As we move towards the end of May, and into June, a slight dread comes over me. I remember feeling this when I was 5 months sober last year, and back then I squirrelled away, but this year I’ve got no nuts to hide.
It’s Summertime and no matter what your situation, drinking is a hot topic for discussion. Drinking goes into a new level of activity, even in lockdown. Recovering addicts will detail how it’s a tough time and drinkers often discuss how they ‘feel’ they should “cut down” after a day in the sun, drinking.
It’s no secret that it’s an uncomfortable time for me, but not always for the reasons perhaps people might think.
Yes, of course pub gardens, endless sales of 24pk crates, cheap prosecco and a new flavour of Gin are all triggers. When I really thought about it this week it’s not the liquid itself, but the activity.
As addicts, we often hear “It’s not the substance, it’s what we used it for” – so true.
This week as I sat in the garden, sun shining, birds singing, my head kept returning to the same thought “a beer would be nice”, “just one would be lush”, “imagine if I was drinking right now” – I was craving, yearning, longing for a drink.
I distracted myself, by looking at my phone, munching a Magnum and flicked through an old box of stuff, but none of these tasks lasted more than a short period and my mind returned to its original thoughts.
But, when did drinking become just an activity? The fact is, if I had a beer in hand, I’d be happy as Larry sitting outside all day, with no phone, no ice cream, without any distraction. It wasn’t just an activity, it was my hobby, passion, friend… I’ll say it again, it was my life.
Am I sad that I can’t just enjoy sitting in the sun, without a river of thoughts, without having to distract myself? Of course I am. Truth is, I miss alcohol and wish I could drink normally – but that’s simply not an option.
I’d love to be able to sit, staring at the clouds, thinking about… well, anything. But I can’t. If I have to distract myself, to dismiss thoughts and in turn stay sober, then I guess I won’t be doing any cloud watching any time soon.
I recently had this chat with someone and they commented “Get onboard Alcohol Free beer man, they’re great, feels like the real thing, I look forward to them”
I then asked myself “Do I have to distract myself because it’s boring to drink water or Diet Coke?” Definitely not.
I personally don’t drink AF (Alcohol Free) drinks. Not only would it perhaps tip me even closer to the real thing when basking in the sun, but I don’t want to even risk 0.5% of alcohol going into my body. Booze free zone right here.
Some call me crazy, but this even goes down to the food I eat. I check every packet of premade stuff that’s likely to have alcohol in. This means sometimes eating a roast without gravy, or missing out on profiteroles… but it’s worth it to me. Complete alcohol free body & mind. Before you say, I don’t care that it’s cooked off.
Alcohol. Free. Zone.
Thing is, beer wasn’t exciting and neither was vodka with water (a favourite of mine – gets it down quicker, looks the part). Looking back the ‘connoisseur’ vibe I emitted to family & friends was perhaps just a smokescreen. It was all about just getting the alcohol into my body and feeling that “buzz”. So I should just be content with whatever soft drink I have, even if it’s not a fancy AF wine, lager, or prosecco…
And I genuinely am. I don’t care what (AF) liquid I’m putting in my body, it doesn’t make a difference. The uncomfortableness sits deeper than that and I’m learning to be okay with that.
The sun may be an excuse for people to drink more than they should, stay out late in the beer garden, have boozy BBQ’s, dance in the moonlight but for me it’s about continuing to manage my recovery.
I wish I could grab an ice cold AF beer and feel that ‘summer feeling’ again, but it’s not that simple for me. I may, and I’d like to, get there eventually but for now my sobriety comes first.
By the way, I’m all for AF drinks and people drinking them. I think they’re a fantastic alternative and should be enjoyed when you feel good and ready, I’m just not there yet.
I spent a lot of last year being that squirrel, hiding away and I’m okay with that.
But this year, year two of sobriety, I’m determined to make summer great, enjoy the outdoors and begin to feel at peace with just sitting.
This feels like it’s been a bit of a rant, but sometimes you’ve just got to let it out as it happens…
Have a great Bank Holiday weekend.
Love, Ben xx
PS if you have any old boxes that need sorting and a sunny garden, let me know!