I’ve almost had enough

Being around people drinking is getting more difficult. I am aware of how little most people actually drink, and how much I would have been drinking if I was on the wine. Either that or I would have been trying to pace myself or moderate or whatever, and that would have been driving me crazy.
Its good to come home at the end of the evening sober, and I am proud of myself for joining  in…but it feels like a struggle at the moment to be around the drinking. In fact, its pretty exhausting. When does it start to get easier?

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Being sober at Christmas

Well, as it turned out, I needn’t have been so anxious about going to the meal I mentioned in my last post. And isn’t that so often the case! I really enjoyed seeing my friends, and the evening went well – although the guy I’d never met asked me straight out if I was a recovering alcoholic!!! I think I need to be permanently prepared for that kind of remark ;-).

The next night we went for drinks with other friends and their children, late afternoon/early evening. Again, I had a better time than I anticipated, actually enjoying myself instead of just getting through it.

I’ve reached a point where I’m OK with not having anything to say sometimes. When drinking, I would have been sipping away compulsively at my wine, willing some scintillating topic of conversation to come to mind. And in the middle to later stages of the evening, I’d be willing someone else to come up with things to talk about because I’d have had a couple of glasses, maybe even more, and wouldn’t trust myself to start a conversation, in case I’d look like an idiot for saying the wrong thing/looking too drunk/etc etc.

What I have noticed is that I now manage to avoid being consumed with anxiety (mostly), and the chances are that during those moments when conversation goes quiet, something relevant to the other person comes to mind! I can think of a question to ask that will actually give them an opportunity to say something about themselves! And I listen! Wow. Who knew I’d be able to relax and have  the odd normal conversation without clinging to alcohol as a way in to  social situations?! This is quite a breakthrough for me, and I’m rather pleased with my progress 🙂

Christmas day was great, we all had a lovely day eating yummy food, giving presents, and we also played a board game – although we stopped part way through because the instructions were a bit complicated. I did get very tired at around 8pm, I guess I had none of that false energy that alcohol gives you. But I must be honest and say that I did miss drinking occasionally throughout the day. And I felt I wasn’t quite as much fun as I would have been had I had a few glasses of wine. But I just ignored the feeling, and got on with it. And of course, afterwards I was glad I hadn’t had a drink.

Today Mr W and I went for a walk along the canal, down to the next village and up a hill and back down again to home. Love boxing day walks!

We’re out for a friend’s birthday meal tomorrow night, then drinks afterwards. I started to worry about whether we will be invited over to theirs on new years eve. I think I might like to just stay home for new years eve actually, and I didn’t want my husband just to say ‘oh yes we’ll definitely come over”. But really, there’s no need to worry. I can always put off giving an answer until nearer the time when I’ve properly made up my mind. It isn’t that I’m being rude, I can just say honestly that I haven’t made my mind up yet. I think people probably realise at this point that I might not be up for whole evenings of drinking – well being with other people drinking – anymore. It will be fine.

I especially need to think twice about being around people drinking on new years eve if I think I might be thinking about drinking. I mean, I don’t know if I will be missing the booze as I did a little bit on Christmas day, but if I do feel and myself feeling that way, that’s a big reason to stay at home. No point walking right up to the edge of the cliff to see how comfortable I feel when I get there. If you get my meaning!

Finally, I just want to say a huge well done to everyone who has stuck to sobriety over the last few days!! I’m finding that although it doesn’t prevent enjoyment of Christmas by any means (quite the reverse – I’m probably enjoying it more!) , it’s not always easy. We are doing a hard thing and all deserve plenty of praise :-). And for those who aren’t quite there yet, don’t lose hope – you will get there!

Social events and telling new people

I think I may have spoken too soon yesterday…

Last week I was invited to a Christmas meal with some friends from sixth form and their partners. It’s tomorrow night, and my husband can’t make it because he’s at drill (firefighter training), so I was going to go alone. Last year, one of the other girls was on her own, so I kind of assumed she would be this time, too. But I realised that’s not the case, and I will be the only odd one….

So. I only see these friends once a year, if that, and I don’t really know their partners – never met one of them – plus I’ll be on my own, and I’ll need to explain my not drinking! The restaurant is in walking distance from my house, and so I will need to give a reason.

I’ve sort of been thinking of not going, to be honest. Not really sure. I mean, I really like these friends, its just that I don’t know the partners that well, plus I won’t have Mr W with me for moral support. I feel like a bit of a fraud for saying what I said yesterday about social gatherings.

Being upfront about sobriety is easier or more difficult depending on the situation, then. And also on whether or not I want to reveal my reasons for it. I do prefer to be honest about it, and have trouble telling half a story sometimes, or trying to avoid giving a reason. But I see now that there are always going to be new people to tell that I don’t drink, so it might be worth my while practising some different responses to the ‘why not?’ question.

For tomorrow night, the question is to go or not to go? How vulnerable do I want to be? How brave? Or am I just not in the right frame of mind to ‘defend’ my choice – as that’s what it sometimes feels like people ask me to do…

Christmas do’s and Christmas dont’s

I’ve just got home after going to a carol service at the church my parents go to. It was my husband’s idea to go, and I’m glad we did. There’s a new minister there, and it felt like a fresh approach, in a subtle way, to a carol service. They also missed a verse or two out of some of the carols, so that there was time to cram in as many as possible 🙂 I’m sure it did me the world of good, all that breathing – hymns seem to always be in a high key and require great lungfuls of air to reach all the notes!

On Friday I went out for a meal with people from work – our Christmas do. It was a lovely evening and a chance to say goodbye to our head of department, and see a couple of other people I’d not seen for a while. I felt quite comfortable, even when we moved on for drinks afterwards. I’m so relieved that I’m getting used to going to social events where others drink and I don’t. I mean, it really does depend on who you are with, I’ve found, and the escape route has to be planned but on the whole I’m improving 🙂

But I am expecting a few cravings. Not necessarily for wine, more like the odd sherry. We decorated the tree earlier, listening to Christmas songs. It would have been nice to have a glass of something christmassy in my hand as well. A Christmas don’t! My plan is to find some good recipes for non alcoholic seasonal drinks, so that I don’t feel I’m completely missing out. So if anyone has any ideas to get me started, please let me know!

I hope everyone out there is well and happy, and managing to find some time to relax 🙂 x

Later that same day…

I have been reading more of the book, Healing the Shame that Binds You, by John Bradshaw, since writing my last post. I felt as though it was taking me forever to get past the first part, so I skipped to part two. Not sure if I should done that but I’m already getting a lot more out of it.

At the start of the chapter on the ‘externalisation’ process, Bradshaw states that ‘to heal our toxic shame we must come out of hiding. As long as our shame is hidden, there is nothing we can do about it. In order to change our toxic shame we must embrace it…
...Embracing our shame involves pain. Pain is what we try to avoid. In fact, most of our neurotic behavior is due to the avoidance of legitimate pain. We try to find an easier way. This is perfectly reasonable.
   In the case of shame, the more we avoid it, the worse it gets

He also says…

‘In order to be healed we must come out of isolation and hiding. This means finding a person, or ideally a group of significant others, whom we are willing to trust’.

So I think I am at the point of realising I have these issues with shame, and feelings of depression for various reasons, but I want to overcome them. And I’m craving connection. I’ve started to push away from people who I know I don’t connect with on that deeper level. What I do need, is to find my ‘person (or people) to trust’.

‘ The best way to come out of hiding is to find a non-shaming intimate person or social network. The operative word here is intimate. We have to get on a core, gut level, because shame is core, gut level stuff
‘.

I want to share my innermost fears and secrets, and feel the acceptance that will enable me to neutralise the toxic shame.

‘Toxic shame masks our deepest secrets about ourselves; it embodies our belief that we are essentially defective. We feel so awful, we dare not look at it ourselves, must less tell anyone. The only way we can find out we were wrong about ourselves is to risk exposing ourselves to someone else’s scrutiny’.

Thats just it, in a nutshell. He goes on to say that seeing a therapist is one way to expose the shame. That is always an (expensive) option for the future. I also have this blog, and I’m able to read all the wonderful sober blogs out there, which are so full of inspiration I shouldn’t be feeling down at all! But I still hope to find friendship out there…

Dear Universe, I am ready to trust, and be exposed to someone else’s scrutiny.

Maybe this is why I drank…

Well, that ‘happy sober life’ I’ve been looking forward to is ever elusive. I think I count days partly so that if anyone ever reveals at what point that magical transformation occurs, I will know how much longer I will have to wait 😉

By not drinking for the last 132 days, I don’t seem to have achieved much. How is my life better? I would really struggle to be able to come up with something other than ‘no hangovers’ at this point.

What I have done, though, is revealed a lot about myself that I don’t like. More often than I like to admit, I am filled with fear. Fear that I don’t fit in, have no friends, no one understands me. I feel hurt a lot of the time. I can’t seem to let any of it go because I’m too afraid. I worry that I will never make a success of my life, that no-one cares about anything that I do.

I try to make our home a lovely place to be, do all the things a wife does, but it all seems pointless because no-one but the two of us enjoy it, and even then, my husband seems to take it all for granted. And tells me I don’t take good enough care of the car! More jobs to put on the list!!

Is this low-level depression why I drank? I seem to remember that the odd glass (or bottle!) did provide a kind of relief – dragging my thought processes to a standstill so that I could just ‘zone out’ and have a normal conversation with my husband and forget any neurotic ideas I had about not being good enough/popular enough etc.

I used to think it was a good thing to have a mind that works like mine. I thought it made me better able to empathise with others, and to understand people’s pain, maybe even help. But the way all the bits of my life seem to be configured at the moment, how it all works right now, having a mind like mine doesn’t get me anywhere but depressed.

People don’t care if you are sensitive – it’s only ever a negative thing to the vast majority of people. If you need support, no-one notices, or even knows how to provide it. Hardly anyone knows what depression is, how it feels, and certainly no-one talks about it.

By stopping drinking, I’ve become more isolated. The loneliness wont go away. The fear won’t go away. I feel unable to let go of this suffering because…well why? I don’t know, but I just can’t seem to do it… :/

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