454 Days -New Years Eve

It’s been a long time since I posted here. When ever there is a long hiatus in another Sober bloggers entries I must admit I do assume the worst. That they have failed, slipped up, started to drink again. To any of you who have, all is not lost! Today is another day! Tonight is a new night! This minute is a new minute to renew and begin again. 

I’m now 454 days sober. I’m proud of that but I stopped counting the days a long time ago. In the beginning it helped to count, and to talk, but there was no one to talk to. I was ashamed and embarrassed and didn’t want to talk to people in my world. YOU dear people were who I spoke to. And you listened. You were amazing, supportive, encouraging! I wanted to give you an update. So much has changed and life is great!

Seems fitting in New Year’s Eve to recap on what has been a beautiful year of self realization. I have ended relationships which did not serve me and reconnected with people who enrich me. I’ve moved away from a business and work situation which was not working anymore and I’m bursting with joy to tell you I’ve started working on a project so dear to me that I love more than anything. I’ve spent time engaging with my children and their friends and their schools. There was time to hike, bike, kayak and ski. Amazing how much time you have for hobbies and the people who matter when the demon booze no longer features!!! 

2015 has been so fulfilling I don’t have any New Years resolutions, just more of the same please. 

I hope you all have triumphed over your year and want to thank you, thank you, thank you! For listening when I needed someone to hear ❤️️❤️️❤️️

Setting Sober Goals for 2015

I’m sitting in bed propped up on pillows in a little holiday house in a little holiday town. I’ve survived my first sober Christmas, very well and without too much hassle. A couple of other family members at the Christmas day gathering were also not drinking… one I suspect is Pregnant…One a South American who is not so influenced by our drinking culture here and is not much of a drinker. The others had a distance to drive after lunch. I took my mocktail ingredients…Iced tea spritzers… and made them for everybody.

Way down here in the Southern Hemisphere the seasonal holiday is a long one, incorporating our Summer and lots of 5 o clock drinkies and BBQ drinkies and elevensies and on and on it goes. That would be the usual pattern at this time of year, but remarkably I am not feeling deprived of a drink. I am in fact finding this holiday easier to navigate than I was expecting.

A funny think happened at a family BBQ dinner last night. The host; a big drinker; very big drinker actually, asked as we sat down for dinner, right… now does everybody have a drink? 3 non drinkers in the room, one said, Yes please, I’d like a water. No I meant a real drink he said taking his seat…seems if you are after anything non alcoholic its self service only. Hilarious! He has absolutely no awareness of what this says about him and his deeply ingrained drinking habits. Incredible!

I’m just 3 short days away from my 90 days alcohol free goal. Initially I set this goal as it was a decent period of time so that people would accept I was a non drinker but also a manageable period for me and in my mind at the time, temporary, not too permanent. A month would have had people asking me all the time, when is your month up? with 90 days they have stopped asking.There have been ups and downs but it has actually been easier than I imagined, considering how many times I have tried and failed to moderate and to take a month of drinking. I am feeling great, and more sure than ever that I want to continue on as a non drinker.

Now I’m close to achieving 90 days I’m pondering a new goal. 180 days? 12 months? booze free 2015? (Seeing those words written on print now makes me slightly nervous at the permanence of the time frame) I’m thinking 12 months might be a good goal. That will take me through to next September / October. I think that is doable, but suspect I need some shorter term goals to get to in between. 180 days seems a good start, so I will head for that with the intention of 12 months sober.

Nothing like New Year to set some meaty goals! What are your Sober Goals for 2015?

Depression, Anxiety and Alcohol – they are linked you know

Have I mentioned that I’ve had depression for close to 20 years? I’m medicated of course, have been for a long long time. I take Prozac (Fluoxetin, SSRI’s) daily and dutifully.

When I was first prescribed antidepressants there was no question that I needed them. My family doctor explained depression in overly simplistic terms to me really. irresponsibly so I now think…

He encouraged me think of depression like any other physical sickness…he used the example of a sore throat. If you get a sore throat you go to the doctor who prescribes some medicine to make it better, you take the medicine for the prescribed time, the throat is mended then you stop taking the medication when its all better.

The only problem is it never did get all better… I was under some false pretense that a period of medication would reset things and when I stopped Id be back to normal. I tried a few times but always relapsed into that dark place within 3 months or so, with the exception of my pregnancies…I never medicated during these times and was always fine..hormones my doctor told me, they protected me against the dreaded serotonin imbalance. But when I tried to stop taking the drugs and fell back into depression, I felt duped, like I’d been mislead somehow.

The depression, characterized for me as being constantly tearful, impatient, intolerant and infinitely unhappy, with very little hope of anything ever getting better. I’m sure I was a very difficult person to be with during these times, a sad, mad and bad mother, wife, daughter. completely self absorbed and oh so negative.

In more recent years the symptoms have changed for me and its much more an anxiety problem, feelings of overwhelming guilt and dread that something terrible is about to happen. It is devastating to not be able to trust your own intuition, knowing it is making you fearful and anxious without cause. The impatience remains and I become very hard on those around me, with little or no tolerance for them and their ways, very grumpy and angry indeed. I hate myself in this state, but seem powerless to do anything to reverse it.

I toddle along to the doctor once a year for a review and a chat. After my second child was born I confessed to him that I didn’t think I really had depression anymore but that I also did not think I could cope without the med’s…didn’t think I could get through the day doing all that I needed to get done without them. I was simply to busy to cope or manage daily life without the drugs. He told me on that day that if they made the journey easier then he was OK with that. I think what I secretly wanted at that time was for him to say..there is another way. we can stop taking these pills every day.

I went through a series of sessions with a psychologist or counselor or some such person too for a while. It was definitely helpful, analyzing myself and my motivations and patterns of behavior. The crux of it, I was, and am a perfectionist. I want to be all things to all people, do all the stuff that to me makes me a value to my family and society, the things I mistakenly believe I need to do in order to be good. A good Mum, a good wife, a good daughter, sister. A good team menber, business woman, and on and on and on it goes.

Would I consider lowering my expectations of myself? she asked. Could I reconsider my priorities to consider my mental and emotional health? she said…  No was my answer. I don’t want to stop doping any of those things, filling any of those roles. I want to continue to do it all and be it all. I was not willing to compromise, preferring to take the medication forever.

At first I tried to wean myself off them a few times over a few years, but was back on the drugs within 3 months, FAILED! That period of time when you first wean off, there is a deep dip in serotonin levels, worse that the original depression I think and very difficult to manage. It is a horrible horrible dark pace with very little hope of escape. I tend to take to my bed and hibernate, unable to do much of anything during these times. Showering, eating, getting dressed, all on the back burner. Waiting it out never seemed possible..so back to the doctors I’d drag myself. After a while I resigned myself  to taking antidepressants forever. I was at peace with that, could cope with needing them forever, if it meant avoiding the dark place.

I realize that over the 20 years I’ve been taking the medication, I’ve also been drinking. Since I was about 22, I have not been able to go more than 12 days without consuming alcohol. I realize this is not the best plan when suffering depression and that alcohol consumption makes this infinitely worse. Hey, there are so many things I could do, behaviors I could adopt that I know will make me feel better, heaps better, but do I do them? No. Why is it that we know what will make us well but we don’t do it?

I’m conscious of some days feeling so good and well and happy since giving up drinking that I worry its not normal to feel so great, perhaps I am bipolar or manic, perhaps this feeling is not right either. Am I the only one who feels this way, or is this how all non-drinkers feel and operate every day, in this happy energetic space. I wonder if it might be too good to be true and that I’m not really well at all.

sober-is-the-new-cool

Since I’ve stopped drinking, 75 days today!, I feel for the first time in years that I might not need the Prozac. For the first month, I was feeling so well, I actually forgot to take them. When I realized I thought maybe I should just stop..but I’ve been having second thoughts about that and not wanting to jeopardize my sobriety by rushing into this, doing too much too soon. Heading into the dark place where a glass of wine looks mighty tempting. What I’ve settled on is taking one tablet every second day rather than daily. I’m going to do that for 6 weeks and see how it goes. Then perhaps a visit to the doctor to discuss further withdrawl if all is well.

Coupled with the quitting of the drinking, I’ve made some big decisions about my life next year. I’ve resigned from my operational role at work and will just sit on the board focused on governance and strategy. That means I’m unemployed, retired, reducing my monthly work hours to a very small commitment of just a few hours per month. This is going to give me a wonderful chance to re-establish some new routines where self care will be my top priority. I’ll finally take the hint my counselor was trying to send me and slow down, do less, smell the roses, start yoga, walk the dog and generally take better care of myself. Do spome of those things that I know make me feel better and well, but that I just don’t get around to.

I’m excited about this new beginning, about the energy and enthusiasm I have found in sobriety, about the possibility of not needing this medication anymore.

Its feels good to be alive!

Witching hour setting in!

Sitting home alone in my quiet house… Everybody is out and it is wine I clock! Witching hour. The time of the day when I wanna wine! And today seems particularly intense!

I have just sat down with a soda and lime and some cheese and crackers. Usually that does the trick. Let’s hope it will today!

It’s times like these I wonder what the hell I’m doing this for. It wasn’t really that bad, why can’t I have one, just one! Like every other damn person!

Blaaahhhh!

The Alcoholism Continuum

A friend asked if I was an alcoholic today… I’d told her that I’d quit drinking. She is usually pretty straight up and down. She doesn’t mince her words…calls a spade a spade. No room for misinterpretation here.

“Why?..Do you think you’re an alcoholic?” she said? The most interesting part was my response… No! was the first and very quick word out of my mouth… well maybe, I continued. This is the first time that I’ve fessed up to a friend that I’ve quit because I think I’ve got a problem. But the urge to deny the problem is still lurking there.

I do think though that we are all on an alcoholism continuum, where everybody who drinks has potential to over do it far too often, to lose control…so very many I am discovering struggle with controlling their intake. Many many more than I first thought. So I’m more and more convinced that all drinkers are on a continuum of severity; from Aunt Betty who has just the one glass of sherry at Christmas, to the homeless man with his brown paper bag of cheap spirits, and everything in between.

The only difference between us… the severity of the disease… some of us have realized it is taking over and getting out of control…some are trying to moderate, some are what you’d call normal drinkers… but are they normal drinkers really? Is there any such thing as a normal drinker? Is it just that they are making no effort to moderate and drinking has not yet caused them any problems that they are particularly worried about.

I’m surrounded by so called normal drinkers every day and I see and hear the types of activities, behaviors, excuses I myself have used so many times. I see them fall over, hear them tell me about how sick and hungover they got, watch them get into arguments, go home with someone they would never usually look twice at. So how come they are ‘normal drinkers’ and I am a ‘problem drinker’?

Hows this for a theory?…they just don’t realize they are problem drinkers…they are not as advanced as I am on the continuum. So am I an alcoholic… yes..and no… and aren’t we all? Or am I just making excuses here? Am I denying the problem or playing it down or trying to justify my problem? After 65 days sober, is this just another stage of the journey?

I was a lush boozed mummy, coming home from work to roll through every evening in a haze of sauvingnon blanc, while family life went on around me. I was not connected with my family, my friends, my children, anyone! Actually I had no idea I was dis-engaged until I stopped drinking, I had no idea what I was missing out on. Life! I was missing out on life! I was numbed to daily interactions, activities, people, feelings and I didn’t even realize it. Yet somehow I was also searching for those things, popping antidepressants for years with no idea what I sought was all around me for the taking.

In 65 short days I have felt such connection with my husband, wonderful children, my home, friends, even strangers. I keep trying to explain this feeling to people…they don’t understand what I’m trying to share. Is this their normal? or are they missing out too? I am so fucking happy I have quit the booze…I just can’t tell you how fantastic I feel. I wish everyone could feel this great.

Fruit Punch, gormet dinner, and hitting the dance floor sober!

This past Friday I attended a friends wedding… not just any wedding mind you…my first wedding as a non-drinker.

The day, and the night turned out fantastically well. better than I could have imagined…dare I say I actually had a great time, despite being sober (I think I was the only guest who was not drinking).

Hubby was really great. he always made sure I had a glass of something cold and non-alcoholic, how kind he was. Only once when a dinner companion saw me pour my water into my wine glass did someone ask, oh are you driving tonight? No, no I replied, just not drinking today. That was it. end of conversation, no more questions. and no body else seemed to notice or ask about my glass.

I still had to get past the waiters though, they were very attentive with their top up attempts. ‘no thank you, no thank you, no thank you. I said. after the third round, I said you can actually take the glass away. I am not drinking. Oh, can I get you something else, some soda. A sparkling water? No thank you…

The food was great, the company was great. I had some lovely conversations with people I have not seen for an age. Exchanged coherent pleasantries with the mother of the bride. Had my wits about me to write a lovely note in the guest registry after 11pm.

These things would never have happened at previous weddings. They did not put wine bottles on the tables at this wedding, that would have made me anxious previously, “what if the speeches go on for a long time and my glass is empty and there is no more on the table’ kind of thoughts… I could see others at the table having those thoughts…they are so easy to spot now that I’m aware of them.

The highlight if the night was definitely sober dancing! Hubby and I had been making jokes about it for most of the day, what my sober dancing would be like. I don’t usually dance much… I have wondered why since the wedding…I think it is because its hard to hold a wine glass on the dance floor. At previous occasions I’d usually sit and watch the dancing, usually with a friend or two and we’d happily throw back wine after wine watching on while others danced.

But sober dancing was fun. There was a live band, which made the dancing all the better. Hubby was pleasantly surprised, he loves to get up and dance, particularly with a band, and I usually tell him to get lost! He seemed to really like to boogie together with me and has not stopped talking about it since. Joking that both my dancing quality and quantity was exceptional and concluding that I’m a better sober dancer than a boozed dancer! What a success.

The coach worked out OK too. Truth be told, I would have liked to go home about an hour before the coach left, but I danced on, and finished off with my cup of tea with the ladies, and then it was time to head back to the city.

On the journey out it had been very civilized…bottled water all round, quiet talking and glamorous party guests. The return trip was quite different. Raucous, drunken revelers, complaining that they had no more to drink…actually suggesting the bride and groom were inhospitable as they had not stocked the bus with a nightcap…oh the rude things we say when under the influence….It was very very lucky the coach was  fitted with a toilet not that anyone with a full bladder could use it. Soon after setting off, one of the guys went in and didn’t come out, vomiting up all his lovely dinner to the delight of most of the bus who thought it was hilarious…funny the things that amuse us after a skinful.

It was just what I needed to see. Someone else losing control after a night out; all the foul mouthed language, disparaging remarks about our hosts, the fantasizing about the pies and burgers they were going to gobble when they got off the coach, the bars they were going to rock on to…the vomiting noises from the on board loo. These are all the reasons I have given up. become a non-drinker. It was a confronting, timely reminder.

I had a great time, great food, great company, learned I could sober dance!! but was also provided with a graphic reminder of why I am now a non-drinker…

Car Vs Coach…

So the wedding is nearly upon me and I have my plan in place…reading through all the sober bloggers plans I can see that it is going to be best to have my own transport so I can escape this event if shit gets tough!

Only problem, months ago, before I became a non-dinker. I had RSVP’ed to the bride and said ‘yes please’ to the organized coach transport to the venue. At that time, I thought this would be a great idea, because we could have several glasses (come on who am I kidding, a couple of bottles more like) and have the convenience of the coach to get us there and back.

Also the wedding ceremony and reception are being held far far away, about 90 minutes drive out of the city, so the coach made absolute sense….at the time.

But now I’ve started to panic. What if I really need to leave and I have to wait for the bus? What if not drinking at this event turns out to be too much and I can’t do it. If the temptation will be too great and I’ll be stuck there with nothing to do but sit and drink all the lovely cold delicious champagne, and wine, and punch.

I told Hubby a few hours out that I was going to drive instead. This was annoying to him! I was changing the plans, last minute! I would have to let the bride know as they would be expecting us on the coach and don’t I think she has better things to worry about 24 hours before her wedding.

Initially I thought he was selfish, non-supportive, just didn’t understand that this was going to be quite a big deal for me. ‘Do what ever you want’ he said, which is a little bit like when a woman says “fine” but she is definitely not fine! He was pretty pissed (and I was put out by his response)

I mulled it over during the night and early the next morning. I thought and thought, I reflected, I considered, should I drive, or should I modify the plan… Look I said to him. we can go on the coach, I’m just freaking out a bit because I’m going to be the only one not drinking at this party. I’ll feel like a dick. I’ll be up the back drinking tea with the grandma’s.

So I’m reconsidering my plan,

  1. Take my own car  no, cant take my car, going in the coach with all the other guests who are catching the coach primarily because they will be sozzled! At least it will be entertainment and I’ll be able to see all the cringe worthy things people say and do while drunk which I’m normally too drunk to notice
  2. Talk with Hubby beforehand. Ok, done. made a big song and dance about driving and being stuck with the old ladies sipping tea by 9pm. Now thinking tea at 9 will be quite nice and civilized perhaps
  3. Remembering what this event offers catch up with friends, celebrating a wedding, dancing  great food, cake! new friends…
  4. Full glass of non alcoholic Beverage If my glass is full people wont ask me if I need a top up or why I’m not drinking!
  5. Sober Dancing I’m not usually one to dance and haven’t partaken in a sober dance since I was at least 14 or 15. This should be interesting might scare me more than not drinking. But this could be the most important part…it will keep me busy and active in the later hours when the only other activity is really drinking. It will help me to see that I can still have fun and be a little wild without the demon booze! better wear comfortable shoes!

So this whole drama about the car vs the coach and the annoyance with Hubby that was a little bit of a breakthrough for me. Usually I would have just got pissed with him for being selfish, blamed him and stuck to my guns on the car… this time, I thought on it, I considered his point of view, he was not mad because I was going to spoil his night. he genuinely thought I was being rude to our hosts. He is probably right… For once, I stopped being defensive and blaming others and found myself reflecting on this, and changing my behavior, reconsidering my position. In the process I managed to have a good conversation with Hubby about this being difficult. And he was supportive.

So off we head to the wedding…by coach!