Hello January :-))

At risk of sounding like a right old misery guts, I’m writing today to say that I am very happy to be properly back at work and saying farewell to Christmas for another year. As I launched a half-eaten box of mince pies into the bin this morning, it did cross my mind that maybe nobody likes Christmas all that much after all…

To put this into some context, I should point out that the main event of exchanging gifts, which for me entails watching my lovely girls rip open their presents with glee, is very nice, and something that I am more than happy to do. I also love the enforced downtime that the festive season brings with it, as I generally don’t get much time to relax and it definitely does me good to do so.

But what I hate is the fact that so many people feel extreme emotional pain at this time of year, for a number of reasons ranging from bereavement to broken relationships to things just not being where they hoped they would be. And neither do I like the pressure to be all Nigella-like in the kitchen (which in reality means you miss out on all the fun as you slog it out over a hot stove and a sink full of dirty pots). As a non-drinker, neither do I like the intense commercial push stemming from the alcohol industry, which results in millions downing more booze than anyone should ever do for their mental and physical health.

shutterstock_232609939

When all around us we see signs advertising Prosecco and craft gins, money off multiple bottles of wine at the supermarkets, great big cases of beer at knockdown prices…when magazines are filled with images of glamorous people daintily holding glasses of fizz at elegant Christmas parties, and ideas for disguising hangovers with luxury beauty treatments…when mainstream newspapers are publishing light-hearted articles about the best foods to eat on New Year’s Day when you are nursing a crippling hangover…when we consider all of these things, on top of the various reasons why December can be a cruel and painful month for so many people, is it any wonder that Christmas brings vast numbers to their knees, desperate for it all to be over and for January to get underway with its routine and normality? The temptation to join in and drink excessively can be overwhelming, especially for anyone living with an alcohol dependency.

Personally, I used to hate Christmas, as a drinker and then as a new non-drinker, but as the sober years have passed by it has become a time that I can enjoy for a few small benefits (as mentioned above). But it still strikes me every year that for many, many people, it is unwelcome, difficult and downright awful, and virtually impossible to escape for those who may secretly wish to do so. It isn’t OK to ditch Christmas – in the eyes of many it’s akin to turning down a wedding invitation. You just have to partake – stick a smile on your face and get on with it. And make sure you have fun…or else!

shutterstock_320882792

Midway through cooking Christmas dinner (I’m not a bad cook but it didn’t turn out all that great and I would have preferred to just eat a salad!), I began to daydream about lying on a hot beach somewhere, with a couple of Christmas presents to open followed by a nice swim and a read of a good book in the sunshine. Following on from the theme of my last blog about being true to yourself, I’m starting to think that next December, I may very well pursue this daydream…

Happy January 🙂

Advertisements

2015 – The Year of the Soberista

I think we live in a topsy-turvy world, where it is seen as more normal to want to drink yourself into oblivion than it is to lead a healthy, alcohol-free life in which you are in control of your body and mind. On a daily basis, we are surrounded by messages of endorsement for a seriously mind-altering substance – one that is responsible for the deaths of 3.3 million people worldwide every year. We are bombarded by a collective validation for this addictive drug, the consumption of which is a causal factor in more than two hundred disease and injury conditions.

IMG_0271

And bizarrely, we often find that when we choose to opt out of the merry-go-round of alcohol misuse, we are considered to be boring, ill or someone to pity. It is not always the case, of course, but there exists a great deal of stigma and hypocrisy when it comes to the way people in the West approach the issue of drinking and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, sobriety.

Until I ended up in hospital because of the amount of booze I consumed one night in April 2011, I lived a life that I would describe as one of a binge drinker. On many occasions I despised myself because of something I had said or done when under the influence; there were too many times when I lay alone in the dark considering suicide as a result of the depressive effects of alcohol. But I never regarded myself as someone to feel sorry for – I wasn’t a victim. I was simply unaware that my life would be vastly improved if I omitted alcohol from it. I couldn’t see the wood for the trees – there was no clarity, no understanding that I was, in reality, creating all of the problems in my life because I got drunk so frequently.

I firmly believe in an alcohol-free life now. It’s a way of being that has brought me nothing but positives, and one that has simultaneously eradicated much of the crap that dragged me down so relentlessly for years. I remember a boy at my secondary school who used to wear a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan, ‘Drinking won’t solve my problems. But it will give me lots of interesting new ones’. Oh the wit! That carefree and innocent perspective of this substance that most people share in their teens was one that I most definitely held – although one that very gradually became replaced with a great deal of wariness and, eventually, fear.

Many people will remain forever in denial that they actually have a problem with alcohol. For every regret-filled morning when with head throbbing, promises will be made to never drink again, there will be an untold number of nights of throwing caution to the wind and an abject refusal to accept that it is not really ok to be drinking to the point of blacking out. And on and on the negative cycle will turn, never to be broken.

But equally, many people are, I believe, now beginning to question this alcohol-fuelled existence as normal. They are pondering whether life without hangovers and booze-induced problems in their relationships and at work might be better, easier. I believe there is a wave building, a revolt against the mass acceptance we have all grown up with, of binge drinking and its place in society as an inherent element of everyday life.

fireworks

Christmas and New Year’s Eve are times of the year when alcohol features even more prominently than usual – it can feel isolating and challenging to be a non-drinker in the midst of such widespread festive applause for booze. But there are far more people than many would imagine who are happily getting on with things minus any alcohol, and who aren’t missing it that much, if at all. I am one of those people. I couldn’t be happier than right now, free from the shackles that held me prisoner for so long and which turned me into someone I wasn’t – a loud, overbearing and self-centred person with a shallow existence and a multitude of regrets keeping me awake at night.

The more people who continue to turn their backs on booze, the more normal the teetotaller will become. I hope that in 2015 we will witness a big increase in the number of non-drinkers proudly emerging, and that as an expanding group in society we can make the case heard even louder for a life that’s lived in control, healthily and happily.

Happy New Year! Lucy x

What Christmas Means to Me

It’s that time of year again when everything goes slightly nuts and the world turns a little bit Technicolor. Christmas can be overwhelming for many people, for a myriad of different reasons. Personally I have struggled with the festive period in the past because I was a single parent and had to share my daughter with her Dad on Christmas Day, because I went wild in the drinks department (more than usual) and got even more hammered than my standard level of drunkenness, and because I suffered worse consequences as a result of being more sozzled than normal for much of the holidays.

christmas micah story

Being drunk and then hungover, and having to deal with the associated mood swings in between, rendered me completely unable to be content with life’s simple pleasures. I was forever searching for happiness, but was unable to find it when in the grip of alcohol. I therefore turned to increasingly inconsequential means in my efforts to locate that elusive state of mind; retail therapy when I had no need for new stuff (and could ill afford new stuff) romantic dalliances that kept me enthralled by their complicatedness and emotional rollercoaster turbulence, radical life changing decisions, the list goes on…

What I did not have when I regularly drank alcohol, was an appreciation of the simple things in life, of what is truly of worth in our little worlds. I have spoken to many people who have given up drinking and who have since enjoyed similar moments of wonder at seemingly banal things; watching the rising sun, waking up feeling healthy and full of energy, seeing flowers in bloom bursting with colours never noticed before. What those people all have in common is the experiencing of an almost evangelical awakening in the weeks and months after ditching alcohol, when suddenly they are filled with a sense of clarity; life becomes obvious; it all falls into place.

As time goes on, this awareness grows stronger and stronger in me; I just know what I want, who I am and what life is all about. I understand me, I get it. And no time is it more prevalent than at Christmas when it can appear that all around you are losing their heads in a sea of alcohol.

For me, it has become wonderfully apparent that the next couple of weeks are about my two gorgeous girls having a special and happy time surrounded by their family who adore them, having more time than usual to spend with my other half, sharing delicious food and having a good laugh together. It’s about appreciating everything that we have, remembering people who aren’t so lucky, and trying to do something for them too.

Play the movie to the end…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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