You’ll only stop when you are ready to stop.

Sunday marked the end of Alcohol Awareness Week. Charities and health organisations across the country came up with a variety of interesting ways to try and raise awareness amongst drinkers in the UK. Because we at Soberistas were following a few alcohol-related organisations on Twitter in order to keep up-to-date with their news over the week, we noticed a number of people who, well let’s call them the anti-nanny-state brigade – people who felt that by attempting to raise awareness about alcohol abuse, they were in some way being persecuted because of their drinking habits.

I found this a little odd, I have to say. I was a hardened and enthusiastic binge drinker for about twenty years before I gave it up a couple of years ago. I found one of the hardest factors in making the decision to go teetotal to be the reaction of my erstwhile fellow pissheads and how they would now perceive me as a non-drinker. I was utterly convinced that I was, by giving up this stuff that had gradually but very determinedly eroded my personality and happiness, deliberately turning myself into a boring nothing of a person.

I now realise that this is utter rubbish, but the fear was very great at the time when I began to consider living without booze. And so last week, when I read these comments from people who were full of the ‘What am I doing in AAW mate? Getting shitfaced every night, that’s what!’ and ‘I’m sick of these people telling me what to do..’ and so on, I thought to myself that they too were acting a little on the defensive, a bit too bothered for me to believe that they aren’t just a little concerned about their alcohol consumption.

Defiance stems from vulnerability – I was exactly the same for years whenever anyone questioned my drinking (which wasn’t very often as nearly everyone in my life was also a heavy binge drinker). I would blow up, angry and accusatory, indignant that anybody would dare attempt to come between me and my Pinot. Obviously the only people who were attempting to come between me and wine were those who cared about me and who didn’t want me to harm myself any longer, but they soon learnt not to mention it again, fearful of being subjected to another tirade.

In the end, the only person who could make the decision to stop drinking was me. And likewise, those people who felt under attack by the very fact that AAW was going on last week should not have worried – people who deal with addictive behaviours are very aware that people need to want to change before they can begin to start on the road to recovery.

We have seen over the last few days on the chat room on Soberistas.com that everyone who has joined Soberistas had already taken that first step in recognising that they want to make a change, prior to finding our website – we would never try to alter someone’s drinking behaviour unless they felt the need to change it themselves, as it would be an utter waste of time.

Now that Alcohol Awareness Week is over, I really hope that the events and activities that ran over those seven days helped the people out there who had already felt that seed growing inside their consciousness, the one that told them what they had secretly feared for years; alcohol has begun to control them, and they need help with turning that control around; to enable them to control it, and to find a happier place.

As for the objectors on Twitter, I hope they had a lovely week getting really drunk and acting a bit silly.

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Soberistas Launch Today!

Hi

Just a quick note to say that www.soberistas.com is now live! We would love you to join up and add to our growing community of people who are either looking for help in giving up alcohol, or who have already made the leap and are teetotal.

Just go to www.soberistas.com and become a member today (and tell your friends too!)

Thanks, hope to see you there.

Lucy x

Happiness

Image courtesy of © Bparish | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Does it sound evangelical to say that I felt complete joy and happiness last night, as I pushed the baby’s pram up a steep hill in the driving rain, no hood or hat protecting my head from the downfall and howling gales, and the baby unable to see me or anything else owing to her rain cover being totally misted up with condensation? If I’m honest, I did feel a momentary pang of ‘urrghh this is utterly horrible and miserable and I want to be at home in dry clothes, under a blanket in front of the TV.’ But only for a minute, and then I reminded myself that I am living and this is what life is about sometimes; taking the dog for a walk in cold, wet weather in the dark.

Everyone tells you that alcohol is a depressant, and you know it’s true but somehow it’s easy to push that to one side and imagine that your lack of real happiness stems from life just being a bit rubbish.

When you stop drinking alcohol for good, you can experience something akin to an evangelical awakening – moments of happiness that border on delirium, as you realise that you are alive, and lucky for all that you have, and that you’ve survived stuff and emerged out the other side strong and full of vigour.

I feel joy at seeing the sunrise, listening to the baby wake up, gurgling and burbling to herself in her cot, hearing a song that I love, going for a good run and knowing that I am growing in strength and stamina, having a coffee and a chat with a friend, cooking a new recipe and eating the results.

I am happy nearly every day, at least for most of every day. I do get a bit grumpy or tired, occasionally a little stressed if I’m having a particularly busy and fraught day, but that’s just the normal human experience – I would be a robot if I never felt those things. Generally though, I am on an even keel and happiness is the mainstay of my emotions.

I know that’s because I don’t drink alcohol. It’s as simple as that. Drinking turned me against myself and created an internal battle of depression, anxiety and self-pity versus normality. Giving it up has allowed the real me to emerge, and the real me is happy and optimistic, calm and centred, full of creativity and determination and passion.

I am eternally grateful that I gave myself the chance to discover who I really am.

New Beginnings

Me graduating, amidst an ocean of booze.

I was the second person of our post graduate law class to arrive at the pub we were meeting in for a few drinks. I bought a glass of dry white wine, feeling the merest hint of a knot tighten in my stomach when the barman enquired whether I wanted a large or small, opting, as always, for the former. I joined a bloke from University who had arrived first and we chatted, a little uncomfortably given that we were out of our comfort zone of discussing property law, equities and trusts and the law of torts back at the nearby University. Others arrived, one by one, and more drinks were bought.

I stopped feeling awkward and shy, nipped back and forth to the beer garden out the back to smoke fags, began to feel slightly concerned that I was drunk. I sat with the bloke I had spoken to at the beginning of the night in the dark, smoking and discussing the music we liked. We moved a bit too close together, too close because he was married. There was an aborted fumble, an attempted kiss that fell to one side as we both regained some sense of what was right and wrong.

We drank more, the conversation grew louder, fever pitch, shouting and laughing, becoming the loud group of the pub. I went out for another fag, collapsed into the man standing next to me, slumped at his feet. Later, a friend from University bundled me into the back of her car and drove me home, laying me out on my settee like a corpse, where I awoke a few hours later utterly confused and out of sorts.

That was completely normal for me in the last few years before I gave up drinking alcohol.

On Monday, my friend Anita and I are launching our website, www.soberistas.com. The site is aimed at worried binge drinkers, specifically women but men are welcome too! Since we gave up drinking we’ve never been happier and are full of zest for life. We feel so positive about living without the shackles of addiction that we wanted to extend our philosophy to all those women who feel like we did, prior to ditching alcohol.

Soberistas is a social network site, so if you become a member you will be able to join in conversations on the forum, talk to other members in the chat room, read women’s inspirational and motivational Personal Stories, and enjoy feature articles on all things healthy. Anita and I both believe that if we can build a community of women from around the world who come together to help each other resolve their alcohol issues, then this could be an effective way of dealing with alcohol addiction, especially for people who might not feel able/want to go to rehab or the AA.

We are so excited to find out if our project will work – I hope you’ll join our website on Monday and help us to achieve our goal. Thanks for following our blog – your ongoing support is really appreciated.

Lucy x

Ps. I had a comment just now on an earlier post, ‘How Addiction Works,’ from JoseyC. I hope you don’t mind me quoting you here, JoseyC, but I loved what you wrote; “I can’t help think we will look back and be truly horrified at how much was being drunk beneath a veil of respectability.” I wholeheartedly agree.

Bad clothes bought when hungover, off to a new home.

You definitely think more clearly when you don’t get drunk every night. I know that sounds like the most glaringly obvious statement that I have ever typed, but sometimes I notice how differently I go about the business of living now that I’m not cracking the Pinot at wine o’clock each night.

I’ve sorted out my clothes over the course of the last week, flogging a load on eBay and chucking the rest to a charity shop. Clothes that made me wince every time I opened my wardrobe door, and clothes that I weighed up with one eyebrow cocked, pondering when, if ever, I might dare to wear again, and clothes that resembled the sails on windsurfs, worn during weightier times. 

These were garments that I mostly bought in moments of frantic indecision after roaming the city centre for hours on end, growing increasingly desperate and finally grabbing something that I would never normally wear in a month of Sundays, telling myself during those last moments of hasty ‘retail therapy’ that the outfit/top/jeans looked great. Until I got it/them on in front of my own mirror, that is, and the truth could no longer shield itself from me – I looked hideous.

In times gone by (the dark days of drunkenness) I did not have the energy for attending to such matters; clothes got stacked up in my wardrobe like a Boxing Day sales rack in a department store. Stuff that I simply never wore, shoes left in their boxes, tags hanging off labels, outfits never put together.

I used to buy an awful load of crap too, when I was hungover. Patience wasn’t a noticeable virtue of mine when faced with the task of shopping for new threads amongst the heaving masses, all the while nursing a throbbing head and an unnatural craving to consume yet more greasy food and frothy, extra-shot lattes. Town on a Saturday afternoon is not the place to be when one is beset by an attack of hyperglycaemic sugar cravings, forced to dawdle along behind hordes of casual browsers, when the only thought on your mind is locating food with an excessive degree of carbohydrate content as quickly as possible, in order to ram it down your throat.

Given that I no longer shop in this way (I am attempting, in my 38th year, to master the art of ‘capsule wardrobe shopping,’ thus making just a few well thought out investment buys that can be mixed and matched in a cohesive and stylish fashion), I decided to overhaul my bulging expansion of unworn clothes, in order to make room for a few garments that I might actually enjoy wearing.

And so yesterday, I found myself experiencing a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as I bundled off a few of my old ‘rushed’ purchases in the post office to a buyer somewhere in the West Midlands, resulting in a bit of extra money in my bank account and about half a foot more space in my wardrobe. The cash is being spent on my eldest daughter’s bedroom makeover, that in itself giving me a positive feeling of doing the right thing and making one of my beautiful girls very happy. (The other one is happy too, but her needs are met a little more simply at the moment; milk, clean nappy, cuddles, sleep).

Aah, the joy of knowing that you are back in the driving seat of your life!

How Addiction Works

Big changes stem from small decisions, which in turn derive from a multitude of thought processes, some monumental and others seemingly insignificant. I see the world differently today than how I did a couple of years ago; my eyes take in an alternative universe, a place which is poles apart from the world I once thought I lived in.

Being addicted to something that ruins you is a pretty difficult way to live. When I was a teenager I was hooked on starving myself, obsessed by skipping meals and weighing myself, throwing up on purpose and counting the days that had passed since I last ate.

I once got dragged along to the doctors by a well-meaning friend who thought I really should get help, but I suffered a panic attack in the waiting room which in turn brought on a gushing nose bleed, and so I ran outside to the car and never went back.

I resolved that first instance of self-harm when I found myself pregnant with my eldest daughter. It suddenly dawned on me that the human body is quite remarkable and I loved mine for being able to nourish and grow this tiny life inside it. The urge to starve myself disappeared.

New motherhood meant that cigarettes and alcohol fell by the wayside too, until the onslaught of my divorce a few years later hit me like a train, tugging at the destructive seeds of self-abuse that had been lying dormant all those years, poking and teasing them out until they emerged slowly, but full of vigour, from where they’d been hiding.

Then came the booze addiction, which was far more tenacious than the eating disorder. It became entrenched in my conscience and mindset, it defined who I thought I was, becoming the reason why I did anything and everything, the motivation for the choices I made; it was behind the selection of my friends and boyfriends and the path I followed in life.

I didn’t know I was addicted to alcohol, and so its insidious and altogether socially acceptable qualities enabled it to creep up on me unawares, pulling me down a dark and dangerous road, all the while soothing and comforting me, and making all the pain seem like it was normal. A persistent voice in my head told me that I was not a good person and that all the bad stuff that happened was down to some inherent characteristic of mine. The doomed relationships, financial struggles, unsatisfying jobs, failure to make something out of myself – I reasoned them all away by telling myself that I was not worthy of the good stuff.

It’s easy to keep on hurting yourself if you believe you are no good. And, I have to be honest, there is something oddly comforting in being a misery in that way – you know where you are, right at the bottom, and so you figure you can’t go any lower. You fight the fight each day with a willing acceptance that things can’t get any worse, and anyway, there’s always the alcohol to numb feelings when things really hit the fan. You can derive comfort from knowing that you don’t belong in that cosy, false reality that is so ubiquitously present in Hollywood films, and top up your diminishing pride by relishing in being The Outsider. It bolsters the belief that you deserve to get drunk, because nobody understands you anyway and nobody truly cares.

You’re trapped, in one of those steel-jaw leghold varieties used by hunters; when the jaws slam shut around the flesh, the struggle to escape results in endless tearing of the flesh, ripped tendons and unintentional amputations – a one-man bloodbath created by the trapped animal itself, fighting to the end to get free, ultimately shredding itself to ragged streamers of flesh. 

It takes years to find one’s self ensnared in that way, and then all of a sudden, there you are – stuck in that awful place, knowing neither how you arrived, nor how to escape.

Big changes stem from small decisions, which in turn derive from a multitude of thought processes, some monumental and others seemingly insignificant.

Little thoughts begin to niggle at the back of your mind, a notion here, and an idea there. Over time you begin to act on them and the way that life changes around you as a result, how you find yourself featuring in different scenarios and discovering that you actually enjoy them, these things make a dent in the way you act; they begin to shape your new design.

And just as it takes an eternity for life to unravel in such a way that you finish off caught in the vice-like jaws of a steel trap, so it takes time to wind itself in and unfurl all over again, in a completely new and ameliorated form.

Reactions need to occur, and behaviours given the chance to draw a response from people around you. It’s self esteem that’s required; that’s the key to breaking out of the addiction cycle and starting afresh. Self-esteem, self-respect and self-confidence; the three amigos that shape the souls of happy people.

Play the movie to the end…

I have a guest blog on MindBodyGreen today – if you want to have a read, then please follow this link;

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-6837/How-to-Be-Sober-and-Happy-When-Everyone-Around-You-is-Drinking.html

I wrote this piece as a ‘How to’ guide for anybody who is heading towards Thanksgiving and/or Christmas with a slight degree of trepidation, owing to the booze monster lurking in the shadows of all those festive events…

The MindBodyGreen feature is for people who, like me prior to giving up the sauce, know in the pit of their stomachs that they have a bit of a problem with booze. You just know, don’t you? And it isn’t a nice feeling.  

If you are still hankering after one more night on the lash and you think maybe this time it will be different; you won’t end up falling all over the place, arguing with your loved one and embarrassing yourself, this time you will do it right and in control, then TAKE NOTE – don’t kid yourself! Play the movie to the end! It always goes the same way. 

Me a few years ago, at the start of a very boozy night – which ended badly, as always. It took a while to learn but I got here eventually!

Why not decide, this holiday season, to not repeat those same, horrible nights, over and over like a recurring nightmare? Why not do it a bit differently and see if you feel better about yourself? If you do decide to ditch the booze this year, then I hope the MBG article  helps. Please let me know your thoughts on the booze/festive season equation at www.soberistas.com when we launch on November 26th, just 10 days away!

Vice no more…

I have come to realise that I have an addictive personality. It was pointed out to me last night by my other (read, better) half, that I stare at my phone way too much. Upon hearing this, I had a bit of a strop, flounced off upstairs to take a bath (great bath bomb thing, as an aside, shaped like a little Christmas pudding) and after sulking for ten minutes, came to the realisation that my beloved actually had a point.

I didn’t like to admit this to myself (it has been said that I take criticism badly). It still rankles when I remember my parents telling me to apologise to someone after a fall out when I was little…ow, the pain and humiliation of saying sorry!! I am a lot better these days, however, and I scuttled downstairs (after leaving my darling phone in the bedroom) to make amends.

I have to say, once the deed had been done and the iPhone dispatched to my bedside table, I experienced a freeing sensation. I didn’t feel the need to constantly flick my eyes to the side to take a quick peek at the screen. I concentrated fully on the conversation I had with my eldest daughter (she is also a phone addict and is currently facing a proposed household post-dinner phone amnesty with fear and trepidation), we caught up with American X-Factor, and discussed it with zest and enthusiasm (we don’t get out much), rather than interspersing our viewing with frantic button pushing and finger scrolling. It was a relaxing time.

So, yet again, I must admit that my other half was right.

It’s getting to be pretty vice-free, my life these days. The booze has gone, as have the fags, no phone after dinner (until bedtime of course – got to catch up with my tweets at some time!!), very little chocolate, and Jason Vale’s vegetable juices for breakfast.

I hardly recognise myself. I am extremely happy.

Wine – sophisticated beverage or rotting fruit juice?

What change, big or small, would you like your blog to make in the world?

This blog serves partly to cleanse my inner self of all the negativity I put it through as a result of binge drinking for twenty years, but I hope that it also acts as a catalyst for others to question their own relationship with alcohol and maybe set out on the path to change.

Some memories that I recall from the alcohol-fuelled existence I endured for a fifth of a century are painful to write about, although ultimately, this blog is making me feel better, happier, more balanced. Writing is the best method for me to throw out my feelings and give them a good shake, before replacing them in a more structured and productive way. In doing so, I hope that what I write about resonates with, and helps, others who have their own battles with alcohol to win.

My thought for the day goes like this; on Sunday I picked up my daughter from a swimming party and drove home through an area that we used to live in several years ago, when I was probably close to my worst in terms of booze. We drove past an off-licence, the one where I used to buy most of the wine I drank, the one you see in the picture here – The Dram Shop.

The place where I spent literally thousands of pounds on rotting fruit juice

Now I am not apportioning blame to the people who own or run this shop – they’re merely representing society’s overriding perception of wine and its place in our lives. It’s just that now I don’t drink, I see wine for what it really is; overpriced, up-its-own-arse liquid made from rotting fruit; its warm, fruity notes and buttery textures, its opulent style and crisp, acidic tang, all flamboyant semantic creations dreamt up by people who are at once in denial about alcohol’s characteristic, first and foremost, as an addictive drug, and who are primarily after making a quick buck.

Inside this off-licence, the walls are made up of shelves of dark wood, stacked to the rafters with bottle upon bottle of ‘quality’ wine. The assortment of wine on offer is divided in to country or area of origin, so you will see labels bearing the words ‘South American,’ ‘Chilean,’ ‘Bordeaux,’ ‘Australian,’ ‘New World,’ and so on, each with a short description of the individual wine and its supposed taste. The staff are well-equipped with knowledge about their produce and are quick to leap to your side to suggest a ‘complex, yet delicate Chablis,’ or a ‘Gewurztraminer, rich with a honeyed sweetness,’ should you demonstrate the merest hint of hesitation.

Inside this shop, I fooled myself repeatedly about my addiction to alcohol. It mattered not that I had just stumbled in there after sinking a few beers in the pub down the road, only to buy yet more of this poison we call alcohol to drink when I reached home. Forget the fact that I had already superseded the government’s recommendation of alcohol units per week, four times over, and was about to add to my intake substantially through the consumption of a crisp Pinot or a velvety Merlot.

I was a wine connoisseur; I knew my Chablis from my Chardonnay, and I was happy to pay through the nose for a damn good bottle of the stuff. It is only now, with the benefit of many months of sobriety behind me, that I see wine and the way that its drinkers perpetrate the myth that it is somehow refined, elegant and sophisticated, for what it really is; one of the cleverest and most effective examples of marketing ever developed in the Western world. I am eternally grateful that I woke up and smelled the Cabernet Sauvignon, so to speak, once and for all. 

Sunday mornings are great when you don’t drink

Reasons why it’s great not drinking 

1. I got up at 6.30am (baby duties) and felt great, even after just 7 hours sleep.
 
2. I gave baby her bottle and then went for a 10K run with the dog. There was  nobody around except us, and we covered three parks, all bathed in beautiful early morning sun.
 
3. I have no regrets from last night, no arguments to undo, no bad behaviour to apologise for.
 
4. No hangover.
 
5. I don’t crave a massive plateful of greasy carbs for breakfast, thus screwing up my healthy eating plan.
 
6. I am not worried about all the money I spent last night, because I didn’t spend a penny.
 
7. My family is all happy and well looked after.
 
8. Even after getting up so early, I look better and younger than I have in years.
 
9. I am happy.
 
10. I like myself.