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


  1. I just read your post from a year ago. You rally have changed so much GG. Your posts changed in about August from memory. You became more positive, had more belief in yourself that you could do this and that life was in fact getting better. I remember this as it was when I fell and you were changing and getting better and being sober was becoming easier, and I couldn't understand why it was getting harder for me.
    As for your boxing day post, I can feel the unhappiness in your words. I am so happy for you and how far you have come this year. It can only get better too!

    1. Thanks PDTG I don't remember the change coming in August but I will read my posts because I am aware somewhere something changed and I realised all this self hatred was futile and so unjustified. I think it goes much deeper into my past but certainly not accepting some of the labels I have been given by certain members of my family helped.
      When you say it was when you fell and I was getting stronger, I understand. There is another blogger much further ahead than me now but for a time we were a day apart. I fell and she kept going getting stronger and more aware of what was happening for her. I remember reading everything she wrote thinking '"that should be me" somewhat bitterly. Having said that though, I think we get stronger each time and learn from each mistake. Goodness knows how many failed attempts I had up until this time.
      You are doing brilliantly well now and just have to keep wanting this to get better, it does get better even when life is crap, it's still better crap sober than drinking. You have only one/two days until a new year and a sober year for both of us. Keep strong and big hugs.

  2. Your missing tooth analogy is spot on Ginger! Describes what I'm doing at yhe mo perfectly anyway ;-) I'm so glad you've busted through to the other side of all that now. Red xx

    1. How funny that as I read that my tongue sought out the gap where the old tooth used to be. Sometimes we don't even want a drink, it almost a muscle memory from doing the same thing over and over. You doing this now is just learning that the go to response is not working and you need to catch the thought and change it.
      Both of us are different people than we were this time last year no matter how many days we have under our belt.

  3. Great post Ginger. I'm really interested in learning to practice mindfulness. This will help with regulating and dealing with emotions that get out of control to quickly. I also think I'm over sharing sometimes but I've just decided that I'm blogging about it ALL so that I can refer back to it when the memories fade. They will fade and there will come a time where alcohol seems like a good idea. Those early posts are there to publically remind you/me/everyone of the hell it was. Its great for me to read your old posts because then I can see how far you’ve come. xxx

    1. Some of us do over share but ultimately we all have our styles and for me and maybe you, telling it is exactly as it is warts and all is what keeps me accountable. So much of this journey has ended up learning not to hate myself as much with the goal being to not hate myself at all. I still have a recent post I have not published yet but I keep reading it, not sure what is holding me back but something is. I feel I am being true to myself with what I write and in doing so I am helping me and maybe giving others a pause to think about things I relation to themselves.
      Mindfulness is something I am attracted to but still haven't managed to start it yet but all in good time.

  4. Ginger,
    I read your early post, too!
    You have made such great growth, and you sound great now!
    Grounded and much happier.
    Your early post reminds me of what I was like drinking.
    I am so happy for you!

  5. I think it was Mel Gibson who called his failures "School fees"
    Sometimes we need to fail several times while we acquire the knowledge and skills to succeed.
    And oh my, you have come such a long way from that post of last year.
    I love this post, and the "Missing tooth" analogy is absolutely spot on.
    Have a wonderful New Years Eve, and I hope 2017 is a tremendous year for you.
    Best wishes.