Sober October blues

What do you do if your sober October has taken you right back to where you started?

post sober October beers

My website is dedicated to helping you understand your drinking, without recourse to hot yoga, mint tea or running! Or a sober October

But my method isn’t for everyone out there. If you don’t have an open mind, it won’t work for you. Whilst I do not preach psycho babble of any kind, I do believe that some people are just not capable of looking at themselves and their habits objectively.

Objectivity is key, in my view.

My website and book notalcoholicbut.com are all about analysing your relationship with alcohol. Its aim is to help you decide what you want from it in the future, and how you get there.

All too many sites and services tell you how to do things that, as yet, you haven’t chosen.

My website tries to redress this problem. A good starting point is my page on taking control of your drinking

Just remember that desire is everything. If you understand your desires, then you have the opportunity to shape your own future. A sober October may challenge your desire, at least for a while, but it won’t necessarily help you understand it. As a result, you may go back to heavy drinking in a blink.

For more help, why not try my drinking biog “Not Alcoholic, But…

NT’s “Hansard” – a Picturehouse failed screening at W Norwood cinema. Aaaaahhh!!!!

I feel so angry, wronged, helpless, downtrodden, bitter, revengeful – over things that shouldn’t bother me that much. We went to see one of the live National Theatre broadcasts at the West Norwood Picturehouse cinema on Thursday night. A brilliant play called Hansard, by Simon Woods. I was captivated. Then the live feed went down and we sat looking at a blank screen for 20 minutes. When the picture restored, it was in time for the credits only.

Incensed from East Dulwich

Since then I have felt like a malingering unexploded bomb. Someone only has to brush against me and I’ll go off. I hate this feeling. In the old days it wouldn’t necessarily have prompted me to reach for the bottle, but within a short while I would have reached for it anyway, and when I did, the consequences would be dire. The toxic bile within me would have to come out somewhere, perhaps as sarcasm, or bad-mannered ingratitude, or a melt-down of self-righteous rage over the next mistake inflicted upon me by some hapless employee of a fat-cat corporation. Picturehouse springs to mind!

A far-away glaze would come over me. I would flare up then calm down and drift into some innocuous hallucination that would quickly ignite again. I would be ranting at the memory of an old boss from 30 years ago, threats flying out like sparks. Solicitors, trustees, MPs, back-street thugs would all be invoked in my fantasy-torrent of abuse.

unexploded bomb!

As it is, I can sense the powder keg within me now, even without the alcohol. Sobriety hasn’t flushed it away. But it’s contained. There’s a bomb-disposal team around the shell and they’re skillfully cordoning off the risk to a contained area. They’ve also put a drain on the toxic effluent and I know it won’t be too long before the worst of it is out safely.

But right now I am still waiting for anger leave me, and it’s a horrible feeling. I’d like to give the National Theatre a piece of my mind. More so than Picturehouse, oddly; perhaps because I think the NT would actually care. My venom would be taken seriously. Picturehouse is a corporate entity, part of cineworld, and like all PLCs, is contemptuous of its customers. We stand in the way of their profit at the same time as being their only means of making it. Oh God, I’m off again…I’ll go for a run and have a bath…much better than the old days – which would be vodka diluted in a strawberry Volvic bottle! Hurrah for Sobriety!

for more of this kind of drivel have a look at my book page

There are better ways than Sober October to tackle your intake…

is there a point to this?

I’ve always felt that dry January and sober October are a bit of a box-ticking exercise. Whenever I attempted them I felt that they proved one thing only – that my drinking was under control. I mean, if you can go a whole month without a drink, then you clearly don’t have a problem!? I also quite enjoyed some evenings being sober when I would normally have been drinking. This seemed to tick another box – proving I wasn’t psychologically dependent on alcohol.

But these exercises didn’t really do much more than re-affirm what I thought I already knew.

Now, nearly 6 years sober, I have come up with a much better way of regaining control over intake… it’s what led me to quit within 6 months.

This actually works!

It’s all about understanding what you want from alcohol, sip by sip, glass by glass. Then seeing how well it matches up to expectations when you actually drink it.

You’d be amazed how this focuses the mind on what you want from alcohol. It doesn’t happen overnight, but over a few weeks you begin to think about why you are even opening a bottle of wine. This has the effect of making you question how much you really enjoy doing it and whether you are getting near the end of your love-affair/ marriage with alcohol.

Talk about putting a dent in your desire! And when your desire switches focus onto sobriety – anything is possible.

And that’s where the difference lies with sober October. You just don’t gain enough insights from a sober October to change anything.

For more about cutting down and quitting have a look at my book

Just one beer…

just one beer

I was coming home the other weekend – a Saturday I think – about 3 in the afternoon, and the sun was shining while I waited on the station platform. It was all very pleasant, and my attention was grabbed by one of those pop-up food markets taking place adjacent to the station. I observed it, peering over the station wall to a courtyard below where young mums and their toddlers were eating and chatting and young men were sitting at picnic tables, drinking, probably just one beer, all very responsibly – and not in the sort of way I remembered drinking when I was their age. Or any age.

Nearly six years sober now, I had no desire to be in that scene. I simply couldn’t see the point of having a beer in the middle of the afternoon. The activity struck me as absurdly pointless. What was ‘just one beer’ going to do other than to give a little buzz that would soon fade away leaving a dehydrated head-achy feeling , a lethargy and irritability that, however mild, would only be cured by several more beers, or a lie-down back home. Where is the fun in that?

I’m sure I’d get a similar effect from a small cup of lighter fuel!!

More and more I am convinced that alcohol doesn’t really offer anything at all, not at any level, whether it’s an epic night out or a quiet sociable drink on a Saturday afternoon. British ‘law’ decrees we engage in drinking as a mark of respect – respect to the occasion, to our friends, to ourselves. Consequently, we reach a point where we don’t really know what we’d do if it was taken away. Even without ‘just one beer’ we feel exposed, unprotected, unable to relax and most importantly, unable to enjoy.

It’s a trap. Those who get caught up in the drinking thing, perpetuate the drinking custom. Those who don’t enjoy it are forced into social customs that are unnatural to them. They don’t get many chances to experience alternative ways of doing things – without alcohol.

Where did all the pubs go?

The alcohol industry is inadvertently making it easier to turn away from alcohol. When I was growing up, it was possible to get drunk in pubs on a low budget. But capitalism, now in its overgrown grotesque phase, has infected the decision-making of alcohol executives, the same as all others, and is destroying itself like a cancer. Pubs are disappearing off the face of the earth and the ones that remain are surviving on expensive food sales – or freak footfall, due to tourism or special events. PLC companies have to keep returning higher profits -standing still isn’t enough – and now there is nowhere for them to grow. They have merged to the point of monopolism. They have inflated their prices so much that they have destroyed the most loyal of all customer bases – pub-goers.

Long may it continue. If young people are encouraged to find their self-confidence through other means than alcohol, then there is hope for civilization, for the future happiness of our children.

I say that with a heavy heart, because I had a great time in pubs over the years. But I did it too much. Just one beer was never an option, and the machinery around me made damn sure it stayed that way!

Gordon’s & Tonic advert

Gordon’s & Tonic

Has anyone seen the latest advert for Gordon’s and tonic?

Two people are discussing what to do for the evening and one of them voices a long list of suggestions. The other sounds a bit bored and after listening for a while suggests instead going for a Gordon’s and tonic – which they decide on instantly – like it’s a no-brainer.

I’m struggling because on the one what’s the problem? – simply two people deciding to go for a drink. But on the other, there’s a suggestion that going for a drink is akin to any other activity of the type they have both dismissed in their during their deliberations in favour of the Gordon’s and tonic.

Is this what adverts do?

The advert deliberately elevates the status of its product to a higher level – it’s what adverts do, I guess – but in this case there’s a knowing cynicism in the way it appeals to the problem drinker (one of their core markets, of course) by allowing him/her to feel fine about choosing alcohol purely for its own sake – no disguising it behind the respectability of a theatre trip or any other sociable pastime.

Gordon’s wants us to feels uninhibited in our choice. And their advert celebrates drinking for drinking’s sake.

It says there are normal, likable people, just like the ones in their advert who drink in this way. So why not you too?

And to a non-problem drinker, it’s just a fun advert for Gordon’s and tonic.

Is that responsible? I’m not sure that it is.

For more about my own drinking, visit my book page

1st Class Air Travel and booze – good bed-fellows?

First class air travel and booze are great bedfellows. Not that I speak from experience. Just lots of imagination. 
I couldn’t conceive winning the lottery or going on a 1st class flight to New York without a lot of Champagne – back in the old days, that is. 
In fact, even now I can’t see the benefit of luxury travel without booze, despite being not in the least tempted by Champagne anymore. Perhaps it demonstrates how far I have come with my new desires in sobriety, ones that are truer to me.

Then it struck me how much of a parallel lies between the illusive world of first-class air travel –

first class air travel

and special social occasions.

Both are actually ruined by alcohol. In first class, all the little treats and extras laid on by the airline are completely overshadowed by the prospect of endless “free” Champagne. you would never really enjoy the buffet in the first class departure lounge, or the seats that turn to beds when you need some rest, or all endless meals, snacks and films. You’d be thinking about the wine, the spirit mixers in their posh glasses, the circular bar, the top-ups.

Real-life parallel

And in real life the same can be said for special social occasions. 
In those dark old days I would look forward to and plan such occasions down to the first and last mouthful of booze – from the continuous flow of alcohol, the number of pre-paid bottles to get everyone started, the mix of heavy and light drinking company. And on those occasions I would drink from the earliest opportunity. For the duration I would keep topping up my levels of alcohol in case I started to sober up.  
And then I would go into blackout and do silly things or get emotional or fall asleep or get argumentative. 
All the preparation for the social event would have been wasted. As would I. And I would wake up the next day with a sense of impending doom and a lot of gloom. Shame and anxiety would keep me sheepish and full of self-loathing for some time to come, relieved only by the next drink. 

So if I won the lottery or came into huge sums of money, air travel isn’t what I would seek, nor champagne (of course). I’m not really chasing huge sums anyway. I need money to live on, and that’s all I want. I love my life in all its simplicity and although it would be great to have a bit more cash to free up some more time for the things I want to do, I don’t crave a flashy life-style. Far from it.

For more of this sort of thing, pop over to my amazon page

Drink Questionnaire

If the choice was between a sober night at a lovely restaurant with friends or an evening of unlimited wine/beer/spirits/drink with someone you don’t really like very much, which would you pick?

Have you ever taken offence at someone’s comments, walked off then forgot why you were offended?…

Or had an argument on the phone, and the next day forgotten what you were arguing about?

Do you measure all occasions by their drinking opportunities?

Do you come into a room and feel like an outsider, until you have had a drink?

Do you feel depressed in the afternoon if you don’t know when you’ll be able to get a drink later that day?

Do you feel a sense of dread when you hear or read a news item about liver disease caused by alcohol?

Do you take secret swigs from bottles of alcohol?

Do you buy  drinks from bars in between rounds without people noticing

Do you buy extra rounds so as to get a drink more quickly than waiting someone else’s round.

Do you feel comforted when you hear about someone drinking more than you?

Do you feel you could stop or cut down if you really wanted to?

when you think about winning the lottery, do you think about the drink you’ll have in celebration.

Do you think about travelling first class on the plane, and think about free drinks?

Does the thought of a Sunday lunch and a log fire make you think of alcohol.

Does the thought of your favourite meal – without alcohol – turn you off?

Do you eat less in order to drink more

Do you put off eating as long as possible so as to have more capacity for booze.

Do you see food after booze as the end of the night’s main entertainment.

Do you reward yourself with drink?

If you answer”yes” to any of the above, then you’ll find some useful help on this website – and via my book page

Pink Cloud still pink

I’m happy to report that my pink cloud hasn’t blown over, even after 5 years.

My Pink Cloud

We had friends round for Friday-night dinner last night and I felt excited all day about them coming. I guess it’s because we haven’t been all that sociable recently and these friends are special to us, and a lot of fun. They are mostly quite big drinkers too.

So it’s with euphoria that I tell you how fluffy my pink cloud still is and how happy I feel today at how fun and successful the evening was, and how mentally strong and healthy and energetic I feel today. The sobriety drug that I got hooked on 5 years and 4 months ago is still working its magic. This is the real ecstasy! You have to believe me!

pop over to my book page for more of my experiences in the world of sober!

Baby Boomers: prone to alcohol dependency?

There’s been a lot of coverage in the news lately about the dramatic increase in hospitalisations amongst baby boomers, due to alcohol dependency – a trend that is counter to all other age-groups in society, we’re told. The cause of this spike is something to do with the boomers’ adolescent experiences of alcohol back in the 60s and 70s.

a drink for every occasion

Back then, drinking alcohol was an adult pastime that was universally participated in and accompanied almost all social as well as many formal occasions. Drinking alcohol was for a large proportion of the population the only social activity they ever did. Drinking alcohol was therefore a right of passage in many adolescents’ lives and for these baby-boomers, me included, the anticipation of that first proper drink was momentous. There certainly wasn’t any fear or warning about the dangers of alcohol dependency.

I came across an article recently by a baby boomer who said that when she went to University in the 1970s her family warned her about the perils of “pot”, not alcohol. She was told to stay away from dope and stick to cider; the presumption being that cider would bring no harm, while marijuana would lead to heroin addiction.

Stick to cider and you’ll be fine! Really?

Cider was “of course” harmless; unless you drunk too much of it, in which case you had a problem. But to acquire alcohol dependency takes a long time, and if you start with the premise that cider and beer are harmless, then you have a lot of time to play with before anyone, including yourself, notices that there is a problem. It’s not surprising then that 40 years ago, problem drinking went unchecked, that dangerous habits were forged in broad daylight.

Alcohol was associated with ceremonies of all kinds (it still is to an extent) including religious ones – the “blood” of Christ – and its place in 1970s culture went absolutely unchallenged. If anyone drank too much, that was due to their own weakness, not society’s – and very much their own business.

In the 70s people were less inclined to point the finger at other people’s habits anyway. I remember the big fuss made about the infringement to personal liberty brought about by motorcyclists’ compulsory wearing of safety helmets. The Liberal Party was dead against it. So, you can imagine what people would have made of interfering with other people’s drinking habits.  It was no one else’s business but yours when you had a drink. The idea of printing the Government Health Inspector’s recommended number of weekly units on the side of a bottle of beer, wine, or spirits would have caused outrage.

I don’t think the 70s attitude was particularly laissez-faire or bohemian either. Pubs were closed for most of the day and alcohol wasn’t available in anything like the number of places it is now – like petrol stations and cafes

1970s pub

But that’s not in any way to diminish alcohol’s central role in adult life. Pubs were literally everywhere, and when they were open, they were full. Alcohol was consumed at every occasion of  any note. Alcohol was one of those facts of life that were too interwoven into the fabric of society to be isolated and challenged – like obesity, unsaturated fat, sugar, tobacco, lack of exercise, food-additives, pollution, amongst others. Where would you start, even if you wanted to?

I’m not suggesting that everyone suffered from alcohol dependency back in the 60s and 70s, but everyone was exposed to alcohol at all occasions back then, and participation on at least some level was expected. To be t total back then was as “suspicious” as being vegetarian, Muslim, black, homosexual. If it wasn’t exactly wrong, it certainly wasn’t “normal”.

Excluded from the club

I think my life was on hold up until the time I was allowed to drink. That’s how it feels. I longed for the day when I could go to the pub, or pour myself a glass of whisky, or open a bottle of wine. I vividly remember all those alcohol adverts, the cocktails and champagne in films, the smell of stale beer on train carriages where football and rugby fans had been.

At 15, alcohol, at last, was allowed to become my primary interest in life. And it remained that way for 36 years, until 5 years ago I realised I had had enough of it and wanted something new and different. 5 years on, I am happy to say, there is still a novelty in being free from the burden of worry about alcohol (drinking too much of it; not having enough of it, spending too much money on it, hiding it…) There is also the joy of discovering new things about myself; the things I like doing and not doing; where my priorities lie in relation to family, work-life-balance, free time, holidays. Alcohol clouded my judgement of these things, because it was more important to me than anything else, even if I wasn’t prepared to admit it at the time.

And the world seems to have moved on a bit now too; not that I noticed it while I was drinking. People aren’t so bothered about alcohol as they were. Pubs are shutting in their droves. Young people seem to be far more interested in food than alcohol these days. Sure, they binge drink (which is a problem, I know) but alcohol doesn’t have the mystique it once had. There are so many more activities to occupy kids in 21st century Britain – like mobile phones, social media, computer games, limitless TV.

Alcohol dependency is still alive and kicking, but it’s no surprise to me that the biggest group of dependents are the baby boomers.

You can read more about this sort of thing in my drinking memoir