Thursday, 18 July 2013

Day 13: hello from me, plus some thoughts on gratitude by Neruda

Like many people who know they may (or may not! I was so hoping the answer was not!) have a problem with alcohol, I have had had spats of going without drinking. Usually after a few days, I would feel great, and I wonder what the problem was. If I felt this OK this quickly isn’t that evidence that there is no problem? What a relief! Now that’s worth celebrating with a nice glass (read bottle) of wine!

Many people who drink too much recognize this pattern. Even I recognize it by now, and I was highly motivated not to.

A year ago, I started what I called my booze journal. In it, I attempted to write about drinking: why I did it, why I thought I should moderate or quit, and how it was going. The notebook is a sad record of five attempts at quitting "just for a few days to clean up," or of moderating to do the same thing. Each one starts with high hopes and determination, quickly trailing off into some version of, “I had a little wine last night and it was so good, but I am going to try to keep a lid on the excessive drinking.” Then no entries for weeks or months, until the next round of “moderation.”

This time I am trying to do things differently. For one thing, I started to see a counselor, so I admitted to a real live human being that there is a problem and I need to get it sorted. For another, I tried to frame this as a present to myself, not as some punishment for innate failings. So the first week, I announced to my partner that I was having a Spa Week. Sadly, I can’t afford to go to a spa for a week, and I’m not sure I would even like it if I could. But I could treat myself really well for a week. Lots of fresh blueberries and raspberries, sparkling water with lime or lemon, homemade herbal teas, fantastic meals like fresh poached salmon on braised fennel, time to read whatever I want to read, plenty of walking and bike-riding—the list goes on. And oh yeah, by the way, no alcohol. 

It turns out the time to read was a huge help. I tripped across a sober blog, “unpickled.” (I don’t know how to link blogs yet, but I will come back and link it when I figure that out). That led me to the fabulous Belle’s “Tired of thinking about drinking,” which resonated, as I was sure tired of that! Then onto Mrs. D, so many more. I’ll do a list later, but it sure was a whole lot of reading. I was amazed to find so many women (many around my age) who have faced the same problem: drinking far too much, but still holding onto work and home and relationships. Not society’s image of a skid row alkie. Food for thought, that is. 

During my spa week, I started to feel pretty good, so I decided to keep the non-drinking going a bit longer. Maybe until mid-August (I have a big deadline then). The end of the year? A year? I settled on Belle’s 100 day challenge, because it seemed doable, and I like the support of people from all over doing this together. Because, despite feeling good this week, I know this is hard, and it's going to be hard, and though I am used to projecting an air of confidence and competence, man do I need help!

So that’s me. I’ve gone from drinking between 1 and 2 bottles of wine a day, blacking out evenings, waking up miserable pretending to feel great, and all the rest that goes with the drinking life, to feeling pretty darn OK most of the time. Happy, even, in moments. It's not easy, but it's better. The other day, I came across a short, untitled poem by Pablo Neruda that inspired me several years ago when I was going through a rough patch. (It's from his book "The Sea and the Bells.) Here it is:

I am grateful, violins, for this day
of four chords. Pure
is the sound of the sky,
the blue voice of air.

Today is Day 13 of 100, and I am grateful for that.

And to all the sober bloggers who helped me by writing, here's a huge and heartfelt thanks.


  1. Hooray for you! It's not easy but it's better. You should put that on a t-shirt. and wear it proudly. Sobriety suits you :)

  2. Hello! And welcome to Team 100.

    I so relate to the journaling but, you know, I've found my old 'wanting to quit drinking' journals one of the most helpful things as I've moved along, especially when I wrote about how I felt after I drank again, then why I wanted to quit, and rinse, repeat. I revisited them this week in fact, when I was feeling weak, and it reminded me that it'd just all be the same all over again if I drank again.

    I love the idea of the 'spa week'. I may still that. Wait there *runs away*. Ok, I'm back, having just ordered a case of San Pellengrino online in preparation.

    Love the Neruda quote too - such a beautiful writer.

    You can do this. Keep going.

    Lilly x

    1. Thanks for the support, Lilly! Yes, the journals are helpful, though they do make for a wretched read. And yes, spa week is marvellous. Let me know how it goes if you do one.