairs and broke my foot. In the days leading up to his departure, I had absolutely no idea that my life was about to turn itself inside out, throwing me and all of my hopes and dreams for the future into utter disarray before dumping me in some awful no man’s land where I would live out the next few years.

The actual act of him leaving plays out in my mind now, ten years on, as though it were a scene in a sub average 1970’s sitcom; me lying in the bed, plaster cast encasing my right leg up to the knee, him on his knees on the excessively deep-pile carpet, cramming his clothes into a suitcase before forcing the zip roughly in order to seal it shut; bewilderment on my face, dogged determination on his.

The following weeks and months meandered through bad to terrible to agonising pain, depression and alcohol featuring prominently on the bleak landscape of my mental state. He stopped paying me money; I threatened to sell the family car. He moved in with a girlfriend and then criticised me for inviting a date back to the marital home, in which he no longer lived. We fell into a childcare arrangement that would stick for the following decade, one which meant that he never came into the house to collect or drop off our daughter, but instead hung around at the bottom of the drive, engine running and an impatient look upon his face.

I felt as though I were carrying a neon sign around my person, one that flashed brightly the news to all who passed me that I was newly divorced, I couldn’t keep my man, I was unwanted, a failure at life. The school playground was suddenly filled with laughing and joking married types, little nuclear families who embodied success and normality, and so I hung further and further back, desperately trying to fade into invisibility as I waited for my little girl to run out of the doors, some bright paper creation clasped in her hand that she had made that day.

When I look back now with ten years additional life experience, the writing was emblazoned upon the wall that alcohol was about to become my best friend. With a complete disregard for my health and mental wellbeing, I hit the wine with a vicious desire to self-harm. Living through the emotional pain without anaesthetising it with alcohol was simply not an option. Wine crept in quietly through a back door that had been left slightly ajar, and proceeded to fill my whole existence with its far-reaching effects, becoming the unwanted visitor who outstayed its welcome and thrived on my continual downfall.

Ten years have brought with them immeasurable amounts of wisdom and self-awareness. If I could change anything, it would not be that my marriage had continued but that I had understood back then that drinking alcohol was only putting off the inevitable. As the wine flowed freely, the pain was not being washed away; rather it was redirected into a reservoir where it became concentrated and tainted, resting patiently for me to open the flood gates and let it free.

When I stopped drinking, the biggest mountain that I faced was tackling the previously ignored emotions that I had bottled up in the years following my divorce. I knew they were there, lurking in the depths of my consciousness and I dreaded the day when they would begin to trickle forth, forcing me to wet my toes in the painful aftermath of the hurt, betrayal, self-doubt and anger that were borne out of my marriage breakdown.

It’s true that time heals, and when I regard my twenty-seven-year-old self floundering amidst a sea of alcohol and a refusal to acknowledge her feelings, I wish that I could whisper with complete assurance into her ear; ‘it will all work out ok in the end.’ I shouldn’t have drunk as much as I did, but in all honesty, I had no other way of coping at that time, and ultimately I came to the right conclusions. It did all work out ok in the end, and the frayed edges got tidied up, the creases ironed out.

I learnt an awful lot from my divorce, and not a day passes by when I am not truly grateful for my partner and my two daughters. When you lose the future that was yours, all mapped out in your head, organised and within your grasp, and you are faced with the task of building another one from scratch, it becomes impossible to live without gratitude for even the smallest thing.

The flurry of our lives spin along and carry us as though we were caught up in a whirlwind. When everything that you know disappears in an instant, you develop the ability to appreciate it fully, in the finest of detail, when it finally comes back to you.

The Brink, Liverpool.

Whilst idling away half an hour on the internet this morning, I came across The Brink’s website, an alcohol-free venue in Liverpool which offers all of the benefits of a really cool bar, minus the booze. What an amazing idea and how encouraging to think that somebody out there had faith enough in there being sufficient custom to sustain such an establishment aimed at those who don’t want to get sloshed every time they go out socially, to open this café bar in the first instance.

Capitalising on the fact that if you aren’t drinking you might actually want to enjoy something interesting and creative (rather than rabbling on in your mate’s ear in slurred, drunken tones about some boring rubbish that you’ll both have forgotten about in the morning), The Brink works closely with poets, artists and musicians in order to put on a variety of entertainment that you wouldn’t find in your run-of-the-mill pub.

And the best is yet to come – all the profits are ploughed back into the community to help those who have suffered as a result of alcoholism and addiction. I’m sold. I just wish that somebody would open an equivalent in Sheffield.

We live in a society which is deeply coloured by its love of booze. As soon as you quit drinking, it becomes all too apparent that bars, restaurants and clubs (on the whole) are geared up towards those who drink, for that is where the profit lies. That’s fine – we live in a capitalist society after all and nobody does anything for free, but it can leave us teetotallers feeling a little lost when it comes to our evening entertainment. There’s nothing stopping a non-drinker from sitting or standing in a crowded bar on a Saturday night surrounded by drunken fools, and many do. I am not one of them however.

Theatre, cinema, restaurants, yes; even a party with the right people, but city centre bars are pretty much my idea of hell now that I don’t drink. And so when I happened upon The Brink’s website I felt the glimmer of hope – if only someone in Sheffield gets wind of this and opens a similar thing here, I would happily become their most frequent customer. The presence of such places in our towns and cities would go a long way to promote the notion that having fun socially does not necessarily mean getting hammered. The fact that the profits go to helping those with addiction-related problems promotes compassion and community-spiritedness, instead of commercialism and financial gain. At closing time, the patrons leave to go home sober, probably in their own cars, rather than staggering around the city’s streets looking for a fight and throwing up in doorways.

I can feel a trip to Liverpool coming on…Take a look at The Brink’s website for further information.

http://thebrinkliverpool.com/whats-on/

House of the Flying Nappies

Do you ever wonder what your neighbours think about you? How they pigeon-hole you into a particular category or type? The thought crossed my mind a couple of hours ago when I opened the baby’s window and flung a filled nappy sack out of the window to the ground below, a time-saving, odour-reducing technique that means the unwanted bag lands right next to the wheelie bin by the back door, and simultaneously ensures that it doesn’t sit in the kitchen awaiting expulsion for several hours until somebody remembers it is there and does the necessary.

Anyway, as I closed the window, I noticed that the next-door neighbour was in her kitchen making a drink. She was standing by her window and must have seen the flying nappy sack as it zoomed past on its way to the bin. Then, a random thought popped into my head; are we known as ‘House of the Flying Nappies?’

Do they think we are slightly nuts for hurling little plastic bags out of the bedroom window several times a day?

What else do they think of us?

We are quiet neighbours I think – except for the baby’s crying and that’s excused as far as I’m concerned in the realm of neighbourly noise pollution because there is sod all that can be done about it. Our plastics bin is always overloaded, spewing empty milk bottles and yoghurt pots on to the ground around where it sits in the final days before the bin men dispose of its contents. The dog barks occasionally, but not to the point of distraction. We generally do not let her do a number two on the garden, so there are no unsightly dollops for our neighbours to see when they open their curtains. We don’t have wild parties, tinker with old cars or motorbikes, play loud music or have loud domestic arguments for all and sundry to hear. We are polite and friendly and exchange brief hellos if and when we bump into any of those who live in our immediate proximity.

Before I moved in here, I lived in an apartment with just my eldest daughter. My neighbours there most likely had a very different impression of me then. I quite often had people around, and we would stay up until two or three am drinking, which subsequently meant periodically tottering outside to smoke fags, standing on the doorstep of the apartment block with wine glass in one hand and cigarette in the other (I should point out that these events generally happened when my daughter was at her Dad’s). I would frequently return home from a night out, utterly smashed, and stagger down the long, steep drive in high heels, and on more than the odd occasion I fell to the ground with a resounding smack, instigating the onset of some severe bruising.

One night in the winter, I took a particularly nasty tumble on some ice and proceeded to roll, commando-style, down a steep grass bank that was a slippery mix of slush, ice and mud, landing embarrassed and covered in dirt in a heap at the bottom.

This drunken behaviour had the effect of turning me into an insecure, paranoid person with a nervous disposition. I would scuttle off, head down, if I spotted a neighbour approaching me in the car park, terrified that they might have witnessed me inebriated and acting badly the previous night. Living on my own with a daughter, a woman in her mid-thirties, and clearly someone who enjoyed knocking back the vino on a regular basis, I am sure that my neighbours’ opinions of me were less than sparkling. I probably didn’t help myself much when I routinely carried huge amounts of clanking empties across the car park to the communal bins, or if I was ever spotted walking home from the nearby supermarket, carrier bags full of wine bottles.

Considering the two categories, pissed-up old lush who smokes like a chimney and cannot converse with people in a normal, functioning way, or mum of two, resident of House of the Flying Nappies, who, in between looking after her kids, bloke and dog goes jogging quite a lot and is often seen sitting at her laptop through the kitchen window, and whose blue bin gets a bit full from time to time, I definitely prefer the latter.

Thinking.

I’ve been up for almost three hours and my brain has not stopped whirring in all that time. It is exhausting. From the minute I woke up, this cerebral hyperactivity has careered headlong through such topics as what we are having for dinner, how I can fit the dog’s walk in this morning with all the other commitments I have, how to best balance the food budget owing to the predictable overspend during Christmas, how I will ever lose that last half a stone from my latest pregnancy when I am hungry all the time and fruit just doesn’t cut it, how will the baby manage without her afternoon sleep – something which will have to be dropped as she didn’t go down until 9 pm last night owing to a later-than-usual 3 pm slumber, whether or not I suffer from SAD because I have noticed that my mood has been a little less than bright these last few days and the gloomy weather is beginning to drag me down somewhat, how fast life goes as you grow older and that I feel as if the last 5 years have just hurtled me into middle age at a frightening rate, whether we will ever get round to finding the time and energy to sort the garden out, sell a load of stuff on eBay that is currently piled up in our bedroom, clean the skirting boards or wash the car… I won’t bore you with the rest.

I think this is why I drank, to slow it all down and give my head a rest.

Open Letter to Anyone Thinking of Giving up Booze this January

I’m 37 years old and have struggled with depression, anxiety and the odd panic attack throughout the last twenty years of my life. My nerves frequently got the better of me, and my obvious lack of confidence in work and social situations held me back and prevented me from fulfilling my potential for many years. If you had asked me to describe my personality a couple of years ago, I would have responded with a jumbled, insecure answer; unsure of who I really was, full of pretence as to the person I wanted to be, knowing that inside I didn’t particularly like myself but not fully realising how to change. All of that stopped when I quit drinking alcohol in April 2011.

The dawn of a new you?

The dawn of a new you?

If you have a sneaky suspicion that alcohol is controlling you a little more than you feel comfortable with then read on – this may be the first step you have subconsciously wanted to take for a long time.

If you binge drink and subsequently get drunk a lot you will, whoever you are, occasionally make an idiot of yourself. You will say stupid things, have unnecessary arguments, fall over, lose your phone or handbag, text someone who you really shouldn’t, make sexual advances towards a person who is, how shall I put this..? Not quite at your usual standard. You may even put your safety at risk, walking home late at night alone, slightly wobbly, looking like an easy target for an attacker, or drink so much that you are sick after you have fallen asleep. Every time that you wake up the morning after a session where one or several of the above have occurred, your self esteem will take a bit of a battering. Multiply those beatings by each weekend/night/day that you binge drink and you will appreciate that your self respect and esteem are being severely and negatively affected by alcohol.

Alcohol depresses the central nervous system. Physiologically, that anxiety and nervy disposition that you, as a regular binge drinker, have probably noticed is increasing with age, is down to booze. When I drank, I had frequent panic attacks, the last one being so severe that I thought I was dying. I had to walk out of the packed cinema in which I was trying to watch The King’s Speech, because I was fighting to breathe. It was hours later until I regained my normal composure, and days until I fully recovered from the fright and trauma that I suffered as a result of thinking that I was on my way to meeting my maker. The reason behind this anxiety attack was that I had drunk too much beer the night before.

For years I pinballed between unsuitable relationships; one boyfriend would have the physical attributes I was looking for, but not the mental compatibility. I would dump the first one and jump straight in to another union with someone who had the brains and emotional energy I was after, but who, after time, I had no physical connection with whatsoever. I couldn’t be alone. My depression and low self esteem meant that I constantly needed the reassurance of being in a relationship just to feel wanted and loved. I was incapable of loving myself. Alcohol kept me from being in a happy and balanced relationship with a person who loves me as much as I love them.

Drinking put me in a perpetual state of either a) being drunk or b) being hungover. Neither of these conditions is conducive to a productive, fulfilling life. My career, financial wellbeing and physical fitness were all below par (by a long way) when I drank. I am not a lazy person but I never achieved much during the years in which I got drunk. Since giving up drinking, my achievements just keep on growing each week – in turn this boosts my self esteem and belief in what I am capable of. And so I keep on achieving and aiming higher.

Without drink in my life, my self esteem has been restored; my anxiety and narcissistic tendencies have vanished, and guess what? I like myself! And the natural conclusion to that, of course, is that other people like me more too. I have finally found a man who I think is perfect (for me, at least), and we have a wonderful family life which I value above anything else. I am running regularly and have a 10k race (my second in three months) coming up at the end of February. My relationship with my eldest daughter (at that tricky teenage stage) is great, and we are very close. I have bags of energy, and squeeze masses in to each and every day. I never stay in bed, idling away those precious hours that I could be spending on accomplishing something worthwhile. My skin and general appearance have improved, my eyes are bright and I don’t have to fight to keep a beer belly at bay. I am happy. The happiest I have ever been in my life, and this is down to one simple factor – I gave up booze.