Sober in a crisis

Its been a while since I have written on here. But I set myself a goal at new years to write at least once a month. Here is April

Covid – 19

My world like everyone else’s was turned upside down a few weeks ago, I first became aware of Coronavirus while we were visiting New York in January, it seemed like most other times flu makes the headlines, it probably wasn’t going to impact me too much.

Fast forward a few weeks and within 48 hours my placements were all cancelled at uni, then uni closed. I came home angry that day at what I thought was a massive over reaction, to find my 16 year old daughter in pieces that her GCSE’s had been cancelled. The thing she had been working towards for year had gone!

That’s when it hit me

I now understand that saying its like being hit by a ton of bricks, I felt my knees buckle and in that instant I almost walked straight out the door to buy wine, but I held fast and tried to calm the situation in my kitchen.

The next few days seem like a blur looking back but I’m fairly sure I fell apart, the kids continued at school for another couple of days and I cried, I struggled to get out of bed and I thought about wine…….a lot! I told myself there is no point staying sober when the world has gone to shit, and that was it, life I as knew it had gone. The first Monday morning of lockdown I got the kids up to do P.E with Joe and I cried, I felt scared, I felt confused and most of all I felt alone!

I was going through the motions without really connecting to the world around me, this disconnection is the wine witches best friend, it keeps us isolated and weakens our resolve, I’m lucky

I have good sober support online but I stopped checking in and pretty much stuck my head in the sand. Then came the anger god I was angry! Anger is a feeling that is very uncomfortable for me (most feelings are pretty uncomfortable for people used to numbing every feeling for years) one I don’t like dealing with. When it all seemed too much I began to recognise where I was…..

Grief and early sobriety

I was grieving, I like everyone else on the planet had suffered a big loss. According to there are 5 stages to grief

Denial

Made up of avoidance (yep) confusion (definitely) shock, fear (most certainly) and elation (not this time, but very normal). My urge to drink would have provided the perfect way to avoid what was going on.

Anger

Frustration, irritation (erm yes, anger was very prevalent), anxiety abso-bloody-lutely! I’ve worked out that when I feel anxious it quite often shows itself as anger (think fight or flight)

Depression

Overwhelm, helplessness and hostility yep all 3 usually at once

Bargaining

Struggling to find meaning ( yep) Telling ones story, i did this so much, i kept almost comparing how badly we had been impacted to how others had been impacted. this seems really selfish and self centred but its perfectly normal and can make us feel better if people hear us and we don’t feel so alone.

Acceptance

Finally we get to acceptance, this is often where we relinquish control, we accept that we are unable to change this situation and look for ways to find a new normal. I was so bloody relieved to get here but as is usual it didn’t last. That’s the problem with grief these stages aren’t linear. We can hop back and forth, feel them out of order and and all at once.

Looking for landmarks

I am a person who does not know her left from her right, this can cause issues but most of the time it is funny. When I travel, and begin exploring I look for landmarks to get me back to my hotel. Because not knowing my left and right affects my sense of direction I use this relatively successfully, what i couldn’t find when lockdown began was my landmarks, I couldn’t find anything familiar about where we were and worse I didn’t know how to get back to base.

Then it hit me

This was so like those early days of sobriety I couldn’t believe it had taken me so long to recognise it. the similarities were staring me in the face, once again everything was different, I didn’t know how to be in this scary new world, anxiety, sleepless nights, confusion, loneliness, bargaining, denial. It strikes me now that I also grieved my drinking days in early sobriety but like a bad boyfriend it had to go. Finally I had found my Landmark, I had been here before and what I had to do was feel the feelings, trust the process and connect!

Connect I did

Starting with my sober circle, I got more active on my various platforms to connect to my wonderful sober buddies. Video calls began to uni friends and I began connecting better to those in the same house. I have just set up a Sunbeam Sobriety Facebook group in the hope of increasing connections as I see many sober warriors struggling with sobriety

Please reach out to your sober friends we have a tendency to lose landmarks and isolate when times get tough

And we all know connection is the opposite of addiction

till next time

Vicki xx

Acknowledge your needs

Today I have woken up alone in a hotel room a few years ago this would have been reason to worry. However there is no drunken story to tell (thank goodness) I have in my sobriety recognised a need to get away so get away I have.

I am in my final few weeks of a counselling degree and the pressure is immense, I have four placements as part of my course where I offer counselling to individuals, I travel in excess of 250 miles a week just to do uni and placement, then I have children at home, a cocker spaniel and an ex husband. My world is a busy one, I wouldn’t change a thing but I recognised I was starting to struggle, my motivation upped and left, I lost confidence in my ability at uni and all round wanted to crawl under a rock. This went on for a few weeks and when I heard myself say I miss getting smashed I knew I needed to take action

Grab the bull by the horns

I’m 2 and a half years sober so I wasn’t going to drink but the fact my brain was looking to escape was enough warning for me to grab the bull by the horns and take control.

I’ve cut back on my placement hours taking 2 of them to fortnightly placements which gives me an extra day off a week, I finally acknowledged that I need extra help at uni with my dissertation and final few pieces of work, so I’ve accessed that support, I’ve reached out to a few people saying I’m struggling which always helps and I booked a solo mini break.

control

I am currently on a coach trip to Durham and Holy Island, I have woken up today feeling rested and excited for the day ahead. Everyone at home is still alive and the house is still standing. It’s taken me over 20years to realise I need time alone to recharge, I realise this has most likely always been the case and my drinking to escape will be linked to this need. But physically escaping in a healthy way is more conducive to happiness than drinking ever was. When I look back I realise I judged myself harshly for this need for time alone preferring to berate myself rather than listen to my needs.

I will go home recharged and ready for the challenges heading my way over the next few weeks, my family will get a kinder happier me, my studies will get a focussed motivated me and my clients (who always get the best) will get a refreshed counsellor ready to support them.

We often deep down know what our needs are but rarely do we acknowledge them . It’s time to start listening to our needs, be kinder to ourselves and prioritise self care.

Have a beautiful self care Sunday

Till next time

Vicki xx

Boiling frogs and running buddies

Uni is in its final months for me, which means I haven’t had much time to write so today’s blog is just some musings from the last few weeks.

Musing in New York

Boiling frogs

In 2011 I went to counselling for the 1st time, it was long overdue and I had probably been needing to go since about 1991. But that British stiff upper lip meant all things emotional got swept under the carpet, in the hope that they would just go away.

Anyway 2011 is when I first heard about the concept of the boiling frogs, my counsellor at the time (the very same woman who inspired my current journey into the counselling realm). Told me a story about boiling frogs, she told me how apparently you can boil a frog to death, if you place it in a pan of cold water and slowly turn up the heat. The same doesn’t apply if you drop a frog in boiling water as it will just jump out, but slowly, turn up the heat it will sit there in pain and discomfort until it boils to death. You may think at this point she probably wasn’t a very good counsellor but I can assure you this was never a practical counselling session, purely theoretical and as far as I know she never actually boiled a frog.

An unboiled frog

So why did the counsellor tell me such a story, well its an analogy for life, and it was very relevant to where I was at that point in my life, which was divorce and its been very relevant several times over.

In relation to drinking, you can apply the boiling frog theory as well. When i was drinking, I was aware that I was very, very unhappy, yet I did not know what to do, so I just stayed where I was, boiling away, miserable, hot and pretty uncomfortable. At some point I needed to get out of the boiling water, that just seemed impossible. Firstly I would need to find the energy to jump, and somehow I knew, there would be blisters, burns and pain to deal when jumped out. So, it felt easier sat there bubbling away. I had been there so long by this point, that I didn’t know any other way to live.

But jump I did! and guess what, it was uncomfortable, I did have lots of wounds to heal, which took time, self care and a level of being kind to myself that I had never known I was capable of. A few times I jumped back in that pan, just because I thought the water might have cooled, or that boiling in a pan was easier. Each time I jumped back out with the realisation that, no! Life was better outside that pan, even wounded and scarred, life was better when I wasn’t constantly bubbling away.

I met other frogs who had been in the same place and these became my tribe, we set about being kind to each other which goes a long way to healing those burns.

Life is good now but there are times I feel like a boiling frog again (no longer a drinking analogy) I’m uncomfortable at the minute, uni is hard, really, really hard and I’m in a constant state of anxiety. But I know that this is temporary, I actively look for healthy ways to ease the discomfort these days, I reach out to friends, I book a massage, I take care of myself as best I can. This makes sure I am resilient enough to pass through the discomfort and come out the other side

Bad days will happen and stressful times will happen but they don’t define me anymore or keep me stuck in that bloody pan!

Exercise buddies

Slight change of topic but its worth a mention, a few weeks a go I decided I was going to get fit, I committed to 3x a week on my cross trainer, but being an impatient sort, I thought I would try something different. I decided on weight training. I found myself a beginners course and off I popped, I’ve barely been able to walk since.

In hindsight I applied the same mentality to squats that I did to drinking, go hard and regret it tomorrow and quite frankly the pain in my legs is lasting as long as my hangovers did.

Running buddies

However, as I have mentioned this pain and questioned my future in the sport of weight lifting, to friends, several have said come running with me! Or running is better for you, you should do that. ‘I don’t like running’ I reply. Which is usually met with 2 responses, ah no-one likes it to start with, you get used to, or you must be doing it wrong I love it! Er, I’ve been able to run for quite a lot of years I’m fairly sure I know how to do it and I spent enough years miserable I am not going to actively go out and do something I don’t like. Because despite the pain I am in, I enjoyed my first night strength training.

I never realised there was so much peer pressure in exercise and and fed up of it, I DON’T LIKE RUNNING! I make a point of looking for things that challenge me in ways I’m likely to enjoy, running is like purgatory to me, so please stop with the pressure.

Happy

Luckily being sober I’m happy to be a bit different but in the beginning of my sobriety I did try running even though I hated it, I did it because all my friends were doing it, so I felt it must be good and the fact I didn’t get along with it meant there was something wrong with me…….much like my drinking career actually.

So I’ ll stick with my cross trainer and the weight training but I’ll ease up on the squats until I get stronger.

And for all you boiling frogs out there, make the leap, its worth it

I promise

(no amphibians were harmed in the making of this blog)

Till next time

Vicki xx

A little exercise

I have decided to get my 41 year old ass in to shape and add exercise to my routine. Many, many moons ago I was a happy outdoorsy kid who never stopped moving. I did really well a sports and could turn my hand to most disciplines.

Swimming is a fave but not easy to access, where I live.
One of my favourite memories is swimming here in Barcelona’s Olympic diving pool.

Fast forward a few years and into secondary school, I began to get bullied and as my confidence took knock after knock so did my interest in most things.

School became about survival, and towards the end of my school career I just avoided it as much as possible. I would find any excuse to get out of lessons and that included P.E. The trouble with P.E was, they could get at me more, running round a field or a pitch I would be knocked over, kicked or walloped with whatever bat/ball/ stick we were playing with, and that’s not to mention the taunts in the changing rooms.

The lengths I went to, to avoid the bullies is unbelievable when I look back, and really quite sad. Maybe one day I’ll share those but for now looking back at terrified teenage me is just too painful. My over riding memory of my time at school is just bone crushing fear, I’d skive and get caught, then be in loads of trouble but even that was better than facing the torture of being bullied every day.

It’s taken me a long time to stop allowing those bullies to affect me and I suspect part of that pain was tied up in my drinking, alongside many other things. While I’ve been looking after myself much more in the last 2 and a half yrs, I haven’t really stuck at exercise. Maybe there is some block because of the bullies, maybe this is my last bit of self sabotaging behaviour or another way to not be kind to myself.

Whatever it is it stops here, I am committed to including 30 mins of exercise a minimum of 3x a week.

It won’t be pretty at times, I’ve just done my 3rd work out of the week and these old bones do not know what’s hit them, but I do feel better once I’ve done something.

I won’t be blogging about how I work my way down to a size 6, and be pictured in super tight sports wear at every opportunity. When I do include exercise in my blog, it will be about a middle aged woman just trying to shake off those taunts, from all those years ago, and hopefully end up feeling a little happier in her own skin

Looking rough but 3x 30 mins this week, DONE!

Till next time

Vicki xx

The Sober Traveller

Sunrise and sunbeams on the Brooklyn bridge

The money saving hack

In the two and half years since I have got sober, I have travelled more than I did in the decade leading up to 2017. This is a combination of having more money, energy and confidence to travel. Holidays in the wasted years were hard fought for, rarely could I afford to go every year and didn’t always get abroad. I do realise I am lucky to have achieved that, but the fact remains money was tight because of my drinking. In the two and a half years since I quit I have saved in excess of 8K! and that’s a conservative calculation. When I set up my sober counter app, I put down £10 a day ( 2 bottles of vinegary plonk for a tenner), I did’t include the fact I was smoking which essentially doubled my daily spend. I also didn’t include that I usually drank much more at the weekends, or on nights out, then there’s replacing lost items, phone screens, broken shoes. ripped clothes, days off from work, drunken take away’s, or carby hangover food, the list could go on, its safe to say the actual amount much much more.

the sober time app

That’s not to say I’m sat on a pile of money, I just know that I can afford to go away more, we have way more treats as a family now and I no longer have to buy everything from sale rails. (Still love a bargain, I’m from Yorkshire after all).

Forcing down the poison

One of our big holidays when I was drinking was to Mexico, it took us 2 years to save for that trip and quite frankly I had a shit time, I had a shit time because I was drinking. The 16 day trip is a blur . Being the classy bird I was, I decided to work my way through the cocktail menu and actually ended up having to force drinks down. Its all inclusive right? You have to get your moneys worth. Even then, that day forcing down god knows what ( they all tasted the same), it didn’t occur to me that maybe drinking wasn’t so much fun anymore. In fact I believed the myth that I needed to drink to have fun. That belief is so very ingrained in our culture I never even thought to question it.

Once I removed alcohol I actually discovered what fun felt like, well actually once I removed alcohol I actually discovered what it was like to feel anything.

Flying sober

The absolute worst thing about that Mexico holiday was the jet lag, it took me 3 weeks to recover, I was going insane with the exhaustion, it put me off long haul flights completely until…. well until I got sober. Looking back it could well have been a 3 week hangover on top of extreme jet lag, it was just horrible.

I don’t think I’ll ever be flying’s biggest fan, I’m quite small but I don’t like being cramped in spaces, and don’t get me started on seat recliners ( selfish bunch of b******* they are,) we’re all cramped dude, not sure why you feel your comfort is more important than mine.

But I’ll tolerate flying to keeping ticking off my bucket list

Dressed appropriately

Having just returned from New York, I have been pretty jet lagged, on top of the miles and miles we walked while there, I have managed to recover quickly, with much less drama than the Mexico holiday.

The best bit

The absolute best bit of sober travel is seeing the world through clear eyes, experiencing things that you would never have done when drinking, I have swam in an Olympic pool half way up a mountain, I’ve seen snow in central park ( I nearly cried), I’ve fallen in love with travelling by subway/underground/ metro, it feels so exciting every time I step into a station, I’ve jumped off cliffs (under supervision) into crystal clear waters, I’ve seen multi- coloured fountains dance to cheesy 80’s music and I’m just getting started. Do you know what I did on holidays past? I parked my arse nearest the pool bar and didn’t move for a fortnight.

New York subway

Barcelona baby

I went to Barcelona for my first sober city break and fell in love, I came home bursting with stories of my experiences and adventure. A friend of a friend said told me there hadn’t been that much to do when they visited a few years earlier (Cue Vicki’s confused face, Barcelona is pretty old, I’m fairly sure there’s always been plenty to do), turns out she meant there wasn’t much to do when you slept off your hangover for most of the day and then hit the bars.

Barcelona’s dancing fountains

Fresh eyes

Fresh eyes are an actual thing when you quit drinking, once the puffiness goes down ( its there I promise) the world becomes techni colour again, its exciting and wonderful, I often feel excitement bubbling up in my chest at the thought of brand new experiences, I’m like a child and I hope beyond hope it never goes away, I missed so much through drinking I feel like I’m trying to grab everything at once ….. patience is not my strong point.

Here’s to living

I started this blog saying I had travelled more in the last two and a half years, than the decade prior, its occurred to me that I’ve lived more in the last two and a half years than I had in the two decades prior. I used to get sad and angry about the years wasted but for whatever reason I wasn’t ready for my freedom until Sept 17. It hasn’t been easy but one thing I do is celebrate my sober wins, however big or small I do a little happy dance inside every time I achieve something that would have not been possible while I was drinking, and after the best part of two decades there is a lot. I made a choice not to remain angry or sad because that just means more time wasted on booze, its had enough of my life, its time for me to start living on my terms.

The joker stairs

till next time

vicki xx

NEW YORK BABY!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I made it! and I’m in love! I arrived on Saturday and it snowed. I love snow, so walking through Central Park on Saturday evening was a dream come true for me. I actually felt quite emotional and reflecting upon why…..its because I never thought I deserved to do amazing things like travel to fantastic cities. Luckily through sobriety, I have realised my worth and that life is for living.

My emotional journey continued on Sunday, wide awake at 5am we decided to explore the city and were out and about by 6am. It was magical, Times Square was empty so lots of opportunities for pictures, we found a diner that was open had pancakes and were at the top of the Rockefeller Centre by 8am. I blame jet lag for the early start, but thank sobriety for feeling great, while being awake at that time. This meant we were able to spend a magical few hours in the city without the crowds. Getting to the ‘top of the rock’ is also a massive achievement, terrified of heights for as long as I can remember, I shocked myself at not only getting up there but going outside and actually enjoying it

What a view

Sunday went from great to amazing

Then it was time to head back to the hotel to shower and change ready for a very important date I had at noon. The date was a little delayed by me turning up at the wrong restaurant and having to hail a cab (check me out), then racing 30 blocks to the right restaurant. This type of mistake happens to me more than I care to mention but I blame a super busy brain missing important info from time to time (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it).

Anyway back to the very important date… I was lucky enough to meet two wonderful women who are also on this same sobriety journey. An international sober social!

Connection is the opposite of addiction

Cathleen and Debra were my brunch buddies along with the lovely Brandi (Debra’s daughter) and my partner Richard. As with all the sober sisters I’ve met there was an instant connection and it was amazing, we talked like we had known each other for years and I felt so happy to be with some members from my tribe. I’ve met up with several wonderfully, smart, strong beautiful women through this sober path and each time is as fantastic as the last. Check out what Johann Hari has to say about connection being the opposite of addiction – its bloody true!

If you can be anything be a unicorn

It can be a lonely path sobriety, I prefer to think of it, like being a unicorn ( I would wouldn’t I). Its lonely because we are brainwashed from a young age to think that alcohol is the answer to all out prayers and that if you have a drink problem then you are weak! Which is when people judge. We’re not weak alcohol is designed to make us want more, its dangerous and thank goodness for this sober movement that people are pushing back against this drug. Anyway I digress……

To all the sober warriors I’ve been lucky enough to meet

Debra, Cathleen, Helen, Sara, Sharon, Susie, Rhoda, Joanne, Jenny, Louise, and Janice, its been a pleasure to meet you, and long may my sober travels continue, I hope I get to meet more of us on this path. Its a great reason to travel and I may have taken a sneaky peek at flights today (don’t tell Rich).

Magic does happen

Our stories are always unique to us but so very similar, drink stop us being who we were meant to be and through sobriety we have taken our power back. With the return of the power comes amazing things, like travelling 3 and a half thousand miles to meet your sober sisters, or getting to the top of the rock and not crying, or getting straight back in the lift back down. That power brought back my self worth and because of that I got to walk through Central Park in the snow holding back the tears because it was so bloody amazing.

till next time

Vicki xxx

How exciting

I am, very ,very excited this week. On Saturday I will be ticking something huge off my bucket list. At 9 am, Saturday morning, I fly to…. (drum roll please) fun city, the big apple, aka New York City!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Too excited

I am in fact, so excited about this trip that I have barely slept for days and now feel bloody rubbish! I keep waking up with massive anxiety, I love travel and have had some amazing adventures since getting sober but, by god I struggle with the actual travel part of travelling. The anxiety, I have been feeling all week, has got me thinking about my first couple of weeks in sobriety.

They call it recovery for a reason

That first 10 day stretch into sober life was hard, really hard. I had some amazing support in the form of Kate Bee’s sober school and the wonderful Jan 17 grads. But in those early days, I would go as far as to say I was zombified (is that a word?) and I can appreciate how easy it is to give up, giving up in those first few weeks. When you drink and drink a lot, we get used to instant gratification. Quite often when we go a couple of days without booze and don’t feel amazing for the so called sacrifice we get disheartened, the wine witch whispers this ‘shit ain’t worth it’ and we jump back on the drinking roller-coaster .

What we don’t do is give our bodies enough credit, we don’t give allowances to our poor battered organs trying to recover from years of abuse, we want the same quick fix that drinking provided. I do remember feeling disappointed in those early days, the lack of sleep was horrific, I felt like a new foal, wobbling about unsteadily on legs that weren’t used to holding me up, even the daylight seemed too bloody bright

Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

But like most things in life, amazing things happen if only we push through that discomfort. When I began my sober journey in Jan 17 I went about 6 weeks without booze, I pushed past those difficult early days and for the first time in a long time I began to feel good again. In fact I had forgotten what it was like to actually feel good. I’d been in some sort of permanent hungover fog for years, mostly without realising it, I just thought that was how life was supposed to feel, permanently tired and to be honest a little bit disappointing.

Don’t believe the myth

But then the doubt crept back in and I thought I couldn’t live without booze. I discovered the moderation myth and spent the next few months jumping on and off the moderation merry-go-round. Each time it was a little harder to come back from. Finally in September 2017, I realised I wasn’t living at all with booze in my life. I was barely existing, so armed with everything I had learned over the past months I stopped drinking. The rubbish feeling returned, the wobbly legs, the sleepless nights, the too bright lights and once again I pushed through the discomfort. This time when the wine witch whispered I told her in no uncertain terms to F**k off. After about 10 days I began feeling good again

The wine witch doesn’t really speak to me anymore, sometimes if I’m super stressed or tired, she’ll pop up ready to say something but shes easily squashed these days. I dumped her ass, shes toxic and she’ll take you down with her, like any toxic relationship she lies and is only out for herself.

New York baby!

Even though I am feeling lots of discomfort about this trip, I worry about getting to the airport, I worry about forgetting things, I worry about leaving my children (they’re old enough and have family around please don’t panic). I worry about pretty much everything till I check into my hotel at the other side, then I have to worry about finding my way round. But I do it, I push past that discomfort every time, because I know something amazing is at the other side. I see and do amazing things all because I stopped drinking and, after seeing the price of cocktails in NYC, I’m going to save a bloody fortune.

This trip is extra special for me because I am meeting up with a few wonderful ladies from my sober tribe, how amazing is that? This normal woman, from a tiny Yorkshire town, is flying to New York and meeting friends for brunch!! This stuff used to happen to other people, now I’m making it happen, I have the capacity for amazing things because;

I put down the booze.

I make no apologies for the amount of blogs coming your way about New York, this could well be a once in a life time trip, I’m going to record as much of it as I can.

Till next time

Vicki xx