Under The Pressure

Yesterday morning I was driving my three-year-old to nursery, taking a road that winds up through farmers’ fields. For a mile or two we were flanked by sheep-filled greenery, our presence being the only visible sign of human life. The wind rocked the trees violently, birds hung strewn in the air, caught on the stiff breezes that elevated them far above us. My eyes kept returning to the sheep. One knelt forwards on its front legs, positioning itself strategically in order to be able to eat more comfortably. A magpie perched on its back. Dotted about, absorbed in their single pursuit of consuming the grass, the sheep were completely oblivious to us, unaware of a world beyond their immediate one.

dreamstime_m_24254937

And so I began to think about the vast gulf between the sheep’s existence and our own, one that is infinitely more confusing, busy and chaotic. Much of the pressure we feel encumbered by is self-created, and I’ve been on a small mission over the last couple of years to disencumber myself as much as possible. Someone said to me recently that if you strip away all the bullshit, basically what we are about is waking up each day and feeding ourselves (and any dependents) three times, before going back to bed. A very simplistic description of the human experience but really, one that is true. All the additional layers that we weave in are not essential to our survival, but rather are there because we have achieved the basics and so have free time and energy to devote to complicating things (see Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs).

Some of these complications, the additional extras, are nice. Holidays, for example, or meeting up with friends, indulging in a hobby or wandering around an art gallery. But lots of the tasks and activities that we set ourselves each day just cause us huge amounts of unnecessary stress, resulting in us bombing around like headless chickens in a desperate attempt to tick off everything we set out to do when we woke up.

The reason I’m writing this in a blog about my sober life is because when you add in all the needless, supplementary elements to modern life, you inevitably put yourself under stress. And when you do that, you tend to seek out relief. For many people, that relief comes in the shape of a bottle. A major part of my success in staying sober for (almost) five years is that I work hard at maintaining as stress-free a life as I possibly can. Sometimes life should just be about waking up, feeding yourself three times and then going back to bed.

It feels good to strip back the layers of complication and make things easy on yourself. Whether that’s making a change to your job, slowing down in your efforts to achieve perfection in everything, or not saying yes to every social invitation that comes your way, there are amendments we can all make to simplify our existence. Maybe not quite to the baseline of sheep, but a step back from the mayhem of the typical twenty-first century human experience can only be a good thing.

Does The Body Rule The Mind, Or Does The Mind Rule The Body?

I’ve been thinking about writing this blog for a while. I wanted to explore the issue of how the mind and body are connected, or rather, as for many people, how they are disconnected. If the mind is the sum total of our emotions, memories, ideas, thoughts, values, beliefs and opinions, the component parts that make up our personalities, then for most people this is what makes us ‘Us’. It is our mind that defines the person we are, and when we die, even though the body remains, we consider the person to have departed.

nostalgia

We often take our bodies for granted, expecting them to cope with the neglect and strains we put them through: too much food, not enough exercise, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, the ingestion of numerous other drugs, insufficient water, too much stress…the list goes on.

Personally, I embarked upon a punishing relationship with my own body during my mid-teens. Partly down to me being a bit of a perfectionist, partly as a result of the external pressures from the media on women to look a particular way (i.e. thin) in order to be attractive, I set myself very strict boundaries in terms of what I could and could not eat. Simultaneously, I started drinking rather a lot of alcohol. So, it’s fair to say that I didn’t exactly treat my body kindly. In fact, I hurled abuse at it with a fairly consistent intensity until I reached my mid-thirties.

A couple of years ago I noticed a hip flask on sale in the shop, Urban Outfitters, emblazoned with the slogan ‘Fuck My Liver’. And sentiments not dissimilar to this are routinely posted on Facebook and Twitter each weekend as vast numbers of drinkers publicly declare their intentions to get smashed.

But I wonder where this separation of the mind and the body originates, why so many people wind up regarding their physical and mental selves in such a dislocated manner? I know that I often considered my body almost with contempt; ‘You will take this!’ it seemed as though I was saying. Keep on abusing, keep on punishing, keep on expecting to get away with it…

But ever since I stopped drinking, my relationship with my body has totally changed. Now, I really value it. I would even go as far as saying that I love my body, in that it serves me and enables me to do all the things I love in life. It allows me to run, fast and for a long time, up into the hills where the skies are big and the air is clear and fresh. It carries me wherever I want to go with my children, to enjoy playing with the little one in the park, or going for a coffee with my eldest. And the more I value it, the better I want to treat it.

dreamstime_m_24551720

And, what I have realised, is that when we treat our bodies right, we feel positive and content in our minds. There is a state of balance that we achieve when we act how nature wants us to act. When we don’t poison our bodies with alcohol, and when we get sufficient sleep, and when we eat nutritional food and drink enough water, we feel good. We function correctly. Our whole selves, mental and physical.

It goes without saying that the opposite is true when we abuse our bodies by not eating properly or drinking too much. We feel jittery and depressed, lethargic and filled with self-loathing.

I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere along the journey of living without alcohol, I started to love my body and respect it. Like we all should. And I have never felt happier and more balanced mentally as a result.

Good Decisions. Consistently.

Stopping drinking does not make life all better. The same old shit will still bug you, and your personality will remain pretty much intact (albeit you’ll probably become less down on yourself and more optimistic about things in general). The curveballs will continue to get thrown your way, and the opportunities that seem so close and within reach will still, on occasion, slip away from your grasp leaving you feeling cheated. Some people will still annoy you; things will still, sometimes, not go the way you want them to.

All of this is true. And yet, I found myself thinking a few days ago, ‘everything goes how I want it to nowadays; my life has become so simple to navigate’. So I started to ponder this a bit, why I had arrived at the conclusion that life is easy now that I’m a non-drinker. And here’s what I came up with.

When I drank, I made a lot of ill thought out decisions. These often did not end with the one initial bad decision but seemed to flow, catastrophically, into a maelstrom of dark consequences. Which, in turn, affected a whole host of other areas of my life, with similarly terrible results. It was the lack of consistency and complete inability to sit back and ruminate on anything that got me into so much bother. (And being drunk a lot.)

Think it? Do it. Feel it? Act on it. Say it. Do it. Think it? Go on and DO IT.

But now, I am calm. I am consistently calm. I’m a thinker. I contemplate. I empathise. I sit quietly with my thoughts before I act upon them.

shutterstock_320882792

This brings positive outcomes because my life is no longer a kamikaze frenzy of drunken behaviour. It’s well thought out. And a word that I keep returning to – it’s consistent. I often say that the thing I love the most about being a non-drinker is the clarity it brings, but I’m also extremely happy about another great benefit of this lifestyle, and that’s the level, steady consistency; the predictability, the lack of surprises. The reliability.

This is a good way to live. You get to plan and live a life that is less Russian Roulette and more Chess. You can think about your next move, and make it when you’ve weighed everything up. Partners are chosen because they’re who you really need and want; friends are made because you have solid things in common instead of merely a love of getting pissed; you can concentrate and apply yourself at work, meaning you give your best and excel. You just make better choices – all the time. Good decisions, consistently.

It’s good, this non-drinking life.

My Name Is…And I’m An Alcoholic

There’s a documentary on Channel 5 tonight at 10pm called ‘My Name Is…And I’m An Alcoholic’. And I’m in it. Along with seven other people who all fell foul of the demon drink but managed to successfully pull their lives back from disaster.

This programme has had a strange effect on me. I’ve already seen the rough cut of it, and it’s profound, sad, moving. It had me in tears. It dragged me right back to a very dark place I inhabited a few years ago where I drank far too much and my perspective on the world was incredibly small, restricted to bottles of wine and trying to lose my mind. A place where I showed myself up on a regular basis, where I wasn’t a fantastic mum, somewhere where I strived to be a person I’m not.

It has been almost five years since I last drank alcohol, and I can barely equate who I am today with that depressed woman who spent half her life in a fog of booze.

shutterstock_296166824

I forgave myself my alcohol-related wrongs a long time ago, because what’s the point in wasting the present wrapped up in feelings of regret over the past? But my involvement in ‘My Name Is…’ has brought me closer to my history than anything else has since I became a non-drinker.

In the making of this film, we were all interviewed in a room in London, and Mikey, the director, asked the questions: a very straightforward set-up, a set-up that brought out some honest and heart-wrenching stories. Talking to Mikey, I forgot that I was being recorded for much of it and I suspect the same is true of the other seven people in the film, as their accounts are brutally frank.

I’m glad I took part in this documentary. I think it’s vital to get our version of things out there, those of us who have struggled with addiction, and especially those of us who have managed to get sober – to offer hope and insight to other people who are fighting the fight, desperate to believe that life can get better but not quite seeing how it ever will.

There’s always been prejudice against people who are alcohol dependent. Those who can manage their intake and exercise ‘responsible drinking’ are at a loss when it comes to understanding anyone who can drink and drink and drink, with terrible repercussions, and who goes back to the bottle for more the next day. And the next. And the next. Knowing that their health is suffering and they are risking everything but still not being able to stop.

Alcohol addiction is a secret and sad state of affairs. When you are floundering in the thick of it, you become wonderful at disguising it. And afterwards, as you recover, you may well prefer to keep your struggles private, and who could blame you, when one considers the stigma that is rife in our society with regards to ‘problem drinkers’?

So, I am pleased I took part in this programme, even though it has upset my internal apple cart a little. I am full of admiration for the other seven who feature in it; they’re a brave bunch of fighters who have my utter and total respect.

One Tequila, Two Tequila, Three Tequila, Floor…

Flicking through a magazine the other day, I came across a feature entitled, ‘10 Ways to Disguise a Hangover’. The subtitle read as follows; ‘One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor…from hiccup to beauty queen get-up the morning after the night before’. The content consisted of a number of beauty products, ranging from Christian Dior Capture Totale Le Serum Yeux (£77 if you’re interested), Kerastase Chronologiste Perfume Oil (£39), Foreo IRIS Illuminating Eye Massager (£99) and Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Compact (at a rather more affordable £20) – a grand total of £235 for a bunch of lotions and potions that will allegedly diminish the physical side effects of over drinking.

shutterstock_232609939

Hmm. A few things struck me about this article (irresponsible, lazy journalism, predictable to name a few), but the overriding thought I had after glancing through it was this; we are routinely fed one great big fu**er of a lie when it comes to drinking, and specifically, when it comes to excessive drinking.

Alcohol is a toxin. And if you are downing so much of the stuff that you’re hitting the deck (as per the subtitle of the aforementioned article) then you’re really damaging yourself. And yet, we (as a society) seem to have this attitude towards booze that is so hypocritical, ethereal and hard to pin down. It’s not OK to be a drunk – you know that, right? Drunks are bad. But! It’s really fine to drink lots of tequila at a New Year’s Eve gig, fall over, and suffer an almighty hangover the following day…just so long as you disguise the fact with a load of high end products. Confusing, no? Just where is the line drawn?

If I saw a grown adult at a party (NYE or not) drink so much that she fell to the ground, I would find that pretty upsetting. It would remind me of myself a few years ago, when I would drink to excess because I didn’t like myself much and had no confidence in social situations. I would conclude that this person was either a) out of control when it came to drinking and had a dependency upon booze, or b) really depressed about something and was deliberately getting hammered because she wanted to block it all out. Either way, I wouldn’t be laughing.

Then again, if everyone stuck to the recommended guidelines and consumed just one or two drinks at any one sitting, there would be no cause for an article such as this to be written, one that’s basically flogging a load of expensive beauty products and fills a couple of pages of a magazine.

The images on the pages depict sexy, slim and glamorous women, sipping Prosecco in their beautiful designer clothes. They don’t portray a person that represents me as a drinker, staggering about in a pub, scanning the room for half-finished drinks that people have left, slightly overweight due to all those booze calories, flushed skin and eyes that reveal a haunted, unhappy soul hiding beneath the veneer of false, alcohol-induced confidence. No, the women in the magazine are in control, and confident, and stylish. So where, then, are the ones who are collapsing after too much tequila, who might be in need of all those lovely magic potions the next day?

These sorts of articles are, to employ the use of a technical word, crap. They sell a lifestyle that doesn’t exist. They make us think we can be something that is a fantasy – the heavy drinker who cares not; who does not invite the criticism or judgment from those around her; who doesn’t let loved ones down repeatedly because of her alcohol dependency; who doesn’t look like shit because she drinks too much and her poor liver is crying out for a rest.

Approach these features with caution – and, as we venture forwards into a new year, remember that most of the cultural messages regarding alcohol that we’re subjected to are motivated by money, one way or another.

Believing In Yourself As A Person Who Doesn’t Drink

As the sober months have turned into sober years, I’ve become noticeably more comfortable with not drinking. In the early days I did feel self-conscious; I worried that people would feel sorry for me, or simply not want to hang out with me anymore because I was boring. One or two acquaintances attempted to express their heartfelt best wishes and asked (with head cocked to one side in a concerned fashion) ‘How are you feeling now?’ with their hand sympathetically touching my arm.

I must say that more than anything this attitude confused me. We live in a society in which drunkenness is rampant, one in which people (and definitely the ones who asked me how I was feeling), who are clearly alcohol dependent, will drink far more than is good for them on a nightly basis, and yet STILL find it necessary to feel sorry for those who quit drinking the stuff. My response, incidentally, to those professing their sympathies towards me over the fact that I’d quit drinking, was to look befuddled and say ‘I’m absolutely fine thanks – why?’

shutterstock_185642075

What sobriety has taught me is that letting go of old ways does not mean having to alter completely the person you are. One of the most terrifying things I have ever done in life is teeter on the brink of becoming a non-drinker, as I contemplated a world I believed would never be fun again, a place in which I could never let my hair down and an existence which, quite simply, looked bleak right up to the horizon.

But my alcohol-free life has turned out to be nothing like this, not boring at all. It’s just that all the things I failed to notice when I drank (because I was either too hungover or preoccupied with planning my next drink, or simply because I was drunk) now leap out at me. The world switched to Technicolor when I put down the bottle, meaning that all the things I imagined to be mundane when I drank have since become beautiful, vivid, notable and fascinating.

People still often ask me, ‘But don’t you miss drinking?’ And my answer is always this: ‘Alcohol to me isn’t like it is to you. You can enjoy a couple of drinks and happily stop, go home and get to bed. I can’t do that. For me, a couple of drinks always meant a session, lots of drinks, so much booze that I would be sick, or suffer a blackout or fall unconscious. Alcohol made me hate myself, and it made me want to hide away in my bedroom, unnoticed by the world.

But without alcohol I can relax, and feel happy, well balanced and valid. Without alcohol, I can be myself. And so no, I don’t miss drinking at all.’

Reframing and Reclaiming Christmas

“A compassionate attitude helps you communicate easily with fellow human beings. As a result, you make more genuine friends; the atmosphere is more positive, which gives you inner strength. This inner strength helps you voluntarily concern yourself with others, instead of just thinking about your own self. If one always thinks of oneself, one’s thinking becomes very narrow; even a small problem appears very significant and unbearable. When we think of others, our minds widen, and within that large space, even big personal problems may appear insignificant.” – The Dalai Lama

shutterstock_233090854

This morning, as I enjoyed a rare lie-in, I was having a flick through a magazine with a cup of tea. The features were almost exclusively related to Christmas, the pages filled with pretty sparkling lights, images of beautiful people looking happy and full of love, gift ideas that suggested cavernous sources of wealth, and models showing off expensive clothes, hanging from their tiny, waif-like frames.

Christmas has become, for many people, a bleak time of the year when their shortcomings are highlighted and they’re made to feel inadequate by all the representations of ‘normality’ that we’re bombarded with from the end of November onwards. We are all expected to be attending a glittering array of parties, dressed fabulously of course, looking slim and attractive; our presents demand to be wrapped stylishly and ahead of time; the menu planning obviously needs to be completed by October at the latest, with the intervening months being utilised for making the Christmas pudding, cake, and all manner of tasty accompaniments which can be stored in the freezer until the Big Day.

During the darkest years of my life, Christmas was my least favourite time of the year. It caused me to internalise everything I hated about my life. I ripped myself to shreds for not being good enough, for being divorced and failing to find the next ‘Love of my Life’, for not having ‘made something’ of myself, for drinking too much, for not being able to stop drinking when I started, for not being perfect, for not ‘having it all’.

And because I concentrated so much on my own (as I perceived them at the time) failings, I gave little outwardly to anyone else.

Yet if I had been able to find the motivation to invest my energy into others, it would have helped draw the attention away from my own problems. Compassion, as the Dalai Lama points out in the quote above, helps us to make bonds, and bonds make us feel worthwhile and more human. Community enriches the soul. And it doesn’t take much effort – you don’t need to race off down to the local homeless shelter and spend your entire Christmas there (although if you did you’d probably feel fulfilled). Simply smiling at people and saying hello as you pass on the street, or taking a Christmas card round to an elderly neighbour who might need the company and a reminder that someone is thinking of them, can have a hugely positive effect on your own mental state.

shutterstock_250261384

When we turn in on ourselves and forget to reach out to other people, we exacerbate the tendency to focus on the negative. Which, of course, makes it more tempting to drink. And when we drink, we internalize even more and find it virtually impossible to reach out to connect with other people. The endless push of ‘the perfect Christmas’ by those pursuing maximum sales is akin to a tidal wave – its force is relentless and it can easily (and, more often than not, does) overshadow the original meaning of the festive season.

So if you’re feeling the strain of this heavy weight of idealism, and if Christmas only serves to emphasise how bad you feel about yourself, and if the holidays always lead to excessive drinking to escape it all – take some time out. Look around you. See whom you could help. Try to focus your attention away from yourself and on to others. Compassion isn’t only about making other people happy; it serves to positively impact upon your own emotional wellbeing too.

Making It Through Christmas…Alive, Kicking & Sober!

I hated Christmas when I drank, largely because I shared custody of my eldest daughter with her dad, and so I would either wake up on Christmas Day without her, or she would have to leave for her dad’s at 3pm. I missed her terribly when she wasn’t there, and her absence had the additional negative effect of enabling me to drink – the sadness I felt as a result of our broken family justified (in my mind) my excessive alcohol consumption.

Then, when I quit drinking, I hated Christmas because I could see everyone around me getting drunk, and drinking, drinking, drinking, and I’d feel lonely and odd and full of longing to join in. But I knew I couldn’t.

But that was just my first sober Christmas, and since then everything has become, not only easier, but good, enjoyable. Finally, I like Christmas. My daughter is now almost seventeen so the pain of sharing custody has passed.  She’ll spend a bit of time with her dad on Christmas Day but it’s much easier to bear these days, and most of the day she will spend with me and the rest of her maternal family, so it doesn’t sting anywhere near as much as it once did. Plus now we have her little sister who is three and a half, her presence injecting that essential childhood excitement factor at Christmas.

Over the years, I became accustomed to despising Christmas. Everything about it made me feel uncomfortable and desperate to run away from it all: the cold, the grey skies, the aforementioned absences of my daughter, the highlighting of my divorced status when everyone else seemed to be playing happy families, and of course, the regrets and self-loathing over what would almost always transcend into a period of very heavy drinking and all the associated stupid, drunken behaviour.

As the years have passed by, though, and certainly since I became alcohol-free, I have garnered a few thoughts about staying happy at this time of year, and they have really helped me transform a very negative perception of Christmas to a positive one. I wanted to share them with you, in case you, like I once used to be, are filled with dread at what lies just around the corner…

166_0

 

  • Focus on family and love. You might find it difficult to get on with certain members of the family who are descending upon you for the duration of the holidays, but try and concentrate on the ones who make you feel happy – the kids, your partner. Absorb their excitement and pleasure, and reconnect with your own inner child. If you don’t have children and are single, consider spending a few hours of Christmas Day volunteering at a homeless shelter. Giving yourself up to help others is a sure fire way to boost your mental state, and you won’t be bored, lonely and tempted to drink all day if you’re busy devoting yourself to a good cause.
  • Most of us will get at least a couple of days off work, so if all else fails, try and blot out the Christmas factor and just utilise the time to recharge your batteries and slob about in your pyjamas having a good old rest. With much of the outside world going into shutdown mode, this is an easy time of the year to do very little, and let’s face it; most of us don’t get that opportunity very often. Reframe Christmas as nothing more than a free holiday, and enjoy a well-deserved break.
  • Meditate on the positives in your life. I used to spiral into a major depression during the weeks leading up to Christmas, and would be drawn to all the bad stuff that was going on, which made it impossible to look outward and feel happy about anything. But if we scratch the surface, everyone can find at least one or two good things that are worth exercising gratitude for – the fact that you’re healthy, or that you have a roof over your head, or that you have lovely friends or family, or that you will be enjoying a nice meal or two over Christmas. Meditate every day for a few minutes and focus on whatever positive elements you can think of in your life. Remind yourself that actually, there is always something to feel grateful for.
  • Get in touch with fellow Soberistas. Use the Soberistas website to connect with others who might also be finding booze an issue at this time of year. A problem shared is a problem halved, and nobody will understand how you feel better than those in the same boat.
  • Consider letting a few close people in your life know that you have quit drinking and that you might be having a couple of wobbles over the Christmas period. If you think you could be tempted to drink then knowing that those around you are aware of how you’re feeling will act as a good preventative method in stopping you from doing so. You’re much less likely to give into temptation if you feel accountable to the people you’re spending the holidays with. And remember – those who mind don’t matter, and those that matter don’t mind.
  • Go for a run or a brisk walk on Christmas Day morning. Exercise makes you feel better – it’s that simple. The endorphins, getting away from all the mayhem, the fresh air and daylight will all have a positive impact on your emotional state, so make the most of the fact that you aren’t lying around with a raging hangover, put your trainers on and get outside for some exercise.
  • Find a nice alcohol-free drink that you really enjoy that feels like a bit of a treat, and stock up before Christmas. You will probably feel left out if everyone else is necking the wine and you’re nursing a glass of orange juice or water. So either experiment beforehand with mocktail recipes or order in some alcohol-free drinks just for you – the Soberistas Discount Club page has a code for 10% off products from brand new alcohol-free drinks stockists, DryDrinker, so check out their range if you’re in need of inspiration.
  • Watch films, read books, listen to music. Ignite your soul with lots of cosy evenings in, catching up on some culture. It’ll keep you busy and give you a focus when the sun goes down, a time when you might otherwise start itching for a drink. Reading books is a no-go when you’re drinking, and any films you watch will be instantly forgotten if you’ve got a glass to hand throughout. I love watching films during Christmas in my pyjamas, alone or with the kids, just losing myself in another world for a couple of hours. And if you want some ideas for reading material, check out the Soberistas Book Club.

IMG_0155

I hope this helps, and have a happy, booze-free Christmas! Love from Lucy x

When you quit drinking you find CLARITY…

shutterstock_240140632

Clearheaded. Day after day, without interruption, free from fog and confusion: this is my experience of living without alcohol. I think straight because mind-altering substances of any kind no longer hamper my thoughts. I just think. Clearly. When I drank, I spent so much of my time simply treading water, waiting, drifting, as I looked forward to feeling well again, or to drinking some more. I wished my life away, dragged down by the physical and mental weight of hangovers. So yes, this is what it is to be alcohol-free – clearheaded. You are able to exist as you are, unencumbered by any negativity brought about by poisoning your mind and body with ethanol. It’s freedom.

Love. If you’re addicted to something, it prevents you from loving anything else or anyone fully. How can you give your heart completely to another human being when a proportion of it already belongs to a substance? Answer: you can’t. I cherry-picked my relationships as a drinker, based on whether a potential boyfriend demonstrated a tolerance for my proclivity for heavy alcohol consumption. Specifically, he had to be a heavy drinker too, which, of course, nicely disguised my own shortcomings in this area. But since I became alcohol-free, I’ve got my head around what love really is. And I know that I never had it when I drank; I had nothing that resembled love at all.

 Appreciation. When you’re running from yourself, either drunk or with an almighty hangover, and you hate every part of what you are, inside and out, there’s no room to notice the world around you. I internalised everything when I drank, I turned in on myself and expended all my energy thinking about me, and the terrible things I did, and the current mess I’d landed myself in, and the bad hand that life had seemingly dealt me. I rarely took in a beautiful sunset, or the sound of a bird chirruping on a branch, or the friendly smile of a passing stranger. I was locked inside my own dark world, and I had neither the inclination nor the headspace to absorb my surroundings. Without alcohol, I appreciate, and I see, and I care.

 Remould. You’re never fixed. As a human, you possess an immense ability to rework yourself. All you need to do is to start putting into practise new habits and small changes to how you lead your day-to-day life. When you stare into the mirror and hate what is looking back, just remember that it doesn’t need to end there. It’s never end game. There is always tomorrow. For years, I suffered from depression, anxiety and panic attacks –nowadays, I’m fine. I removed the alcohol and the rest took care of itself. It is always possible to remould.

 Instinctive. One of the best things about being a non-drinker for me is that I now completely trust my instincts. I rely on my gut feelings to help me navigate my way through life, and I’ve not yet been let down by this as a strategy. When I drank, I often had my head in the clouds – life was part reality, part fantasy, and I found it difficult to separate the two. It’s a different story now. My feet are planted firmly on the ground, I don’t take any shit off anyone, and I know when I’ve taken a wrong turn and redirect myself back to where I want to be. Life seems easy now, but in the old days it was a constant challenge and I regularly felt out of my depth.

 True to yourself. It sounds like a cliché, but I found myself when I stopped drinking. I was lost as a drinker, had no idea of who I was or what I wanted out of my life. Or of what I was capable of. Or of the sort of people I wanted to spend time with. I flipped from this idea to that, sporadically focusing on various projects that never got finished. And then, with spectacular ease, my vision of the person I was and what life was about, and how I should spend my time on earth, all magically became apparent. It didn’t happen overnight but within a few months of becoming a non-drinker, there it was – clarification of me, and of my life.

 You. You matter. I matter. We all matter. Our happiness counts. We deserve to live a life that is true to who we are, and one in which we fulfil our potential. Self-compassion can be impossible to exercise when we are frequently filled with self-hatred, when we turn away from our own reflection and can’t sleep at night because we can’t stand what we have become… and yet, self-esteem can and does return when you stop doing things when you’re pissed that you later bitterly regret. And when you have a bit of self-esteem, you don’t want to damage yourself quite so much. Your dignity begins to emerge again from wherever it’s been hiding, swallowed up by oceans of wine. You come back to the fore. You start to matter again.

shutterstock_281163182

A Free Christmas eBook, and…

Because it’s December and therefore a particularly challenging time of the year to avoid booze, I wanted to tell you about a couple of projects I’ve been working on over the last few weeks with Carrie Armstrong that may be of help to you in staying happily alcohol-free during the festive period. Carrie, for anyone who doesn’t know, presented a couple of the Soberistas webinars a few months ago, and is a tour de force of sobriety, and a whirlwind of ideas.

Together, we’ve written an eBook which is full of helpful hints and advice for staying sober during the festivities this Christmas. We’ve both experienced our fair share of horrific drunken moments throughout numerous Christmases and New Year’s Eves, and so to help you avoid doing the same, we’re giving you this eBook completely free. Please share amongst anyone who you think may benefit from it – it was written specifically to help people avoid alcohol during their work’s Christmas night out, but all the advice and information in it is relevant for staying sober wherever and whenever there is masses of booze on offer and loads of pressure to drink the stuff.

You can access the eBook by clicking below.

Carrie Lucy Christmas eBook

And secondly, Carrie and I have made a little calendar for 2016. It’s a bit different to your regular calendar, as this one has been created as an aid to staying sober. And not just sober, but happily sober! Every month shows Carrie or me doing one of the many things we love to do now that we don’t drink alcohol, and there’s a message with each month explaining why that particular activity keeps us on our sober paths. And throughout the year, we’ve highlighted loads of fun, weird and occasionally bonkers National Days to give you ideas for how to spend all your sober free time!

IMG_1239

If you fancy a calendar to hang on your wall at home to help make 2016 your best sober year yet, please email us on either lucy@soberistas.com or lifeafterthechair@hotmail.com and we’ll let you know how to get your hands on one. From the sale of each calendar, we will be donating £1.50 to Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.