Alcohol Abstinence and Recovery – Month 2

29August 2020

happy woman with thumbs up

Alcohol abstinence and recovery – Month 2.

As I’m writing this post it’s fast approaching the end of August, and I will have been on my abstinence and recovery program for two whole months plus 2 weeks.

If you’ve read my story then you will be familiar with the reasons why I decided to quit alcohol and the strong association I had with drinking white wine.

I basically quit because it was killing me. I have to be treated for high blood pressure, my weight has become excessive and before Christmas I was warned by the doctor that type 2 diabetes was imminent if I didn’t change my lifestyle.

Early death, especially from the threat of Covid 19 is definitely something I don’t relish. That said, I wouldn’t have far to go as I actually live next door to a cemetery.

It’s a really nice place and people are literally “dying” to get in there, but it’s not for me. It’s like Hotel California, “Once you check in you can never leave” (The Eagles 1977).

derelict hotel with the grim reaper waiting outside

Is not drinking wine getting any easier?

Great question.

The truthful answer is Yes and No.

Not very helpful I know, but the best way I can describe the feeling is that it’s almost like I’ve reached a plateau. It was getting easier but I’m now sat on this plateau of easiness with nowhere else to go.

It’s not getting any easier because I still miss the whole experience of drinking wine, however it is starting to feel normal. Almost like not drinking wine is now the new normal.

Perhaps the easiness plateau is as far as you can go and then a different mindset takes over?

I do know one thing though, and that’s a feeling of overwhelming gratitude.

Let me explain further.

Woman getting fitWhen you embark on this journey you are all fired up for success. I mean really revved up. It’s like deciding to join the gym. You know you hate the gym really, but in your mind you’re going to smash it and emerge with a physique like Jean Claud Van Dam or J.Lo

Well it’s the same with detoxing and abstaining. The first week you’re like B.A Baracus from the A-Team, except on steroids. (Ain’t no bad ass S.O.B gonna get in your way.)

Then in the following weeks there is a whole mixed bag of feelings, emotion, confusion and temptation. Somehow though you just come through it, and now when I get one of those feelings I can just ride it out.

So when I do ride it out and I’m brushing my teeth before bedtime, I’m grateful that I had the resilience and coping mechanisms not to give in to temptation. Similarly, when I wake up in the morning and all emotions have subsided, I’m extremely grateful that I didn’t fold and blow it all the night before. Especially when I think back to the dull non-enthusiastic morning feeling that I used to have.

Now I pretty much get up on time with ease. To be honest I’ve never been a natural early riser, but now it’s so much easier than it used to be, and I’m grateful for that and the clarity of mind in the morning.

I still take my abstinence one day at a time though. I think if you plan this thing too far ahead then it can seem overwhelming.

It’s not like planning for a holiday where there’s a definitive date when all the fun starts. Recovery is different for everybody, and each person has a different timeline.

Therefore concentrate on getting through the day. If you’ve made mistakes or had a relapse then forget about it. Drop it out of your thought. You can’t change the past.

The present is the only time you have to make a difference in your life, so choose your actions in the present wisely.

In fact, think of the Present as a Gift given to you to shape your life. That’s why it’s called The Present.

So what else has happened in month-2?

ClinicianWell to help with my abstinence, one of my coping tools has been Acamprosate. I’ve written other posts about Acamprosate so I won’t go over it again but it is an extremely helpful drug, particularly in the early days.

I wrote a post about the side effects, you can read it here (Acamprosate side effects). Like all other drugs it has to undergo clinical trials for each country it is released in, and of course the trials throw up various side effects in a cross section of people.

Thankfully the side effects of Acamprosate affect very few people. Sadly, I was one of the few who appeared to be affected.

They started out absolutely fine once I’d finished my detox week. Even for the first few weeks, and they really helped with controlling the cravings. Whether it was a build up over time or a combination of other medication I take for blood pressure and cholesterol, I don’t really know. What I do know is that I started with headaches, followed by tiredness and then bouts of forgetfulness and clumsiness.

Stopping the tablets caused the conditions to recede, starting again caused them to return. Obviously, you shouldn’t keep starting and stopping any medication, so I took some advice from the clinician who issued them to me.

Between us we decided that a lower dose might be the best way to go, especially as I’m still in the early stages of abstinence. So that’s what I’m doing. Reducing the dosage by a third from 6 to 4 per day.

Eventually I might stop altogether when I feel that I can fully cope without them. As mentioned earlier, it is just one of the tools for coping with abstinence. You will develop many more of your own.

For me, taking a high dose of Acamprosate had the opposite effect of what I wanted or expected by stopping drinking. I didn’t expect to go through detox and come out the other side feeling worse than before I started.

However, it seems to be under control and stable now, so I feel pretty good.

That said, don’t let my minor adversity to Acamprosate put you off from trying it. That was my experience, it most probably won’t be your experience. It does help with the cravings so make use of it. That’s what it’s there for.

And if your Doctor thinks you shouldn’t have it, then don’t worry, he won’t give it you…

Other activities.

DIY GuyI like to do a bit of DIY, and the pandemic while being disastrous and tragic for a lot of people has actually worked in my favour.

For one, it’s allowed me to focus on my health by carrying out my detox without the pressures of day to day work life, and secondly I’ve been able to catch up with various jobs and projects around the house.

Recently I’ve decided the front of the house needs a bit of a freshen up. The last few winters has taken its toll on the driveway, and the tarmac is starting to suffer. Ideally I’d like to have it all ripped up, including the grass, and re-laid with block paving.

The houses either side have both had it done and it looks really smart. The downside is of course that we look like the poor neighbour stuck in the middle. And while that might be true at the moment, it doesn’t stop me from keeping the garden area nice.

So with that I set about tidying everywhere up, pulling out weeds, cutting the shrubbery and digging out discarded sweet and fast food wrappers etc. In the end it looked a lot better, so I admired it from the end of the drive, then from over the road and finally from the upstairs front bedroom window.

A good job done!

However, I wasn’t the only one to appreciate my hard work.

For the next three nights a German Shepherd came along and persisted in using my front lawn as a toilet!

It was so infuriating having to clear up the stinking mess  everyday before somebody trod it through the house.

To make it worse, on the fourth night he brought his dog along as well….

German shepherd and his dog

Highlights of the month.

So after a slow start on the weight loss front I’m gradually starting to reduce my craving for weird biscuit combinations, and the weight is coming off at a sensible rate.

My last weigh in a few days ago showed a weight loss since detox of 14 pounds (just over 6Kg). I’m quite happy with that as it’s been natural weight loss due to not consuming some 8,000 excess calories per week in wine.

It probably would have been more had I not embarked on munching my way through the whole of McVitie’s biscuit output for June and July.

Anyway, encouraged by the weight loss and good lady in my life, I’ve decided to re-join a gym. Gyms were a regular part of my life on and off from the age of 15. For some reason though I stopped completely when I was 50.

They say that from the age of 40 a man loses 1% of his muscle mass every year. If that’s the case I should look like a wizened hollow faced goat by now. Fortunately I haven’t reached that point yet (at least I don’t think I have)

No, my biggest dilemma is what to wear in this gleaming stainless steel post pandemic new world gymnasium, where everyone has butt cheeks that would crack walnuts and stomachs I could iron my polyester work shirt on…

Let’s face it, I’m not exactly down with the kids when it comes to urban street wear. So rather than hitting the gym sporting jog pants by Adidas, I’m more Asda. They look the same, just a Dad version and a lot cheaper. Plus you can wear them in the garden or while washing the car.

In fact, so loved is the grey Asda fleece lined jogging bottom that I know Dads who now wear nothing else. They haven’t yet worked out why their wife has ran off with the window cleaner, but they’re really pleased with their dirty old Asda jog and lounge pants.

I did however treat myself to a nice gleaming white pair of end of line K-Swiss trainers from Wyndsors World of Shoes (another favourite Dad shop), so at least my feet feel like they’re on point even if the rest of me feels like Bridgette Jones’s dad.

And finally.

End of month 2.

At the end of next month I’m going to see if restrictions have lifted enough to get an appointment for blood tests at the surgery.

It will be approximately 12 months since my last lot of tests revealed the onset of pre-diabetes. I wasted a lot of time trying to cut down on things other than the main culprit, which of course was all the sugar from copious amounts of wine over the years.

However, since June things have changed and I feel a lot healthier. Hopefully the next four weeks will see another half stone weight loss and the blood results will be favourable. We’ll see in a few weeks.

Smiling blonde woman with a catLastly, some unexpected good news. My lovely wife was lucky enough to be part of the winning postcode lottery millions draw this month. Regrettably, not the big win, that went to some very lucky people a few streets away. But the first 4 of our postcode digits came up so we had a share in the remaining spoils.

What does lovely wife intend to do with her little win?

Have her eyelashes done and pay the gardener.

What can you say? Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle…

Month 3 >>> Continue reading

 

4 Replies to “Alcohol Abstinence and Recovery – Month 2”

  1. Hi,
    Thanks for this blog, it’s really informative & helpful
    Just wondering, when you refer to ‘riding it out’, what helps you to cope with those feelings in that moment?
    Can you recommend any coping strategies or ideas?
    Thanks

    1. Hi and thank you for reading my blog.
      My apologies for not responding sooner.
      For me ‘riding it out’ means firstly recognizing that there’s a wave of craving rushing in. That allows me to be aware that it is only a temporary feeling, it won’t last long and that I have control over it.
      Secondly, recognizing what it is allows me to distract myself from the situation. So if I’m in the kitchen for example, which is a trigger point for me, I’ll go elsewhere (usually upstairs and pretend I need the bathroom). Alternately I might go and fix something or research something, or make a coffee. Anything to get me over that 10 minute wave.
      It’s really important to remember that the wave is only temporary and it’s all in the mind. You have absolute control over this, believe me.
      Best wishes and good luck.
      Paul

  2. Hello Paul
    My story seems to be similar to yours but some of the detail varies. However it’s essential to see that another person has gone through similar experiences and similar results.
    My Story: About five years ago I was told my blood test showed I was pre-diabetic! Immediately my GP said she wanted to put me on the appropriate medications. I have always hated the idea of rattling like a tine can so I said no, I would do it the other way ! I immediately attacked the problem. I halved my portion sizes, no potatoes or white bread ( I don’t like white bread anyway) no alcohol, Improved my diet with lots of fruit and veg, much more exercise and one eye always fixed on the calorie intake. Upon my next visit for a blood test I was told I had achieved everything I needed to , the Cholesterol and sugar counts were under control, I had won the race !!!!!!! Having heard all of that my head said to me, ” ok you have achieved everything, now back to normal !!! Slowly the bad habits returned and having gone from 97kg to 88 I crept back up to 93kg. Bad boy !!! During April 2021 I got to thinking about the whole thing and realised that the fundamental problem was …… the lovely red wine. At the end of April I stopped drinking wine and today I have completed 6 weeks without the wonderful fluid. I have lost 5 kg., and feel much, much better but I see a problem, what of the future? A future without a bottle of Merlot is it possible? Perhaps Paul you might like to say how you see the future ? with a little now and again or (the guillotine approach – nothing) Answers in a plain brown paper envelope please. I look forward to receiving your reply. Derek (real name)

    1. Hi Derek,
      Firstly, my sincerest apologies for the time taken to respond. I only found your message while sorting through a spam folder which unfortunately it had landed in.
      Secondly, many congratulations on your amazing achievement. Yes, your story is very similar to mine with the pre-diabetes, not wanting to go down the medication route and deciding to treat the problem holistically.
      To answer your question about a future without wine. It’s always a tricky one. I’m 18 months into being alcohol free now, and to be honest I still miss the pleasure of wine. On the other hand I don’t miss the restrictions that it brought with it. These days I’ve found that I can go out to functions, parties, for a meal etc and not have alcohol as the dominating factor, or bothering with a taxi, or being miserable because I have to drive, and that is a big plus.
      I also find (and it’s taken a while for this to happen) that I’m grateful for feeling fresh the next day. I sleep better (still get up for several wee’s during the night), I’m a lot more optimistic, and I don’t feel like a danger to other people on the road.
      I’ve also discovered that alcohol free beer has come on in leaps and bounds so I don’t feel like I’m missing out that much. Some of the wine is ok too, but the branded beers, lagers and Guinness are excellent.
      It’s a funny thing that people regard me as a bit weird because I don’t drink anymore but they all want to talk about it, ask questions and say they wish they could cut back, then immediately unplug another bottle. Until I explain why I stopped they always assume it’s because I had a disastrous relationship with alcohol that was destroying my life, and that I can never drink alcohol again.
      My answer to that is that I can drink alcohol anytime I want to, it’s just these days I choose not to, and for now that is how I see the future. Maybe one day I’ll go on holiday or retire somewhere warm and sit back relaxing with a nice crisp white. That’s another choice. But as for drinking just for the sake of it, or because its been a tough day at work, a good day at work, a Friday or whatever the excuse might be, my choice is not to drink.
      I find that ability to choose rationally is very powerful and gives me control, which I think is one of the main benefits of going through this journey.
      I hope that helps Derek, and good luck.
      Paul.
      P.S. Let me know how you get on. I’m in the process of moving this website to another host so there may be some down time, but once it’s back up I intend to develop it further

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.