Dare to Dream

Occasionally I experience the feeling that I am on the outside of my life looking in. Today was one of those days.

This morning with the baby sleeping upstairs, I spent a couple of hours working on the introduction to the book I have been writing (in conjunction with Sarah Turner of the Harrogate Sanctuary) and allowed myself, for the first time, to acknowledge the fact that we are now on the home stretch and therefore have pretty much written an entire book – a real life, full-length book that is one hundred per cent our creation. I couldn’t and still can’t quite believe it.

I have been banging on to anyone who would listen for years and years that I ‘am writing a book.’ There has always been one simmering on the backburner, a few chapters in the bag before I predictably stalled mid-way, never approaching completion – a multitude of never-ending projects for which I couldn’t quite muster the energy to make my way to THE END.

Wine glass. Broken.

I have made it this far with the book we have spent the last few months putting together as a result of sobering up; a) There would be no subject matter if I was still boozing, b) I would never have met Sarah, my brilliant writing partner, had I maintained my alcohol dependency, c) my creativity was completely sapped by alcohol back in the drinking days and d) I could never have squeezed a project this big and this important into my life amidst all those alcohol-fuelled nights.

So here we are, the last few weeks of work before the writing is finished, the editing done and the proof-reading complete. It feels like such an achievement, not least because this is something which I have been trying to do for almost twenty years. Finally, one of my all-time goals in life has (very nearly) been accomplished.

It just goes to show what you can do when you put down the bottle.

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Admitting You Have A Problem

When I first emerged from the wreck that my alcohol dependency left behind, I felt battered and small – my personality had been manipulated and shaped by addiction and shame for so long that I no longer knew who I was. I’m not sure if, in the first few weeks, I truly believed that I would never drink again. There was an element of self doubt that teased my newly sober self with the thought that I couldn’t do it, that over time I would forget the horror of my last encounter with booze and I would cave in and begin to drink again.

But I didn’t drink for a sufficiently long enough period to allow myself the first taste of being me without the prop of alcohol, and during that time I recognised and learnt things about myself and my relationship with booze that cemented my commitment to being teetotal. A major step forward was to admit to myself that I had a dependency upon alcohol.

The UK Alcoholics Anonymous website states that whilst they do not offer a formal definition of alcoholism, the majority of their members would agree on the following statement; “…it could be described as a physical compulsion, coupled with a mental obsession. What we mean is that we had a distinct physical desire to consume alcohol beyond our capacity to control it, in defiance of all rules of common sense. We not only had an abnormal craving for alcohol but we frequently yielded to it at the worst possible times. We did not know when (or how) to stop drinking. Often we did not seem to have sense enough to know when not to begin.”

This description fits perfectly with my relationship with alcohol, but it took several weeks of being sober for me to recognise that I was an alcohol addict. As soon as I took a sip from my first drink of the night (or afternoon), my mind began to whir at great speed as it attempted to map out the most effective way to consume as much booze as possible before someone intervened and told me I had had too much. This was the reason why drinking alone was always so much more enjoyable for me – there was never a killjoy leaping forward to impose their own restrictive behaviour upon me, when all I wanted to do was get hammered.

And so, armed with this newfound awareness, I slowly accepted that I was dependent upon alcohol and therefore I had a responsibility to those around me and to my self, to stop for good. No single factor would have been sufficient in prompting me to get on top of my problematic relationship with booze – rather,  elements in my life began to come together like a jigsaw puzzle that once complete, presented something of a eureka moment to me.

The years of destructive and shameful behaviour and the associated self-hatred, age and a growing sense of mortality that grew at the same rate as my youthful ignorance of personal responsibility diminished, meeting my fiancé and developing an awareness of who I really was without the façade of drinking – it was all of these things that pushed me in to that place where I had wanted and needed to get for so many years. And now, here I am – 26 months of sobriety and what feels like a lifetime of self-discovery later, a much calmer, honest, more confident woman who has finally begun to live a normal existence after twenty one years of self-abuse.

A Day Not To Forget

I had a brilliant day today. Nothing out of the ordinary was planned which may have marked it out as stand-alone from any other Tuesday, although I did wake up feeling full of energy and desperate to go running, and that usually results in a positive start to the day ahead. The sun was beaming and even at 7 am the promise of the glorious day to come was obvious as I jogged around the park dragging the dog along behind me (she is 7 this year and not quite as fit as she once was).

After lunch, baby rejuvenated from her morning sleep of 3 hours, we did a few jobs around the house before settling into the lounge to play. At 14 months, Lily has just discovered the incredible concept of putting something inside a container before removing it again, a look of total concentration on her angelic face as if she has happened upon a remarkable piece of magic.

pink%20pot

For an hour I lay on the rug next to her as she placed her items into the pots I had lined up. I couldn’t take my eyes off her; for sixty minutes we were there, Lily and her very serious face as she put something in, took something out, and me, gazing at her in awe as though she was the first baby on the planet to engage in this activity.

I thought afterwards how grateful I am to the world at large for propelling me along the many different paths in my life which eventually got me to that rug this afternoon with Lily and her selection of pink pots filled with small wooden blocks. Rarely do I manage to fully live in the present and banish all worrisome or niggling thoughts from my mind in order to wholly soak up the here and now, but this afternoon that is precisely what I did and it was magical – I’ll remember that passing of time forever, I just know I will.

Reclaim Your Weekends from the Booze Monster!

Here’s what I love best about my alcohol-free weekends;

Knowing that I have two whole guilt-free, sick-free days in front of me in which to get things accomplished, spend time with my family and friends, and relax.

Having a mind devoid of anxiety over how much I will drink, what terrible consequences will ensue as a result and how much money I’ll plough through with repeated trips up to the shops to buy more wine and more cigarettes.

Waking up on a Saturday morning, going to the gym and having a great workout knowing that I am in the best shape I’ve ever been in.

Having a speedy tidy round on Friday evening and eliminating all the rubbish jobs (emptying the bin, ironing, sorting the post, vacuuming, etc.) resulting in a lovely start to the first full day of the weekend with nothing to do but the things that I really want to do.

Having more time to spend on writing my book and working on Soberistas.com – and knowing that I will have this time, rather than leaving it up to fate to see how horrific my hangover will be, which will subsequently determine whether I achieve anything productive or not.

Eating healthy and delicious food that I know is doing me good, rather than stuffing my face full of fatty foods and carbs that I am craving as the result of a hangover. It’s all about banana smoothies, salads and lots of water for me!

glass of water

Spending time with my lovely family with none of the awful morning-after-the-night-before apologies for something bad I said or did after one too many glasses of wine.

Enjoying the feeling of real-life relaxation, rather than falling for the illusion of the alcohol-induced version,  of letting myself dissolve into a different person, someone who isn’t really me.

Knowing that everything I want to achieve this weekend will get accomplished, and nothing that I would regret or despise myself for will happen.

Happy weekend everyone!

Flicking the Switch

What does it take to flick the switch of alcohol dependency, to really grasp the idea of sobriety by beginning to live a life in which reliance on a mind-altering substance is no longer an integral part?

For twenty years I did not want to stop drinking. For approximately fifteen years of those two decades I was utterly in denial with regards to whether I had ‘a drink problem’ or not, and happily quaffed bottle upon bottle of white wine, red wine, beer and spirits (when everything else in the house ran dry), the notion that I was nurturing my addiction each time I popped a cork light years from my mind.

Goodbye wine, hello happiness!

 

Drinking was never about such a dirty word as ‘addiction’ – it was sociable, convivial, glamorous, relaxing, a treat, an emotional painkiller, my friend, a closely-guarded secret and a reward for every individual event and activity that I decided warranted further consumption of it.

In the years leading up to my last dance with that old friend and adversary, Pinot Grigio, I toyed with the idea that maybe things were not all well as far as my relationship with alcohol was concerned. In the middle of the night lying in bed unable to sleep, a morbid fear took hold that inside my body were cancerous tumours, silently budding. Tick tock, tick tock, my time on Earth was slowly running out.

Over time, wine ceased to be my friend – gone were the evenings filled with carefree laughter and tipsiness; silly and relaxed gradually came to be replaced by crazy and comatose. The good times stopped rolling, and when mornings perpetually consist of panicked attempts to piece together the night before coupled with apologising with fake breeziness to those who you have pissed off/hurt/embarrassed yet again whilst inside you are wincing with the shame of it all, you know that something has got to give.

The switch got flicked. Alcohol was no longer an option – the fanciful nature of it, bottles glistening with beads of condensation in the fridge door, popping corks, big old red wine glasses in which the blood-coloured liquid is swilled round and round releasing its perfume to the nostrils, the reassuring snap of the beer bottle top being cracked off with the stylish opener, the empties lined up by the back door, the sign of a good night; it all came to an abrupt halt. I knew, finally, that I would never touch the stuff again.

As anyone who has known me for longer than the two years in which I have been alcohol free would confirm, this shift is nothing short of miraculous. I just didn’t want to stop drinking prior to April 2011 – I had my moments of doubt, of wishing things would be different, that I could make something of myself, get on track, push things forward so that my life became full of movement rather than the static black hole I had fallen into, treading water, sinking in quicksand. But I had no real comprehension that the secret to initiating these longed-for changes in my world was to be found in eliminating alcohol. For many years I maintained the position of the switch.

And then, bam! Enough is enough, can’t take any more, cannot stand one more awful morning feeling like this, absolutely finished with the awful existence of an addict, done with it, goodbye booze.

And that was it; I just knew I would never drink alcohol again.

My Speech

In April I spoke at a conference called ‘We Train Moms’ in London. Below is my speech which I thought I would share with you as my blog post for today.

Hi and thanks for coming to listen to me today. I want to tell you a bit about my past, when I used to drink between 100 and 150 units of alcohol a week, every week, and about a website that I now run as a teetotal, happy and healthy woman, which offers help and support to women struggling with alcohol dependency – Soberistas.com.

What does the government tell us is a safe amount of alcohol to drink? Current guidelines are that women should drink no more than 2-3 units a day, or a 175 ml glass of 13% ABV wine.

Two years ago, I drank not one, not two, but three bottles of 13% ABV wine, and a litre of cider. I passed out and woke up in a hospital bed covered in my own vomit, with no memory of how I had ended up there. I’m not a chav, I’m not a teenager, I’m not a bad person. I am a mum, and a sister, and a fiancée, and a daughter. I’m not stupid, ignorant, or apathetic. In the last 15 years I have run a half marathon, achieved a 2:1 in both a law degree and an American History degree, been married and divorced, become engaged, had two beautiful daughters and started and later sold for profit my own business (not necessarily in that order!)

In the last fifteen years, I estimate that I have drunk around 3500 bottles of wine, at a cost of around £21,000.

I drank wine like it was going out of fashion. I liked the buzz it gave me, the self-confidence, the Dutch courage. I enjoyed the occasion of it – how an expensive bottle of Chablis turned an otherwise ordinary evening meal into a dinner party. When I was newly married and a first-time Mum, I used wine to demarcate the end of baby time and the beginning of adult time, Mummy’s wine o’clock.

A few years later when I split up with my ex-husband, I used wine to soften the blow of being a divorcee before I’d hit 30. Pinot Grigio became my best friend, and night after night I sat alone pouring that analgesic liquid down my neck in an effort to self-medicate.

In the UK almost half a million children live with a single parent who regularly binge drinks. 52% of children are living with a harmful or hazardous drinker *. My eldest daughter, now 14, formed part of those statistics up until a couple of years ago. Night after night I consumed a mind-altering substance that ultimately took me away from my child on an emotional level. I wasn’t present when I was drinking. I wasn’t present the following morning either when I was like a bear with a sore head, stumbling about with a terrible hangover whilst desperately pretending all was well – making Isobel’s Ready Brek with one hand clutching my forehead, wincing at every little noise.

I didn’t have the inclination when I was a drinker, to spend much time doing stuff with my daughter. I remember reading her bedtime stories when she was aged about 5 or 6, and racing through the words so I could get downstairs to my wine. Funny how I would never do such a thing in a million years now, but back then I couldn’t see how that was a sign of dependence.

I wonder how much damage I inflicted on Isobel’s sense of security, as she grew up with a binge drinking mum. She rarely saw me drunk, but she witnessed enough of the after-effects to know that all was not well.

My experiences of being a ‘normal’ mum who binge drinks in secret and carries a massive weight of guilt and shame around with her like a ball and chain have enabled me to understand others who are in the same horrible boat, sailing on choppy seas and beaten down by storm after storm. The government and the media would have us believe that the real problem boozers in the UK are the kids on the city centre streets each weekend necking alcopops; they are wrong.

Statistical evidence points to the number of teenagers who binge drink falling, and their attitude towards those who get drunk is beginning to change too, for the better. In just seven years, the number of pupils who thought it was ok for someone of their age to get drunk once a week almost halved, from 20% in 2003 to 11% in 2010.

But unfortunately, it isn’t all good news – In 2010 in the UK, there were nearly 7000 deaths directly related to alcohol. This is a 22% increase on the 2001 figure (5,476). In 2008 it was estimated that the cost of alcohol related harm to the NHS in England was £2.7 billion.

The statistics show that the heaviest drinkers are those who are earning more money, in managerial or professional roles. And the favourite tipple of most women is spirits, wine or alcopops; the hard stuff – the stuff that gets you really drunk.

There has been a 91% increase in alcohol-related liver disease hospital admissions for women in England since 2002.

I used to have a beer on occasion when I went out – in fact I occasionally set myself a rule that I would only drink beer when I was out because for me, wine was falling-over juice (especially with the large glasses that come as standard in bars and pubs these days). But mainly I was a wine fiend – I was sold the convivial, sophisticated nature of Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay, so commonly trotted out on TV ad buffers throughout the evening (anybody watch Come Dine with Me?). I loved getting my pyjamas on and getting comfy in front of Sex and the City with a bottle of Pinot for company, maybe two.

And nobody knew, and nobody questioned the fact that I clearly ‘loved a drink’ when I was out socialising, and nobody told me I should get help.

The funny thing is that for a long time I didn’t know that I needed help – I didn’t actually know that my depressive episodes, mood swings and anxiety attacks – and I had really terrible anxiety attacks, where I thought I was dying I was so short of breath – were in any way related to the wine I was drinking every night. I didn’t know that the reason I was perpetually grumpy and snapping at my daughter and always drifting in and out of bad relationships was because I drank so much wine. I didn’t know that without alcohol, my energy levels would soar, and my mood would level out to a constant calm, as opposed to the up and down, over-the-top, almost bi-polar characteristics that I had always displayed and which I thought was ‘just the way I was.’

I came of age in the 1990’s when the ladette culture so famously personified by Zoe Ball (now also teetotal, funnily enough) was de rigueur. I weighed a couple of stone less then, than I do now but thought nothing of drinking five or six pints in one sitting three or four times a week. It’s what we did whilst singing along to ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’ by Oasis.

Everyone grows up, and in my twenties I gradually replaced those pints of Boddingtons with a more sophisticated bottle of wine with dinner. All of my friends were ladettes transformed into mums and wives and we drank together, with our husbands or out on girls’ nights. It’s what everyone did.

I’ve spoken and written a lot about ‘crossing the line’; how do you really know that you have a dependency on alcohol? When does it stop being funny that you got so drunk you fell over? When do you stop laughing in the morning when you remember some of the stuff you got up to last night after a couple of bottles of Pinot Grigio? When does the fear set in and when do you know that you have a problem?

I knew that I had an issue with drinking when I began to experience blackouts every time I drank. Sometimes just the odd half hour disappeared from memory; other times it was huge swathes of the evening, and I would come to and look at text messages on my phone from someone I had no memory of, or find bruises all over my legs that I could not explain. Tellingly, I also came to accept the fact that I never, ever had ‘just one drink.’ When I opened a bottle, I would drink the lot and then root out a second.

I stopped drinking because I ended up in hospital one morning at 3am covered in my own vomit. I stopped drinking because I was frightened that if I didn’t, I would die. What I never expected in a million years was to discover that alcohol-free living is an amazing gift that anyone can give themselves, and which opens up a massive amount of doors. Doors that lead to emotional stability, better parenting, self-esteem, a vast increase in confidence, self-awareness, knowing what you want out of life, becoming more in touch with your community, caring more for others and being less self-obsessed, eradication of depression and panic attacks, better skin, more energy, weight loss and greater fitness, a big help in quitting smoking, a much reduced chance of developing breast cancer (3 glasses a night increases the risk of breast cancer by 50%), heart disease and liver problems. I did not expect that giving up alcohol would be, in actual fact, the best decision I have ever made.

There is a misconception, and I believe that some of the traditional types of alcohol recovery programmes tend to perpetrate this, that living without alcohol is a terribly difficult thing to do and that life without drinking is something that must be dealt with  ‘one day at a time.’ I disagree with this; I think it is possible to rewire your brain in order to come to the realisation that living alcohol-free is actually a very positive thing to do, and is how we were designed to live as human beings, rather than bumbling along in a hazy fog of alcohol-induced depression and lethargy.

A Buddhist quote – “When one is deluded, it is as if one were dreaming. And when one is enlightened, it is as if one had awakened.”

This quote perfectly sums up how I feel about giving up alcohol.

Since I stopped drinking I have been pretty busy setting up a website, Soberistas.com, which serves as a place where like-minded women who are struggling with a destructive relationship with alcohol talk to each other and offer advice and support. The word ‘relationship’ is not accidental here – I read over and over again on our website that women regard their drinking history as a love story, that alcohol is a terribly controlling partner who alternates between making them feel amazing and then kicking them hard whilst they are down on the ground. Soberistas is a place where individuals can begin their road to recovery, but I think it has another very important function; to help de-stigmatise alcohol dependency.

People are very ashamed about being labelled an alcoholic. In a society which celebrates alcohol so widely, and endorses a drinking culture in almost every facet of our daily lives, it is an inordinately difficult thing to do to ‘come out’ and admit you have a dependency on this stuff, that you can no longer control yourself when you’re around it. By the way, ‘coming out’ is exactly how it feels for many people – something which you need to get out there, get it out of the way so that you can move on without people badgering you to ‘just have one’ or not be a party pooper because you are on the mineral water. We live in a society which leaves non-drinkers sticking out like sore thumbs; we are the oddballs, the ones who can’t let our hair down.

Another function of Soberistas, I hope, is to challenge this attitude and to help make being teetotal a bit cooler. I also want the website to help make alcohol dependency less of a taboo subject – I think we have moved on a long way from the hushed gossip of the 1970’s when so-and-so’s mother was whispered about for sitting with the archetypal gin bottle all day in the conservatory whilst hubby was out at work. I also believe that the secrecy of the AA adds to the general feeling of alcohol dependency being something to keep quiet about, a terrible secret that we must hide away in private meetings.

We are all living in a world which promotes alcohol – the films we watch, sports grounds and our favourite team’s kits emblazoned with sponsorship deals with drinks giants, the ad buffers at either end of our favourite teatime programmes, the celebrity snaps in glossy mags showing glamorous beauties sipping champagne elegantly at some premier or other; and then in our own private lives – the parties or dinners we attend, Christmas, Easter family get-togethers, christenings, weddings, Friday night drinks after work, Saturday night in with a DVD and a bottle of wine – ALCOHOL IS ALL AROUND US!

And for people who have low self-esteem, are lonely, depressed, lacking in confidence or coping with bereavement or miscarriage or difficulties in their marriage or with their children, alcohol is just there – an easy solution to ease away the day’s worries and pain. Turning to alcohol to numb the pain we endure in our lives is not something which only hardened alcoholics do – it is a commonplace habit that has become easier and easier, with more readily available and cheaper alcohol than ever before.

And yet if you are perceived to have ‘crossed the line’ from acceptable drinker to ‘problem drinker’ then life can become difficult. Much of what Soberistas stands for centres around regaining control of your life, and empowering women to realise that they can be mistresses of their own destinies without the on-going reliance on a substance which is causing them more trouble than it is resolving. Soberistas not only focuses on giving up alcohol, but encourages a holistic approach to beating your demons. Becoming healthy and happy is, after all, so much more than putting down the bottle – that might work for a while but improving your health in a much more general way will stand you in good stead to beat your alcohol dependency for good.

When I gave up alcohol I threw myself into running. I have always been a fan of running but more often than not I would be doing it through the fog of a hangover, attempting to fool myself into believing that I was ok despite feeling sick as a dog and having a banging headache. Nowadays when I run, it feels much nicer and I am better at it. I use running to beat stress as well as to keep fit and to maintain a healthy weight.

Since quitting drinking I now also take much more of an interest in nutrition – I confess to buying wheatgrass and being a fanatical juicer! Gaining control over your health and fitness, which ultimately means being in control of you, is vital for building self-confidence after (for many people) years of substance abuse have eroded all notion of self-esteem. On Soberistas we are lucky to have registered nutritional therapist, Clare Shepherd, on board who advises our members on all aspects of diet and how eating the right foods can really boost your chances of sober success.

So, why do women seem to give themselves such a hard time in our society? I have a 14-year-old daughter who has recently begun to feel the pressures of reaching unattainable goals, to be thinner and prettier and more popular – Facebook doesn’t help. From an early age women are struggling to meet up to society’s high expectations of them and if you aren’t pinging back into your size 10 jeans six weeks after giving birth, juggling a high-earning career and exuding joy at every turn of motherhood, then you are deemed to be a failure.

Struggling to cope with the demands of motherhood, lack of sleep and losing your sense of identity following the birth of a child are all contributing factors in large numbers of women turning to alcohol as a coping strategy. I read a lot of blogs and forum discussions on Soberistas which have shone a light on the reasons why women can become seriously dependent on wine – about how a ‘normal’ fondness for wine can develop into something far more sinister because of a change in the circumstances of their lives.

One common reason behind women turning to wine as a coping strategy is single parenthood. I have several years’ experience of this and hitting the bottle isn’t all because you feel lonely and are stuck in night after night dealing with the stresses and financial strains of running a family and a household alone; there is also the additional factor of having a certain amount of time free from the responsibilities of children when they go to stay with their Dad. This was every other weekend and every Wednesday night for me and my drinking went through the roof whenever Isobel stayed at her Dad’s. The other associated factor in this is that after a certain amount of time, a lot of single women embark on dating, trying to find a new partner who they can move forward with. This can be pretty scary, and alcohol is an obvious lubricant with which to oil this potentially awkward social situation.

Whenever I went on dates, I would throw the wine back out of abject terror and end up clouding my perception of whoever I was with on a date, often making arrangements to meet them again when had I had all my faculties present and not clouded by alcohol I would probably have run very fast in the opposite direction.

Nonetheless, it is a ubiquitous and socially acceptable substance and most people consider ‘going for a drink’ to be a normal part of dating.

The other aspect of being a single parent, as touched on earlier, is the loneliness that can be incredibly painful. When your child goes to bed at 7pm and you face yet another evening by yourself, wine can seem to be an easy little pain-reliever, something to get you through.

As I discovered to my detriment, however, alcohol only serves to make things bleaker – here’s how. We all know that alcohol is a depressant but the instantaneous effects of drinking can feel anything but, making it difficult to recognise exactly how much of a negative effect alcohol is having upon our mental state. Not only does alcohol induce depression, it also has a habit of making us say or do things that we would never do in a million years sober.

I would pick my mobile up with dread the morning after a binge, never knowing who I had contacted or what I had said. Invariably the recipient of my drunken texts would be an ex-boyfriend who I would have been wise to forget. This sort of behaviour would leave me with feelings of remorse and self-hatred, and over time (and I’m talking twenty years) these feelings built and built into cripplingly low self-esteem and zero confidence; in turn, this resulted in my lack of ambition which meant I never had cause to be really excited about anything or having much motivation to strive for better. Because I was effectively stuck in a rut within a very small world (work, home, pub), failing to interact with anybody outside of my drinking circle (other than family) and suffering from depression and anxiety on top of all of that, I was powerless to change.

That is, until I realised that the root cause of all my issues stemmed from one thing and one thing only; ALCOHOL.

When I gave up drinking I did not seek help from rehab or the AA – I set about rewiring my brain in order to turn around my belief that alcohol in some way added some value to my life. I read tonnes about addiction and alcohol abuse, I spoke to people who I knew had stopped drinking themselves and I found out how much happier they were now and how their lives had fallen into place. I looked after myself physically and I worked hard at forgiving myself for all my drunken stupidity – this, I believe, is vital in repairing desperately damaged self-esteem. Imagine building enough courage to leave an abusive husband after suffering years of violence and verbal attacks, only to move into the house next door. It’s vital that you leave that part of your life for good; move away, and build new foundations on which to start developing positivity and a healthy approach to living.

Leaving alcohol behind requires building yourself up and protecting yourself with every piece of ammunition you can muster in order to prevent yourself from falling for its charms again. It’s about changing from within so that you do not have to rely on will power to stay on the wagon – it’s about empowering yourself so that you no longer WANT to drink alcohol, so that you can look a glass of wine in the face and say ‘No thank you, I don’t drink.’ And feel great about it.

I’m in absolutely no doubt that the reason behind my very positive mental state these days is the fact that I am teetotal. I cope with pretty much anything life throws at me, my anxiety and panic attacks have vanished, I rarely feel down and certainly never depressed, I look better, I am healthy and energetic and I am a million times more productive and proactive.

I’ll leave you with another Buddhist quote; “If you want to understand the causes that existed in the past, look at the results as they are manifested in the present. And if you want to understand what results will be manifested in the future, look at the causes that exist in the present.”

Thank you very much for listening.

*http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/15497/1/FINAL_OCC_Report_Silent_Voices_Parental_Alcohol_Misus e_FULL_REPORT_11_Sept_2012%5B1%5D.pdf

http://wetrainmoms.com/wetrainmoms-com-w-e-l-l-summit-2013/

JD Wetherspoon’s Latest Moneyspinner

The decision by a Buckinghamshire local council to approve the application by the Wetherspoon’s pub chain to open the UK’s first motorway pub is reflective of the current government’s attitude towards alcohol and its associated revenues.

One word sprang to my mind immediately upon reading this story from the BBC on Twitter the other night – hypocrisy. Oh yes, also ‘money’ and ‘stupid.’

People who like to drink can buy booze at low cost from supermarkets and off licences, in the bars and pubs in our cities and rural villages, in restaurants and at the theatre. They can drink at home or in the park, at the seaside, in the countryside, on their lunch hour during the working week and any hour they wish in the evenings and at the weekends.

Pretty much the only place that has been untouched by the sweeping and influential hands of the drinks industry giants is the service stations on our motorways. And with good reason. Drinking and driving is a terrible idea.

A spokesman from Wetherspoon’s has spoken with much reassurance of the imminent pub opening on the M40, stating ‘We don’t see any problem.’ Also that the staff on duty will not be asking patrons of the pub whether or not they will be drinking and driving as ‘It’s up to them.’ Great.

The government’s strategy on alcohol (see below) which is currently under review includes the following statement;

We want to overhaul alcohol licensing to address:

  • rebalancing the Licensing Act 2003 in favour of local communities
  • crime and disorder caused by alcohol
  • health and social harms

I would suggest that all three of these worthwhile issues are negated by opening a pub at a motorway services location.

If, as JD Wetherspoon’s would have us believe, the only people who will be frequenting this motorway drinking hole and actually consuming alcohol therein are members of coach parties or those travelling with others – essentially people who are not getting behind the wheel after they’ve sunk a few bevvies – then we have nothing to fear.

I rather suspect though, as someone who had an alcohol dependency for twenty years and who understands how the brain reacts to alcohol cues, that many travellers who pull into the pub off the motorway in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, will ‘enjoy’ drinking alcohol as a stress reliever or a little pick-me-up and who might also have alcohol dependencies, emotional, physical or mental, or perhaps all three. And that such people will react to the cue of seeing a welcoming pub after a tough drive on the motorway.

Why, in a country which is already rife with opportunity to drink alcohol, is it deemed appropriate to position a pub – even if it is a pub which also sells food – on a motorway? A premises which sells alcohol from 8am onwards will inevitably serve up booze at some point or other to someone who is alcohol-dependent and who, after drinking more than the legal limit, will return to their car, drive back onto the motorway and set off at speeds of 70 mph plus.

Now where is the sense in that? Oh yes – money.

https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/controlling-the-sale-and-supply-of-alcohol

Re-writing the Past

Lying in bed earlier this morning and feeling somewhat grotty (I seem to have picked up OH’s bug), an image of me aged about 19 popped into my head and triggered a whole range of emotions. This vision of me that appeared from out of nowhere was slim and carefree, dressed in a monochrome outfit, my hair in a bob and on my way to some do or other. I remember what I was wearing clearly – everything from my white Morgan handbag of which I felt extremely proud down to the black pumps – but it was my mood that I recalled most strongly this morning and which caused me to lurch with sadness at how the years seem to have taken something away from me.

On that day I was with my ex-boyfriend and despite being held fast in the clutches of an eating disorder and simultaneously abusing alcohol during that phase of my life (not a fantastic combination; drinking a bottle or two of red when you haven’t eaten for a few days is an excellent way to pass out very quickly, if that’s what floats your boat) I do remember possessing a light sense of freedom from responsibilities, of not knowing enough about the world to have any real worries about the future, and having a lack of awareness of the true implications of my frequently self-centred actions which in actuality hurt people far more than I ever knew back then. The world appeared open to me, full of possibility.

I suppose I was living in a bubble, protecting myself from reality by obsessing over food and living for my social life, frequently drinking myself into oblivion at wild parties and exciting trips away, and never staying sober long enough to think about the things that mattered. This morning though, I momentarily wished for that sense of freedom back again, the feeling of having nothing to worry about other than how to fill the day ahead – a sense of being young.

I saw a therapist a few years ago who told me I had been emotionally frozen in my teens as a result of my various addictions. I think he was spot on. In the last couple of years since stopping drinking I have grown up fast and it has been a bumpy ride; I’ve raced through years of emotional maturation in a very short space of time and now it’s as though things are finally slowing down and I have been able to look around and see where I’m at for the first time in years.

nostalgia

That image of me in the black and white dress is an illusion; the floating cloud I lived on back then was nothing but a figment of my imagination and was therefore unsustainable as a way of spending the rest of my life. The real world is much more, well, real. There was no sense of freedom for me back in the mid-1990’s, weighed down as I was by zero self-esteem and addictions that had grown up around me as a way of coping with a deeply-engrained self-hatred.

I’m tired (up in the night with baby again), feel ill and therefore, for just a moment, I fell into harping back to days gone by and seeing only the good – it’s the rose-tinted glasses phenomenon, the nostalgia trip that rewrites our pasts blotting out the bad bits. Twenty years from now I will more than likely look back on my life as it is currently and eliminate the sleepless nights, the not-enough-hours-in-the-day feeling I have during large chunks of my daily existence and will remember instead only sunny skies, wonderful times with my family and how grateful I was to be finally out of the drinking trap.

Which are really the only bits that matter.