A second post in one day, for the second day running. I really need the blog at the moment; it helps me so much. I’m about to get ready for this party. It’s a group of parents from my youngest daughter’s class, a boozy crowd who I know will give me grief for not drinking. After the last two evenings’ difficulties, I feel a bit tense, but I think I can do it.

A fellow sober blogger, More To Me Than This, once wrote about focusing on getting ready for a party, enjoying that part of the process, so that’s what I’m about to do. I’m going to have a nice bath, choose carefully what I’m going to wear, attempt not to look haggard, and use the time as part of the self-care so important in sobriety. I’ve always liked getting ready for parties but then usually ruin it by drinking too much, shouting rubbish, looking dreadful by the end and not really remembering anything about the party anyway.

It will be a challenge tonight. I expect there will be a pretty poor choice of AF drinks, and I don’t want to draw too much attention to my not drinking by taking along a mocktail concoction. The crowd there are party animals and I am worried I’ll feel left out and distant. I could not go, but I don’t want to pull out at this stage; having hosted these things in the past, it can be depressing when people don’t come.

But it is my choice to go, so I will make it work. I feel strong inside, and tomorrow will be Day 10.

Inner Strength

Not really my own inner strength, but an amazing bath oil of the same name: this is one of the things that got me through last night. That, and the amazing support I had here on my blog, and from Belle and my wonderful sober text friend. I must admit, it was very tough; I was shocked at how close I came to throwing in my 8 days, after all the help I’ve had, and my sober stranger audios, and my new determination…it nearly all came crashing down.

I guess I’d been worrying since the night before, with my angst-ridden train journey and my close shave with the g&t tin, that had unsettled me. And as Friday progressed, I regressed, allowing loads of undermining thoughts to crowd my mind. By 6pm, I was literally pacing the kitchen, it was ridiculous. I emailed Belle who sent me lots of incredibly helpful emails back, and I did this several times during the evening; I texted my guardian angel – her responses stopped me in my tracks as I headed for the wine; and I wrote a second post. Thank you for the comments on my blog which I kept coming back to throughout the evening. The idea that people cared about my sobriety, cared about me, helped me to stay strong.

I stopped pacing; I listened to Belle’s suggestion that I was having a kind of anxiety attack and I abandoned my preparation of the supper; I forced myself to run a bath and poured in this Inner Strength oil. By the time the bath was run, that part of the house was infused with this amazing smell and I felt calmer and more secure. Got in and breathed. Slight hiccup in the rescue plan when my husband got stuck on a train and I had to abandon the bath to go and collect one of my children, but the anxiety moment had passed, and I knew I wouldn’t drink.

It sounds feeble of me, but it was scary. The pull to drink was strong and for about 2 hours I felt desperately weak. But here I am, Saturday morning, bracelet still on, Day 9, grateful and relieved.

Rocky Path, part 2

Second post today, which is a bit excessive I know, but in the spirit of honesty which is sober blogging (at least, I assume everyone is honest, there’d be little point otherwise, wouldn’t there?), I wanted to write that I am REALLY STRUGGLING TONIGHT.

I know. It’s only Day 8 and it’s Friday evening, so I am in a danger zone. I’ve been desperately listening to sober audios, and to episodes of The Bubble Hour, and I’m wearing my bracelet, and I know what I have to do…but I am struggling. I am really struggling.

Rocky path

I had a major wobble yesterday. I’d been feeling ‘itchy’ all day – someone on another blog described the feeling as itchy, that feeling of things not being quite right – and as I walked to the station to get my train to orchestra, I had an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. It was a sense of: I don’t want to do this anymore/ why am I putting myself under such pressure/ I can moderate if I put my mind to it/drinking is part of what I do and who I am/ I need a drink now/I’m going to have to abandon my blog, my 100 day challenge, my sobriety…and as I walked into the station, I almost went and bought one of those g & t tins again, the slippery slope tin to a bad place.

I texted my sober friend, and like a miracle she replied immediately. I sat on the train, I ate my sandwich, I drank my water, I felt angry and bitter and muddled. Then I got the tube to my rehearsal and once I was there and had started playing, I felt my sobriety bracelet around my wrist and I focused on the music and I sat on those train thoughts and pushed them down. On the way home, on the Cornish Pasty Train (why do people eat Cornish pasties on trains? It’s not good), I stared out of the window into the night and just felt those pushed down thoughts, and then I got home and went to bed.

And now it’s Day 8.

Buying glasses

Day 7 and perhaps what you should not be doing on Day 7 is buying cocktail glasses. But yes, that’s what I’m doing. Fear not, they aren’t for me. My daughter is having a 1920s party next weekend, and as part of the dinner, she is having mocktails at the start. She asked if they could have a glass of something alcoholic, but I said no; so they are going to experience a fabulous AF mocktail instead.

Back to the glasses: it is not easy to find these things in bulk, and I have found myself on various Internet sites which sell an astonishing array of alcohol-related stuff. I had no idea that there were so many varieties of glasses for different alcoholic drinks. And as I pressed the order button, I felt a wave of sadness that I was unable to enjoy cocktails anymore. At the same time, I didn’t like the feeling that a particular glass signified a particular drink, and that it sort of pulled me in with its message of sophistication and intrigue. These things that surround the ritual of drinking, whether it’s the type of glass, the sound of a bottle being uncorked, the line-up of bottles in a bar…these are dangerous things.

Is it better for my 16 year old daughter to experience drinking a delicious, alcohol-free drink out of a cocktail glass, or for her to sneak gin in a normal water glass? She’s never done this, but it’s the kind of horror story I hear.

A week ago, I was about to buy that tin of g & t for my train journey, and as I opened it and drank it on the train, I felt ashamed. Today, I should be feeling proud of myself as I prepare a bottle of tap water for the same train journey; but in fact, I suddenly feel overwhelmed by tiredness.

Slow progress

People said I sounded strong in yesterday’s post. Thank you for that, because I don’t feel very strong. But I’m just moving slowly along, trying not to panic, trying not to think too far ahead. I’m on Day 6 today. A few things have happened. I met up with some of the mums who will be at this party at the weekend, and they were all talking about drinking. The assumption is that I will drink a lot, and I felt sort of sad that they saw me in that way. My own fault, as I’ve been to plenty of events where I have ended up talking rubbish and have had to ring people up the next day and apologise, but I feel as though I’ve got a long way to go before people see me differently. I know this doesn’t really matter, but it’s bothering me anyway.

So, although I’m trying not to look too far ahead, I am mentally preparing an action plan for the party. Don’t go, I hear you cry, but I am planning to go, and I am planning to go sober.

It isn’t all about how other people see me, of course; it’s also about how I see myself. For so long, I’ve created the party girl image, the big drinker, the laugh out loud person knocking back the drink. And even with bouts of sobriety, I haven’t yet tried to change that image. Some of the people who I’ll see at the party have been open about how they don’t like the sober Annie, how they prefer my drinking. If they are scornful of me, I will face it; I’m not afraid.

As part of my sober audio package which the kind stranger bought me, I’ve been sent a bracelet. I put it on as soon as I opened the parcel. It is the very first talisman I have ever had, a reminder of my sober strength, of my sober fragility, and of my intentions. I can feel it against my wrist, hidden under my jumper; I am so very pleased with it.

The cycle of relapse

I first started looking at sober blogs last April, at which point I gave up drinking for 60 days. My next attempt was in September when I began writing my blog; I managed not to drink for 42 days. Little stops and starts that Autumn, but no more than 3-4 sober days at a time. Then this January, I did another 30 days. Last year, a sober blogging friend warned me against falling into a cycle of relapse, and I can see that this is exactly what has happened. I get excited about sobriety, I manage it for a bit, I get fed up and despondent, I drink, I love it, I regret it, I hate it and I start another sober plan.

And this is how it has gone for almost a year, let alone the years before that when I started to buy books about drinking, researched it on the Internet, saw a counsellor, asked for help, rejected help, thought I was imagining it…

My husband says we could build a small shed with the amount of sober books I have in the house.

I am making changes this time, and they are significant changes. I have grasped onto the sober audios from my kind stranger; I have committed to myself that I won’t drink for at least 100 days; I have reached out to some sober friends and let them know what I am planning; I have asked for help.

We are going to a party this weekend, a school thing at someone’s house. I am driving; I have told my husband that we won’t stay long, just make an appearance really; I will take some alternative drinks.

Reading this post through, I think I sound hard, and not quite myself somehow, as though I’m telling myself off. But perhaps I need to be tough on myself, to stop persuading myself that it’s ok to drink, that sober paths are too difficult to follow. I am facing up to the glaring truth: I cannot moderate, I need to continue not drinking, I need to get past day 5, past day 30, past day 42 and day 60 and on, into a new space.

Not easy

It’s not easy. I do have more determination this time, or at least I feel as though I do; but Day 4 sounds small, and I know it’s not an amazing achievement. I seem to spend every waking hour thinking about how best to achieve my sober plan. I wake feeling positive, listen to The Bubble Hour and Belle’s audios on my dog walk, spend some time reading blogs, respond to the comments on my blog, write a post if I can, then plan how best to tackle the witching hour and the tricky descent into the evening. Oddly, I had thought the return to school routine after the half-term break would make it easier, but in fact I feel out of sorts today, and hampered by what I’ve embarked on.

In truth, I’m panicking.

Another stab at sobriety? Why should I succeed this time when I’ve failed so many times before? Why do I keep putting myself through this? My husband is drinking the red wine he opened at the weekend, a glass a night because it’s lasting a long time (without me) and he’s so relaxed and fine, and not worried about drinking. He’s not even thinking about it. I want to be like that!

Ssssssshhh, ssssshhhh, I need to quieten down those pesky voices which are trying to undermine what I’m doing. ¬†Because I AM doing this. I am trying again, armed with some new resources and the gift of being given another chance.

Finding another way

Heading into the evening of Day 3, and at the moment it is all about finding alternatives. It is my youngest daughter’s birthday today: that would usually mean champagne at some point (oddly, on a child’s birthday) but it’s just been sparkling water. I had also been dreading the outdoor tree top activity (!) we had planned with her friends, but when it came to it, I really enjoyed it. I was scared at first when I had to jump off a high platform, but I put faith in the harness, closed my eyes, and fell forward.

Alternative to the witching hour wine? A tonic and grenadine, or a ginger ale with lime, and I will make myself make this at 6pm.

Wine with dinner? Back to the sparkling water, but in a nice glass, not just a water glass.

Slowly drinking wine, then realising I’ve drunk three-quarters of a bottle, while my husband and I chat over the cooking? Instead, I’m trying to keep the supper preparation simple. Sure, there may be less wind-down time with my husband, and more Sunday evening television may be watched, but at the moment this is what I need to do.

I wouldn’t have attempted that tree top walk without the harness and safety clips, and you were never allowed to move on without always being attached by both clips. Likewise, I can’t move forward on this sober path without knowing that I have a safety plan in place, a series of alternatives to replace my old, destructive patterns. It’s not magic! ¬†I can’t fly yet!

Saturday afternoon

I was determined to make it through our supper party last night – and I did. And it was fine. I didn’t mind drinking fizzy rose and elderflower stuff, almost feeling sorry for my husband and the other man drinking wine. I felt tired by 10pm and wanted to go to bed; wine would have helped me to stay up longer but I know I’d have felt worse for it later.

I am determined; but a gnawing voice is also telling me that I’ve tried lots of times before, that I’m usually ok for the first few days, but that the temptation to drink always gets me in the end.

However, things are slightly different this time. Someone – and I have no idea who – someone has bought me a series of Belle’s audios, the first of which arrived in my inbox this morning. I am absolutely amazed that someone would do this for me. It feels as though someone is walking alongside me, holding my hand, and I don’t want to let them down.

I started my sober bath routine with a vengeance last night. When my son noticed that my husband and I were drinking AF fizz (in the bath!), he was surprised that we weren’t drinking alcohol on a Friday night. ‘Well done,’ he said, ‘you’ll feel so much better tomorrow morning. I am proud of you’. He is 13 years old.

Small saviours, watching me on my path.