Monday, 20 April 2015

5 things I've discovered after 50 DAYS sober

50 DAYS! Who'd have thought it? And there's no-one I can celebrate with who'll understand apart from YOU LOT! So Yay! Go me!

I thought that I'd done a couple of months sober back in the summer of 2013, but when I went back through my old diary with my honest hat on, I realised that I started having the 'odd glass or three' after only 35 days, and within 2 months I was back to square one.

That means that this is my longest sober period since I was about sixteen years old. And that includes my 3 pregnancies.(In those days British obstetricians were very relaxed about a couple of glasses of wine a week).

To mark the occasion I've been thinking about what I've discovered over the last 50 days. Here are 5 things:

1. Not drinking changes everything.

I'd thought that when you stop drinking your life carries on as normal, but just without drink in it. Not the case! When you take drink out of your life everything changes.

For me, it's like when I first became a mother. I thought that I, and my life, would be just the same but with a lovely, gorgeous baby along for the ride. In actual fact, you change fundamentally once you have a baby - your priorities, your perspective, your relationships, your body and your emotions. And the same is true when you take drink out of your life, which is why it's such a huge adjustment.

2. It's difficult to do it alone.

...which is why AA has saved the lives of so many.

When I gave up smoking I announced it to the world, so I had constant support and encouragement. One of the main reasons that I (eventually) succeeded was because I couldn't face letting down the family and friends who'd been so helpful.

But the shame of being an 'alcoholic' (can't believe I used the 'a' word), is such that we do it quietly. And it's oh so easy to 'quietly' start drinking again. We just announce that we've had our two months off and now we are re-joining the merry band of drinkers. Rather than being disappointed in us, our friends are actually rather relieved.

I still can't face the idea of AA, or of 'coming out', so you - my wonderful, faceless inter-web posse, are my support. A number of times when I've reached out for the bottle, chilled, inviting, and oh so accessible, I've stopped myself because I couldn't face either posting an admission, or lying to you by omission. You have kept me on the straight and narrow, and I am humongously grateful.

3. It's a journey, not a immediate transformation.

When you only give up for a month (dry January, sober October etc) you don't get a proper sense of the sober journey - the ups and downs of the 'sobercoaster'. But like bereavement, or (again) motherhood, there are distinct phases.

Now I totally get the theory of the 'honeymoon' phase. I spent the first 6 weeks in a 'happy land'. In retrospect, it was very much like the land of the Lorax, before the Once-ler got busy making sneeds. It was all candy coloured Truffula trees, and happy, frolicking Brown Barbaloots.

I'm now climbing The Wall. And it's not a low, crumbling Cornish dry stone wall covered in blackberries that you can easily see over. Oh no. It's a giant wall of ice - like in the Game of Thrones. It's a monotonous slog of one hand, followed by the other. Left foot followed by right.

But I know that 'something better' lies over the other side of that wall. And when I get there, I'll let you know what it is.

4. The obsession gets worse before it gets better.

One of the worst things about alcohol addiction is the constant inner dialogue about drinking. It goes on and on, checking what's available in your fridge or your cupboard, where/when you can buy more, how you can avoid anyone spotting how much you're drinking yada yada yada.

I'd thought that not drinking would, pretty quickly, shut up the inner addict. But it's still there, it's just that now it's obsessed with not drinking. I may not be talking to friends and family about it, but my internal monologue is boring me to death. And it makes me spend at least a couple of hours a day blogging about not drinking and reading about not drinking. I'm still waiting for the 'clear headspace' which I only experience in small bursts - a tiny promise of what, I hope, is to come.

5.  Everyone is different.

From everything I've read over the last 50 days, it strikes me that every drinker is different. I've been desperate (as many of us are, I think), to find the answer. I want a definition of what I am, what my 'problem' is, and, therefore, what the solution is.

There do seem to be huge consistencies - for example, we all seem to associate with the idea of the 'wine witch' - the devil on our shoulder. But how we got here, our specific drinking patterns, and what made us want to stop all varies.

I've always found it tempting to read other people's stories and use them as justification - I never did x, y or z - therefore I am not a 'proper alcoholic' and 'I do not need to stop.' Yet now I see that other people could easily read my story and feel that, in many ways, I was 'worse' than them.

I'm sorry that this is not an overwhelmingly cheerful post. Believe me, the longer I spend on the sobercoaster the more convinced I am that it's the right place to be. But I am more 'grown up' and realistic than I was in the pink cloud days. Now I see this sober thing as a work in progress - but I am progressing.

Onwards and upwards sober friends, and HAPPY SOBER BIRTHDAY TALLAXO (possibly my only bloke reader. Any others lurking???)!

SM x


  1. Yay go you !! Fantastic achievement and I'm sure that I voice for many of us followers that as much as we spur you on staying sober your blog is what keeps us all on the straight and narrow too x I can second all of your above points particularly the inner dialogue of not drinking - it has lessened but I too am obsessed with reading about not drinking to the point it could drive me to reaching for a bottle !! But knowing there is this little band of strong and independent non drinkers out there all feeling the same keeps me sane and sober x I will as promised raise a mug of hot chocolate to you later and damn it may even throw in a slice of cake !!! I have to ask as you haven't mentioned it recently do you still have a sweet tooth - I am still craving chocolate and cake like I never have before :-( x x well done sm on hitting the 50 days and being that bit nearer the promised nirvana

    1. Hi Kags! Thank you! I will be thinking of you, too, in a week's time! I know that craving sweet things is HUGELY common, but it is the one thing that I haven't had a huge problem with. I do the nightly hot chocolate and I eat a far bit more fruit, but since about week 3 (the first 3 weeks I ate a lot of cake!) that's about it. I've never had a sweet tooth, though. My thing is ready salted crisps - I could mainline those! SM x

  2. I so didn't have a sweet tooth before crisps and cheese were my thing !! Now nothing short of a big bar of chocolate and my hot chocolate will hit the
    Spot !! I guess in 12 months time I will be seeking out sugar addict blogs ;-)

    1. I know what you mean - I am terrified of swapping one addiction for another - first nicotine, then alcohol. What's next? Kinky sex? Bingo? X

  3. CONGRATULATIONS on 50 sober days! That is quite an achievement. You should be very proud of yourself. Thank you also for the birthday wishes. Monday is my busy day. Work sponsors me for day release to study Mechanical Engineering at college, so I dont usually have time to pine for alcohol. I am more concerned with Differentiation and Algebra. But now I am home and it is trigger time.
    'A Sober Birthday', that is something I dont recall having experienced since about 15 years of age ( I am 44 today). I had some texts today from friends asking, when are we going out? Where are we going? I have made some excuses about having too much homework and too many assignments to hand in this year to celebrate.
    They must think I am ill, normally I am the last man standing and the life and the soul of the gathering.
    Having said that, I actually feel pretty good right now, Concepts at college are getting easier for me to comprehend, my memory has vastly improved, I am really noticing a difference in cognitive functioning, I like it!
    This is my first time in almost 30 years that I am truly sober, with no vice to fall back on. I gave up smoking tobacco 3 years ago and other stuff about a year ago. This is the final piece of the puzzle for me. I must also point out, this has to be absolution for me because moderation is not a word in my vocabulary. That is a scary thought, but one that I have to learn to embrace.
    Anyway, I am off to celebrate my birthday with a nice cup of tea. Did I just say that?
    Thank you again SM for the daily dose of inspiration x

    1. Hi Tallaxo! You're doing great - well done! Drinking is my final vice too - apparently multiple addictions are common. I'm worried about what might come next, as I was commenting to Kags - kinky sex? Bingo? Prawn cocktail crisps? My brain is much quicker too - I only wish it would shut up!!! Enjoy the tea x

  4. 50 days. Wow. On one hand a massive achievement, into new unchartered waters becoming better equipped to deal with it each days.
    On the other hand, still very much a big dipper style of sober coaster going on. At 7 weeks (49 days!) I felt truly blue. Was this it? What was all the hype about?
    Alcohol is still at the forefront of your mind yet you are not having any. Ignore the calls, ignore the thoughts and you will find other avenues for your mind to explore. Don't give up.

    ps I'm looking for people to review my next book before it goes on sale 20th May. Email me if you would like to do so and I'll send you a e-copy. That should occupy your mind for the next few days!

    ps I'm sure there are many readers, most folks 'lurk' but I'm fine with that.

    1. Hi Rachel! I'd love to review your next book. You can mail me on Love SM x

  5. Hi sober mummy!

    I am on my third day one in three weeks but am determined to crack it this time! Your blog is fab and has resonated a few chords with me I can tell you! You have made me laugh and cry! Keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks crazybird! I'm so glad it's helped. Good luck - you can do it!!! Love another crazybird x

  6. Many congratulations sober mummy, such an amazing achievement. I absolutely love and look forward to reading your blog, it's so inspiring. I'm sitting here feeling very smug that I managed to get through a ladies lunch today without an ounce of wine passing my lips! Lots of mummy's chatting about drinking wine and how it's their treat. Little do they know the inner turmoil I'm (we) are going through. Not ready to utter a word to anyone yet and not sure I ever will be. Keep up the good work xx

    1. Thanks so much Newleaf, and huge congrats to you! It's odd, isn't it, living this double life - I've always been so 'what you see is what you get' until now. Love SM x

  7. Nice going, SM!
    Keep on! You are a very good writer, btw!
    So true, all.
    At 228 days, I keep learning.
    Hugs to you!

    1. Thanks Wendy! That means a lot, especially from a teacher! I've always loved writing, but it's one of the many things that went by the wayside in favour of drinking ;-). I'm so in awe of your 228 days xxx

  8. Congrats on 50 days!! That's a wonderful achievement. My longest attempt has been 42 days, I'd love to get to 50. Hopefully The Wall won't be as big as you imagine and you'll be on the other side of it soon. Keep up the good work! A x

    1. You'll do it this time, Angie! Hugs xx

  9. I am currently on day 5, 50 days seems a long way away but I am determined to get there ( just wondering if these comments are anonymous) ?