Monday, 22 February 2016

New Territory - Sober Steps

This weekend I filled out a job application for a promotion at work. This something I would not have been able to do when I was drinking nightly or even every other night.
1. I wouldn't have had the confidence, knowing how much of a "loser" I was cos I couldn't stop drinking.
2. I would have talked myself out of it, " you'll never get it so why bother"
3. I would be worried I wasn't up to it because I know what they don't (yet), that I can't focus cos I am mildly hungover all of the time.
4. I would probably have forgotten about the deadline until the evening of and then have to scramble around for dates of past jobs, names of references etc. On top of trying to fill out a comprehensive application whilst not trying to come over as drunk.
5. Even if I did remember there is the chance I just couldn't be bothered with the whole thing and just let the deadline expire and then think "oh well"

As it stands I submitted a really well thought out application, I was able to go through the many versions of my resume/CV for dates and references. I answered all the questions thoughtfully and with the right emphasis. I read it through several times for punctuation and grammar (my absolute biggest failing as those of you who read this know - I can feel you wincing sometimes) I sent it to a friend to read over and make suggestions. I left it for an hour and then came back to it and reread it, then I finally pressed SUBMIT and it is now out of my hands. Best or worst of all, I did this whilst recovering from a migraine having spent the morning blind, in agony, feeling like my skull was full of jack hammers and vomiting.

Doing this was a huge achievement for me as I have been recommended for promotion every year but I have always declined to go for it, content to stay safe with the old familiar. Despite my job being extremely busy and constantly evolving, I know roughly what to expect and that I can almost manage to stay on top of it. Applying for this new job solidified for me a change that I felt has been coming for a while, stopping drinking is only part of it. I have felt a shift in my whole self/soul that I was aware of even when I was sipping the old vino and I don't really care too much if I get the job or not. The BIG thing for me was just applying. If I get it, I will panic a bit but if I don't I am no worse off, I like my current role and love my boss, the clinical psychologist.

Whatever will be, will be and I am really happy about that.

Ginger Groundhog

Friday, 19 February 2016

Day 14 I made it -Only Just

Today is day 14, again tiny for some massive for me.

So far today out of the 15 hours I have been awake I have been thinking about having a drink for about a solid 12 of those hours. The thoughts have churned around my head all day long and I have been slightly distracted from work and I have had the overwhelming desire to just throw the towel in and drink. All. Day. Long!!!

It is now 9pm and I have made it through the very worst and only have what could be ironically described as a craving hangover, little bit anxious, little bit emotional, little bit light headed and very very tired. I am calling it quits on the day after this and heading to bed with Brene Brown's 'Daring Greatly' which I hope will be some kind of vaccination for any drinkin thinkin I may get tomorrow (let's hope so).

So how did I succeed tonight and keep my 14 days intact? Well... I did a massive pile of dishes left by the lazy teen that normally I would be nagging and moaning to about not doing her fair share. Next I changed 2 lightbulbs that have been out for a while, then I bleached the downstairs loo both inside and out, sink, mirror, skirting boards and floor, next vacuumed all the downstairs (including the corners and behind the tv unit) and all the stairs and landing. Moved on to the upstairs bathroom and repeated downstairs sequence, tidied around, put laundry away and then wobbling even more and thinking what's the point, I called a friend who does nothing but talk about herself. I was agony sitting there listening to her go on about me, me, me (as in her, her, her. She didn't ask me one thing about me) but it lasted 90 minutes and all of a sudden I was over the hump and in 9 o'clock land and safety. Hoorah!

All through this exercise I was feeling angry and miserable and my mind was playing the moderation game swiftly followed by the I can start again tomorrow or even better Sunday thoughts, chased by the oh fuck it what's the point thoughts. Anger, sadness, disappointment were there in spades but I just kept plodding on with cleaning, not feeling better but not giving in. I know this will potentially be one of many but this one was a toughy and I am glad I am through but I know I will feel the real relief and hopefully some happiness when I wake tomorrow.

The punctuation is probably shocking, the writing is not inspirational, the message isn't exactly positive but I have been trapped in the house with a demon all alone and I am still stone cold sober. Sometimes THAT is all you get.

To bed!

Ginger Groundhog

P.s Sorry I haven't replied to recent comments, I value them and will get to them tomorrow.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

A small but significant achievement

Today is my day 12 and this is the longest I have gone without a drink since April 2015. 

As I have mentioned before I was just doing the dishes when the drinkin thinkin came over me and I fought it for oh such a short time before thinking 'fuck it' and off to the shop I went. Weirdly enough I remember my thoughts and feelings clearly in that instant I decided to throw the towel in, I was elated, joyful and felt giddy with excitement. Uhck, how embarrassing is that? I worry that those feelings would be the same right now if I decided to do the same, I feel only a hairs breadth away sometimes from that swan dive into intoxication.

Today was my follow up visit with the doctor and she gave me loads of time and seemed really sincere about getting to understand what, why, how much, how long etc. I was 100% honest and mentioned that last night I was wobbling but knowing I had the appointment today and that she would know why I had cancelled if I did, it helped me get through the wine witching hours. She has offered to see me regularly just to check in and when I commented "oh I feel worried about wasting an NHS appointment for that" she replied "you can die just as easily from this as cancer if you leave it untreated". So, er yes, I have agreed to see her again in two weeks as she is sending me for a full blood work up.

I wish I could say I am not craving a drink cos I sooooooo am but by making myself as accountable to as many people as I feel safe with I hope it will keep me on the right track. Tomorrow I am back to see my therapist to dig deep into all the reasons I choose to 'numb' with food and drink and that numbness is what I miss so much (especially since I stopped sugar as well) I haven't had any major emotional breakdowns but I did cry watching a show on tv the other night and only after realised how lame that was as it was such a cheese fest I was watching. So the emotions are bubbling around but haven't been put to the real test yet.

On a positive note.... I am on fire at work, it's like the movie Limitless. My brain is coming back to life and I was multitasking and easily able to jump from one task to another in a second. I felt a bit of a rush when things were all coming in at the same time and people were coming to me for help and advice. The other week I was thinking why do they always ask me, can't they find someone else. This was because once interrupted I lost track of what I was doing and had to gather my thoughts again before restarting whatever it was. Today I was able to still keep doing my thing while answering the question, remembering something that needed doing later and thinking about what to cook for dinner. Yesterday I dealt with 204 emails (I counted) and was in that flow state you achieve when you are in the zone. However, when I come home from work, by the time I sit down on the couch I am ready to go to bed. I am exhausted, bone tired and can't wait to feel that energy that comes from being sober, well rested, confident and calm. I know it's out there but I want it to arrive soon.

It's 8.15 and the wine witch has given in and left me alone. Sober Mummy says hot chocolate has magical properties so I am off to make myself one and then tuck myself up in bed with a good book. Another 8 hours uninterrupted sleep, ahh priceless!

Ginger Groundhog

Friday, 12 February 2016

The Empathy Chip

Today I am clear in my mind, today I realise drinking for me is a stupid, ridiculous expensive, destructive and toxic crutch I convince myself will be the opposite i.e. A magic potion that will make everything seem all sparkly and glorious. Even as I am adjusting the cogs and wheels in my brain to make the thought processes align with my desire or more realistically need to drink, I know it is foolish and a big fat lie yet I do it anyway.

Nothing could be further from my thoughts today, I have zero interest in having a drink and as I mentioned I have such clarity it is blinding. Today I also look a little better, my face has lost it's bloated and unattractive rosy stain, my eyes are brighter and mentally I am in better shape. Physically I still feel like I have been hit by a truck but I know that will come.

So here I sit doing my rounds of the sober blogs and I stumble on a sober blog I haven't read for some time (I sometimes forget all the ones I like and the booze washed away memories of others) and disaster, he fell off the wagon, in his words he relapsed again. Oh how sad I felt for him and he was quite a way down the sober path, bit like snakes and ladders where you get way ahead of everyone with a seemingly endless streak of good luck and favourable rolls of the dice and the whoooosh you are back at the very bottom, literally back to square one [distrached brain wonders if this is where the phrase comes from] Poor, poor man, and of course the regret and questioning why. I have been there myself losing 6 months of sobriety all for a "fuck it" moment.

We all read these sober blogs and it really is a bit like Russian roulette as to who will slip up, there are the serial day one'ers, of which I have been one for about 8 months, the newly sober who are white knuckling it or riding the pink cloud with weeks or months under their belt, the medium marathoners who are coasting around the one year mark and then the old timers who are marking up years and decades. I think really what I am trying to say in this epiphany moment is that is is all down to CHOICE because we know with 100% certainty that there is going to come a day, hour, minute, second when we want/need/desire to just have a damn drink but success or failure lies in that same day, hour, minute, second and it is only CHOICE that decides the outcome. Right now today, this hour, this minute, this second I am strong and separate from that powerful urge and desire to just surrender to the fantasy, the absolute bitter poisonous lie that becomes all consuming and the most enormous presence in the room and more as a turn of phrase than a religious utterance I say thank God. Growing up I heard the expression "There but for the grace of God go I" and today that seems most appropriate.

Whatever your beliefs or callings if you are sober today just take a moment to think your own version of thank God, thank yourself if that feels good but do take a minute to just recognise what a gift this sober day is and if you are so inclined offer up your version of prayer or hope that the ones struggling or trying to pull themselves back from a relapse can find the strength to get on board once again. I know that all sounds a bit preachy and may rub some people the wrong way but just for a split second I felt all the negative feelings and self talk that he must be saying to himself today and my heart went out to him.

Today I am happy that I am sober and that I have the support and encouragement of the sober community. I realise that we all have choices in life and at times we make choices we later regret but today I choose to continue on the abstinence path and hope that in future when I am faced with a similar choice of carrying on or throwing it all away due to the lies I tell myself, that I will remember my disappointment and sadness for that gentleman and try and make a different choice.

Ginger Groundhog

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Musings from the sick bed

Sick and tired of being sick and tired.

I am 99% certain I am not the first person in the sobersphere to title a post thus but it just about describes how I feel. I have taken to my bed and can't seem to get out or get motivated. I had a desperate cold for two weeks and it dragged me down and really left me exhausted, what with that on top of giving up the liquid poison and my poor body has been in meltdown. Well today (yesterday now as I couldn't get online) I did something I have been avoiding like the plague and up until this week would rather have fought a starving lion than do - I told a GP the truth about my drinking, yep the cold hard truth and despite feeling immense shame and humiliation whilst doing it, I do feel a sense of relief.

The doctor was quite matter of fact about it and said that I was through the "dangerous" part of cold turkey and she would have recommended a different approach originally but she wants to see me next week to check in with me again. She asked did I know about the support groups available etc and I said I did but was feeling better using the Internet and she seemed happy enough with that. She has also agreed to sign me off for the rest of the week 'post viral fatigue' is what we decided was best as it a) is probably true and b) looks so much better than complete mental breakdown due to going cold turkey on the booze. 

I have always struggled with some element of paranoia and the fact that the world may discover I am a shabby fraud, that I'll be found out and consequently humiliated. This is what has stopped me coming clean about all of this and the fear of it being on my medical record in black and white for other people to see. Fear fear fear. What if work finds out, what if I go for another job and they request my records, what if all this blogging on the internet is discovered by a future employer (shocked me when I found employers check people's online presence) again all this fear has held me back for so long but really I think it almost trapped me in the viscous circle.

I am back to see my therapist today and share more of the craziness that goes on in my head, my rules about things, my fears about things, all of the little quirks that go to make up the whole me. I have been reading Brene Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection and it was very good and highlighted to me the big shame thing I carry around like sack cloth and ashes. That will be discussed today too. Also I watched a very good TedX talk by Glennon Doyle Melton called Lessons from the Mental Hospital, it is so good I watched it through twice, back to back. I love Ted talks and it is there I found Brene Brown, if you haven't yet dipped your toe in the Tedtalk world I would recommend you give it a try. They range from 15-20 minutes and I find you always learn something new and get a different perspective on something. I am all about challenging my 'rules' I have created over the years and this is a great way for me to view things from a different perspective. 

Today, just for now I feel calm, connected and in control. At this moment when I check in with myself, all is well and I feel a momentary sense of peace. More of this please.

Ginger Groundhog

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Normalising Ginger -asking for clarity

And breathe a sigh of relief.

So I saw my therapist guy today and I went in slightly on edge ready to 'challenge' him about the comments he made re my drinking before. He was slightly taken aback despite me trying to go in moderately with a keen desire to understand. Firstly he wanted to know how I had interpreted his words and I said that I thought he had pooh- pooed my sharing with him the highly secret fact that I was drinking too much and he made light of it. He was genuinely upset and went on to explain that he was saying that a) drinking was the way I was coping with the problem not the problem itself and b) he was trying to normalise for me the fact that I was making such a big deal of it.

This therapist knows me from before and when I saw him previously I was being mercilessly bullied by a new boss. I felt like everything I did was wrong and abnormal and his job was to normalise and show me that what I was doing, thinking and saying was what the majority of people were doing thinking and saying. His main job was proving I was not insane but had been put on high alert by the crazy bitch put in charge of my department. It worked! I began to realise SHE had the problem not me and that I was only reacting to the stimuli. He went on to explain that that is what he had tried to do with the booze issue I presented ie normalise it. As in, lots of people use external factors to help them in times of crisis; shopping, sex, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, self harming, drugs, over working, exercise etc. He was trying to take away some of my anxiety around me being 'the odd one out' or 'the black sheep' by highlighting that this was a coping behaviour.  We talked about it for the majority of the session and I am happy to say he was not saying "fill your boots, drink to your hearts content" but saying let's look to the reason you need to use this behaviour to manage your emotions.

This is huge for me on so many levels as I am the Cut-Off Queen. If you annoy me, upset me or do something against my "rules" (which you may not even know, actually probably have no idea about) then you are Cut-Off! Excised from my life! I can cut people out of my life in the blink of an eye and never speak to them again. It is a dreadful quirk in my personality and I have effectively excised many a friend or family member for a mere slight because it goes against these weird and irrefutable rules I have in my head. Sooooo stupid! This is one thing I have been working on since last I saw him (hence me going back) and told him I stopped seeing him previously due to some slight. Me going back was therapy in itself as it is the first step in me reintegrating some people back into my life. By my old rules I would not have gone back today and challenged him about his comments and I would have missed the opportunity to see it from his side and learn myself that not everything directed to me is negative or dismissive. I feel this is huge for me and such progress. 

My adult personality has been stunted at various points for various reasons some include periods of excessive drinking. This has not allowed me to develop "normally" as an adult and despite being 46 I have some very immature thinking and undeveloped coping skills. Today was progress for me as I felt I dealt with it in a very responsible and mature way. I remember a few weeks ago when I made a comment to someone about "that was very grown up of me" and they looked quite shocked as obviously I am 46 so duh yeah I am a grown up. I don't want to end up an old stick in the mud but I do want to learn, mature and grow and for me, for now that means leaving the booze behind.

I am so glad I had the courage today to ask in a mature and interested manner for clarity. The old me would be telling you all now in outraged tones how this alleged therapist had told me to basically go drink myself to death but the new emerging me is telling you it never hurts to ask someone to explain or elaborate on what they said. It may turn out that they were doing what they thought was in your best interest at that moment in time.  

Ginger Groundhog

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Groundhog down - call the rescue unit

So after my triumphant (I exaggerate) return to blogging last night, I have been felled by part two of this cold virus. I valiantly dragged myself into work this morning high off the fumes of victory and enthusiasm to be back on the wagon again only to be told I look like I am at deaths door and sound like I have garbled with sulphuric acid. The big cheese from head office himself sent me home as not fit for work, I would say how embarrassing but to be honest I am so tired, drained and exhausted that I don't blame them.

Of course the shame of it all is that I know that it is partly if not mostly due to the booze, it robs us of our essence and desire to do our best and only settle for good enough. Today for the first 90 minutes, before I was banished (I take even kindness as rejection) home to my bed, I was looking at this spreadsheet thinking 'I really need to get back the drive, I need to show them the successful me that
got this promotion' maybe at the moment only I can see it, as I am covering up really well but I am not pulling my weight, I haven't been for a while but I have just about managed  to keep the illusion alive that it is cos I am so busy rather than so tired, or mildly hungover or just in that period between quitting 3days and 10 days that your body is recalibrating and you can muster the full enthusiasm. Pffffft, what a crazy ridiculous way to live, and how avoidable. All I have to do in the first instance is get past 10 days when all booze is gone from my system and I have had some better nights sleep, if not the glorious sober sleep everyone raves about. I have felt for the last 6 months through various attempts at drinking that I have been permanently on the cusp of getting to the good stuff only to lose it at day 4,5, 7 or 10. It's like Sober Mummy wrote about I her post The Obstacle Course about getting stuck in the initial 4-10 days and not being able to see the marvellous life that waits on the other side. Everyone who managed Dry January are starting to get a glimpse of it even if it not yet the glorious paradise they hoped for. That is the crux, getting just far enough to feel 'oh yes, this is good! I feel much better'

The cold is still clinging on and I have resigned myself to staying home for the remainder of the week but I will still drag myself to my therapy session tomorrow. 1) to see if I can pin him down to what he meant about booze NOT being the problem and 2) cos I hope to be able to unload some of Ireland and see if he can have me make sense of it.

Not a very dynamic post tonight but I did want to check in despite feeling a bit "pants" as we would say here in the UK, don't think I can find a similar US expression looking back over my 10 years there. Leave it to the Brits to repurpose perfectly mundane words into something dramatic.

Ginger Groundhog

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Groundhog Day- what's the news Phil?

It is officially Groundhog Day and in Punxatauney, Pennsylvania good old Phil the resident Groundhog pokes his head out of his tree stump lodge and makes a prediction about whether we are due too 6 more weeks of winter (please no, I have trench foot from walking the dogs constantly in the rain) or if spring will come early. All this is based on whether Phil sees his shadow or not.

Well metaphorically I am doing my own Groundhog Day, after all I am Groundhog Girl aka Ginger Groundhog. So this morning I popped my head up from the darkness I have been living in for the past, oh I don't know, too bloomin long, and looked for my own personal shadow. This would signify to me am I due for months more struggling, unhappiness, deception and denial or am I ready to once again try and let some light and lightness in. Well truth be told I had part primed myself for this by using Feb 1st as a new launch date, plus it fell on a Monday which is brilliant if like me you use Monday's, first day of the month, end of a significant date/occasion as a start date. When I vaguely remembered that Groundhog Day fell in Feb sometime I looked it up and low and behold it was the second of the month, even more significance to my 9 millionth go at abstinence. So after a very wet Dry January booze wise I decided the get "the thing" out of the way in Ireland and try again when I came back.

'The thing' was a big convoluted family drama type thing, look in the cheap book section of any store and you will find some approximation of what some Irish family histories look like circa 1950's and 60's Ireland when the Magdalena's were churning out babies and locking in young women and in rural areas the church ruled the way of life.  All very sad, depressing and very, very FUCKED UP. Sorry I don't like to swear too much but sooo many lives have been ruined, messed up and devastated because of some very wicked people who believed they spoke for god, and no I cannot capitalise the g. Anyhoo... rant aside I consciously decided to drink before and during my visit as there is only so much craziness I can handle newly sober and add to that all the other layers of stuff, crazy and sheer madness and well I wouldn't have lasted. However, never before had it been so clear to me that I was drinking to dull everything, so even in the moment of feeling dull and a bit zoned out I was like, "oh riiiiight, I totally get why I do this, it takes the edges off everything" There was no drinking for pleasure it was pure self preservation - yes that was a well considered comment, preservation sums it up quite well. Maybe I have needed to do that for some time to get all my ducks in a row to tackle all the stuff I now feel able to. 

Back in the UK now and back to work, tired with a stinking cold I feel slightly different, not as emotionally wrecked as I thought I might be and I have my therapist lined up to help me get into a bit more of the deep stuff and I like his style, I like the way he challenges me and I really like the way he asks me something and I think 'gosh I never thought of it that way before'. However, I DO NOT LIKE the way he said I didn't have a drinking problem but that I had made drink the problem so I wouldn't focus on the other stuff going on. Can I hear gasps of shock from the soberverse? I hope so! I did say to him that his comments really annoyed me and I felt he was being flippant about something I was terribly worried about and felt out of control about. He said again that I had made drinking the problem and having worked with alcohol addicts, he could tell I wasn't one but was using alcohol negatively but not addictively. He went on to explain more but I was a bit shocked and said I would have to consider his comments further but that I was not accepting them. He said the fact that I was holding on so tightly to "needing" alcohol be the problem meant it wasn't the real problem. What I should have asked him was if he thought I should try to stop or moderate because that would have given me an indication of if he believed that whilst not addicted per se I still needed to stop or if he tried to roll out the 'moderation' line in which case I would know he didn't get it at all. I am going back on Thursday and plan to be very frank and honest asking him for more clarity on what he was saying. It may just be that I was so taken aback that I didn't process what he was saying. Comments please.

I have written a bit more than I intended (no shock there) as I am in bed already, hoping for an early night and some respite from this awful cold. For my sake I am going to try and keep this blog going a few nights a week but I am not going gung ho on the commitment like I thought was a good idea back along. I am a contrarian and need to be careful what I set myself up for as I can purposely go against it just because that mad switch in my head has to flick on and go against everything. When people tell me I am contrary I still say thank you and take it as a compliment ha ha. Need some work there too.

Happy Groundhog Day everyone, and if you care, Phil said spring was coming early, let's hope he is right. Also there is a google image of a ginger Groundhog if you search,  just pretend I know what I am doing and loaded it onto my blog as my profile picture, it would make this a cuter page. I am ginger and proud, not even possible to ginger shame me world!

Ginger Groundhog

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