Happy Birthday Soberistas x

Soberistas.com is three years old. Today, thousands of people belong to this online community, which started out on November 26th 2012 as just a couple of hundred members posting blogs and comments and nervously wondering what would happen next…

Soberistas has been a major part of my own story of recovering from an alcohol dependency that eventually put me in hospital. When I set the site up, I genuinely had no idea that so many people felt exactly how I did – people from all walks of life; men and women, from England, America, Canada, Australia and so many other countries in between.

Gradually, this community has increased in size and strength, and over the last three years we have come to represent a viable resource for those drinkers who want to become alcohol-free but who need a bit of friendly support in getting there.

The things that helped me personally become happy, and therefore to stay happily off the booze, are detailed below, because I wanted to share them again for the benefit of anyone who is in that desperately dark place that I once was, back in the spring of 2011. But before I go on to explain what has helped me get and remain sober, I think it’s important to state why it’s worth putting yourself through the challenge of stopping drinking. What are the benefits of becoming alcohol-free?

Well, here’s what I’ve gained in the last four and a half years:

  • My self-esteem
  • A love of life
  • An appreciation for EVERYTHING I have, and for all the people I am lucky enough to have in my life
  • Confidence
  • A job that I love
  • Lifelong friends
  • New experiences, travelling and taking up different and challenging opportunities
  • Clarity
  • Thousands of mornings, clear-headed and hangover-free
  • Quality time with my children, free from the guilt-ridden anxieties over my drinking that plagued me so much in the past
  • Becoming a published author
  • A life free from a daily dread of developing liver cirrhosis or cancer caused by my alcohol consumption and smoking habit
  • Finally knowing my own mind and what makes me happy – and what makes me tick

The stuff I did to help me become firmly established as a Soberista all stem from the first, extremely important (and perhaps obvious) starting point: I didn’t touch alcohol at all once I decided to quit. No cheeky little glasses of wine because it was my birthday, no sneaky halves of lager when nobody was looking. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

This was vital to my long-term sobriety because it enabled me to develop a completely clear head, free from all the negativity and confusion that arose from the excessive alcohol I once consumed.

I got fit and found other things to do with my time. This prevented me from getting bored, it gave me the mental lift and escapism (especially running) that I had previously attempted to obtain through alcohol, and it boosted my self-esteem, which in turn helped me to realise that I did actually deserve a life that wasn’t coloured by the terrible consequences of my drinking.

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I discovered gratitude. I started to think positively about my life, and focused on the good bits instead of the crap parts. I recognised that actually, I was very lucky, and had a lot that was worth living for.

I spent time in the countryside and indulged myself in nature. This helped me to put my problems in perspective and reminded me that we are so small in the grand scheme of things, our lives are so fleeting, and that ultimately, we should be grabbing onto life with both hands and living it to the absolute max – rather than wasting it in a drunken haze, routinely floored by self-hatred and shame.

I reached out to people and opened up. I admitted to people that I had a drink problem. Again, sounds simple, but I stopped pretending that it was normal to pass out and blackout and embarrass myself terribly.

I repeatedly told myself that This Too Shall Pass. When the going got tough, I stuck it out. I persevered. I never gave in. I believed in better. And eventually, things got better. Much better.

I meditated and practised mindfulness. I made a concerted effort to live in the here and now. To focus on today, instead of worrying ceaselessly about shit that hadn’t happened yet, or shit that had happened and of which I could do nothing to change.

And so, here I am. Sober, happy; a happy Soberista. Thank you to all those inspiring people out there who helped me find this life free from alcohol. And to anyone who wants to be a Soberista but who hasn’t got there yet – if I can do it then so can you. This sober life is a vast improvement on a drinking life, for anyone who can’t moderate his or her alcohol intake. Good luck. xx

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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.

The Best Birthday Present

On Wednesday, my eldest daughter will be sixteen. When I consider her age, I am starkly reminded of the swift passage of time and how much things have changed during the years she has spent on earth.

My eldest daughter, then three, with me and our beloved Mowgli

My eldest daughter, then three, with me aged twenty-six – 2002

I’m taking her away for a few days for her main present but I want to buy her a keepsake too, a special reminder of her first ‘grown-up’ birthday. But no matter what I end up choosing for her gift, I know that she has already received the best one I could ever give to her – a mum who doesn’t drink alcohol, and specifically, this mum who doesn’t drink alcohol.

There are, of course, many mums out there who drink and who can manage their intake of alcohol sufficiently well that it has no detrimental impact upon their children. But I wasn’t one of them.

Although I was never knocking the vodka back at 7 am or staggering up to the school gates at home time with bottles clanking in a plastic bag, I certainly prioritised alcohol fairly highly in my life, and it frequently affected my eldest child in a number of ways.

For a start, I used to rush through her bedtime stories in order to speedily tie up the day’s parenting duties. My desire to do so was, of course, due to the bottles of cold, white wine that would inevitably be resting in the fridge downstairs, the beads of condensation that coated the glass inviting me to dive in.

Secondly, I would frequently plan my spare time around drinking. This might have meant organising a little dinner party for friends (read, major piss-up), or a get-together in the local pub beer garden – somewhere where the kids could play, obviously, whilst the adults grew steadily more inebriated and less responsible. Sometimes it meant calling on the help of a babysitter so that I could indulge in my wish to achieve total mental obliteration via alcohol consumption.

Thirdly, the after effects of my drinking were apparent to anyone in my company, including my child. The lethargy and bad moods were almost certainly picked up on regularly by my daughter, although she probably had no idea why I was snapping at her for no good reason or why I had no energy to do anything other than lie around watching TV.

There were no major catastrophes, thank God. No medical emergencies where I was too out of it to respond quickly and appropriately. No occasions where I didn’t manage to drag myself out of bed to take her to school or collect her in the afternoons. I never lost my job or was threatened with losing my child to the care of the social services because I was deemed incapable of looking after her.

But there was a catalogue of alcohol-induced depressive episodes, unpredictable moods, of silly and irresponsible life choices that affected my daughter’s upbringing, of money spent on fags and booze that could have gone towards things of benefit to the two of us. And there was the relentless display of how a grown woman acts – an example that I set, week in and week out, that revolved around escaping my reality and living recklessly.

And so, the best gift I could ever have given my lovely daughter is the one I gave her almost four years ago, and which is the opposite of all of the above; a mum who is present and engaged with her children, a mum who is fit, healthy and cooks nutritious meals, encouraging an interest in a healthy lifestyle in both her children; a mum who displays a level mood, who doesn’t bite her children’s heads off for no reason, a mum who is up at 6 am most days taking care of running the house and providing a secure upbringing for her family, a mum who can be relied upon not to embarrass her children by being out of it; a mum who doesn’t drink alcohol.

Happy 2nd Birthday Soberistas!

Two years ago today, Soberistas.com was launched. Originating in thoughts and feelings borne out one of the worst moments of my life, the website has grown bigger than I ever imagined it would. What began as a pondering, an internal dissatisfaction with the way society viewed alcohol dependency and the available help that was on offer at the time, took on a life of its own and became an entity.

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Because Soberistas.com is a public forum, those who use the site have moulded it. Its character and inherent appeal (its non-judgmental and friendly, supportive nature) stem from the thousands of blogs, comments and discussions that have been posted during the last twenty-four months. None of that was foreseeable, as pre-launch I had no idea who would be logging onto the site to share their thoughts on drinking and sobriety – or even if anyone would bother to log on at all. All I was aware of back in the summer of 2011, when I first began to toy with the idea of setting up a social network site for those with alcohol-dependency issues, was that I was certain there were lots of people out there who felt the same way I did. I just hoped they would find a site like Soberistas a helpful way of dealing with their booze-related issues.

I remember a few years ago when, during the space of one week and at the height of my most destructive drinking behaviour, I toppled into an empty bath at three o’clock in the morning whilst brushing my teeth (always striving to prove I wasn’t that drunk by sticking to my bedtime routine!), banging my head hard and waking up my boyfriend who had long since marched off to bed, irritated by my unwillingness to call it a night. A couple of days later, I awoke early to the unmistakeable stench of vomit, and quickly understood that I had thrown up whilst asleep all over the floor next to my side of the bed. The same boyfriend had been on his hands and knees mopping away as I’d coughed and spluttered and teetered on the brink of choking, and had then manipulated me into the recovery position so that I didn’t die during the night.

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These occurrences did not register with me, as they should have. I did not seek medical advice, look up an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting to attend, or even decide to temporarily quit drinking.

I now recognise the most important quality of Soberistas as being the provision of a yardstick, a means of contextualising a drink problem. If I had logged onto Soberistas during that period of my life, I would have recognised instantly that the problems I was experiencing with regards to alcohol were not mine alone or something to laugh off with bravado, and the sheer fact that others were in the same boat and seeking to change would more than likely have prompted me to do the same.

As it was, I spoke to nobody, brushed it under the carpet (again) and decided that the answer was simply to learn the art of moderation. Which, of course, never happened.

My life has completely changed since quitting alcohol, and I stand firm in my belief that anyone who has repeatedly demonstrated that they do not posses an off switch would be far happier if they stopped trying to locate one. Stopping drinking for such people equates to the beginning of self-love, contentment and living a full life. Freeing the mind by calling it a day on the fight with alcohol is a true gift.

And the real value in Soberistas lies in its ability to help anyone who has crossed the line into dependent drinking take on board the notion that they do have a problem with alcohol, and that simply because the wheels have not yet fallen off entirely, there is still a real need for addressing the issue – sooner rather than later. Interacting with others who truly understand how you feel about the consequences of out-of-control drinking is a remedy in itself as far as I am concerned. Even better, to witness like-minded people who have admitted they have a problem controlling their alcohol consumption and who have then gone on to quit and feel happy about doing so, is a huge motivator for anyone at the very beginning of their sober journey.

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Happy Birthday Soberistas.com!

soberistas cake picA year ago today I sat nervously in front of my laptop and watched the very first members of Soberistas sign up to the brand new social network site that was there to offer peer support to women with alcohol dependency issues. I had no idea what would happen, or whether we would attract any interest at all. I didn’t know if anybody would want to discuss their booze problem online with a bunch of strangers. Or indeed if it really was just me who had no off-switch, a catalogue of past booze-related horrors and a desire to pass the message on that life without alcohol can, actually, be brilliant.

We had about a hundred people sign up during our launch night, and that first small clan of Soberistas hovered nervously around the site waiting for somebody to post something or to write their thoughts down in the Chat Room. It was a very special time filled with anticipation and hope, and the culmination of many weeks of hard work preparing Soberistas for public use.

Today is our first birthday. We now have approximately 15,800 members from across the world, some men, mostly women, all who have been affected negatively in some way by alcohol and all of whom wish to seek out a happier and healthier life. Soberistas has been featured in numerous publications and on TV on many occasions since our inception last year, largely because we offer a special approach to alcohol misuse problems that hasn’t existed previously. I put this ‘special approach’, which works so well for so many, down to our fantastic members who are supportive, inspirational, thoughtful, kind, responsible and, at times, very funny. When I read through the comments and blog posts on Soberistas I often cry, laugh, smile and nod my head in agreement. Many times I wish I could throw open my arms and give a collective hug to all those who are feeling so tender and vulnerable, and to find a way to make them see right there and then how life really does improve month on month just as soon as you take the leap to alcohol-free living.

At Soberistas HQ, we have worked very hard over the last twelve months, striving to improve the experience of the website for our members as well as to spread the word in order to reach even more people with this problem – something which, often, they have never discussed with anybody at all prior to signing up. I love Soberistas, it has become such a huge and important part of my life and I am so excited that as we celebrate our first birthday, we are caught up in preparations for our re-launch on January 2nd 2014. The new-look site will have many more helpful features (all of which you can read about on WordPress in our special Soberistas Re-launch Advent starting on December 1st), a brand new logo, and a great new layout which will make our members’ user-experience even better.

So this is a happy birthday to us, and to you, and a massive thank you to all who have supported us since we launched on November 26th 2012 and who have helped us reach where we are today.

Soberistas.com – almost a year old

Next week it is Soberistas’ first birthday and so I thought I would share with you the reasons why I wanted to create the website in the first place. For many years I was a drinker: not a secretive drinker in most respects, in that everyone I knew would have definitely classed me as something of a wino, but very clandestine in the thoughts I harboured about alcohol. Outwardly I pretended that wine was something I had fun with, a drink that I could easily take or leave which never presented itself as anything other than a harmless social lubricant.

I laughed off hangovers, joked about waking up on the settee fully-clothed (again), and accepted all the associated negativity with a smile that spoke volumes about my established dependency upon alcohol. My apparent carefree attitude towards booze represented the degree to which I had settled for a mediocre life beset by lethargy and a numbed mind, in return for a few glasses of red or white each evening which I sipped obediently until I fell into a sleepy heap in front of the TV.

But beneath all of the light-heartededness was a festering tangle of thoughts borne out of fear; fear that I was turning into an alcoholic, fear over the fact that I seemed to possess no off-switch when I drank, fear that my life just would not come together in the way I wanted it to, and fear that I would waste my life drunk before dying prematurely from some alcohol-related illness or accident.

In amongst these dark worries, I began to consider that I might not be the only woman who felt this way, and that despite others allegedly being able to consume alcohol with none of the terrible side-effects that I always experienced, I became quite sure that at least some of those people perhaps did not have such an easy relationship with booze. What if, behind closed doors, there were thousands of us? Millions? And what if we all had a place to talk to one another and share our stories?

And so, www.Soberistas.com was born.

I believe that one of the key reasons why our website helps people to even consider an alcohol-free life (and for many, to eventually adopt one) is that in realising one is not alone, the battle is part-way to being won. It helps restore confidence and self-esteem the second we understand that this problem is not just ours but something which affects millions around the world. We are not freaks, irresponsible or reckless fools, but intelligent, caring, warm and supportive people who love to help one another. We are all normal people, we are evidence of the fact that those with a ‘drink problem’ are always the men or women in the street, just regular people with regular lives but who cannot stop drinking once they begin.

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Since the launch of Soberistas, I have loved watching our community grow in strength and solidarity, witnessing an online friendship group that is characterised by its non-judgmental attitude. I have never known a friendlier, more supportive place than Soberistas, and I always feel happy and content when I have spent time reading through the many comments, blogs and discussions that are posted daily – it restores my faith in humanity on a regular basis.

My idea for Soberistas stemmed from the simple fact that I had a suspicion I was not alone in enduring a relationship with alcohol that stifled me for many years, but in the event what has emerged from the site is a phenomenon that has simply blown me away.

My passion for challenging the stigma that exists in society in relation to (especially women) those with an alcohol dependency has grown massively since the birth of Soberistas, and I know that this is where my future now lies.

At the end of next week I will leave my part-time job at Sheffield Hallam University in order to focus 100% on Soberistas and writing more books. I feel very lucky to be at the centre of this wonderful group of people, and optimistic that we are beginning to witness the first signs of a cultural shift in which binge-drinking will gradually become a far less ordinary thing to do.

Go Ape!

I can count the times in my life when I have been truly terrified on one hand. There were the births of both my daughters; I hold my hand up and admit that, despite voraciously soaking up as much knowledge about hypnobirthing, water births and earth mothers chilling with a brew minutes after popping their little one out, I was utterly terrified about the whole experience from about six months pregnant onwards. The actual events did nothing to put my fears in to perspective, I may add.

There was the time when I found myself in a tricky situation with a violent ex boyfriend, who decided that he wasn’t too chuffed about me dumping him and took it upon himself to break in to the house I was staying in and telling me, with the aid of a hammer, what he thought of me.

Then there was the skydive that I did a few years ago when, despite me fooling myself and anyone who would listen that I was a crazy, extreme sports fanatic who just couldn’t get enough adrenaline into her bloodstream, I was actually convinced that I was going to die when I jumped out of that miniscule bi-plane, and spent the few weeks leading up to the big day utterly terrified and unable to sleep.

Don’t be fooled by the smile – I thought I was living my final moments.

And the last time was Sunday, my birthday, which I spent with my bloke and my eldest daughter, both of whom are (I have come to realise) much braver than me. We went to Go Ape! which is a circuit high in some treetops in Buxton, Derbyshire, made up of rope ladders, cargo nets, bungee jumps and zip wires, for visitors to make their way around whilst testing their strength of mind and character. I booked it because I wanted to have an exciting experience for my 37th birthday which didn’t revolve around sitting in a pub with a load of people getting drunk, and I’m so glad that I did. Although when I booked, I had forgotten the fact that I suffer a little from vertigo.

An hour in, we reached a bridge of rope swings, hung between two trees about eighty feet in the air. My other half stepped across first, swinging wildly but pulling himself valiantly from one swing to the next until he reached the safety of the facing platform. My daughter went next, froze on the first plank of wood that wobbled violently in front of her, before harnessing her courage and managing to cross in just a few minutes. Then it was my turn – extreme sports extraordinaire…As I put my foot on to the first swinging log and grabbed on to the adjoining ropes that held it to the cable above, I made the mistake of looking beyond my feet and to the ground, way below me. My stomach went in to my mouth, my legs turned to jelly and I froze. Completely. Then I began to make strange wailing sounds that have never been emitted from my mouth prior to that point. It took me twenty minutes to cross just six feet of rope bridge, with the aid of my very supportive and lovely family, who did not burst out laughing, but encouraged me every step of the way whilst I cried like a baby and tried not to throw up my breakfast.

There were many fun elements too, I must add, mainly the zip wires and ‘Tarzan jumps’ – all in all it was a brilliant day out. Facing the fear when you are terrified is a fantastic way to feel alive, and to remind yourself that pretty much anything is possible if you are prepared to meet that terror head on and take it by the horns. There is nothing as satisfying as proving to yourself that whatever life throws at you, you can tackle it by just putting your mind in to ‘brave mode’.

Big Spiders and Birthdays

Autumn is here, trumpeting its arrival with the mass migration of huge sultana-bodied and hairy-legged spiders from places strictly external to our property, to within every nook and cranny of the house, and with the return of X Factor. Other traditional features of the third season of the year are the arrival of thousands of students to our fine Sheffield streets, the sudden imposition of severe limitations on daylight dog-walking hours (resulting in the necessity to cram daily tasks in to even less time), and ongoing battles between myself and my other half regarding the heating – ten degrees, and he’s still in shorts and a T-shirt whilst I’m cocooned in at least three jumpers, thermal tights and a vest, excogitating the pros and cons of wearing a woolly hat (pros = warm, cons = itchy, makes head look daft, flattens hair).

Autumn also means my birthday is approaching (in two weeks, October 14th, same as Winnie the Pooh’s). Since I was in my mid teens, I have mostly got plastered on my birthday. This means that I now struggle to remember pretty much any of them, and the memories that I can pull together from those drink-fuelled days just blur in to one, creating a hazy montage of shot glasses, rowdy pubs, throwing up and bad hangovers.

Now that I don’t drink, this whole ‘let’s get drunk, it’s my birthday’ idea strikes me as curious – get dressed up, meet some friends, and then get so smashed that you make yourself ill and proceed to forget everything that you did to celebrate your latest coming of age. For my thirtieth, I had a party; a fancy dress bash with the following theme – 1970’s yacht party off the coast of Biarritz. The whole purpose behind this night was to get shitfaced; decorating the house, getting dressed up in silly clothes and a pink wig, fairy lights, carefully chosen music – the entire evening was an excuse for me to get off my head. I succeeded, and was so drunk by 10.30 pm that I was carried upstairs, threw up in to a bucket next to my bed, and then drifted off in to an alcohol-induced coma. Meanwhile, my guests had a lovely time downstairs until the early hours of the following morning, when they let themselves out quietly, leaving their oh-so-attentive hostess passed out in her boudoir.

However, I am not bitter. I have plenty more birthdays to come and I intend to remember each and every one from now on. I also plan to do something cool to celebrate each year that I grow in age and (I hope) wisdom. Sitting in a pub is of no interest to me. Eating a meal in a restaurant is nice, but I do that on many other non-birthday days too. What I’m looking for is an experience – a daytime activity preferably (baby restrictions still in place), something that will really stick in my mind. And something different.

On that note, there are a few followers of this blog now, and so if any of you have a good idea for my fast-approaching 37th birthday, would you send it me on a comment? I promise to do my favourite of any suggestions, blog about it and include photos. Nothing rude, inappropriate, alcohol-related or boring please…thanks all. 🙂

“Five years from now, you’re the same person except for the people you’ve met and the books you’ve read.” – John Wooden, born October 14th 1910

Aged 17 – October 14, 1992

Living in the moment, never looking further than the next weekend, drifting further in to the nightclub scene. You are a raver, dressed in your cat suit and trainers; hair sleek, in a bob, lips red, aware of your femininity. Music is everything, the underground scene is hypnotic; its naughtiness and illegality is like a drug, club fliers adorn your bedroom wall replacing your posters of The Smiths and Depeche Mode. First year of ‘A’ levels, but you’ve outgrown it now, it’s a burden on your time. Life flows eternally before you, there are no worries and no cares other than a strange persuasion you have developed to almost enjoy the dark side, to wallow in your suffering and to emulate your heroine, Laura Palmer – a strange one to pick given her untimely death, preceded by a life afflicted by drug addiction and abuse.

Aged 22 – October 14, 1997

Oh, you emulated Laura alright, other than her murder – and that isn’t such an unlikely possibility these days. A recreational enjoyment of clubs and their associated pleasures has strayed in to the murky waters of grim addiction; the only friends you have are in the same boat. Thrown out of a nightclub on this, your birthday, for being so out of it; you aren’t demonstrating an ounce of care for your safety, and you don’t eat much at all. Your hair is short, your body is thin; you virtually live in a pub exclusively frequented by abusers of alcohol and drugs. You’re going down, down, down…

Aged 27 – October 14, 2002

Dragged out of the sinking sand by the arrival of your gorgeous baby girl, she is now three years old and the apple of your eye. Her Dad, your husband, is busy working all the hours God sends – mostly you spend time with your friends. When your baby is in bed, you drink; it’s not so much, a few bottles of beer or a bottle of wine with a meal, and at the weekend it’s more. There are parties and nights out with girlfriends, where drinking is the thing to do, drinking enough to occasionally act in a way you regret. But the regrets are few and far between, life is for the living, mortality is a concept that, so far, you don’t acknowledge. One year left of your degree – studying is time well spent, an effort to establish a foundation on which to some day build a career. That day might come sooner than you think; your marriage is almost done.

Aged 32 – October 14, 2007

Ooh, happy birthday you! Four years since the breakdown of your marriage, things are no longer so pretty. Wine is a staple of your existence – it tends to your every emotion; happy, sad, bored, depressed, lonely…drinking in company is getting harder – the necessary control over the amount you consume is a struggle. Your self esteem has taken a battering, over and over again there’s an action that you regret or words you wished had been left unsaid. Your office job bores you to tears, there should be more to life than this – drinking is an aid to forgetting. Relationships are hard to sustain, difficult to work out. Being a mother keeps your head out of the water, but the current is strong and it’s dragging you down.

Aged 37 – October 14, 2012

Just under four weeks from now, I will turn 37. On numerous occasions during my life, I have wondered whether I would live as long as this. Many times my thoughts turned to suicide; I never fully grasped the notion as a plan of action, but the tendency to ponder whether life should ever be this arduous, this painful, was ever present for a long time. My little girl consistently provided the reason why life is always worth it, no matter how tough things become, and for that, as well as for a myriad of other reasons, I am eternally grateful that I have her in my world. She saved me.

As every five year interval in my life passed, things did not seem to change direction much. I was sitting in a boat, adrift in an ocean of depression and misunderstanding of what life is about, carried along on a current of self-destruction and pity, never looking far enough in to the distance to seek out another way. Until a couple of years ago.

This last five year interval represents a series of events that have gently prodded and pulled me, this way and that, tugging me in to a place that is warm and happy and safe. It’s a place  I never thought I would find myself in – where the walls of depression and self-hatred have crumbled away to leave an open space, full of endless possibilities. It’s the place where I have found my soul mate, had my second daughter, and truly arrived at the realisation of what my life should be. I never want to leave this place behind.

Things are on the up – my eldest daughter and me in Newquay last summer, showing off my recently bought engagement ring.