Life without alcohol: four months sober

I find I’m settling into sobriety now. Don’t get me wrong, I still miss cider like a missing limb, but at the same time I’m now completely in the habit of having a ginger beer instead. It’s become routine not to drink alcohol, which is all I can ask for, really.

Plants in May

I can’t believe how much my mental health has calmed down over the last few months. I still have depressed days, obviously, but they feel manageable in a way that they never did when I was drinking, and most importantly, they don’t have as much of an effect on my ability to get on with work and other important things.

Anxiety dream wise: I’ve noticed something very odd. I expected what would happen would be similar to the vegetarianism anxiety dreams I’ve been having for twenty years, where I suddenly realise halfway through my dream that I’ve accidentally been eating tuna fish (it’s ALWAYS tuna fish. I do not know why this is). I presumed that I would have similar ‘oops, I’m accidentally drunk!’ dreams. I haven’t yet, which I’m really glad about, because I expect they would be really upsetting.

However, what I am dreaming about – every night, which is just bizarre – is taking up smoking again. I quit smoking in 2008, which is eleven years ago now, and I’ve not had a craving for nicotine in waking life in…probably seven or eight years? I find the smell gross and offputting nowadays, and I would never want to jeopardise my running fitness by damaging my lungs again. I am the total stereotype of an ex-smoker. But I’m dreaming about it every single night. Maybe it’s my brain’s way of telling me it misses having a chemical stress release. I don’t know.

In the waking world, I’m still finding the range of sobriety resources available online and offline really helpful – it makes me feel a bit less alone with this thing.

Booze alternatives I’ve reviewed over the last month:

Things haven’t been totally plain sailing in recent weeks – I’ve realised that I need to plan better for events where everyone else is drinking, because at the moment it makes me feel a bit outside of things – but on the whole, I’m doing better, and learning to manage it better, and I’m hopeful that this will get even easier over the next few months.

Booze Alternative: Franklin & Sons Sicilian Lemonade & English Elderflower

It’s the last of the Franklin & Sons varieties I found in Inverness. I do have a related update, though – I managed to find Franklin & Sons ginger beer in Brewdog in Newcastle last week, so at least I know for definite that the brand can be found outside Inverness!

Franklin & Sons Sicilian Lemonade & English Elderflower
Franklin & Sons Sicilian Lemonade & English Elderflower.

I couldn’t really taste the elderflower in this one, but it’s a lovely classic lemonade – very refreshing.

Doing Sunday like an actual adult

I hired a car from the car club again this morning so that Geth and I could collect a crate of beer for UK Games Expo (it’s a good month and a half away yet, but Geth had a Majestic Wines voucher that he wanted to use up) and then take some of our junk that we’d been keeping in the garage to the dump, like real grown-ups do at the weekend. We will be repeating this highly exciting chore next week, because there’s a lot more junk still to get rid of.

We then went to the local pub for lunch, as Geth was meeting some friends for boardgaming. I’ve been avoiding our local since I quit drinking, because I didn’t really want to be around somewhere that had so many cider associations for me. However, today it was okay – they do a nice ginger beer that I will log soon.

I then got some work done for clients that I hadn’t managed to finish during the week. More day job work tomorrow – I’m hoping for a bit of a lull over Easter so I can have a good go at my own writing projects as well.

OOTD 14th April 2019
OOTD: it got too late and dark to take an outdoor picture. Glasses Emporio Armani (2017), jumper Ellend (vintage 1980s, bought at vintage fair 2019), jeans Vivid (2018).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Pink – Walk Me Home
Duran Duran – Late Bar
Duran Duran – Is There Something I Should Know?
Richard Marx – Right Here Waiting
Alec Benjamin and Alessia Cara – Let Me Down Slowly
Duran Duran – The Reflex
Prefab Sprout – Cars And Girls

Life without alcohol update: three months sober

It’s taken a while, but life without alcohol is gradually starting to feel like it could, sometime soon, be the new normal. During the first couple of months of sobriety I felt absolutely manic – I would swing between being absolutely delighted about the benefits I was already noticing and utterly devastated at the thought that I could never drink again, sometimes within the space of about thirty seconds or so. Things have slowly calmed down over the last few weeks, and I’m beginning to feel a bit more serene on good days and at least stable on not-so-good ones.

Flowers

It’s still not easy, and I don’t think it ever will be. I’ve not gone a day without thinking about a drink yet. But I’m getting better at being in situations where I would have drunk in the past – the brief moment at bars when my mind goes straight to cider is getting shorter and less upsetting, and thinking of myself as an ex-drinker and saying to people ‘I don’t drink anymore’ is feeling less alien now. I’m starting to be okay with my glass of ginger beer, even when everyone else is having something alcoholic.

When I was drinking, I relied utterly on alcohol to deal with what felt like impossible situations due to my social anxiety. Three months into sobriety, this is still the most strange and confusing thing for me. The excess nervous energy I’ve had since I stopped drinking has resulted in an attitude of ‘must do absolutely everything I’ve been procrastinating about for my entire adult life IN THE SPACE OF FOUR MONTHS’, and so my life at the moment is non-stop with work, writing, pitching, playing music, marathon training, driving practice, and getting all those niggly annoying jobs done that have been put off for years and years. It’s great to feel like I’m actually achieving things – I would have been thrilled at Christmas if I’d known how much I would actually get done in the first quarter of 2019 – but it does mean I’m pretty much constantly out of my comfort zone, often in a social-anxiety-related way. I am hoping that this will calm down as the year goes on.

Booze alternatives I’ve reviewed over the last month:

My ginger beer obsession continues unabated, as you can probably tell!

I’m still listening to my podcasts and making use of online and offline support resources. I’ve also been reading a few helpful books on my Kindle, though I don’t have as much time as I would like for reading at the moment.

It feels for the first time like sobriety really could be something that’s manageable over the long term. I’m hopeful that month four will continue to feel relatively calm and stable.

My twenty-year veggieversary

It’s fairly cliché to bemoan the fact that 1999 doesn’t feel like twenty years ago, so I won’t dwell on that. But even though it’s hard to believe it’s two decades since Easter Sunday, 4th April 1999 – the day I became vegetarian – I think twenty years is something worth marking.

1999
1999 – the year I started making my way through the world as a vegetarian.

I was fourteen then. A child to my eyes now but a fully-fledged adult as far as I was concerned at the time. I’d been weighing up the pros and cons of vegetarianism for about two years, and took the leap because it seemed there weren’t many cons left worth considering. I’d always been uncomfortable with the fact that meat was actually just rotting animal corpses. I didn’t like most red meat dishes anyway, hated seafood, thought poultry was utterly cardboard-tasting. Pretty much the only remaining drawback was that I wouldn’t be able to eat gummy sweets because of the gelatine, and that seemed like a small price to pay for having a good excuse not to eat burgers (blech) or anchovies (double blech) whenever I was out for a meal.

I wouldn’t say it was hugely difficult to be vegetarian in 1999. Restaurants did always have at least one veggie option on the menu, even if it was usually lasagne. But it was a world away from 2019, where even vegans have a range of choices in many restaurants, and dishes are clearly marked. The most difficult thing was eating out in continental Europe, which was not (and is still not particularly) veggie-friendly, and threw up the side challenge of attempting to make a successful meat-free food order in a different language. I ended up developing a list of standby options that I knew were safe: spätzle in Germany, galettes and crêpes in France, tortilla española in Spain, margherita pizza in Italy. These have served me well to this day.

It’s funny how vegetarianism has become so second nature to me over time. I never feel deprived from not eating meat, or like there’s something missing, and it actually feels quite jarring when I have to explain to somebody new that I’m veggie – because it feels like such a normal thing not to eat meat. Standing in the meat aisle at the supermarket when Geth is choosing bacon feels like looking into a subculture I don’t understand – the animal flesh on display looks cold and clinical and completely unappetising – and because I’ve never eaten meat as an adult, I’ve never learnt how to cook it, so it just feels like something completely removed from my world.

I’ve been thinking about the above a lot over the last few months, because I’ve been trying to compare it to the experience of giving up alcohol. It would be nice to think that in twenty years’ time, I won’t miss alcohol at all or even think about its existence most of the time. However, I’m not quite that optimistic, as it’s not a totally comparable situation. I was never the biggest fan of meat anyway, and it’s not an addictive substance. I’m hopeful that sobriety will get easier, but I don’t think it will ever be as easy as vegetarianism.

I know I said I wasn’t going to dwell on the ‘where does the time go?’ stuff, but it is weird to think that I’ve not eaten meat since the 20th century. I still remember vividly the taste of the meatstuffs I did like – bacon, salami, real haggis – and maybe that type of memory won’t fade, but I’m happy for it to remain a memory.

Over the last twenty years of vegetarianism, I’ve been stricter sometimes and looser sometimes. I’ve occasionally had gelatine lapses, though I can say for certain that I’ve not eaten animal flesh since the 4th of April 1999. I’m not as strict with rennet-derived cheese as I used to be. Sometimes I’ve eschewed leather products, sometimes not. I’ve occasionally considered going fully vegan due to my increasing discomfort with the dairy and egg industries, and I’ve occasionally considered dialling it back to pescetarianism (despite my dislike of seafood) in an attempt to get more protein into my diet.

But on the whole, right now, I’m very happy being a common-or-garden lacto-ovo vegetarian, and I think that’s where I’ll stay for the foreseeable future.

Booze Alternative: Franklin & Sons Ginger Beer

Franklin & Sons is a soft drink brand that I hadn’t encountered until my trip to Inverness a few weeks ago. Geth and I found it in every bar and restaurant we went into while we were there, and have not seen it again since. It’s apparently a London brand, so I’ve no idea why I’ve only come across it in the far north of Scotland.

Anyway, I (obviously) tried every flavour, so you’ll be seeing a lot of their drinks in the next wee while.

Franklin & Sons Ginger Beer
Franklin & Sons Ginger Beer.

First up was the ginger beer, because my newfound love for ginger beer meant that this was obviously the one I tried first. It’s got the perfect level of spice! It’s quite sweet too. A really good ginger beer – I just hope I’ll find it closer to home sometime soon.

Booze Alternative: Britvic Ginger Ale

Two months after I first tried Britvic Ginger Beer (and there was a bit of confusion at the bar about whether I was having the ginger beer or the ginger ale), I finally came across the ginger ale in the hotel bar in Inverness the other week. It was very different to the ginger beer, so I can finally confirm that it was definitely the ginger beer I had in Newburgh!

Britvic Ginger Ale
Britvic Ginger Ale.

Contrary to what the label on the bottle neck says, this one is not spicy at all. However, it’s got a lovely sweet taste, and was very pleasant.