monkey off my back

One guy's experiences as he quits drinking


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821…sober and busy as hell

Just a short post to focus on reaching 821 days sober.

It’s not a significant number but each significant date has passed by in the blur of hectic crazy 2020.

I work in healthcare and we’ve been as busy as hell preparing for an onslaught which has luckily not eventuated in Australia. We’re in a remarkably good place… 17 people currently in hospital. 17 people in the entire country. Wow.

Anyway my anxiety has been through the roof at times and now I have the global privilege of coming down from my adrenaline fueled 3 months.

So yep. Sober. Drinking has been the last thing on my mind. No significant temptations or cravings. I couldn’t have functioned as well as I did if I’d been drinking.

So yay for a random 821 days – and I look forward to another 821. Hopefully COVID stays just as well controlled in Australia too – although our health systems are now as ready as they’ll ever be if it does break out.

PS: For those of you who don’t know, Australia and New Zealand have a friendly sibling rivalry… So of course they’ve done even better and eliminated covid infection within their borders. (Oh well, I must admit that they do better at most things).


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Nothing much to say

592 days…

No temptations. Not drinking feels normal.

I’ve come down from my anti-depressant ‘pink cloud’ – and have settled into a calm normal. The first couple of months felt amazing and then I came back to earth a bit. I still feel heaps better than I did before I started taking it.

It’s plain sailing at the moment… and I’m looking forward to the end-of-year break!

Oh… and I should probably focus on eating better and exercise. There might have been a bit of weight gain and inactivity since I ran the Gold Coast Marathon a few months ago.


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18 Months and counting

I’m now in week 78 of my new non-booze life – that’s 18 months people! Yayyyy!

It’s long enough to see distinct periods since quitting. This is how my experience has gone:

Phase 1: Relief, exhaustion and happiness (3-4 months)

The first few months felt like I’d just escaped drowning and crawled out of ocean onto a beach. I was exhausted but so relieved and quietly happy – and I just enjoyed lying there and sleeping. Unbroken, calm sleep was lovely after so long living with drunken, hungover or fragmented sleep.

Phase 2: Anxiety, stress and negativity (10 months)

Then after a while I realised that I was so stressed it was a physical knot in my chest. The slightest thing would set me into alert mode. Combine that with a few life stresses and I don’t know how I got through this period. I was trying everything to manage my stress and anxiety: exercise, sleep hygiene, meditation, food, social connection, counselling… it didn’t help and I got worried that I’d somehow permanently broken my brain. Then I started an anti-depressant and lowered my thyroxine.

Phase 3: Stable, calm and happy (4 months and counting)

The last few months feel the best so far. I’m still relieved but now I’m happy in an enthusiastic and energetic way (not a quietly happy to be alive way).

I so much less angry and my tolerance levels have increased heaps. My co-workers must also be happier. I’ll probably stay on this anti-depressant for a year and then I’ll try weaning myself off it. For now I need a stable period of plain sailing.

Throughout the whole time I’ve always felt secure and confident that I don’t want to drink. I guess that’s the beauty of having so many attempts at quitting – by the end I was just exhausted to the core and totally fed up. When I think about drinking alcohol I don’t get pangs for lost enjoyment – I just feel relieved that it’s out of my life.

It actually feels like a yawn or a sigh.

“Aghhhh. No thank you – that really was not fun anymore”


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Cravings, tempations and control

This post isn’t about drinking. I’ve had almost zero cravings and tempatations since I stopped drinking early last year.

My issue at the moment is about food quantity and quality.

I recently spent months marathon training which required really big weekly running distances. One of the nice treats which I like about long distance running is being able to eat whatever I want… in fact I need to eat lots. I was literally burning an extra two days worth of food each week.

Marathon training doesn’t just train your heart, stamina and legs – it also trains your stomach to eat marathon amounts of food.

After I finished my marathon I couldn’t run for a few weeks because of a mild stress fracture in my foot… but my stomach still demanded the same amount and the same type of food.  It’s been like a monster and I keep giving in because “well – I’ve earnt it”.

But now… it’s time to tame the beast. I want to still be kind to myself – I just want to cut back on chocolate/sugar/treats, slightly reduce my portion sizes and reduce my snacking/grazing.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not like the overwhelming compulsion and loss of control like with drinking. But it’s still also a bit of a challenge at the moment. I know from previous times that I just have to stick to it for a while until my mouth and stomach adjust.


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Boredom

OMG. I went to a boutique Gin and Rum distillery on Saturday afternoon with my partner and some friends who were in town. I didn’t know several of the people so I didn’t say why I wasn’t drinking – I just said that I was the sober driver.

It wasn’t in the slightest bit challenging or ‘triggering’. The only problem was boredom!

A few drinks in and they were all getting loose – while I was starting to get bored… and hot… and uncomfortable…

Then later on I was driving a car full of people to a nearby beach. I needed directions and I had a car full of loud people saying “straight ahead, no go right, no straight, no left up here“. And then I started to get silently shitty and sulky.

Then after being at the beach for a while, someone suggested that we all go back to their place for dinner (pulled pork tacos) and drinks…

Yippee! Said the sober vegetarian… not.

I looked at my partner and quietly mouthed ‘no!’. He was really good and agreed straight away.

It just made me realise that I have to find strategies to manage drinking events – not because of triggers but to manage my boredom and frustration. Drunk people are irritating to be around!

Maybe this is my karmic penance? 🤣😫🤬


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Almost 45 years old

I have a show ride hangover from yesterday. No booze – just lots of crazy show rides and strawberry sundaes and savoury crepes with the “world’s hottest chilli sauce”. Enough to leave me a bit tired and queasy today.

I remember research about people having higher rates of alcohol use disorders if they are ‘sensation seekers‘. I think yesterday counts as sensation seeking – high, fast, dizzy, sweet, hot, spicy, sunny. FUN – and unlike alcohol it’s not self-destructive or something I can do everyday.

So today I decided to take a day off work. It’s my (45th) birthday this week and I feel like cutting myself some slack and giving myself a treat. The big 45 is actually far more confronting than 40. When I turned 40 it was still close to my 30s – but now I can already see 50 in the distance.

Ageing is getting real. Even though I look young for my age, I can start to see the signs of wear and tear. Slight changes in the texture of my skin. Grey in my beard (when I don’t use beard dye). I got my first pair of reading glasses 2 years ago. And I have to be more and more vigilant with hair control on my old man ear and nose hair – oh and those crazy long random eyebrows.

But I’m also entering the second half of my 40s with a heap to be grateful for:

  • A hot and supportive boyfriend who I’ve been with almost half my life
  • I’m sober for almost 1.5 years
  • We own a cute house and are approaching the end of our mortgage
  • Generally good health and fitness (I just ran a marathon 6 weeks ago)
  • Financial security and no financial dramas
  • Close friends and good relationships with my family
  • A secure job that I believe in (although it makes me insanely stressed sometimes)
  • A FULL HEAD OF HAIR AND TEETH!
  • I get to travel regularly to crazy, exotic place
  • I finally feel like I have a handle on my anxiety. Life feels calm, happy and great!

45 seems pretty damn good so far!


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500 days!

500 days sober and I’m feeling great. I’ve finally got my mojo back. I haven’t felt this good for years (and years).

Our city’s big annual show is in a couple of weeks (roller coasters, rides, animals, bad food, flashing lights). For the first time in eons – I wanna go!

I haven’t been on crazy vomit-inducing rides since New Year’s Eve in New Zealand in 2001!

I plan to go to the show and get on every crazy, dizzying ride that I can find!


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TV hangovers

I love that my reaction when I see people drinking heavily on TV is just… Yuck!

I don’t feel tempted, I feel repulsed and I shudder.

And what’s even worse than the scenes of people swigging spirits are all the messy hangover scenes afterwards.

I don’t miss hangovers AT ALL.

Sometimes I’m amazed how much my relationship to alcohol has changed. It used to have a seemingly unbreakable hold on me and now it’s been reduced to the status of ‘yuck’.


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Enjoy life when it’s good.

I just ran a marathon yesterday… Physically I’ve felt wrecked for 24 hours – but emotionally I feel great.

A marathon is undeniably a really big challenge – but what people don’t usually say is that the 16-20 weeks of training before the event is even harder. Months of regimented training 4-5 times a week often in the dark and the cold – early in the morning or late in the evening.

I just wouldn’t have been able to achieve this goal if I’d been drinking.

So completing the marathon is like a cherry on top of a sober cake. It really tops off a great a really good time in my life.

I’m sober (478 days). I have no desire to drink. My anti-depressant and thyroxine adjustment (6.5 weeks) have really improved my mood. My anxiety has melted and I can feel emotions other than being angry, tired or tense all the time. And to top all of that off – I just finished a marathon and achieved a big personal goal.

Part of me already wants to think about the next goal – but I’m going to slow down and just enjoy myself for a few days. Yay. Life is good at the moment.


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Wow.

What a difference!

It’s been about 30 days since I started Lexapro (anti-anxiety/depressant) and reduced my thyroxine dose.

My anxiety levels have crashed. My chest tightness is gone, my energy levels have increased, I don’t feel frantic all the time, my heart rate has slowed 15-20%.

I feel so much better.

I’ve been keeping a daily mood tracker app and I’ve even started recording some ‘excellent’ days.

I’m still rock-solid about not drinking… and now I’m finally feeling great emotionally. It’s the best I’ve consistently felt for years.

2 weeks to go until my marathon! 42.2km (26.2 miles) to run. The next 2 weeks are the fun part of my training program… TAPERING. Basically in your last 2 weeks you reduce your running, rest, eat and build up your reserves. I think I’ve got this bit covered!