In December of 2014 as always, I get links emailed to my account about Dry January. Sometimes I subscribe to it but more often than not due to various social occasions I can never seem to make the whole of January sober.. (One of the social occasions is always my sister’s b’day which falls on January 13th, and most years I am with her in or around her birthday weekend).
This year though having had quite a boozy christmas I decided with some determination that this year I would complete Dry January despite the various social arm twisting that seems to have me give in quicker than someone can say “A glass of Prosecco Charlie?”
I have always found it very easy to drink alcohol.. I have also found it easy to subscribe to the 80/20 rule of life.. Healthy most of the time, naughty some of the time.. I have written in past blogs about my struggles with various addictions over the years and the reasons for that, so I wont bore you with that for this post.
Last year was a particularly good one for me with regards to managing my addictive nature.. I had a handle on my alcohol (or so I thought) and my exercise wasn’t extreme, although I do work many hours I felt stronger than I have in many months so was feeling fairly upbeat about how I was handling life.
Then came Christmas. This is the only time of the year I genuinely get a break from my work. We close for three weeks over Xmas which means no very early mornings (I run Cambridge Bootcamps so I am up daily at 5.30am and don’t finish some days till 9pm) soI figured I would let my hair down a little.
This started on the 13th December with our Cambridge Bootcamps annual Christmas party and basically continued until NYE! I don’t mean I was out partying every night, BUT I did become lax on my 80/20 rule, I did drink alcohol in the week (Christmas Day, Boxing Day, when I saw my friends, in London, with lunch, and NYE)
Drinking alcohol also meant I was more lax on my nutritional choices – breads, cheeses, pizza, cakes -just stuff I wouldn’t usually eat. I didn’t train either for the entire 3 weeks, so it was a proper 180 degree turn around from what I would normally do, and what I advocate for life. I had booked in my training over that period to ensure that I kept on the right path.. (There are certain strategies I have in my life to make sure that I commit to staying healthy) and every day I would cancel my training, thinking….. ‘Tomorrow I will feel like it’..
The trouble is tomorrow never came and I just gradually felt worse and worse. The worse I felt, the more I berated myself. The more I berated myself the more I thought ‘oh well you may as well have a drink tonight then’
I knew I had signed up to do Dry January, but I also knew my sister was coming down for a week over her b’day – I wasn’t entirely convinced at that point about my resolve. I was surprised about how quickly my addiction and need for ‘numbing’ life came back .. I think it literally took a few days. Denial sets in, excuses are made , the pattern is set.. again!
The brain is a funny thing… we are creatures of comfort so change is often very hard!
The way that the brain works is that it runs on autopilot. The brain likes to run this way because it feels the safest. Running on autopilot protects the brain from getting many surprises. The brain doesn’t really like change very much. In fact it will do anything to keep you on autopilot. It will make you feel like change is the worst, most hard, thing ever. It will convince you to stay in bed when you would rather be outside working out. It will convince you to dumb down your dreams because it does not want you to get hurt or risk failure. The brain is a machine. It’s only job is to keep you ‘safe’ based upon what it has experienced in the past. The brain does not live in the present moment… the brain is either past or future focused trying to protect you and everything that you do.
My brain has always felt safest being ‘dumbed down’ by whatever means possible..(Well, post aged 21 years anyway). I knew that starting Dry January this time would be tough, hard work and a real battle. Even though I have had periods off alcohol previously, this time, it somehow felt like it would be harder. One of the reasons for this is that in all honesty, is that I haven’t had a long period off alcohol for some time.. Maybe a week or three here and there.. But always gone back to my trusty secret comfort blanket..
I knew I had to start being honest with myself for me to make a proper life long change..
Prior to Christmas 2014 a Friday night glass of wine would signal the end of the working week for me (even though it isn’t the end of the working week for me) I still gave myself permission to drink on a Friday evening to ‘relax’ put the computer down + not think. Saturday night was the same.. more wine, sometimes with friends, sometimes at home, but certainly regularly. I am aware that often when I go out I am one of the last people to leave and I am also aware that I can and generally do drink faster than many people (unless I choose to go out with people who drink like I do – I think we can attract people like that – like attracts like and all that – plus it doesn’t highlight how much I drink, as usually the other people can be in a similar drunk state to me) One of my problems is that I usually end up crying somewhere… so where the point of drinking for me has been to ‘numb’ my feelings, I tend to find that they’re all highlighted and come out at the most inopportune moments.
I realised quite quickly into my Dry January that I had been living in an alcohol bubble most weekends.. This inevitably leads to feeling tired and lethargic all week until Friday when it can start again, denial ever present, justification + protection from my thoughts about what I was doing to my health.
I started taking daily pictures of my face to keep a photo diary of the difference 31 days sober would make to my health.. I planned to write this blog at the end of the 31 days full of health, vitality, positivity and a fresh looking face..
This is the reality:
Not TOOOOOOO great…. Opening myself up here to being vulnerable which sucks considerably… But basically throughout these 31 days my Blepharitis has become worse. That is a swelling of the eyes, they are sore, itchy, red and swollen. At night it means I cannot keep them open because they hurt so much. I haven’t had it this bad for a long time. Some days I didn’t take the picture as my eyes were so bad I was embarrassed, confused + pissed off as to why this was happening to me. (The pictures are in order except that day 2 appears to be first.. Day one is second) You can see a massive difference between day 2 and day 30 (last night) and it is not at all what I had hoped it would be.
Actually what this has highlighted is that my body is clearly talking to me and is in desperate need of an overhaul.. I clearly have inflammation issues which are only now coming out without the alcohol in my system. Good news is that I did go out for my sisters birthday, and I did stay sober, in fact for the whole week she was down I didn’t drink any alcohol despite there being loads in the house, and feeling guilty about it didn’t sway me. My will was stronger than it has been for many years.
Things I have realised about me over the last 31 days:
1. I look sad in quite a lot of the pictures.
2. I drink/ work/ exercise to block out my emotions.. do anything but think about stuff, I procrastinate a lot.. My emotions however are always still there when I wake up and have been here in my mind ever present.
3. I do not need a drink to relax.. In fact drinking when I went out actually made (makes) me quite anxious. The thought of the first drink, and subsequent ones after.. will I embarrass myself, will I cry, and the onslaught of the day after ‘fear’..
4. I do not need a glass of wine to signify the end of the working week… What I actually need to do is HAVE an end to my working week, rather than a pretend one.. I need to switch off the laptop or phone and be present in the now..
5. I make better choices about my health now that my weekends are not consumed by wine, “wine nights”, arranging meet ups based on the fact that I can have a glass or two..
6. I drank a lot more than I told myself I was..
7. I have a lot of shit in my head.. Negative voices that tell me crap things about myself. I have become more aware of them and need to learn to change the voices to be on my side not against me.. I also need to start to question the negative monsters…. Is what they’re saying based on fact or fear? Are these thoughts helping me to move forwards or backwards.. Am I happy sitting in my comfort zone or do I want to change?
8. I don’t have to keep running away from life.. Life is what you make it, and I want to make mine a happy one, not keep wasting it on negative repetitive drama.
9. I am not a bad person + deserve to be happy. My happiness depends on my treatment of myself.
10. I have more will power than I thought I had!
11. I thought I would be really excited at the prospect of drinking again after the 31 days.. I’m not. This is a revelation. I have no plans to drink again at the moment and will see where that takes me.
12. I am good at my job, I need to stop telling myself otherwise. I may not be the strongest, the fittest, the leanest, but I do the best that I can at the time. I don’t have to dumb down my dreams for fear of failure.
“Early sobriety has the quality of vigorous exercise, as though each repetition of a painful moment, gone through without a drink, serves to build up emotional muscle. -Caroline Knapp “Drinking: A Love Story”
I now intend to try and heal myself properly using food and water + not being in continual denial about what is going on with my body. The blepharitis is a sign that things are not as they should be and I hope to continue to look and discover if I can heal myself (in more ways than one) without substances or over excess.
*****Dry January Just Giving Page <—- If anyone wants to put some money towards Cancer Research then here is my link 🙂