” There are 1,440 minutes in every day. You only need 30 for a great work out.”

Good morrow Sober Truth Seekers!  Three headlines from The Sober Garden:

  • I haven’t drank alcohol for a year and nearly three whole months;
  • I’m still scrabbling around trying to find time to Do It All;
  • the daffodils are out and smelling sweet.

Striving to Do It All. It’s futile, I know. Why, oh why, does one persist with it? A couple of days ago I was poolside waiting for my daughter to finish her swimming class. Strategically placed next to a vending machine selling flourescent energy drinks and over-priced chocolate was an advertising stand flaunting a ‘join our gym’ banner. The words on it read,

” There are 1,440 minutes in every day. You only need 30 for a great work out.”

These words struck me. So much so, that I put my Sudoku book down and jotted them down. (Sudoku is my new addiction and proof that I am middle-aged.) I announce to whomever’s in earshot at least twice a day that I don’t have enough time or that there are not enough hours in the day. But there are 1, 440 minutes in every day and you only need 30 for a great work out; the banner told me so it must be true. Two things seem relevant here. Firstly, if you want to do something, you have to be willing to do it. As Primrose from Taking A New Path so succinctly put it in a recent post, we’re talking about doing and doing all that it takes to do what you want you to do. Willingness with action; willing and able. Blood, sweat, tears and tantrums – if you need to do something badly enough you will find a way.  (A nod here to those of you reading this who are, or want to be, sober. Sobriety takes a whole load of willingness so you know exactly what I’m talking about.)  I want to get fit. But actually, I don’t want it enough because the banner tells me all I need to find is 30 minutes out of a daily 1,440 to workout – and I don’t find them because truth be told I’m not willing enough to find them.

Secondly, when setting out to do something, whatever it may be – decorating the kitchen, running a marathon, writing a book, tidying the house, quitting booze – the goal is not achieved in one gigantic step. Every second, every stumbling step counts. Staying in the moment with focus and purpose is what matters. Thinking of an end result, the huge finished, glossy picture is too overwhelming and too much to stomach. I want us to have a family holiday. Cut to me sobbing over the fact that we don’t earn enough to pay for one out right, we can’t afford time off work to go away, we can’t do it right this instant, this summer, this year. But if we ‘put away’ £5 a week specifically for a holiday, then in time, however long it took (and yes, it would be years of saving), we could do it. I wanted to get sober. The only way to do it without freaking the hell out (and it took me a loooooong time to figure this out), was to take it minute by minute, choosing not to drink at that moment. And now I’m sober, it doesn’t finish there. It’s not a case of , ‘goal achieved, end of’. Recovery is ongoing. Staying sober takes willingness and focus, not in the white-knuckled, pacing the floor, second by second way that early sobriety demands but real committment all the same.

Whatever it is we want to do, we can do it. With willingness anything is possible, it has to be the key.

Meanwhile…the daffodils are out and smell of Spring. That, my friends, is good news.

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Love from The Sober Garden x.

 

We’re doing it!

The first day of a brand new year. I bloody love it. The page is unblemished, the path not yet trodden. It is our time and our time to make of it what we will.

If you’re passing by and reading this, already part of our incredible sober blogging community and with sober momentum on your side, hello friend and a very Happy New Year to you. Go us.

If you’re here, reading this and feeling low, in the dark and isolated, wondering how to reach up and out of the boozy trap you’re in, then hello friend and a very Happy New Year to you too. You are not alone. You can do this. One day at a time, minute by minute. There is hope and there is light. Second by second, this is our time.

It may not feel like it but time is on our side and the here and now is all we have. Happy New Year y’all, love from The Sober Garden x.

 

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The White Rabbit from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll,  illustration by Sir John Tenniel

Two months away from y’all and look what happened!

It’s been two months since my last post (RUBBISH blogger!) but look what happened while I was away…my 1 Year Sober Birthday!

I did post on the day, which was last Sunday, and shared the photo below but then promptly deleted the post (you see, RUBBISH blogger!).

Here’s the photo again. It’s a snap of what greeted me on the kitchen worktop when I came down first thing in the morning; a cup of tea ready and waiting to be poured and a ‘1 Today!’ badge, left out for me by my husband. I don’t think he realises how much it meant to me.

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On my  One Year Sober Birthday I looked back and re-read the posts from this year. It didn’t take long (again, RUBBISH blogger!).  The sense I get from reading posts from the early weeks and months of my sobriety is one of sheer relief. Each post is soaked in the freedom I felt from cutting loose from living with booze.

This is all fine. It’s better than fine of course. Nothing beats freedom. But I feel I need to put my experience into context if The Sober Garden is to be of any use to anyone who happens to be passing and, in their own early stages of sobriety, stops to read a few posts.

There was an earlier version of The Sober Garden, created when I first set out on living without alcohol back in May 2014. In this first Sober Garden there were posts that chartered my life without drinking; seven months of posts sharing my anger, shame, surprised joy at discovering I had a voice that had been hidden on the sea bed of a boozy ocean, a bit more anger, a lot more shame. I went through the grieving process of giving up alcohol and it was all there in my blog. But after seven months of sobriety – the first ever sober period in my adult life – I started drinking again. It was Christmas Day 2014.

2015 was, for me, a year-long in experiment in Drinking in Moderation (amongst other things naturally). I thought that this was my future, that my seven months of sobriety had re-balanced the books and that moderation could work for me like it does for millions and millions of people.  I managed it; I was drinking in moderation, restricting the amount I was drinking and how often but BLIMEY CHARLIE, THE EFFORT IT TOOK! The self-inflicted rules, the constant thinking about drink, when I could, how much I could, etc – it was relentless and there was no peace from it. I had continued to post very sporadically in the old The Sober Garden but no longer felt wholly engaged in the online sober community which had been SO supportive during my first, earlier sober period.

I deleted my blog. I knew what I had to do. I had to be rid of alcohol. I had to jettison the heavy stuff (and fuck me, isn’t the weight of living with a dependence on alcohol HEAVY?!) and set myself free. And that was it. December 18th 2015, I FINALLY said enough is enough. No more rules, no more moderation restrictions, I’m gunning for freedom.

I re-opened The Sober Garden and here I am one year later, free at last from booze.

So although it’s a One Year Sober Birthday, the journey actually started well before a year ago. And today is by no means the journey’s end. There have been times – recently even  – when I have fiercely wanted to drink, albeit fleetingly. When I’m feeling particularly low within myself; breath is given to the old ghoul who can’t wait to hiss into my ear,  “You may as well as get pissed, that’s how shit a person you are, that will prove how bad you feel”. Luckily and with mindfulness (yes, you need a bit of both), I have managed to give myself breath and denied him; I have paid him no attention and he’s gone, scuttling underneath whichever rock he’s crawled out of.

Sending love to each and every one of you wherever you are and at whatever stage of your journey you’re on, from The Sober Garden x.

 

 

 

You’re not going to find your mojo while treading water and gasping for air

Greetings from me, the middle-aged mojo hunter! It’s been a while. I appear to have spent a month or two drifting ever further away from what honestly matters to me. I can’t articulate it here because I’m too tired to think straight and I’ve drifted too far away from my core to know what’s what. I do know this: it’s easy to drift when all your energy is used to tread water and keep your head above the waves that relentlessly crash past. Sometimes it just feels like there’s no let up.

Thanks if you’re still reading…I know I’m not making much sense.

Last weekend I stopped gasping for air long enough to notice it was autumn. Recognising a physical need to connect with nature and to be with my children and husband, I made the time to go for a woodland walk with my family. It was, I hope, the start of re-connecting with the world as I see it. My mojo is hidden somewhere deep in this connection, I’m sure of it.

Enough waffle (thankfully, you cry!). Here are some photos from our walk, featuring fantastical fungi…

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My new favourite colour

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Like forest jelly-fish

Love from The Sober Garden x.

 

 

 

There’s lovely

One step into my mum’s kitchen and she offers me a glass of wine,

“Or are you still teetotal?” my mum asks.

“A juice for me will be fine, thanks.”

‘Teetotal’ is such an unfashionable word somehow. Hearing it immediately takes me back to being a little girl and spending time in the company of my beloved Welsh grandmother. She was brought up during the early 1900s in a small coal mining town in the valleys of South Wales, where the Welsh chapel stood at the heart of the community and ‘taking the pledge’ was part of chapel culture.

I adored my grandmother. She was a fantastic story-teller, relishing the dramatic and forever humourous. To be honest, a strong, lyrical Welsh accent goes some way to enrich delivery when it comes to performance. She would tell me how she and her (eight?) brothers and sisters would sit at the feet of her father, captivated by the stories he’d read from the Welsh bible and how “diar (gosh), but he was a good man”. I used to love hearing her read in Welsh. What an awesome, dazzling language. I couldn’t understand a word of it.

So my grandmother didn’t drink. Or if she did, she was the type who’d have a sherry at Christmas and act the fool – accidentally on purpose and for the benefit of making us children laugh. She had a sister (one of four, I think) called Olwen who without possessing any of my grandmother’s artifice was just as comical. At my parent’s wedding, Olwen who had never touched a drop of alcohol in her life, was apparently quite bewitched by the deliciousness of the ‘special lemonade’ that was merrily dished out at the reception and proceeded to get fantastically pissed. Nobody had the heart to tell her the lemonade was booze. Olwen was a simple creature.  After spending most of her adult life in service to a school mistress spinster called Miss Butler, she eventually found love and (once Miss Butler had passed away), married a Welsh Chapel minister called Ivor, much to the surprise of everyone it would seem.  The Olwen I knew was elderly and frail and talked a confusing mix of Welsh and English. She taught me to crochet. She had the gift to find the good in any thing and any one but most of all, the nine year old me loved her because she was my grandmother’s older sister, and that was as good a reason as any.

“Yes,” I say to my mum. “I’m still teetotal. Who’d have thought it?!”

It’s quite a blast, truth be told.

 

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A Welcome Home

It’s welcome home from The Sober Garden because we’ve returned home from a week away. This meant a week away from this keypad – from any keypad in fact; a week away from the news, social media, from the telly and t’internet, from work, from our house, friends, family and acquaintances.

Just the four of us, with views like this:

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and this:

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and this:

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on a campsite in sunny Spain, where all we did was swim and play and explore a bit. It was a campsite used in the main by the Spanish and some visiting French, so we only heard English spoken (apart from us to each other obviously) twice in the whole week. What a fantastic rest for the ears.

I learned many things last week. Here’s one of them:

endeavour to live life simply, it’s the secret to living life fully.

Welcome home and hello to you all out there.

Love from The Sober Garden x.

Mirror, Mirror

Day 4 in The Quest for Middle-Aged Mojo  – and day 3 into annual leave from my full-time job.

Mojo. It’s elusive. I’ll tell you one thing for sure, it’s not to be found in a mirror. I stood in front of a mirror the other day and didn’t recognise the person staring back at me. I cried – nearly. I’m reminded of the Evil Queen in the fairytale Snow White; now there was one mean middle-aged lady in search of her mojo!

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The Queen and her magic mirror by Jennie Harbour (1893-1959).

 

Asking a mirror (for anything) is not the way to go. What’s needed for this quest is self-care, acceptance and a jettisoning of the heavy stuff. I realise I’m way out of practise at all three. Ignoring yourself and your well-being is as hard a habit as any to break.

I told my husband how I feel, i.e. worn out and weighed down and he listened. Like in the early days of quitting booze and ridding your home of drink, I’ve hidden the bathroom scales out of sight and stopped looking into the mirror unnecessarily. Oh, I check to see that I’m not dressed like a complete mad woman before I leave the house and I don’t put on my make-up in the dark or anything ludicrous like that but I am trying to be mindful of not looking into a mirror in the hope that my mojo is going to be there, smiling back at me. It isn’t.

The bathroom scales are, as of yesterday, under a drawer unit in the bathroom. We live in a small house with a particularly tiny bathroom and not having the scales permanently out at the end of the bath has increased the floor space nicely. Bonus. And if I can’t physically see them, I won’t be as tempted to weigh myself every day and despair at the ever-increasing number flashing back at me. Instead, I shall spend some time chipping away at the fortress I’ve built around myself and see if I can’t pay some attention to what’s inside.

So here I am on Day 4, turning my back on self-loathing and opening up to the prospect of self-care and acceptance.  And Day 3 into my holiday away from long hours of work at a desk and the routine of denying myself a proper break during the day, means the chance to physically move more. To stretch my limbs, and physically shake off the inertia that had me rooted to spot. Movement is going to be key in unlocking what feels like a solid door between me and a life full of living. I’ve some embracing to do and as uncomfortable as it feels right now, it means physical exertion and going for it!

I’m reminded so much of the early days of quitting booze, when it’s all about one day a time and staying in the moment. These are early days for me in my quest to break the habit of self-neglect and I need to pay attention to the here and now and not get overwhelmed by thoughts of tomorrow.  What happens when I go back to work? How can I possibly find the time to exercise? I’m too out of shape to even begin to feel attractive! How could I ever have let myself get into this state? Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? NONE of these questions have a place in a quest for well-being and happiness. Sorry Wicked Queen, but being a mean, jealous, hard-hearted witch is not going to change the course of youth and beauty fading. Get over yourself.

Here’s something beautiful to end on; hand-picked roses in bloom, with love from The Sober Garden.

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