Me Minus Wine

My journey through sobriety

Category: Sober Life

Life once the wine stopped flowing.

First Sober Christmas

The festivities are over for another year, unless of course you make a big deal about New Year, which we don’t. If I am honest I was worried about this Christmas. With a large family gathering where I thought would be the only non-drinker apart from three children aged four, seven and ten years old, I felt nervous to say the least. Ever with the alcoholic mindset, I was convinced everyone would be watching me, waiting for me to slip up.

As it happened, I was not the only non-drinker. There were a few drivers in the party as well as me, The Alcoholic. In the end, that didn’t matter.

For the toasts I had my Elderflower and White grape drink in a champagne flute. I had it in a wine glass for dinner. I didn’t feel any different to those that were drinking. I found myself genuinely enjoying the day.

Waking up a couple of times during the night to put my son back to bed during Christmas Eve without a hangover was different. Watching him open his stocking and feeling bright and fresh was a pleasure. I found his excitement rubbed off on me in a good way, rather than asking him to calm down “Because mummy has a headache and I don’t care that it is self-inflicted”.

At my family’s house, I was helping where I could instead of sitting around, doing nothing but drink prosecco and wine. I enjoyed being present and people enjoyed my being there. No one seemed to be waiting on tenterhooks for me to break down as I thought they would. I imagine that is just The Alcoholic thinking in me; assuming that everything is about me and that everyone is worried about me.

The day was every bit as chaotic and tiring as you would expect it to be with 22 people for dinner, 24 after dinner for present opening. As I reflect on the day, now I just cannot imagine how I would have got through it drinking, ending up drunk. As it is, it has taken me a few days to recover, it would have taken several more had I been drinking.

Boxing Day arrived at home, just the three of us spending the day in our PJs and I took pleasure in helping my son explore his new toys instead of languishing on the sofa, feeling sorry for myself. We played games and read stories. We relieved the day together with a lot of “Thank you for a good day” from my son.

Although I dreaded it during the build up, my first sober Christmas was amazing and I hope there are many more to come!

On Being Public

Being an alcoholic is something I am still ashamed about.

I have nine months sobriety under my belt and yet there are only a few people in my life that know. I don’t work and I don’t have many real life friends. My world for the last few years has consisted of online friendships. I have another blog, have been an active member of forums for a number of years and have another twitter account with close to 5,000 followers. I do not mention I am an alcoholic on Facebook, my other twitter account or on my other blog and I have wondered why.

I know why.

Whilst I am eternally grateful for what sobriety and the A.A programme have given me, somehow, I still do not want to publicly declare “I am a recovering alcoholic”.

I guess part of it is that really, in the realm of virtual friendships, you never really know who are true friends. Who are the people who will understand?

I imagine some of my followers may have noticed that I haven’t tweeted about pouring myself a glass (or ten) of wine. Maybe they haven’t.

There is a certain stigma attached to being an alcoholic, or an addict. I worry that people will be watching, waiting for my downfall. A downfall that would be quite spectacular no doubt. I worry that people will think that my admitting to being an alcoholic explains just about everything that has happened to me.

And yet, whilst I have always wanted to be as open with my followers as I can, I just don’t feel able to send that tweet or write that blog post on my other blog. So I feel I am hiding something from them.

I guess the important thing is that I have my family behind me, that they know. My real life friends that I do have are all from A.A anyway and I have confided in a handful of people who have known me online for several years.

Yet I feel dishonest, lacking integrity and no longer sure that it is something I should be keeping from them.

Nine Months

Nine months sobriety.

That’s quite something.

It occurred to me last night that I have now been sober for the same length of time that a healthy pregnancy should last. I didn’t even manage sobriety during my pregnancy (although I did only have a couple of glasses of wine a week).

The biggest thing I have learned during my sobriety is that it is okay to feel things. It is okay to cry, to get upset, to feel happy, to feel stressed, to feel angry, to feel scared. It is okay to feel all of these complex emotions that humans have (and I am convinced that the alcoholic or addict feels them in the extreme) and to not drink on them. Sobriety has taught me to handle them.

Sobriety has also taught me that it is okay to feel flat. That actually, feeling flat is good. It is, apparently, normal to just be okay, to not have one extreme emotion or to have a drama in my life.

As I reflect on my drinking days, I was always seeking out drama. I would involve myself in business that really was not my business in my attempts to fix things, apparently classic Al-Anon behaviour (my mother was an alcoholic who committed suicide during a relapse, my father is currently in A.A as well, my husband is, I believe, an alcoholic and my brother is an addict). Sobriety is teaching me that it is okay to just be.

Sobriety has taught me about honesty. I considered myself to be an honest person, even during my drinking. Yes I would lie or tell half truths in order to obtain more alcohol but somehow I could justify that to myself. Of course I would be extremely offended if anyone dared lie to me. Naturally, since I stopped drinking I just assumed that I had become more honest without really thinking about it. I have learned that I lie about my feelings; if my husband asks me if I am okay, is it really fair to say that I am if I am not? What am I scared of?

Sobriety has taught me about relationships. Through going to A.A. I have true friends, people who genuinely care for me and are not just hanging around for the next time I shout a night down at the pub (and plunge myself into debt to do so). It has made me available and present for my sisters; I cannot turn back the clock and be present for their most important years but I can be there for them now. I look forward to spending time with them without thinking about making an escape so I can go home and drink or without worrying if I will be too hungover to see them the next day.

Sobriety means I enjoy being a parent to my son. I enjoy playing with him, reading to him, helping him to learn and explore. He is an amazing, incredible addition to my life rather than an inconvenience. Of course there are still times I get twitchy at 5 pm and think a glass of Sauv Blanc would be nice but that thought leaves me as quickly as it arrives. I am so grateful that my son is so young that he will not remember my drinking days.

Sobriety means I nurture my marriage. I talk to my husband more, I listen more.

Sobriety means I lose my temper less, I am more patient and tolerant.

Sobriety is not, by any means, a perfect life. It is hard to deal with feelings and life but it is wonderful to be able to do so. Sobriety is handling life on life’s terms. Sobriety is taking responsibility for the harms I have caused in the past and making amends by being present in the lives of those I love.

Boundaries

It has been a difficult few days.

After a few months of being sober himself, the husband started to doubt whether he does have an issue with alcohol or not. One boundary we have had from the start is that there is to be no alcohol in our home. It feels like an important rule to have in place and one that is non-negotiable. I just do not want the temptation to be within such easy reach.

On Thursday evening he came in with a four pack of lager. I thought I reacted calmly, I told him that yes I did mind but there wasn’t much I could do about the fact now that he had bought it.

The following few days were tense. I remained calm throughout but it felt like he was simply stirring, trying to create an argument so he would have an excuse to storm off to the pub and get drunk. I was not prepared to rise to it. On Friday evening, as he dropped me off at my meeting, he told me he needed to think about things, whether he could continue to live the rest of his life without alcohol in the house.

Perhaps I am being unfair but I need to protect myself, to protect my son. My mother died due to alcoholism, this illness has ripped my family apart and we continue to suffer the effects from it, dealing with things from years ago that were never dealt with.

I do not care if he wants to go out and get drunk, he can do that. I do not care if he wants to go out and just have a couple of drinks, he can do that. It stuck me as odd when he told me he didn’t want to go to the pub because he only wanted to have a couple of drinks, he didn’t want to be tempted to have more. Is that not the alcoholic thinking? Surely normal drinkers CAN just have a couple of drinks at the pub?

It seems that until my husband works out whether he is alcoholic or not and then deals with whatever he comes to realise, we will be in this cycle every few months. A cycle which is exhausting and draining. A time that makes me grateful more than ever for the support network I have because without it I would surely have reached for a drink over the weekend, with no idea of when I would stop.

For now, things have settled and our home is full of love and laughter and fun and games once again.

 

 

Detatching with Love

My life has always had drama in it. I have often noted to family and friends that even a script-writer of a soap would’t put a character through quite so much as what I have had happen in my life throughout the years. From awful neighbours, desperate lows of anxiety and depression to false allegations and a separation while still living with the husband (which luckily wasn’t permanent), I have survived an awful lot.

Whilst sobriety hasn’t brought a perfect life and nor was one promised, things on the whole have ticked along quite nicely for the past seven months, without any sense of drama or real stress.

There is a situation with a family member at the moment which could, quite easily, create chaos in my own life. I don’t manage my feelings very well and getting myself involved, trying to fix this situation, will only result in my being disturbed, which is a huge red flag for me. I want, more than anything, for this family member to stop what they are doing, I want to have a word with them and make them see the road they are heading towards. And yet, I know I can’t. I have to let them go down that road themselves, to reach their rock bottom before seeking help. I wonder if things would be different if I still lived near them, does this person feel I abandoned them? Putting that blame onto me is rather egotistical really isn’t it? What on earth makes me think this person would be behaving any differently if I lived more local to them?

Accepting that I cannot help someone I love is hard and yet, I know that it is the best thing for me and in the long run, for them too.

I have the urge to pick up the telephone and ask how they are but history tells me I know what they will be doing and I don’t want to hear their lies and so I don’t. Emotionally detaching myself from a situation like this feels so selfish but I have to put boundaries in place so that my sobriety remains in tact. After all, I am of no use to anyone, least of all my family, if I pick up a drink again. I can only be the best example I can be.

This realisation has in turn made me wonder about all of the drama that was in my life before, during my drinking years. Just how much of it was caused by me? Ultimately many things could have been different had I reacted in a different way and yet I have always reacted in the only way I have ever known how; full of emotion that I cannot handle and turning to a drink for a sense of comfort and ease.

I am thankful I do not do that any longer and that things can be different.

Six Months

I have been sober for six months now. There is a sentence I never thought I would ever be able to say or write. Not only have I not had a drink in six months, I have been happy! *gasp*

I remember when I first accepted that I could never drink alcohol again, how insurmountable it felt and how I didn’t think there would be any point in trying because, let’s face, I would fail at it anyway, just as I have failed at being a mother, wife, daughter, at life! I had tried before, convinced that I could drink normally and the promises I made to myself and my family to not drink, or to drink responsibly were meant with every fibre in my body.

Something in me felt that there must be a better way, a way to be happier in life, to deal with the problems life throws at me without turning to the bottle (or three) every night. Like many people I tried all sorts of methods never grasped it.  So I went to A.A and I cried the whole way through my first meeting, without really knowing why. Somehow I knew that I needed to give this thing a try. Knowing I was being investigated for child neglect still didn’t help me to control my drinking. To be honest I thought I could go to A.A, learn to control my drinking and hopefully find someone who could testify in court (should the investigation end up in court) that I was a changed woman and had learned the skills and discipline required to drink responsibly.

In the first few weeks, that was the reason I kept going back. Once I was given just a warning, I still kept going back without really knowing why. I then found myself a sponsor, someone who had what I wanted; a love and fire for life without drinking, something that I found strange and was but a dream for me.

It took a few months but I am now enjoying the sober life. It is not without it’s challenges, partly because my husband is an alcoholic who has chosen to not go down the A.A route, something which I am struggling to accept. But for the most part, I am happy, content, free. I have friends, real friends rather than acquaintances or drinking partners, people I know I can turn to for support.

Personally, I could not have got this far without the fellowship of A.A. And even if today is my last sober day, I will be forever grateful to Bill W and Dr Bob for the last six months.

Resentments, Fears and Harms

“Though our decision was a vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenuous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us. Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions.

Therefore, we started upon a personal inventory. This was Step Four.”

My goodness, this step four work is hard.

I didn’t come to A.A because I wanted to, I came because I would do anything to ensure that my son would not be removed from me. I came because I was looking for a character witness, to assure the court and magistrate that I was no longer drinking. Within a couple of weeks, it turned out that the police decided to merely give me a caution. I then realised that I was no longer in a place where I was coming to A.A to stop drinking, I started coming because I wanted to stay sober. I wanted to have what I saw in the rooms; a happiness, a contented life.

When I discovered that I no longer felt I needed to come to pay lip service but in fact, I wanted to come, something changed. I found myself a home group, I got myself a sponsor and I started doing service.

Through my meetings with my sponsor, I started doing the Joe and Charlie Big Book study. By this time I had read the Big Book cover to cover a couple of times with not much really sinking in. I had been confronted with the 12 Steps at every meeting.  I still thought my drinking hadn’t harmed anyone but myself, not really.

Slowly but surely I became aware of how wrong I was.

For me, it would seem that my life has been pretty much run on fear. Fear of failure, fear of other people’s perceptions of me, fear of abandoment, fear of losing the two people most precious to me, fear of losing control (the irony of the fact I always lost control when drinking is not lost on me), fear of not meeting expectations and the list goes on. Intertwined are my defects of character; I am a control freak, I can be quick to lose my temper, I am selfish, dishonest. On the one hand I am looking forward to asking my Higher Power to remove them all (and that’s key isn’t it, I have to be willing to have them all removed) and yet I am scared. Scared because I believe that many, if not all, of these defectives protect me from hurt, from making myself vulnerable.

Yet, I am only on Step 4. For now, all I have to do is write the list but I can’t seem to stop myself from fast-forwarding, my head probably making things worse than they will be. Another defect of character of mine; imagine everything to be impossibly worse than it needs to be so that I protect myself.

Making my lists of resentments, fears and harms has been hanging over me for weeks now and I seem to have become something of an expert at procrastination. My meeting last night has inspired me and today I am determined to get down to business.

Reminding Myself

Yesterday I found myself wanting a glass or two of wine. I pictured myself unwinding mid-afternoon,  toasting the weekend to come. I could see myself laughing and joking with people in the pub, while watching the start of the Premiership football season this afternoon. I remembered long, lazy Sunday roast dinners, drinking some wine and relaxing on the sofa to yet more football. I was not actually tempted to rush out and buy a bottle of wine, I was just yearning, remembering the good times.

There must be a reason why my home group is on a Friday night; I suspect it has more to do with it being the start of the weekend rather than availability of hire of the hall.

As I listened to people sharing back the positives that sobriety has brought them, my own memories and realisations came back. Every weekend I would inevitably end up sleeping on the sofa, having passed out and my husband being unable wake or move me. Mornings and even full days were spent trying to recall my escapades of the previous day, whilst drinking vast quantities of Coca Cola in a bid to rid myself of the hangover, before starting again. Arguments and screaming matches with my husband were frequent occurrences, occasionally resulting in visits from the police, worried that I was a victim of domestic abuse and frequently resulting in threats of leaving. I had no plans for the future and felt my life was going no where.

And now? Sobriety has brought me enjoyment of life. I spend more time with my son, playing with him or taking him out. I have enrolled on an Open University course in a bid to further my education and feel more fulfilled. My husband and I are yet to have an argument and we spend time talking together, like grown ups. Gone are the mornings wasting in bed feeling sorry for myself and making (and absolutely meaning) promises to control my drinking, only to break them hours later. I can meet up with family for a morning, no longer worrying whether I will be too hungover to make it or making plans to escape so I could start drinking.

Sobriety has given me so much; it’s just occasionally I need a little reminder of just what it has given me.

So Long, Wine O’Clock

When I first got sober, a mere five months ago, one of my most immediate concerns was how would I reward myself at the end of the day? As my alcholoism took grip, the first glass of wine became more appealling. I began to see it less of a reward once my son was in bed and more of a need.

Towards the end of my drinking, “Wine O’Clock” got earlier. My husband and I would clock watch for lunch-time. Once our son was safely deposited at nursery after lunch, I would open a bottle of wine and my husband would have already started on his lager. By mid-afternoon I was often already a bottle of wine down. Plastering on make up, fixing a smile (which most likely appeared more like a manic grin), spraying myself with body spray and sucking on a few extra strong mints before collecting my son from nursery all became the norm. I (perhaps naively) assumed no one noticed. I have since been told (by people who only know me for nursery drop off/pick up) that I look healthier and happier.

I found the lunch time drinking sessions easy to drop. Instead I spent my time rediscovering my love for reading. I worked out my plans for the future as I suddenly realised that my son would be at school full time from September. As someone who cannot currently work, I realised I need something to fill my time. I think I have found what I want to do and once it is confirmed, that will be a post for another time.

However, my self-declared “Wine O’Clock” time (and indeed that as voiced on social media such as Twitter which seems to be anything between 5 pm to 7 pm or once your child is asleep depending on who you ask) was another story. Perhaps I found (or still find) it hard because I am on social media so much.

Our son was used to staying out late with us or just staying up late because we simply couldn’t be bothered to read a story to him and so bedtime quickly became a battle and I would catch myself thinking “At least I can have some wine”. Remembering that, actually, that glass of wine is no longer an option was difficult so I quickly became a chain smoker, I replaced wine with Coca-Cola and chocolate and sweets. A consequence of living a sober life is that I have piled on weight; I have put on about 2.5 stone whereas most people seem to lose weight. As such, my confidence took a battering for a while; my clothes no longer and I once again found myself becoming isolated, simply because I didn’t like how I looked. Treating myself to a bit of a shopping spree definitely helped! Having that shopping spree without the frequent stops for a glass of wine, was yet another new experience.

Over the last week or so, my son has once again started acting out at bedtime. The thoughts of wine, followed by swift dismissals have made another appearance. My dreams are filled with relapses, my coming to each morning finds me asking my husband for reassurance that I didn’t drink due to how vivid they are.

My sponsor told me that Dr Bob, one of the founders of AA, had the obsession over alcohol for the first two and half years of his sobriety. Whilst I hope that will not be the case for me, until that disappears, I shall use the tools I have and try not to worry too much about my weight, since I don’t need to just yet.

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