Life Changes

Monday February 28, 2022

2 months!

Here I am at the end of two months alcohol free again and things are going great! I haven’t had a moment of craving since day one and feel that I have successfully brainwashed myself out of ever wanting to drink again. I literally have zero desire to drink alcohol and feel happy, healthy, and proud of myself every morning I wake up and knowing that I did not drink the night before.

One thing that I would like to explain about my drinking that I maybe haven’t written about before, is that I’ve come to realize that it was covering up and anesthetizing some of my deepest desires and sorrows. My husband and I tried for a few years to have children, I went through four traumatic miscarriages and we stopped there, deciding that maybe it just wasn’t meant to be for us. At the same time, we were going through a serious illness with his older son from a previous marriage, which then led to several years of difficulties with their mother and ultimately destroyed our relationship with his two boys. They still FaceTime once a week, but we haven’t spent time with them in over two years.

After 5 years of marriage, and 9 years together, we have found ourselves childless and all of the love and doting we would have put into children, is directed at our sweet Bernedoodle Gabby.

Anyway, long story short, when I was drinking I was able to pack all of the emotions around this neatly away in a tiny corner of my brain and numb it all out with alcohol. I wasn’t thinking about not having children, because all I could focus on was my next drink. However, each time I’ve taken an extended break from drinking, these emotions have come bubbling back to the surface. Eventually I would start drinking again and that would solve the problem.

This time I decided that I wasn’t going to solve the problem with alcohol. These are things I needed to get sorted out for once and for all.

So after lots of thought and many long conversations, we have decided we are going to pursue having children of our own. At the moment we’re exploring a few different avenues including adoption, and fertility treatment. We’re both very excited and I’m happy to be finally sorting things out rather than just pushing them away and adding alcohol. This is another reason why I think this attempt to be alcohol free, for once and for all, will be a success. I’ve wasted enough time in my life being wasted rather than actually dealing with my problems. Now it’s time to get sorted out and move forward.

AF AF (Alcohol Free as #$@%!)

Saturday February 5, 2022

Day 36

I made it through my first test last weekend like a champ. I didn’t drink, and when the topic came up with the wife of the couple staying with us, I didn’t get into it. She’s the one who has always probed me on why I’m not drinking when I’ve quit in the past. I’ve actually been quite open with her and shared that I think I have a problem with alcohol, then she has gone on to ask more questions about how much I drink and told me I’m just being too hard on myself. This time I told her ahead of time I’m not drinking alcohol but will be making some fun (AF) cocktails anyway if she wants to bring her own booze to add. On Friday night we were sitting around playing cards, I was drinking my AF cocktail (gin basil gimlet– delicious by the way!), she was drinking wine, and the topic came up. She asked if I was just doing Dry January or if I would do longer and see how it goes. I responded saying, “Oh no, I’m done with alcohol. I just feel so much better without it.” and left it at that. She kind of nodded quietly and that was it. I didn’t leave it open for any more questions.

The thing I was most happy about, was I had such a great weekend! It was really the first time we’ve socialized with anyone since I stopped drinking again, and I was a little worried going into it that I might feel triggered, or crappy because I wasn’t drinking. But it was quite the opposite! I actually felt fantastic and had more fun than I would have had drinking. I was reminded that I’m actually much more social when I don’t drink because when I drink I tend to zone out a bit sometimes, then get tired, and just go to bed. In the Fall when I had friends visiting at the farmhouse I drank so much every night that I was falling asleep on the couch by 9:30 while everyone else was still awake and chatting. Embarrassing.

Last weekend I stayed up until 11:00 on Friday night (unheard of for me!), and 12:00 on Saturday night (even more unheard of! because I’m usually long past too drunk and gone to bed for the night). We had lots of fun, I learned how to play poker and laughed a lot, and also enjoyed sipping on my AF cocktails.

I actually had no desire to drink whatsoever. In fact, watching the friend drinking wine throughout the night, the only thoughts I had were, “Gross. I never want to do that again.”

I recently finished reading Catherine Gray’s follow-up novel to the Unexpected Joy of Being Sober (which is a great one btw!), called Sunshine Warm Sober. After 7 years sober she states, “It was like I brainwashed myself into loving sobriety.” This is exactly what I’m hoping I have done, or conversely, that I’ve un-brainwashed myself from loving alcohol. Either way, currently I feel untethered from alcohol and it’s a wonderful, freeing feeling.

My First Test

Day 28

Friday January 28, 2022

This weekend will be my first test of being alcohol-free this time around because another couple will be joining us at our farmhouse. Up until now it’s just been the hubby, the dog and myself and I can say that I’ve experienced literally zero cravings for alcohol or been triggered by anything. In the past, the woman in this couple has questioned my choice to stop drinking a few times. I don’t believe there were ever any ill intentions, I just think she didn’t see me as having a problem and wondered aloud a few times if I really needed to stop drinking. More than once she said she thought I was just being too hard on myself, because everyone drinks a lot, including her. These conversations have been a trigger for me in the past, but this time I feel much more confident in my decision and I’m hoping that will make all the difference. My plan is to not even get into a discussion about it at all.

I did, however, send her a text last night letting her know that I’m not drinking alcohol but I’ve been experimenting with some alcohol-free cocktails just for fun and if they feel like trying them out and happen to have some gin or tequila on hand, they can bring those to try an alcoholic version of the cocktails.

Alcohol-free cocktails are something new that I’m trying. Because I was never a cocktail drinker, I don’t find them to be a trigger. Cocktails to me were always pointless because although they tasted nice, they didn’t get me drunk fast enough so I usually didn’t bother with them. I’ve purchased a few different zero-proof spirits (Lyre’s gin and rum substitutes, Sobrii tequila substitute), and am looking forward to using a proper cocktail shaker, fun ingredients like bitters, simple syrups, basil and mint leaves, and mixing up some special drinks! The other night at the end of the work day, I made the hubby and I a Dark n’ Stormy with premium ginger beer and the rum substitute and it was fun and delicious! Another thing I loved about it was that I had no desire at all to have more than one. It made me feel so normal!

I’m finding there are more and more companies catering to the sober movement, which makes me very happy. I went to a boutique shop downtown the other night called the Cocktail Emporium, and they had a huge selection of alcohol-free spirits, books about zero-proof cocktails, bitters and aromatics, and all of the fanciest bartending tools. I’ll probably soon tire of this new hobby as I did with fancy types of David’s Tea last year when I was sober, but for now, it’s something I’m finding interesting and looking forward to doing. I’ve been researching all different kinds of alcohol-free cocktails and there are so many different companies on this bandwagon now – it makes me feel hopeful and like I’m part of a movement.

The other night while cooking dinner I cracked open a small bottle of No-secco (prosecco with no alcohol), poured it into a wine glass, and enjoyed sipping it while cooking. It made me feel mature and sophisticated because I just had one glass, and sipped at it rather than guzzling it back as quickly as possible and pouring the next one. I finally felt like Olivia Pope on Scandal, pouring a glass of wine after a long, difficult day, and having two sips of it during the three hours she tries to solve her next crisis. It made me feel normal. Even though I know in reality that this kind of drinking is probably less of the norm, and in reality Olivia Pope probably would be a problem drinker, in the media this is the way alcohol is portrayed.

No More Questioning

Day 23

Sunday January 23, 2022

This time stopping drinking feels different because I’m not questioning that choice. Perhaps I needed to have a couple of trial runs first where I stopped drinking for months at a time, then started again, just to confirm that alcohol is not serving me.

When I quit in 2020 for 8 months and then again in 2021 for almost 8 months, both times I would say I wasn’t fully committed. There was always a little voice in the back of my head saying, “Maybe I’ll drink again; this isn’t necessarily forever.” As the days, and weeks and months wore on, that voice got louder and stronger until finally, maybe inevitably, I drank. This time the little voice is saying, “I’m done. Never again. Alcohol is not for me.” It’s like I needed to prove to myself that living an alcohol free life was the right choice. Now I’ve done the research, I’ve got the evidence and my conclusion is that living alcohol free is what’s best for me.

For some reason, my biggest downfall the last two times was when thoughts crept into my head that maybe I don’t have enough of a problem to justify quitting. How ridiculous is that?! Why do I need to justify to myself or anyone else that I have enough of a problem? People would ask questions about the extent of my drinking in order to try to understand my decision to stop. This always made me feel uncomfortable but I would oblige and share the embarrassing details. This time around there will be none of that because I don’t have to justify what I put in my body or don’t put in my body to anyone. And it’s not my job to make anyone feel better about their own drinking habits. When I got these kinds of questions it would always add fuel to my own niggling questions about whether I had enough of a problem. In the end I would conclude that maybe I’m being silly or overthinking my drinking and worrying about it too much. I should just keep drinking and not worry about it so much; everyone’s doing it!

This time around there is no more questioning. I have proven to myself that I’m happier without alcohol and I enjoy life much more without alcohol. What it boils down to is clear and simple, in the words of author Belle Robertson, “I’m tired of thinking about drinking.” That’s it. When I have alcohol in my life, that’s all I think about. From morning till night my mind is consumed by thoughts of: “Crap! I drank too much again; I wish I didn’t always drink so much; I shouldn’t drink today; When can I have my next drink?; Maybe I will drink today; It’s not that big a deal if I drink again today; If I drink today maybe I’ll take tomorrow off; I should really stop drinking; Maybe I’ll just sneak out to the wine store and grab a bottle; Oh no! I drank too much again.”

It’s so damn tiresome. It controls my life and being free from that cycle of control is the best feeling ever. Whenever that little voice pops into my mind again now (which actually it hasn’t yet this time around – maybe I’ve finally kicked that evil little voice to the curb!!) the answer will immediately be, “Nope! We’re done with thinking about drinking.”

Slow as Molasses

Day 21

Friday January 21, 2022

Slow as Molasses is how I’m feeling. This is the end of week three alcohol free and although I have no desire to drink and feel absolutely committed to staying sober, my energy and motivation for other things are low. I know the last time I wrote I was feeling really high and excited about being sober again and I predicted it would be followed by a low, so here we are.

In the book Alcohol Explained by William Porter, he talks about the fact that since alcohol is a depressant, the bodies of regular drinkers become very adept at counteracting this with a constant flow of adrenalin in order to stay functioning. I felt this constant adrenalin during my last several months of drinking. I was always wired, couldn’t sleep properly, and felt my heart pumping unnaturally fast almost all day long until I had another drink. It was an icky and unsettling feeling. I definitely don’t miss that feeling but now I think my body is swinging in the opposite direction and I’ve become a bit of a sloth for the moment. I wouldn’t say I feel sad or depressed, just low energy and motivation which I suppose isn’t the the worst thing in the world. I’ve been feeling bad about it these last few days wondering, “What’s wrong with me?” because all I want to do is lay on the couch, eat chocolate, watch bad TV, and sleep. However, writing about it now helps me to see that it’s probably all part of the process. I imagine my body is trying to stabilize after several months of being drowned in a toxic depressant, overdosing in adrenalin, and getting nowhere near enough decent sleep.

In addition it is the middle of January, we just finished digging out from the biggest snowstorm here in Ontario in 20 years where schools were closed for two days and major highways shut down, we’re still under tight Covid restrictions because of Omicron, and the temperature has been hovering around -20 C for the past week. All things considered, I guess feeling a bit low energy and like I just want to hibernate until spring, is probably warranted.

The good news is, I still don’t want to drink. I’m not having any cravings at all and even when the tiniest thought of alcohol creeps into my mind, I hear my inner coach shouting, “Nope! No thank you! That doesn’t work for us. Remember?”

And here I am already 3 weeks in! Although I’ve been feeling slow as molasses in motivation, the time is somehow flying by. I’ll let you know how I’m feeling next week when I have One Month under my belt again.

Feeling Joy

Day 9

Sunday January 9th, 2022

Today is Day 9 and I’m feeling joy again.

It’s interesting how much alcohol dampens all of your feelings, including joy. I had forgotten actually. After being back into the grind of almost nightly drinking, waking up feeling shitty but just forging ahead with my day to make it to 4:00 when I could start drinking again, I had all but forgotten how great it feels to be sober. I had one or two rough days last week when I felt melancholy, flat, even a bit down, and was thinking to myself, “How am I going to manage continuing with this not drinking thing again? It’s the pits!” But then I woke up on Friday morning, Day 7, and realized how fantastic I felt! My mystery body aches and pains were slowly ebbing away, my body felt lighter and healthier, and my mind felt clearer. Serenity and calm was slowly but surely permeating my being.

The hubby and I came to our farmhouse on Thursday night for a relaxing weekend away and I was nervous about coming because it’s wine country, and the sunsets and hot tub practically peer pressure you into drink all on their own. You can almost hear the pink-tinted clouds whispering, “Would you like wine with that?”

However, the astounding realization I came to this weekend is that it has been particularly enjoyable not despite the lack of alcohol, but more likely because of the lack of alcohol. I have thoroughly enjoyed the natural beauty of my surroundings without anxiously and irritably anticipating my next drink. My mind feels as though it’s been freed from a cage. I expected the new addition of our hot tub to the property to be a SUPER trigger for drinking, but in fact it felt really great – maybe even better – without the anesthetizing effects of alcohol.

I think the pink clouds (the metaphorical ones, not the ones in my backyard) have come early this time around in my sobriety (attempt #3). Maybe it’s like muscle memory. My body is saying, “Yup! Back on track. This is where we’re supposed to be. Remember how much better this feels?” I’m on a bit of a high at the moment which I’ll have to be careful with because inevitably, this will turn to a low which will eventually even out but for the moment I will relish in and enjoy the high. It’s a good, early reminder of how much happier I am without alcohol and will hopefully serve to carry me through the more difficult moments.

Glamorization of Alcohol

Day 5

Wednesday January 5th, 2022

Today is Day 5 and I had another excellent sleep last night. I’m feeling pretty good, although yesterday was a bit of a blah feeling day. I felt tired, kind of bored, and a bit cranky, but it is January and we’re in lockdown again because of the Pandy. It all feels like Groundhog Day, but whatever, must move forward.

Something I’ve really been noticing over the past few days though is how prevalent alcohol is in the media. The hubby and I are watching Ted Lasso currently, and at least once every episode he’s at the pub downing pints while the female characters often indulge in some midday Rosé. It’s pretty much constant drinking, but it’s never depicted as a problem even though if you’re the kind of person who indulges in a midday glass of Rosé, in reality it probably doesn’t stop at just one glass.

At the same time I’m watching the Sex and the City reboot: And Just Like That. When you’re not drinking, the drinking scenes really stand out and I’ve noticed that drinking is not only in every episode at least once, but almost in every single scene. The ladies get together often for lunch, brunch, etc., and there is always alcohol involved. They each sip demurely on their “glass” of wine or champagne. However it’s starting to come out that Miranda might have a drinking problem because she sometimes has a SECOND glass of wine at lunch! The most hilarious part is that this is a more realistic reflection of the reality of our drinking society. I’m sure that most people who indulge in a “glass” of wine at lunch, don’t usually stop there. And it’s all so condescending! Like it’s okay to have a “glass” of wine or champagne or a martini at lunch or brunch every day, but if you order a second one, you’ve obviously got a problem. It’s ridiculous and makes me angry. Why does our society have to be so obsessed with alcohol when it’s clearly ruining our health? I know there’s a quiet undercurrent of people fighting against this and against Big Alcohol, but I like to imagine a world, someday, where we look back on all the constant drinking the same way we reminisce today about how we never wore seatbelts as kids and smoking cigarettes was promoted as good for your health. Ridiculous.

Better Sleep

Day 3- Monday January 3rd, 2022

It’s only Day 3 and I’m already having better sleep.

One of the biggest reasons I knew I just had to stop drinking again this time around, was the lack of sleep. It felt like sleep deprivation in fact, and I felt like a walking zombie with a puffy face and dark circles under my eyes. The sleep deprivation felt worse this time around drinking than ever before.

What happens when I drink is I pass out/crash/fall asleep early around 8:30/9:00 p.m. (I’m a real fun date for my poor husband). Then I’m fast asleep until 3 a.m. when I wake up full of adrenalin with my heart pounding. I usually lay there not able to sleep for an hour or sometimes more with lots of stressful, anxious thoughts roiling about in my head. Then I finally fall asleep again, and wake up a couple of hours later (still never able to sleep in) feeling not at all rested or refreshed. My body continues to be pumped up with adrenalin and I feel wired but exhausted for most of the rest of the day. I read about this in ‘Alcohol Explained’ by William Porter, and this is the body’s very efficient response to being constantly doused with a depressant. It counteracts this by pumping adrenalin into your system to keep you awake, functioning and alert. By the end of my drinking this time around, I was never getting any sort of normal hangover (headache, nausea, etc.), it was much worse. My body just pumped up on adrenalin all day every day causing me to feel anxious, stressed, wired, and never rested. I have always been good at taking naps and I couldn’t even take naps anymore. Even by mid-afternoon although I was exhausted I was still wired because of the adrenalin. I would lie awake feeling so tired but my heart pumping fast and worries flooding my mind. The only way to relax or feel better again was to start drinking again.

Today is only day 3 since I’ve stopped drinking again, and I’ve already started sleeping better. I’m waking up to pee a lot (drinking lots of water to flush out toxins), but not having the 3 a.m. heart palpitations. When I woke up this morning I felt good and rested. My body feels calm and relaxed. I am so relieved that I don’t have to drink anymore.

Day 1

Saturday January 1st, 2022

I’m hoping this will be the last Day 1 that I ever have to count.

Today was fairly uneventful. Felt mostly like crap and ate a lot of junk. Also drank a lot of water. I’m looking forward to going to bed sober and waking up feeling a tiny bit better tomorrow. I know I have a long way to go and it feels quite tiresome at the moment because I’ve made this long journey a few times before. But I also know that it’s really my only option so I just have to keep moving forward.

Something about this never-ending pandemic starts to make you question the worth of everything. Like what does any of it even matter anymore if we’re still going to be wearing our pyjamas a year from now, stuck at home with all our plans cancelled? But we have to hold onto hope because without hope there’s nothing. Just like I have to have hope that I can win this battle with alcohol. That I can be a healthy and happy person without this toxic substance in my life. When I quit smoking ten years ago, I think it was my 87th time trying to quit (maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but then again…….maybe not) that finally stuck. I guess the most important thing was that I didn’t give up. Otherwise I’d still be sitting here sucking back cigs today.

On this first day of 2022, I promise to myself that I will continue to hold on to hope and I’ll never give up trying.

Third Time’s a Charm?

Friday December 31st, 2021

I did not make it through December sober. I went for 8 days and then caved. So here I am on this last day of 2021, drinking a glass of wine from a bottle that will be the last bottle of wine I ever drink. I have been drinking for almost 3 weeks straight, at least a bottle of wine every day, sometimes more. This is the worst my body has ever felt. I’ve gained weight and have aches and pains in my joints and back. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in weeks. When I’m drinking I don’t really even get drunk anymore, I just anesthetize the pain in my body. I can feel my entire body crying out for help and screaming at me to stop. Over the past couple of weeks alcohol has become a singular focus, knowing that my drinking days are coming to a close. Even when I haven’t felt like drinking, like tonight, I drink anyway because it’s almost the end. I know in my mind, body and soul that after tonight, I will never drink again. I just can’t stand it anymore and my body can’t take it anymore. I know just by the way I feel that if I continue drinking, alcohol will be the end of me and I don’t want to go out that way. The horrifying images of my dad dying of cirrhosis of the liver are emblazoned on my mind forever and I refuse to go out that way. This will be my third and last attempt at giving up alcohol. I know in my mind, body and soul that alcohol and I are not friends and I just can’t do it anymore. The things that have tripped me up in the past and triggered me to drink again after 8 months sober are no longer going to have the same effect. If someone asks why I’m not drinking for example, I might say, “Drinking makes me fat.” What can anyone say about that? Or maybe just, “Because I’m an alcoholic.” Full stop. Who can argue with that?

Ultimately, I don’t really give a shit what anyone thinks about my drinking or not drinking anymore. It’s not their body, it’s not their life. I’ve proven to myself and others for the last time, that alcohol is not my friend.

I wanted to write this last post while drinking, to remember exactly how shitty I feel, and exactly how determined I feel to give alcohol the boot and never look back. I’m so done and over it. I feel the same way about alcohol as everyone else feels about Covid. Just completely over it and over feeling shitty all the time. It’s so not worth it.

For those of you who are sober and having a healthy, sober New Year’s Eve, I really respect and applaud you. I’m also envious of you and wish to be in the same position this time next year: sober, healthy, calm, rested, and proud of what I’ve accomplished. Here’s to Robyn 2.0 in 2022! Thank you to all of you who have supported me in my endeavours to get sober over the past two years. Your warmth, caring and compassion as well as wisdom, insight and sharing have meant the world to me. I think you are some of the bravest people I have ever met.

Much love and best wishes to all of you for 2022,

Robyn