I chose to drink. It was rubbish.

(I originally posted this on reddit, but want it recording here as part of my journey.)

I had a drink on Saturday night. I made the active choice to have a drink, rather than caving to cravings or anything like that; it was one of my best friend’s pre-wedding celebrations and as I can’t/won’t drink at the wedding, I decided to toast the couple over the weekend.

I expected to feel really tipsy because I’ve not drunk in 8 months. It didn’t really affect me at all. That scared me: my alcohol tolerance was dangerously high before I stopped drinking and it feels like nothing has changed. I was worried this would make me feel like “OK, one more” and another, and another. (It didn’t, but it easily could have.)

I didn’t feel like it made any difference whatsoever to my ability to have fun or relax. (I am a social/outgoing person and have never needed a drink to act like a fool!)

It didn’t make me enjoy the evening any more than I could or would have.

I did wake up feeling groggy and shaky the following morning. It was very mild, but I felt it. Such a difference from the clarity and peace of mind I’ve grown used to.

I did have strong drinking dreams last night, which deeply upset me.

I gained 3lbs over the weekend. (I’m halfway through a 12 week cut so this is intensely annoying.)

So: only downsides, and no upsides to having had a drink. A deep sense of it having not been worth it. And that makes it sort of worth it: because it’s squashed the niggly doubts I had not-so-long ago about why I’m doing this – making this journey sober – and reinforced every single reason I had for stopping in the first place. It’s killed the “just have one” voices.

I’m writing this because in the early days of stopping, I regularly re-read the desperate plea for help that I wrote [on reddit] when I needed the encouragement to stop. I hope too that in my future sober weeks & months I can come to use this post as a source of strength should I need it.

The state of dry drinking in the UK

As I rapidly approach my 5th month sober I can’t help but reflect on the state of dry (sober) drinking in the UK.

I have a bit of a reputation amongst friends & it goes a little something like this… if I happened to find myself in a cocktail bar with a reasonable selection of cocktails, choice anxiety often meant the only logical conclusion was to purchase one of everything on the menu. I have dropped over £200 in a single transaction to save myself from having to pick a drink.

Luckily (for my friends and my liver) I like to share.

Photo by Helena Yankovska

My sobriety hasn’t ended my social life, far from it. I still visit pubs and clubs and bars. However, I can no longer drop £200 on drinks, though not for lack of trying!

My biggest problem these days isn’t too much choice but the total opposite: for the sober drinker, the choice isn’t “which of these expensive cocktails” but “pepsi or lemonade” and let me tell you, there’s only so many pints of lemonade you can drink on a night out before your stomach feels like it’s going to explode. Even worse, the introduction of the sugar tax means that now many bars are subbing full sugar soft drinks for the diet equivalent rather than put up their prices, and I think diet drinks taste like piss.

I thought that this problem was caused by living in a small rural town, but the bars in the neighbouring town of Shrewsbury have an equally shit sober selection. Further, a recent trek to London (which I anticipated as having a much greater selection) for a friend’s birthday left me just as disappointed. For the first time in my life the only bars I can rely on are Wetherspoons, who at least stock alcohol free Koppaberg, but as I’m anti-Brexit and their founder isn’t, it honestly pains me to support them.

The lack of selection for sober socialites is disappointing, especially as websites like Dry Drinker have a huge range of dry beers, wines and spirits. I don’t expect bars to stock every single thing offered there, but I don’t think it’s a big ask for them to have e.g. one alcohol free cider, one alcohol free beer and — at a push — an alcohol free spirit. Even better, a handful of mocktails (that aren’t just fruit juice) would make me as happy as a pig in shit.

There’s a ton of reasons for people to be sober (it’s not just for semi-crazy hormonal sorts like me) & I’m calling on UK bars and businesses to think of us as we approach the summer. Don’t make me drink lemonade all year, please.

Oh, hello February

Alright me duckies, how are we all?

You may notice that things look a bit different. I’ve gone a bit old skool, drawing inspiration from some seriously old layouts of mine. Kudos if you have been around long enough to remember the originals. I’ve not finished faffing with it but it’ll do for now. Or until I get bored. Anyway…

Been so busy plodding along in Jem-World that I’ve not thought to blog. January went by in such a blur, mostly as I hid from reality trying to forget about the massive tax bill. Getting that paid was a weight off my shoulders and I’ve been bumbling along ever since.

Some ongoing small wins though:

Having realised early on in January that I’d put on 20lbs over the past 6 months or so I decided to cut the crap and sort myself out. I immediately cut out all drinking at home except for 1) a pre-arranged wine tasting and 2) sharing a bottle of bubbly on valentine’s day. On top of that I even managed a night out complete with crappy dancing completely sober. This nicely ticks the “drink less” goal for the year (for now). Funny how telling myself to drink less achieved sod all but the minute there’s a reason to give up and I don’t even notice not drinking.

Some tweaks to my mail form site saw my rankings pick up early in January and pushing new content in that direction has seen an increase in premium sales over the past few weeks. I also released a new version of the premium form with some extra protection (CSRF specifically) and switched out the XHTML to HTML5. It’s not paying my mortgage yet, but if I can maintain this I might actually be able to stop working weekends again!

My budgeting is staying mostly on track, having a) cut down on the booze and b) cut down on eating out, takeaways etc of late. Desperately trying to maintain this as we head rapidly towards March.

In less ‘winning’ and more ‘failing’ news:

I’ve completely failed to do any training for my upcoming May marathon, which is going to leave me in a sticky situation if I don’t get my arse into gear. I’ve entered a few races between now and then to FORCE me to run (including a half marathon in just a few weeks!) but if I don’t step up my game, that marathon is going to be a long and painful walk.

My car has got another bloody coolant leak and its MOT has expired, so not only am I not able to get to the cat rescue but I can’t run errands or basically anything that isn’t within a couple of miles of home. This is leaving me feeling VERY penned in right now.

My upstairs plumbing (not a euphemism) has sprung a leak and needs fixing.

Usual life shit really – still, it could be worse. And so I continue to plod along.

Cold Turkey

I had a massive panic attack on Saturday night.

Partly fueled by a few too many vodkas, and partly by confronting a ‘demon’ that I’ve never been able to tackle before, culminating in an explosion of anger and frustration and ending up with me unable to breathe and choking on tears.

It’s not the first time it’s happened and they seem to be increasing in frequency since I started taking my meds. What with that, an increase in suicidal thoughts (don’t worry, I wouldn’t) and a few other things, I feel like I’ve swapped one set of symptoms for another. Not only that, but I can feel some of the old problems creeping back in and the thought of having to up my dosage or change meds fills me with dread. I don’t want to spend my life jumping from one pill to another.

So, the panic attack gave me the perspective I needed to make some decisions, and while I feel I’m currently bouncing from one epiphany to another any focus in the short term is a good thing. Ultimately I’ve decided to stop drinking (again) and to stop taking the fluoxetine. Cold turkey.

I’d rather deal with the ups and downs of the PMDD right now than the uncertainty and negativity. I will increase my running again as that helps my mental health, and basically hold on tight for the foreseeable future.

I reserve the right to change my mind when I turn into Ragezilla though.