Don’t Give Up…

Can you imagine a scenario where someone who’s addicted to crack, cocaine, heroin, or even gambling, to the point where it’s destroying their life and their loved ones’ lives, turned to friends and family and said “I’m giving up (insert addiction here) because it’s destroying me” and they weren’t embraced with anything other than sheer relief, elation, admiration, and congratulations all round?  Because that is the natural and right reaction on hearing someone who has been drowning before your very eyes wants to turn their life around, get help, get clean, get straight, and get a Life – not just a sad, sorry, destructive existence.

It goes without saying that anyone who wanted to give up a life-sapping addiction would have the support of family, loved ones, and friends, and no one would stop to question ‘Why?’  Because it is perfectly clear that if it’s destroying your life, costing you more than money, then it’s not good and it’s got to go.  No one in their right mind would ridicule them their choice or try to push the addiction back on them, no one would call them boring, or intimate they were antisocial  – because that would be utterly cruel, and quite frankly, insane.

But this is exactly what happens when people announce they’re giving up alcohol.  Ok…I’m not saying that it happens to 100% of people, but I can honestly say it’s happened to everyone I’ve spoken to and listened to who’ve made the decision, and I see it written all over social media groups I’m in, and it saddens and maddens me, because what addicts need when giving up their demon is support – not ridicule.  I have heard stories where their very husband/wife/partner have scoffed and laughed, said “you won’t last a week”, have asked how the hell they’ll socialise with friends now?, and have outright been called Boring.  And that’s from those who profess to love them.  What chance do we stand if our (supposed) strongest allies aren’t on our side?!

No one in their right mind would ridicule them their choice or try to push the addiction back on them  – because that would be utterly cruel, and quite frankly, insane.

But you see, it only goes to highlight how embedded associating alcohol with any form of socialising, celebrating, relaxing etc. is in our culture. 

Had a hard day? Have a drink

Had a bad day? Have a drink

Had some good news?  Have a drink?

Had some bad news?  … you get the picture. 

It’s actually inconceivable to too many people that we can get through ALL those things without a drink!

It’s also inconceivable to too many people that we can be sociable, can have a fun time, can let our hair down, we can relax…we can do all these things without a drink – or 20 !

But for those of us that have made the life-altering choice of giving up alcohol, the added pressure of getting grief and ridicule can make the transition and journey that much harder.  It’s in our DNA to want to be liked, to fit in, to ‘be normal’…and in every other way we can do all these things – except we can’t do it with alcohol, because the cruel irony is that people who can’t drink turn into people that people don’t like, they start behaving in ways that set them apart and they just don’t fit in, and they certainly don’t behave in ways that would be seen as ‘normal’ when they’re drunk…sometimes to the point of blacking out and having no recollection of how they behaved.  Yes – it’s a cruel irony that, to fit in we consume a drug that sends us over an edge that sets us apart.

I can’t tell you how many times people have raised an eyebrow at me or reacted as if I’ve just chopped off my right hand to spite myself, when I tell them I don’t drink anymore; but I’m also very lucky to have that rare breed of supportive people in my life who are right behind me and ‘get’ why I have to do this. Because we really don’t have a choice if we want to go forward into a worthwhile and coherent life.  So, what can you do if that support is missing from your life and you feel that you just can’t do it alone? 

Get Help: It may sound obvious, but a lot of people don’t do it… Get Help.  Go and see your GP/Doctor and tell them you want to give up alcohol but can’t do it alone, that you aren’t getting a lot of support from those around you, and see what help they can offer you.  They could help you into detox if you are a very heavy drinker, or see you on a regular basis to monitor your progress; they could put you in touch with support groups in your area or provide a helpline number.  So, it’s definitely worth talking with them in the first instance.

Find Support Groups:  There’s nothing quite like being surrounded by people who just totally understand what you’re doing and what you’re going through, and have no need to question you or make you feel awkward or weird.   There are so many support groups out there, from the one every knows, AA,  to smaller groups and charity organisations: every town and city has them and you simply need to type Alcohol Support Groups into Google to find somewhere near you.  Not only will you be understood and supported, you also stand a very high chance of making some new friends who don’t drink, and get why you can’t!  That’s invaluable, especially in the very early stages.

See a Therapist: Not all therapists cost the earth.  Speak to your Doctor about any local therapists who charge less for addiction therapy, or for any charitable organisations in your area who can give you support.  There’s a lot to be said to ‘talking about it’ – again especially in the early days of giving up.

Social Media Groups: They can give you SO much support – I know because they helped me in my early stages.  Team Sober UK has been invaluable to me… I tune in every single day.  You can write how you’re feeling, say what you need or want to say, without being judged, and you can get a wealth of experience and advice from so many people who have tackled this exact problem. Just join as many groups as you can and soak up all the free advice and information, and share your thoughts, fears, frustrations and needs.

Find Sober Friends: However you do it – whether you hook up with social media group members, join sober groups, find your own sober friends – just do it. Get some people in your life who can go out day or night and it not be ALL about alcohol. Get friends who love doing what you love doing – shopping, going for coffee, walking, visiting galleries – whatever – and hang out with them and instantly you’ll have less pressure in your life.

In short – if you’re not getting the support and understanding you need from those around you go out and find it…and Don’t Give Up!  Don’t let their lack of compassion, empathy, understanding, and support stop you from doing what YOU need to do.  If you have to stop drinking let No-one or nothing stop you – there are people out there who do care – and I’m one of them.  Feel free to leave a comment, and please become a follower of my blog if you’ve found any of my articles interesting or helpful.  You, Me…we’re in this together.

Feel the Feeling

As the amount of time I’ve not been drinking increases, so do all the things I realise I am, alcohol-free.

I’ve discovered I’m not actually as angry as I thought I was, not as sad, nowhere near as depressed, hugely less outrageous, not a risk-taker, and, thankfully, far less mouthy.

But one thing I realise I am, almost constantly, is anxious. I feel anxious over ‘everything’, to the point of it being my natural state of being. I wake up anxious, I go through the day anxious, something happens any my anxiety grows, something doesn’t happen and I’m anxious about the fact it might happen. In short, I now realise I am permanently in a state of mild to chronic anxiety…and I now realise I always have been; I’m an anxious person.

I believe that my anxiety is a combination of being born that way, and from living through so many traumatic events from such an early age. The events right now aren’t important, it’s how I reacted to them that has shaped me. From knee-high I’ve been forced into ‘fight or flight’ situations, I’ve been pushed into ‘people pleasing’ through fear, I’ve suffered huge rejections and abandonments that left me in states of high anxiety and stress, and as I got older I just didn’t know how to react to situations without feeling terribly, and sometimes overwhelmingly, anxious and stressed.

Needless to say, as soon as I discovered drink and the empowering effects it had on me at first, I would drink as soon as I felt the slightest bit anxious, stressed, afraid, or unable to cope, and, in the beginning, alcohol seemed to help me through those situations. I remember a friend saying that a shot of Sherry calmed the nerves, so I started drinking Sherry before difficult situations…and I don’t even like Sherry. It was the ‘calming kick’ I was after. And to be honest, it seemed to work. The problem of course, is I started drinking before, during, and after stressful situations such as interviews, first day nerves, big meetings etc., until that became my default way of dealing with any and all situations…half cut and not fully ‘in the moment’.

Now that I no longer drink and am facing life alcohol free, I have to face the fact that I’m a very anxious person, and I have to learn how to deal with life completely differently. I have to feel the anxiety, which is sometimes so overpowering I think I’m going to pass out. I have to learn how to breathe through it, to talk myself out of being paralysed by it, and function whilst keeping it under control – and believe me when I say it ain’t easy !

Now that I no longer drink and am facing life alcohol free, I have to face the fact that I’m a very anxious person.

What do I do to deal with my anxiety now that I don’t drown it own with drink? I try to do the following:

  1. Talk to someone – be that my partner or my best friends, I try to tell someone how I’m feeling and share my anxiety. Yes, this makes me feel silly, immature, and vulnerable, but I’m always surprised at how my ‘people’ get me and are fine with me sharing how I feel. They may not always have the answers, but talking does sometimes help.
  2. Talk to myself – I spend some time in my head or in front of the mirror, and I ask myself what is it I feel so anxious about? What is that’s got me tied up in knots. What’s the worse that can happen? And how can I help myself or get help?
  3. I BREATHE..big, deep breaths in, long slow breaths out…and repeat will the tunnel vision, heart palpitations, head-spinning, and hand-sweating eases (it very rarely stops). I can’t over estimate the power and importance of breathing.
  4. I accept that I’m a very anxious person, and that the problem or situation is probably nowhere near as huge or daunting as my anxiety leads me to believe it is.
  5. I don’t drink on it.

Talk to Someone, Talk to Yourself, Breathe, and Accept

If, like me, you suffer from anxiety you’ll be able to relate to what I’m going through on a daily basis, and I hope you’re able to talk to someone, and support yourself with ‘self chats’ and breath work. If you’re lucky enough to not struggle with anxiety but know someone who does, please be gentle, please be patient. It’s not their fault and it can be a crippling condition to suffer from.

Please do feel free to leave a comment, or to follow me to read my future blogs.

Time for Change

This morning while making my coffee I got to thinking about how much things have changed in my life – little things and big things, and more importantly, about how much I’ve changed in the last couple of years.

And then I thought, “Have I actually changed? Or have I grown into the person I was always meant to be?”. And my conclusion is that through changing my thinking, changing my bad habits, and changing my outlook on life and how I live it, I’ve allowed myself to reseed, bloom, and grow into the person I was always meant to be, the person I always was and have been, the person that was walled in by all the things that I have now I’ve changed.

Does that make sense?

An example of a major change is this: I always felt that no one listened to me, no one acknowledged my views, and no one took me seriously in the workplace and in my personal life, and I drank on that. When drunk I could become quite verbally aggressive, judgmental, opinionated, and unpleasant. The result being that, because I had a reputation for being either ‘a mouthy drunk’, constantly being hungover, or being absent from work or social events due to ‘illness’, no one listened to me or took me seriously, and I felt more and more excluded, and I’d drink on that.

I developed a jealousy and resentment for those (especially women) who were listened to, who were acknowledged, who were taken seriously and respected, and I’d drink on that.

I couldn’t see the destructive cycle at the time (or maybe I could but was ignoring the truth), but I can see now how I really was my worst own worst enemy, and people were absolutely right to not take me seriously, because I was inconsistent, unreliable, flaky, and prone to letting everyone down – at work and in my personal life.

The Person I Let Down the Most Was Myself…

What people didn’t know, and what I knew but didn’t address or fix, was that the feelings of being ignored or overlooked stemmed from childhood experiences such as being abandoned in a boarding school aged 7 by my father who never even said goodbye. Of my sisters disappearing overnight from my life and my never knowing why or where they’d gone (they’d gone to different boarding schools), and most importantly, of my mother disappearing from our lives after I’d gone into the boarding school and my not knowing why. The cruel irony here is that she was put into a ‘hospital’ because her drinking had become so out of control and destructive she could no longer stay with her family. But no one explained anything to me, so my little mind went into a state of confused frustration, and it stayed that way for many, many, many years.

There are a multitude of other scenarios I could list, but you get the idea – I was ignored, overlooked, and never listened to by the most important people in the world to me, and there was a lot to feel excluded from. I was made to feel very unimportant, that my feelings and opinions just didn’t matter. Things just happened to me, and woe betide me if I questioned or complained.

So, over the years, as I aged, I never really ‘grew up’. I stayed that angry, neglected, ignored, insignificant child. Within me grew resentment, jealousy, and anger towards everyone around me who had a voice, who could ask for what they needed, who could express themselves, and were loved by their family, respected by their friends and work colleagues…and I drank on all that.

What a destructive cycle to be caught up in. And what a hard cycle to get out of.

But I knew it had to change, or I was doomed to keep on repeating the cycle over and over and over again – like a living nightmare.

My first step – as is everyone’s first step – was to acknowledge that I had hit a wall, that I had a problem – a Big problem, and that if I didn’t address the problem I was on the road to ruining my life. The time had come and I had to crawl out of my blame bed and my pity hole and get help to fix the problem.

I couldn’t change what had happened to me as a child, but I could change how I responded to it as an adult.

The next step was to get help, professional help where I could take the lid off of my cauldron of negative, destructive, twisted emotions and start to unravel the mess within. But by getting the professional helped a most sorely needed I slowly began to find my voice, I was actually listened to, and my issues were taken seriously. Now, this isn’t the first time I’d gone to a therapist, but it’s the first time I decided this was it – THIS time is the time for change. I took it seriously, I let it all out bit by bit, and I began to see that, even though I couldn’t change what had happened to me as a child, I could change how I responded to it as an adult. With the right tools and a change in thinking, I began to dismantle my perception of myself as an insignificant person, and to reassemble myself as a worthy human being who had a hell of a lot to offer and give. Slowly, slowly, my dignity began to be restored, I began to look around and the people in my life who do love me, who do respect me, who do listen to me, who do think I’m worth it, who do actually like me….if only I’d let them….

And I didn’t drink on that!

It was the most important change I ever made.

I’m still a daily work in progress, we all are. But as I sit here today, I can honestly say, I’ve changed how I am to grow into the person I am.

Is It Me Or…..?

I read a lot of articles, quotes, and people’s thoughts and ideas around alcohol and addiction, and something I read today really struck a chord in me and got me thinking. It went something like this: “It’s not the drink, it’s not the drugs, it’s not the substance, and never was”.

It’s not the drink, it’s not the drugs, it’s not the substance, and never was

That’s a BIG one for me, because I’ve had many thoughts over the years around why I drank, what caused me to do it, and why I behaved sometimes so appallingly, or outrageously, when drunk. I spent a lot of my life convincing myself and others that I was actually allergic to certain kinds of alcohol and I wouldn’t know which one till I drank it. I also believed for a long while that, because my mother was a destructive drinker, it was hereditary. My mother was in AA for many years, and she relayed to me that anyone who drank excessively was an alcoholic and that alcoholism is a disease : I never quite believed this, was never 100% convinced. But the reason I would give most frequently was “I don’ have a drink problem, I just drink when I’ve got problems”.

I’m into my third year of being sober, and I’ve spent a LOT of time contemplating why I drank, and why alcohol had such an impact on my thinking, my emotions, and my reactions to things and people, and I think I’ve cracked it (well, broken the surface at least), and I know now that it’s true….it wasn’t the booze – it was me. It was me all along, or should I say the lack of me; the lack of confidence, the lack of self-esteem, the lack of self-worth and self-love, the lack of feeling secure in my skin and my life, the lack of being able to face life head on, and the lack of any teaching or life-training to do so. I was so inadequate in all areas of life that equip us with the tools we need to survive in the adult world that I would go to pieces in almost every situation that required adult action and reactions. I had had such a dysfunctional and disjointed childhood that I knew nothing about growing into a rational teenager – I was in fact what they call a ‘tearaway’, ‘a rebel’, I was ‘off the rails’, and all the other terms and labels you can think of. And instead of any adult taking responsibility for my being this way, they stood on the side lines and judged me. At 13 I was sniffing glue. At 14 I had my first suicide attempt. At 18 I discovered alcohol, and the path was paved.

Alcohol gave me all the skills I naturally lacked : confidence, bravado, communication, bravery. But of course, non of it was real, for most of the time I had no idea what the hell I was doing, and no one really knew who I was. The sober me was nowhere near the brave, outgoing, shocking, courageous drunk me, who seemed to not be afraid of anything or anyone. Of course, the exact opposite was true…I was afraid of everything and everyone, and I was the only one who knew it.

But, over the years the cracks started to show and I could no longer hide behind the alcohol. My behaviour became more and more erratic and antisocial the older I got, and the more I drank (There’ll be more on that in the My Story section, and in future Blogs), until eventually I stopped. I couldn’t lie to myself, or to the world, any more, and the truth is now quite clear to me… It wasn’t the alcohol, it was Me.

In sobriety I’m learning all about Me. I’m learning that I have a multitude of fears and anxieties, I have suffered a lack of self confidence for most of my life, and I have never felt ‘good enough’ for anyone or anything.

In Sobriety I’m learning all about Me

But you know what? These are completely natural feelings, and everyone has them – absolutely everyone has an insecure feeling now and again, everyone has their anxieties, everyone feels let down, a little lost, afraid of the future : you name the feeling and simply everyone has felt it…but it’s how we deal with it that counts. I dealt with these feelings by drowning in alcohol instead of facing them, acknowledging them, working through them, maybe even sharing them (finding my humility, showing my vulnerable side) with a friend or loved one…and it went on like this for years and years: The bigger the problem, the more I drank.

The Bigger the Problem, the More I Drank

Thankfully this is no longer the case. Thankfully I now know that when any of those emotions or feelings come up, or feel like they’re going to overwhelm me, I can reach out and turn to a handful of good and trusted friends, or the partner I’ve built a solid, loving, trusting relationship with, and I can talk things through till I see a way ahead. I no longer drown myself and my problems in alcohol – and I’m so, so thankful for that.

Today, I am ……more confident, more relaxed, more self-assured, more in Love, and more Loved.

There are Hangover Cures

This is a myth…there are no cures for the dreaded hangover.

How many remedies have you tried?

Raw eggs whisked in milk

Tomato juice with tabasco sauce

A bloody Mary

A full English cooked breakfast

A Litre of water

A Gallon of black coffee…..

The list goes on and on and on doesn’t it? And we’ve all tried more than we care to remember.

The FACT is, there is no cure for a hangover, so get over even thinking there is.

The Best Cure For a Hangover Is To Not Drink…..

Myth – Alcohol Relaxes you

This is a hugely believed myth about alcohol, yet it does the exact opposite. Ok, that first glass of wine, G&T, Beer etc. might just ‘hit the spot’, make you feel refreshed and rewarded after a long or hard day, you may let out a deep sigh and feel ‘relaxed’ – but that’s where it ends. Every drink after that just goes to adding to whatever you’re already feeling, be that wound up, anxious, depressed, annoyed, angry – you name the feeling and each drink is going to play on and amplify it – FACT.

For instance, you’re feeling wound up about an incident that’s happened at work, you’ve been told off by the boss for something that wasn’t your fault, or a colleague was rude or dismissive to you, so you pop to the pub for a relaxing drink and end up having more than you should, and before you know it you’re crying, shouting, drunk texting exes or enemies, saying things about people you really shouldn’t, flirting with a stranger, being the loudest person at the table – the list is almost endless, but if you’re a drinker you know exactly what I’m talking about, because you’ve done at least one of those things drunk.

I’ve been there…

You’ve been there…

Every drinker has been there.

Basically, after that ‘one too many’ your behaviour is out of the box and heading towards out of control. You are about as far from relaxed as it’s possible to be.

It’s time to stop this myth.

Ok, you can’t go out and change the world, you can’t change everyone’s belief in this myth, but you can change yourself and your own thinking.

Stop right now believing this, and start exploring how you actually react after consuming alcohol. Learn about yourself, listen to yourself, watch yourself, and start by changing yourself. Have a long conversation with yourself about how you drink to deal with stress, anxiety, pressure etc., and then explore with yourself what you can do to change this.

Step one – don’t pick up a drink. It sounds simple, but I know it isn’t. But it really is the first step to changing your belief in this myth.

Don’t go to the pub.

Don’t buy that bottle of wine or gin on the way home.

Make yourself a cup of strong tea, eat sweets and treats if you have to, go for a walk, phone a friend, have a long bath or shower, go to the cinema…

do ANYTHING to not drink the first stress-related drink, and start busting that Myth in your life.

And Good Luck x

Welcome to Living Alcohol Free

Sobriety is a Way of Life

Once you decide to give up alcohol, eliminate it from your life completely, you’re starting on a journey that will last a life-time; a journey full of challenges and uphill struggles that will see you digger deeper into your own resources than you probably ever have before – but the rewards – oh the rewards are huge, boundless, amazing, and so satisfying.

Each of us decides to eliminate alcohol from our lives for different reasons, be that because it’s become a problem, has started costing you more than money, just isn’t fun anymore, for medical reasons, or you’re embarking on a healthier lifestyle all round. Whatever your reason, I’d like to welcome you to the world of living and being sober, and I hope you’ll enjoy my stories, tips & inspirations, and my blog that’ll tell you all about me, my past, my decision to stop drinking, my journey to sobriety, and my life now, Living Alcohol Free.

I hope that something in here resonates with you, that you find inspiration, motivation, and a sense of support if you need it.

Welcome to my world x

First Blog…

Welcome to my Living Alcohol Free blog. This is my first blog on this site, and it’s really just an introduction, to say hello, and that you’ll visit from time to time to read my shared stories, experiences, and thoughts.

There’s no sequence to these ramblings and writings, I’ll just be typing out what’s in my head – and today my main thought has been on how being sober is not something you just achieve by stopping drinking, and sobriety doesn’t mean just being physically not being drunk or hungover – no, it’s much, much more than that, as I’m discovering. Sobriety is a never ending journey and a dedicated way of life. Yes, it means putting down the bottle and giving up the booze, but it also means checking our behaviours, our thought patterns, our attitudes, and our way of life.

The longer I’ve been sober the more I recognise that it wasn’t just drinking that was a bad habit : my actions and reactions to things, people, and situations were also repetitive, and my answer to everything was to just drink. I realise and recognise that I didn’t stop and consider situations with clarity; I jumped into a glass of wine, then a bottle, then another, and let the situation get totally out of hand, out of control, or I completely ignored it in the hope that it would change and go away on its own. Of course, neither of those approaches changed a thing, and more often than not they made the situation a lot, lot worse, or at best, unchanged.

So sobriety to me now also includes changing my addictive behaviour patterns and habits, not doing the same things over and over again, and teaching myself to take responsibility for my actions and reactions soberly, with thought, planning, and not least, with dignity.

Sobriety is a Way of Life….