The Time Is Now

It’s funny how slowly, gradually, gently, we can slip and slide into a happier life, almost without noticing it happening. When things are not going well and everything seems like an uphill struggle, just existing occupies so much of your mental and physical energy; striving to cope, keeping your head above water, wondering why all this stuff always happens to you, and asking yourself, over and over again, when will I get a break?

It has been my experience that things have increasingly fallen into place the longer I live without alcohol. It’s not that nothing bad happens anymore; of course it does, but I am more resilient, wiser, less impetuous and calmer now that I don’t drink, and therefore I have the mental and emotional capacity to deal with challenges as they spring up from time to time.

The dangerous precipices, the cliff edges on which I used to totter and stumble and frequently fall right over, taking months to recover myself from, those don’t crop up anymore. There are the rocky, scree-covered slopes that are difficult to traverse; I lose my footing occasionally and my feet go from beneath me momentarily, but I can reclaim stability these days – I never fall too far.

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More noticeable is that my entire landscape has altered. It’s no longer a case of intermittent splashes of beauty and fullness scattered sparingly against a barren background of an arid, harsh wilderness. The good is now rich and far-reaching, and it colours my life with a regularity and predictability that I could never have imagined anyone witnessed.

When you feel happy and content, you tend to attract positivity into your world. Happiness breeds happiness. Positive people attract positive people. Life becomes a happy, virtuous circle.

I don’t write this blog wishing to sound smug, because I’m not. I am very grateful and acutely aware of how good life is. You will know from reading my previous posts that my life wasn’t always this way, and I know how easy it is to slip and slide in the opposite direction, away from the good and back towards those cliff edges once more. But I engage in certain things that I know increase my chances of staying over here, where things are coloured in goodness and cast in a clear, bright light: I don’t drink. I exercise a lot. I eat well. I surround myself with lovely people who love me for who I am and who I love for being them. I spend time doing the things that lift my spirits and help me cope with stresses and the odd anxiety. I look after myself. I don’t do things that make me feel bad. I stay away from people who make me feel bad. I listen to music that soothes me and elevates me, and that transports me off to a different place for a while. I lose myself in good books and immerse myself in art and culture to broaden my horizons and challenge my perspective on the world. I focus on what I have, as opposed to what I don’t.

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Earlier on today, I found myself driving home from the supermarket, car boot full of chocolate goodies and Easter eggs, looking forward to the next few days during which I will be with my family and relaxing, building happy memories and valuing one another without the terribly wasteful and pointless addition of alcohol tainting our time together. And I felt very content, and suddenly conscious of how things have seemingly all come together and fallen into place. At long last, I can say that I have a life I am really happy to be living.

And that gift is within everyone’s reach – but sometimes you need to navigate your way across the rocky patches before you get there.

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Making Connections – Sober

One of the reasons why alcohol can appeal to us is because it’s a social lubricant. It has the power to transform a shy, awkward wallflower into a wild, life-and-soul-of-the-party type – although for lots of people it unfortunately then has a habit of pushing things too far in that direction, drawing them into doing things they later regret. I used alcohol for social confidence, and over the years it became that I required more and more of it to get the same, initial hit. And when I consumed increasing amounts, I acted in an increasingly out-of-character manner of which I was deeply embarrassed and often ashamed the next morning.

But, a sense of connection is what so many of us are craving when we reach for a glass of something alcoholic at a social event, and it’s this crutch that can be so difficult to let go of when we decide we really would like to become alcohol-free. Is it possible then to achieve this connection when we are teetotal?

My answer to this question would be yes. Yes, you can obtain a sense of belonging, a feeling of unity with others, when you are stone cold sober – and the trick to doing so lies in self-confidence, patience and a solid belief in the knowledge that if you can’t control your alcohol consumption, people will far prefer you as you are naturally to when you are completely out of your mind.

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It can be easy to fall into the trap of believing that alcohol makes us wittier, sexier, more attractive and interesting, but in reality this is a fallacy created in our own drunken minds. To the sober onlooker, people who are inebriated are quite boring, and they look a bit of a mess. These days, I enjoy far more the company of those who don’t drink to excess, and if I am forced to spend time with people who are heavily under the influence then I’m desperate to escape their company as soon as possible! The truth is that people who are not drunk are way more interesting, sensitive and funnier – although you do need to ensure that you’re spending time with people who you actually like (it’s fairly common when you quit the booze to realise that many of those you’ve always socialised with as a drinker are, in reality people whom you don’t care for all that much at all when sober).

With time, patience and no more drinking, a person’s self-confidence can be restored remarkably quickly following sustained and heavy alcohol misuse. And with that confidence, and a more positive reaction from friends and family, it is soon the case that one enters into a virtuous circle: a good response to the non-drinking version of you reinforces your suspicion that you’re better off not drinking, and the longer you continue to be alcohol-free, the more of a positive response you receive from the people in your life.

What it boils down to is this: connectedness is all very well and good, but if YOU are the sort of person who becomes drunk each and every time you consume alcohol, you are not connecting with anyone; rather you are distancing yourself more and more from the people you love and who love you. If you are someone without a reliable off-switch (like me) then it is absolutely true that you will be loved far more and by many more people as an alcohol-free person. Try it and see for yourself.

Soberistas – A Summary

Here’s a summary of what Soberistas is, where the idea came from, and what it can do to help you if you are struggling with your relationship with alcohol. Our logo is the Bird of Paradise flower, which means this: freedom, magnificence, good perspective and that something strange and wonderful is about to occur. Going alcohol-free can be a positive lifestyle change, representative of all these things.

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Soberistas emerged out of my desperation to get alcohol out of my life once and for all. By the time I quit drinking, alcohol was scaring me to death but so was the idea of living without it. I craved an existence that was booze-free but also one in which I was happy and not tormented by the ongoing desire to get drunk – a desire that had caused me so much trouble throughout my entire life since being a teenager. Was I an alcoholic? Who knows, I still don’t know. What I did know was that life had to be better than the miserable cycle I’d found myself trapped in, of drinking, hangovers and self-hatred.

Soberistas.com is fundamentally a website where you can write and offload, anonymously. It’s an online place where you can meet other people who know exactly how you feel and who will support you in your journey to becoming alcohol-free. It’s a space that you can drop into and ask people to convince you right there and then to NOT go and buy a bottle but to stick to your sobriety instead because you’ll feel so much happier in the morning if you do.

There’s a chat room, a forum and a place to post blogs. There’s an Ask the Doctor service (send the Soberistas alcohol specialist GP, Dr. Julia, your questions and they will be answered and published on the site anonymously), a Book Club (a good distraction for the evenings now that you’ve stopped drinking!), a Member of the Month scheme (vote for the member who you think has made real sober progress or who has offered you amazing support and we’ll send the winner a personally engraved silver bracelet from jewellers, Merci Maman), and monthly expert interactive webinars. There’s also the Soberistas Discount Club where you’ll find a great selection of companies offering exclusive discounts to our subscribers, including DryDrinker, JoggBox and Daniel Sandler make-up. Plus we post motivational and informative features every fortnight that will help you in your goal to stay alcohol-free and healthy.

I set Soberistas up as a way out of the booze trap, an easy-to-access resource that provides a blueprint for how to live happily without alcohol. It was intended to reflect my own experiences of being AF – positive, life changing and the best decision I have ever made, for both my family and me.

If you have any questions about Soberistas please email me on lucy@soberistas.com.

 

Lucy xx

Believing In Yourself As A Person Who Doesn’t Drink

As the sober months have turned into sober years, I’ve become noticeably more comfortable with not drinking. In the early days I did feel self-conscious; I worried that people would feel sorry for me, or simply not want to hang out with me anymore because I was boring. One or two acquaintances attempted to express their heartfelt best wishes and asked (with head cocked to one side in a concerned fashion) ‘How are you feeling now?’ with their hand sympathetically touching my arm.

I must say that more than anything this attitude confused me. We live in a society in which drunkenness is rampant, one in which people (and definitely the ones who asked me how I was feeling), who are clearly alcohol dependent, will drink far more than is good for them on a nightly basis, and yet STILL find it necessary to feel sorry for those who quit drinking the stuff. My response, incidentally, to those professing their sympathies towards me over the fact that I’d quit drinking, was to look befuddled and say ‘I’m absolutely fine thanks – why?’

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What sobriety has taught me is that letting go of old ways does not mean having to alter completely the person you are. One of the most terrifying things I have ever done in life is teeter on the brink of becoming a non-drinker, as I contemplated a world I believed would never be fun again, a place in which I could never let my hair down and an existence which, quite simply, looked bleak right up to the horizon.

But my alcohol-free life has turned out to be nothing like this, not boring at all. It’s just that all the things I failed to notice when I drank (because I was either too hungover or preoccupied with planning my next drink, or simply because I was drunk) now leap out at me. The world switched to Technicolor when I put down the bottle, meaning that all the things I imagined to be mundane when I drank have since become beautiful, vivid, notable and fascinating.

People still often ask me, ‘But don’t you miss drinking?’ And my answer is always this: ‘Alcohol to me isn’t like it is to you. You can enjoy a couple of drinks and happily stop, go home and get to bed. I can’t do that. For me, a couple of drinks always meant a session, lots of drinks, so much booze that I would be sick, or suffer a blackout or fall unconscious. Alcohol made me hate myself, and it made me want to hide away in my bedroom, unnoticed by the world.

But without alcohol I can relax, and feel happy, well balanced and valid. Without alcohol, I can be myself. And so no, I don’t miss drinking at all.’

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.

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.

FOUR Years of Life as a Soberista

Me at the start of a very boozy night - which ended badly as ever.

In April 2011 I awoke one morning in a hospital bed, my clothes plastered in my own cold, congealed vomit. It was an earth-shatteringly terrible moment in my life but one that led me finally to understand that the game was up – I could no longer fight the fight with my long-standing love, alcohol. I have never touched booze since that night, and I’ve come a very long way in almost all aspects of my life as a result.

Fortunate, and I never forget it. I am a lucky bugger. I woke up to the fact that alcohol was at the root of pretty much all the shit in my life. And when I was only thirty-five. I thank my lucky stars almost every day that I saw the writing on the wall and that I read it, understood it with such profound clarity that I was able to indisputably quit drinking for good. Things could have stayed as they were and I may not have ever come to recognise alcohol for what it actually is – a potentially lethal substance that draws you in repeatedly with promises that this time will be different, this time you will be able to moderate how much of the stuff you drink. I was very fortunate to see all of this. I’m very fortunate to still be here.

Over it. It took a while, and many, many books about stopping drinking (thanks Jason Vale, again), and days and weeks of soul-searching, and hundreds of miles of running, and hours and hours of meditation, and untold glorious moments of appreciation for the small stuff, and the love of friends and family, and the interaction with the fabulous people of Soberistas – but eventually, I got over it. I got over booze. I stopped fretting that my life would be dull without it. I stopped missing it when I went out. I stopped not cooking pasta because I couldn’t eat it without craving a large glass of red. I stopped staying in the house at night because I couldn’t face socialising without being off my head on drink. I got over my dependency. My life moved on.

Unrecognisable. In some respects I am unrecognisable from the person I was when I drank. In a lot of ways I am totally changed; I’m fitter, I’m calmer, I don’t live a calamitous life that throws me uncaringly from bad situation to worse situation, I look younger, my priorities are in the correct order, I am in control of my world. In other regards I am the same – stubborn, a bit silly, prone to the odd moment of impetuous behaviour just to get a thrill. But essentially the negative components of my existence have all but disappeared and I am fairly content with how things now look on the landscape of my life. Things have changed a lot, for the better.

Right. Stopping drinking was the right thing for me to do. I never needed it. I didn’t need to quieten my mind, or boost my confidence in social situations, or wipe out emotional pain that would have healed faster if only I had allowed myself to feel it as it occurred. There was no need for me to cover up my personality with that of a loudmouth party girl. I was fine as I was. I didn’t need to force myself to fit into situations that I didn’t feel comfortable in, or to blend in with people with whom I had nothing in common. I would never have been able to moderate my alcohol consumption therefore becoming a Soberista was my only choice if I was to enjoy a happy and fulfilling life, and to do my best to provide the same for my gorgeous girls. I was right to forge ahead with my belief that living completely alcohol-free was a good choice for me. It was the best decision I have ever made.

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The Passage of Time and an Altered Perspective


I was listening to Oasis a couple of days ago, driving through the Peak District with the sun casting shadows over the moorland and my toddler sleeping in the back of the car, her angel face the picture of innocence.

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In my late teens/early twenties I was a huge fan of Oasis. Hearing those songs again that so acutely defined a particular period in my life pulled me into a reverie, and I thought for a long time about the person I was back then, and how the passage of time has dramatically altered my perception on the world.

That noticeably underweight, cocky girl, who thought nothing of walking alone into her favourite pub, ordering a pint of Boddingtons at 2 o’clock on a weekday afternoon, picking up a pool cue and challenging  whoever was loitering at the bar to a game – smoking, drinking, music on the jukebox, a session emerging, boundaries blurred and personalities changed. As the day wore on, the pub would fill slowly with climbers, students and a variety of left-leaning types; alcohol was a broad leveller that drew everyone together, helped get them acquainted.

It seems to me now that I was incredibly naïve back then, even though I was frequently immersed in a dark world where the people I associated with had little self-control and did not operate within the parameters of normal society, the law, or common decency. Many times, neither did I. Instant gratification and a relentless desire to get completely out of it were the order of the day. On the surface we may have appeared to be a group of young people having a good time, but right there beneath the cheerful veneer was a tangled mess of lies, drunkenness and danger.

As time went on, I learnt that people can hurt each other – physically and mentally. I got hurt, and I did my best to handle that. What I didn’t understand in my twenties was quite how ferociously I would come to hurt myself; how low self-esteem and a destructive streak can combine to breed a malignant set of behaviours that feed off each other, nurturing a powerful desire to wipe one’s self out. And as the black thoughts worked away, striving to prevent a better way of life, I failed to recognise that things simply didn’t need to be that bad. For a long time, I just accepted that that was my lot – the hand I’d been dealt.

I am a reasonably private person these days, much quieter, far less cocky. I still enjoy the music of my youth – songs that make me smile when I recall the good times I had listening to them, when a blind faith that everything would work out OK despite my being hell bent on ruining all my chances of happiness, somehow got me through the really shit times.

The major difference in my outlook today is that whereas back then I thought good things would eventually just land on my doorstep, I know now that I control my destiny; every action, word spoken, the care I afford myself, choosing to not drink alcohol or take any other drugs, focusing on positivity, and seeking to discover the good in situations and people, wherever possible, are the things that determine my path. And I worked out that hurtling through life at a million miles an hour, always looking for the easy way out and a good time, is not a recipe for contentment.

I slowed it right down, and concentrated on the positives. I thought more about other people, less about my own insecurities. I worked on my weaknesses. I created a life that would make me happy. And I quit drinking.

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Positive Mental Attitude

Positive Mental Attitude.

We often hear this expression but do we regularly adopt a positive mental attitude in situations where it would really benefit us?

When I quit drinking I was very aware of the negative labels and stigma frequently associated with those who have fallen foul of alcohol and developed a ‘drinking problem’. I remember a friend’s mother when I was a teenager, who would walk slowly but purposefully to the late night Spar shop each evening to purchase her alcohol supplies. Upon leaving the store, we would watch her with a carrier bag full of clinking bottles and cans of super strength lager, feeling a combination of pity and curiosity towards this real life ‘alcoholic’ who lived in our community.

Twenty years later, when I found myself coming to the realisation that I too had run into trouble with alcohol and had grown to depend on it rather too heavily just to feel OK about myself and life, I spent a lot of time considering the future and how things would be now that I’d made the decision to quit drinking. Within a relatively short space of time, I accepted that I was not capable of drinking alcohol in moderation; I had never been able to touch the stuff without being overwhelmed with a desire to get slaughtered, and recognised that this would most likely always be the case. This wasn’t a terribly progressive disorder in my case; rather I drank to get out of it from the very beginning of my drinking years.

So, as I gazed towards my alcohol-free future I saw that I faced a crossroads; stop drinking but don’t really change inside, essentially becoming a ‘dry drunk’ who must grit her teeth and get through every single day feeling terrified that she might lose control and give in to temptation. Or, that I could completely shift my thinking about booze and regard it as something which is toxic, destructive, and a barrier to all that I want to achieve in life. I opted for the latter.

In the early days I did approach sobriety in a ‘one day at a time’ manner, and with the intense cravings experienced in that initial phase of alcohol-free life this is pretty much the only way for many people. But as time went on and more situations arose in which I refrained from drinking, and the better I felt and looked as a result of my new lifestyle, the less I came to see this teetotal business as a hardship and the more I began to love my new AF existence.

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That’s when my perception of the situation began to alter dramatically. I started to view being alcohol-free as something I am really proud of, and thought increasingly less about the fact that I had this apparent lack of an off-switch and therefore ‘couldn’t’ drink alcohol. The fact of the matter was that I didn’t want to drink alcohol, and life without it was a million times better than the one I endured previously – hangovers, embarrassment, shame, guilt; I couldn’t believe I had ever accepted that as a way of life in exchange for a bottle (or three) of wine.

With this shift in thinking, I felt compelled to adopt a healthier way of life generally. I started eating better, running more, and looking after myself in other ways such as getting a  good night’s sleep, pampering myself a little, and ring-fencing a few hours here and there to spend doing the things I really enjoy. Life became, not about being ‘in recovery’, but about being healthy, valuing myself and living as a Soberista.

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With all of this in mind, I am so excited about the up-and-coming Soberistas Run Series event which is taking place on Southampton Common on February 1st 2015. This day is all about Positive Mental Attitude – it’s NOT about a bunch of people who once drank too much, but a bunch of people who love their new alcohol-free lives and want to celebrate this fact with others who feel the same. What better way is there of sticking two fingers up at booze than to run (or walk if you prefer – the route is buggy-friendly and there are a number of distances to choose between to cater for all fitness levels) a few miles alongside fellow Soberistas who are all enjoying living free from its shackles?

All of Soberistas’ profits from the event will be donated to the British Liver Trust, and there will be collection points on the day if runners wish to donate an extra amount. The Soberistas Run Series, I hope, will prove to be a great success, and a step in the right direction for demonstrating that, simply because a person once had an alcohol dependency, this condition does not have to define them for the remainder of their days.

For more information on the Soberistas Run Series, and to register for the event, click on the link below.

http://soberistas.com/page/soberistas-run-series

 

Wake Up & Live

It was all about the evenings when I was a drinker, muddling through the daylight hours with my mind firmly fixed on that bottle of wine waiting in the fridge for me when I got home. Now it’s the mornings I love the most.

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These are just a few of my favourite morning things;

  • Springing out of bed minus a dry mouth and a tongue that feels like it’s been scraped with a scouring pad
  • Experiencing no panic over illness or disease caused by heavy drinking
  • Drinking my first cup of Yorkshire tea and pondering the day ahead (as opposed to being gripped by the fear of what I did last night and can’t remember, and how the hell I’m going to make it through the day with such a God awful hangover)
  • Kissing my girls as they emerge sleepily from their dreams, knowing full well I’ve no dark secrets or shame to keep from their trusting hearts
  • Heading out early as the world is coming to life, feeling a part of the human race and smiling at people instead of scurrying past, too hungover to speak or to care
  • Knowing the day is mine for the taking, with nothing holding me back or keeping me submerged in a miserable booze-fuelled existence
  • Noticing nature all around me, from the bright blue sky to the vibrant greens of the trees, from the butterflies flitting around my garden to the birds chirping overhead
  • Feeling energetic and full of passion for my life and the people in it
  • The gratitude I feel for understanding how much better the world can be without alcohol fogging it up, and for how I found the strength to break free from drinking
  • How my first thought of the day isn’t ‘Oh no, what happened last night?’ but ‘Good morning world, I can’t wait to get at you!’