A Tale of Two People

Common sense told me a few years ago that I could not spend the rest of my life berating myself for the mistakes I made when I was drinking. What would be the point? I damaged much of my life through alcohol when I was pouring the stuff down my neck so I’m pretty determined that now that I no longer drink, I won’t allow it to infiltrate my existence any further. I experienced a huge amount of regret in the first year or so of being alcohol-free: wishing I’d seen the light sooner; disbelieving of some of my more reckless behaviour especially when my daughter was present; the numerous dangerous situations I put myself in, that now, looking back, resemble a latent desire for suicide.

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I can’t quite fathom how I emerged completely unscathed from my drinking years, truth be told. I was that rock bottom boozer – over and over again, and much of the stuff that happened to me during those twenty years sends chills up my spine when I recall it. It truly is a miracle that I managed to emerge in one piece, with only shame and a lot of regret to show for my manic drinking behaviour.

One of the things that worked its way into my consciousness in the build-up to 2011 when I stopped drinking for good, was that I absolutely did not want to become a person whose life was defined by their addiction to alcohol. I was beginning to recognise that too much of my existence was tainted by booze; it was in my face, my eyes, my gait, my shame, my mind, my heart. Alcohol had insidiously wormed its way into all of me, and it wasn’t a massive leap of the imagination to work out that others saw that too: Lucy the wino, Lucy the alcoholic, Lucy the pisshead. What a sad defining quality to possess – to be known simply as a person who loves to get drunk and escape her reality.

The demons that drove me to that escapism have all but been silenced. I am aware that I have a proclivity to addictive behaviour, and a difficulty in relaxing, and many years of self-loathing behind me that takes effort to eradicate. Habits become entrenched and it does take a while to learn new routines, coping strategies and outlooks. But my emotional awareness has developed over the last four and a half years to the point that I can now observe the workings of my mind almost like an outsider thus resolving any recurring problems as they emerge.

So I meditate, and I run, and I practise mindfulness. I read a lot of books about these things too, to educate myself further because I know they work for me – these are the things that keep me here: calm, happy and sober.

And the person I was, back when I drank, she is me but she isn’t me. She’s like a shadow of me, a ‘starter’ me. She was the person I blindly fell into but who was thrown off course by alcohol, drugs, and a lack of awareness. I can see why I became that way. It suited my personality down to the ground, all the excitement and the seeking of mental escape, the risk-taking, the shocking, anti-authority behaviour. But now I can see equally how I have become this person – and this way of life suits me much better. The old me was a reaction to my core traits. This version of me is the revised one, a more mature me, a person who appreciates both her strengths and weaknesses and deals with them with wisdom and experience.

I view my life as a tale of two people, the drinking me, and this one: the real me. I have let go of the regrets, acknowledging them first and learning from them but ultimately allowing them to drift into another place, a place where they won’t impinge on my positive state of mind. Because living successfully after an alcohol dependency takes work, and self-compassion, and an understanding of what led you to self-destruction in the first place. Sinking in self-flagellation is a non-starter for achieving any of these things. And with forgiveness comes peace of mind, and that’s all I was ever searching for.

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Are You Having a Sexy Sober Summer?

We are almost halfway through August, and at Soberistas we’ve been receiving lots of photos of people enjoying a sober summer. In case you missed the details, Soberistas together with TV presenter, Carrie Armstrong, launched the Sexy Sober Summer campaign at the beginning of the month. We are simply asking that people contribute their photos and thoughts on having a positively alcohol-free summer, to create an online library of motivational imagery. (See the end of this post for more information).

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I haven’t drunk alcohol for four and a half years, and I no longer miss it at all. I love my booze-free summers because: I don’t want to hibernate so much, I get to play in the park with my toddler past 3pm, I can wear nice summer dresses, my legs don’t look like milk bottles anymore, I feel more motivated to do, well, everything! I can go running early in the morning or later at night and not have to do it in the dark, there are flowers, I’m not cold, I eat a much healthier diet, I can go to the beach and swim in the sea, I can go on evening strolls in the countryside followed by a ginger beer outside a pub with my lovely teenage daughter, I can drive with the windows down and my favourite music on, I can sit in the garden and read a book in the sun…But it wasn’t always like this for me.

Summer was a slog in my first year or two of not drinking. All I could think about was what I was (allegedly) missing out on, and I felt bereft without my white wine spritzers and cold beers. This time of year can be a struggle if you are newly sober, with everyone everywhere (or so it can appear) drinking in sunny beer gardens and drinking on holiday and drinking at barbecues and just drinking, drinking, drinking. But summer doesn’t have to just be about alcohol. It can be a wonderful time to get outdoors and enjoy nature, do some exercise or have fun on the beach. It can be a great opportunity for relaxing and enjoying the benefits of a break from work and normal routine. And the light nights make it easier and more tempting to get out and see friends.

So far, our Sexy Sober Summer campaign has yielded some amazing photos of Soberistas everywhere looking gorgeous and happy and NOT drinking alcohol. We would love to add even more to our collection, and anyone who sends in a picture or written post for the campaign will be entered into a competition to win a fabulous prize of Afternoon Tea and Spa Treatment courtesy of Virgin Experience Days. You can find out more about the campaign and where to send your photos here and the competition closes at midnight (BST) August 31st 2015.

Soberistas Advent Reveal…Book Club

On January 2nd 2014 we will be introducing the Soberistas Book Club. I’ve posted this blog to tell you all about it and how it will work – I hope you decide to sign up as I think the Book Club will be something enjoyable to do with all those spare, booze-free hours! Plus, if you get in quick, there’s the chance of winning one of 2 free copies of our first Book of the Month. To find out more, read on…

How does the Soberistas Book Club work?

Sign up (for free) to Soberistas.com if you haven’t already done so. You’ll need your username and password to be able to post your comments/reviews on the Book Club page.

Each month we will select a Book of the Month – you enter the competition (details will be given on the Book Club page of Soberistas.com when it launches on January 2nd and are also detailed below) to win a copy, if you wish, or buy/borrow the book (we will never choose a book which costs more than a tenner, and remember, that’s only slightly more than your average bottle of wine! We’ll also only pick books that are readily available).

Read it, and then post your thoughts on the new Book Club page; get stuck into a debate, air your views, have a chat with others about how you enjoyed/hated the book. We ask, however, that you don’t spill the beans and reveal any juicy endings to other Book Clubbers who may be reading at a slower rate that you…

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The books we’ll choose will all fall under the categories of; a good read, hard to put down, page-turners, funny, contemporary, fiction and some non-fiction. We will happily take on board your suggestions so if you want to suggest a title for a future Book of the Month please do so by emailing enquiries@soberistas.com. Each month we will do our very best to secure at least a few free copies from the publisher of our Book of the Month.

What’s January’s Book of the Month?

January’s book is The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty and published by Penguin. Penguin have kindly offered to supply two Soberistas with a free copy of the book, so if you are interested in joining the Soberistas Book Club and would like to take part in our first month’s read, then please send your name and address to enquiries@soberistas.com and in the subject box of your email, write ‘Book Club Competition’. Alternatively, or if you are not successful in winning one of the two free copies, you can buy the book here;  http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Husbands-Secret-Liane-Moriarty/dp/1405911662.

We really hope you sign up to our Book Club – happy reading!

 

 

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.

Focus On The Important Stuff Instead

Never underestimate the human ability to adjust to new situations – what you may imagine is impossible will one day become easy, if you open your mind.

 Find time every day to get your rock n roll kicks from listening to loud music; lose yourself in it.

My beloved Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Red Hot Chili Peppers

Do exercise a few times a week – it makes your weight easier to manage, kills stress and releases an endorphin rush so you’ll feel happier too.

Refuse to be influenced by your past failures or your imagined future limitations – the person you are today is the only one who can affect change in your life.

Learn from mistakes and then leave them where they belong – in your history. Getting it wrong enough should always lead to getting it right, so don’t beat yourself up for the things you did when you were younger and not so wise; use your experiences to foster growth instead.

 The people you love should be the recipients of your kindest, most generous self. When they’re gone, you will find it hard to shed deep regrets; try not to have any.

Drink plenty of water; it helps your body and mind work effectively. Avoid fizzy drinks – they are of no value.

Only you know when a habit has become destructive – that little voice in your head is there for a reason; listen to it before you have reason to regret not doing so. It’s there to protect you from yourself.

Eat when you are hungry; forget about food when you’re not. Over-thinking anything will only lead to negating good intentions.

Trivialities aren’t the makers or breakers of your happiness – whether you buy those new shoes or not won’t fundamentally alter your life. Focus on the important stuff instead.

Having a change of scene and breaking your routine does you a world of good.

Never hold your looks in too high regard – one day they will fade and you need to make sure you’ve got back up. You’ll be much better off if you put the effort into developing your character.

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Ironing, cooking, gardening and knitting are so much more than practical chores. Losing yourself in one of these tasks acts a little like meditation; it demands enough concentration to stop you sweating over the small stuff, but not so much that it feels like effort. Try immersing yourself in baking a cake next time your anxieties are getting the better of you.

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Be nice to someone you’ve never met before – you’ll feel better and their faith in humankind will get a major boost.

Make an effort to look nice, but avoid obsessing over your outward appearance. Vanity makes even the most beautiful person appear ugly.

Adopt a cat or dog from your local shelter – having a pet reduces stress, and you’ll be giving an animal who has felt the cold hand of hurt and abandonment the chance to feel at peace. Don’t buy one from a breeder when you could help so much more by taking a stray.

Find an art form that helps you escape from reality for a while; whether it’s a film, book, seeing a live band or visiting an art gallery, get your hits from someone else’s creativity; avoid searching for highs in mind-altering substances. The former will help you grow; the latter will stop you dead in your tracks.

Make the effort to empathise. You never know what life will fling at you next – good or bad, you will always want to share things with people who understand.

Remember how fleeting your time on Earth is; use your sense of mortality to put life’s minutiae into perspective, as well as to focus your mind on doing your best where it counts.

Always keep your ego in check – when things are on the up, remind yourself that you are just human; when you’re down, tell yourself you are unique and amazing.

Let go of hatred; it prevents you from being a free spirit.

Jane Eyre aka Lucy @Soberistas


Ok, I haven’t lost the plot, or started drinking again. The following post is my effort for this week’s DP Challenge – to write in the style of your favourite author. The book that first touched me in the way that only a great book can, was Jane Eyre – here then, is an account of the night I met my wonderful fiancé, written in the style of Charlotte Bronte. Let me know what you think – I loved writing it!

I cannot begin to imagine what I was thinking when, as I was wont to do in those days, I entered the drinking establishment and requested yet another vessel of wine from the surly gentleman behind the bar. It must have been my sixth or seventh of the evening and my thoughts no longer belonged to me; it is true to say that I was beyond personal cognisance. My companion and I had frequented several inns that evening, and had arrived at the conclusion that we should indeed venture forth to our own abodes, as the night had drawn in and we were feeling fatigued and somewhat histrionic as a result of the excessive palliative liquid that we had imbibed.

Instead of departing for home, however, we made the decision to embark upon the short journey to what would become our penultimate destination; a dark but tolerably jovial inn, warm and invigorating after our short walk through the algid gloom outside. After purchasing our beverages, we sought to discover available chairs – the parlour room toward the rear of the hostel was packed full of revellers, and Reader, I must confess to staggering and lurching, owing to my drunken state. Finally, we almost fell upon a wooden bench alongside two ladies of fair countenance, and a gentleman who was swarthy and brooding.

My recollection of the conversation is a little vague, now that so many months have passed, although I can summon up the first words that that gentleman spoke to me – “Perhaps you do not recall, but we met some time ago, one evening last summer. You remarked upon my apparel – a shirt illustrated with an album cover of the musical four piece, The Smiths, of which you expressed your approval.” As melodic as pealing bells, my heart leapt as we reacquainted ourselves and despite my addled mind, I felt as though I had arrived home, that I had reached my destiny.

Our conversation was not blighted with awkward silences, nor did we encounter difficulties in happening upon subjects that we held in common. I am no professed harlot, but so drawn to this man was I – as well as being intoxicated by the potency of the alcohol – that I found myself inching toward him, my hand reaching out to fondle his near thigh. He did not profess to bother – indeed his gentlemanly persuasions led him to grasp my palm, caressing it in his as though we had been lovers for decades.

He showed himself to be a courteous and honourable man, a friend from the beginning, and the man who led me to the much longed for road to sobriety. That night represented the twinkling threshold of a wonderful chapter in my life – the unparalleled existence of living without the blur of alcohol; the birth of a redefined version of my self, originated by leaving the wine behind on that cold, January night.

 Reader, I became engaged to him.

Jason Vale, You’re My Hero.

I promise that I haven’t been paid by Jason Vale to endorse his (fabulous) book ‘Kick the Drink…Easily!’ but that isn’t going to stop me banging on about its wonderfulness. For ANYONE who wants to stop drinking, especially the ones who are scared stiff that by becoming sober they will be missing out on all those great benefits of booze (furry morning tongue, headaches, bad moods, embarrassing incidents, spare tyre, spending money you can ill afford, death to self respect, bad breath, liver damage – I could go on, but you get the picture; there are no benefits), READ THIS BOOK!!!

I spent my spare time on holiday in Mallorca last week reading this literary piece of soul-saving brilliance and as a result, all remaining negative notions regarding being ‘on the wagon’ that lingered after I had my last drink a year and a half ago, have been blown away. Gone, wafting away on the warm Spanish air up towards the Tramuntana Mountains, never to return.

If you refer to my earlier posts, you will glean that I was harbouring the odd   lustful thought for Imagemy erstwhile beloved Pinot Grigio. Honestly, despite being so much happier, calmer, richer, more balanced, more productive, more creative and more energetic, there was still a stubborn chunk of me that wouldn’t let it lie. Niggling somewhere in the back of my sober head, a voice sometimes whispered (pretty convincingly) ‘You will never have fun again without a drink, you are boring now. You have nothing to say, you’ve got no confidence. You have a life to look forward to that is coloured by heartache and your longing for a glass of white wine.’

After reading Jason Vale’s book, I have finally thrown these thoughts out of all consciousness – this isn’t a willpower game, but a firm belief and pride in the fact that I do not need alcohol; I am not addicted to alcohol. I would even renege on my earlier protestation that I am an alcoholic:-

Hello, my name is Lucy and I am NOT an alcoholic. I used to be addicted to alcohol, but I got over it. It’s great. Life without drinking is a life lived in truth. In vino veritas? No, the truth is out there readers, but you won’t find it in your glass of poison. (However, you might find it in Jason Vale’s book).