Plans

Friday evening, otherwise known as Day 1. Our friends are arriving in a few hours and I have a plan.  Prepare supper, lay the table, then have a bath. It sounds crazy, but when I stopped having those baths in the evenings, my sobriety faltered. It can’t be that simple! Of course it’s not, but the successful aspects of my sober routine last time – the baths, the mocktails – really did seem to help me, so I need to put those back in place and make them sacred.

I do feel nervous. Not about this evening, but about embarking on this again. When I let things slip, and went back to my normal drinking, I allowed myself to sink into a lazy way of thinking, and for a while this relaxed mode felt good to me; because I tend to be quite controlled, and like things to be ‘just so’. It’s one of the major reasons why I drink, because I like losing the controlled feeling. I’d like to find ways in which I can feel relaxed, but not with a wine glass in hand.

I am also seeking help in other ways. I can’t just do the sober plan of old and expect it to work, magically. I need to change things. One of my sober friends – you know who you are! – has sent me a list of treats she uses which help her, because I have never got the treat thing to work. I may buy a treat once in 3 weeks, but that’s it. This time, I’m going to try and get something little every few days, or even every day. I have also asked for more help from Belle. And my friends here on A Dappled Path – I ask you to help me too. I am grateful that you are here, and I need you.

As for other forms of help – groups, therapy etc. – I don’t like to write about these on my blog, but please don’t assume I’m not looking into them. Because I am!

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Better late than never

It has been a bad week. My son has been ill, and this always throws me into a state of semi-despair. But this isn’t really why it’s been a bad week. I haven’t felt right, I haven’t felt good about anything, and it’s because I’ve been drinking, that’s the simple truth.

Old habits have crept back in. But they weren’t alarming as such, and I thought I could cope with them, squash them once the kids go back to school next week and I go back to my normal routine. I can’t ignore, however, the frightening realisation that things are badly slipping. A couple of glasses of prosecco with my husband?  Fine. Except that while he’s upstairs, I fill my glass with white wine and glug it down as though it’s milk. Tearing back from a hospital appointment on a dark, rainy motorway, desperate for a glass of something.  ‘Is it right that you’re craving this so badly?’ my husband asks with concern; I shrug it off and pour myself another one. And then, on my way to orchestra on the train, and on the way back, I buy one of those tins of G&T and drink them, and I have NEVER EVER done that before, because orchestra night has always been my no drinking night, and that’s something I haven’t found difficult to sustain before now.

So, you see how things are slipping?

And I shut down my blog for a little while, in an attempt to escape what I knew was happening. But as I closed the blog, I didn’t feel relief, I felt a huge sadness, and as though I was cutting myself off from voices of love, and of reason, and of support.

The blog is open. I am back. I am going to try again. I don’t know how I’m going to do, but I’m going to give it another go. People coming for supper tomorrow night, and I had already put champagne and wine in the fridge, for ME.  But one half of the couple doesn’t drink, and I knew I needed to buy her something not just fizzy water-ish. So I can buy some of that for me too.

I didn’t mean to turn you away, my friends.

Monday evening

Nearly midnight. I disappeared for a while, and am still not sure how to proceed. I wanted to let you know that I am alright, although things aren’t going brilliantly.

I have always used the blog to chart my progress, or lack of. But I worry when I feel that people are disappointed in me. I know it is my path, but I do feel a certain responsibility for what I write. When I read other blogs, I am often influenced by what I read, and I have found it impossible to detach myself from the blog and write with no regard for people who might read it. If I didn’t want people to read it, I would write it on a little piece of paper and hide it in a drawer.

So, what’s been happening?  Well, I am back in a no-mans-land of indecision and doubt. But I still lack the determination to do something about it.

Those early days

I have been here before: day 4. Being in these early days of sobriety is hard, and I feel a bit stupid that I keep coming back to the start. Having done 30 days, 40 days, even 60 days, I know that it gets easier, and I remember beginning to enjoy the freedom not drinking gives you. And yet I keep coming back, having to start again; it’s a kind of torture.

When I was a little girl, I loved fresh starts: the new term, new uniform, sharp pencils, clean exercise books, that sense of leaving the chaos behind and giving it all another go. I still love those fresh starts, and there is something enticing about setting out on the journey, with a bit of new determination and a feeling that things will be different this time. So is it partly that as the freshness diminishes, the project weakens and it becomes…well,…boring? And is it this that makes me turn back to the drink, at first liking the ‘new drinking me’, the one glass only person, but quickly reverting to the sloppy habits of old?

Here’s what I notice: I am tripping up at the start.  Not at 30 days, but at 4 days. Sure, I don’t drink for 30 days, but I decide I am going to drink at 4 days, or at least I decide at 4 days that some time in the future I will drink. And from that moment, I am doomed to fail.

So much thinking. So much searching. So much trying to work out what to do, and how best to do it. For now, I will go to bed, glad that it is Day 4 and nearly Day 5, glad that I didn’t drink today, and hopeful that I will not drink tomorrow.

Despondency

I have to admit to feeling very low today. Some health issues are hanging over me, and I can’t settle down. Sometimes my sober mission feels pointless to me: trying to live healthily, and then finding there are things wrong with me anyway. The line between self-care and sabotage is thin today.

I am sorry not to be upbeat. And I am sorry that I can’t be more specific about what’s going on.  Which makes this post a sad thing, so I’d better sign off for today, Day 3, and hope that tomorrow is brighter.

Another Day 2

I felt a wave of panic when I woke up this morning and remembered that I was trying to be sober again. But I also remembered that the relief I felt when I had a few drinks last weekend was brief, momentary; and was quickly followed by a resumption of the rules, the dealing with feeling grotty, the sense that things just weren’t right.

I know moderation doesn’t work for me. And yet, I always think it does, that this time I will have cracked it and be able to have one or two glasses, politely refuse any more and drink sparkling water for the rest of the evening. As I tread the dappled path, these moderation attempts become increasingly less moderate. I might last a day, drink only a little and be smug that I’m now a normal drinker; a day later, it will be as though I never had any sober time, the first glass leading to many glasses, the whole plan shot to pieces.

It is this failure to moderate which is the clearest sign to me that I need to be sober. And yet, after a few sober weeks, I try drinking again, convinced that it will be different this time, that I will have learned how to do it.

So, another Day 2, another look at myself and at what is really happening to me.

Back at square one

Firstly, thank you thank you THANK YOU for all your comments in the past couple of days. I was touched by the thoughtful responses, and have read and reread them several times. Someone posed the question in the third person, and that did help me to look outside myself, to imagine advising a friend – thank you for that perspective, as it is sometimes hard to look at it in a different way. The sober quest – well, for me at least – does seem to feel as though one is going round in circles, never advancing, always finding oneself back at the start, back at square one.

I have been trying for a long time, it’s true. But I don’t feel the situation is hopeless; each time I start again, I feel that little bit better at knowing how I’m going to proceed. True, I do keep falling at the same hurdles: the 30-40 day gate has been locked several times now; sober holidays seem impossible to me; parties are still very challenging. But, at the same time, some of the other pitfalls – Friday nights, weekday nights..actually, every night – have got easier, and as I set out again this time, I know what works, and I’ll do those things again.

But what doesn’t work?  Well, here is a small list to help me make sense of it:

*  going to a party with no AF alternative

* giving myself a get out clause (eg. I’ll start sober but definitely drink on Valentine’s Day.  Yikes! Valentine’s Day!)

*  not being upfront with my husband about my long-term sober aims; making him think that I’m just not drinking in the week

*  abandoning my blog.  Writing here has helped more than anything else, I think.  When I stop writing, I start drinking

I am not going to think too far ahead.  My friend Bea is writing every day on her blog, and I think in these early days and weeks that works well. Last month, I looked forward to writing, I wrote every day, I asked for help on my blog. When I drank again, I closed up, I pushed help aside, and that hasn’t worked.

A few people have suggested therapy or AA.  I had a therapist for a while – I can’t remember if I mentioned this before – but it didn’t work.  She didn’t promote abstinence, instead suggesting that I do things like wait for one minute before getting another drink; then the next day wait for one minute and twenty seconds, and so on.  You can imagine how well that technique worked!  That’s not to say that I shouldn’t find a different therapist…but we’ll see.

While we were away, my husband commented that I seemed more mindful about what I drank.  I was elated! I’d done it! I’d mastered it! I was free! But as soon as I got home and we hit this weekend, I was back to my old ways: drinking while I cooked, worried that he was having more than me when we poured glasses, wine with television, disappointed looks from my son, restless sleep, guilt, and a dark future.

Back at square one, Day one, here I am again.

Looking for a way

Things are not going well. My search for balance is proving difficult.  I had had a couple of sober days following my trip away, but last night we went to a dinner party and everything fell apart. I assumed my husband would drive – I didn’t even discuss it with him; I just made it part of my plan to let him drive. On arrival, I was handed a glass of prosecco, and after that I didn’t pay attention to how much I was drinking. All my strategies evaporated: the water in between, just one glass of whatever I’m offered; I don’t even think I intended to be careful, I just didn’t think at all. I began to lose track of what I was saying, and the directness which I normally value in myself became crassness, insensitivity. When everybody had coffee/tea at the end, I was the only one who carried on with my wine. And it was this which my husband commented on when we got home; and it was then that I turned his comment into a tirade about how I hated his commenting on my drinking, that I didn’t want him to control me.  This is not you talking, he said. This is the drinking Annie talking.  I wouldn’t leave it; I wrestled away, goading him, trying to get him to talk to me about it, when all he wanted to do was go to sleep. I even blamed him for what had happened, and accused him of not supporting me; I suggested we throw away all the drink in the house, and that he give up too, as it was too hard for me to do it by myself.

And now it is the morning, and I am ashamed of my ranting last night. I feel stuck. The sober path seems out of reach; sobriety is suddenly terrifying. The alternative isn’t working. It sounds obvious when I write it, but yet I still feel stuck.

Unsure

I am sorry to have gone quiet. I kept meaning to write a post, to let you know where I was, but the words didn’t come; I couldn’t write. But I kept thinking about my sober blog friends who had supported me all this time, and I didn’t just want to disappear. I always find it disconcerting when blogs seem to evaporate.

So, what happened? I was bowling along, had done 30 days, and was feeling good. But then I went away with my husband for a few days, and my plans failed. The problem is, I knew they would. In my mind, I wanted to drink, and I pushed away thoughts of sobriety, I squashed them until they were way way back in a little dark place.

I didn’t go mad, and I felt happy with my choice. But now I’m back home, and am not sure where to go from here. During my 30 days, I began to build up a real feeling of strength. Now I don’t feel weak exactly, but I feel in limbo. I am uncertain; I am unsure.