The Day Ahead Is Yours

Waking up before anyone else in the house, creeping downstairs in the dark and putting the kettle on, with nothing coming between you and the universe as it stands, free from all the hustle and bustle of our busy lives; the heating kicking into action, in a house that’s otherwise still and silent; no questions or demands to detract from the settled state of mind that emerges after a good night’s sleep.

I’ve always been a morning person. I am at my most productive before lunchtime, when everything around me begins to escalate into a series of necessary chores and duties, each one taking on a life of its own and demanding my full attention. But first thing, as the sun peeps up above the horizon and the early birds begin to chirrup and tweet, that’s my time: calm and serene.

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No calamities or disappointments have occurred as the sky begins to colour, becoming illuminated and alive after hours of darkness. No unexpected tasks have popped up to throw everything out of schedule. No unwanted thoughts and desires that turn our heads into a maelstrom of push and pull, an internal battle of wills that saps all our energy.

And most of all (and this is something that is very real and truly lovely, even after four and a half years of not drinking), the mornings are now fresh and clear instead of being muddied and sullied by the events of the previous night. The previous night, when things would take place that I did not want to take place, when I acted in a way that I would never normally do without alcohol in my system, when I poisoned my insides by drinking enough to pass out or throw up. When all of these things resulted in my first thoughts of the day amounting to how much I hated myself, and how much I hated my life.

These days, the sun comes up, slowly and majestically. And the weather is revealed, the wind or the rain, the leaves scurrying around on the ground and the clouds scudding overhead, racing against one another. Inside my mind it is peaceful. Inside my body I am in tune with the world, instead of fighting against it. The day ahead is mine. I own it. Yesterday hasn’t stained it, predetermined it, cast it in negativity before it even starts. This day is mine, to do with what I will.

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Freedom

“Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.” Martin Luther King’s words changed the world, his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech being one of the most moving and inspirational orations of the twentieth century. Freedom was the end game of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s in America – freedom simultaneously being one of the most taken for granted rights, and one of the most precious, depending on whether you are lucky enough to enjoy it or not.

Freedom can arise in many guises; freedom from imprisonment, torture, pain and suffering, from acts of cruelty that are inflicted upon us by others. But it can also mean a release from our own actions, the gift of being able to live free from the restrictions of addictive and destructive behaviours. Wayne Dyer, self-help author and motivational speaker, once said, “Freedom means you are unobstructed in living your life as you choose. Anything less is a form of slavery”.

And isn’t that precisely what addiction is? A form of slavery that holds us back and restricts us, maintains its control over our every thought and action and response? We are not ourselves when we are operating under the cloud of addiction. We are not making free choices when those choices are governed by patterns of thought that rule our body and mind.

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When we spend our money on alcohol, we are not free. When we show ourselves up and act in a manner not true to the real us inside, we are not free. When we cannot look in the mirror because we despise the person we have become, we are not free. When we are unable to be the friend or parent or partner that we are capable of being, we are not free. When we destroy our liver and brain and heart through excessive alcohol consumption, we are not free. When we put ourselves in dangerous situations, walking home alone late at night, drunk and out of control, we are not free.

Conquering addiction means granting ourselves freedom. It means we are able to choose how we behave. It means we know exactly what or who will make us happy. It means we fulfill our potential as a friend, parent or partner. It means we possess peace of mind. It means we know ourselves inside and out. It means we no longer spend money on the things that damage us. It means we take care of our bodies and minds and give ourselves the best chance at a long and happy life. It means we have dignity and self-respect. It means nothing or nobody exercises control over the person we are, apart from ourselves. It means remembering the finer details of every day and every night. It means being free to like the person we are.

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Freedom is a precious gift, and being free from addiction is incredible. This state of existence, being released from the walls that once held you back and kept you lying facedown in the dirt, can feel like a rebirth. A fresh start. A chance to see life for what it is; amazing, in all of its complexities and its banalities.

Spiralling Out Of Control

This week has mostly been a foggy jumble of sinus-related illness, tissues too many to recall, and a fortieth birthday which somehow slid by barely noticed due to the aforementioned illness. BUT! Throughout it all I have stuck stoically to my commitment to staying sugar-free, and as a nice side effect I have lost two pounds.

Over the last seven days I have been increasingly more mindful of what I’ve been eating. It’s so easy to slip into overeating (especially junk food) and I confess to being the queen of chocolate frenzies; I have regularly scoffed entire giant bars of the stuff within a matter of minutes, barely registering what is going on until the empty wrapper lies before me and I’m filled with disgust at such a potent lack of self-control.

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However, during the past week I’ve noticed a gradual but obvious reduction of cravings for sugar, a very significant lack of interest in sugary foods, and a small sense of pride in starting to overcome my addiction. It’s nice to know that I’m not a complete slave to the white stuff.

Another positive is that I have finally reached a point in my life where I feel safely able to ‘watch my diet’ without launching into obsessive and dangerous eating patterns, as was the case in my younger years. I’m not denying myself crucial calories in a bid to lose vast amounts of weight; I’m addressing an addiction to sugar which, when consumed in excess, causes us problems both physically and mentally. I read on Soberistas.com all the time about an inability to control food intake and especially so in the early stages of becoming alcohol-free. This is a common problem, and one which many people beat themselves up about.

I was incapable, once-upon-a-time, of eating ‘sensibly’ without spiralling into a dangerous game of excessive control which resulted in losing way too much weight and becoming obsessed with food and how best to avoid it. I hated my body and used my restrictive calorie controlling as a means of exercising discipline in the rest of my life – where I clearly felt as though there was none.

This whole business of ‘getting better’ following a dependency upon alcohol is a very complex one. Personally speaking, my ‘issues’ manifested themselves in drug use, an eating disorder and heavy drinking, and I merely swapped between these three things (or engaged in all three simultaneously) for several years in an effort to channel my discontentment away from actually facing up to them. Anything but resolve my deep dislike of myself.

The thing that really began the ball rolling towards happiness and acceptance of who I am was stopping drinking. That act alone was enough to initiate a steady process of beginning to like myself. It provided the foundations for being able to deal with all of the negativity, and injected me with the inner strength to get to grips with everything that I was scared of facing for all those years.

Cutting out sugar may sound like a fairly insignificant lifestyle change. But for those of us who’ve found our demons emerging in so many guises including a warped relationship with food, being able to eat nutritionally well and to enjoy healthy eating in a normal manner without fearing food, is a massive achievement.

Me, Myself and I

I stopped drinking alcohol approximately four and a half years ago. I am a non-drinker, a teetotaller, a Soberista. This is what I do well; I don’t drink. Society dictates that we need to drink alcohol in order to be normal and to fit in with the status quo. We exist in a world that is awash with booze, and if you step aside from that and opt out, then you stand out. You are a bit strange, like an alien wandering amongst so many who are all one and the same. Binge drinking is acceptable, society-approved mind alteration on a grand scale.

So normalized is this drinking culture in the UK that prior to 2011 when I stopped drinking for good, I did not consider myself to have that much of a problem with alcohol despite having found myself doing all of the following: falling into an empty bath in the middle of the night and banging my head viciously on the taps; sliding down several feet of a muddy, snow-covered bank of mud and landing in a tangle of raggedy rose bushes at the foot, not even registering the pain; falling into bed with men who I barely knew, didn’t like and who repulsed me in the morning when I woke up and acknowledged what had happened; being thrown out of nightclubs, too drunk to stand; finding myself covered in severe bruising and having no idea where or how the injuries had occurred.

But, no, I was not an alcoholic. I was just a woman who loved to drink, who knew how to have a good time.

Nowadays I’m rather quiet, and I like to spend my time running, or writing, or in the company of a very small number of friends. I enjoy being with my three-year-old and my sixteen-year-old, watching them develop their personalities and finding their feet in this world.

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I invest a good deal of time in inventing smoothies and juices, and I like to experiment with cooking healthy meals. I love my job, running Soberistas.com, and promoting the idea that being a non-drinker is a very nice way to live, that there’s nothing to be ashamed of for once having been dependent upon alcohol and then being strong enough to kick the habit and rebuild your life. I’m interested in Buddhism and Taoism and how tenets from both philosophies can help better my state of mind. I love reading books, and going to the cinema.

I will be forty years old tomorrow. All of the drinking stuff is a long way behind me now. I’ve entered and am firmly entrenched in this much healthier chapter of my life – it’s not a passing fad, as I maybe feared it would be when I first cut out alcohol four and a half years ago. This is who I am now, and I feel safe. I don’t worry about being pulled back into the madness because things are too nice over here on the other side.

Where will I be ten years from now, on the eve of my fiftieth birthday? There’s no certainty that I’ll be here at all but I quite like that knowledge, the acceptance of my own mortality that seems to have finally become real after so long behaving as though I was going to live forever (despite all the physical and mental abuse I once subjected myself to). I like the appreciation and gratitude for the small stuff that goes along with knowing my time on earth is finite. I love the road of personal discovery that seems to be never-ending; all the opportunities that potentially lie out there, the adventures waiting to happen, the people I have yet to meet and the places I’ve yet to visit. I’m so happy to know that all of this awaits me without any of the fog of drinking, with none of the regrets and self-hatred that were once so prevalent. If I am lucky enough to live a long and healthy life, then the years to come will all be alcohol-free – I can say that with certainty. Our time on this planet is too precious to piss it up the wall on booze. It demands that you grab hold of it with both hands and squeeze out every drop of life that comes your way.

The biggest lesson I have learnt so far is this: every one of us is amazing in our own unique way and we don’t need to be altered in any way by alcohol in order to be accepted, or liked, or self-confident. Believe in who you are and follow the path you were given in life, and everything will fall into place. Heavy drinking just messes with the equilibrium and slams the brakes on you reaching your full potential. And life is really very short, so it’s a good idea to start living it right now – minus the mind-altering alcohol fog.

Sugar Junkie Makes It Through The Weekend! (Here are the 3 things that helped me beat my cravings)

Writing as a MASSIVE chocolate addict/sugar junkie, I am delighted to announce that I’ve made it through the weekend without any sweet stuff whatsoever. I know not everyone who follows my blog will care whether I’m eating sugary food or not (this is a blog about sobriety, after all) but I am noticing some definite parallels with quitting alcohol and sugar, so bear with me – it might help you deal with addiction, regardless of what the object of your addiction is.

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I blogged about my desire to cut out sugar because of a suspicion I had that making myself accountable would work wonders as a means of motivation when temptation struck. And, I have to say; this was the single most effective tool over the course of the last three days in me staying sugar-free. There were a couple of wobbly moments (buying my daughter and sister a piece of marshmallow brownie each, and Sunday evening after dinner which, I realised, is a major trigger point for me in terms of gorging on biscuits) when I very nearly caved in, but because I’d blogged about my month off the sugar, I couldn’t do it. I would have felt terrible for going back on my word so soon after announcing publicly that this is what I was planning on doing until November 8th. I even had a friend suggest to me that it would be fine to have a few chocolate biscuits and nobody would know (I know! Naughty, naughty) but I still stuck to my promise – because even if nobody else would have found out, I’d have known, and I couldn’t be duplicitous in that way.

Second big help: being prepared. On Friday I bought loads of fruit and vegetables with which to make delicious smoothies, and also nuts and medjool dates to snack on when I felt peckish. Because there was always something close to hand that did not include sugar (I know fruit contains fructose but I’m not giving that up – just the refined stuff) I never felt as if I was denying myself. I didn’t go hungry or put myself in a position where the cravings would become too much to handle.

Thirdly, I adopted a mantra, which I repeated in my head every time I felt the sweet tooth sensation creeping up on me: ‘You will feel worse afterwards, if you give in and eat this biscuit/cake/sweet, than you do now’. Somehow, this simplistic message worked. I was able to see the pointlessness of giving into my sugar addiction – all I would be doing is perpetuating the habit, providing relief for a craving that would eventually disappear altogether if I ignored it for a sufficient length of time.

Today I don’t feel remarkably different to how I did on Friday, as I am still suffering from a horrible cold. I don’t think I’ve lost any weight either (it has only been three days!). But I do feel light and free mentally, as that regret over losing control of my food intake is noticeably absent. I feel as though I’m making progress. It’s nice to be back in the driving seat of my body, as opposed to letting a sugar addiction take hold.

To summarise, the three biggies that have helped me to achieve the HUGE goal of not eating refined sugar this weekend are as follows: accountability (blogging in my case, but telling people verbally would work just as well), preparation, and a mantra that I repeated in my head every time a craving hit. If you are joining me in this sugar-free challenge, please let me know what is working for you and how you are feeling. Thanks, Lucy x

Sugar No More!

I write this feeling slightly below par. Not mentally, I feel pretty good about things in that respect, but physically, I am somewhat run down. I’ve had a manic schedule this week plus my toddler has been ill, neither of which has helped. But this is me and I am, as ever, on the search for a solution. I don’t like accepting less than perfect and if I know I can change my situation for the better then I usually do – or at least try to.

Yesterday I loaded up on Strepsils and Soothers and snuffled my way through the day as best I could with tissues sprouting from every pocket. Today I am desperate to be back to normal, and have decided to embark on a month of super healthy eating to try and boost my energy levels and natural defences. So, here I am with a juice and smoothie recipe book at my side, and a lengthy shopping list consisting mostly of fruit, nuts and vegetables.

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I know that accountability works fantastically with anything like this, so I’m planning on blogging my way through this journey – if you are in the same boat as me (wanting to lose a few pounds, feeling a bit rubbish as the seasons change, and looking for more energy), you might want to join me. It’s nicer with company!

As well as the aforementioned ban on processed food and (not the technical term I know) general crap, I am also going to make a specific effort to eliminate sugar. I hate being reliant on something and I know I’ve got a bit of a dependency for the sweet stuff. Sugar is ridiculously addictive, and concrete proof of this can be found in my delving into the biscuit tin every night whereupon I plough my way through multiple Kit-Kats and/or chocolate Hobnobs (ostensibly bought for the children). This uncontrollable urge to gorge on sugar creeps up on me; what starts out as the odd treat gradually becomes a fully-fledged sugar habit, and I hate it. I hate how rubbish I feel after eating the stuff. I hate knowing that I’m not in control of what goes into my body.

Does this sound at all familiar? Yes, I know, I could be writing about booze here. And it’s the same process at work – so I’m going to address it with the same remedy that I used for alcohol.

Starting out, I am 9 stone and 4 pounds. And most days I’m generally scoffing (in terms of sugary stuff) a piece of cake plus a few biscuits. I exercise a decent amount, running and yoga being the main activities. Not a problem there. But sugar…cold turkey starts here.

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This desire to improve my diet may well be heightened by the fact that I’ll be forty years old next week. As we age, weight becomes easier to gain and harder to shift, and I suppose I am motivated by a desire to hang on to my youth for just a little bit longer…will all this help in my efforts to look and feel rejuvenated? We shall see. If you are going to join me in this, please add your comments below and let’s support each other. I’m expecting to feel grumpy without sugar in the first few days, and hungry initially, as my body adjusts to a greener diet.

I’ll keep you posted 🙂

Escaping the Darkness

Quitting drinking lifted me out of Crapsville. When I drank, I would often ponder why other people’s lives seemed to be so much more productive and together than my own messy, unsatisfying and occasionally frightening existence. I am writing about this today because I noted earlier just how content I am these days, and how long it’s been since I experienced anything or anyone who scared me, threatened me, dragged me down or showed me the darker side of life.

Alcohol brought out so much negativity in both the people I knocked about with, and me. Morals slipped, thoughtlessness abounded, and self-respect vanished all too readily with the same ease it took to withdraw a cork from a bottle.

I found myself caught up in pub brawls, illicit affairs and, on the lesser end of the scale, frequently demonstrating disappointing behaviour that manifested itself in cancelling on people at the last minute, or becoming so out of it that friends would find themselves forced to get me home, sabotaging their own night out in the process.

There was bad karma. I let people down, I hung out with people who had serious drug and alcohol problems and who consequently also let friends down. I prioritised booze above friends. I wasn’t a very nice person to know. And thus, I found myself caught up in the darkness, unable to even recognise that life could be better for me; that it didn’t need to be that way. My expectations dropped so dramatically that I became drawn to violent and dangerous people like a moth to a flame. Niceties bored me rigid. I wanted the dark side. And I got it.

As time has gone on, and with the removal of all mind-altering substances from my life, those unhappy years have receded further and further until I’ve reached a point where, when I cast my mind back to all that madness, it seems to have happened to someone else. I’ve changed, and time has healed much of the pain of the past. Who was that girl who got thrown roughly out of a club on her twenty-first birthday for being so drunk? Who was the person who spent the night crying outside a police station inside which her boyfriend was locked up for drunken fighting? Who was the woman who passed out on the settee night after night with way too much wine in her system?

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Today the sun is shining, and I have people in my life who I love and who love me back. I have two gorgeous children who I adore spending time with. I’m healthy and fit. I have my mental faculties. I’m not ill. I’ve been up since 6.30 am, busy and productive, without an ounce of shame or regret eating away at my soul. Without alcohol, I have allowed the real me to surface. And this me attracts positivity, and happiness and only the good stuff.