Wednesday 1st October marks the 9 month point of my booze free experiment, and so it’s time for the regular tri-monthly debrief!
When the idea for this project first began to ovulate in my brain, in between the bouts of dry retching and wishing I was dead, it seemed like the best idea I had ever had literally in the whole entire history of time ever. Of course, at that time I was both still drunk and horrendously hungover all at the same time. We all know that we make poor decisions while drunk (and sometimes have to make those decisions leave in the morning before they realise we don’t remember making them) and we make poor decisions hungover (pizza topped with paneer tikka masala, BRILLIANT) so decisions made under the influence of both at the same time must be SO terrible that they go past the point of ridiculous and cancel each other out and make some sort of sense. Right?
A week in and I had stated my intentions to the world. I am quitting drinking. And once I’d said it, I had to stick to it. I am far far too stubborn to be derailed when I’ve not only made a decision but told everyone I know, and some complete strangers I randomly met, about that decision. It becomes not only a personal journey and meaningful mission but an act of bloody mindedness. No one thought I could do it. *I* didn’t think I could do it. So I was bloody well going to prove everyone wrong.
The first three months were a struggle. The following three were a revelation. Now we’re nine months in, the changes in my life have been almost unbelievable.
It almost seems a backward step to go back to the list given all the other unexpected outcomes of my 9 month gestation of the twins of sobriety and blog writing, but that is where I began so back to it we go. It’s a somewhat longer than where we began – and perhaps that’s as it should be. I am sure I am not alone in making a huge list of unrealistic New Year’s Resolutions and breaking them all within the space of 2 weeks. Making a short list at the start of the year and expanding it as you achieve the smaller successes is much more sensible, and less terrifying, and less setting yourself up to fail. So…
The (ever expanding) List
Learn to sew. Start with cushions, end up with dresses
Result: EPIC FAIL. The sewing machine is still in my friend’s house. But there’s still 3 more months of the year. I doubt a dress will be an achievable goal within that time but there’s still wiggle room for me to at the very least get over my sewing machine phobia.
Unexpected consequences: None. Still scared of sewing machines. The fact that every time I tell someone that the reason I am scared of sewing machines is that people always tell me stories of people putting a needle trough their own finger, that person tells me a story about the time they/their mum/their best friend/sewing teacher put a needle trough their own finger. Yeah. NOT HELPING GUYS.
Learn Sign language
Result: A clear win. I found out a few weeks ago that I had passed my BSL level one with flying colours, and was encouraged to continue to level 2. I have paid the deposit and start in November. I appear to have a natural flair for the expressive quality of the language, being naturally given to flail and gesticulate and make faces a lot.
Unexpected consequences: Learning more about deaf culture, and realising more aspects where I have hidden privilege. Despite what some quarters of the internet would have you believe, checking your privilege is not a bad thing. We should all do it more often.
Start writing again – and document my attempts to do all of the above
Result: Well, I am still writing – and hopefully you are still reading!
Unexpected consequences: I have had some amazing responses to my writing, both in comments, on twitter/facebook and in person. Every time someone connects with something I’ve written, or shares it, or tells me how much they enjoy my blog, it makes me feel fantastic. I don’t always enjoy writing or find it easy – and some Sundays (particularly today, when I got back from a night out at gone 6am…) I really don’t want to spend hours staring at a screen making my brain do words. But my promise to myself to write every week is inextricably linked to my promise to give up drinking, and the two must go together. In that way, they both support each other, and make my resolution stronger. And in the long run, this is improving me and making me healthier.
Get back into volunteer work in children’s theatre
Result: The school term started last week – and I joined the local branch of Chicken Shed. I used to volunteer at a different branch BRD (before Roller Derby) and left because I couldn’t do both. I had forgotten how much I enjoy working with young people, and helping children experience and learn through theatre and performance.
Unexpected consequences: I was much less confident when I volunteered previously, 9 years ago. I hadn’t realised how much I’ve grown and changed as a person until I joined the first session last week – I almost felt like a different person. 9 years ago I remember looking at some of the other practitioners and wondering at their confidence and their easy manner with the children. Now I’m one of those confident people. I am not entirely sure how that happened. But I like it.
Keep writing about feminism – do not give in!
Unexpected consequences: I have learned to never, ever, EVER, read the comments on a Guardian article about feminism. Nothing good is below that line. Which is a shame, as most other subjects have very interesting comments sections from which I learn a lot. Articles about Feminism however tend to re-establish Lewis’s Law over and over and over (repeat to fade…)
Get singing again
Result: I am working on this. I have no music writing ability and very much need collaborators to achieve this one. I haven’t really sung live, apart from the odd drunken karaoke, for nearly 10 years. Rather than waiting for someone to over hear me singing and go “hey, you’ve got an ok voice and seem like you’d have reasonably good stage presence, owing to you being naturally given to flail and gesticulate and make faces a lot. Would you like to do some singing with me?” I’ve actually started approaching some of the music people I know and asking them if they know of anyone interested. Putting myself forwards like this doesn’t come naturally, and I suspect I wouldn’t have been able to do this pre-sobriety. I simply wouldn’t have had the self-confidence.
Unexpected consequences: Too early to tell. But you can bet I’ll report back…
No drinking for 3 months – re-evaluate in 3 months time whether to go another 3
Result: Given that this is what started it all, and how difficult it was in the first few months, it’s amazing how this has become one of the easiest and most straightforward aspects of my life. I don’t worry about wanting a drink any more. I don’t worry about what people will think of me – it hardly ever comes up in conversation any more. I know that I made the right decision, thus proving that most decisions made while both drunk and hungover at the same time are actually good ones. I survived an all night club night with absolutely zero alcohol. Ok, there may have been a couple of cheeky Monster Rehabs, but I’ll take being somewhat overly wired on caffeine over falling-down-drunk and a crushing hangover any day (although tomorrow when the sleep deprivation kicks in perhaps I’ll have changed my mind.) I am sure this goes without saying, but I am going to go for one more round of three months to make it a full year with no alcohol.
Unexpected consequences: Where do I even begin? If I hadn’t quit drinking, I’d never have come to terms with my actually rather serious sugar habit. The cold turkey sugar blitz was so successful that even though I do now enjoy the occasional sweet treat, it’s occasional. I genuinely can have one biscuit and not need another. I no longer eat milk chocolate or cheap chocolate. I make better choices when eating out. As a result I feel healthier, happier, sleep better, look better, and the weight fell off me without any effort at all. I look better now after a few months controlling my sugar intake and cycling to work more often than after over a decade of diets and gym routines that bored me.
My increasing confidence in my body has made me re-evaluate how I even see my body, which has made me so much happier and more at peace with myself and my body shape than I ever dreamed it would be possible to be. It led to me going swimming which not only made me fitter, but has added to my confidence of my body shape – just as it is – being visible. I went out to the club last night wearing a spandex hotpant playsuit and felt amazing. I’ve never had so many people – both acquaintances and complete strangers – complimenting me on my body. I’ve never been able to even accept when a compliment about my body might even have some truth to it. To have someone say “I hope this is ok, and I don’t expect anything from you, but I’d like to tell you that you have a really banging body” is weird to someone who’s spent their entire life beating herself up for being curvy. (Just to forestall any accusations of double standards – this wasn’t random street harassment. This was in a club full of people all wearing clubby outfits, and it was a guy I’d been bumping into at the club on and off and with whom I had already established a mild flirtation. Context is important, yo.)
I’d never been able to accept a compliment before, especially about my body, as I’d always felt that if someone offers personal compliments you have to immediately point to something that’s wrong with you. But as I learned from Stella Creasy, it’s perfectly fine to discuss – hell, even shout about – your own achievements.
It’s ok to be proud of yourself. It’s ok to think good things about yourself. Nothing bad will happen if you feel good about yourself – quite the opposite. The better you think about yourself, the better you’ll feel. It’s a beautiful circle of body positivity. Give it a try. Stop buying beauty magazines and watching shows that reinforce the idea we should be constantly criticising ourselves and each other. They do that so we will buy more things. Give yourself some compliments in the mirror. Don’t make a face or pick a negative to balance it out. Do it every day. I bet you’ll feel the difference.