Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The big adjustment

If you are embarking on a mission to remove alcohol from your life and get sober, it's no understatement to say it's probably going to be one of the most monumental processes you're ever going to go through.

I remember when I first quit drinking it was like I was an intergalactic traveller that had been plonked down on an entirely different planet. I moved around as though I was hindered by a ginormous spacesuit, struggling to interact with others or even sit comfortably with myself for any length of time.

I lurched from emotional state to emotional state - one minute deeply sad, the next irate, then nervy, followed closely by bored. Anything slightly troublesome or problematic caused me to jerk uncomfortably into action. I'd frantically look around for some sort of remedy for my woes.

Oh, I'm sad! I need something to take this sadness away!

Yikes, I'm grumpy! Quick help me deal with this anger!

OMG I'm bored! How can I make this boredom go away!

I was looking for quick fixes. Fast solutions. Easy remedies. Because of course that is what I was used to. My usual fix/solution/remedy to any sort of feeling (but especially the uncomfortable ones) was just one pour away. It was alcohol. Alcohol had always been my main man, my go-to problem solver, my beloved cure-all.

So with alcohol out of the picture and life stuff keeping on happening, the biggest adjustment for me was learning how to relax about my feelings and stop grasping for instant solutions. To put it bluntly I had to learn how to chill out and slow the fuck down.

And this is the big adjustment in sobriety I think. This is the crux of what getting quitting booze is all about. When we remove our liquid solution we have to learn to relax into whatever is going on - as uncomfortable as it may be - allow it to occur, allow feelings to be just as they are, trust that things will shift and change, and chill.

Sounds easy but in practice it is not and I have to be honest and say it took me an awfully long time to do this. But now, six years after my last drink, I am a far more chilled out version of myself than I ever was. I am used to feeling the whole range of my emotions. I have stopped looking for something, anything, to help me deal with shit. I have relaxed.

There's a great mindfulness saying which is 'respond don't react' which would make a very good mantra for people getting sober. When we're in active addiction we are reacting constantly - taking quick actions based on immediate, surface feelings. The problem is when we do this we aren't pausing to give the wise, calm parts of ourselves a change to get involved. Acting responsively, on the other hand, is much better because we're pausing to take stock and giving ourselves time to respond in a calmer and more considered way.

To live reactively is quick and hard. To live responsively is gentle and soft.

To live as a boozer is quick and hard. To live sober is gentle and soft.

This is the big adjustment. It takes time and it takes work. But know that the longer you go not drinking the more naturally you will calm down into a more responsive way of living.

And trust me, that's a great way to be.

Love, Mrs D xxx



Sunday, September 3, 2017

SIX!!! (a mighty fine number of sober years).

Heading for a big Soberversary and am quite excited about that. In 3 days time I will be SIX years sober!! Woo Hoo!!

Soberversaries are funny things though.. especially early on I remember building up to them and being weirdly let down when they failed to deliver anything particularly special. There was always that realisation that it's just another sober day in a long line of sober days.. and that celebrations aren't the big (boozy) things that they used to be.

Because lets face it - any celebration in my former life would involve champagne - like somehow adding bubbles to alcohol made it more festive. I suppose bubbles are festive but you know what I mean... celebrations were just another excuse for me to drink more than I usually did.

But as the years have gone by and I've settled into my sober life I've gotten used to more gentle and subtle emotions, and in doing so I've come to enjoy Soberversaries for their authentic nature. They're not artificially forced high points that come from a bottle. They're authentic and meaningful which is far more satisfying ... and I appreciate everything they provide.

They provide me with an opportunity to reflect on how far I've come.

They provide me with an increased appreciation for having left my disconnected boozy lifestyle behind.

They provide me with a day full of quiet pride and joy.

They provide me with a reason to treat myself in little special ways.

They provide me with an excuse to shout my achievement on social media which hopefully helps others.

And they provide me with a new lovely number to claim for my own. And boy do I love watching that number climb.

SIX! What a mighty fine number of sober years that is. I love how it keeps climbing. I can't wait to get to 10, 15.. even 20 years!!!!!! I love being in long-term recovery. It's the gift that keeps on giving.

Not saying it's fun and easy all the time - no way. But being sober is incredibly rewarding precisely because it's hard bloody work a lot of the time.

And we all know hard work never killed anybody and I'm certainly up for the challenge of life in the raw every single day.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Monday, August 21, 2017

Sobriety - it only brings good things.

OMG I can't believe I've been going SO LONG now without eating any sugar or flour and I'm feeling SO GREAT!! I almost can't believe it! Who am I? Maybe this is me and finally at nearly 6 years sober I've gotten my shit together regarding food and this will be me for the rest of my life....

Maybe....

Or maybe not. Whatever the case I am thoroughly enjoying being cravings free and guilt free and generally just feeling lighter and happier without those sugary/floury foods (and believe me, when I go for them I really go for them and the past year while writing and putting out the new book I was REALLY going for them....)

No big weight loss as yet but it's not about that (although I'd be lying if I said I'm not hoping for a bit of a drop!) .. mostly it's about feeling free mentally from the obsession and binging and guilt.

Just to be clear I would class myself as 95% free from flour and sugar. I do sometimes have some fruit cordial with my fizzy water or sweet chilli sauce with my dinner. A few times I've had a piece of pie with pastry around it or a little bit of pasta. So there is some flour getting in there and some sugar.

I've found that letting in these very small amounts is enough to keep the cravings at bay. And if I do eat something sweet (like the other night I went out with girlfriends for pudding and I ordered a fruit crumble but asked for no ice cream and left half the topping behind) I know that the next day I'll probably have a craving.. and sure enough after my crumble-eating night I did. The following evening I found myself itching for something sweet, my thoughts were pulling me in that direction.

But I was prepared for it and tried to observe the craving with interest rather than fight it and think stressfully about it (and certainly not act on it!). I noticed the craving thoughts but didn't let them bed in and dominate. I told myself the craving was like a wave and would pass. I visualised myself getting into bed without having had anything sweet (like I used to when I first quit drinking, I'd visualise myself climbing into bed without having a drink). I put on the jug and made myself a cup of tea and sure enough the craving passed and I didn't spend my entire evening obsessing and the next day it was gone!

If I don't feed the cravings (literally) they die!

Like I said earlier.. long may this healthy eating phase last!

So this isn't really about drinking and I'm sorry about that because I get the feeling a lot of people visit this blog to read about sobriety except to say there is NO WAY I would be here now living my best life, learning about myself, accepting who I am and how my brain works if I hadn't quit drinking nearly 6 years ago.

I challenge anyone to find someone in long term recovery who hasn't experienced positive developments in their life.

Also quickly just to end on I'd like to update my Blog List (running down the left hand side of my blog page in case you are reading this on email). If you write a blog or can recommend someone else's sober blog please let me know so I can add it to my list!

Love, Mrs D xxx


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Introducing the Nucleus Accumbens

Had a lot going on lately. Very busy at home with the kids, doing my usual writing and social media and stuff, also working through some significant changes with my job at Living Sober, and had to give a talk yesterday evening in Parliament which also involved a bit of prep and some advance media (here and here).

Also managing to get in time to read some novels (this was great!), watch some of my beloved (crap) TV and go to the gym & walk the dog. Who am I??!! A busy sober housewife that's who!

Honestly I sometimes wonder how the hell I achieved so much when I was still boozing. Back then I was hellishly busy too - bringing up babies, working part time and doing my Masters etc... all of that and at least a bottle of wine a night. Sheesh... it's pretty amazing how much a human can handle.

Anyhoo it's far easier now I'm sober and I just love the end of every day when I'm snuggled up on the sofa or in bed with a mug of my favourite Chamomile tea. I LOVE my sober evenings, I LOVE laying my sober head on the pillow, and I LOVE sleeping all night long and waking up without a hangover. Bliss.

The Parliamentary talk went well. I was a bit nervous but not too bad - always happy to give voice to the thousands of us who are sober or busy getting sober. Bloody legends all of us. Happy to articulate our experience and try to get us more recognition. In this country we treat alcohol like a normal, ordinary, everyday, harmless commodity and that is simply not the case for all of us.

They had delicious mocktails at the event and I'm kicking myself for not getting a photo and asking for the recipe as it'd be a great drink to share!

And I am very proud to report that I am STILL avoiding flour and sugar and I'm feeling sooooo much better for it. I've been reading about the human brain and I now know that it's the Nucleus Accumbens which is responsible for dopamine production and when you pound it all the time with substances that cause major dopamine surges (alcohol, cocaine, sugar & flour to name but a few) it 'downregulates' and gets smaller, so then you need more of the stuff to kick out any dopamine.. and then you're in the addiction cycle, one that I know so well.

So now I like to think that I'm in the process of healing my Nucleus Accumbens back to normal size by avoiding these things and then I'll have a healthy brain capable of delivering normal, healthy doses of dopamine when appropriate - not when forced out by crappy stuff.

Love learning about my brain! Real practical information is really helpful for me when making decisions. And I'm so, so delighted to be free of ANY addictive behaviours at the moment. I truly feel free. Long may it last.

Love, Mrs D xxx


Monday, July 17, 2017

Ordinary and fabulous...

It is 8.20pm on a Monday evening. I have just tidied away the dinner dishes, put a load of washing into the dryer and made some beds.

I am now lying on the sofa with the laptop resting on my thighs. I have on my comfy pants and my slippers and a big pink sweatshirt. Comfy, comfy, comfy.

Mr D has just walked into the room after putting our 7-year-old to bed and I have (nicely) asked him for a cup of tea. He knows it's the chamomile time of night.

On the TV is a show about people renovating homes. My 10-year old has now just joined me on the sofa with his hair wet and PJs on after having a bath that I insisted on him having. He resisted but now he is clean and fresh and that makes me happy. He turns 11 in three days and we are discussing what he wants for his birthday breakfast (a pancake stack, maple syrup and bacon "with icing sugar sprinkled over like at a cafe mum").

I can hear my 12-year-old in the study with his friend who is here on a sleepover. They are playing Minecraft and talking online with other friends who are also playing.

The dog has just ambled into the room and stuck his nose into my arm. I had to pause typing to give him some scratchy love and now he's collapsed onto the rug.

My muscles are sore from the gym this morning. I have increased my weights slightly because I want to keep pushing myself and because I can!

The tea has arrived and it smells delicious. Mr D has switched the renovation programme to Game of Thrones. I'm not a huge Game of Thrones fan but I suppose he has the right to do that given he made the tea.

This is my ordinary and glorious sober life. Utterly fabulous and ordinary and cosy and sober.

Sober, sober, sober, sober.

Sobriety gives me so much. It gives me calm where before there was boozy chaos. It gives me clarity where before there was blurry confusion. It gives me peace where before there was guilt and misery.

Above all it gives me strength and pride and the ability to keep pushing myself forward. Onwards! Always.

Love, Mrs D xxx

(Photo taken yesterday on the wonderful wild coastline just 15 minutes drive from our house.)