Off the Wagon?

I’ve been really slack with my blogging lately so big apologies to the very few followers I have! Just a quickie today:

After about four and a half months of complete sobriety, I had three instances with alcohol during December:

1 – a glass of bucks fizz to celebrate my daughter’s birthday
2 – 3 beers and 2 JD’s on Boxing Day
3 – 4 beers on New Year’s Eve

Now I’ve had some time to reflect on these occasions, I have realised a few things. Firstly, I CONSCIOUSLY drank and I take 100% responsibility for it. I’m a big boy and I don’t need to blame any peer pressure or Xmas killjoying. Two, I didn’t in any way feel slightly drunk on any occasion, which is probably more troubling than anything. Three, (say it quietly) but I enjoyed it – it was nice joining in and not worrying or beating myself up for a few minutes. Four, I drank low alcohol beer on purpose (4%). It wasn’t my favourite tipple but it allowed me to be in (more) control and to ease myself in to the booze. Five, is this now some kind of re-introduction into drinking again? I don’t truly know the answer to that but as of today, the answer is a sketchy ‘no’.

Looking back on my period of sobriety, I’m really proud. It’s nothing to be sniffed at and it was very hard work at times. I also learnt a lot about myself and social situations and pressures. I even remained sober on my birthday and Christmas Day for goodness sake – unthought-of of six months ago.

As of New Year’s Day I’ve started using an app to track my sober days (‘I Am Sober’). As I write this it reads 3 days, 12 hours, 43 minutes. I’ve already thought about drinking some more 4% beers during this period but a horrible head cold and chest infection has ensured that hasn’t been even nearly a reality.

Henceforth, after months of structure and mental strength and fortitude I feel like I’m stepping out into the unknown, not really clear what my goals regarding alcohol are. I know what I DON’T want to become but these couple of instances have opened up the demon can of worms, just ever so slightly.

Bastard thing, alcohol.

Perhaps when I’m back to health and my marathon training kicks in properly I’ll be in more of a positive and headstrong frame of mind but until then the door has been left ajar, for now.

Happy New Year to you all, have a great 2019 🙂

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4 months sober… tomorrow!

alcohol alcoholic beverage celebrate

I haven’t posted for quite some time but wanted to today for a variety of reasons: tomorrow will mark 4 months without any alcohol, we are now in December (surely the trickiest of all months for sobriety) and I’ve recently got involved with One Year No Beer, following a friend’s recommendation.

These last four months have been a hell of a ride. Anyone who has made it to this point will probably concur with similar feelings and experiences but it’s difficult to sum up in a succinct way and in such a short space of time. Needless to say that 4 months on from my last hangover I have learnt a ton of new things about myself (and others) and continue to strive for a healthier and happier life, albeit one day at a time.

If you haven’t heard of One Year No Beer, check it out. This blog is mainly in response to the community of people who are part of that and particularly those who are struggling with those first few days and weeks (we’ve all been there!). Here are my tips and experiences for breaking the cycle and finding the other side:

BE STUBBORN & PERSERVERE
Sobriety is mentally tough at times and will put you in some compromising positions where you will have to make difficult choices. It’s very tempting to give in but the more you persevere, the better you’ll be at doing it again and again and again, until it becomes habit. Willpower is underrated and not mentioned enough in my opinion – only you can determine the path you choose – it’s about accountability and going back to the reason you started this journey.

WHY SOBRIETY?
This is a personal question for everyone but for me, I chose AF for a few good reasons: my decision making under the influence is TERRIBLE, it was damaging very dear relationships and mentally/physically it was very bad for me. I have depression running through my family and suffer from mental health issues myself. Topping all of that up with alcohol in the cold light of day is a very bad idea. When I am tempted or think that a relapse is on the horizon, I weigh up whether it’ll all be worth going back to square one with the problems listed above. It’s not!

AF DRINKS
I love beer and I love bourbon – they were my weapons of choice. Occasionally I used to drink wine with a meal and I loved champagne or sparkling wine on special occasions too. I must admit that I was very nervous about what I’d drink at social occasions or even on the sofa by myself watching the rugby or the football. The truth is there is no like-for-like. I still haven’t found a drink that comes close to that first glug of alcoholic ice-cold Heineken. Sure, there are a million AF beers but they don’t come close to the taste or refreshment of real beer (in my opinion). Despite that, I do load up on AF beer when I’m out and I have lots at home. To me, they are the best AF option since I don’t really have a sweet tooth. I also have absolutely zero problem consuming something with 0.5% alcohol or less in it, though I know some do. My favourite AF beers are Ghost Ship and Free DAMM (which you can get in Tesco). I’ve heard plenty of people explore or enquire about AF wine or spirits but in my experience they don’t come close in taste.

STAY BUSY
I’ve always loved reading and exercising. Along with watching live bands these are my favourite pastimes outside of family life. Since going AF I’ve upped my reading and really got stuck into running and I definitely feel the benefits of doing these a) for my mental and physical wellbeing and b) because it gives me a focus and puts the importance of alcohol deep into the background, at least most of the time. I genuinely believe that if you don’t keep busy with interests and passions, alcohol is going to rear its ugly head sooner than you’d like. If I am busy, I have focus and can concentrate on the positive things that I believe are beneficial to me.

COUNTING THE DAYS
You may have noticed that at the start of this blog I mentioned ‘4 months’ rather than a number of days. That’s because I have stopped counting my days – mainly due to laziness! I know it’s extremely important for some people to do this and if that’s the case – go for it, I can definitely see the benefit. Equally – since joining OYNB I also think it can be a deterrent for some people because inevitably it’s natural to start comparing yourself to others who might be AF for longer, sometimes far longer. Just a thought!

DRINKING SITUATIONS
I’m from the UK and every single month (FACT) there will be a cause for drinking – whether it’s a birthday, a funeral, a wedding, a party, Christmas, a Bank Holiday, a football match, a promotion, a redundancy, a weekend, a holiday – EVERY.SINGLE.MONTH. Once I got my head around this I realised that there is zero point in starting to be sober at a specific time in the year – it’s 100% pointless. If you are going to go on this journey and try and succeed, you need to just take the plunge and throw your heart and soul into it. These drinking situations will come around soon enough, if it’s January, June, September or November! For me, that was very important. In my four months I’ve been through a heat-wave, bank holidays, my birthday, relatives birthdays, rare dinners out with friends and families and a holiday. Initially it’s tough but it gets easier to the point of habit.

THE ALTERNATIVE
I touched on this above but it’s true. What’s the alternative for you? For me it’s going back to being unhappy, making a fool out of myself and re-starting an unhealthy cycle in body and mind. I know that one single drink has the potential to restart all of that and at the moment I’m not willing to go back there thanks very much. Moderation isn’t something I can do unfortunately (trust me, I’ve tried), so abstinence is much more positive in the long-run.

SOCIAL PRESSURES
This one is a biggie for most and I have lots of family and friends that are ‘big’ drinkers. I didn’t need many excuses to have a drinking buddy close-by and I had lots of them. I know lots of people going AF are worried about what people will think of them and how they will handle certain situations. There is no easy answer to this in my opinion – you just have to suck it up and get on with it. If people are unaccepting, it’s their problem and not yours. Those that value you and what you are trying to achieve will show that in their own way. This is the time to be selfish, for all of the right reasons!

IT’S NOT ALL ROSY!
For a lot of people that go AF for a number of weeks and months, they very visibly look glowing with great skin, having lost lots of weight. They also talk about how positive they feel, almost all the time! Now, although I have lost weight, my skin has arguably got worse and I still have bouts of depression and the odd mood-swing. Don’t get me wrong, I feel MUCH better now than I did 4 months ago and gone are the hangovers and empty calories but I still have moments of despair when my confidence is shattered. It’s about rebounding from those moments and how you deal with them that counts and doing them AF is MUCH, MUCH easier!

BE KIND TO YOURSELF
This is something that is alien to me but I am getting better at it. At the end of the day, we’re all human. We all have needs and wants and desires and things that make us tick. By removing alcohol (something presumably most of us have enjoyed over time) we are taking away a huge part of life and social situations that have made us tick as modern humans. As an adult, it’s akin to pressing reset and learning a new way. In the short term it’s very tough but it gets better and those behaviours can almost be un-learnt, in my opinion.

Since alcohol was so often treated as a reward for me, I now feel no guilt whatsoever about indulging in more of the food I might not have touched in the past (sweet things in particular) to offset some of those feelings and emotions. For me, that makes me far less likely to relapse and thus, I am able to cut myself some slack. I also try and train my nuts off when I exercise, therefore I can give myself a little more room for these things.
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Wow, I’ve rambled on for far longer than I intended but hopefully this helps one person at least. I appreciate that 100% of this is subjective and there may be things that people disagree with – that’s fine, no problem.

(almost) 4 months down and I’m looking forward to a sober December and Christmas!

Good luck everyone.

Day 89 of sobriety

beach beautiful bridge carribean

I’ve just had a quick tot up and today is day 89 without a drop of alcohol. It’s quite momentous in a sense because so many people that choose sobriety mark day 90 as a real landmark. I’m not sure that day 89 is any different to day 30, 0r 40, or 60, or 70 to be honest but I felt that I should blog, purely because of the number and associated success with it.

The last couple of weeks have been tough. I’ve had a horrible head cold, a chest infection and I’ve battled some serious compulsive behaviour, generally manifesting itself with unhealthy eating and lifestyle. While I haven’t touched alcohol it’s been at the forefront of my mind from time to time and I very almost had a can of beer about a week ago following a tough week and generally just feeling low and unhealthy.

Thankfully I’ve largely turned a corner with a return to my running training and better diet. I’m mentally in a better place and any thoughts of alcohol have slowly dissipated.

Rightly or wrongly I concluded a week or so ago that I was definitely edging towards that first drink again. It’s inevitable in my mind & it’s just a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’. Despite the last 89 days including my birthday and various other get-togethers, the thought of not having a glass of bubbles on Christmas Day just feels plain wrong. Whether I get that far or not is still up for debate but that’s currently nagging at me already, even though it could present itself as an opportunity to open the can of worms which I so successfully shut down three months ago.

89 days in and I don’t really have any major words of wisdom I’m afraid. I’ve lost some weight, I haven’t had a single hangover (joy!) and my decision making has certainly been better but I still face the same battles and demons that many do – my depression, trying to be a good father, a good husband, a good friend, employee, colleague etc etc.

I’ve definitely had more clarity in my thoughts and actions but equally I’ve experienced some mentally very low moments which have led me to start taking anti-depressant medication, which I’ve now been on for about 10 days.

On that note, I have to meet my psychiatrist in about an hour and a half and I want to get a quick run under my belt before then.

Good luck to anyone embarking on sobriety or battling their demons. We’re all in it together.

 

70-days sober

alcohol alcoholic alcoholic beverage beer

The days are beginning to slowly rack up now and I’m heading ever closer to the 90-day milestone which so many people say is so significant.

During these  2+ months I’ve been in a number of situations when ordinarily (and historically) I would have drank without doubt – big gigs, small gigs, BBQs, my birthday(!), meals out, meals in, football matches etc etc.

Now I’m 70 not-out I feel reasonably qualified to share some honest thoughts about what it’s like and the positives and negatives (there are some!).

Positives:
WEIGHT LOSSS
Yep – it’s a cliché but the weight has fallen off and continues to stay off. Although it’s not entirely booze (I have been training my ass off running), not drinking has enabled me to exercise more and have better quality exercise, too. Coupled with this, I’m eating better most of the time. It’s a great feeling I must admit and it’s one of the best things to emerge from not drinking.

NO HANGOVERS
No regrets, no fuzz, no paranoia and no apologies. Along with weight loss, this is an amazing by-product of being booze free and I absolutely love it. I despise hangovers and what they did to me mentally and physically and I definitely don’t miss them.

MENTAL HEALTH
I still struggle every so often with my depression and feelings of self-doubt but not drinking has lessened this and given me some more day to day clarity. I’d be lying if I said I was 100% happy all of the time but I’m afraid that’s just not going to happen right now.

REMOVAL OF OBSESSION
When I’m drinking I start to obsess about drinking, The worm eats away at me and nags at me about my next drink, usually starting at about 5pm most days. It’ll keep nagging and nagging until a) I decide to give in and start boozing or b) I decide to be ‘good’ and put it off for another day. Either way, it’s a constant and boring battle which is a daily affliction. Not drinking removes this daily ball-ache entirely.

Negatives:
BORING
Maybe I’m still too early in the cycle but I still feel like a boring bastard when others are drinking, particularly when the party is in full swing. Although it feels great when we’re home / heading to bed, at the time I still feel a little uneasy and uncomfortable. If I’m 100% honest I don’t give a rats ass about what people think about me not drinking but I do sometimes miss being on that level with people (especially good friends and family) when you all have the same buzz. Alcohol-free beer just doesn’t kick it, man.

FIRST TASTE
Before this adventure, my drinks of choice were ice cold beer (the pic above!) or bourbon/sour mash with diet coke and lots of ice. The thought of both drinks now just gets me thirsty, particularly that very first gulp or sip. I do especially miss cold beer and enjoying a couple doing pretty much anything. My problem was that a couple might well turn into many more and then it would start to work its evil. That’s what I need to keep reminding myself – that first sip is only very temporary – the damage it can then cause isn’t worth it.

ALTERNATIVES
The alternative drinks just aren’t as nice. I drink a lot of alcohol-free beer now and it’s all well and good but after a few of them I feel pretty bloated. Diet Coke or sparkling water are my other go-to’s but after a while they can become pretty boring as well. I don’t especially have much of a sweet tooth and don’t want to replace empty calories with more rubbish so I feel my options are a little limited, particularly when out and about.



I’ve just kept these two lists brief in the interests of time and saving boredom. I understand they are completely subjective and other people will list many other things.

I’ve also pretty much come to the conclusion this week that I will drink again – it’s just a matter of when rather than if. It won’t be today or tomorrow but it will be one day (see FIRST TASTE, above). It’s Christmas in a couple of months and that’s a whole new ballgame.

Have a good week, peeps.

50 Not-Out, but dark clouds still loom

person wearing red hoodie sitting in front of body of water

I’ve inadvertently taken a bit of a break from blogging and I’m still struggling with the motivation to write but I reached a milestone a couple of days ago and I wanted to share it.

Sunday was my 50th consecutive day sober which I’m pretty confident makes this stint the longest since I ‘became’ a drinker – some 16 or so years ago. While these 50 days have been challenging at times, they have been a lot easier than I anticipated and I honestly rarely crave or fancy alcohol, at least for the moment. Saying ‘no’ or choosing ‘no’ is almost an ingrained process now and it’s as normal to me as drinking every day was. Don’t get me wrong, there have been circumstances where I would have liked a beer – mainly due to the people I was surrounded by – but not waking up with a single regret or hangover is simply bliss.

When I decided to ditch the booze I (wrongly) thought that much of my depression and anxiety would also evaporate. I’ve struggled with depression and low moods for many years but it can be pretty infrequent and extremely unpredictable, hampered by my obsessive and addictive personality. If you are someone who believes addictive personalities (or another term for it) don’t exist by the way, please feel free to use me as a case study – I’ll prove to you that I can become compulsive about pretty much anything – exercise, food, alcohol, work, being lazy, films, music, bands, TV shows, sex, famous people – you name it.

The last two or three days have probably been my lowest since I started this journey. I have felt really low mood-wise, I’ve been very insular and I’ve let all kinds of feelings and emotions consume me. A lot of my mood and unhappiness I can directly link to my work situation but equally, I’ve not been able to get as much joy from the things (and people) I love, which really saddens me.

I’ve had a bit of a better day today and I have a really fun weekend to look forward to – catching up with a good friend I haven’t seen for a while and seeing a band in London. It’s the one thing that’s kept me going this week to be honest, otherwise I could quite happily stay at home, shut the curtains and bunker down for several days. Life and work obligations render this impossible so I’ve just been carrying a dark cloud with me all week.

When I gave up booze I ignorantly thought that this would solve a lot of these feelings and prevent them from rearing their ugly head. These past few days have proven me very wrong and has given me much more to work on besides giving up alcohol. In some ways I feel very stupid.

Depression is ugly and it’s just as debilitating as alcohol to me. It’s another fight I need to confront head-on but strangely I’m more scared of this one because there isn’t one ingredient I can take/not take to make things better. It’s dictated by many, many, many factors and those things all have to be in synch to prevent it – which is asking a lot of any person.

Life just continues and it throws a lot at you. I need to learn how to face it in a way that’ll be as kind to me as possible while also trying to get to the bottom of it all. I don’t think I’ll ever find the answers but I’ll keep searching.

No ethanol for 40 days

appointment black calendar countdown

It’s been a little while since I have posted but life has been pretty hectic lately and I’ve not had the motivation to be honest. I’m hoping this post changes that, because I enjoy sharing my journey.

Today (if I’ve counted correctly) is day 40 of being sober which means I am within touching distance of my ‘record’ which goes as ‘a month and a half’ (I was too busy gasping for a beer to actually record the number of days last time).

On the whole, it’s been easier than I thought but having read some other blogs, I do realise that I’ve not really been in the line of fire too many times, ie in a pub/at parties with lots of friends who are getting drunk. Sure, I’ve had moments where I previously would have loved a beer – BBQs, gig and meals out, BUT I’ve avoided big social gatherings – not necessarily on purpose but that’s just the way life’s been lately and I’m thankful for that. Being a new Dad and a working husband means that the majority of spare time away from work is at home – being where I should be 🙂 .

I also think the biggest tests are going to come when I’m around people who are awkward to talk to and/or I don’t wholly like. Those are the times that I used to really get stuck into drinking, as a way of making conversation easier and more comfortable.

So how does 40 days feel? It’s a mixture of feelings and thoughts. Some things are vastly different and some things are 100% the same or even worse, to my surprise. I’ve thought a lot about picking specific things to discuss but I’m going to borrow a simple list from Catherine Gray and her book ‘The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober’ which I’ve now almost finished.

Appearance:
I’ve definitely lost weight and a few people have mentioned that to me which is great to hear. My weight tends to fluctuate because I have an enormous appetite and I basically each too much – always have, always will I suspect. Even though I do a lot of exercise (running and swimming mainly) I always worry about my weight and particularly my tummy. Not drinking has allowed me to really kick on with my training and I’m eating much better, too. Win-win!

I’ve read lots of people comment on how great their skin and hair are as a result of not drinking. Well my skin has possibly got worse – definitely more spots appearing, which are lingering longer. I’m drinking stacks of water and eating pretty well, so this is pissing me off! I can’t really comment on my hair as I have it very closely cropped.

My eyes and nails look no different to before at the moment – to me anyway.

Energy:
Energy levels are generally pretty good and it’s great to actually be tired because of exertion, rather than being hungover or under the influence. I absolutely LOVE not being hungover – it’s probably the best thing about going alcohol-free. I hate hangovers with a passion and they make me feel utterly miserable, depressed and paranoid.

Because I’m not drinking, I’m less inclined to eat rubbish and in turn I’m sleeping better – a healthy cycle.

Sleep:
I’ve never been a fantastic sleeper, even if you take booze out of the equation, but generally speaking it is better and I do feel much more rested when I wake up in the morning. I also love getting into bed feeling genuinely tired – because I’ve worked hard, or I’ve trained hard or just generally been productive throughout the day.

This weekend is pretty busy – I have a work event on Saturday which I organise bi-annually and I’m participating in a team triathlon the following day followed by a curry in town. Usually both of these days would involve some very thirst quenching drinks and I fear they will offer one of my toughest tests yet.

I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 weeks of sobriety

accomplishment action adult adventure

It’s been a great week’s hol but I must admit, I really missed blogging – what’s it doing to me?!

As of today, I am 4 weeks and one day sober. In the main, it’s been easier than I thought but still testing at times, particularly at social events like football matches, BBQs and gigs.

Generally speaking, people have been pretty supportive and accepting of my decision and very few have questioned it. Some have even opened up a discussion about why I’ve stopped, and their own drinking habits. One catalyst for this was the Adrian Chiles documentary which aired a week or so ago, and for those that haven’t seen it, it’s well worth watching. To cut a long story short, Chiles (a British TV presenter) is drinking excessively (albeit not staggering around) and he wants to get to the bottom of why, and whether he would or could cut down, taking into account the long-term health implications his doc has warned about.

Most people I know who have watched this programme admit they drink too much, and also want to cut down.

I’m heading back to work this morning and usually after a week off I’d feel bloated, overweight, tired, fatigued and generally a bit grumpy – much thanks to a week of back to back drinking. Now, I’m still feeling grumpy (it is 7am on Monday after all!), but otherwise I am feeling pretty good physically and mentally – it’s a refreshing change.

I’ve just started reading ‘The Unexpected Joys of Being Sober’ by Catherine Gray. It’s a little different to the Sober Diaries but after 15 or so pages, I can already relate to the author much more. I look forward to reading it in full and reporting back my thoughts.

So, another week of sobriety beckons and I wonder what challenges I’ll have to face inside and outside of work? I’m feeling as upbeat as you can on a Monday morning, it’s certainly a strange sensation!

Right, time to feed my 9 month old, whose just stirred. #priorities

PS – what are people’s thoughts on 0.5% alcohol? It’s generally referred to as ‘alcohol free’ but obviously has a fair bit more than 0.01% Blue Beck’s (for example). Is drinking this ‘cheating’?! If so, I’m a fraud!

PPS – something else I have witnessed this last week is the stress of being with a regular drinker who is badly in need of getting their daily lunchtime fix, and how this thirst suddenly overrides just about everything else. I understand because I have been that person! Definitely to be discussed later in the week.

Have a good Monday x