Christmas has been and gone, and with it a lot of stress and mental strain has gone as well. I said last week I was struggling and that carried on. On Christmas Eve I was incredibly miserable, had a day at my Mums on the 25th that I just wanted to be over, then my boys came to mine. I had spent a fortune on food, tried to make things fun, but just ended up being miserable and on edge. Was trying too hard. Same on Boxing Day, just wanted the day done.

But as the days have gone on, I’m a lot better. I’m nice and calm, almost peaceful. I’ve not had a ton of stuff to do, I’ve just tried to enjoy myself and relax. I’m also realising that I can’t control what other people do or think, and I need to stop taking everything personally and stop worrying about what other people are doing or thinking. Had a really good chat with my 16 year old son. He was recently diagnosed with autism, and some OCD behaviours. I see these in myself but they were very dialled up in him. But there are some things I do that are starting to impinge on my normal day to day life. I love organisation, lists and things being orderly, which is mad because my flat is a mess. But gige me a good spreadsheet, I’m all over it. A sock goes missing, I will tear the place apart looking for it, and it will prey on my mind for days. My son told me I need to make a conscious effort to ignore that side of myself when it rears it’s head and I have decided to take that on board.

Health wise, I’m still a bit of a mess. In a lot of back pain because of the weight I have put on and a strain that’s still healing. I’ve done some shopping for some healthier stuff, but there are a fair few ready meals in there. Until I can get around better though, it will have to do for now when I can get back to making fresh stuff. I’m made a meal plan, checked all sell by dates so I don’t waste everything and checked through the freezer. Small steps. I also bought a game for my Switch that is a boxercise routine. Will help a bit I think, just to keep me a bit more active. I also went for a gastroscopy this week as part of my MOT following stopping drinking, and that showed nothing out of the ordinary.

I also read about Heart Rate Variability this week and how it relates to stress. It’s tracked by my smart watch, but I’ve never looked at it. Apparently a higher number is good, shows your body is reacting properly to different situations. I looked at my 6 month history, and it was really low all of the time. At the point I stopped drinking though, it went up quite a lot. Once I get more active again, and healthier, I am hoping that it improves more, but again, positive signs.

So what about drinking? Well there have been a few moments when I have thought about it, but not got close to picking up. It’s still pretty easy not to, but I am compensating with food, and sugary food particularly, but now that my mood is improving I’m hoping I’ll be able to stamp that out without increasing cravings.

How do I get help?

For me, these are the steps you should take when you want help

  1. Talk to your GP. This one I can’t stress enough. Your GP will have all the contacts you need to get help, including local groups and alcohol services.
  2. Local Alcohol Services. The NHS site can point you at these.
  3. Local groups such as AA and SMART.

The thing with all of the routes to get help is that everyone is different. You need to find your own path that works for you, and that might take a while. If there was a simple route to take, GPs would be handing out cards with step by step instructions. It doesn’t work like that. At the moment, I am getting support from :

  1. My local GP for general health help.
  2. A gastroenterologist at the local hospital. He is the one that scared me. He also arranged for a whole bunch of other investigations to be carried out to check me over, and I will continue seeing him every few months.
  3. My local alcohol service. In my case it’s an organisation called Change, Grow, Live. They provide a key worker and talk to me on a monthly basis, point me at other services.
  4. The local hospital alcohol support team. They are the only ones who can prescribe the medication that I currently take which is complete madness. Local alcohol services have nurses attached who should be able to do this, but are not allowed. They also do a liver scan every few months to check for cirrhosis.
  5. Other organisations that I found through GP Social Prescribing, also something you should look up.

A question people often ask me is where I went for help when I realised I had a problem. When I first realised I had an issue, the first thing I did was seek out an AA meeting. You are normally at a crisis point when you realise you need help and need to take action quickly so this was the first place I went. Now, I’ll never knock AA, they are a massive help for a lot of people but they were not for me. When I first looked for help 20 years ago, local services were very poor, AA was the only place I had to turn to. But I had very bad experiences there.

First of all, they say it is non-religious, but spiritual, but that depends on the group you find. All the groups in my local area were attended by the same people, and there was a huge emphasis on the religious side of the program. I saw first time attendees leave meetings in tears because they could not cope with the heavy handed approach they take.

AA believes in “handing over” the problem to a “higher power”. The basic belief here is that you have no control over alcohol, you need to hand it over to something else to take on for you. I fundamentally disagree with this. We all have the power to do this, I refuse to accept that I can’t do anything myself.

They also believe that you can only stay sober by continuing to attend and give your time to the organisation. I was in meetings with people who had been there for 30+ years. It’s an integral part of their lives. And while that is fine for them, I want to leave this part of my life behind and carry on without having to think about alcohol all of the time. An alcohol worker once told me to stop going to support meetings and cut off certain people because they didn’t want to get out of recovery and I was ready to move on (turns out I wasn’t!). But I had certain people ringing me at all hours when they got drunk, and it dragged me down.

I was told so much medical nonsense in AA. Stuff that was blatantly not true. And once time was told to go away until I learned some f***ing humility for wanting to follow a science based rather than faith approach.

Again, if it works for you, fine, but if something isn’t working, cut it out straight away. And if something works, stick with it. AA has helped an awful lot of people, but it I was not one of them.

It’s New Year’s Eve today. Never a big drinking day for me, I’ve got some leftover takeaway, will watch a film, play some games and look forward to a much more positive 2023.

As I write this it is 37 days since I last had a drink.

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