NAILED IT!! – SOBER EIGHTY (SOBRIETY) CHALLENGE – “JUST THE TONIC” – Complete

Could you stay sober for 80 days???

3 months ago on a holiday in Northumberland, after a few weeks of contemplation and some serious insight into what alcohol was doing to me, I came up with the idea of going sober for 80 days.

When I say “what alcohol was doing to me”, there was no major situation, no collapsing in a heap, no mad night out with an alcohol induced coma, no waking up with a million regrets.. it just hit me steady – like, my casual weekend drinking is making me feel like shit about myself and doing bad things to my body and I am relying on alcohol for far too many things.

Today marks the end of that challenge and I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned and also the changes that have occurred. It’s pretty weird to sit the other side of the fence after spending years and years with an alcoholic beverage in hand.

So here we go;

1. Alcohol is ethanol. Ethanol is poison. Alcohol is therefore a toxic, poisonous substance. Like really, not being dramatic with words, this is actual scientific truth. Actual poison. Worse than that, we drink poison to have a ‘good time’. This irony is totally mind blowing to me.

2. Alcohol is the only drug you have to justify not taking, and the only drug people will try to persuade you to continue to take. No-one would dispute it if you said you were giving up cigarettes, cocaine or heroin.

3. Alcohol is one of the most addictive substances on the planet. Truth bomb.

4. If you go Sober people automatically suspect you may be an alcoholic. Grey area for me. I’ve never been physically dependent, but pyschologically?? – for sure. It’s just a sliding scale from tee total downwards and where you sit on that scale is most often not where you’d like to be. No-one wants to admit they have a problem though.

5. Most people who drink alcohol are dependent on it to some degree. And if you think you’re not, you are probably kidding yourself. See point no.4.

6. Alcohol is that cleverly packaged and marketed and such an intrinsic part of society that we have all been brainwashed to believe;
a. It is necessary to have a good time – life must be so boring sober.. right?
b. It is a reward, hard earned and deserved (who treats themselves with poison? – “mummy needs wine”)

7. We are therefore all sheeples – everyone else does it so it must be ok. I’ve spent most of my life surrounded by people who drink – a lot. I think there is an underlying reason for that.

8. In becoming sober I have found clarity of thought, I have managed to stick to a fitness program. I have more energy, more motivation and I have found my waistline again. My eyes are brighter, my skin is smoother and I genuinely feel a lot happier. I eat better and I could win competitions for sleeping.

9. There is a sober movement out there which I never knew existed. Sober parties and festivals. People enjoying themselves without drink. It is an evolution that is finding a voice, collecting supporters, and steadily growing.

10. I have missed so many things throughout life by being too pissed to be present, too wasted to appreciate the moments. I have spent lots of money, and hidden myself behind alcohol. Days wasted hungover. This makes me sad.

I have gained so much from being sober and lost nothing, apart from that which is better to lose.

So, challenge complete and I am super proud of what I’ve achieved (along with my partner in crime who’s had his own tests over the last 80 days and been awesome support).

What happens now there are no self imposed restrictions? Are we drinkers or are we non-drinkers?

For now, I’m not quite ready to give up on all I’ve attained, not willing to return to old habits. I have life goals, fitness targets, focus – and alcohol will not help me achieve any of these.

It has been a life changing experience.

Could you stay sober for 80 days???

Well done to all the others who joined in our challenge too!! 20180919_081450hangover-photo

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The Sober Eighty Challenge – Just the Tonic. Day 74 sober. Deal With It.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being sober. Right now I wouldn’t change it for the world, but there are times when the self-recognition hits you like a big wet fish slap around the face.
This is me.
Being sober makes shit more prominent – the good shit and the bad shit. The bad shit is having to accept the odd, the crap, the ugly sides of your own personality that you now have to sit with as you can no longer avoid them. You cannot drink away any insecurities, anxieties or oddities. You have to actually deal with them. There is nothing to hide behind, no pretence. Some days it’s just fucking raw.
This is me.
So, my daily morning routine consists of a cup of tea, breakfast and a little social media scrolling (I’m normally alone). Today I have woken up in an odd mood courtesy of my sober sleep which is now riddled with dreams and I am still processing. Then I see something in my FB notifications that makes me feel sick to the pit of my stomach.
….I’ve received an invite to an ‘event’ – a fitness and yoga workshop.
WTF??? Yes, this is me. Who else would find this a total trauma?
To most people this would be, you know, what a lovely way to spend a Saturday morning. I must obvs go hang with some babes for a couple of hours in my cool and trendy gym gear and get in a good workout and some good stretching… and….
To me: Literal Horror. Panic about who will be there, how many will be there. Panic about how to politely decline. Panic about whether there is an actual need to respond. Finally decide to respond and then panic over what I’ve written in said response. Too much to think about and it’s barely 6.30am. I can’t go ‘cos I’m busy so I don’t know why all the stress and at the end of the day basically no-one will give a shit anyway. Frustrated with self.
The problem is the instant reaction in my head: Have received invite to spend morning with big group of cliquey women and have to pay for the privilege. No way bitches.
*shudders
*pulls imaginary blanket over head
It’s always lovely to receive invites and I must say at this point – it’s not you, it’s me. And I don’t mean offence at the clique. Honest. What makes me think such horrible thoughts!!??
I am essentially an introvert. Most groups look like a clique to me. How it’s taken me 41 years to figure this out I’ll never know. You may have once seen me at the party of the century, hilariously pissed, dancing like there’s nobody watching (and hoping the next day that nobody actually was), spilling wine, falling over, losing shoes, coat, phone and/or handbag (delete as appropriate), partying like I am everyone’s friend and the life and soul. Social butterfly. I’ll talk shit to anyone when I’m drunk.
In real life, there are very few big groups that I ever want to hang out with, especially groups of women. I just don’t belong. I find small talk a huge waste of energy expenditure. Big groups of women make me feel uncomfortable.
This is me.
I have a lot to give, I’m just very selective about who I give it to. I’m also very selective about how.
Energy is my currency… I want to save it and spend it wisely.

There was a time I didn’t like being the odd one out, tried desperately hard to fit in. I believed life was a popularity contest and the more friends you had the more you were winning at life.
Needless to say this is probably why and where my relationship with alcohol began.
Nowadays I don’t feel the need to try to fit in so much. Why should I try to pretend to be someone I’m not? I’ll always be odd. Not antisocial, just…lets say… a little picky?

Embrace it.

I am better in small groups, with other odd friends (sorry, but if you’re my friend there’s a strong likelihood you are) and (after my little mini melt down this morning) I’ll get comfortable with that. The sober me is a little up and down, dealing with my shy, awkward, weird self but at the same time I’m regrouping, rediscovering, remembering, regrounding, reconnecting and that can never be a bad thing.
This is totally fucking me.

Arrested Development

Just the Tonic – Sober Eighty Challenge

In amongst all my alcohol reading and research (I forgot how much I love books), I have read on a few occasions this notion that alcohol stunts your emotional growth.

 “because there is a rule of thumb in psychotherapy, that whatever age you start “using” is the emotional age at which you’re stuck. So, if you first used alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex or whatever it is that you discovered made you instantly “feel better” at age 14, then you will be stuck with the capacity of a 14-year old to deal with difficult emotions.” Charlotte Stapf

Lit. Yaaasss. Psych. [Insert Sarcasm emoji]. FFS, does that mean I have to go through puberty again (late developer)???

So, now I am peeling back the layers of the sober Nicky onion, I have discovered that I’m a peri-menopausal woman with the emotional capacity of a 15-year old! Well, not quite, but there is some truth in it. I have pretty much been drunk since the age of 15. Not 24-7 of course, but I have travelled along that alcoholic roller coaster which involves getting drunk, recovering, drinking some more, recovering a little more and then back to the drinking again. Sometimes vowing never to drink again. Sometimes longer spells between drinking. Sometimes drinking nearly every day (student life gave me the best excuse to drink daily, at any time of day and for peanuts. I was constantly pissed for about a year and a half before I left Uni – another story). Week in, week out. Year by year.

For 26 years.

Not an alcoholic, of course, but I will say that moderation is not a word in my alcohol vocabulary. I have managed dry January several times now (mostly to give my body a break and convince myself I am absolutely not an alcoholic and I don’t have a drinking problem) and I once gave up alcohol for a short period of time after leaving Uni, as I recognised it as a catalyst to the deep depression I was in. I can manage without. I can go days through the week without having a drink (about 3 or 4 as a rule). Just the rest of the time I choose to use it to manage.

On the flip side to periods of sobriety, I have had drinking binges that have thrown me into the other side of oblivion. Catatonic. Nights where I could barely walk and talk. I have fallen over, blacked out, ended up in places I shouldn’t have, put my life at risk with strangers. I have woken with UDI’s, lost my memory (and my purse), made a fool of myself, and felt huge ‘hang your head’ shame. I have been in such an emotional drunk state, I have sat hugging my knees sobbing, deep, gut-wrenching sobs, rocking, feeling helpless, dismayed at the shadow of a person I had become and searching desperately for the person I had left behind.

I have been so hungover that I have been unable to move, or to eat. So hungover that I felt like my face had shrunk and my lips went all weird and tight when I talked. I have lost feeling in my little finger (on several occasions), not been able to hear properly (I have no idea why or how that happened) and suffered the worst anxiety of my entire life.

I think to a certain degree I have been a lot steadier with my consumption as I have got older, but this is in comparison to the above. This might also be a little bit more to do with the fact that we go #outout a lot less. But, on reflection, at an average of 50 units a week on a ‘steady’ week (easier done than you think), I was still drinking too much.

I recognise now that I have used alcohol to self-medicate for many years. Originally, I “used” alcohol to try and be fun and fit in. At 15 I was gawky, gangly tall, flat chested, ginger and shy – all the best qualities for a teenage girl. Alcohol gave me a little confidence boost, made me feel a little wild. It helped me party with the cool kids. I soon learnt that it was also a good way to forget; to numb the pain of a childhood trauma; to erase the emotional scars, to anesthetise the worry and the anxiety, and I’ve been that way ever since. When times are tough, stressful or I have experienced any kind of emotions that I have struggled to get to grips with (and not just the negative ones, there are others I wrestle with too) – alcohol has been my “friend”.

Tough day at work? Hit the bottle.

Feeling a little anxious/insecure/nervous/tired/upset/confused/worried/lonely/depressed? Hit the bottle.

Fight with the boyfriend? Hit several bottles…. You get the picture.

The coping mechanism only works for a while. You can numb the feelings temporarily, living in a little alcohol induced bubble for a while, but the problems don’t disappear, and the emotions are still there when you wake up, only with a foggy mind and a fuzzy head you are even less able to deal with them and they seem ten times worse. It may be a cliché but it’s also a fact.

Some may call my sobriety a bit of a mid-life crisis, as I reassess and try to work it all out. I have been very contemplative since I decided to go sober and I feel that I need to revisit some of the things I used to love doing as a child, to see if they still make me tick and to find out what truly makes my soul happy.  Alcohol replaced time (drinking takes away a lot of time) and time that used to be spent doing the things I loved.

It feels a little strange to be facing the world in its true and raw form daily. When you have anesthetised yourself for so long, you forget you were numbing the good parts at the same time too. Sobriety is bringing with it a strange wide-eyed euphoria, a natural high that no drug can provide. I am finding joy and beauty in the smallest of things and my inner childish hippy is thriving. And we’re only on Day 12.

I am a little nervous but excited about this new Chapter in life, as I learn how to live sober.

SOBER EIGHTY (SOBRIETY) CHALLENGE – “JUST THE TONIC”

Could you stay sober for 80 days?

Most people [I know] will answer this question with a “NO”. I mean, why would you want to? Alcohol is part of life, right?

I wonder if it’s to do with the circles I mix in, or that British social culture seems to revolve around alcohol – beer gardens, cocktail bars, clubs and pubs? We are a nation of Sober Shamers and Alcohol Pushers (myself known to be one of them) and I know very few people who don’t drink at all.

Unless you’re pregnant (“you can still have the odd one, surely…?”) or driving… or maybe allergic or something… then why on Earth would you decide to stay sober?

You’re going to have to have a really, really, good reason. 

So, why am I going Sober for 80 days?

I was going to try and hide behind the whole fitness thing – like, I’m in serious training for an off-road marathon and I want to lose weight, so I can run faster, especially up hills. Whilst this is true, and I think that drinking alcohol does not allow me to reach my full fitness potential, and I am training for a marathon (and curious to see if sobriety makes any difference to my performance), this is not the main reason I am doing this.

Then, I thought I could say I want to abstain for a while because of mental health issues – it exacerbates my anxiety and can make me feel a bit down for a few days after a big session. This is all also true, however not the main reason.

OR, maybe I could drop the truth bomb and say that I have started to feel uncomfortable with my dependency on alcohol.

Am I an alcoholic? No.

Do I feel the need to drink more nights of the week than I don’t? Yes.

Do I struggle with moderation? Yes. I am an “all or nothing” girl. I try to be moderate. Sometimes it works, sometimes I’m drunk.

Can I go long spells without alcohol? Only if it’s dry January, everyone else is doing it, no-one goes out anyway and there is no fear of missing out. Fake sober = no problem.

Have I had a recent, horrendous experience with alcohol creating a knee jerk, “I’m never drinking again” reaction? No….

But… over the years there is an accumulation of secret drinking, pre-drinking, binge drinking, drinking left over wine from the night before whilst cooking breakfast (OK, only on very rare occasions, but still..). There is the obsession with how much I’m drinking, or not drinking, if I’m drinking too fast, can I get to the wine first before someone else finishes the bottle. Quick, fill your glass up. Don’t get too drunk tonight.. OOPS *falls over *falls asleep *falls out of love with self ~ drinks more to get through the guilt. Shopping…when can we get to the pub? Sight-seeing.. when can we get to the pub?  Where is all the alcohol at this party? Then, there’s the blackouts, doing stupid things, saying stupid things, falling over, UDI’s, arguments, deep depression, a rocking sadness. Despair. Shame.

These have all made me question my relationship with alcohol.

OK, so most of these things don’t happen on a regular basis and many of them not for a long time now. I would even go so far to say my current alcohol consumption is pretty average, and with some of the people I know, it’s actually way below par.

Just, for some reason, I’m not comfortable with it being “the norm” anymore.

Maybe, I just got sober curious.

Maybe, I just want to fly without being “high”

Maybe, I want to view the world with a little clarity for a while.

Maybe, I feel the need to rebel against the societal norms.Blog pic

Maybe, (a little bit deep this one) I want to rediscover the person I was before I started to hide behind alcohol, but the grown-up version.

At the end of the day there is a bigger question here, which is why do I feel the need to explain myself? Can I not just be sober and that be an OK thing to do?

Will my sobriety offend you? And if so, why?

Food for thought.

So, the challenge starts on Monday 2nd July – DAY ONE, which takes us to 19th September as DAY EIGHTY.

My average weekly consumption when staying in = around 6 bottles cider and 2-3 bottles of wine over the course of Thurs – Sunday.

PER WEEK that’s going to be a saving of;

£30-£40

50 UNITS (that is the part that shocked me the most – strong cider!)

and about 3,500 calories. 

I will be documenting the highs and lows of being SOBERCHIC here on the Brightside blog and will be setting up a private Facebook group – if required – for a bit of moral support, so let me know if you care to join me on my mission to becoming SOBER AF.

#soberisthenewblack #sobriety #soberchic #justthetonic #eightydayathlete #sobereightychallenge