My First Birthday

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If you’re stopping by for the first time- welcome! I’m so excited you found my little sobriety blog. Check out the “Who am I?” page from the drop-down menu if you like. I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments or questions. You can comment on blogposts, or email me at ultravioletsobriety@outlook.com .

So, what’s new? It’s my birthday! Like, my sobriety birthday. On 26th April 2017 I drank the last bottle of wine ever! Or rather, 3/4 of one, because I spilt the last glass of wine I intended to drink in my hair. I’m not even sure how I managed that. Super-classy! I took it as a sign that quitting was the right decision.

I hoped the Big Quit would be ‘for good’ …. but purposefully chose not to examine how much I believed this was possible, because I had very little self-belief at that point.

To mark 365 days since then I wanted to post a lovely eloquent blog post about what “recovery” from addiction means to me, what I’ve gained, learned, blah blah blah. But my efforts just gave birth incoherent ramblings about gratitude and addiction. Watch this space, though.

So I’m just going to say this- yesterday my therapist told me that the scores from my obligatory weekly anxiety/depression questionnaires put me, for the first time in the many months since we started, on the cusp of “recovery” from anxiety and depression. I don’t think that’s coincidental.

I’m feeling quite emotional today about my achievement. 365 days of choosing not to check out of my life! 365 days of figuring out how to JUST BE, even when I don’t feel like it. 365 days of swinging back and forth between feeling like an awkward adolescent and a buttoned up grandmother. 365 days of liking myself more and more despite feeling like a total moose in social situations! Yay!

The Fort

1280px-Ambleteuse_fort_mahon11th April 2018

If you’re stopping by for the first time- welcome! I’m so excited you found my little sobriety blog. Check out the “Who am I?” page from the drop-down menu if you like. I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments or questions. You can comment on blogposts, or email me at ultravioletsobriety@outlook.com .

So, what’s new?

Last night my dad and his twin brother, who was visiting him, came over to my house for dinner. Before they came, Dad calls me and awkwardly says, “Your uncle wasn’t sure if it is ok to bring some wine over this evening, so I said I’d check?”.

I laughed and said, “It’s fine, of course I don’t mind him bringing wine to drink!”
“We just wanted to check, I didn’t want to make anything hard for you.”

This is from father who has said several times these past 12 sober months, “So, are you still not drinking? We have wine if you want any”. The dad who gave me a birthday card when I was 6 months sober, that had a picture of a beautiful woman clutching champagne with the caption, “Gluten free, dairy free, I love the champagne diet!”.

It felt kind of weird that he was asking whether they could bring booze- like, did they fear I was going to start foaming at the mouth at the sight of a glass of Merlot? Come on, I have made it through nearly a year, which has included numerous booze-centric black-tie events, my first sober holiday (at 100 days sober…. that was TOUGH), first sober birthday (easy), first sober Christmas (a bit harder), New Year (easy), first sober evenings after the stress of children’s birthday parties (OMG don’t even ask how hard that was). But it was sweet that he’s catching on to the fact that sobriety is important to me.

It’s funny, we spoke about my sobriety quite a bit last night. I offered them some AF beers which my husband had in the larder. When they asked if he’s cut down “in sympathy”, I said, not really, I think he chooses AF beer 90% of time to be healthier too, but that he is a “successful moderator”, unlike me. “What do you mean?”, they asked. I explained that if I were to start attempting to drink just a couple of glasses of wine a week, I would be in constant inner turmoil, arguing with myself about wanting more wine, and probably ultimately slipping back to my old ways. So, I explained, I’m much happier and healthier teetotal. My dad said, “That’s exactly what smoking was like for me”.

That is the frankest talk I’ve had about my drinking with Dad, or Mum. I wrote my first, very honest, blog post in December at 8 months sober (The Silence of the Drinkers, see below), and posted it on Facebook for all to see when my best friends told me my honesty might help others. I’m British, so, you know, I’ll happily write a dead honest blog post about my alcohol problem, then give a radio interview in which I freely discuss how drinking whilst on antidepressants led to me unraveling, oh- and I gave a national magazine interview. But ….. a face-to-face conversation with my parents about addiction recovery? Dude. That would just be TOO AWKWARD!

So anyway, Dad caught up, perhaps a little too late, with the fact that the whole ‘giving up wine’ thing was actually quite a big deal for me. He’s realised (hopefully) that it’s not appropriate to give weird not even funny wine-joke birthday cards or keep offering me wine at dinner. Because it’s about me saving my life. About me saving ACTUAL years of my life (I read recently that people with alcohol abuse disorder die on average 20 years sooner). But possibly more importantly, it’s saving today. Tomorrow. Next week. I’m really living, not sleepwalking. I’m making the most of the time with my children while they are little. I’ll remember it. I’m daring to make plans and dream of a more exciting career.

Wine was in the way of everything I wanted. I built a pillow fort around my life with it. Every evening I disappeared into the fort. No pain or problems were permitted in my perfect pillow fort, no fucking way! Gradually the fort stopped working: pain was leaking in through gaps, and the failing fort was slowly generating its own bouquet of dull red pain. Then one day I woke and looked at my fort.

It was a cage. I’d built a cage, not a fort.

 

Setting Concrete

0301060002-01-Cement-paste-setting-time-in-bowl_46596839_xxl7th April 2018

Woop, excited, guys! I’m sat on a train into central London with Husband and Mr. Nearly 13. We are going to see the Royal Opera House’s production of Coraline, based on that super-freaky kid’s film from a few years ago, where the little girl gets invited through a hole in the wall in her new bedroom by “the Other Mother”, who seems better than her actual mother, except for the fact that she has buttons for eyes, and an obsession with sewing buttons on Coraline’s eyes too…. nightmarish!

So, with under 3 weeks to go until my first sobriety birthday, I’ve been reflecting on the place that I was at, this time last year. I had just finished weaning myself off the antidepressant Sertraline (Zoloft), which I had been taking since December 2015 for postnatal depression (the GP specifically pointing out that I COULD drink alcohol whilst taking Sertraline). My drinking seemed to spiral out of control while I was on Sertraline, as did my eating. I was dazed and forgetful, and had no willpower- I couldn’t organise a shopping list let alone a sobriety plan.

This time last year I weighed 25lbs more than I do now; I didn’t recognise the bloated middle-aged woman in the mirror (I was only 36). On 5th April 2017 my 35-year-old best friend from school told me that the pain from her suspected slipped disc was, in fact, secondary breast cancer metastases in her bones. And so, she and her husband reentered the world of cancer treatment, a world they desperately hoped they had left behind back in 2014 when she completed her primary breast cancer treatment. This time, they would not be leaving it, for secondary cancer can be stalled and treated, but not cured.

As I watched my friend and her husband’s plans to start a family end forever, just as it seemed within reach, I felt my resolve for sobriety strengthen, setting like concrete. After stop-start sobriety and increasingly erratic behaviour since January 2017, I knew my drinking days were numbered. Then I thought, my dearest friends have no choice but to endure secondary cancer. The least I can do is stop drinking. I also recognised that, if I kept drinking, I would end up destroying myself. Because if you are addicted to alcohol – if you have no “off switch” – when times get rough – that’s what happens.

I could get sober and support her and become a better mother and wife and human, or I could keep drinking and be no use to anyone.

It’s been quite a year since then.

I hope Coraline the Opera doesn’t give me nightmares….bookings-lavender

Losing the blogging self-consciousness

IMG_20180307_120514_130.jpgI feel self-conscious about this blogging business. The very act of blogging is like saying, “I HAVE SOMETHING VERY IMPORTANT TO SAYYYY!”.

Old, drinking, self-hating me would say, “Stay in your box, little girl. You have nothing of worth to say” (isn’t it amazing how we talk to ourselves? Imagine talking to your child like that – it’s abuse).

But shiny, new, sober me says, “Fuck it. I enjoy writing”.

For me, one of the most valuable tools when trying to jump aboard (and finally, unbelievably, STAYING ON) the sobriety train, was reading blog posts of people just like me, but who were trailblazing the path to sobriety after finally wrestling that final bottle of Malbec to the ground. Or rather, down the sink. I’d look at them, the sober trailblazers, and think, “If they can do this, maybe, just maybe, I can, too…”. If my blog can help just one person board the train, or even just to know that there IS a train (full of cool, compassionate, fun people), then I will be so happy. And I won’t care if every single other reader thinks it’s POO!

When I was a teenager, I delighted in diarising the minutiae of my life. I recognised that my youth was bristling with magical moments. Hurtling towards the end of school, I wrote it all down to try to stop time slipping away: First love. House parties. My miserable obsession with my weight. Making love by a river (it was poetic, not slutty, honest). School concerts. Musical theatre. Dreams. Striving for straight A’s. Achieving straight A’s.

My first love mercilessly mocked my daily scribbling, asking me, “Who on earth would want to read “The Great Chronicles of Violet’s Life? It’s such a waste of time”.

So I felt silly. And I stopped writing my diary.

But I was never writing for anyone but me. Why did I listen to that 17-year-old boy back in 1998?

It’s time to reclaim my right to diarise the shit out of my little life.

Don’t you think?

Welcome to Ultraviolet Sobriety!

Thanks for joining me!

Pretty darn excited that you’re here. I have started this blog to celebrate the approaching first birthday of my sobriety (26th April 2018 – Happy birthday to meeeee!). I’d like to share my ongoing recovery from alcohol abuse and – more importantly – my wide-eyed exploration of sober life. Which is awesome. And also scary. And harder than a booze-soaked existence some days. But also easier (most days – eventually – I promise).

One thing is absolutely clear – we all desperately need company on this beautiful, bumpy, unpredictable road. So. Thanks for rocking up here by my side.

Check out my “Who am I?” post in the drop-down menu above, and a couple of blog posts below from the past few months. I’m planning to update this blog at least a couple of times a week, so watch this space for details of the *thrilling* minutiae of the sober life of a burnt out British party girl turned responsible and slightly restless mummy….

And of course- I’d LOVE to hear from you if you have questions or comments. Comment on my blog posts or drop me an email at ultravioletsobriety@outlook.com

 

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I failed* at Dry January 2017 but now I’m 9 months sober

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[Originally posted 20th January 2018]

#DryJanuary has become such a ‘thing’, that yesterday I caught a luxury Scottish hotel using this hashtag in an Instagram post advertising drinking #champagne and #celebrating because #itstheweekend with a beautiful inviting picture of two flutes of bubbly at a decadently laid table.

“Why are you using the ‘Dry January hashtag’ to promote drinking your champagne?”, I asked them. “Don’t you think this is a little insensitive to those who are following this hashtag because they are trying to kick alcohol addiction?”.

No response yet. Secretly hoping they’ll send me an apology and vouchers for a luxury weekend stay and a magnum of San Pellegrino.

“Unwad your panties, Violet”, you might be thinking, “It’s just a little marketing. It’s just advertising”.  Yes, yes it is. And it’s not acceptable. There’s a reason why people recovering from alcohol addictions are angry with this sort of thing. It’s because it is everywhere, and it IS a major reason why people are dying every day from alcohol-related illness. It is a reason why families are destroyed by alcoholism. It is a reason why people get behind the wheel after a bottle of wine, to go to the shop for more wine, because their pre-frontal cortexes are so shot by addiction that they cannot reason out why this is a wrong choice.

“It” is the constant, pervasive, aggressive normalisation of drinking alcohol. And of course, as is the case with most things that continue despite being wrong, it stands to make a few people very rich indeed.

Things have shifted for other addictive substances. Today’s generation of children no longer grow up surrounded by subliminal suggestions around the glamour of smoking cigarettes. No. Instead, they are picking up discarded cigarette packets outside their houses and asking their parents what the HELL that picture is (“it’s a photo of a cancerous tongue tumour, poppet, caused by smoking”).

I grew up with the slogan “Just say NO” (to drugs), and, being a very good girl, I duly said NO to drugs, with the exception of a joint or two at teenage parties – which, luckily for me, made me vomit, and was just not my jam.

But alcohol? Alcohol made me vomit too. Probably every time I had it for the first 10 times or more as a teenager. But interestingly, this never put me off. Is that because I believed, deep down in my bones, that alcohol was a normal, healthy part of ‘grown up celebrating’? I think so. And why?

Marketing. So pervasive, so EVERYWHERE is it, that we don’t even notice it. I literally never noticed the advertising of alcohol until I started pursuing sobriety. That’s because it’s so EVERYWHERE that it’s like beige wallpaper.

It’s common knowledge that, if alcohol was only discovered today, its oral consumption would not and could not be legalised for medical purposes**, let alone for recreational use. It is addictive and is linked with higher incidence of several types of cancer, even when consumed ‘moderately’.

So anyway. I failed* Dry January 2017 after 28 days, after starting on 2nd January (because obviously, the only way to treat a New Year’s Day hangover is with a glass of wine or three). But listen- here’s what is important. IT WAS NO FAILURE. It was part of the warm-up – a gentle stretch, or a bit of essential strength training – in the run up to the REAL race: the rest of my life.

Which, it turns out, just so happens to be a life free of alcohol. A life that – yes – does NEED to be free of alcohol. But it’s a gift, not a hardship.

Now, pass the #SanPellegrino – #itstheweekend, let’s #celebrate!

 

*It’s not really failure
**It’s a useful antiseptic though!

The Silence of the Drinkers

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[Originally published 24th December 2017]

I’ll put my hands up and admit that if you say the word ‘addict’ to me, I can’t help thinking of hollow-eyed, emaciated criminals diving into toilets after suppositories, zombie babies on ceilings and people sleeping on mattresses on a dirty floor. Say the word ‘alcoholic’ to me, and I think of overweight men in their 50s sat in pubs in the morning, liver transplants and yellowing skin. Say ‘recovering alcoholic’, and I think of the same late-middle-aged men, but this time in church basements (but only church basements in America).

The fictional recovering alcoholics that reside in my brain are really fucking miserable. If they work really hard, they may live out a few sober years desperately missing booze, then eventually relapse, losing any remaining loved ones, and then die a lonely alcohol-related death.

Bloody hell. Who would want to be a recovering alcoholic?

Did I mention, I am a recovering alcoholic?

This is the point where I try and slightly fail to fight the powerful urge to quantify the above statement with information like, “but I was on the lower end of the addiction spectrum, I didn’t drink in the morning (unless it was Christmas or a wedding or we arrived for lunch early), I never drove drunk, I didn’t find it hard to abstain during pregnancy, I know lots of other people who drank WAY more than I did” and a million other totally irrelevant and boring facts about my past drinking habits.

The only important information here is I could not control how much I drank. And ultimately it began to make me very unhappy and dissatisfied with my life.

I was aware for some years that I drank more than I should. But wasn’t too sure that I minded. I enjoyed it. And my entire adult life I saw evidence everywhere that many people were doing the same.

University in the UK is practically a training ground for high-functioning alcoholics. I have memories of most Freshers’ Week parties involving huge plastic storage boxes full of disgusting concoctions of spirits that I rolled my eyes at and refused to drink. I was much more at home in the pub sipping wine with my fellow choral singers, nurturing a much classier brand of drinking problem. Because vomiting red wine into someone’s flowerbed is a cut above nasty cocktails.

So I was saying, I enjoyed drinking. But then I gradually began to suspect that it was affecting my mental health.

Then I became convinced beyond doubt that it was destroying my mental health.

The one or two drinks that used to feel like a beautiful hug releasing me from daily anxiety (“how can something that feels so good be bad for me?!“) began to trigger suicidal thoughts and impulses to self harm.

Realising this is happening and still not being able to stop drinking is a terrifying place to find yourself. What I didn’t know then was the fact that the organ of the body most quickly attacked and damaged by alcohol is not the liver. It is the brain. And for the record, your GP telling you that it’s fine to drink alcohol whilst taking antidepressants does not necessarily mean that it is fine for YOU. My experience of doing so invites a comparison with using eye drops for an eye infection whilst poking oneself in the eye with a sharp stick every hour or two.

I find it hard to draw myself back into the memory of my old reality, not just because it is unpleasant, but because already, at 8 months sober, the idea of drinking alcohol feels ludicrous to me. I almost forget how unbelievably hard I had to work to make the change – just this one little change to my life! – to stop ingesting ethanol each day. I mean, all I had to do was not go into the shop for the wine each day, not open any bottles of wine, not pour any wine into any wine glasses, not raise any glasses containing wine to my lips, not swallow any fucking wine.

Right?

How can it be all that hard to just not do any of those things?

Anyone who has had or has addictions, be it nicotine, sugar bingeing, or even just the seemingly innocuous habit of constantly scrolling on their phone, will understand that the above question is rhetorical. And the answer is BECAUSE OF ADDICTION. The answer is also because alcohol is everywhere, and because through constant exposure to it in advertising and media since the day we were born, we all believe on a deep subconscious level that booze is a normal part of every important occasion or intense emotion in life. Celebration. Grief. Boredom. Socialising with new people. Relaxation. Loneliness. A little treat, because – God knows – you deserve it. And so on. Therein lies a smorgasbord of ways for addicted brains to normalise and justify drinking every day.

I thought I understood how addiction worked, but I did not. In April I signed up to an online 8 week ‘Sobriety School’. Developing a toolkit of coping mechanisms, making friends who were also recovering from addiction (and, I might add, not a toilet-diving junkie or basement-lurking old man in sight), and learning the true complex nature of addiction are amongst the priceless gifts I received. Early sobriety is fragile, like a young tree in the wind. Building an intelligent, compassionate support network and educating myself extensively about addiction were the cage that allowed my tree to grow strong enough to not bend in what felt like a very real storm.

Someone somewhere once wrote that if you put Shame in a petri dish and add Silence, it grows and grows. And so it is with addiction. I am a recovering addict, and proud to announce that I am not in fact an old man in a basement (respect and love to those guys though), but more importantly I want to tell you that I am not miserable about sobriety. Above all, I feel relief. Relief that I never have to experience a hangover again, or feel embarrassed for perhaps having acted like a bit of a dick but not really remembering. Relief that my waking thoughts each day are not of self-loathing or regret, but of love and gratitude for my family and the good coffee I’m about to make. Relief that I am not going to waste my life. Relief that I am starting to like myself. I want to say that you don’t need to be a ‘total alcoholic’ (the thing I used to claim NOT to be) to decide to give up alcohol forever, or to take a 6 month break, or to just not drink one evening if you don’t fancy a hangover. Contrary to popular belief, not drinking alcohol at a party makes you the opposite of boring. I want to tell you that I find life really hard, but I find joy in simple things now. Life is short. Time with those we love is short. And I don’t want to anaesthetise these moments any more.

I finally broke free from my toxic relationship with my handsome, charming, controlling, abusive ex-partner on 26th April 2017. His name was Vin Rouge. I don’t even feel jealous when I see him kissing other girls.

Happy Christmas everyone. Here’s to 2018. Let’s make it an awesome one.