599. Nowhere to hide!

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Here’s the scary thing about not drinking.  You cannot hide underneath the warm fuzzy happy booze duvet.

It feels sometimes like there is no place of refuge from the sharp, shitty aspects of reality.

However, the booze duvet just adds a layer of falsity over the true you.  It cakes the whole of you with make-up.  Until the true you is no longer even discernible to yourself at times.

Booze-free allows the reality of life to strip away the layers of pretence, fake jollity, drunk tears and self pity….. all the crap…. and lets us face the world with our whole selves present.

It is hard but it is priceless.

 

PS No virus mention.   Even.  Are you not pleased?

 

588. Relax

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My last two posts were written from an unquiet heart!!  I need to come back with some calm thoughts.

Very simply put…The beautiful complex brain that we have has two parts which I would like to look at in relation to being sober…

Amygdala. The amygdala helps coordinate responses to things in your environment, especially those that trigger an emotional response. This structure plays an important role in fear and anger.

The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is the cerebral cortex covering the front part of the frontal lobe. This brain region has been implicated in planning complex cognitive behaviour, personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behaviour.

So the amygdala is the reactionary part of our brain, and the PFC is the planning, rational part of the brain.  Totally simply put.

When we are drinking and stressed and hungover and have a low opinion of ourselves, when we are playing catch up, pretending we are under control and in general under pressure and anxiety from drink… we can find ourselves functioning mostly in a reactionary way.  Our amygdala is excited.  Our PFC is ”depressed” i.e. slowed down, by alcohol.  So that part of our brain is not firing as much.

When we take away the booze, we are able to halt our quick fire reactions, to think straight.  We are able to ask ourselves in a reflective way… WHY did I have such a big reaction to that??  And then we can unravel things about ourselves…. we can make changes… we can be more CONSIDERED in our approach to our surroundings.

I asked myself why I felt so strongly about being called boring…. Why I feel so strongly about my kids (mine particularly but all in general) being encouraged to drink… and I think that is because 1) I feel misunderstood, and 2) I feel defensive and 3) I can see the fallout from overdrinking with clarity.

  1. Misunderstood.  The thing is, there will never be a way of a person who is highly protective of their drinking, to engage and understand a person who chooses not to drink.  Particularly if the people are close.  The subject is too emotional.  I need to be the rational one, to step back and realise that the ”wolfie” voice (Addictive Voice) is very loud and it is impossible for a person with the loud AV to engage their PFC when they are drinking.  So a compassionate approach from me is what is required.
  2. Defensive.  What I have chosen to do is very counter-cultural, certainly my culture.  I need to realise that being defensive is natural, but useless.  See again, loud AV getting in the way of the PFC.
  3. I am lucky to be able to see the fallout and have been able to step away.  The terror I felt in stepping away was real at the time.  Terror is a strong word, but I literally was terrified to take the step to stop.   Seeing the fallout is one thing, but being able to step away is another.  Clarity comes with distance.  Compassion is needed from me as the person deeply ruled by the amygdala and not the PFC will not be able to sort this out in their head.

So bottom line: who cares what people think of me.  I know my choice is what is best for me.  I also know that in certain situations the drinker is not rational.  Chemically and physically irrational. So I can have some compassion.  They literally cannot help themselves.

So I need to relax.  Have confidence in my decision. And lean on my fellow non-boozers….

Love ya’ll.

585. Part two Merry go round shipwreck

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I wrote the piece below in July last year (click on the link below to read it).  It was (in my opinion) a good analogy for me about the difficulty of getting off the drinking machine.

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Recently I have been in several situations with people who are very important in my life, not just close family, but others too, with whom not drinking, or choosing not to drink has been kind of frowned on.  Seen as not ”being a good friend” if one chooses not to drink for certain occasions with people.  Or seen as boring (see yesterdays’ semi rant)…. This has sent me into deep thought.  I have found myself being angry and unpleasant inside.  This – with me – invariably spills out in small ways, and looking back at my interactions in these situations – my ire has shown.  This sort of reiterates the position of the people  who frown on not drinking and say non drinkers are boring.  It does make me look sour and horrible.  And emotional.  And possibly difficult to be around when the topic comes up.  Even though these people will never read my blog I need to explain myself, not least for my own clarity!

Did you read the above Merry Go Round article?  If so just to elaborate slightly…. whilst getting off was easy-ish as I had lots of support from Belle and some friends… the hard part is the reactions of others.  The people who are still on who jeer and try and keep you on by your coat tails.  It feels as if I were swimming for a life raft from a shipwreck, and the people still on the boat are trying to keep me with them and are somehow mocking me for my efforts to escape.

One mans Shipwreck is another mans Dreamliner!  My head with booze was not always a Shipwreck, but much more of a Shipwreck than a Dreamliner.  If regular overdrinking is your Dreamliner then LUCKY you!  It was turning my boat into the Titanic.  I needed to leave.  Please please people who are still sailing on their happy drink boats, please let people who don’t want to stay on just go without making it harder?  This goes for young people who do not want to drink.  DO NOT PUT PRESSURE ON THEM.  Young people who don’t want to overdrink, where are you?  Listen out!  Do not give in to pressure to drink.  You are NOT a bad friend if you bow out of the all nighter.  You are putting your needs above others needs for you to join them on their drink boats.

I do not want to be seen as boring.  This really saddens me.  Behind the ”boring” slightly cross me, is someone who has escaped something that was holding me back.  Escaped a situation which was slowly drowning my best self.  I do not mind AT ALL if anyone drinks.  I mind if they want me (or mine) to join them and are scathing if we don’t.

We have to realise that drinking because we feel we need to help others to have a ”good night” is the ultimate sacrifice of yourself, and not in a good way.

Mixed metaphors with boats and merry-go-rounds… but I hope you get the drift …

 

583. Chalk and cheese

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This is my 583rd day from the last alcoholic drink I had back in summer 2018.  The difference between my head then and now is stark.  I have no desire whatsoever to actually drink.  Knowing how it alters my brain function and generally poisons my body puts me clean off.  But more than that, the good camaraderie, glowing feeling that one gets when one is partaking wears off very quickly (for me) and is left with a grey emptiness and a load of other anxious feelings, plus a good dose of self-dislike.   I wake up happy and calm every single day.  I no longer hate myself for my lack of control.  I know that I am not deliberately poisoning my body and life is good.

I still struggle with how people who overdrink perceive me every now and then.  I think that they think I am judging them.  I will never judge an overdrinker.  But seeing the same old same old behaviour patterns in those I love may sadden me, annoy me, and exasperate me from time to time.  But I so do not judge as I took YEARS AND YEARS to let go.

It particularly grates when someone calls someone else (who does not drink, or chooses not to drink on any given night or social occasion) BORING. ”Oh you’re not drinking?  Don’t be so booooring!”.  Right now let us turn those tables around.  To the person who is drinking…from the person who is not…”You are drinking again!!!  Oh no!  You are going to get so repetitive, irritating, self-focused and highly opinionated!”  Let us just imagine how that would go down.

People who are choosing not to drink are choosing what they know to be best for their well-being, mental and physical.  If I could drink a few drinks, and then wake up like a fresh baby, I would do it.  I cannot feel right in my head having overindulged the night before.  That is just something I have to accept.  Let people who would rather not drink just not drink without labelling them boring.  It is very tiring.  But very common.

The pressure on people to drink from those who drink a lot is very high.  People need partners in crime.  They want to be affirmed in their decision.  To not drink with them instantly makes them feel judged.  I have been that person time and time and time again.  (I have told you before how I tended to avoid the non drinkers.)  They made me feel guilty.  Re-phrase:  I made myself feel guilty because I deep down knew I was doing the wrong thing for myself but could not see a way to get out of the cycle.  There is no judgement from me to a boozer.  There is pity at times, eye roll at the same old same old, and then just plain avoidance, but not judgement.  Seeing someone you love face the consequences of over drinking is not pleasant.

I am still new enough in the game to be finding my place in the drinking crowd.  Some days it is easier than others.

 

576. A bit of science

 

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Thing is….. when we are drinkers every fibre in our body and brain does not want to know that we are doing ourselves harm by drinking.  Our AV (addictive voice) wants to silence and pooh pooh these things by saying, ”Naaah it is really not that bad” and there are a million and one excuses for ignoring science.  The following article is balanced.

Have a read.

https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/how-alcohol-affects-your-brain

The reason for my recourse to science is a conversation with someone close to me.  It is hard to believe that what seems so nice can be quite so limiting to our well being.

Unless we have the facts at our disposal, we remain in ignorance about what we are really doing to ourselves.

There is a massive industry that is robbing us of our money whilst persuading us that what we do is normal and necessary for a good life.  The alcohol industry in UK regularly quashes press articles which say too many bad things about booze.  This is a fact. The UK government earns £10.7 billion a year in alcohol tax.   Please research for yourselves.  We need to be informed, and then if we choose to drink at least we know what we are doing.  We do ourselves no favours by burying our heads in the sand.

Drink moderately if you can.

But if you can’t…. not drinking at all is NOT the deepest darkest most dreadful bore you can imagine.

574. Recalibration

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Today starts the season of Lent in the Western Christian church.  It kicks off with Shrove Tuesday – otherwise known as Pancake Tuesday.  A chance to use up your eggs and fats before embarking on the leaner season of Lent.

From an entirely non-religious point of view, I find the attraction of simplicity and plainness quite strong.  I have always been fascinated by the Amish and groups like that who live with just what they need and nothing too frilly besides.  There is something deeply cleansing and soothing about plainness, calmness, egg on toast, clean sheets, camomile tea simplicity that draws me.

But on the other hand chocolate, carrot cake, peanut butter coffee and muffins also draw me strongly.  Perhaps that is why I was such a booze loving creature.  Just a little more, just another chance at making the fun fun-ner.

I was explaining to my daughter that Lent is like recalibrating the body and soul (and I guess mind).  A time where one can deliberately choose to abstain from treaty sweet things, to commit to getting up early to meditate, to choose to build into ones life some structure and consistency.  I am hoping to give up hurrying this period.  And hoping that this will become more my normal way of behaving than the frantic busyness that so often plagues my days.  Also I need to say no to my body clamouring all the time for sugar.  I am told by my brain that I deserve and sweet treat every single day.  Enough of treating my body like a spoiled child and giving in to its convincing demand.

On a hangover day I would LONG for simplicity, calm, and plainness.  There is a yearning inside us to return to that uncomplicated state of the very young.  Alcohol for all its ups and happy times brought with it an internal darkness and chaos that blew all the tranquility to smithereens.

I cannot go back there.  Actually I CAN go back there.  But I don’t want to.

557. Life enhancing

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Booze is viewed as the must have ingredient for a good time.  Only distance from the last liquid elixir imbibition can show just how skewed this thinking is.  If we are in the thick of it we cannot but agree with the opinion.  It is impossible not to agree. I used to avoid sitting next to the teetotaller.  I baulked at the thought of the alcohol-free wedding.  I just could not understand the person who did not use the action of pouring wine or gin or vodka or beer into their heads to improve their lives.

Now with distance I wonder at what was so wrong with my life that I needed to enhance it with a wash of numb.

It seems almost an insult to my life that i felt the need to boost it, prop it up, make it MORE with a drink.  It was ungrateful to my lot.  I daresay that there are people whose lives are considerably harder to bear for any number of reasons, who feel they can well  justify shutting out the reality, the mundanity, the futility of their existence with drink.  I do not judge a soul.

I cannot think of any situation that in the long run is made better with copious quantities of drink.  Nothing.  I now think it is a shortcut, even a lazy way to pep up an evening.

I speak for myself.  I can totally understand that whilst one is in the grip and the thick of it, there seems to be no option for a good time other than taking some seemingly life-enhancing elixir to put a bright spin on things.

There is nothing good that has ever come from lots of drink in a crowd.  To quote AA Gill, ”the evenings ended with port, tears and infidelity”.  Even I think that I am exaggerating the ill effects of swilling in a crowd.  But then I just think of all the crap decisions and bad things that have happened because I had too much to drink.  All the ”truths” blurted out, the crushes magnified into undying love, the level of pettiness rising high.  The hook of offense sinking deep.

Or maybe that’s just me.