I have finally done it. I have reached the Magical Weight Loss Without Trying Zone.

You know: the one that we’re all promised when we give up drinking.  ‘Without that extra calorie load’, chirp the glossies ‘you’ll find the pounds drop off without you noticing!’.  Back then, I worked out that I was drinking at least 3,500 calories a week, which equates to a pound of weight.  Or it does if you accept that the human body is a perfect calorie-burning machine without any variables that can be attributed to genetics, but let’s move on.  This calculation didn’t, of course, take into account my ability to eat an entire family-sized pack of salt and vinegar crisps, or a bag of pistachios, while going through a bottle of wine to myself.  Add that in, and I’d probably be looking at two pounds a week, at least!

My assumption was that the process would go like this:

  1. Stop drinking
  2. Lose weight despite eating what I wanted
  3. Generally glow

In reality, and you all know how this goes, it went more like this:

  1. Stop drinking
  2. Eat a startling amount of Haribo while sitting on the couch reading sober blogs
  3. Sleep a lot
  4. Realise that somehow I had put on three pounds in a month and didn’t fit into anything I owned.
  5. Swear.
  6. Hide the scales, because in some inexplicable fault it seemed like their fault.
  7. Go for a couple of half-hearted jogs
  8. Winter came
  9. Stopped jogging
  10. Wallowed

Real life is always so much more complicated, isn’t it?

Anyway, then I went through a period of basically not eating.  Having not eaten sensibly for years, I suddenly found that I was able to be hungry for long periods of time.   I was aiming to eat as little as possible, reasoning that if 1500 calories were good, then 800 calories must be great!  I kept that up for six weeks or so, and I lost 1-2 pounds every week during that period.


Unsurprisingly, then I stopped.  It turns out that I really like eating.  I am munching a chocolate-coated almond cake as I type.  And I got busier, and calorie counting is tedious and takes time, and life is too short.

So for the past couple of months, I’ve been eating whatever the hell I want and not thinking about it.  And not exercising, because it’s been deep winter; now that spring is starting to poke its shoots out of the ground, I am starting to get out into the weather again.  But the point is that I have generally been living like a complete slob.  Eating salted peanuts, or roasted chickpeas, or dark chocolate.  Drinking full fat coffee and eating hearty meals.  When I decide to eat, I go all out.

A few days ago, I stood – trembling – on the scales again.  I have stayed the same weight for three months.  The same weight!

So to be crystal clear: I gave up drinking, put on four pounds, and then lost nine.  I’m five pounds under where I was when I stopped drinking, despite the fact that I have never eaten this much junk food in my life ever.

chocolate cake

I do not plan to continue down this road, even if it is a delicious one.  LH has put on all five of my pounds, so clearly something needs to be done.  But isn’t it interesting?  I swear I didn’t eat any more in those first weeks than I do now, and yet I put on a bunch of weight.  I am starting to realise the extent to which my body was in slowdown mode while it detoxed, and how much it is speeding up now that it is returning to its natural state.

Really, it’s not as surprising as it sounds.  My body has been slowed down and sluggish for decades.  I may not do any organised exercise, but with good quality sleep and no hangover, I walk faster, with a bounce to my step.  I have more energy at home, so I run up the stairs instead of plodding.  In a million tiny ways, I am exercising more than I have in a long time, and I guess those things are adding up.

Thinner, richer, healthier and happier.  It does come true.


Basically, I’m having a tantrum

I’ve been thinking about why I’m writing so many negative posts about AA and recovery work recently, and I think it’s because I’m scared.

I’m scared because I read John saying that spending his time creating art, starting a business and feeling good wasn’t enough to prevent a relapse because he wasn’t in active recovery.  That’s three years of being busy, focused, artistically fulfilled, and it wasn’t enough.

I’m scared because Ellie talks about her relapse after years of not just sobriety but active work in the recovery community – Ellie is the founder of Crying Out Now and a stalwart of the sobriety blogging world – and she says

My depression came out as manic energy – impulsive, compulsive, obsessive.  I didn’t stop from the moment I opened my eyes in the morning until the moment I fell into a fitful sleep.  My mind never, ever stopped.  To the outside world I looked on top of my game – productive, full of life, passion and drive.

I’m scared because of Robin Williams, who (years before his death) relapsed after twenty years of sobriety.  And because as soon as Drunky Drunk Girl posts about moving on from recovery, her comments fill up with warnings of doom.

I see myself in all of those people.  I fall asleep with ideas for articles bubbling in my brain, and I wake up with a list of things to do – that I’m excited to do – before the next day.  I feel like I’m running to keep up, not because I’m falling behind but because there’s always the next, even more exciting, thing around the corner.  I am parcelling out hot baths and cups of tea like medicine, doses of calm to counteract the amphetamine energy, because you guys, there is this whole life out there that I want, and it is just over the next horizon, and I can’t stop.

And because I’m scared, I’m angry.  I’m not angry that I have to live without alcohol.  Living without alcohol is easy.  I’m angry that I don’t get to just fucking well move on.  That I have to be vigilant, and scared, and worry about the damn thing.  I’m sober!  And happy!  And busy, and fulfilled, and artistically creative!  Isn’t that enough?  What if it isn’t?

Here is an article reporting on a study that I can’t access, which also makes me angry. I realise this is completely irrational, but I also pointed that out to my toddler this morning when she didn’t want to wear clothes to daycare (“Toddler”, I said.  “You are being irrational”) and it didn’t change her position either.  That study says that if you get to a year of sobriety, your chance of relapse is less than half, which is … mildly comforting, I guess.  At five years, your relapse chances are more like 15%.  SO that’s something.  But it’s not everything, and I want there to be an everything.


I knew for years before I quit that I’d have to stop.  I knew it’d be hard, and I’d feel the loss of it, and it’d have been better if I’d never let my drinking develop into a problem in the first place.  What I didn’t factor in, ever, is the idea that once I did steel myself and quit, it wouldn’t be over.

I don’t drink.  That.  Should.  Be.  Enough.