thoughts at five years sober

sitting with my hands hovering over the keys not knowing where to begin… it feels like a long time since I’ve written a substantial blog post here and I am a bit rusty perhaps.

five years sober is a mighty fine place to be. 

five years feels like a BIG milestone. in my head it has been very similar to the concept of being told one is in remission from cancer. as I write that down it seems illogical and based upon no actual medical knowledge. perhaps that doesn’t matter? perhaps all that matters is that I feel really and truly free from alcohol – that by getting to five years I can believe that my recovery is something solid and dependable.

in terms of effort I would say it has dropped to virtually nil. the idea of consuming alcohol again holds no appeal whatsoever. very very occasionally I will hear a bat-squeak from Wolfie but he is easy to ignore, these days, thank God.

Mrs D says that when we stop drinking we have to learn other ways of coping, and that those other ways work BETTER – I couldn’t agree more.  so nowadays I am considerably more open and honest with other people (and with myself). I reach out to others if I am having a crappy day. I run a lot and eat chocolate if I feel like it. I have used meditation, therapy and coaching to get me over specific obstacles. I have been writing a nightly gratitude journal for several years now which continues to shift my brain from a default grumpy to a slightly-less-grumpy state. I am continuing to work on having healthy boundaries with people who push my buttons.

as a non-drinker I am still navigating my way through the drinking world. it still drives me bat-shit crazy when others post alcohol-justifying memes on social media (and yes I have already unfollowed everyone I feasibly can who does so). my children are obviously five years older than when I first got sober and are making their own choices about alcohol along with a lot of other things (whoever decided that it was ok for kids to grow up has a LOT to answer for).

the other side of this is that over five years I have seen attitudes to alcohol consumption start to shift – for example the drop in the UK recommended maximum weekly units to 14 for both men and women, and the victory that has allowed minimum unit pricing in Scotland. I wonder where public alcohol policy will be in another five years?

I continue to do sober stuff every day to keep on track  – mainly listening to Belle’s podcasts while I do my morning stretches, but also reading any new blog posts as they appear in my email. I am regularly in touch with some truly fantastic friends that I originally met through blogging.

(that’s a lot of sentences starting with ‘I’…..)

so that’s where I am at the moment.

I gave myself five presents for this soberversary 🙂 a trip away last weekend, a jaunt today, a trip to London next weekend and a subscription to a magazine for the next year.

past, present, and future.….here’s to all the future sober days!

oh and if you are counting and thinking “that’s only four presents – Primrose has lost her marbles!” then here is my fifth present – a silver daisy necklace. apart from jewellery the other thing I do for soberversaries is choose a word for my next sober year. My word for my sixth year sober is going to be ‘flower’. as in the verb – to flourish, to expand, to open up and blossom.

thanks for your company, dear sober compadres. I am, as ever, so grateful and proud to know you all.

Prim xx

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Square It Up Friday

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This came into my email this week as part of a blog post from James Clear – highly recommended reading.

And then I was listening to Belle’s latest podcast this morning on sober tools, in which she read out one of her Medium articles on the subject, about building a sober house.

I am coming up to 5 years sober and I recognise that the pre-anniversary period is usually a tough time for me. The time of year and seasonal cues like the children going back to school triggers me, and I am drawn back into remembering how low and sad I was in the run-up to the decision to try to stop drinking. I put it that way because that was how I thought of it then. I was so hopeless and battered by my innumerable failures at moderation that I couldn’t raise my sights any higher than ‘try’. The hope and determination came after that decision, as a consequence of the bricks of sober days I laid, strenuously and seemingly interminably, one day, hour and sometimes minute at a time.

If you are newly sober, or going through a rough patch in later recovery –  keep laying those bricks. Keep reaching out for help. There are innumerable resources out there if you look for them. Ones I would recommend are Belle’s Sober Jumpstart class, or Kate’s Sober School, or One Year No Beer. (Post edited to add: Kate’s next online course begins on Monday 1 October. Worth a spin?)

It is worth it. Because everyone (me included) is unique and precious, just by virtue of being born into this world. Keep building – and one day you will look up, and realise that you have built the fucking Forum 😁

Prim xx

a truly fantastic article by Bryony Gordon about being one year sober

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in my Saturday paper today I was delighted to find an absolute corker of an article from Bryony Gordon about getting sober and achieving the fantastic landmark of one year.

there’s a link here – although you will have to sign up for it online with the Telegraph – or if you are in the UK you could go out and buy today’s Telegraph (even if to do so is not at all the sort of thing you would usually do!)

I loved the article on so many levels…. first and foremost came enormous pleasure that Bryony has found her feet in sobriety – I have been reading her on this topic for many years (and in fact wrote a blog post referencing her writing back in January 2015 – havers!)

Congratulations, Bryony! and here’s my experience of sobriety – it just keeps getting better! the incremental, cumulative effect of applying all those life lessons that we learn in recovery have to be experienced to be believed. in particular, relationships with everyone around us (including ourselves) improve in ways that I continue to be astonished by and extravagantly, wildly grateful for, every single day.

then the article itself moved me greatly. she describes both the final days of her drinking and the early days of sobriety brilliantly. I recognised so much of my own experience in hers – so many phrases had me banging on a metaphorical table and shouting “yes, yes, YES!” like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally….

One quote that particularly rang true for me was when she said that if she made it through an episode of mental illness without drinking, then she should be asked to join the Avengers – and that her superpower would be ‘sitting with her feelings’: so, so, true.

finally I am so very glad that recovery from alcohol addiction is being aired in a national newspaper. I was saying to Lou the other day that virtually every Saturday or Sunday paper will have some reference, some article about the topic, which certainly was not the case back in 2013 when I stopped drinking.  it really feels as if the tide is turning and that we as a nation are becoming more aware of these issues, which can only be a good thing.

Bryony is one of a growing body of intelligent, articulate women such as Catherine Gray, Hannah Betts and Kristi Coulter who are writing about their experiences of addiction and recovery. Every time they do so, they increase understanding of what it is like for those who haven’t experienced it themselves – and make those who are experiencing it feel less alone. (I just got a little bit tearful, writing that and remembering how alone and afraid I felt in the last days of my addiction.)

by doing so, they are changing the world, one attitude, one person at a time. to quote Margaret Mead:

‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’

if you manage to read the article, whether online or in the paper, I would love to hear your thoughts.

onwards, my sober friends! Prim xx

snapshot at 1,631 days sober

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last night we had a friend of my husband’s staying with us, and they had wine with supper (which was fine with me).

clearing up afterwards, my daughter picked up the corkscrew, looked at me, and said,

“Mum, is this ours?”

I felt a glow of pride that my beautiful teenage daughter sees our corkscrew so seldom nowadays that she doesn’t even recognise it as belonging to us. it has been relegated to the little-used-utensils drawer, along with the lemon zester and the cherry pipper.

sober life is not a bowl of cherries – but it is infinitely better than the alternative.

wishing you a sunny, sober day! Prim xx

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image credit: lavenderandlovage.com

 

Square It Up Friday

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image credit: Elisabeth Gilbert

The following are the words of Elisabeth Gilbert, and NOT mine own:

Dear Ones:

I woke up this morning with my mind in a tangle, and my emotions in a storm.

I lay there in bed for a long time, wrestling with my thoughts and fighting hard against my feelings. But I was losing ground. No matter how hard I used my powerful THOUGHTS to try to extract myself from my other powerful THOUGHTS, it didn’t work. My THOUGHTS just got darker, and then my THOUGHTS about my THOUGHTS got darker, and then my THOUGHTS about my THOUGHTS got more panicked and distressed, until new and worse THOUGHTS arose, and now we have a tornado, folks. (This has happened to me before. But only once or twice.) My mind thought: I NEED MORE THOUGHTS, TO FIX THESE THOUGHTS! THINK HARDER! FIND A SOLUTION TO EVERYTHING! STOP THIS! GET CONTROL! DIFFERENT THOUGHTS! BETTER THOUGHTS!

Then I remembered: I cannot use my mind to help my mind, when my mind is in distress. At these moments, only the heart can help.

So.

My heart stepped in quietly and said to my tired mind: “Come and rest your tangle here with me. I’ll take care of you, just the way you are.” My mind said, “But, but, BUT – ” My heart said, “Shhh. I’ve got you.” Then we all rested together – me, mind, heart.

No solving happened this morning.

Solving doesn’t always have to happen.

Sometimes it can’t. Sometimes all you need is a safe place to rest.

HEART.

Then I got up and drew this picture, for the next time I forget.

Onward.

LG

Square It Up Friday

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it’s not easy, I know. there are circumstances and life dramas and damn other people and outside crappy events beyond our control.

(would you believe that – literally as I am writing this – my cat has just regurgitated semi-digested mouse on my office floor? gee, thanks cat.)

shit happens, on an all-too-regular basis. and now I don’t use alcohol to regulate and drown out my feelings then I get to co-habit with those feelings in ways that are still pretty novel to me.

so I still need to remind myself that that is okay. that I am learning by doing: by choosing to respond rather than to react, I make it more likely that I will do so next time, and every time it will get easier.

Wishing you bananas and good choices this Easter weekend. Oh, and a little more chocolate than is good for you 😉

Prim xx