AF

I thought everyone on sober sites were a sweary bunch. AF this and AF that. It didn’t twig that AF meant Alcohol Free for a few days. That’s how entwined alcohol was in my life. It was a code I couldn’t read. It may seem a humorous misunderstanding and it does make me smile even now but the reality of not knowing what it meant is very sobering.

It also stand for Auto Focus and Atrial Fibrillation.

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Recovery

Alcoholism is wrapped like a poisonous vine all through New Zealand society. Every magazine, commercial, advertisement, film, book has a mention or a splash of an image of someone enjoying an alcoholic beverage. The drunk ones always have more fun, more confidence, gorgeous friends, they live life to the fool full. They get their hooks into you from youth and cling to your ankles when you try to run away. They offer free drinks, a discount when bought in bulk, wine clubs to help you talk the talk, tastings and trips and a day at the races all sponsored by big brands.

To chose a sober life is conscious choice. The right choice. It is not the easier path. At any function you attend the alcoholic array is endless, the non alcoholic choice is one, orange juice. I haven’t had orange juice in years. I don’t like sickly drinks. Never have. Give me salty, sour or bitter anytime.

I say this but I haven’t been out yet to a western restaurant or bar yet. Asian and Indian restaurants: yes. They serve tea and water without question. There is no awkward pause before saying just water please. I plan to order sparkling water when I do go out where wine is abundantly on the menu. You know but, I keep thinking of all the money I’m saving by not drinking out or at home. It brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.

Wise Greg at Club East Indianapolis wrote “… many ….. value the image of recovery over recovery itself.”

I hadn’t thought about recovery at all. And with the image of recovery there’s a disconnect. To me that is something on television or in film. Someone else with a foreign accent. It’s not me. I’m only interested in the internal journey. I hadn’t thought of it as a recovery. My secret is “I never grew up.” My curiosity is endless. This is helping me discover “sober”. Really in essence it is learning to live again fully present.

Even the word alcoholic seems like a foreign word. It doesn’t roll off the tongue easily. It is a word I may think I am but will not speak aloud. Perhaps I am still in denial about this. Acceptance will grow on me.

Scott Peck’s book The Path Less Traveled was an exciting book for me when I read it many moons ago. I took that book to heart and have always forged my own one. To create a new path rather than follow one already ploughed is more difficult but is ultimately more satisfying. It is nice to get pointers and meet like-minded or not along the way. I am tackling this new sober path the same way.

Recovery, discovery, internal journey, whatever you call it I am doing it. I am not here to pretend to be sober. I tell it like it is, how it feels, straight. (How I liked my vodka.) Maybe blunt at times. Honest. Absolutely. Without that I am nothing. I take my life seriously. (I drank seriously too. Look where that got me.) I am loving this new sober me.

Day 52

In bed by 11pm after a long soak in an Epsom salt bath with a book. More reading till almost midnight. Lights out. I relaxed every part of my body in anticipation of sleep. Sleep didn’t come. 1:30am rolled around. Light on again. More reading. Light off. Calling quiet now for sleep. Less tossing and turning and sighing last night. Managed to get to sleep somewhere around two. Better. Not great but better. Doesn’t help when my cats wake me up at 7:30am greeting me with ciaos and demanding food and acknowledgement with a tummy rub. I get up without a grizzle. I do it with love and wander off to the toilet before heading back to bed and more sleep. The alarm clock said 8am. I changed it back to 9am. Even then it wasn’t enough. 10am and finally I emerged. Bleary eyed. Not rearing to go but up.

Sleep is not my BFF anymore. I don’t know where we went wrong. It all happened around the time I became sober. I stayed up late instead of going to bed. The evenings were long. I sat in a daze of what now. Either I abandoned sleep or she abandoned me. I’m trying to get in sleep’s good graces but it is an effort. Worth it but exhausting.

Showing up is showing commitment and I will show up before midnight every night and wait patiently for sleep. I won’t get frustrated if she doesn’t show. I won’t get angry. I will not sigh. I will not toss and turn and wrestle with the sheets. I will persevere. Sleep will come around again. I may get up and wander the house and do something else but I will come back to bed and try again. Patience and perseverance will prevail.

The gym today. I made it. I walked on the treadmill to the words of my audio book. I cycled for a bit. Then I jumped onto a bosu ball and tottered awkwardly about. And done. Heat rate elevated more than usual so I took it easy.

Grit The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth is my book for the evenings. It is almost finished. It is fascinating. It is difficult to put down. Perhaps it is the wrong choice to have beside the bed. Instead it should be a boring/difficult book. One hard to pick up rather than one to put down. I will be onto the next soon and it will no longer matter.

Day 51

Being sober is the easy part. The decision to become sober was difficult. Finding what to do next and how to do it is the struggle. More the “how” really.

I am sober but the habits that surrounded the alcohol are still with me. Tidying and cleaning, basically housework in general is not something I excel at. Our home looks lived in. It is not a show home. It has books and comfortable couches and day beds. It has things scattered on the floor. It is not ready for visitors or guests. That’s okay for now.

I used to strive for perfection. Then I realised that it was ridiculous. I still try but not to the extent I used to do. I overdo things and need a gentle nudge to stop trying to do everything at once. I am finding more peace with dropping perfection, guilt, paranoia and regret. These things I dropped before becoming sober. Anxiety is still with me but in a much weaker form. Depression is with me too but I recognise it, accept it and have learnt to live with it better. Fear is still with me. Fear is holding me back. I know this. I recognise this. I aim to challenge myself and make the fear smaller or contained. First though comes care. I need better care before I can face fear.

The past two years I chose to face things. Facing something is scary. It is easier to postpone, to look elsewhere. It is difficult to face something but once faced it removes a brick in the wall that surrounds yourself. It allows you to find lightness, makes it easier to breathe.

Facing something allows you to move on.

Insomnia is taking a hint and edging towards her packed bags at the door. I am managing to get to sleep by about 2am. Huge improvements for me. I took a bath with Epsom salts, 2 cups worth and soaked while reading a book with tea and a nice candle. It was relaxing. I had forgotten the magnesium in Epsom salts. Magnesium sulphate, of course. One source of increasing my magnesium.

Accidentally kicked my Epsom salts glass jar in the bathroom a few weeks ago. Sober. Glass and salt everywhere. Yikes. That stopped my habit dead. I want a replacement jar for it but something unbreakable. Zip lock bag will have to suffice for now. The jar was in the corner out of the way I thought but my foot found it regardless. Clumsiness is still with me.

I made it to the gym once this week. I did mini habits twice. I am eating better. I am enjoying homemade toasted muesli and adding more fruit and vegetables to my life. My weight is going down. The scales are showing me numbers that I haven’t seen in months. A healthier me is beginning to show.

Reading is my rock. Non fiction, fiction, doesn’t really matter. My list of books to read is getting longer and my tangents are dividing as I explore further. Learning and leisure is for everyone.

Progress made. Half way through this week I got lost but I found my way back again. Onwards.

Day 46

Went to the gym, the supermarket and then the library. Had a whole food brunch of toasted muesli, fresh mango with milk after getting home.
Froze the leftover mangoes, 29c each. Very cheap. Bought five.
Froze the pomegranate arils from two pomegranates.
Bought vegetables, fruit and fish.
I have lost 3 kilograms since becoming sober. That is without trying.
I am adding new food into my life. I am not banishing food as such. I am making better choices. That’s it really.
Today is a good day.
Listening to WBGO while I organise the kitchen bench. Late night jazz is much better than day time jazz. This afternoon it sounds like elevator music. I could go for another station but it’s like a comfortable coat. Snug.

I have scaled back my mini habits to the recommended FOUR. I have placed the other three into another category. I am learning to be kind to myself.

I appreciate the supportive comments as I embark on this journey of mine. I feel light in the fact that there are so many hands helping me along the way. I have many book recommendations from readers also. Thank you. My list to read is getting longer. I am starting on a new one, Grit The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth.

5:30am and the sun is coming up and I am going to sleep. My neighbour’s light was on. Early to rise, early to bed. I wish that were me. Eventually I will get back to that. Exercise, better food, sober, mostly caffeine free. I am not after a quick fix. I am after a better lifestyle. I love the changes I am making. Proper sleeping hours will come back. I used to drop off to sleep so quickly. Patience.

My cats look happy and confident. They are spoilt rotten. Rescued brother and sister, they arrived scared and wide eyed over a year ago. They are growing up. They always make sure to nap within sight of me. One of them loves to sleep on woven supermarket bags. Simple tastes. On top of or inside, she doesn’t mind. Right now they are outside exploring the jungle of the backyard. Bird watching or roof climbing I presume.


The World is Flat

My world is flat but I’m hanging on for dear life because I think I’m going to fall off. I’m anxious on the edge. One more wobble and I’ll drop away into the abyss. Liquid is oozing from the tear ducts of my eyes. I feel uneasy. I feel hungry for no reason. An insatiable appetite. This healthy new life I am sliding into does fit. It feels like a size S whereas I am an XL.

Breathe.

Nothing good will come from this. This feeling of despair. I haven’t felt like this in a while. The pink cloud has burst. Was it even there? It is raining inside and out. I know that this feeling will pass. I shouldn’t be holding on. I should be facing the rain with my head held high. Catching the droplets. Letting them run down my face mixing with my tears. The rain will pass and so will this feeling.

In this middle of this feeling of despair and hopelessness it is hard to find the door let alone an umbrella to stop the rain falling. The point is not to stop the rain falling but to wait it out. Let it pass. The sun will come out again. Be patient.

Breathe.

I’m trying to run when I should be walking and resting. Too much too fast. I’m trying to get to the finish line when there is no race to begin with. There is no one to compete with, only myself. The point is the journey. Mind the way. Mind each step.

Breathe.Who gives a f^(k? I do. I have been a faithful drinker for thirty five years. I have dedicated all these years to the God of Drink. I have been to worship most evenings. Some longer sessions other days with naught. God of Drink whispered continued worship when I was unfaithful. I have turned my back on Drink and all of it’s realm. I no longer say Hail to God of Drink. My back is turned. The bubble has burst. I see God of Drink for what it is: Poison.

It’s hard to change religions. Perhaps I am in mourning? Saying goodbye.

This new thing called Sober. It’s uncomplicated. It’s direct. It doesn’t lie. It is open. It is supportive. It’s inclusive. It’s caring. It is forgiving. It believes in me. I’m not used to all this. This loving gooey-ness. I feel like I don’t deserve all this. Stupid thought. That last one. I know it is but I think it anyway. A remnant from the past. I love Sober.

I write to understand myself. I type to understand myself. It helps a lot. There is much to write. There are thoughts to deal with. It helps to put pen to paper. It feels good to hold onto something physical. Typing on a keyboard although therapeutic at times there remains a disconnect. It’s digital. You aren’t writing the letters longhand. There are no cross outs, no ink stains, no smears. There is just delete and auto correct.

Anxiety is lifting. The world is no longer flat. The rain is clearing.

Tomorrow is going fine. I’m going to be fine. New Sober me is free.

Living in a Different Time Zone

I have not travelled recently. I do not have jet lag. I am living 6 hours behind or 18 hours ahead. I cannot sleep at a ‘normal’ time. Last night I managed to get to sleep somewhere between two and three. Last night was an early night. Lately it has been creeping up to four and five. That is my new normal. I do enjoy the quiet of the night. I stay up really late enjoying the peace. Then I toss and turn deeply sighing for an hour or more. Driving DH up the wall.

The evenings are long. I am still finding myself in this sober new world. Mini Habits are helping. Yesterday was Saturday. I made it my rest day. No need to, should, must need apply. Saturday is rest day. Sunday is my reflection and planning day.

Watched Diet Fiction last night. Excellent documentary. I am already adding more whole foods to my diet. I am on the right track. I am improving my diet, one whole food at a time. This will help me sleep better. Although I made muesli two days ago. I had it for three meals yesterday. Not sure if that was how I was supposed to eat it not. It tastes good. Will reserve it for breakfasts in the future. Remember Saturday was my rest day. Anything goes. Pyjama day all day.

Giving up alcohol was the easy part. I have gained time, health, money, freedom,… The only part I have yet to get under control is sleep. I am going back to the gym tomorrow. Exercise is a part of new old me. I started exercising before quitting alcohol and I am continuing with exercise. I have had a month break over Christmas/New Year. Time to get back to it.

Exercise, better eating should help get me back to better sleeping habits. Day 44 sober and my sleep is way out of wack, it’s on the other side of the planet. I am feeling tired when I wake up. I do not have this under control. Don’t worry it doesn’t make me want to open a bottle of wine. Or raid the drinks cabinet. I have a bottle of Noilly Prat sitting there. I have not moved the cabinet contents to the garage yet.

I haven’t mowed the lawns in a month. The weeds are high again. I don’t feel anxious about this. I don’t feel guilt. I feel an acceptance. It looks untidy but it looks free too. The birds and the bees are happy. The cats are happy. I am happy too. We have no front lawn. Living on a back section has its perks. There is no road side appeal. There is just a driveway to suggest that someone lives behind and beyond. It’s private and quiet. Just the way I like it.

Summer this year is warm and dry. The summer rains are absent. The evenings are long, breezy and cool. There is little humidity. It is pleasant. I have become a creature of the night. Summer is divine. The animals are feed and watered. I look after them better than I do myself. My passion fruit vine needs water, so do my tomatoes. My coriander/cilantro has gone to seed. My lime tree is still a baby. No limes again this year. Strawberries are a gift to the birds. The rhubarb leaves are huge. Cicadas chirp during the day and the crickets start up in the evenings.

Insomnia is with me for the summer. It hasn’t taken the hint that they are not welcome anymore. I am a good host. I have allowed Insomnia into my home. Insomnia is lying on the couch watching Netflix and reading books. Insomnia looks comfortable and settled. I would like Insomnia to leave. I have Insomnia’s bags packed and waiting by the door. Subtlety is not a trait that Insomnia has. Bluntness has little effect either. Will wait until Insomnia gets bored with me. Shouldn’t be long now, should it?

If I carry on with my life and build myself up stronger through exercise and more whole foods, vegetables and fruit ignoring Insomnia maybe one day I will wake up and she will be gone. Here’s hoping.

Ridiculous Thought #2

“I’ll never be able to travel again!”

Conclusion: Case Dismissed With Prejudice.

If I fly I’ll miss out on all the free drinks at the airport lounge and on the plane. I can’t go to Europe now. How can I eat tapas without wine? It’s just not done. No more Grappa. No more Limoncello making. No more Umeshu making. No more sangria. No more beers. No more vodka. No more Champagne, Barolo, or Cava. I can’t go back to Spain, Italy or France. There’s no point going to Oslo or Moscow or Dublin.

These were some real thoughts I had. As mentioned before, not all thoughts are equal. Some are straight out lies. The fear of the unknown makes us stay in the ordinary, somewhere safe. Better safe than sorry. Unlikely. You’d die of boredom. I tend not to believe a word I think when I go off on a rant. It is sure to sound legitimate and knowledgeable and even if it’s shouted it doesn’t make it right or even sane.

Never travel again? But you’ve already been to Thailand for a dry holiday. You survived it. No. You enjoyed it. Soda water the whole time. You loved it. You especially loved the scales you stood on every day telling you how much weight you had lost. They didn’t match the scales once you got home though. That wiped a smile off your face. One of them was wrong. There surely must be someone in Europe who doesn’t drink alcohol. Remember you spoke to that French waitress who couldn’t recommend a cheese because she hated the smell of it. There’s bound to be someone who hates alcohol too, right?

You can’t give up travel because of being sober. That’s just stupid. But you went to Spain to sample the wines and spirits. Italy, France, Japan, Australia. You collected wine labels and wine books. You even read wine notes. You started collecting wines.

The wine collection kept shrinking. If a wine was good to keep for 3-4 years it had no chance of waiting that long. It wouldn’t last a year. Buying expensive wine didn’t make it off limits. Nothing worked really. Wine was meant to be drunk. And it was.

Europe is not just wine and spirits. There is far more to it than a liquid. The art, architecture, history, music, theatre, people, beauty and driving. Of course I knew all this but my ridiculous self was turning blue in the face at the thought of not ever another drop. I’ll live and so will she.

About the airport lounge and the alcohol that is served onboard, well I don’t have to pay extra now for membership, and business class travel is about the leg room and lie-flat bedding. And with a well hydrated flight I might just adjust to time zones better on arrival. On short haul flights economy saves a bundle. But from New Zealand most places are far. Any flight over 9 hours and I say business class please.

Think of all the money I will save by not drinking overseas. There is less chance to be taken advantage on with a bill at a restaurant. That hasn’t happened though as far as I know. I check receipts. In fact I collect receipts, they become mementos.

A better sleep on a flight due to being correctly hydrated. Save a tonne of money through not drinking alcohol. You don’t have to worry about drinking and driving because you will always be sober. You will always be fresh to drive the next day. There will never be a concern if you are in an accident, you will be the sober driver. You will be in the right. Dead right, doesn’t help but, for minor scrapes, you know what I mean. You will better remember the trip. It will be more meaningful. You will make better clear headed decisions mid-trip.

Remember you are a nomad. Keep you passport up to date. Always.