Red Ends and Good Weeks

Can’t say I lived by that meme yesterday, i.e. the one that says “in a year from now you’ll wish you’d started today”. Got home and quickly abandoned our low carb plan by pushing two doughnuts into my face, but then headed out on my usual walk in the park. OK, it’ll sound a bit daft now, after my doughnut confession, but WHY am I just getting fatter? Alright, not fat, I’m not obese, but I am definitely on the squidgy side of medium and steadily growing it would seem. I calculated when I quit drinking that based on conservative estimations I had cut out 8,000 calories per week. Probably more, but I based this on what I’d drink on a Good Week. For anyone who is here for the first time, I should probably point out that 13 bottles of Sauvignon (at 600 calories a pop) in one week wasn’t unusual for this particular drunk, nor was it as bad as it ever got. A Bad Week would be every single night and not remembering the last evening I’d been sober. Those happened too, although for the sake of being fair to myself, I’d say five nights per week was probably an accurate average.

You know those tests you can do with a bunch of questions to see if your drinking is a problem or damaging your health? When I drank I avoided those partly because I didn’t like the answer and partly because I knew that answer already. Now, however, when I’m approaching five months sober, I completed one via a Swedish news site and I went with absolute honesty and accuracy based on my drinking habits before I quit.

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I’ll assist with the translation. It says “here is your alcohol profile” with a cheerful little exclamation mark at the end and then a little sub caption that reads “you drink a lot and often, so your alcohol consumption is dangerous for you“. Then we obviously have that lovely colour coded scale. Unsurprisingly I am right at the red end, the black arrow box with “du” (‘you‘) as far into the red as you can go and “farligt” means dangerous. Not that I need an online test to tell me that I was killing myself – I know that now and I knew it then. I do wonder how many alcoholics who haven’t yet reached the stage I did, do these tests, end up somewhere around the middle which says “warning” and take it as reassurance? I reckon an addict will only take comfort in not being at the Really Bad End. I definitely behaved in that way and I had people I’d point to as a way of illustrating that THEY had problems and were worse than I was so that must mean I was Just Fine. Elaine* both drank and smoked more than I did, which was reassuring and allowed me to stay in deep denial. Linda* was also someone who was much further down into the bottle than I was, usually drinking a bottle of whisky before she even got to lunchtime – Linda was a full-on alcoholic, in the stages where you just kind of expect the worst. And sure enough, on her 48th birthday Linda drank herself to death. The urn containing her ashes was buried in water, in a little cove off the coast of Florida, where she lived. And Elaine? Well, I discovered I actually drank more, so really, I ran out of People Worse Than I Am to point out. In the end I could only point at myself. That’s a scary place to be, when you no longer know anyone who drinks more than you do.

Needless to say there are countless wonderful byproducts of sobriety and the universe delivers almost instantly with the amazing feeling of waking up without a hangover. I swear, quitting drinking is well worth it for that alone. I can – and often do – wax lyrical about how fantastic it is so be sober, but I do also try to always remind myself what drinking was like. I never want to allow myself to forget how awful it truly was so nestling here among my odes to sobriety those awful snap shots will always be found. Another anchor to hold me in place I suppose.

But back to the endless joys of being sober! When I first quit drinking I discovered I had a sweet tooth, and since I bid adieu to the Sauvignon Blanc you can often find me ordering dessert as well as eating chocolate, which I didn’t even realise I like! And cookies too. What the hell! Still, I figured with all the wine calories absent, I’d still slim down without lifting a finger. Not so. Instead I got fat. For fuck’s sake, what’s up with THAT? Luckily I love walking, ideally with either music in my ears or an audio book, plus we live 200 yards from a massive park, so I set as a goal to go for a brisk walk most days of the week for a minimum of one hour. Said and done, although most of my walks are around the inner perimeter of the whole park which is a total of 10k and takes one hour and forty minutes. A Good Week is, as with the drinking, if I do it five of the seven days every week and I do AT LEAST THAT. Just like with the drinking, it’s at least five evenings per week. OK, so I’ve not made any effort to cut down on sweets, but shouldn’t all that walking have paid off by now? Clearly not, and my backside probably affects the tide by now. But hey, my eyes are brighter and my skin has a glow again, so I’d rather be a little cuddlier than remain a haggard looking drunk. You are what you drink.

Perhaps I should get going on the running again. It’s just such a drag to get started and especially when you’re carrying a bit of extra ‘bendy flesh’ as I like to call it. As much as I know all the walking does me a world of good – endorphins ROCK! – I now have about 20 pairs of eyewateringly expensive  pairs of jeans in my wardrobe that I can’t get into. I don’t consider myself fat, but I’m starting to feel uncomfortable so want to do something about it and running used to be one of my favourite things during those months here and there when I got really into it. Those tended to be periods when I hardly ever drank because obviously you can’t (not me, anyway) do exercise at that rate and drink the way I did. I shouldn’t actually say it’s a ‘drag’ to get started – it really isn’t. When I start, it only takes three-ish weeks before I can hobble around a decent 5k-loop, and three-ish weeks isn’t exactly a long time now is it? All goes back to how I am an absolute quitter and put my nose up at anything I’m not a total wizard at from the word go. But as with the jewellery, here’s another thing to keep me more centered than my natural balance allows, and I’ll build up slowly. There should be a goal. 10k?

Today I’m not going to drink.

* Linda and Elaine are not their real names – I never name anyone here, everyone I write about gets a nickname and I avoid any detail that would make them identifiable in the EXTREMELY unlikely event that someone they know reads this blog. 

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