I’m exceptionally proud to be able to say I’ve passed the first big milestone on my newest journey: 30 days sober today! Not wanting to underplay this monumental achievement, for in the past it has been an unclimbable mountain, it’s actually not been very difficult.
Why, you might be wondering? Well, in the simplest of terms, I’m fully ready to embrace sobriety. Although I’ve had dry stints – between three pregnancies and GAPS Intro (during the years 2008-2014) the booze and I temporarily parted ways for over three years. I have also had a few forays into teetotalism but they were doomed to fail, because they were fuelled by the wrong reasons. Guilt, regret, shame to name but a few. With these cycles of abstinence, everything was based around around the phrase “one day at a time” which translated to me as: not forever. I do appreciate for some that living day to day is the only way with addiction, but this new outlook on life has been twenty-odd years in the making for me.
Recognising when enough is enough
After my 2002 breakdown, I started seeing an incredible counsellor. This set me off down a road of ownership in my early twenties. Trouble is, I hadn’t lived enough to make the kind of decisions I’m making now. My November 2006 mental breakdown and rock bottom, is when I started truly owning my life. Even when the steaming pile of sh*t in front of me was so smelly it made me gag. In the final months of 2006 and first half of 2007, I set about changing every aspect of my life, so I could start thriving.
Having already cut ties with my entire family, any other toxic influences went. These were mostly “friends” who I only ever got blackout drunk with. Not a real friendship. Not people who would be there when I needed them the most. My eating habits began to change, coming away from refined sugar and processed carbs (they have evolved year on year ever since). Nowadays I am hugely in gut health and fermented food and drink. I swapped drinking for yoga, cooking healthy food and setting up a business. If you are interested in learning more about this time, please check out my autobiographical self-help book.
My Achilles heel
I’ve been fully aware – for very a long time now – that alcohol is my weakness. Has been since I was a teenager. I could tell you about the alcoholic step-father I grew up around, and other family addicts. The dysfunctional childhood, the sexual abuse, the lies enshrouding my formative years – all of these things have no doubt contributed to my unhealthy relationship with the bottle. I could tell you about the escape booze has provided in recent years from my chronically stressful life – as a home educating mum of three challenging kids with a side of severe sleep deprivation and autism to contend with. I convinced myself for too long that I had it under control.
But here’s the thing. Countless people have told me they don’t like drunk Reneé. I’ve rendered myself incapable (on a handful of occasions this past decade) of looking after my kids (which is absolutely not okay). My husband has been left exasperated by drunk me too many times. And yet, I’ve still had the viewpoint that giving up drinking would be the worst thing in the entire world. That I’d never be able to socialise with my friends. That it would be boring. When I put this reasoning into words on the screen, I see how utterly ridiculous they are.
Moderation just does not work for me
I have tried so hard to become a moderate drinker, but cards on the table, I don’t particularly enjoy moderation. Two glasses of wine over dinner is fine, but drinking the same amount over lunch makes me woozy and gives me a headache. Instead of thinking to myself “that was nice” all I can think about, for the rest of the day, is having another drink. Truth be told, I still enjoy getting hammered far more than is advisable for a mum on any level. Let alone one like me, who is constantly with their kids and needs to be on the ball.
Also, I figured sobriety would be one hell of a gift to myself for my fortieth birthday next month. Not boring, not missing out. True presence simply isn’t possible once we’ve had more than a couple of drinks. And my adventures “out out” always include more than a few. Always. And yes they are (mostly) lots of fun, but more often than not they involve some kind of fu*k up. Be that falling out with my husband. Staying out too late. Spending a small fortune. Or just waking up in the middle of the night/next day drenched in a cold sweat, with a pounding heart, wondering why the hell I’ve done this to myself. Again.
So it’s time to do things differently.
Some things that have worked well during my 30 days sober
Planning social occasions. Less than a week into my sobriety I attended the BAPS Awards, and knowing what I was going to drink in advance really helped. There was no awkwardness around what to order, or temptation to drink the free booze on the table. Who knew that gin-less tonic is actually rather pleasant? I’ve found this is currently scratching an itch if I fancy a drink. I’ve also come across a really delicious craft soda which reminds me of cherryade (but is made from elderberry and hibiscus).
Surrounding myself with supporters. This is probably the trickiest part of sobriety, and again, it totally depends where you are on your own journey. Which is why I’m convinced I was destined to fail previously. On account of this (a) not being my first rodeo, and (b) an organic decision I’ve come to through years of trial and error, I think I’ve already shed all the unsupportive people in my life. This time around, my friends have been nothing but kind about my decision. I think it would be near on impossible to give up drinking if every single person in my life were big drinkers.
Life affirming books. It’s been really important for me to feel like I’m learning something new when I read non-fiction books. I think they will play an important part of helping me stay on the straight and narrow. A friend recommended Fred Davis’s Beyond Recovery, which is a deep dive into the interesting concept of non duality. Essentially if a traditional God isn’t for you (which it’s not for me) then non-godly spirituality probably is. This is really well written and easy to digest, and a must for anyone wanting to question the meaning of life whilst staying sober.
Projects to keep me busy. One of the reasons I used to drink, was to switch my brain off. Stop the thoughts in their tracks and chill out. Which is pretty silly, given I have been working on my novel for almost four years and really do need to get it seen by people who actually have the tools to publish it. That simply wasn’t going to happen by devoting scraps of energy to it. In the last month I have done a huge edit. Hopefully draft ten will be good enough to bag an agent and get this story out there. Wish me luck! As well as the novel, there is also the children’s picture book about autism my friend Maddy and I are working on. As well as another exciting work prospect in the pipeline. I’m actually not sure I could fit drinking in if I tried.
Being on social media less than ever. In the first week or so, I immersed myself in the recovery communities on Instagram. Then I realised their journey was not mine, and mine is not theirs. And actually I already have the strength to do this, and being on social media was a distraction that wasn’t adding to my life. It’s been liberating, to say the least.
Faith in myself has been restored. I had lost faith in my own abilities for a long time, then drowned my sorrows when everything went wrong. Slowly but surely, that faith is coming back. All I can say is: watch out world!!
Here’s to the next milestone! A sober 40th at the end of July…
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