Saturday, 31 January 2015

Cravings Day.

Saturday was my favourite drinking day of the week. For the short while I managed to use Antabuse to enforce weekday abstinence it was my escape from that. Even when I was drinking daily it was my big social day. 

I used to love my Saturday afternoons in the pub. Almost always with the Doge. Lately often with Dalton. Then there were the OGs. OGD, OGA, OGB, Vest and Irk. Crosswords, them watching the racing, catching the football results as they came in... happy days. 

So Saturdays tend to be the day I suffer most from cravings. It's hard to describe cravings other than saying I WANT A DRINK. That's not true at the moment. At the moment I WANT A CIGARETTE. I'm in the midst of another giving up attempt, helped with an e-cig. 

It's not an actual physical sensation for me. And I think the longer I go, the truer this will get. I want the happy Saturday afternoon feeling. A warm, safe (if there are key words in my life they are warm and safe) place, nice people, something to do and to talk about. 

Have I replaced that yet? I'm not sure I have. Perhaps I never will. I sense I will need to work on it. At the moment I feel warm and safe. Mag and I enjoy spending time together. I'm still rather lacking in social contact. I had my exercise class today so I got some chit chat, which is nice. I got my endorphin boost too. I went out into the sunshine and the cold on the way. 

And I thought about drinking a lot. I thought about drinking as a reward for spending most of the day working. I thought about it as a reward for going to my exercise class and raising a sweat. I thought about it as the thing that I do at just gone lunch time. I thought about as I looked at the paper I would have rather been reading in the pub. 

That's all fine. Routines are changing. Tomorrow I'll have a proper look at where I think I am and what I need to do next. What challenges will make my life better. I have plenty of things in mind, but I'm wary of trying too much at once. My success in adopting a couple of new behaviours was, I think, largely because I gave them time and focus. 

At the moment, I am mostly thinking I WANT A CIGARETTE though. 

That should be easier tomorrow. Then easier the day after. And so on and so on and so on. 

If you spent it thank you for your time. Please leave a comment after the tone. 

Friday, 30 January 2015

Taking action, saying goodbye to shame.

I'm tired. And a bit dispirited. Not too terrible, but not too great. I didn't have a great day. I didn't get enough work done. 

And I relapsed on porn. The two are not unrelated.

I'm still deeply uncomfortable about writing, even anonymously, about this. My drinking put me in some very nasty places and helped me to do some pretty awful things. I never felt the shame I associate with this though. The reasons why this is may be interesting (some feel fairly obvious), but now isn't the time or place. 

I have decided to take more concrete action on this. Such is my shame that I have never reached out for any help with this (see, I keep saying "this", I don't even like typing it). 

Now, I really want it to stop. I'm starting from quite a good place. I've had recent longish periods of abstinence. I have on-going experience of succesful abstinence in another addiction. Now I want to aim for total abstinence. 

So I've done what the wise addict should do. I've committed to that. I've reached out for help. I'm finding out what I can and getting support. I'm putting support measures in place at home. 

I set up more comprehensive blocking on my computer today. I joined a support forum and signed up for seven day and 30 day abstinence challenges with the intention being long-term, total abstinence. 

I hope not to come back to this subject too often. But I had thought that will power would be enough. Wanting to stop and intending to stop and trying to stop... But it hasn't. 

With at least some of the sort of support I've had with stopping alcohol I have high hopes - and I think that believing that one has put a bad behaviour behind one is essential to actually doing it, I think. Creating those forum accounts, making that public commitment and asking for help felt like at least a small lifting a weight I'd carried alone for too long.

I intended this blog to be very much about my primary battle, which is the recovery from alcoholism. This is part of that. This is part of creating that better life that I want. A better life that doesn't have too many (let's not say none, it's wrong to think of absolutes I think) untruths, has no shame, has no hidden things. 

It's good to talk. I am now an ex-porn user.

If you spent it thank you for your time. Please leave a comment after the tone. 

Thursday, 29 January 2015

An expanding life. An exploding life?

I am busy. Ooff! I might just have to sit down after writing that. Oh, I am sitting down. The trend for standing at desks is yet to reach More Than Sober International Comms HQ. Largely because I think its bollocks. I have no money for such fripperies. And, deep down, I like sitting. Don't we all? Deep down? 

I am busy though. My life is expanding. This is a surprise. In many ways a pleasant surprise. Boredom, apathy, lack of drive, lack of earnings, lack of lackable stuff all round, was one of the things I knew I had to tackle. 

Because I'm a freelancer, I have to bid and pitch for work, chase it and find it. I've been successful lately and found two new clients who are already providing what feel like demanding long-term projects. A second day in my office job this week (it's usually one), and I'm starting to feel a little under pressure. 

That's good in many ways. I've limited myself for too long, trapped by my own low expectations and a lack of energy caused by PAWS, or depression, or anxiety, or sheer, damned laziness or whatever it was. 

I'm pushing at the edges of what I'm comfortable with though. My balloon feels full. Recovery must be about challenging yourself. How would you change otherwise? Nor would I want you to think that I'm engaged in anything very serious of that the average worker in my profession would be concerned by. I'm not. In fact, I've done much more in the past. Before alcohol intervened, I was a newspaper reporter and, if I do say so myself, a very good one. A very busy one too. Quite driven even. 

So, I am capable of this. I'm just not yet very used to it. For a while now I've been quite pleased if I manage to do one thing a day. Complete one set of work; make it to the office. Any sort of appointment would become the one thing I felt I was capable of easily enough. 

Now I'm trying to do more. I work from 9am at the latest after meditating, making breakfast (remember, I'm starting from a very low base in life skills - consider me a pre-teen child and applaud now, if you will). On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I need to go to the addiction clinic to take my Antabuse. A non-booked appointment of indeterminate length. I cook lunch. I work again until at least 5pm, often 6 or 7pm. I then make dinner. Wash up. Sit for a while in front of the TV until my food is digested enough to allow me to do my work out, which takes at least 45 minutes. Then I meditate again. Finally I write my daily post here, smash it around social media as far as I can and go to bed to read. 

There is still room for arsing about on Facebook, although only after working hours now. And I break for tea, and fags (stop smoking you div!). Mags works at home for now and sometimes I need to help her out. I do the shopping if we need anything. 

Now, I appreciate that this is a very ordinary, average routine. To me, it is a challenge. Something I've never really tackled. I'm very proud (if you'll forgive me) that I'm managing it so far. 

Tomorrow is quite an important challenge for me. Mags is away for the day. I shall have to replace the exterior break on my sometimes bad behaviour with... with me! With wanting and being capable of doing the right thing. With coping with perfectly manageable stress levels easily enough and without reaching for coping mechanisms that only harm me and make me feel bad. 

Wish me luck. 

If you spent it thank you for your time. Please leave a comment after the tone. Beep!       

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

How I meditate. And why.

I have just finished a not-hugely-successful meditation session. My second 10-minute bout of the day. Chief among the stray thoughts that charged through my mind was "what the hell shall I write?" 

So I'm going to write about meditation. 

I've dabbled in meditation for years. Unfortunately my initial impulse towards meditation was not born of pure motives. As an adolescent I was a massive Beatles fan (I still am, an obsessive and a bore - or a bit of an expert if you're feeling charitable). While it wouldn't be right to blame dear old John, Paul, George and Ringo for my later enthusiasm for drugs, it was through their biographies that my latent desire for altered states - childishly indulged in spinning to dizziness and hyperventilation - found a particular form. 

Anyone who knows The Fabs' story will know that they moved from LSD to TM, or Transcendental Meditation. My young mind put the two together as some sort of equivalent. Of course, they couldn't be more different. But the urge to them was in some ways similar - I sought altered states, but as a means to peace. 

In the last couple of years I've made a couple of efforts to meditate properly and regularly. At the turn of this year I managed to begin a continued run of meditation. 

It's proving great. It's also incredibly hard. 

If you've got even a passing interest you'll have found some of the thousands of guides on YouTube. I've certainly looked at plenty of them. In the end though, and at this stage of my meditation journey (I normally hate that word but it feels appropriate here), I've gone back to the first book on the subject I ever read. 

How to Meditate by Lawrence Leshan may well be very out of date. I can't recall much of it now, though I do remember that it's quite academic, concerned with religious experience and spirituality. What I have recalled from it is the very simple "how to" of the title. 

And that's what I do. It's a simple breath-counting meditation. I sit upright in a chair (my knees aren't yet up to comfortable crossing). I have my hands in my lap, or sometimes I put one on my belly to feel my diaphragm rise and fall with my breath (something I saw recommended in a YouTube video by a very nice, Canadian Buddhist monk - could there be anyone nicer anywhere in the universe than a Canadian Buddhist monk?). Then I just breath, counting "one" on the in breath and saying "and" on the out breath. 

And I hope to think nothing else other than that.

And of course I don't. Today I remember thinking about what to write here; I thought about death having just seen a documentary of Churchill's funeral; I thought of my family dying (remember I'm a bit anxious); I thought of - and this is a common one - meditation and how, and how not to do it. And each time I find myself starting I say to myself "just breathe", and go back to focusing on my breath. 

I do that with a timer on for 10 minutes, with quite a gentle alarm. I close my eyes. Sometimes the lights are off, but I don't think that's important. 

I try to never meditate straight after exercising, when I may struggle to breathe regularly at the start of the session. If you have ticking clocks in the room, smash them. You want to be as comfortable and feel as safe as you possibly can. I always remind myself before I start that while this is something that is regulated by the breath, it is not a breathing exercise - the aim is not to expand the diaphragm six inches and fill my lungs to maximum capacity. 

And I'm getting better and it's making me much better. I'll do it twice again tomorrow and soon I hope to make my 10 minutes into 15 or maybe 20. 

If you spent it thank you for your time. Please leave a comment after the tone. 

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Credit where it's due... A nice thing in yellow.... Rescheduling....

Yesterday's small outbreak of Not Quite So Good Behaviour dragged over a little into today. I was late getting up and started. Again, I feel the positive effects of my work though. I exercised this evening after a decent amount of work and I've just meditated. 

I also managed a dentist's appointment today. No-one likes the dentist very much and when you have anxiety problems... 

As I was leaving the house I looked for a book to take with me. Reading helps keep me calm. The cheerful, bright yellow of Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar caught my eye. 

I'm glad it did. I didn't have long to wait as it happens, but it taught me something important straight away. Two things actually. I really like bright yellow. The second thing is that I'm doing OK. 

The exercise at the end of the first chapter is all about creating new rituals. This is what I'm trying to do. Our pal Tal has done his research though, so I'm happy to take his advice. He advises attempting no more than one or two new habits at a time. He also reckons (or the research he quotes does) that a new ritual can probably be embedded as a habit within about 30 days. 

This is great news for me. I've taken on, what is it, at least three new behaviours since the New Year. I meditate every day, I exercise every day, I have massively improved my work routine and online behaviour. 

So that's enough for now. That's not me looking for excuses to take things easy. That's me accepting good advice. I want to change so many things that I am in danger of shooting off ineffectually in all directions. 

It's made me think. The fact that my doctor-referred exercise class has finished more quickly than I expected (though I may be able to snag a two-week extension because of the Christmas break) rather threw me. I'm now under pressure to sign up for a gym card; with a special offer that finishes in around two weeks also looming. 

I'm less concerned about that. I was convincing myself that I needed to spend this week and next getting into a new routine of going to the gym three times a week in order to prove I can manage the number of sessions I need to hit to make the card worthwhile financially. I'm less of that opinion now. 

So in terms of taking on new behaviours, and as I say there are several thousand I can think of, I'm relaxing for the moment. 

If you spent it thank you for your time. Please leave a comment after the tone. 

Monday, 26 January 2015

Minor slips. Minor recoveries. That's me, that is!

I've had a minor slip today. Not alcohol. I wouldn't be writing this if it'd been alcohol. Were I properly drinking again, there's no way I'd have the time, energy or inclination to write a blog - sodthelotofyers... I'm not, so I've taken my Antabuse today, so I'd be in hospital. 

No, it's with the other stuff. The online nonsense I thought I'd cleaned up with the clever social-media-and-other-time-wasters blocking add-on I downloaded last week. They're easy to turn off aren't they. 

I smoked as well. After managing a 24-hour period of abstinence from the evil weed. 

What's to learn though? Certainly that one feeds into the other. A slip in one battle is likely to lead to thinking that all battles are lost/temporarily suspended and so a slip in another is more likely. 

Being alone. Mag was away most of the day. I'm rather ashamed that I (who celebrates his 44th birthday on Thursday) can't be left to my own devices. It's a bit shite isn't it. I've mentioned H A L T, the Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired triggers for relapse before. Lonely then is one for me to think about. 

On the positive side. The effects of this lapse have not been too bad. It's not a slide, it's just a slip. I think the work I've done on being healthy, getting fitter, meditating is starting to stand me in - if not good - then better stead. 

It's all part of the Big Plan (I've never had a Big Plan before so excuse the capitals, I'd paint it purple if it were more tangible. There may come a time...). That my life will be busy, useful and fulfilled enough that it's not something I'll want to throw away to alcohol, or (to a lesser extent) these other behaviours. 

Today then is chalked up as a partial failure with a decent recovery. I worked, if not at Stakhanovite levels; I cooked and ate well; I left the house; I've meditated once (with another to come); I woke up early; and I've kept the house and myself clean I tidy. 

Hopefully tomorrow will be better and brighter. There's no reason why it shouldn't be. 

I'm sticking this song on the end simply because I like it and because I bet every addict who has ever heard it has listened to the chorus and said to themselves: "that's me that is...." I felt it myself today. 


And as it is true of the bad things, so it is true of the good things. I do those to myself too and I can chose to do more of them. I'm certainly moving in the right direction. 

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Addiction news - the rat play park experiement

Links to the research mentioned in Johan Hari's piece in the Huffington Post are included here. 

Playpen rats making popular comeback in Mad in America 

Taking a breath. The next challenges.

I'm really pleased with how my week of challenges went. 

I wanted to wake up and (crucially) get up earlier. I managed this every day. I wanted to meditate twice a day and I managed that. I cut down my caffeine. I no longer look at several time-wasting sites during the day.

I had quitting smoking on my list. It's still on my list. I wanted to go out and do something in the evening. I didn't manage that. 

I didn't challenge myself to exercise every day but did that anyway. I'm still on my New Year's resolution to leave the house properly and I'm still achieving it. 

I feel OK about those missed goals though. If I can get settled into this new routine I'll be incredibly pleased.

I've just been to see my parents and as a result didn't smoke for 24 hours, using an e-cig instead. I'm going to give that another go. 

In the back of my mind is Mag's planned trip in two weeks. It's a concern. Being left to my own devices has always been a trigger for bad behaviour - drinking binges when not alcohol free; cannabis and porn when not drinking; just back-sliding generally. 

Routines are just routines. I've had bad ones for years and years. Making the better ones just as important a part of my life should really be a case of patience and application. I suppose that's the main difference; I feel into rather than chose the bad, old routines. 

I'm amazed how busy I've now become. I'm working all day. I'm having occasional crashes when I get very tired, but otherwise getting through it all right. I think I need to drink more water when I'm exercising and I'll try that. 

If you spent it, thank you for your time. If you'd like to chat just leave a comment or send me an email, my address is on the contact page.    

Friday, 23 January 2015

Addiction News - Research on addiction has come a long way

Nice to read an actual scientist expounding on what we currently know about the causes and possible treatments for alcoholism and addiction. 

Well worth a look. 

Alcoholism research surprisingly has come a long way

Addiction News - Unliking Facebook

I feel a lot of empathy with this account of and about social media addiction from Australia. 

Unliking Facebook - the social media addiction that has you by the throat

Starting to expand. Is this a future I see before me? Eat yourself happy.

As I move along in recovery I feel my world starting to expand a little. It got very small in the worst of my drinking. 

Geographically I had well-worn paths. My life was generally triangular - home, the pub, the corner shop and takeaways where I bought rubbish food and takeaway cans and bottles of rum. It was very safe and very comfortable. It was very enclosing and limiting. 

I find now that I'm more willing to step outside of my self-imposed limitations. To walk around different corners and take different routes. I won't say it's not frightening, because it is. But it's doable. 

A symptom of sobriety is an all-round lightening, a lifting of the head and the eyes. Sometimes I even think about the future. 

I remember reading an account, by some famously reprobate rock star whose name I can't now recall, of heroin addiction. He recalled how all-encompassing it was. Get up, find means to score heroin, score heroin, return home, use heroin. Repeat. 

Drinking was rather like that. Get up. Wait to drink. Drink. Go home. Sleep. The first drink was always the focus of all my thoughts. Then the next drink. Horizons were small, plans short-term. The derogatory "pub talk" is apt. We made all sorts of plans, concerts to attend, holidays to go on, countries to visit, knowing deep down we'd be meeting up at the same bar making the same plans in a year's time. 

This is changing. I don't have a long-term plan except in the vaguest terms - I will get better; I will do more. It's starting to seem possible though. I notice small instances of planning ahead, knowing what I'll make for dinner, having an idea of how I'll tackle my work...

A menu for change

I never got around to mentioning my diet as one of my "Tools for recovery". I start from quite a good position. My parents are very healthy eaters and I've picked it up from them. Mag is of part-Chinese heritage and that brings a culture where food is very important and prized for its freshness and health giving qualities as well as its taste. 

So we eat pretty well. In fact, now I'm sober we're eating really well. I'm quite into the idea that one can eat oneself, if not happy, then happier. I've read bits and pieces, but the Optimum Nutrition for the Mind book my Mum gave me was a bit supplement heavy. There's a lot of doubt cast on the efficacy of supplements at all. 

I'm happy then to follow quite common sense, traditional thinking on what a good diet is: plenty of fruit and veg, balance, not too much fat, low in sugar (we use almost no sugar, I think), and so on. 

Sober me is a good and quite passionate cook. I hope this will develop and grow. My choice I guess. 

If you spent it thank you for your time. If you'd like to chat leave a comment or send me an email via the contact page.