Today I am 166 days alcohol-free. Almost 6 months sober! This is not my first attempt at sobriety but this time around I’m starting to feel almost happy with my decision to quit (98% happy anyway).
This time with conviction
Because I’m worth so much more
Then the misery of addiction!
Last night when I was talking to a friend she told me she’d not rung me for a while because she didn’t think I’d be up for late-night calls fuelled by wine and slurry words. I said I’ve made my decision, I’ve walked away from my wine o’clock routine, but I don’t mind if you drink! I’m ok with it. And I am. Talking to my friend while she’s drinking doesn’t trigger me like it used to.
The thing is though, although I’m strong in my choice to not drink as I’m nearing 6 months sober, I’m struggling to find a balance in my life. I’m not in a zen zone, not at all. My moods are up and down, happy then sad, angry then resigned, tired then energetic, creative then majorly procrastinating. The last few months have been quite hard, and I just feel emotionally burnt.
In the past, before I went alcohol-free, I’d be masking these feelings, both the physical and emotional discomfort, with wine. I would be fooling myself into thinking I deserved to drink and that wine was my self-care at the end of another stressful day. But now I know much better. Now that I’ve taken time to look clearly at the real face of alcohol and addiction, I don’t see wine o’clock as self-care anymore. I see wine o’clock as a dangerous trap that I plan to stay out of from now on.
Did you know that dopamine, a chemical that alcohol spikes in your brain, doesn’t make us happy and satisfied? That’s not its role. Dopamine’s role is to get us to pursue happiness and satisfaction by always craving and wanting more. “The dopamine trap is where we are driven to chase pleasure but it’s always at the expense of our wellbeing. This can form the foundations of addiction” and I have had enough of addiction running my brain!
I’ve learned about the dopamine trap from reading Sara Best who’s program on healthy eating is one of my 6-month sober treats to me. She points out that we live in a society all about numbing and avoiding because people can make a lot of money from selling us addiction.
I want to kick start a healthy body and mindset but my body and mind just want to laze around in bed or sleep, especially at odd hours. It’s not just the dopamine imbalance that years of nightly drinking created in my brain, my brain tells my body to avoid pain and keep seeking reward, apparently as brains are instinctively meant to do in order for us to survive. So I need to somehow train or persuade my brain that not drinking and living a balanced life is more pleasure than pain.
I have a few ideas like eating healthy and going to bed before 2am (!) but it’s more than that isn’t it. I’ve heard it helps to seek out serotonin-producing activities like self-care, yoga, and creativity as these do make us feel satisfied, happy, and calm. There’s no magic fix but my husband gave me some advice from his SMART Recovery work last night that I’m going to try. It works for him.
He said it’s all about leading a balanced life.
I said fine, sounds great but how do I do that?
He said it’s all about the following:
A Balance Life Includes
Self-maintenance for example making up making your bed in the morning, making yourself presentable, cleaning your teeth every day.
Self development – stuff you’re interested in, like reading a new book, learning a new skill, exercise, yuck exercise but he’s probably getting it right so I will reacquaint myself with the treadmill currently gathering dust.
Fun– What do you enjoy other than drinking so perhaps enjoying a meal, watching a movie
Then he said it’s important to try and get a mixture of all three in your day, even if you don’t feel you want to do it, because if you miss an element of it it doesn’t all slot into place and you feel out of sorts. Dissatisfied and disappointed I guess. Hmmmm a bit like I have felt lately.
He said it’s about establishing good habits, getting into a routine and then you feel better about yourself and knowing you’ve got stuff done as a result.
Self development for him currently involves reading about history which he enjoys and it’s about spending time with the kids which is also exercise.
Exercise can be fun and also self development and self maintenance
That’s how you live a balanced life.
Which is a Key principle for the SMART recovery program.
He said it helps keep him and others away from booze by getting down to basics. Doing these small tasks occupies your mind. If you are in your first weeks or even the first couple of months sober, it is so good to have the distraction of focusing on these principles. The activity of achieving balance is so much simpler than we often think. What you’re doing is making a plan for your day and if your plan doesn’t involve alcohol you are making a plan to succeed.
Self-maintenance is as simple as cleaning your teeth, having a shower, making your bed, eating breakfast so you have the energy to take the day on.
Self-development is learning new stuff that builds up your self-respect and self-esteem as a result.
Fun is also very important- you need to have a smile on your face and think of things that make you happy other than alcohol.
If you have done your self-maintenance and self-development you deserve fun now so make sure you do something you enjoy.
There is a lot to think about there and I can see how that fits with the view that I heard recently that “habits are formed by emotions” ( check out the video at the end of this post) and our brains have to find pleasure rather than pain in what we are doing to encourage it to keep doing that thing. That way we are working with our brain rather than against it.
So the takeaway for me is if my brain enjoys living a balanced life because it is fulfilled, energised, stimulated, rewarded, excited, playful, motivated, satisfied, etc then it’s less likely to want to turn back to alcohol to numb. I don’t know but it’s definitely worth exploring further.
Now i just need to put it into practice and make it work for me aswell. 🤔😃
My husband has good advice sometimes, I should listen to him more often 🙂
This post and the following poems were written by Floss, author of Little Black Dress, and other poetic musings on living alcohol-free
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How Does it FEEL to be almost 6 months sober?
It feels REAL!
Frustrated this morning
Drinking coffee and yawning
I want to be her already
New and improved please
But the reality is
It won’t happen with ease
Or not overnight
Without internal fight
Or huge disagreement
At the very least
I’m working against my brain
It’s showing it’s disdain
Wants to keep me stuck in my habit
Thinking that’s the best way to survive
But that ISN’T it
The changes I made must be sustained
Or my thoughts can’t rearrange
And I have to practice being who I wanna be
‘Cos it doesn’t happen by itself really
It’s all about knowledge and consistency
THAT’S where the magic really is
Practice who we wanna become
Act how that person would act
And ODAAT we become them
T To live fully & present 😀❤
If we want something better
We have to give up what is weighing us down
The two can’t coexist
And to try creates conflict
Walking away from what doesn’t serve us
Is a learned skill
That needs to be practiced each day
It doesn’t depend solely on white-knuckling or will
Sometimes things don’t change much until
It hurts more to stay the same
Then it does to up your game
When your “why” becomes bigger
Then the desire to have a drink
Then your commitment gets easier
That’s pretty cool don’t you think?!
How do you get to 6 months sober?
165 days baby
Yeah not everything is ok
But there’s no way
That I wanna look back
There’s no way I wanna
Let alcohol attack
Life is just precious
So I don’t wanna play
The blame, shame, regret,
Forget my own name game
Any damn day
When life seems crap
And it’s all turning to shit
Keep your balance
Don’t fall flat on your face in it
Alcohol’s a slippery son of a bitch
If you’re not careful
It will have the last laugh
Just breathe and stay calm
This too shall pass 🙏