I’ve been dragging these last couple of weeks. I guess that’s why I haven’t written much, I couldn’t think of anything else to write about other than the fact that I feel tired which is not very interesting.
During much of January, which was Month One of not drinking again, I felt really high and kind of wired. I remember writing about the “pink clouds” just a couple of weeks in and I was waking up every morning at 4:30-5:00, excited about my sober day ahead! Lately I’ve been dragging. Sleeping in until 6:00-6:30 (which yes, I recognize is still very early but it’s all relative, right?), feeling lethargic and groggy when I wake up, having long afternoon naps on the weekends and then still feeling sleepy and wanting to go to bed by 9:00.
I’m hoping that this is just part of the process and that my body is in recovery mode and will adjust back to normal at some point. It all seems kind of backwards though, like I should have been more sleepy and lethargic in the first month, and be starting to feel more energetic in month two. Looking back on my posts from January 2020 when I first stopped drinking for an extended period, it seems that in the first month I was lacking in energy but by the second month that was coming back and I was feeling pretty good.
Anyhoo, as I said, not a very interesting topic to write about but it’s good for me (and maybe helpful to others?) to keep track of how I’m feeling throughout this process. I suppose I could also attribute the lack of energy to the seemingly never-ending winter and the pandemic. Who would have thought at this time last year that “pandemic” would be come a regular, everyday word………….
It’s difficult to think of special things to do these days. Between Covid and not drinking, every day is kind of the same. Like in the BC times (Before Covid), I might think, “It’s Friday! Let’s watch a movie or a fun Netflix show!” but we pretty much do that every day now because what else is there to do? I used to really relish an evening at home because during the week and on weekends we would be busy going out, meeting friends for various dinners and nights out. Now that we don’t have that option and it’s always a night in, it can be tricky to find something special to differentiate the weekends from the work week.
Anyway, here’s something special I did last night (Friday).
A friend had mentioned making French Onion Soup for her family and then I had the biggest craving for it all week! I gathered all of the ingredients when I went for groceries on Wednesday and then looked forward to Friday evening when I could start chopping onions and putting it all together. The same friend also gave me some sample bottles of an alcohol-free spirit called Seedlip. I had heard/read about this product before and had always wanted to try it out. It’s expensive to buy a whole bottle but I would definitely recommend it! The lovely part is that it tastes like an adult drink and it tastes special. You basically pour a shot of it over ice, then add tonic to it and it tastes like a special Friday night drink with complex flavours that aren’t just mixer without the alcohol. They distill things like rosemary, mint and juniper and put it into a bottle to mix with tonic.
So while I was caramelizing onions in a big stock pot over the stove, I was sipping on my special drink and enjoying my Friday night. Neither was so exciting, but it’s nice to have something a little bit special to make a Friday different from any other day.
In addition, the French Onion Soup called for a cup of red wine. I was a little concerned that opening the bottle of red, smelling it, and cooking with it might be a bit triggering but I was thrilled to discover the opposite! When I opened it up and poured it into the measuring cup, I took a good whiff and felt immediately turned off and a bit anxious. It just gave me a yucky feeling like, I remember that and it makes me feel gross. Don’t want to go there again. Almost like getting a whiff of cough medicine and how that makes you feel. It’s interesting that after not drinking for a while and having alcohol completely out of my system, I can see it (or smell it) for what it really is. I didn’t feel tempted at all. Just felt “Yuck”.
Anyway, here is a pic of my delicious soup and a link to the recipe, as well as a pic of the Seedlip non-alcoholic spirit and a link to their site.
Please feel free to share any of your ideas for “Something Special” that you like to do to differentiate your Fridays and Saturdays from your Wednesdays!
When I read the stories in memoirs of other people getting sober, this is what stands out to me the most. My life was never in ruins because of alcohol. I kept it pretty much together as a drinker most of the time and don’t really have any horrific stories of drunken behaviour aside from making bad relationship choices in my 20s and early 30s. If I wrote a memoir about my journey with alcohol it might very well put some people to sleep. I’m currently reading “Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget” by Sarah Hepola, and some of her drinking stories are terrifying and include trips to the hospital and fractured ribs. One time some comedian friends convinced her to perform on stage with them in front of 300 people and she doesn’t remember a bit of it because her nerves made her drink her face off beforehand and she was in a blackout the whole time. Apparently she was hilarious but she has no recollection. Another time she couldn’t make it up the back stairs of her apartment so her boyfriend convinced her she was a cat so she would crawl up on all fours and she meowed all the way.
Most of the time when I drank, the worst that would happen (as my husband tells me) is that I would glaze over and not really seem present anymore. I became more quiet and turned inward. I think this is why I enjoyed drinking alone. I could just zone out and float away on a cloud without having to be present or even talk to anyone.
More recently I was starting to have blackouts like Sarah Hepola. Luckily, being 45 and married now, I was not in dangerous situations during these blackouts but they still freaked me out. One night in early November (when Covid restrictions had lifted a bit), we had a good friend and her family to our farmhouse for the weekend. On the Saturday night my hubby and I spent a long time preparing a delicious meal for all of us and I started drinking around 4 p.m. while chopping vegetables. When I woke up the next morning I could not remember cooking the meal, eating it, or going to bed. The hubby told me that I had in fact finished cooking, eaten the meal, and then abruptly gotten up when I finished eating and gone straight to bed.
I know that’s not really an exciting story, but it scared me. I had never really had this kind of blackout experience before aside from the usual fuzziness around details of the taxi ride home at 2 a.m. after a big night out and many, many drinks. This seems reasonable and almost expected. But in this more recent experience, there was a whole chunk of evening time between about 7-9 p.m. that was just missing. I found it even more scary that I was completely conscious and functioning during this whole period that I couldn’t recall.
Similar scenarios happened a few times during the four months that I went back to drinking after eight months sober. Again, nothing too exciting or devastating, but still enough to freak me out. This is what ultimately led me back to stopping drinking again.
Anyway, I’m not sure exactly the point of this post but I guess it’s just to remind myself that just because I don’t have reams of horrific drunken tales to tell doesn’t mean alcohol isn’t a problem for me. It’s also a reminder that alcohol dependance is progressive. Something changed when I went back to drinking over the last four months and it wasn’t good. I wasn’t able to suddenly moderate like I had always hoped having an extended break might help me accomplish. This time around my mind was shutting down when I drank too much and I think it was trying to tell me to something.
This may sound strange, but every now and then when I think about it, I feel almost fortunate that I have this problem; the problem with alcohol. Let me explain.
I am a 45-year-old woman, turning 46 in two months. I wasn’t able to have my own children so don’t have kids to be able to anticipate and cheer on their milestones or accomplishments in life. I won’t have grandkids someday to be proud of, celebrate their special birthdays, or take graduation photos with. I have a wonderful husband, adorable dog, supportive and loving family and friends, but if you look at it one way, all of my major milestones and achievements are behind me. I have graduated from high school, earned post-secondary degrees, established a career, gotten married, bought a house. Now what? I guess celebrating my 50th, retirement, then waiting for death? I know that’s extremely depressing, but that’s one way to look at it.
Another way of looking at it, considering my new sober journey, is that I am beginning anew. It’s actually kind of exciting if you look at it that way. It’s like a whole new lease on life, with a whole new me! Alcohol has been a part of my life since I was 14-years-old so sadly, I haven’t known life without alcohol since I was basically pre-pubescent (I was a late bloomer). Alcohol has shaped the person I have become. It has been so intertwined in every aspect of my life since such a young age, that being without it now at middle age is like starting fresh. I get to experience everything all over again, for the first time. What is Christmas like without alcohol? I have no idea. What about New Year’s? Don’t know. My birthday? Summer vacation? Going on holiday? No clue. But I’m excited to find out! This is why I feel kind of lucky in a strange way. First of all, I’m lucky enough to have survived this substance bringing me down for the last 35 years. There are many ways that it could have turned out differently. I’m lucky enough that I still have the health, strength, support, and wherewithal to stop it from taking me down further. I’m also lucky that I get to, at this middle stage of life, begin again and see everything from a whole new perspective. I get to become a whole new me and maybe the me that I was always supposed to be.
For anyone out there struggling with being sober on this snowy Valentine’s Day, 2021, let’s take a moment today to thank ourselves and be grateful for the opportunity to begin again. We get to experience everything again from a whole new perspective, and become the person we were truly meant to be. Enjoy yourself, your loved ones, and all of the little things today without the distractions of a hangover, headache, irritability, dehydration, exhaustion, and only being able to focus on when would be an appropriate time to start drinking again to make it all go away.
The first time I quit drinking for an extended period (not just Dry January) was last year starting January 2nd, 2020. It lasted almost eight months but I couldn’t quite see the difference between my drinking self and my sober self. I kept looking for some big, dramatic change but couldn’t find it. I realize now that the change happened so gradually that I wasn’t aware. It’s like when you are looking at yourself every day in the mirror, you don’t always notice the gradual changes of ageing, hair growth, losing or gaining weight. When I stopped drinking last year I was looking every day for the big changes that would confirm to me I had made the right decision in stopping drinking, but I couldn’t see the changes. The issue for me was that I was a high-functioning alcoholic. My drinking had never really severely impacted my relationships, my job, my health………..or so I thought. When I stopped drinking I kept looking for these major changes, but couldn’t find any. I lost a bit of weight, started to sleep better, etc., but I felt like the rest of my life kind of continued as it was, minus the alcohol.
I think that in essence, this is what led me back to experimenting with drinking again in August after 7.5 months sober. I had these constant nagging thoughts, “What difference does it make?” and, “I guess I don’t really have that much of a problem because my life is the same with alcohol and without.”
Then I started drinking again and drank for a little over 4 months. In a way I’m glad I experimented because after four months of drinking again, I could see a stark difference between my drinking and my sober self. Because the change had been so gradual over eight months, I didn’t notice it, but when I went back to drinking I could see the difference plain as day. After almost eight months of feeling mostly calm, happy and healthy (even during a global pandemic!), everything changed. Slowly at first but then it picked up speed. When I think back to my drinking self now after 6 weeks sober again, I imagine a desperate and greedy child in a 45-year-old woman’s body. I picture an inner Gollum-like character. I felt irritable and quick to anger on almost a full-time basis. I was constantly focused on my next fix whether trying not to drink on a particular day or making a plan to drink; Drinking, or not drinking, took over all of my attention and energy. The hubby and I argued probably about ten times more than when I was sober. He was also drinking a lot more just to keep up with me, so we were both feeling the negative effects of my intake. I have always found that part of my morning hangover is a wired, revved up feeling and I know now that it’s the adrenalin pumping through my over-exhausted body. My heart rate would be increased by about 10 beats per minute more than normal. I would often feel wired and excited, or incensed about something and then crash later in the day. I also felt anxious and afraid almost all of the time. Although I knew it was not rational and there was really nothing to fear (nothing imminent anyway), there was always an underlying sense of impending doom. My attitude was more on the negative side and there were times when I just felt depressed, angry, and hopeless. That is until I got my next fix and would feel lifted up again for an hour or two while I thought I was just enjoying a few glasses (or bottle) of wine.
My true self, it turns out, is much more calm, positive, and rational. Thank goodness. It’s only been 6 weeks this time so far but I can feel and see the difference in myself much more clearly. I feel like the better version of myself without alcohol. The sense of impending doom has disappeared. The irritability and silly arguments have ended. In place of the uncomfortably wired and charged-up feeling in the morning, I feel rested, clear-headed and relaxed. It turns out the greedy, irritable, Gollum-like character is not actually me. What a relief.
I am thrilled not to have a hangover today. In the majority of years past, I would have a hangover on the Monday morning after Super Bowl Sunday. Am I big football fan you might ask? No. Is it because I like to jump on the bandwagon when my favourite team is in the Super Bowl? Not even. Do I have any interest in football whatsoever? Not a bit. But as anyone with a good solid drinking problem knows, any reason is a good enough reason to celebrate with alcohol! That’s what the Super Bowl is all about isn’t it? Drink lots of booze and eat junk food! So although I’ve never had the slightest interest in the actual football of the Super Bowl (although the halftime show is always fun), it gave me a reason to drink my face off on a Sunday and eat crappy food. So why wouldn’t I? In fact, most of the time I wouldn’t even watch the game with my husband, I’d just indulge in the drinking part and probably watch some sappy chick flick elsewhere.
This morning I’m relieved and proud of myself to have nothing more than a slight food hangover. I did indulge in the junk food aspect of Super Bowl with some greasy but delicious BBQ takeout, but I drank a Diet Coke instead of a bottle and a half of wine. When I woke this morning feeling a bit sluggish and lethargic because of the lump of fried chicken and ribs in my gut, I immediately remembered that I hadn’t drank any alcohol and felt utterly grateful.
I am currently reading Jason Vale’s “Kick the Drink………..Easily”. It’s helpful and a good reminder of all of the harmful effects of alcohol. I was just reading about the pounding headache that often accompanies a hangover because of dehydration and the body desperately trying to pump blood through your shrinking and dehydrated brain. It actually makes me feel sick to my stomach to think about it and remember all of the horrible hangovers I’ve put myself through in the past. Cheers to another day hangover free and knowing that I never have to put myself through that again if I don’t want to.
Yesterday I watched a documentary on Amazon called ‘A Royal Hangover’ about the collective drinking problem in the U.K. I always knew that the Brits were drinkers but it was actually pretty astounding to see the extent of the culture around alcohol. I didn’t quite realize how normalized it was to just drink on the streets and be publicly drunk. Of course this film focuses on younger people, cavorting and socializing at the pubs and clubs, but it really demonstrates how deeply entrenched the use of alcohol is from such a young age. Funny enough, it actually made me feel like I don’t really have much of a problem and maybe I should start drinking again!! I hate when that happens. It’s so interesting how the mind plays tricks on you like that. When I know deep in my soul, and conscious and subconscious mind that I have a problem with alcohol and the best solution for me is no alcohol. But then a clip from a movie, something I read online, or a social situation will make me question if I really need to stop drinking.
Then I go through the whole loop of “What ifs” in my brain and always land back at the same conclusion. I imagine myself opening a bottle of wine (Nothing’s stopping me! It’s my life!), enjoying the wine, feeling a nice glow and buzz, getting zoned out and sleepy, crashing in bed, then waking up feeling terrible and disappointed in myself. And it’s not so much how I would feel the immediate next day, but what would happen on the following days. Would I just drink that one bottle and then be fine for another month, another week even? Nope. I would probably feel the need to drink the next day, and the day after that, and even the day after that. I might eventually take a day off sometime next week, but by then I just feel like total garbage again, not sleeping properly, back to feeling sluggish and puffy. It wouldn’t happen immediately, but within a couple of weeks all I would want to do is stop drinking again. If I think myself through the entire cycle, then I can get back to the feeling of being relieved that I’m not drinking.
The second half of the documentary saved me as it focused on research from a Government Drugs Advisor and professor David Nutt who was fired because he exposed research about alcohol that was not pretty. In a study over several years of a dozen or so different drugs including heroin, crack, cocaine, marijuana, etc., they found that alcohol topped the list as the most dangerous drug. Their research measured costs of each drug to society including a variety of health, economic, and environmental costs. Alcohol was by far the most dangerous and David Nutt was sacked for exposing this information. The facts were sobering, and made me glad to be sober.
I realized yesterday that most people would not have been able to open the Globe and Mail article, “Why Alcohol is the new Cigarette” that I posted a link for in my last post as you need a subscription. Apologies for that, it was an excellent article and I had wanted to share.
The gist of the article was that we may all be drinking much more than we should and that as early as next year, the Canadian government may be changing low-risk drinking guidelines which currently recommend no more than 10 drinks a week for women, with a typical maximum of two drinks a day, and 15 drinks a week for men, with a three-drink daily limit. It states that those guidelines are now more than 10 years old and higher than the limits in most other countries including Ireland, France, Australia, Britain, and the U.S. It also states that a decade of new research suggests that the health benefits of alcohol have been overstated and the risks underestimated, most alarmingly for cancer, and especially for women. A 2018 Global Health Study published by the Lancet concluded that the safest level of drinking is none.
I particularly liked this quote, “Alcohol is what gets the party started, and keeps it going. It is the cap on a fine night. It is tradition. But a growing stack of research shows that it may also be the new cigarette – savoured by many, socially accepted and cancer-causing. Will we stick with our boozy ways, even if it kills us?”
Also interesting is the link between alcohol and breast cancer. A study that followed 105,000 women between 1980 and 2008 found that women who drank 3-6 glasses of alcohol a week had a 15% higher chance of developing breast cancer than those who didn’t drink. For women who consumed at least two drinks a day, the risk was 50% higher than non-drinkers.
Eeeeeek!! That’s significant.
Looking at the article again yesterday I was shocked to see almost 500 comments had accumulated over the past 3 days since it was published. Because I am of a certain mindset at the moment, I expected to see comments of a similar mindset, thanking the Globe and Mail for bringing all of this information to light during a time when alcohol intake is reaching troubling heights because of the pandemic. But the exact opposite was true. The majority of commenters were INCENSED by this article and spewing anger at the author. The overall sentiment being: How could they think people would want to read this garbage at a time like this!?And: Drinking is all we have right now, and you want to take that away too?!
The amount of anger and vitriol in the comments section suggests that collectively, we have a bigger problem with alcohol than I thought.
It made me feel thankful that I’ve chosen to stop drinking.
Excerpt: A nationwide French study, published in The Lancet Public Health in 2018, found that more than half of early onset dementia cases comprised people with alcohol-related brain damage or alcohol use disorders.
While in the short term alcohol may feel like a stress reliever, research has found that alcohol consumption worsens depression and anxiety. (In the same way, while it seems to help people fall asleep initially, it actually interferes with deep sleep later in the night.) Self-medicating a mental illness or trauma with alcohol often exacerbates symptoms or leads to addiction. In July, 2019, the Canadian Medical Association Journal published a large-scale study, analyzing survey data from nearly 10,400 participants from Hong Kong and the United States, which found the healthiest amount of alcohol consumption for one’s mental well-being may be none at all.
I guess I’m not feeling quite as euphoric EVERY day like I noted in my last post about Pink Clouds. Today I feel kind of so-so and January-ish, so I’m going to take a moment to write about things I am grateful for:
I was thinking last night that I am SO grateful to have a hubby who is supportive of my sober journey. He was never on my case about drinking too much either, just always accepts and loves me no matter what. But he’s super supportive of my not drinking, knowing that I feel better, happier and healthier when I’m not drinking. He is also basically not drinking in support. In the past month he had two drinks one night while he was cooking dinner, but that’s it. He doesn’t feel the need to drink so he’s just as happy not to be drinking and wake up feeling great alongside me.
I am SO grateful that I have a super supportive mom who is also very encouraging of my journey. She always reads my posts and writes an awesome and supportive comment. For almost a year while no one else aside from my mom , hubby and a couple of friends were reading my blog, she would comment every day. Like my own personal cheerleader! Thank you mom. Love you!
I am particularly grateful this month for all of the new followers of my blog from the sober community! I feel like I have a real circle of support around me now and it’s SO helpful to read about everyone’s journey and all of the supportive comments about my journey. This is something I didn’t have last time around and I feel like it will make all the difference. Thank you so much to all of you new friends!!
I am grateful for my beautiful, sweet and cuddly doggy Gabby. I know it’s a bit weird but since I wasn’t able to have my own babies and we don’t see my hubby’s kiddos at the moment, she is our baby. She fills our hearts with love and joy. I can’t imagine life without our Gabby girl.
Sober mornings. I love waking up without a hangover, knowing that I didn’t drink the night before and have nothing to feel shite about.
The snow. Yesterday we went for an early morning walk around the neighbourhood as we usually do, but it was particularly lovely because we’d had a large dump of snow the day before. Everything was covered in a beautiful blanket of crisp, white snow.
The sun. Along with the beautiful white snow, it was a clear sunny day yesterday and as we walked we had the pleasure of watching the sun rise and gradually light up the blanket of white.
Coffee. Yup. I’m grateful for coffee.
My job. I’m grateful that I am fortunate enough to have a job that I currently enjoy and that also allows me to stay safe and healthy at the moment. I am very fortunate to be able to work from home and not have to worry about losing my job or risking my health and safety. I know many others are not as fortunate and I want to try to be grateful for this every day.
My health. I am overall superbly grateful to have my health and to have stopped drinking in time to preserve my health. My dad was not able to have this experience and by the time he stopped drinking, his liver was already shot. He spent his last few years of life sober but very ill. I must always remember to be thankful for my sober and still healthy body.