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Why the actual f*ck am I thinking about drinking again?

I’ve just hit day 600. I’m 19 months into my sobriety, which I’m incredibly proud of. I’ve just floated through my second sober Christmas and NY, and it wasn’t that hard, I barely thought about it. Or so I think. So I tell myself. In reality, there’s been an insidious thought lurking at the side of my periphery, whispering again. I’ve acknowledged it once or twice – more times that that if I’m honest. The first time was when, after a particularly heated conversation with a friend (to be fair, I was clean on this one – he was finding life hard and venting and I happened to be there to vent on). The feeling of being completely out of control and unable to help or rectify the situation meant that I automatically wanted to open a bottle of red. The bottle was there for a Christmas gift – I was holding it to put away to wrap, and instead the instinct kicked in hard to twist the cap and drink from the bottle. For a split second I imagined it going down. I brushed the thought away and got rid of the bottle as quickly as possible… but the thought had still got through, and permeated into my consciousness. First red flag.

The next was a couple of weeks later, just before Christmas. A few stressful things had happened, and I was switching my brain off, watching a particularly brainless reality TV show. On it, all the women were drinking cocktails, just as part of their evening, as per usual. I suddenly felt the urge to not only drink a cocktail, but taste the hard alcohol of a bottle of vodka, neat. So turn off the show, right? But does that then mean I can never watch another show again with alcohol in? Severely limiting in what I can watch in that case… and I flat out refuse to be confined into a sober box (no wet environments, no tv shows with booze in, what next?) Another red flag.

And then today. In a coffee shop. The chalk boards outside advertising boozy hot chocolate and Irish coffees. Inside, there are rows and rows of spirits on the counter. All the things I loved to drink… Vodka. Gin. Rum. And again, the thought comes, infiltrating my armour, making me think how good it would be to pick up a bottle and drink it neat (not something I used to do to be fair, I did usually mix it with tonic or coke). I'm looking at the drinks selection in the cafe, thinking ‘drink makes everything simple and easy’, meaning that the oblivion it provides gives me an easy out to the challenges of life. This of course, is my drinking voice, back in residence in my head, smoothly trying to persuade me by any means necessary to pick up again. But driving home today, with some time to think, the irony of that thought struck me; drinking complicates and darkens my life with such a force that if I submit to that again, I’m not sure I would find my way back out. There is nothing simple or easy about drinking. Ever.

So what the actual fuck is going on??? I had a lovely dog walk along the seafront, followed by coffee and cake. All so normal, but inside I’m wondering about red flag number three, and when is a red flag going to turn into more. And more to the point, what am I missing in order to be feeling like this lately?

Starting with the obvious - I have been at risk of overwhelm pretty much constantly, for months now. Pre-Christmas, I was working weekends (seven in a row i think), along with trying to maintain some other demanding situations. And I know that over Christmas and NY, I haven’t had anywhere near as much space and time I ought to be giving myself to recharge. I’ve been napping almost daily, which is usually a sign of burn out (and depression). Even after a nap I’m exhausted and needing more sleep at night. Although I’ve been attending daily meetings, almost every other single sober tool has been dropped (exercise, yoga, meditation, baking, gardening… all the things that allow me space to be and connect with me). Meetings alone will not get me through; this I now understand. Have I reached out to other sober people for support? No. I’ve not mentioned any of this to anyone in the sober community until today. So my accountability is also low. I’m realising that I’ve put myself into the red energy wise and then allowed all my sober fuel to run low too, which is a fatal error – this means that faced with something emotionally demanding, (like I have been for weeks now if I’m honest), and then a smaller but significant emotional challenge today, and it’s crippled me.

So I need to take stock, and ensure that the bricks in my sober wall are replaced – and in order to build my protection back up, this starts with having the energy mentally and physically to do so – for me, self-care is absolutely vital in order to ensure that I am strong enough to maintain all the other little pieces of my own personal sober wall. So that’s where I’m starting, with something reheatable from the freezer, followed by something easy to watch – perhaps without any boozy triggers – and an early night. And then more of the same tomorrow, starting again to build in all important self-care elements into my routine in order to ensure I'm mentally well nourished and not facing any more overwhelm. I'm going to turn my Dry January into a completely selfish Me Month. Because really, what's the point - if I am putting my sobriety at risk, then I am putting everything at risk; it, and therefore I, have to come first right now.

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