Day One – AGAIN. And this time I mean business…

Okay so I left this blog in shame after such a promising start to my alcohol free life and started to tell myself that of course I could just have a couple of glasses of wine, what’s the harm? Summer had started, I was successfully having many many nights alcohol free so it was almost like I’d somehow grown up and become the moderate drinker I always wanted to be.

I looked back over my drinking for the last three months…

May – when the blog started and I was very aware I only drank 11 times, so 20 days alcohol free. That was an achievement in itself. Two thirds of the month sober.

June – I had a total of 24 days alcohol free and dotted in around the month were the one off occasions that amounted to no more than 6 where I had a drink. Wow nearly 100% sober!

This brings me to July. I am getting cocky now… we are only 26 days in and already I’ve had a drink 17 days. My foot was off the gas and I’ve no idea what shifted for me only that I started to tell myself alcohol wasn’t that bad, other people drank in moderation and I proved I could do it.

It’s strange, you take your eye off the ball and you start to descend back downwards. When I had really cut right back on drinking it would enter my mind but it wouldn’t occupy it. Once I started to ‘allow’ myself to drink again as I was such a good moderate drinker *pats own head*, that was when every day I was fighting the urge to drink and this month you can see that 17 days out of 26 the alcohol won.

How do I feel when I think of going alcohol free? It’s actually very exciting, I feel lighter and just exhilarated with the challenge as well as the benefits. So here we go again older and wiser, I know the drill I know the score and this time, though it does scare me I mean it. I am going to go alcohol free… forever. I am going to stop having to fight that ‘will I /won’t I’ battle that happens every day. The answer is now simple. It’s ‘I won’t’.

I have 6 days before I head off on a ‘holiday’ to a small caravan with my parents and my three year old, a time when I would have used alcohol to get me through so I simply need to approach it differently this time. That sounds completely awful when I write it out like that but it’s true, as much as I love them they drive me bonkers. You may think it seems a bit bonkers to consider starting this before I go away and that I’m setting myself up for a truly terrible time but I’m choosing to believe the opposite. Without alcohol controlling my mood, without it to cloud my mind in the evening I can actually be really present and thoroughly enjoy sharing some quality time and quality experiences with those nearest and dearest to me. There won’t be hangovers or slurred speech… I won’t even have to hide some of my drinking so that they don’t worry.

I’ll let you know how I get on but first there are the next few days when I know that this little monster called alcohol will be clawing at me a little bit to keep me addicted. I’m going to enjoy killing that little monster off again. It’s actually really painless.

x

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Day fifteen – Struggled a bit

I have to say that last night I did struggle a bit not to nip out and get a bottle of wine, the Saturday night association strikes again… so I poured myself an elderflower presse in a tall glass with lots of ice, a slice of lime and sprig of mint making just as much ceremony about it as you would an alcoholic cocktail and I sipped and savoured every sweet and bitter taste. The craving soon passed. I can’t even really call it a craving to be honest, it was more of a really small imperceptible voice whispering “go on, it’s Saturday!”. It didn’t take long for me to ignore it.

It’s really puzzled me this association on a Saturday night. In the past I have gone all weekend without alcohol, I’ve chosen not to drink on New Years Eve which was a bit of a rebellion, and to top it off as my daughter is on school holidays at the moment every day feels like a weekend… there was no school to remind me it was a week day and yet last night was the only night I heard this little voice. Anyway, that doesn’t matter, the important thing is that it was even quieter than last week and by next weekend I doubt if I will even notice it. I have enjoyed breaking the Saturday night drink association and killing off the little monster.

Last night my daughter and I sat and I read four stories before she went to bed and had a cuddle, I spent a good half hour pampering myself, doing a face mask and sitting with hand cream on whilst I topped up my much needed water reserves, watched a film and wrote some letters. These sober and present evenings that I am fast getting used to are far from scary as I expected them to be. I can’t believe that I was worried I wouldn’t be able to fill the time or somehow feel bored as I suffered with insomnia.

It’s made me realise that even where I would just have the one drink it was having a detrimental effect on me and my time. This would happen even when I would abstain for a couple of days, that one tipple would have an immediate effect. My head would feel lighter, I would feel a bit giddy and I could feel the anaesthetic taking me out of my surroundings before I’d finished the first glass. I’d go to bed and fall asleep through the anaesthetic and not through allowing my body to fall asleep naturally. Worse still I’d been known to sit up for hours on end with some kind of buzzing over active mind refusing to give in to tiredness because I was in party mode even sat alone. Insomnia was actually more common when I drank alcohol. Well now I drink water or a cup of tea, enjoy a pudding (because I can!) I go to bed rested, I get to read some of my book as opposed to wishing my head wouldn’t spin so that I can see the words on the page, I fall into a deep and rested sleep very quickly and wake refreshed. Alcohol is certainly losing it’s attraction for me, Saturday night or not.

Here’s to Elderflower Presse x

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Day fourteen – woo hoo!

I joined a gym 6 weeks ago and have loved starting to exercise hoping to shift the 10lbs (roughly 5kg) that I was hanging onto after having my daughter. I expected great results but was shocked to only have lost…

1.8 lbs (0.8 kg – due to up and down fluctuations and some muscle gain maybe) in 1 month.

A coincidence (I think not) is that then I went alcohol free two weeks ago, still working out the same, eating the same, drinking lots of water I have lost…

3.2 lbs in 2 weeks! (1.4 kg)

Aside from having better moods, more patience, feeling rested, contented, being quicker thinking, having brighter eyes, clearer skin that isn’t tight and dry, feeling more quick witted, more inspired and creative and having a general feeling of well being and virtuosity… I’m now looking pretty darn hot too!

If I needed any sort of inspiration and encouragement all of the above is just fantastic and has made me more determined.

Here’s to that! x

Day thirteen – Tired beyond belief, looking for clues

I seem to be getting more and more tired as time goes on. I’m getting 9 and 10 hours sleep a night, waking up in a groggy haze, staggering around unaware of my own name for the first ten minutes and falling asleep again by 2pm. If you see me in the afternoon you’re more likely to be greeted with a yawn than a hello. I suppose I expected to be jumping around gazelle like in my alcohol free state so I am slightly perplexed by the physical exhaustion I’m suffering from. I wanted to find out what on earth was behind this extreme tiredness so have trawled the internet for answers and posted on a few forums to get some feedback.

The general consensus is that this is very normal (from other quitting drinkers on forums), that it’s a sign your body is healing itself and using energy to rid the body of toxins and repair itself. Considering over the last year I’ve only been drinking at most three times a week and making sure I have alcohol free days in between I am quite shocked at how much energy is needed to rid myself of these toxins… I mean how many can there be still?!

I have searched high and low to find information on how the body recovers after periods of drinking, you know those ‘after ten days your blood pressure has halved etc’ that you find plastered all over the internet when it comes to quitting smoking. I couldn’t find a single piece of information that shows this recovery cause and effect. That puzzles me. It’s been asked for on a number of forums but no answers given, the only explanations ever given is that everyone is individual and will recover at differing rates and people will have consumed alcohol to varying degrees as well. I can buy that but it doesn’t stop the smoking ‘facts’ appearing to encourage quitting despite differing consumption levels so I’m trying hard not to see some underlying conspiracy in my tired addled brain… I would love to find some more details but not scaremongering ones about Post Alcohol Withdrawl Syndrome – PAWS. It isn’t a refusal to admit that PAWS exists for some people but for me apart from the tiredness I am feeling amazing and don’t wish to read that I will be experiencing anxiety or depression, mood swings or other psychological effects. I simply want to know what my liver is doing now, how are my cells regenerating and how long will that take, what’s happening to other organs in my body, my brain. What is the physical recovery timeline… but nothing to be found.

I did find something else interesting about quitting and energy loss though… The other element that can contribute to the tiredness is also the fact that alcohol contains a lot of empty calories, high in sugar which the body will burn first and so it is readjusting to using more complex energy sources in the shape of complex carbohydrates which take longer to break down but give a slower energy release. I’m resisting the urge to replace sugar with sugar in the form of chocolate!

The general advice to help this recovery phase along is (rather predictably)…

  • drink lots of water
  • exercise
  • get fresh air
  • eat healthily
  • listen to your body and give in to rest

I’m doing all of those things except for the last one so today I am listening to my body and am having a duvet and film day with my daughter.

It may sound completely bonkers but part of me is enjoying the tiredness as it’s showing me in no uncertain terms that not only has alcohol been having an effect on me, even in moderation, but also that it is disappearing from my system…

So here’s to a good old romcom x

Day twelve – Cue creativity

Something has been unleashed in me over the last few days. I’m not sure whether it’s my lucidity, my feeling of being truly present in every moment but I have definitely connected to my divinity and creativity.

At the weekend I went to visit some friends of mine who have very proudly and beautifully done up their home over the last 17 years. In every nook and cranny there’s a memory, a treasure, a photo or a trinket they’ve collected that means something to them and as I walked back into my own home I found myself feeling that I hadn’t really been present there though I loved it. I looked around and it was quite sparse, I hadn’t bothered much with it – more concerned with unwinding at the end of the day with a glass of wine than giving my environment some much needed TLC. My home is gorgeous, I love it but it just lacked that little touch of familiarity, of memories, I had very few photos… I know why, I was actually channelling all of my spare money to buy a bottle of wine or two each week. One thing I’ve done over the last few days is put any money I allowed myself on alcohol into a jar for me to buy specific things that I fancy. It only amounts to £10 a week but that it money that I’ve chosen for the last fortnight to spend on my home.

My first purchase very proudly has been a stand for my beautiful saxophone… something I’ve been playing since I was 9 and that spends it’s life in its case. I’m adding a touch of my personality to my home.

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So then, cue creativity… I started to make things. I felt inspired to create things that meant something to me and not being very artistic or creative I thought I’d start very easily by putting touches of fairy lights inside and outside, planting flowers and making some blackboard paint signs for around the house with inspirational quotes on. Okay so I’m not exactly Picasso or Da Vinci but it feels great to be creating, to be present in my surroundings.

What it’s really made me realise is that drinking alcohol not only robs you of money, it actually takes you out of being present, out of your surroundings and sees you only focussed on one thing. For me it also robbed me of my creativity, my connection to source that sees me feel inspired to creative be that music, to write or to make little quotes to sit around my home to make me smile…

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Here’s to feeling alive and creative! x

Day eleven – The parent trap

Today my parents came to visit me and I had the opportunity to break an association I had with alcohol. I don’t see them very often and I do enjoy their company but I always find myself pouring a glass of wine when I cook or counting down the hours until I can feasibly drink in front of them.

I need to give you a bit of background… when I was growing up my parents would very often share a bottle of wine of an evening and I do recall boozy dinner parties where friends would get silly but I wouldn’t say they were big drinkers. Then Mum fell ill in her 40’s and stopped drinking altogether (nearly twenty years ago now) and Dad is now a once in a blue moon drinker who feels tipsy and falls asleep after one glass. You could argue that the example they set to me when I was growing up was one of alcohol being a regular feature in our lives but in later life the reverse was true. Every year I take my daughter down to see them by the coast and I spend a good couple of weeks with them, I found myself buying a bottle of wine every night for me and Dad to ‘share’ knowing that he wouldn’t get past the first glass, plus I’d have a beer or two at sundown because we were on holiday. I will say that all the time I was moderating and controlling my drinking so as not to show myself up which was a constant battle to control. The association doesn’t stop there. When they come to visit it is always around a meal time and I cook a roast dinner (whilst drinking a glass of white wine) or an evening meal. To their credit they have never said anything about my drinking and I admire that given I would have just rebelled against them… very wise parenting, however I am convinced that they must have been concerned.

When I first became a teenager I was allowed to drink around them, again very clever, I never went clubbing but I was treated like an adult who could partake in a lager whilst playing cards or a glass of wine with a meal. I married very young and moved out of home with a man who was a lot older than me and who didn’t drink, who took the role of my third parent and did nag me… so hey presto I was 18, an adult and now I was rebelling against him. Cue unhappy marriage, lots of drinking, lots of nagging, lots of rebelling.

That feeling of rebelling somehow obviously never left me because when I was down on holiday with my Mum and Dad I would often find myself sneaking drinks or staying up late to cram a couple more in.

So back to the present day, they came to see me, I cooked a meal and drank water. I haven’t mentioned to them that I’m not drinking any more, I didn’t want the ‘we were worried about you’ chat just yet. We had a lovely time, great meal and drank Elderflower Presse… bliss!

Another association broken! And given I’m heading down for my fortnight in the sun with them later this year it’s a great thing that it’s broken.

Day nine – A confession

Okay, so I haven’t posted on here for a couple of days and there is a good reason for that. On Saturday I went to see friends and then pottered in the garden. It was weekly food shop day and a thought popped into my mind that I wanted to have a glass of wine sitting in the garden at sunset. I could have easily dismissed this thought, it wasn’t a massive craving but it was an idea and I just thought “Why the hell not? It’s a free world.” In my head I justified it because I’d had nearly a week away from alcohol and I had found it easy, truly easy. Therefore I concluded that I couldn’t have a problem then, clearly I really was one of those ‘take it or leave it’ drinkers I wanted to be. This would have been an epiphany for me but I just knew what I’d learnt about alcohol being a drug and everyone being hooked at varying degrees was true, that take it or leave it drinkers were just better at exercising self control than drinkers who drank more. I knew I wanted to live a life of never exercising control again… to be truly free as I’d felt over the past week.

If it was easy and enjoyable to quit, why on earth was I even tempted? Was it because I was kidding myself that it was easy? I didn’t believe that was the case, I’d genuinely enjoyed being free and HAD found it very easy.

Rather than berate myself following my indulgence I chose to drink very consciously… I took each sip and realised that I didn’t really like the taste of what was once my favourite tipple, I was feeling dizzy and distant after just one glass. It’s true, as you fall into the alcohol trap it takes more and more of it to give an effect, with one week off my body was already noticing a vast difference. I carried on listening to my Allen Carr audio book as I drank and felt a bit sorry for myself (given alcohol is also a depressant it’s not surprising).

When I awoke the next morning with the inevitable headache, I can’t deny I felt a bit disappointed in myself but I had a choice to make – either I saw this as the slip up that it was or I throw the towel in completely.

I had absolutely no urge to drink at all yesterday, and nor do I this morning so I was really confused as to why it had happened when there wasn’t a ‘trigger’ or even a vast craving – just a feeling of “I fancy a drink in the sun”. I continued to listen to Allen Carr as I neared his final instructions to quit and where he tells you to drink that last alcoholic drink (I didn’t).

Then the penny dropped. I got the one piece of information that I’d been missing. I understood 99% of what was required but I’d missed the fact that there is a little monster, a gremlin that is the addiction to alcohol in your body and then a big monster that is the brainwashing that there was a benefit to drinking from life, society and advertising. I had nearly grasped how to deal with and ignore the big monster – that was the majority of the book – however I hadn’t quite realised about the little monster inside me.

Allen describes it as needing to die and it will take differing lengths of time in different people. My hunch is that it will take a couple of weeks to a month in me. If you at any point think “ooo I fancy a drink” he puts it down to one of two things. Either the little monster is talking in which case you can enjoy starving it of the physical addiction it needs to survive knowing that it will soon be dead and gone and won’t nag you again, or it is that you’ve genuinely forgotten that you don’t drink and you remind yourself that you are free.

I felt so relieved! It wasn’t that I hadn’t got the message in the book and had failed, far from it. I was missing this piece of information about the little monster, the addiction, which is almost imperceptible in it’s need. It isn’t a physical thing just a sort of emptiness that washed over me to be filled… like a hunger, except unlike hunger it isn’t a need my body actually has to survive. I know damn well if I’d have read/ listened to this before Saturday night I would have completely dismissed the little monster.

My only question is do I reset my counter? Is it now day nine or day two? I’ve decided to stick with day nine because this is about my journey into freedom from alcohol and that started nine days ago, Saturday night was another piece of the jigsaw in understanding the alcohol trap. I no longer feel like I let myself down but rather feel amazed at how easy the previous week had been when I hadn’t 100% understood the messages. Now I 100% understand there is no doubt I am doing the right thing and that I am going to continue to find it incredibly easy to do.

Here’s to seeing it for what it was and here’s to ridding my body of the little monster x