Saturday, 31 December 2016

Regrets-You'll have a few

DO NOT DRINK TONIGHT! You WILL regret it I can guarantee you. One more session to say goodbye is just a lie you are telling yourself. If you have any days under your belt stick with it because tomorrow's day 1 will be just another day 1 you'll wonder why it's not day 6 or 10 or whatever it would have been had you not drunk.

DO NOT DRINK TONIGHT! There is nothing about tonight worth drinking for, don't give in to peer pressure, do not think you'll go out with a bang, do not pretend you haven't been here on New Years Eve several times already hoping this will be your year. Pick up some car keys and cram as many people in your car as possible and be the designated driver. The more people you risk pissing off if you get drunk and can't drive the better. Do two runs and double the number of people reliant on you, put a kid in the car, one you care about and don't want to drive drunk with. Do ANYTHING not to drink tonight.

This time last year guess who was struggling with the voice? Guess who struggled all day going back and forth with cravings Last N.Y. Eve post I called the post 'A bad case of the tomorrow's' and how prophetic that proved to be. I cannot say enough to convince you that it will not be the right thing to do if you have ANY days sober in a row. Some if you will still be drinking and have been planning this as your last hurrah, that's ok because you have been building up to it, I get it I really do. BUT......if you are 1day, 2 days, 10 days, 65 days sober, even 100+ days sober please do not give in, I beg you.

I WANT THIS AS MUCH FOR YOU AS YOU DO, more maybe.  I care about all of you because I have been there crying, tired, lonely, disappointed, frustrated, bitter, resentful, regretful, puking, shaking, shivering, head pounding, ashamed, ASHAMED, exhausted, pathetic and depressed. I am occasionally one or two of those things now but never all of them together. That is what day after day, week after week was like for me and I no longer feel like that anymore. I don't want you to feel like that anymore because we are all so much more than this bitch of reliance on alcohol. We can really seize the moment of opportunity and make a different choice to get to a new day just by saying "No I won't give in today, maybe I will tomorrow but not today" and then say the same thing tomorrow.

I drank last New Years Eve, dear, kind SoberMummy tried to reach out and stop me but even her magically soothing voice wasn't enough to stop the runaway train of my thoughts. You can read how I felt on New Years Day 2016 Here which I titled 'Unhappy New Year'

I am not your mom, your boss, your conscience but I am someone who tried 37 million times to quit until finally it seemed to stick. I want you not to feel bad tomorrow and to start 2017 clear headed and ready to keep moving forward. If you do end up drinking I won't be mad, sad or disappointed in you because I came back to my blog so many times saying Day 1 AGAIN! and I know that bottomless feeling in my tummy.

SoberMummy said something to me in her follow up comment on New Years Day "remember that drinking today is only borrowing tomorrow's happiness" which excellently sums it all up perfectly. 

Do what you can to protect yourself from your other self. The blogs will be here tomorrow and everyone is a forgiving and supportive bunch and you will always be welcomed with an understanding ear.  Wishing you all a very happy new year 2017, I hope it is everything you are looking and hoping for.

Heartfelt wishes.


Thursday, 29 December 2016

222-1/365 Another retrospective

Day 222 which is a nice and satisfying number in look and duration. I have flown through the holidays very easily where thoughts of drink are concerned and the only thing I really have missed, but still in passing, is Baileys. It is something I would have drunk for the indulgence of it rather than the alcohol content. For years in our household a Baileys coffee for breakfast on Christmas Day was the norm.

Missing alcohol for me is like a missing back tooth (which caused me so much pain I would have given the dentist the deed to my house to take it out had he asked) I only really miss it when I look for it but most of the time I forget it's not there anymore -however there is a gap there where it used to be. For the first few months of not drinking I filled that gap with food, Becks Blue, more coffee and sugar which had never really bothered me before, I was always a salty person rather than a sweet person. This is akin to fashioning a new tooth out of a Brazil nut or a piece of popcorn or even a pebble, something to fill the GIANT gap you are so aware of. Now at nearly 7 months I have accepted that there is a manageable sized gap in my life and no longer feel the need to stick a replacement there, it doesn't bother me and it's only if I go searching for the gap that I realise it's there. I had the same realisation with smoking years ago and once I learned to cope with the gap it kind if faded into the background.

For anyone feeling like there is a giant chasm in their life opened up since quitting alcohol, rest assured there are ways of getting through the initial emptiness. Blogging helps, eating helps, going for walks, going to bed early, a gripping novel, knitting, adult colouring books, self help books, journaling, AA meetings, online sober support. In the beginning you are looking to fill in the gap as it is so large, so obvious and such a huge part of your life just GONE! But........and I truly mean this, it does start to shrink, maybe oh so slowly but shrink it does. Every now and again you will approach the edge of the chasm and think you know the perfect solution (literally solution) to fill it in but ultimately you know that if you fill it in you will be back in pain again and the gap will be bigger next time. If you are standing on the edge looking in, MIND THE GAP, step away quick sharp. Blog about it, wring your hands and pace up and down, put something in your mouth, food, water, cake, sugar lumps, coffee, chewing gum and go and sit down somewhere away from the edge.

They say time heals all wounds and that can be applied in this case too. What seems like it will never pass and what is causing you so much pain and anguish will subside and only time and distance can get you there. There is no quick fix because as with grief, you have to go through the various stages to understand and grow stronger, a sobriety pill wouldn't work because it wouldn't provide you with the skills and habits needed to create long term success.  Awareness is one of the biggest tools you can use. Being aware of how you are feeling, mad, angry, sad, lonely, disappointed, scared, frustrated, disappointed etc will give you something to think about and work on and at some point you may say "oh, this is why I used to drink" but in that moment you also have the opportunity to think, what happens if I just stay with this feeling and allow the gap to be there unfilled? It might surprise you 5 minutes, 30 minutes or a hour later to realise you survived it, you weren't consumed by the gaping chasm, you are still standing on the edge and you know you can do it again.

I am re-reading some of my very early blogs from this time last year and I am amazed at what was pouring out of my head. Probably because it was 'anonymous' and I hadn't told a living soul how bad I was feeling and how desperately worried I was about myself. This first few posts were just a cascade of thoughts from my head. Like a shaken bottle of champagne, when the corked was popped there was an explosive gush of trapped energy that spewed out unchecked. In hindsight I shared too much and some of it is more than a little mortifying but a lot of it was written late at night when I was at my most lubed up and drunkenly reflective. This one here sums up how deep in I was that night, the weird layout is due to me writing it on a Works doc and the copying it over to the blog. It is a bit cringeworthy reading it back but sums up the way my thoughts galloped around between being philosophical, morose, depressed and self hating and hopeful that I could recreate myself. It's long and rambling but also eyeopening.

This sobriety thing is all very doable but seems so elusive in the beginning and so fragile that it's hard to hold onto at first but it is very very achievable if you just keep telling yourself you can get through the next 5 mins and then the next.  Just allow yourself 10 days to get the alcohol out of your system, 30 days to change a habit and 100 days to get some clarity. Chances are when you get to 100 you wont want to go back but just for now give yourself a chance to see if things can be different and better.

Ginger Groundhog

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

220-1/365 Flashing blue lights

On Christmas Eve eve my daughter went to a party about 40 minutes away and it was out in the middle of nowhere. I agreed to go and collect her regardless of the the time. I can do that now 😊
I set up google maps on my phone to talk me through it and off I set. Having yet another cough and cold, third one in three months (sad violins playing in the background)  I realised I couldn't hear the instructions clearly so picked up my phone and increased the volume. About 1/2 mile later a saw blue lights flashing behind me and I pulled over, half expecting them to go around me but no they stopped too. Long story short they had stopped me for using my phone and I think the fact I was so ill looking and sounding plus I said yes I had used my phone but only to increase the volume  as I couldn't hear the directions meant I didn't get a ticket. He informed me that as I had committed a road traffic offence he would be breathalysing me, I said knock yourself out I don't drink. Needless to say I was clean as a whistle, not even a hint of ethanol in my system.

Rewind to Christmas last year and it was a very different story. I would say I would have been hard pushed to pass a breathalyser test for all but about 2 hours mid-afternoon when I calculate my poor beleaguered liver had processed the night before. I also had a bit of a wild mathematical formula that I had begun to utilise where I would calculate and measure wine against body weight against time so that I could have a drink before going to pick my daughter up from wherever she was. It always seemed to fall in my favour meaning I could have a drink. CRAZY, INSANE, DANGEROUS and CRIMINAL.

Looking back now I can see how bad I was getting and what crazy chances I was taking not just risking getting a ticket but actually killing innocent people. If you are in the last stages of drinking before Jan 1st, please do not drink and drive after any amount or drink and drive the following morning, you would be surprised how long after stopping drinking you are still over the limit. My daughter's boyfriend was stopped twice within about a mile on Boxing Day on his way to our house (poor lad, just cos he's young) so there is a heavy presence on the roads.

 Blimey I feel like a reformed drinker, lecturing you all on not doing what I was guilty of but it was the shock factor of everything that would have happened to me if that same scenario had played out last year. Arrested, suspended from driving, potentially BANNED from driving depending on blood alcohol, criminal record, potential lost job due to location and public transport, explaining to people what happened, telling my daughter. All of this ran through my brain as I drove off on Friday pleased not only that I only had a verbal warning but that I didn't have to worry constantly about getting stopped. I am not proud of how I was but I am proud of how I am now.

Ginger Groundhog

P.S I love this song by Robbie Williams, never really payed attention to his music before. So much of it rings true now and bends very nicely to the blogging community and how I feel about everything. Love My Life I hope it relates for some of you.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

207-1/365 This time last year

So this time last year I was excited at the possibility of stopping drinking, I was scared as well but pretty sure I would be able to nail it as I had set a date, was counting down, had my sober supplies brought in and most importantly the motivation to do it.

My first ever post Here was pretty confident in that I was sure this time would be the time, truthfully I was a great deal more nervous than I let on and deep down I think I was terrified at how much I was drinking. Worse still is that it took me another 5, nearly 6 months to actually stop. Also if I am being completely honest between December 2015 and May 2016 when I did finally stop for more than a few days, my drinking had seriously increased and I mean seriously. WHY????? Why had my drinking increased, well I kept doing the 'one more night' or 'this will be the last one, better go out with a bang' or 'I'll just have all my old favourites one more time and then I am DONE'  What I was actually doing was increasing my alcohol intake and to go one night without drinking was an achievement, to go two was a miracle but then I would construct some very "logical" reason in my head why I should have a drink that night and off I would go again. Not to mention that I would drive myself to work the next morning at 8:00am praying to God, the Universe, Krishna, any deity to get me to work safe and without getting stopped or crashing into something or somebody.

I look back now and seriously wonder if people at work knew. No one seemed to indicate they knew and I always tried to be bubbly and overly alert and upbeat to make it obvious that there was no way I could have a hangover. Ironically I am now miserable in the mornings and it takes me an hour at work to get into the swing -now I don't have to pretend all the time. I have a lingering suspicion though that I used to smell of alcohol in the morning, I don't know at what level the seep of alcohol exudes through your skin but I have a feeling I must have been perilously close. I imagine I used to wander around in a cloud of deodorant, Chanel Madamoiselle, chewing gum and stale alcohol. I always hoped people would assume the alcohol smell was the first layer of perfume evaporating off but I might be deluding myself.

If you are in the last days of drinking because Jan 1st awaits, don't go overboard thinking this will be your last hurrah. Just drink what you normally drink not the ridiculous amount I ended up drinking, it is foolhardy and unnecessary. If you plan to drink over Christmas try to savour it or even try to notice if you are actually getting anything from it. Towards the end I kept thinking "this is so not enjoyable, why am I doing this?" I still did it but there was no buzz left, just a need. Not everyone has gone this far (yet) but it is a slippery slope that I slid down very quickly in those last 5 months between Dec and May. Don't make that mistake yourself.

This has been rather a downer post but to tell the truth last Christmas was a downer Christmas for me in general. I kept chasing the buzz, the fun, the giddiness and it never came. This year however I have turned it around and I am off to a Christmas party in Dublin on Saturday and I am wearing a dress! I have not worn a dress in about 20 years as I have always felt too self conscious but this year I am making a huge effort and I look 'good enough' and for me that is all I need. I have decorated my whole house, not just the tree and a few bits but everywhere. Previously unmanageable cos I was hungover or awaiting the next drink. I have ingredients for mince pies from scratch to make and give away and potentially Christmas chutney if time and quantities of jars allow. I am looking forward to a well planned, decorated, homely Christmas focused on good food, good company, relaxation, conversation and not a drop of booze in sight. And to me that sounds like my best Christmas ever.

Despite all the advertising on tv I have had no desire to drink, no cravings and only the occasional recollection of how much I enjoyed a big bold red on Christmas Day but similar to a memory of sunning myself on a beach in Thailand, it's a pleasant memory but I am not going to dash to the airport and jump on a plane in a sudden weak willed moment. Drinking is DONE for me now and I  have to remember that should at any point in the future it rear its ugly head but right now I am enjoying how calm I feel, how very much I am appreciating the start of festivities without any anxiety about drinking, driving and managing my life. I am in my own little sober wonderland and enjoying my new found sense of peace. I will take this feeling over last year any day.

Ginger Groundhog

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

199-1/365 To be a better person

 I have just been catching up on posts (about two weeks late) over at Just for Today here and the truly lovely lovely Annete always seems to make my heart expand, my eyes to see with more compassion and my brain to think "Jeez, you really need to be a nicer person!" - that would be me not Annette that brain is speaking about.

Maybe this last 2 months has been the space I have needed to step back and reassess what is going on in my life, who I am, how I am, what I want to be when I grow up do with the rest of my life. This combination of chest infection, exhaustion, depression, peri menopause, fuzzy headed, shaky legs etc is a massive HALT sign designed to stop the chatter, lose the obligations, stop the worry and just BE. Maybe there is nothing really wrong with me except overwhelm with it all. I do feel like I have been a hamster on a wheel or running on a treadmill knowing that I was stressed, unhappy, tired, juggling, worried, stressed, bored, [insert your own word here] and at times I almost felt as though I was watching myself and realising that I needed to stop but also being so deep in it I didn't know what to do or how to stop. Apologies if that reads like gobbledegook, I know what I mean. My body has two responses to overwhelm usually, a migraine or lately a chest infection. I have been fighting, resisting and trying to prove I can be strong and dependable but it didn't seem to be working and so my system threw a spanner in the works.

So back to being a nicer person. As I have had time on my hands and time to ponder the bigger questions in life I have noticed that I am not quite the likeable , kind, happy soul I used to be. I commented on my last post that I was now making a bigger effort to say hi to people and try and make someone's day better but this really only came sharply into focus when my friend was over from Chicago. It reminded me of how I was when I lived there and I wondered in fact if my friend would think I was a bitter shrivelled old shrew compared to the person she knew. BRIT BASHING ALERT - we are not always the most welcoming people, especially in London where it is more about being purposeful and hurried than rude but compared to friendly talkative mid-westerners it can appear unfriendly. I clearly remember when I came back to London after 10 years in Chicago, someone sneezed on the 07:23 to Victoria and I said "Bless you" and just about everyone in the carriage looked startled and stared at me. Now I am not saying America is all sparkles, sunshine and rainbows (especially now) but people are friendlier and more talkative, they are interested in you and very polite. I am not an Ameriphile but I did really enjoy my time there and felt happier and more ME than ever before.  We Brits have a reputation for being reserved and polite but is it just me that thinks we have gone too far the other way? I watched and remembered times in Chicago with my friend as she negotiated her way around London and Cornwall, where she would pass a pleasent little aside about the weather or how beautiful it was here and how excited she was to be here in England only to be met with stony silence, a job required smile or just transaction minimalism "here's your change" - no one asked where she was from, was she enjoying it here, how long was she staying etc. Same in Cornwall except for one guide at St Michaels Mount who appeared really interested and happy to talk.  In hindsight, maybe I enjoyed living in America because I could guarantee everyday I would be spoken to, engaged with, questioned on my reasons for being in America etc. I loved it 99.9% of the time as occasionally when you are in a big hurry you would rather skip the history of how you made it stateside to get on the train departing in 3 minutes.

But I am not Brit-bashing exactly, I am ME-bashing. The fact that I stopped trying, stopped engaging, stopped being friendly when I came back. I had a series of bad luck my first 6 months back including my mum dying 4 months after I came back and moving in with a woman whom after about 4 weeks it appeared she was either selling drugs or sex from the apartment shared with myself and my 7 year old. Quick exit, no returned deposit! Rather than bounce back from all these events I shoved them down inside along with my friendliness and give a damn and so entered a newer harder more bitter and resentful Ginger. Fast forward and all life's arrows had hardened me further, increased the bitterness and resentment and added a very unhealthy wine habit into the mix. All of a sudden I realised I hated my life, my attitude, my house, my job, this country, the way I had raised my daughter these last 9 years, how much life I had wasted, my financial disaster, how much I was drinking, everything. I hated everything.

So here I am six months into my alcohol free journey and I have had this complete breakdown breakthrough (that belongs to Brene Brown, not me) where I am surveying the landscape looking for bits I recognise. I can blame returning to England or I can blame a run of less than ideal choices, I can even blame drinking but I have realised all this blame doesn't move me forward it just keeps me stuck in all the old bitterness, regret and resentment. I need to let all that go and look with new eyes free from the negative filter I have been employing for the past 10 years. I can try to engage with people more and be friendly and open and I am pretty well sure I will get some positive feedback, maybe not from everyone but from some. That negative filter became very fine tuned this trip to London after my friend commented that people weren't very friendly here, so basically I went around looking for evidence to prove her right. I don't think she was paying too much attention herself, she carried on being friendly and open whereas I was by her side with my own agenda counting up each slight and tallying up how rude WE Brits were. If you look for bad don't you always find it.? Well now I am going to be looking for the good more and was it Gandhi that said "Be the change you want to see"

I also need to mend fences with my daughter who is not blameless, she has been a real bitch to be honest recently but I am the mom and the grown up and I need to stop acting like a teenager myself when I deal with her as that is not a healthy dynamic. In the the words of  the AA verse Just for Today (and the name of Annette's blog) ' I will not show anyone that my feelings are hurt; they may be hurt, but today I will not show it' because that is my go to reaction, hurt feelings and pouty face, always hoping that will be enough to change the other persons attitude 'Look at me, you have hurt my feelings. Feel bad and comfort me'  We have been at war for weeks now and just when I think we are back on level ground, she blasts me with another litany of things I have done wrong and how horrible I am etc
So I have decided that I am going to try and be the change I want to see here and deal with her in a different way. Not sure how this will work out and not sure how accepted it will be but i cant just give up on this or it will just get worse. I mention Annette over at Just For Today because I find her very inspiring as a mother and someone I would like to model more in how I deal with my daughter. Also she is just a very kind and generous soul with how she supports and helps people.

I will apologise to anyone who has been offended by what I have written here today about Brits, American Mid-westerners, Londoners and the Cornish and disagrees with my views but untimately it is more myself I am judging so please don't get too mad.

Goal for today is to reach a detente cordial with my daughter so we can try to at least sit down together and talk. The rest of it can wait for another day.

Ginger Groundhog