Monthly Archives: May 2014

Should I get sober online?

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I remember when I finally admitted I had a major problem with alcohol.

No. I mean the real time. Not the occasions I’d woken up with the worst head injuries or biggest blackouts and tried to frighten myself into sobriety. I mean the actual, proper real time. The one where I unequivocably knew I was totally f*cked if I drank again. The solid truth of it. The total anti-climax of acceptance. There’s really only one thing that makes my lightbulb moment any different from most.

I was 10 months sober when it happened.

That’s another story for another time though.

Upon this realisation I decided I needed lots of support incase I forgot that I had a problem. (I remembered enough about my drinking to recall that I was incredibly fast at having major realisations about my drinking behaviour, then just as swiftly forgetting them in favour of a pint or 10. The Usain Bolt of drinking epiphanies, if you will.) So I had a bit of a google about and I found an online resource called Women For Sobriety.

Lesson 1. Sobriety Forums are like Oxford Street; unflattering reflections of ourselves everywhere. This makes them superb tools for breaking down any form of lingering denial that you might have a drinking problem. Self-delusion is a form of extreme sport to most addicts, but a quick perusal of recovery forums soon knocks any notions of our issues being exclusive only to us.

There is nothing scarier or more liberating than people typing out verbatim everything we have ever felt about our drinking. Even the stuff we won’t say out loud. Especially the stuff we don’t say out loud. Because if we didn’t say it then how do they know?

It’s a truly freaky sensation. Not just the emotive words. But when someone cites how much they drink. Where they do it. How they cover it up. There’s something about seeing all of this written down that is so effective. So powerful. Impossible to deny. For this reason alone it is worth joining a sobriety forum short-term to blow all notions that you don’t have a problem right out of the water.

Lesson 2. It’s not the posts that give us the insight into our drinking behaviour;  it’s the replies Seeing how one woman reacts to another’s drinking. How they respond in fights. And yes, there are fights. You stick a load of women together who have decided to use alcohol as a tool instead of building the real coping mechanisms for life that other people have and what do you get? Huge emotional outbursts. Aggression. Snide remarks. The whole spectrum of dramatic overreaction teenagers trapped in women’s bodies are prone to. These are a real-eye openers.  How fecking alike we all are.

Lesson 3. If  it’s online and I don’t like it? It’s not real.  There was woman I knew online. A regular poster, she’d been  on the merry-go-round of alcohol abuse for years. This time she’d been sober a few months. then gone on a 10 day binge. She had posted to keep herself accountable. Told everyone she was determined to really do it this time. That she hadn’t had a drink that day and was going to go stay at her dad’s tomorrow and sort herself out.

The next day her dad let himself into her flat and found her dead.

This is not unusual. Women don’t tend to have long drawn-out alcohol-related deaths. We go quickly. With not a lot of warning. Sometimes none, But the women on the forum completely lost it. Refused to believe it had happened. Someone had broken into her account. They were lying. Where was the proof she was really dead?

If something is online and you don’t like it? You can skip that part. Pretend it isn’t happening. Go to the next page. And really anyone who abuses alcohol has already mastered the art of sticking their La-La fingers in their ears and having a good sing-song in real life. They definitely don’t need the technology that makes the online equivalent even easier.

So. Getting sober online? Fine. But staying sober online is not an option.

Because it’s just the same conversations over and over. Same issues. Same guidance. Same bitching and disagreements.

And whilst drinking thrives on staying the same. Same routine. Thoughts. Actions.  Sobriety thrives on change.  Forming new beliefs. Acting in different ways. Getting new hobbies. Seeking out new friends and social situations.

Living in the outside world.

Abusive drinking needs isolation and routine to survive. If you can smash through both of these? Drinking is much harder. Harder to fall back on. Harder to be enthralled by. Once the width of life is explored, the narrowness of drinking is a paltry second best.

It can’t be experienced online though. That’s like googling images of your dream holiday destination and then telling yourself that you’ve now been.

So take advantage of these online facilities where people speak your heart. (I recommend Soberistas because I like the cut of their jib.) See for yourself the absolute evidence that you are alike. Stick around and read their stories, take their guidance if it opens up new ways of thinking for you.

Then leave.

Leave and practise it in the real world.

 

 

The luxury of sobriety

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I’ll need that money for drinking.

With alcohol abuse comes a shutting down of wider life experiences. Breaking it all down to the smallest piece possible. Just the basics. With a fixation on one thing comes a shoving to the side of all others. When the need and want and obsession take over, there is a switch of focus from living to surviving. Not many people need luxury items to survive.

No frills. Waste not want not.

Stopping drinking and keeping doing it requires making the world around us a bigger place. I’ve said that enough times, it’s just boring to bang on about it anymore. But what doesn’t get discussed very often is the need to stop living on just the basics. On settling for less. If you want long-term sobriety in a way that is meaningful and useful? It’s time to raise the bar a great deal higher than where it’s at right now in terms of lifestyle.

You don’t deserve nice things. 

Loads of people talk about living mindfully, appreciating the basics. And it’s nice. It’s a very good start. And to be honest the peace and calm and tranquility is a very different kind of momentum from the chaos and drama we invented to alleviate the sheer boredom of abusive drinking.

The good stuff is for other people.

But you can’t build long-term sobriety on feeling eternally grateful for the basics. Because if it’s used as a prolonged way of looking at the world? It becomes a further excuse to make life smaller.

Just like the drinking did.

I’m going to break the only rule I have here and talk about boys. I never mention any bloke in my life because believe it or not by nature I’m a really private person. This whole blogging malarkey has pushed my out of a lot of that but, yes; I’m not naturally a sharer. Plus it’s probably quite boring to read about the specifics of someone else’s life. But it’s how I learned this lesson. And it was a huge lesson to learn.

So:

Last year I had a boyfriend who was really, really used to nice things. I mean really f*cking used to nice things. He wasn’t born into them, he worked his arse off and created a life where luxury was the norm. We were exactly the same age which is unusual for me because I tend to like them older. Anyway. We got on really well even though the only thing we honestly had in common was our sense of humour.

What we definitely didn’t have in common was our lifestyle expectations. He’d been to every luxurious place in the world, only ever traveled first class. His homes were opulent. You get the gist. All things that were a polar opposite to my life experience.

But it was how he spent his free time that really did my head in. I honestly couldn’t get a handle on it at all. He was never in his nice homes, he spent most of his time away at some new 5 star place he hadn’t tried yet. Doing new things. Constantly. His life was a merry-go-round of amazing experience after experience. You wouldn’t think he’d know survival-mode if it bit him on the arse.

I can manage without it

And I couldn’t use age as an excuse because we were born within days of eachother.

And there wasn’t even any virtue in my own crappy version of struggle. Because he did know the meaning of survival. He’d grown up in the Middle East in a poor family during a civil war.

I hadn’t a leg to stand on.

He was both brilliantly clever and good at making money. He also knew how to enjoy the money he made without shoving it in anyone’s face. Because it was all so normal to him that he didn’t care. He’d created this incredible life and it was all self-taught.

Incidentally he didn’t drink.

Everything about this man made me realise that I was still carrying around this habit of existing on the basics. That I truly did not feel I deserved nice things.I know a lot women say they don’t date people because of their money. I definitely wasn’t dating this man because of his money.

His money terrified me.

I had a choice. Embrace the luxury of sobriety, or end the relationship and continue in the comfort (?) of what I knew.

So I ended it.

Then I worked on understanding the luxury of sobriety.

Because the thing is he was right. The thing is we are supposed to have nice things. Our lives are surrounded by luxury. It’s not divided into

People Who Really Deserve It vs People Like Us

We can all open ourselves up to the possibility of luxurious sobriety. I did. It was probably the hardest part of Recovery for me. Persuading myself to really open my eyes and look at the external world I had created. The crappy flat. The cheaper clothes. The constant bargain hunting. Paying less for food than I needed to. Not going to better quality places and doing nicer things. What was it all for?

So I changed. I upgraded. I raised the bar. It was a f*cking challenge but I did it. And I would still never dream of dating a man because he had a lot of money. But I would never dump him because of it either.

Progress.

And if you want it then we can get you there too. It’s a much nicer place. And surprisingly the further up the ladder we scale in lifestyle, the less people drink anyway…

 

 

 

 

 

Who is your motivational drinking twin?

Ever sit in a pub and try to observe how many drinks normal people have when they are imbibing. “Oh three…three is clearly the normal amount. I’ll just go copy them and it will be fine”

Because being a consummate mimic is the key to freeing ourselves from alcohol abuse. Apparently.

Copying another person’s actions is one of the least effective tools in trying to combat active alcohol abuse. Because from the outside it is impossible to deduce what another person’s motivation for drinking is.

You have to actually ask them.

Like that friend who takes a few sips from a glass of wine and then just leaves it on the table to go warm for the rest of the evening. You might have tried it, but you can’t do it. Understanding the feeling that goes with it will always help though. Asking them why they do it will bring surprising answers, usually to the tune of:

“I forget it’s there”

“I get bored of the taste”

“I’d rather talk than drink”

“I can take it or leave it”

Do any of these feel familiar? Course they bloody don’t. So why would we try and mimic these person’s actions? This bird is many wonderful things but she ain’t your motivational drinking twin.

How about the friend that drinks too much on a Saturday night and then doesn’t think about it the rest of the week? Did you ever ask them why? The answers are similarly revealing:

“It’s just something I’ve done since being a teenager”

“It’s what my friends do”

“I like having a laugh with them”

“I do other things the rest of the week”

Does that feel like you? Maybe in-denial version of you but definitely not truthful you. So the way this mate drinks is not any use to you. You don’t feel like her, so copying her actions in a bid to be her is about as effective as wearing her dresses. Still you. but in disguise.

What about your best drinking mate? You might like to think of her as your Twin Flame or Soul Mate. She’s not. Obviously. But you are drinking from the same bottle and singing from the same hymn sheet right now so it’s understandable why you’d mistake the connection for that. What’s her motivation for drinking?

“Because when I have one it creates the overwhelming physical craving for another”

“The more I drink the worse the thirst gets. Not physical thirst, bodily thirst”

“Because I will do whatever it takes to scratch this itch even though the more I scratch the worse it gets”

She sound familiar? That a motivation you can understand? Maybe? The last one is definitely a brief introduction to the drinking version of me. Those girls are my motivational drinking twins.

The difference is obvious, once it’s dissected and felt.

That’s why using other people’s drinking habits without getting to understand them is no use to you. Ever. Or why generic stop drinking programmes are similarly ineffective. If you get to the heart of what these people’s motivations are for drinking, then you can surmise whether they are tackling what you are tackling or not.

But so what? What’s the actual point of this?

If you are genuinely looking to stop drinking then you need to enlist the help or guidance of someone who has done it from the same motivational point as you. When someone speaks you language, Genuinely. Not as a chameleon who is generically trained to try and stop people drinking. Then and only then can they help you. Because really they are just showing you how they helped themselves.

Look around. Find the sober version of your motivational drinking twin. She is out there. Get her to teach you the tools that released her from her own motivations to drink. Read her blog. Find her email address. Follow her on social networking sites. If she gives coaching sessions or seminars? Attend them. If she is not your motivational drinking twin? Take everything she says with a pinch of salt.

Don’t settle for anything less.

 

 

Addicted to the Drama of Drinking?

These days it's just Mocktails sans drama ta very much!

These days it’s just Mocktails sans drama ta very much!

It’s not the same as being in love with drinking.

Because honestly? As much as the pouring of a bottle of fine wine can be romanticised by the poets amongst us that spend more time thinking than drinking, the majority of us have reached the stage where drinking is, for the most part, quite frankly, boring as f*ck.

It really is. Go on. Admit it. There’s something so stuck about it. Same drinks. Same people. Same f*cking conversation. Like Ground Hog Day, except without learning how to make the most of being trapped in the same day forevermore & using it to learn new things like Bill Murray does.

There’s something a bit lovely and delicate about feeling like a tortured soul that no one else understands. Feeling the depths of despair that surely no other being has scaled. It’s certainly a hell of  lot more attractive than admitting we are essentially just keeping ourselves stuck in the same cycle because it has become a habit.

Hangovers likewise are boring when they are an everyday occurrence. Really. F*cking. Boring. So using those hours to obsess on the drama of drinking is a truly marvellous way to pass the time. A relief even. Until it becomes habit. Then it’s not so fun. And really hard to shake.

Life becomes very, very small. an endless round of thinking about idea of alcohol. What a special, misunderstood, unique relationship we have with it. How no one could understand this bond from the outside in. The more we isolate ourselves, embroiled in this romance, the more warped and delusional our thinking gets. And the more we allow ourselves to drift away from the solution.

Because stopping drinking is easy. You just cease the action. Drink gets put down. Doesn’t get picked back up again. And the hole it leaves can be filled by other things. Activities, people, places. Options. Seeing life through the enthusiasm of new eyes.

But the void the Drama of Drinking leaves? That is a much bigger hole to fill if we keep telling ourselves the same old bullsh*t story. Then alcohol becomes that boyfriend who we never faced up to what a pr*ck he actually was and just dumped because our friends told us to. (And yes, we do a lot of the things just because we are told to when we arrest development at the age we start drinking and don’t discover who we really are. All of us.)

Drinking becomes this beautiful, untouchable tragic thing we have lost. Rather than just a really boring f*cked up pastime the real grown ups grew out of making their main event long ago.

The Drama of Drinking gives the illusion that there is an actual relationship to be had with an inanimate object. Which is f*cking ridiculous, You can’t have a relationship with something that doesn’t have a central nervous system. That physically lacks the ability to love you back. It’s what makes me want to punch alcohol counsellors in the face more than anything else they say. F*ck working on your “relationship with alcohol”. It’s a bottle. not a boy.

So if you have decided to stop drinking, and you are feeling emptiness through lack of drama in your life? Don’t be tempted to create drama in other areas just so it feels comfortable and familiar. Learn passion instead. Excitement. Drama comes from the boredom of routine that drinking created as an by-product of misplaced fear. Passion comes with making new, genuine discoveries about who we really are and what we really like.

We don’t address the Drama of Drinking enough in recovery, Which is silly because all women do it. And it can be undone by finding ways we would rather feel. Nobody deliberately aims to feel bad. It’s a habit we learn as we choose alcohol over everything else.We are supposed to go through life feeling fulfilled and happy. We are supposed to create a life for ourselves that satisfies and excites us.

Just because we didn’t learn that lesson as quickly as others doesn’t mean we can’t start learning it today.