monkey off my back

One guy's experiences as he quits drinking


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Where’s my pink cloud?

I know we’re all meant to be terrified of ‘Pink Cloud Syndrome’ but really – a few small, rose-tinted clouds wouldn’t go astray. Would they?

I get it. In the early stages of recovery some people feel fantastic and think everything’s rosy. They might not recognise the challenges that lie ahead or they might have unrealistic expectations. Then it all comes tumbling down when they hit a challenge or realise that everything’s not perfect.

BUT

It’s been months now. I feel much better than when I was drinking. I don’t find it hard to not drink but I thought I’d feel a little bit rosier than I do.

I still have a flat mood (not sad – just blahhh), low energy, low libido, and niggly physical issues. Everything’s a bit mundane. I really would like some more spring in my step – to give me some more reward or motivation.

Maybe it’s because I’ve quit drinking for extended times before – and this just isn’t new or exciting? It just feels like everything’s mundane… Wait a second! I just had a thought while I wrote that – maybe that’s part of why I drank? Maybe the drinking was what I used to spice things up a bit and add some pink clouds (before the addiction really kicked in and they became severe storm clouds).

Maybe I just like more stimulus, novelty, chaos and excitement than my day to day life provides? I could just be in a rut and need to go seek out some adventure.

NOTE: I’m not talking about my relationship which is the centre of my world. I’m just talking about the home-work-home-work routine and playing things safe, sensible and routine all the time.

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6 Months – YAYYY!

I wrote a giant draft post and just deleted it.  It was all about problems, issues, strategies and solutions…  Urghhhh!

So instead I’m going to say that today is my 6 month soberversary and I’m doing really well.  My life’s not perfect – but the alcohol/sobriety part of it is going really well.  The things I’m really enjoying are:

  1. In my basic day to day life, I don’t really have any strong cravings and it doesn’t dominate my thoughts like it used to.  Sometimes it’s hard to understand how it had such a strong hold over me.
  2. I have a supportive partner and I’ve told 3 close friends who’ve all been great – and it’s reassuring to know that if I did have strong cravings that I have people around me who would give support and probably say “ummm – what are you doing?!”.
  3. I eat and drink more diverse and interesting things. When you don’t have to try to counteract a giant alcohol calorie intake – you can treat yourself with other tasty treats. And when you don’t have the mindless routine which comes with drinking alcohol, you start exploring new drinks and drink combinations.  Maybe one day I’ll do a post on non-alcoholic drinks? My partner has even started drinking one of my combinations during the week because he thinks it’s delicious.

Anyway – my (not) drinking is going really well. And it’s also giving me the stability and energy to get through some of the random curve-balls that life has thrown at me. Hooray and non-alcoholic cheers!


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Out with the old, in with the new.

I feel like I’m back to normal (sober normal not drunk normal).

It took a few false starts but I eventually got back on the wagon and it’s been nearly 6 weeks now. In some ways it was easier than my first non-drinking period and in others it was harder.

From my first experience I had the confidence that I could stop drinking and I emotionally knew it could be done. I also knew what to expect, the benefits, strategies, people were used to me not drinking etc… And in other ways it was harder – I ‘knew’ I could do it so why not start tomorrow, next week or next month – just one more time! It was hard to stick to my guns when I had a little voice saying “mañana, mañana, mañana!”. Apparently it’s a Spanish alter-ego?

My emotions were different this time. My first sober period was triggered by feeling really miserable and without hope – but this time it was a feeling of deep exhaustion. I was so tired and fed-up with the drinking yoyo. Not sad or hopeless – just really ‘over it’, bored and frustrated.

The final straw which broke the thirsty camel’s back was the misery of having to do my first 2.5 hour marathon training run with a hang-over. I am committed to doing my first marathon in July and with my training distances really ramping up I had to make a choice – keep drinking or do the marathon?

So I made a choice and the past 5 1/2 weeks have been great.

I’ve been reminded about something which I found helpful in my first sober period – it’s embrace something new than it is to quit something old. In my case – I’ve thrown myself into marathon training rather than ‘quitting drinking’.

That’s probably just replacing one thing with another but meh! Care factor? Wanting to achieve a marathon is more inspiring than monotonous daily drinking cycle: hangover, exhaustion, vague recovery, overwhelming compulsion, sneaky planning, copious drinking, sleeping and repeat


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One whole day

I have nothing exciting to say at the moment.

I went a whole day without thinking about alcohol or sobriety or quitting. I realised while I was doing my grocery shopping: I walked past my local bottle shop and thought “Gee I haven’t been in there for ages – I used to be a regular”. That’s when I paused and couldn’t remember the last time I’d thought about alcohol or anything to do with quitting. It was a nice moment.

I have 9 days until my one year soberversary – and sober feels pretty normal now. The honeymoon period has passed and that’s a good thing. I can spend more time focussed on living and less time thinking about drinking (or not drinking).


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‘Drinks’ with old friends

I’ve got a bit of a challenge tonight – but I’m not worried.

A school friend is having drinks in an inner-city pub for her 40th birthday (holy crap – that still sounds weird).

I only see this gang every 3 years or so. We grew up in a regional country town together and when we’re on-mass we’re a bit rowdy and ‘rough around the edges’. I’m fond of them – and it’s pretty unconditional. However, my partner will not be coming  because he would rather shove hot pins in his eyes. I quite like that ‘cos then I can catch up without having to babysit him.

A couple of other school friends have already checked whether I’m going and made obligatory comments about how’re they’re going to have ‘a bloody massive night – YEAHHHH!’.

Hi guys – Surprise! I’m having Coke Zero tonight.

Coke Zero?

Yep.

What’s in it?

Ummm ice and a lemon wedge.

<<insert a gasp, stunned disbelief and fainting>>

I guess this is what the first few years of sobriety are like – connecting with people from different parts of your life and renegotiating old dynamics.

This lot will be fine (in time). Like I said – there’s a good level of unconditional respect. They’ll think it’s a bit weird, ask a few questions, be temporarily uncertain about how to behave around me – and then get over it. They’ve stuck with me through my Coming Out years, experimental drug use years, the vegetarian years, the crazy coloured hair years, the angry political years, the house renovation years…  I reckon they’ll survive the no-drinking, exercise, healthy eating years.

And besides… they won’t admit it but they’ve mellowed too! Most of the talk about a ‘big night’ is just hot air and bluster – they’ll probably have a few drinks and drive home so they can drop their kids off at soccer practice in the morning.


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Obligations, hope and vanity.

Since deciding to stop drinking I’ve written about a three incidents which involved me either: almost having a drink; having a small drink (a single small glass); and getting drunk on my 40th birthday.

None of these situations have felt like a serious threat to my sobriety or caused much long-term upset. They’ve felt more like random bumps along the road.

Sometimes if I feel a bit morose, I contemplate the situations in which I would just give up and let myself drink. What comes to mind is a scene when a person is underwater and struggling to swim to the surface. They’re sinking deeper and deeper and starting to lose energy… And then there’s a point when they decide whether to give up and calmly sink or summon up the last shred of energy to swim.

The three scenarios which come to mind are:

1) If my partner died in an accident and I was home alone for my first night.

2) If I had a terminal illness and was getting close to the end.

3) In a zombie apocalypse scenario (I’m a pop-culture junkie) when I was temporarily holed up in a safe place.

As painful as it was to struggle with alcohol for several years, it was also healthy. I wasn’t ready to give up or be consumed by alcohol and I was always trying to struggle back to the surface. I still had a job, partner, friends, family, mortgage and cats which held me back from the edge of becoming a 24/7 drinker. My obligations to others where often a stronger motivator than obligations to myself.

The common link between my three scenarios is despair and a total loss of hope. I don’t have any horrendous trauma which I was escaping with alcohol. I’ve got a manageable, chronic health condition which causes high-level anxiety at times – but it’s not a deep, traumatic pain (more a pain in the ass). My drinking was a way of switching off my brain and reducing anxiety. For many years it was a fun habit which slowly grew until I realised it was out of control and no longer fun. I never lost hope about the future or that I could control my drinking.

Vanity is my last point – and it’s a mixed point. I knew that if my drinking got much worse that I wouldn’t be able to hide it from the people around me anymore. I’m vain and proud and I know it. I know that it’s probably not completely healthy to have quit alcohol completely solo – I still haven’t told anyone in the ‘real world’… but pride and vanity are a big part of what compelled me to stop.

So I raise my glass (of sparkling apple juice) to obligations, hope and vanity! I’m thankful for the people around me that held me back form the edge. Right now I feel like I’m lying on a beach in the warm sun after dragging myself out from an exhausting swim. Life’s good.


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It takes two to tango

I’ve got a challenge ahead of me this weekend.  I’m travelling 2000km to inland, regional Australia see my Dad and Brother for both of their birthdays.  It’s a rough, hard-drinking part of the world – a bit like a modern day Wild West… and then there’s also my family!

I’ll have to ‘come out’ as sober this weekend because both of them drink like fish. My Dad is an argumentative old man (even when he was younger) so I’m expecting a “Pah – that’s stupid. Why would you do that?” response.  Even if I deflect it with my “It’s because of the cancer” routine, he’ll still try & push boundaries & argue that a couple won’t hurt.

My brother will be easier – he’ll probably say “Uhhh OK” with a confused ‘does not compute’ expression. The only issue will be that we don’t get to talk (beyond surface stuff) and bond unless he’s a little bit lubricated with alcohol. He’s had some rough stuff going on lately, which has been made worse by alcohol, and I can no longer rely on a drinking session to get him to open up. This time I’ll have to rely on charm and panache!

Both my Dad’s and Brother’s social routines are limited to activities involving alcohol.  I’m completely confident that I won’t drink but I’m imagining scenarios like going out for dinner & sitting at a bar with them as they slowly get drunk… while I sip on my Coke Zero feeling like a prudish third wheel.

I’m aware that my Dad is getting older and is quite unwell for his age – so I want to have a warm, quality, enjoyable time…

Actually forget most of what I just wrote:

  • I’ve been more unwell than both of them
  • I’ve been ‘going through stuff’ as well
  • I’m travelling 2000km & spending hundreds of dollars to see them

I don’t have to take responsibility for bonding with them. It takes two to tango – and I’m doing my bit. How they respond is up to them.