Life…and NA beer

I haven’t had chance to write here for a while, and I’ve really missed it. A lot of things have happened.

Last Saturday, my Father-in-Law died. It was very sudden. My Husband and I managed to get there when the paramedics were trying to resuscitate him, and Mr W got involved as much as he could, trying to help them out. He is a retained Firefighter, so he acted on instinct, as he would have done for any other incident. At the hospital we were taken straight into the relatives room. I’ve never been in there before. It was all so final. So irreversible. And yet all you want in those moments is for everything to go back to normal, to how it was before.

I really wanted to drink afterwards, but I didn’t. We didn’t go home straight away afterwards – we got some food at a pub on the way back. I had a Bottlegreen fizzy cordial type thing, and I was so grateful not to have to have coke or orange juice or lemonade. I’m considering writing a letter to that company to commend them on their contribution to the soft drinks industry. It’s strange, the weird things you cling to when life becomes so unfamiliar and strange. And the next day I wanted to drink, but didn’t. I’m still resolutely sober. I’m not entirely sure what the reason is, but there seems to be a vague promise of life getting better if I stick with sobriety, so I will keep on doing it.

My friend gave birth on Tuesday morning. I’m very happy for her – they’re now a little family, the three of them, which is what she so desperately deserves. However, it’s just another one of those things I sometimes find it hard to cope with, because it seems to drive a big wedge between me and her, in my mind. I know it’s in my mind, and I shouldn’t hold on to feelings like that because they are not me, and I can let them go if I choose. It’s just that sometimes I don’t feel like there is anyone here with me, helping me to keep the hope alive that I might be a mother myself someday, being gentle with me when it feels hard. Again, the aloneness strikes…

The shame has gone though, which is a relief. I bought a book about shame, but I haven’t got very far yet – I found the language a bit complex. It’s called ‘Healing the Shame that Binds You’ by John Bradshaw. Maybe I didn’t give myself enough time with it, but it’s always there should I need it again.
I had my last appointment with the Counsellor on Wednesday. It was a good session. This was before everything became hard work at the end of the week…! She asked me what had been most helpful to me, and I said the environment that she provided, for me to talk about my feelings without feeling harsh judgements and criticisms. It enabled me to look at what I was feeling and to explore it. Of course, that’s what counselling is for, but she pointed out that I could take that with me – imagine that scenario of talking to her, and give myself a chance to feel what I feel, and then examine what might be accurate or not so much, about what I perceive to be real in a certain situation. Does that make any sense?

On Thursday the whole family went out to celebrate my Mum’s birthday. Beforehand I had tried to get a nap after work, but my Husband came home from work so that went out the window. Then I decided to have a bath and possibly fall asleep in the bath, but MY SISTER ARRIVED! She was trying to sort out the last little bits of the joint Birthday present to Mum, and of course she wanted my advice. She had had the whole day off work, so why she needed to come and ask me about it on the last minute, I have no idea. So I was exhausted. But we had a meal at a lovely little pub – the food was great. I was offered non-alcoholic beer, but went for cranberry and soda instead. The craving for wine had gone by this point.

The next night, Mr W brought some non-alcoholic beer recommended by one of his customers, who has it when he needs to drive. So after a little internal debate, I had a couple. I’m glad I tried it, because it’s not like I ‘broke any rules’ or anything, but I’ve decided I wont be doing it again. I did have another last night too, but I noticed the feeling that went along with it was definitely shifting towards ‘I need a drink’. Weird, I know because it’s NA, but of course it is sort of pretending to be an alcoholic drink, at the end of the day. And for me, that doesn’t feel like the right thing to do. So no more…

Work has also been extremely tough this week, I had a migraine yesterday (still carried on with housework anyway) and then me and Mr W had a huge row which kind of lasted until this morning….In a bizarre way, though I feel as though all the tensions of the week have been blasted away by that argument. Whether or not that’s a healthy way to deal with things I don’t know, but hey, I’m doing the best I can. And that’s not always easy when the one thing that would normally be a reward, a consolation, relaxation, whatever it’s function was (in my head, I realise!!), is no longer available to me because I’m not safe with it.

So yes, I feel that life is hard work. But I’m glad I’m sober. Taking responsibility, even if I don’t get things right sometimes (most of the time?!).

I’ve just realised part of where I’m going wrong…I’ve stopped the sober treats and rewards! I need to start working on those reward pathways in my brain to make sure I’m not still thinking that alcohol is the only way to relax/have fun/reward myself etc. I must think about this and write about it! Soon! xx

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Shame, shame, go away

I’ve got no idea what day it is now…am I close to 120? Not sure…

I’m thinking about wine hardly at all. I even bought a bottle as part of a colleagues leaving present, and didn’t think anything of it at all. This is good:)

What I’m a bit more uneasy about is a strange background feeling of shame that I’m having. It can wash over me suddenly a few times a day, and I usually try to block out the feeling straight away because it’s so unpleasant. If I put it into words it would be saying something like ‘who do you think you are? Do you realise how much of a fool you make of yourself all the time?’ Yeah, not pleasant.

Or other times, it takes the form of a memory of some past event when I have said or done something stupid or silly. I do try to ignore it mostly, as I said, but just thinking about it now and writing this down, I’m getting worried.

I worry that I am stupid and silly, and that I’m some sort of charlatan, thinking I’m doing well in my life, making good choices, but actually just a stupid girl who knows nothing about anything. It’s a very dark feeling. Different from the depression that I’ve been through in the past, but still isolating in a way. It makes me feel as though I’m not a good person, and that I have secrets to hide away.

I also worry that this feeling won’t go away. It seems to have been happening for a while now. It’s about time it stopped, but there’s no sign of that.

All off this is bizarre. You would think that by getting sober I would be feeling LESS shame. I remember when my drinking was very bad, I would purposely try not to get close to people so that they wouldn’t discover my shameful secret. Often, whilst talking to people – both people I knew and strangers – I would think to myself ‘I hope they don’t see what I’m trying to hide’. I felt guilty all the time because I knew my behaviour wasn’t normal, and I didn’t want to be found out.

But now I’ve quit (cue my mind having thoughts of ‘how long have we quit for?’) it turns out I’m still feeling a similar shame. About the past and present. How is that fair? I mean, I know no-one ever said life is fair but really! Shame is still here?

Is it social stigma? That must play a big part because now I’ve stopped drinking and exceeded the original goal of 100 days, I struggle to explain my reasons to the normal drinkers. Some of them seem fine with it, but I still feel judgement from others. And yet that could be all in my head – there’s no way to really know.

Or is it wolfie having a last ditch attempt at getting me to throw in the towel? Either way, it’s very uncomfortable, and I wish it would just go away!!

Thinking and feeling

I’m feeling a lot better since my last post – thank you for the kind words of encouragement 🙂

Things did get pretty bad there for a short time. I felt myself edging towards despair because I was in the same dark place as just before I quit drinking. How can this be, I asked myself? How UNFAIR!

The cause was probably related to reaching 100 days. A post-goal let down, flat feeling, combined with the anxiety of potential temptation in the restaurant and pub on Saturday night. The feeling of isolation caused by my not drinking then added to a phase that my husband and I were going through, of poor communication and skewed priorities. I can see it all much more clearly now, but at the time everything felt so fuzzy that I even had some ‘what is the point of anything‘ thoughts. This has made me realise I need to keep an eye out for the signs of depression, because it will obviously start to creep in again, given the right conditions. because I can now look back more clearly, I can see that I have been able to recognise the signs before it does too much damage, and reach out for help. Initially, I quit the wine and then reached out to Belle for help and accountability. This time I have written here, but more importantly, been able to read comments and blog posts, and also find help elsewhere through these. Thank you 🙂

I also told my counsellor what I’d been feeling. I talked about comments from people on that night out, my reaction to some stuff on Facebook, how Mr W and I were doing. She said that the main common theme running through it all seemed to be that I was feeling the need to justify myself. I’m just arriving at this thought now, perhaps I was supposed to get this in the counselling session, but maybe a part of me was demanding justification from another part? Say, my ego had begun questioning what the hell I thought I was actually doing here? Making myself stick out like this, be different than other people, not fit in, and so ultimately prevent me from getting approval from other people?

Damnit, approval from others is something I ALWAYS struggle with!! I am getting better, but it’s disappointing to realise I still have a long way to go…

She also said that what was making me feel bad could be viewed as the same as what made me feel good only a short time ago. ‘I’m an individual, creating my own life’ had become ‘I’m different and I don’t fit in’. ‘I like the fact that I’m an introvert, and have something different to offer’ became ‘I have difficulty relating to people, and I feel alone’. Even ‘I’m happy to be putting myself and my sobriety first’ was starting to feel like ‘am I being awkward for the sake of it – shall I just jack this in now and save a load of bother?’!!!!

Something else that helped (eventually) was that I managed to talk properly to my husband. One day last week he had a VERY bad day, and was extremely low as a result. He is not normally one to dwell on problems, but this really affected him. I was upset for him, but I was also hurting too. I wondered if, when I had the chance to talk to him properly later that day, he would be more able to understand me because he now needed empathy himself. As it turned out, we were able to listen to each other and reconnect. I don’t feel quite so alone now 🙂

So. My counsellor said that I did the right thing. I was down in the hole, and it did feel terrible at the time, but somehow I knew how to get myself out. That is SO ENCOURAGING I can’t tell you how much better that makes me feel! Having been in the hole of depression quite a few times now over the years, knowing that I don’t have to fear being there for too long because I am starting to recognise what I need to do to get out…well, it means I now know myself better, I have made progress and grown.

Another point that we touched on was the idea of choice. It’s my choice whether I perceive myself to be happy as an individual, or to feel awkward and like I don’t fit in, etc etc. But…I did say in my last post I think, that there are some ways in which I think I’ve changed, since becoming sober. Whereas when drinking, I would have been quite ‘happy’ (inverted commas because I wasn’t truly happy!) to go out drinking more or less anywhere with our friends, without the alcohol I don’t feel particularly inclined to spend my time that way. I also seem to end up feeling even more unsure of myself than I would have done after a social event whilst drinking, which is REALLY saying something!! So maybe I should start exercising some of that power to choose. Instead of pushing myself every time to attend, thinking it will get better the more I do it, maybe I ought to just not do those things that don’t make me feel good?

I’m starting to confuse myself. I don’t think my counsellor meant for me to avoid things rather than deal with them. What she did say though, was that the problems start to arise when I over-think things (AH! Husband was right, how can this be??!! 🙂 ). So the way to make my choice is to listen to how I feel. Not what I think.

Now I’m feeling better, and able to get my head around all this, it might be a good time to listen again to the Tara Brach talks on happiness that Lisa sent me (thanks Lisa!). Here is Part 1, and Part 2, if you fancy a listen 🙂

Happy Saturday 😀 x

An extended low

This horrible low feeling doesn’t seem to be shifting.

I feel fragile, and keep getting upset when the tiniest of things sets off a chain of associations in my mind, ending with some version of ‘I’m alone’. Something feels wrong and I don’t know what it is.

Try as I might, I can’t communicate any of this to my husband. His standard response is that I over-think things too much. Which may well be true, but in saying that, he is rejecting my feelings, which is also lonely. He asked me this morning if I had talked to my counsellor about what I was trying (and failing) to tell him. I said ‘yes, but I don’t live with her, I live with you!’

Maybe that’s the problem… I feel lonely because I have no-one who can really listen to how I feel? I have a need for deep connection with people, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea (as in, the vast majority of our mutual friends), and it takes time and effort to maintain.

Because I don’t have that connection at the moment, perhaps I’m looking to the wrong person for support. I would like Mr W to be able to provide that for me, but I know he’s not that sort of person. His way of thinking is so much lighter than mine. And anything darker and deeper than the day-to-day, well, he keeps it all hidden.

It worries me that we are like this – like polar opposites. I thought that once we were married, and we’d made that lifetime commitment, that we would try to understand each other and support each other. And after I stopped drinking to swerve an oncoming meltdown, we did for a while…

Why do I feel so alone?

Sober plateau?

On Saturday night I went out for a meal with my husband and good friends of ours. Beforehand I was still anxious about not being committed to a ‘challenge’, as I haven’t signed up for 180 days yet. I thought I might have been in danger of drinking.

But it was an unfounded fear, because I didn’t suddenly want wine – even when we went to the pub whilst waiting for our table. What I did find really difficult, as we were standing at the bar, was having to explain myself because I asked for a coke. AGAIN.

It may have been my own fault, for relying too heavily on the ‘100 day challenge’ explanation originally. (What IS that all about? I obviously have great difficulty telling anyone, including myself, that I just don’t drink!!).

It was mainly the woman of the couple we were out with, who was asking me why I wasn’t drinking. And she told me again that she doesn’t drink through the week. We were going over old ground, really.

Much later, after the meal, we went to another pub. Another of our friends saw that I was drinking coke and said ‘so you won’t be falling over tonight then?’ and I said nope, I was on coke, and she said ‘Oh how boring!’. She’d had a few herself, though so I don’t think she was actually trying to tell me I was boring, it was probably just because I clearly wouldn’t be joining in all the drunken fun.

Being out with all those people drinking was strange. Not because I wanted to drink, in the end, but because I didn’t see the appeal of it all. I couldn’t make myself heard over the music, so trying to have a conversation was a bit pointless. I just felt really out on a limb, to be honest.

The next day, I was wiped out. I felt low because it’s the wrong time of the month, which led to me brooding over the previous night. I didn’t feel very much connection – apart from in the restaurant maybe – with anyone. I’m feeling a bit lonely in my sober journey. I want to find my people. I have two, maybe three friends with whom I can talk about this kind of thing completely honestly, but I hardly ever see them. I guess there’s my answer – I need to create more connection with them.

I do feel good sober, but I’m also feeling a bit flat. If I was on a diet, this would be a ‘plateau’!

There are some social situations I don’t really want to be part of anymore, and I want to replace those with ones that resonate more with me. How to do that? This is all new, lonely, and a bit scary…. :/

New Theme

I have changed my theme, today, from Elegant Grunge to Able.

I like it, but it’s taking a bit of getting used to….

My other ‘new theme’ I suppose, is being sober. I don’t currently have any sort of commitment to a ‘challenge’ as such – I’m just being sober. I’m not sure if this is a good idea…signing up to the 180 day challenge may be a better option.

The thing is, last night, my husband came home with a couple of bottle of Rose, given to him by a customer. He opened one of them straight away, and I was so glad I’ve never really been a fan of Rose. Had they been Cab Sav, I may have had a small problem! I was tired and stupidly had eaten too much cake – probably due to low blood sugar. So I was in a bit of a strange mood. And that combination of wine suddenly being available, my 100 day challenge complete and feeling tired and weird, was not good. It’s the closest I’ve been to drinking in weeks.

So wolfie is still lurking. I can’t afford to rely on my new habit of not drinking wine to stay sober. Complacency is not permitted at this point, I’ve realised!

My plan is to ‘refresh’ everything I have been doing so far, to really look at what it is that I need to be doing to keep myself sober. And take note of any patterns I become aware of – such as low blood sugar around 5pm – and find ways around these potential wolfie windows.

I’ve been saying it for ages, but I must get more sleep, do some exercise, and cut down sugar.

The thing that was stopping me from signing up for 180 days was the fact that I might like a drink on Christmas Day. BUT the more I think about it, the more fear I have of drinking again. What was it someone said on their blog – I don’t want to feel regret in the form of a glass of wine – or something along those lines.

I’m not especially brimming with energy or hyper productive at the moment, but I’m still in love with the effects of sobriety and I don’t want to lose it.

Today is my day 100!!

Yes, that’s right – me, the girl who loves (loved) her wine! I have successfully reached 100 days sober.

I’m so proud of myself – I set out to do this thing, at a time when I felt shaky and vulnerable. I wanted to stop comparing myself to others and let go of the anxiety that seemingly held me back at every turn. I was also afraid for my marriage, which I was all of about seven weeks into.

And how did I get here? Just by taking it one step at a time. I’ve had highs and lows, times when I’ve felt like a drink because I’m sad, times I’ve felt like drinking because I’m happy. If I’m honest, I don’t think I ever got very far down that thought process though. I was enjoying the process of recognising myself far too much for that. ‘Oh hello, waking, I’ve not seen you properly for years – how are you?’ I’m getting to know the real me.

And there is still so much to know. As I move past day 100 and continue this sober journey, I want to pick up all those threads of my life that I had left behind. Some I can see clearly, others just glimpsed at. I have a feeling that I will be able to twist them all together to create a life with more meaning. Meaningful work, a meaningful contribution, more meaningful relationships. And I can do all that with what I already have inside me – it’s me, just me. I don’t have to try to be something I’m not. What I have to offer the world is worthwhile. I just needed to get sober to realise it 🙂

I’ve found that being sober doesn’t fix everything. Which is a shame, but hey. Maybe I am getting better at fixing stuff. And what I can’t fix? Well I guess there are some mountains you just have to live with 😉 I could stick the serenity prayer in right about now…:)

Speaking of which, I will just add that that prayer reminds me of my late Nanna. She was a truly amazing woman, full of love, and would do anything for anyone. Of course I would say that…but so did many other people, not just family. Everyone knew of her generous, loving nature. Anyway, she always had in the lounge, a little stained glass window ornament – you know the ones, with the hinge so they stand upright – with the serenity prayer written on it in coloured glass. I wasn’t aware of its significance to the recovery movement, until a friend pointed it out. ‘That’s funny’, I said, ‘My Nanna has been a Methodist all her life and has never once touched a drop of alcohol’. A very wise woman! She was 99 when she died. I think she might be proud of me, too. 🙂