In less than two weeks, I will be a quarter of the way through my challenge and my greatest temptation so far as been the bottle of pink fizz that is currently lurking in my fridge. It was brought over, at the weekend, by a friend who then didn’t manage to drink it. It’s remains there, singing a siren song but I am strong enough to turn away. As much as I have fantasised about the tingle of its taste on my tongue when the year is over, 8 am planning on waiting until the year is over before I sup upon it’s deliciousness.
Support me through a year sober.
A blog to remind you that I haven’t forgotten. That I am, in fact, still not drinking. 70 days have passed by quite rapidly really. Only 295 days left, still a wedding, a Christmas and a New Year to go but totally doable. Laughably doable. I’m starting to wonder exactly what it is that I’m proving and then I have to remind myself that it’s not about what I’m proving, it’s about what I’m learning.
I’m learning that I’m shy. I can talk the ear off of someone when I’m comfortable with them but until then I prefer to hang back and let others do the talking. So much so that I can find that I suffer a sort of mental paralysis and I can’t think of anything of interest to say at all and then, when with someone who makes me feel comfortable, all my thoughts and feelings come spilling out in a verbal torrent that may drown the unsuspecting.
Interesting, I never knew that. I always knew that I was nervous of strangers, but I though that my instinct was to channel the nerves into the performance of sociality, but it turns out that that was just the drink talking.
I note that long time none drinkers can be very disparaging of those who do partake. The virtue of the tee total, whatever their vices might be, seems to give them the right to sit in judgement. At least in their opinion. As much as I can, to a degree, understand why they are making those judgements, I don’t want to be that person. I want sober me to be kind, tolerant and patient. To laugh with the worse for wear rather than at them. I also don’t want to be dull. It can be hard to fit with the ebullient ebb and flow of a night out when the others are all generously lubricated and you are still rather dry, you stick when you should slide.
Possibly, therefore, the biggest lesson that sober me will have to learn, and potentially one of the most useful, is how to lighten up.
'Are you okay? You don't seem yourself. Are you tired?'.
The concern is nice. It’s nice that people care. It’s an odd reminder however that there are those, who don’t know you well, who are accustomed to seeing you a little the louder for a glass of wine. I can be quick to smile and my laugh is loud to the point that even I find it annoying but I can also be intense and over-serious. Over serious is not good for casual social events and often that is where the wine comes in. Not now of course. Now I have to find my inner socialite and she can be awfully good at playing kind and seek. She’s also a little intimidated by my inner moralist and my inner activist even when I’ve told both of those ladies to take a hike because now is not the time.
When I was a drinker, I would worry that I talked too much and bored people. Now I worry I don’t talk enough and that I bore people. I’m painfully aware of how much I don’t have in common with most of the people I meet. I like the sound of rain and the crackle of a campfire. I sleep better under canvas. I read, a lot. I like syfy. I don’t watch soaps. I don’t accept casual racism. I don’t like junk food. I can be righteous and I don’t hate myself enough to be prepared to change any of that to fit with anyone. But I still sit there, feeling like the odd one out and wondering if everyone would be having more fun if I wasn’t there.
When I was a youngster, I don’t think I cared. I took the idea of being disliked to a degree for granted and expected the world to fit with me. Age has made me fear that my views were a little self-centred, as much as I’m convinced that my younger self was far happier as a result of her blinkered attitudes. I’ve changed. I think. Of course it could be that, as a student (I spent far too many years studying), it was just easier to find those who were like minded and so socialising didn’t feel like such a battle to find a way to connect. Maybe I am a blue tit trying to fit in with sparrows?
Answers on a postcard. 309 days to go.
The wedding was lovely. It was wonderful to see two people so happy and I was reminded again how my family genuinely are among my favourite people in the world. I survived the entire event without awkwardness and without even being tempted to touch a drop.
I’m left feeling proud of myself and at the same time disappointed in myself for not making more of an effort to spend time with the people who mean the most. Of course all of this happened only after I was able to shake the headache and tiredness that I woke with.
There is a sense of irony to making my way through a family wedding without touching a drop only to wake with hangover symptoms anyway. It’s as though someone upstairs decided that for me to wake the day after John’s wedding without a sore head was just so wrong that they had to make it happen some other way or that my own body was so convinced that a hangover follows a family event that I somehow made myself hungover as if I’d taken some kind of excessive alcohol placebo.
I spent the day feeling every bit as exhausted as I would if I’d been drinking the night before except without the compulsion to try some hair of the dog. I even wondered if I might be coming down with something but the symptoms seem to have faded. A psychosomatic hangover that just needed time to heal.
I’ve often suffered with hangovers that persisted long after they should have faded, only to disappear suddenly at a random moment thanks to a cuddle or the sight of something beautiful. The anxiety over the fact that I had drunk enough to make myself poorly being apparently the most powerful factor behind my feeling poorly at all. It’s worrying that that anxiety is so profound that it continues to have an impact without alcohol even being involved.
Still, I have 317 days to get over it…
My cousin gets married today. It’s about time. He’s a good guy and he’s been through his fair share of shit. He deserves to feel settled, calm and happy. I have the present sorted and something that might make for the highland dress he requested, I’m trying to handle the social anxiety and the knowledge that I’m going have to work my way through it sober and I’m driving.
A car is a remarkably useful device when attending an big event sober. Any questions about your drinking habits are quickly and comfortably diverted. There’s no pressure and no hassle. The problem for one such me is the awareness that I have to mix with a large group of people without a muscle relaxant. Social anxiety has been a growing problem for me throughout my life. I’m not particularly good with people. I can put on a mighty fine impersonation of a ‘people person’ and I think I can be entertaining in small doses but I find that I divert a fair amount of my mental and emotional energy to working out how to handle uncomfortable silences, whether I talk too much, what to talk about, what to do when people keep asking questions and never talk about themselves for long so you’re left feeling like you’re monopolising the conversation when they are making it that way, what to do when I am monopolising the conversation because I don’t know what to ask to divert the attention way from me and whether I bore people. It’s exhausting.
The idea of facing large groups of people fills me with same mix of excitement and terror that I experience while considering how I would handle myself if I faced some of the scenarios I see in films. On the one hand it’s a challenging and an exhilarating escape from the norm, on the other, one cannot escape from the thought that it may bring about premature death.
Wish me luck. The car guarantees that I will stick to my sober conviction. Whether I survive intact is an entirely different question.
It’s odd that after more than a month, a week of soul searching and even an anniversary celebration that a nondescript day like today would prove to be my biggest challenge to date. All that’s wrong is that I’m tired.
I have two work projects on this week, one is mostly writing and the other mostly reading. The reading project began at the end of last week and all was going well until I over stretched myself this weekend. I was busy during each day and would only start my reading once I’d completed all other tasks, often finishing off in bed and turning out the light in utter exhaustion some time around or after midnight. This morning I felt wrecked.
Over the course of the day I dropped all pretence at healthy eating and accepted that there was no way I was going to get through my work and my circuit training while my brain and body were functioning at a snail’s pace. Work was of course the priority and I finished some of it in the bath.
Accepting my state of uselessness Hubs picked up some fish fingers and plastic bread to make a comfort food supper and at 630 in the evening I am already in my PJs. It was then that the desire for a beer hit me. I want to be comforted, treated and babied. The last thing in the world I want is to be challenged.
Even Hubs thinks that having a beer right now would be forgivable under exceptional circumstances. I’m currently holding my own, secretly wishing that he’d thought to pick up alcohol free for me while getting the full strength stuff for himself and partly aware that that would only partially diminish the craving.
Only 323 days to go…
The last few days have really been a challenge. It started with a dispute with someone close over right wing views that I found frankly objectionable and then cycled steadily down. I looked at all the hate in the world, the events in Gaza, the anti-Semitic violence in Europe, the racial tensions in my own country and it got me down, really down.
Usually under such circumstances, I’d have a few glasses of wine, maybe rant a bit and then at some point it would leave my system, I’d forget and move on, pick myself up and feel better. As it was I found myself struggling to break out. I got addicted to reading the news. The days spilled by with no cessation to my anxiety and my low. It took a friend reminding me of the futility of worry to break me out of it.
I find myself now wanting nothing more than to close my ears and forget all the pain in the world in fear of the depths of despair that it may bring me to. At the same time I’m aware that that would be selfish to a degree and that I need to find a healthy way to take action that won’t leave me feeling drained of my emotional energy.
I’m going to give myself at least a day to recover before I take the next step. Then we’ll see.
The hungover feeling lasted all day, I wasn’t as productive as I’d hoped to be and ended up having a nap in the afternoon. Hubs put it down to calorie restriction on a workout day but I’m always reluctant to accept that, surely the human body should be better designed and, besides, how is anyone supposed to lose fat if our bodies can’t cope with consuming fewer calories than we expend?
I went to bed early, only to wake up needing to empty my bladder, that journey downstairs blew my whole night’s sleep. I was awake until way after the sun came up. I tried to switch my brain off but I lay there worrying about war, and racism, and Ebola, and child marriage and the state of my boy dog’s health. On the plus side my husband encouraged me to stay in bed when he got up and my boy dog, for the first time in weeks, replaced him at my side offering furry companionship.
Nevertheless, I woke to read about horrors and hardships and I fear that we live in dark, dark times, the possibility of warfare and genocide at our doorsteps looming greater and greater. Clinging to the faint hope that decency and rationality will ultimately triumph while seeing fewer and fewer decent people on the world.
Now I must soldier on. There is work to be done.
One month down, 11 to go. A month is the longest I’ve ever been completely dry before and I suspect that that may have been behind the dreams I had last night, in which I got absolutely plastered. I was sending an epic message to a friend that made no sense and planning to meet with another to see open air theatre with the crazy energy that occurs when you’ve had too many and that you just can’t muster when you’re sober. In the morning I almost felt a little hungover, as if the force of the dream was enough to produce that effect in my body. I’m glad not to be. I’m glad hangovers are a thing of the past.
One month in to my booze fast, I have started to take steps to control the other cravings that seem to develop when alcohol is off the menu. I’m drinking lemon water instead of cordials and juices, and chocolate has again been removed from my daily consumption. I feel I’ve had enough time to adjust and I can now regard alcohol free as the norm rather than something that needs to be compensated for. I think that’s a step up.
I drank six bottle of champagne and twenty some odd of beer over the course of the weekend which would have made it a raucous celebration were they not all alcohol free. Did I miss the booze? I’d like to say ‘no’ but the truth is that I did. I was on my holidays and celebrating my anniversary, my hubby was drinking and I wasn’t. I felt, at times, that I was detracting from his fun and the distraction that alcohol offers from my woes was missing.
I felt cripplingly insecure on the beach. I carried towels and books in such a way as to cover as much of my body as possible. My husband tried to assuage my insecurities my telling me that no one cares what I look like, he pointed out men with less than perfect bodies and asked me if I thought they cared about my opinion on their body. Of course they didn’t. All that seemed to do was reinforce the notion that I don’t look good. ‘Yeah, you look bad, but so do all these others and no one cares.’
The thing is that women are brought up believing that people care. What you look like, how you wear your clothes, the image you present on the beach, are all of vital importance when you’re a girl. Girls are supposed to be pretty. Telling us that no one’s looking and no one cares just doesn’t ring true, of course they’re looking and of course they’re judging, or why else do I need to bother with nail varnish, or make-up or straighteners?
As much as we tell ourselves that it only matters what our partners think, we’re not really taught to believe it. It matters what the world thinks and the world is always telling us that it has an opinion. We are scrutinised and found wanting, we are expected to know exactly how flawed we are and be working to rectify or disguise our flaws, we are looked at with accusing eyes if we fail to recognise how far we fall beneath the ideal. Confidence is not desired in women, women should anxiously walk the tight rope between not trying hard enough and being too overtly equal, women should seek to enhance what they have with lotions and potions in fancy bottles. Working to be beautiful is part of a woman’s place in the world. To do less is regarded as either arrogance or insecure abdication of feminine duty in terror of the fact that none of our efforts are meaningful.
We try to rebel, to sock it to the man. We try to show the world what we look like without the slap and the hairspray, what bodies look like without a personal trainer or a personal chef or a photoshop artist and we’re accused of attention seeking. We get so wound in how unattractive we are that we stop feeling sexy or sexual and then we’re mocked for not being enthusiastic in bed. But it’s all such a surprise, we’re so unprepared. Why would you want this? This isn’t what men want.
And on it goes. The spiralling down to a shell of unattractive flabby womanhood, in our minds, long before our bodies take the dip. And you wonder why we don’t ‘make an effort’. Why we don’t put on something ‘feminine’. Well that’s why. Because what’s the point? We lost our understanding of it somewhere around the time it stopped being fun and we began to look in the mirror and see a painted monstrosity where a romantic heroine was supposed to be.
Apart from that, it was really good. The weather was perfect. I just wish that heat didn’t go with stripping off.