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Off the Wagon…

So I’ve not posted in quite a while….

As some of you may have guessed I’ve started drinking again. I broke up with my girlfriend and I just jacked it in and went to the pub. I’ve actually been ok so far, although this is what happened last time I stopped then stopped stopping. It took me a while to fall back into the problem drinking.

I just don’t have enough of a social life if I don’t drink, I know that’s pathetic. I feel incredibly lonely if I don’t have people around me all the time. That’s probably part of the reason it took me so long to admit my relationship was broken and to leave her. I know it’s daft and that it almost certainly won’t work, but at the moment I’m riding my luck. I’m keeping an eye open for signs of the old habits, if they come back I really am gonna do it properly and quit.

Sorry if I’ve let any of you down.

Cravings

Something that has surprised me about quitting drinking has been the cravings. I guess it is something I’d expect for a textbook alcoholic, but for a useless one like me, I’ve been surprised.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, while drinking I never experienced desperate cravings for alcohol. It was when I decided to drink that my problems became all too apparent. I wasn’t compelled to have the first drink, but I was then on a slippery slope. Like an icy hill covered in  jagermeister and cheap lager.

However, since stopping I have experienced real, wrenching cravings for drink. Fantasising about getting wasted, feeling that warm glow. This I guess is more confirmation going teetotal was a good idea. On a few occasions I have  been really close to   just going and taking a drink. Most of my friends still don’t know I’m off the booze, or they don’t know the reason why. It would be so easy to just jack it in and get hammered. There are occasions where, “no I’ll have a diet coke” are the hardest words to say.

Maybe things would be easier if there were more people I felt accountable to. I still have the problem of having to justify my decision to those people I have told. It’s an odd situation being the one with the drinking problem persuading those you love that you have a problem. That’s not how it goes in films.

So I’m battling on. It’s tougher than expected, but I’m trying to focus on the positives.

Post Booze Bliss

I wanted to be more positive in this post. Bliss is a bit of an overstatement, but certain things about not drinking make me really happy. I’m finding things a bit tough at the moment, so when better to focus on the upsides. (I know right, this guy sounds like a happy clapper loser!)

One thing that makes me smile just thinking about it, is that for over 2 months now I haven’t wasted a second in the midst of a hangover or post-drinking guilt. Nine weekends where I’ve not ruined my time off work by hiding like an agoraphobic hermit. I’ve been on holiday, climbed mountains, played tennis, applied for new jobs, and volunteered at a charity. I might have done some of this stuff if I hadn’t stopped drinking but I wouldn’t have done as much of it, and I would have completed each task like a t-rex trying to change a bed sheet.

My fitness has definitely improved as well. I’ve lost about a stone in the last couple of months, and obviously I’m now near to complete physical perfection. Just the other day some Japanese tourists here for the Edinburgh festival stopped to take photos (although I may have been standing with the Castle in the background). I enjoy running  a lot, and since going alcohol free I managed to complete my goal of running 10km in under 45 minutes. Sub 40 is the new challenge…

I’ve also started to gain more confidence in social settings without relying on alcohol. One of the things I loved about drinking was the way it lets you suppress your inhibitions. But I’ve started to feel less inhibited without it. I love being the centre of attention (yeah I’m that guy…) but I used to need to be drunk to feel comfortable in the lime light. Now a little less so. Basically I am starting to make a tit of myself on purpose instead of when I can barely stand.

All in all, there’s a lot of good things to focus on. I’m just going to have to come back and read this post when I start to forget it…

Green Eyed Monster

Something that has evolved in my time not drinking (over 2 months now by the way), is my feelings towards those people who can drink responsibly. You know, those people who possess the superpower to turn down a drink, to go home when they’re tipsy, and not black out and throw their own vomit on the roof.

At first I was very jealous (DISCLAIMER: I am still a bit…).  Sitting in a beer garden enjoying a pint in the sun, a gin and tonic in the garden (reserved for visits to my parents’s house), a pint after work. These are the kind of things I would like to be able to enjoy. Someone who can sip a whisky and appreciate it’s subtle smokey flavours, drink a drink for it’s taste, I’m jealous of them.

The thing is, and the reason I am slowly moving away from jealousy, is that this kind of drinking isn’t actually what I miss. I miss, and crave, getting very very drunk. You can’t appreciate the flavour of any drink when you’re out of the game, and drinking with your parents is a very risky game for an alcoholic (a bit like juggling knives and embarrassing secrets blindfolded).

I am still jealous of people who don’t have a drinking problem. Not because they can drink (responsible drinking looks really boring), but because they can fully take part in any social event, they don’t have to make excuses, and they don’t have the hassle of trying to quit. As much as I joke around I have found, and continue to find, quitting drinking very difficult. Just there on Friday I was hugely tempted to drink, the words I’ll have a pint were so close to escaping from my lips. I thought as far as how to disguise the fact I’d been drinking from my girlfriend. Luckily I pulled through.

What to tell people?

I get asked why I’m not drinking a lot. I mean every time I’m in a situation where alcohol is available. It can be a tricky question.

As I’ve previously discussed some people get told the truth. The inner sanctum of trust currently consists of Mum, Dad, sister, girlfriend, and best friend. Only these lucky few have been told the truth, have been trusted with this shining nugget of information. Everyone else gets told a lie.

When I first quit drinking I asked the internet for suggestions of what to tell people. Many answers came back, from health reasons, to allergies, fitness drives, to just saying “I don’t feel like it today.” Along with these responses the overwhelming opinion was that I wouldn’t need these excuses, that no one would really care or notice. They said the only reason I thought it was a big deal was that I was an alcoholic. Normal people, sitting in the garden having a small glass of chardonnay, wouldn’t think about it for a second.

The internet is stupid.

I always get asked. It’s not like I hang round with a bunch of alcoholics either. I am Scottish, my friends are Scottish. Scottish people like a drink. In fact I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that 90% of social life in Scotland is based around alcohol. The second you sit down sipping a wee Irn Bru (those from further a field should google this tastiest of drinks), the questions start. I normally take one of two approaches, either “Just don’t feel like it” or “I’m on a new medicine for *insert minor ailment here*”

The not in the mood approach produces a reaction much like if you said the Nazis had a few good ideas. The medicine one is a safer bet. Then of course you have the issue of correctly pitching the severity of the illness. You have to make sure it’s severe enough that you really need the medicine, but not too severe that they will worry, or that eyebrows will be raised if you haven’t shuffled off this mortal coil by two weeks on Friday. You’ll also want to avoid the icky illnesses, for example the shits, boils, warts, or anything to do with your dangly bits. 

I really do wish there was a culture of acceptance around not drinking. When someone says they’ve quit smoking no one ever says “Why?!?” or “Oh go on! Just have the one.” It’s an annoyance that I am learning to deal with.

Born or Made

A lot of the discussions about alcoholism revolve around whether it is a case of nature or nurture. It is something I have given some thought to. Basically, can I blame it all on my genes or my parents*?

My gut reaction is to say that it isn’t genetic, that we aren’t born this way. It seems too much involved with culture and what relationship we have with alcohol. You don’t see entire alcoholic families, my sister can drink in a controlled way, she can say no to a second drink just fine.

On the other hand, a lot of things we consider to have nothing to do with genetics are massively influenced by them. For example political preference has been shown to be hugely influenced by genetics. It all comes down to the fact that a huge slice of our personality is inherited, in our DNA, from our parents. Just as personality can shape who we vote for, maybe it can affect our preponderance to getting blootered and vomiting up the wall.

For me a combination of attention seeking, wanting to be part of the gang, occasional social awkwardness and a propensity to get bored compel me to drink (I think). If these attributes can be explained by my genetic make up, then maybe my drinking problem can be too. If you think this all sounds like a failure to accept I simply have rubbish will power, then check mate, I can blame that on my DNA too!

The fact I have never been able to drink responsibly would possibly bolster the nature argument. The first time I drank unsupervised was at a friends house party. I was 15 and had managed to secure eight cans of Castlemaine XXXX. (I am still quite proud I avoided Fosters in favour of a real Australian beer.) I drank them all, and it goes without saying, was wasted. I fell off my seat and apparently pretended to swim across the kitchen floor as my delightfully mature friends threw glasses of water over me… My grandad was an alcoholic, maybe I got it from him.

In reality I think the simple answer is that it is in fact a mix of nature and nurture. Like most things in life it can’t be explained by one factor. I think probably some people are born with a predisposition to being an alcoholic, a genetic element that can become active if the right circumstances present. Unfortunately for me I hit that perfect storm.

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what makes people alcoholics, the treatment doesn’t change, we just have to stop drinking.

*Please note the only thing I really blame my parents for is not buying me a toy gun when I was a kid. My mum thought it would make me violent. To be fair to her I’ve never shot anyone, so it must have worked.

Bingeing Whingeing

This post is somewhat related to the last one. It is another problem with not fitting the alcoholic stereotype. Although unlike having to tell your mother that alcohol sends you cray cray, it is more of an internal problem.

Since accepting that I have a drinking problem there has been a niggling question troubling me. Am I a ‘real’ alcoholic, or does labelling myself one belittle other people’s more serious problems? This doubt is very unhelpful when the booze cravings are biting. It makes it much easier to think “Hey, why not? Have a drink, go on.” Of course if my mind was functioning rationally at these moments I’d think, “Wait a minute… I’m REALLY craving a drink (Please note: in this instance “a drink”= getting really fucked up), I am an alcoholic! Yay!”

The internet will tell you that being an alcoholic is all about what happens when you take that first drink. My fellow problem drinkers will know, that for the likes of us, what happens is our entire being screams for more alcohol. Even knowing this I still sometimes feel I’m making a big deal out of nothing. That I’m being an hypochondriac attention seeker. It’s a feeling I have to battle.

On a side note, my doctor sister who I’ve previously mentioned, once described me as the opposite of a hypochondriac. I’d left an infected cut so long without going to the doctors, I had to rush to hospital with a serious blood infection. When I asked her what the name for that was, she said, “Oh I dunno, probably an idiot.”

*Warning this post is about to get heartfelt and serious again*

If anyone reading this is wondering whether being a binge drinker “counts” as an alcoholic, you should know it definitely does. If you drink to get wasted, if you wake up feeling depressed, if you crave getting hammered again, then there is a good chance you have a problem. But most importantly if you think you have a problem, you should do something about it. No one else knows exactly what’s going on in your head. (That message is really 95% for myself.)

P.S- the hardest thing about this post? Spelling the bloody title. Looks weird doesn’t it?

P.P.S- Is P.S even the way you add an after thought to a blog post?


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