16 days

I haven’t blogged much lately. Mostly because I was stuck back on the merry-go-round of not drinking, drinking, hangover. It felt too disheartening and shameful to come here and write all of the same old boring stuff, over and over. There’s only so many times I can write about how crappy I’m feeling while hungover, before it starts to feel self indulgent, self absorbed and painfully obvious that I am refusing to take my own advice and just get on with it.

So anyway, I’m here on Day 16 completely alcohol free. It’s been pretty easy to maintain so far, with serious cravings only arising once or twice in that period of time. I’m feeling neither confident nor terrified. I don’t have any real time frame in mind regarding how long I’m going to go alcohol free (there’s still a tiny part of me that is hoping/expecting that if I have an extended period of sobriety, I’ll be able to drink ‘normally’- yes, I realise that this thought is potentially both delusional and dangerous), but my initial goal is to not drink until my birthday, which will bring me to 31 days. Beyond that, I don’t know. I am beginning to suspect that 3 months or even 100 days will be the next goal, but honestly, that amount of time seems quite overwhelming. It’s currently much easier for my mind to cope with just one day at a time and so far that mindset has gotten me here, to 16 days.

So what has the last 16 days looked like?

Well, the first week was very easy. My last drinking episode was so shameful and awful that the memory of that completely eradicated any thoughts of drinking, especially when coupled with yet another disgusting, skin crawlingly uncomfortable hangover, which lasted for several days.

Once that period ended and my sleep pattern began to settle down and I could eat properly and not feel as though the world was ending, I returned to what has helped previously, but which I’ve not sustained beyond a week or so. Something I have learned throughout this process of not drinking and drinking is that the memory of a ‘bad’ drinking episode will only carry me so far. Much like childbirth, the memory of the painful parts of drinking disappear pretty quickly and in the face of a strong craving, disappears completely in that moment. The addictive voice’s rationalisation of “I’m not that bad” or “It wasn’t that bad” or “It’ll be different this time” or “It’ll just be one or two drinks” swiftly overrides memories of blacking out or vomiting or making really poor, potentially catastrophic choices while drunk.

So, rather than rely on my unreliable mind to remind me of how horrible drinking is for me, I’ve started taking a much more proactive and preemptive approach to sobriety. I’ve realised that these things are non negotiable.  They are NOT things to simply do until I feel better or paradoxically only when I feel better. These are things, which like breathing, or having my heart beat continuously, need to be sustained, on a daily basis.

The biggest one is self care- very simple measures which have a big impact on how I feel physically and emotionally. Eating when I feel hungry, staying well hydrated, getting ample sleep, taking time to put on a face mask, do my nails and getting exercise.

I’ve recommenced running and the effects of this are really quite incredible. For thirty minutes, there is literally no space in my head for anything but the act of running. It’s hard work and my body and mind are so shocked that I am moving in such a purposeful way that there is no room for any thought beyond ‘keep going’. And afterwards, the endorphin kick is enough to make me feel as though I could wrestle a lion and walk away the victor. If I can run, and convince myself to not stop until the session is complete, then I can ride out a craving, which in reality, only ever lasts 10 minutes or so.

I have been listening to podcasts every night especially,  this one.

It’s amazing to me how many of us are out there, struggling with this thing, how similar our stories are and how universally alcohol causes us to feel shitty about ourselves and our lives and leads to choices not in alignment with our true values and selves. It’s inspiring listening to people share how they are reclaiming themselves and redirecting their lives. It’s relatable and real and serves to remind me on a daily basis both that I do indeed have a dysfunctional relationship with alcohol, and that I don’t have to remain stuck on the merry-go-round.

I’ve been meditating and much like running, this has a profound effect on my ability to take a small step back from the noise and clutter in my head. It allows space to arise between me, the true me and the addictive voice part of me which whispers or shouts “this is too hard, just have a drink and it will all go away”. That space gives me the gift of being able to see the delusion, the bald faced lie and say to it “No.”

Lastly, and this probably goes under the self care umbrella, I am keeping a lid on unkind thoughts towards myself. There is zero usefulness in berating or shaming myself or listing all the ways I can fuck my life up. The past is the past and I can’t erase or alter it. Each day, I get up and I do the best I can with what I have, and it’s ok, it’s enough. I don’t need to set impossible standards nor accept complacency. I’m treating and talking to myself as I would my children or anyone else really. With gentleness, respect, kindness, encouragement and compassion. And no, it doesn’t happen 100% of the time, just as it doesn’t when dealing with other people, but it’s become the majority of the time and it feels good. It allows me to give myself a gentle nudge or push when I’m feeling complacent or can’t be bothered (go on, put on your shoes and go for that run, you’ll feel amazing afterwards) and also gives me permission to back off, slow down and retreat (it’s fine to have a pyjama day, enjoy!).

So yeah. It’s been 16 days and it feels both like a lifetime and a small drop in the ocean. It’s easy and it’s hard and it’s uncomfortable and it’s peaceful. I have moments of thinking I’m never drinking again and that’s exciting and liberating and I have moments of thinking I don’t want to never drink again and how soon can I try once more? And when I swing between that pendulum, I know I need to bring it back to the middle and simply take it one day a time.

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