Life without alcohol: five months sober

Time has really flown over the last few weeks. It’s strange to think I’ve managed another month of sobriety already.

Daisies

I think my mindset has shifted a little this month. When I’m at the bar ordering a ginger beer instead of a cider, I’m no longer looking at the cider tap and feeling that desperate pang for something I can’t have, with my brain railing against the unfairness of it all. Instead, it’s been replaced by a calmer, more logical thought – a thought that goes along the lines of ‘yes, I really want that cider, but it would be a very bad idea for me to have it because of the way my brain works’ – and in some ways I’m becoming more able to detach from the emotional side of it.

If I think about the taste of alcohol, I still feel very upset. So I don’t think about it. This is becoming easier than it was.

Social situations are still difficult. I realised this past weekend that something like boardgaming is fine, even if everyone else is drinking alcohol – the focus is not the drinking, it’s the gaming, so I can forget that other people are drinking and I’m not. Just hanging around in the pub or club for hours is a different matter. It’s an issue that I think I will struggle with for a long time and that I think about a lot – I even covered it in one of the poems I performed last time I was at poetry night. I just find these situations to be very intense. First of all, everyone else is getting drunk, and it turns out that I don’t have the patience to deal with drunk people when I’m stone cold sober. Watching other people’s mental faculties failing in front of my eyes is alarming, distressing, and frustrating, and I find it very upsetting and unpleasant to be around. It’s a horrible reminder of what I was like when I was drinking, and at the moment I just can’t reconcile it with the celebratory thing it’s supposed to be. Secondly, I’ve found in the last few months that being around drinkers as they get louder and louder and less cognisant of the way that conversation is supposed to work is bringing up problems related to my underlying mental health issues. This is something that I think I need outside help for, and so I will be looking into that in the near future.

I was discussing my sobriety via text with my brother recently, and one of the things I said to him was that it’s been very strange getting to grips with not having the available mental crutch of ‘getting drunk’ anymore. Every so often it just hits me that it’s no longer an option for me, and the realisation leaves me feeling quite stunned. It’s partly because I’ve spent 2019 so far doing a lot of things that have been out of my comfort zone – getting back into pitching my books to agents, performing my poetry in public, performing with my ukulele class, getting back into driving, buying my car – and every single time I am scared and nervous because I’m about to do one of those things, my automatic thought is still ‘I need a few drinks to make this thing less scary’. And I can’t have those few drinks, and that is something that I just can’t get used to yet. There’s still a long way to go.

Booze alternatives I’ve reviewed over the last month:

Because I’ve been very busy this last month, I’ve not spent as much time utilising the online and offline resources (books, podcasts, talks, etc.) that have been helpful for me so far in recovery. I need to prioritise those a bit more over the next month while things are quieter, because I don’t want to take my eye off the ball – I’ve noticed a few insidious ‘just the one, no one will know’ type thoughts creeping in, and I need to be a bit more proactive in looking after myself.

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