Quitting Drinking Isn’t Just About No More Hangovers.

You might think quitting drinking is all about just letting go of the drink: swapping wine for water, enjoying fresh mornings instead of horrible hangovers hiding under the bedclothes, and honing a svelte physique to replace the muffin top you’ve been nurturing as a result of all those booze calories. Quitting drinking is all of those things. But it’s a lot more besides…

  • Drinking put me in really dangerous situations with very dangerous people. It masked my innate fear radar, making me bold and reckless, taking silly risks that only by a series of miracles didn’t result in major catastrophe – at least, not very often.
  • Drinking made me run away from my emotions instead of working through them and growing as a human being.
  • Drinking kept me locked inside a teenager’s immature state of mind – all melodrama and narcissism and misplaced priorities.
  • Drinking kept me from my responsibilities to the people I loved. It came before them and prevented me from seeing what really matters, from doing the right thing by all those who loved me.
  • Drinking made me stare into the mirror and hate the person who looked back out. It made me want to crawl out of my skin and escape the very fibre of who I was.
  • Drinking stopped me from aspiring to reach goals and fulfil my potential. It ensured that I always aimed low and persistently knocked me back every time I ever dared to want more for myself.

And what happened to me when I quit alcohol? All of this…

Peace of mind, inner contentment and a sense of emotional balance.

I started putting other people before myself for the first time in my whole adult life.

I began to work hard and believe in myself, knowing that I could achieve anything I wanted.

My ability to be a consistent and reliable parent increased massively.

I could look at my reflection and not hate the person I saw there.

I got really fit and began to enjoy properly hard physical challenges.

I opened up a big desire to learn more, explore more and know as much as possible about the world before I die.

I noticed a million tiny things all around me that I’d never previously paid attention to – a passer-by smiling, a flower, clouds in the sky, a lofty tree, a beautiful sunset…

I didn’t panic at the onset of feeling my emotions.

I learnt to love other human beings fully and with all my heart.

I recognised the power of creativity and fell in love with the buzz of making something that didn’t exist before.

I started to understand my place in the universe and to obtain a deep sense of calm from acknowledging both our significance and insignificance as human beings.

Planning for the future became manageable as opposed to something guaranteed to send me into a tailspin.

I got to know who I really am.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Advertisements

Good Decisions. Consistently.

Stopping drinking does not make life all better. The same old shit will still bug you, and your personality will remain pretty much intact (albeit you’ll probably become less down on yourself and more optimistic about things in general). The curveballs will continue to get thrown your way, and the opportunities that seem so close and within reach will still, on occasion, slip away from your grasp leaving you feeling cheated. Some people will still annoy you; things will still, sometimes, not go the way you want them to.

All of this is true. And yet, I found myself thinking a few days ago, ‘everything goes how I want it to nowadays; my life has become so simple to navigate’. So I started to ponder this a bit, why I had arrived at the conclusion that life is easy now that I’m a non-drinker. And here’s what I came up with.

When I drank, I made a lot of ill thought out decisions. These often did not end with the one initial bad decision but seemed to flow, catastrophically, into a maelstrom of dark consequences. Which, in turn, affected a whole host of other areas of my life, with similarly terrible results. It was the lack of consistency and complete inability to sit back and ruminate on anything that got me into so much bother. (And being drunk a lot.)

Think it? Do it. Feel it? Act on it. Say it. Do it. Think it? Go on and DO IT.

But now, I am calm. I am consistently calm. I’m a thinker. I contemplate. I empathise. I sit quietly with my thoughts before I act upon them.

shutterstock_320882792

This brings positive outcomes because my life is no longer a kamikaze frenzy of drunken behaviour. It’s well thought out. And a word that I keep returning to – it’s consistent. I often say that the thing I love the most about being a non-drinker is the clarity it brings, but I’m also extremely happy about another great benefit of this lifestyle, and that’s the level, steady consistency; the predictability, the lack of surprises. The reliability.

This is a good way to live. You get to plan and live a life that is less Russian Roulette and more Chess. You can think about your next move, and make it when you’ve weighed everything up. Partners are chosen because they’re who you really need and want; friends are made because you have solid things in common instead of merely a love of getting pissed; you can concentrate and apply yourself at work, meaning you give your best and excel. You just make better choices – all the time. Good decisions, consistently.

It’s good, this non-drinking life.

What’s So Great About Not Drinking?

What’s so great about alcohol-free living? Here’s our top 20, taken from Soberistas…

Waking up feeling refreshed

No more fear

Rising self-esteem

No more blackouts

Not worrying that every twinge is liver failure

Losing weight

Liking yourself more

Guilt-free recycling

Meeting other Soberistas

Remembering going to bed

Remembering what you read before going to bed

No more shame

Clear eyes & skin

Being ‘present’ in your own life

More patience

Waking up to a tidy kitchen

Better role model to your kids

More energy to work out

No more self-loathing

Feeling free

The Very First Soberistas Meet-Up, London, January 11th 2014

On Saturday I was lucky enough to be able to meet some of the Soberistas community for real, and it was a fantastic day which I was thrilled to be a part of. It was only 13 and a half months ago when Soberistas.com launched but over the last year and a month, what started as just a small group has grown to be a very large community of truly inspirational people.

th (4)

I think to all those who attended, Saturday’s meeting felt like a group of  good friends coming together – there was no sense of us all only just having met one another, rather we slipped into hugs and conversations as if we had known each other for years. For me, being united in the flesh reinforced the notion that Soberistas is a community built on the foundations of kindness, love, compassion and solidarity.

What did I take away from me on Saturday when I left that very special group of people and ventured back out into the bright but cold January day? I took with me the knowledge that alcohol is one hell of a sneaky drug which can take a hold on ANYONE, no matter their background, personality or class. I took with me a reinforced belief in how the support of those who have endured the same kind of difficulties is the best kind there is. And I left with a warm feeling in my heart and a strong sense of belonging.

I also left the London Meet Up convinced that we are on the cusp of change. The fact that a group of women (and one man, thank you Dr Andrew Langford, CEO of the British Liver Trust) from all over the UK made the effort to travel far and wide to spend the day with one another, sharing their stories and strengthening the community spirit of Soberistas, gives me hope that many more people will come to realise what we already have; that alcohol dependency is a trap from which one CAN escape, and that life without booze can be a wonderful, eye-opening, fulfilling and exciting adventure which anybody can partake in if they are only willing to alter old habits.

I know there are many more Soberistas meet-ups scheduled over the next few months – I will be speaking at the one in York in March, and I can’t wait to meet even more of the fantastic people who have helped build Soberistas. I hope you can make it too.

Lucy x

Soberistas Advent Calendar…

Last week Soberistas.com was one year old. As we neared the end of our first year in operation, we began the planning and implementation of numerous improvements to the site ready for the scheduled re-launch on January 2nd.

Soberistas will still function in the same way, but we will be adding lots of new features designed to help you on your alcohol-free journey, plus we will be unveiling our new-look logo and website design.

10394638286_061e6d105d_z

Throughout December we will be giving you a few hints and clues to the new-look Soberistas.com here on WordPress, so look out for some sneak previews of what you can expect to see on January 2nd 2014!

We are so excited and can’t wait for you to see the new and improved Soberistas.com – watch this space…

Goodnight x

I’ve noticed over the last few months how much I love my bedtime. I do have an extremely busy life and am usually exhausted by the time I make my way upstairs to bed and this could be a contributing factor, but since living alcohol-free I have developed a real fondness for hitting the hay.

Night time used to mean drinking; whether at home or out with friends, when the sun went down the wine came out and bedtime was consequently a drunken affair that I barely remembered in the morning (or I would collapse on the settee where I remained comatose and fully clothed until dawn).

At the risk of sounding a little like an old lady, I now find myself enjoying the entire routine of taking my make up off, putting comfortable pyjamas on and snuggling under the duvet with the low level spotlights creating just enough light for me to read by. When the lights go out I think of all the things I will be doing the next day and feel a sense of happy anticipation for tomorrow, even when there is nothing in particular to be looking forward to. I mentally run over the day I have just had and think of the especially good moments or reflect on the things which perhaps didn’t go as I had hoped.

The dawn of a new you?

This is most likely a totally normal experience for many people but I’m still enjoying the novelty of it – not waking up with a horrible dry mouth at 5 am, no awful arguments or regrettable incidents to agonise over in the dark, early hours when the only company you have is the deeply painful self-hatred that fills every fibre of your being.

I love my cleansers and night moisturisers, my new pyjamas from M&S, the pile of books by my bedside, the feeling of health and freedom of mind and the knowledge that there will be nothing to be sorry for in the morning. I love feeling sleepy, and that the physical and mental tiredness is because I have worked hard all day and pushed myself to be the best I can be. I love knowing that I won’t look like hell in the morning, even if I’m up during the night with the baby. I love thinking of all the lovely people I have in my life.

I love living and sleeping alcohol-free.

Finding Your Way Out Of The Darkness

During my alcohol-fuelled past life I was so ashamed of my little boozy secret, particularly the lonely drinking and the inability to stop once I’d begun, that I covered up the negativity with a hefty dose of bravado and a tenacious refusal to let my hangovers get in the way of life.

Behind the runs I would force myself to go on the morning after a binge, beneath the smiles at work and the heavy make-up to conceal the facial signs of my hangovers, I was completely beset with  agonising emotional pain and heartache caused by what I perceived as my failure to ‘drink like normal people do.’

I couldn’t admit to myself that I had a problem so I was never going to offload my awful secret to anyone else. And so I continued to drink to help forget about the inner turmoil, and I refused to fully acknowledge what I now recognise as a serious dependency upon alcohol.

At my lowest ebb I could barely look another human being in the eye. I stopped caring about the level of harm I was inflicting on my physical self, and conversely I harboured thoughts pertaining to hurting myself and the pointlessness of my life.

For a long time since becoming free of alcohol I haven’t experienced any real depression or sadness as my life has tended to go from strength to strength ever since I put down the bottle. But I clearly remember the weighty burden of depression and how it made making even the simplest of decisions a frightening and exhausting task of epic proportions.

This is why it can be so incredibly hard to make the choice to stop drinking – the short term relief from the feelings of sadness and depression that can be found in alcohol is so tempting in its false ameliorative quality that to find the strength to rebuff it in your darkest of hours is challenging to say the least. And even if you are aware of the negative repercussions of alcohol, when depressed and consumed by self-loathing it is often the intention to inflict further misery on yourself, as opposed to seeking a way out of your depression and into happiness once again.

The thing with all of the above is that if you can find the motivation to stop drinking whilst feeling so low, fairly soon you will notice a lift in your mood and will gradually witness the rejuvenation of your self-esteem. And when this happens, you will no longer have the intense desire to hurt yourself, rather the opposite will be true; you will want to look after yourself and live a happy existence. In not much time at all, the negative blinkers will fall by the wayside and the world will open up to you as a place filled with possibilities and potential, the restrictive, bleak future that you had mapped out for yourself fading into nothingness.375054853_e59b8191cb_z

It is a hugely difficult and brave thing to take the first step into a new life of which you cannot see or even imagine, but it is only the first few footsteps which you will have to navigate in the darkness; once you have made it so far, the sun will come out and shine up a path right before your eyes – a path which you will truly want to follow.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Beware! Virtuous Weekend Ahead

I managed to find a brief window earlier which I utilised for meditation purposes. It wasn’t ideal – the washing machine was whirring in the background and the blinds were open, thus causing me some anxiety that a delivery man/window cleaner/potential burglar might be staring in at me sitting on the kitchen floor crossed legged, eyes closed and looking, if I’m honest, a bit weird. I think I need to find an alternative time and space for this activity…

Things that are niggling me today are; a) my bitten nails and b) my apparent inability to lose the last 5 pounds that will bring me back down to my pre-pregnancy weight. Do these things even matter? Should they matter? Probably not, but I do keep hearing a voice in the far reaches of my head that reminds me of the ‘9 months on, 9 months off’ rule of thumb regarding pregnancy weight gain/loss. My baby was 9 months old 3 days ago.

I bit my nails my whole life until I broke up from my ex-husband; during that awful time, I suddenly grew some nails, lost 2 stone (a bit too much really, but depression and divorce are extremely effective dieting tools), drank like a fish and started eating meat again after 18 years of vegetarianism. That was 10 years ago, and I’m thinking that life moves in cycles because I have now decided to become vegetarian once again (it’s been buzzing in my mind for a while but my recent interest in Buddhism and the horse meat found in burgers and lasagne scandal have pushed me firmly back into the land of Linda McCartney sausages, tofu and Quorn fillets), bitten my nails to the quick and am the heaviest I have ever been when not pregnant.

Despite my belief that true happiness stems from the inside, I know I feel better when I am slimmer; I feel more energetic, my clothes look better and I don’t agonise over trying not to eat cakes, then being consumed with guilt when I ultimately cave in to temptation. Likewise, my nails make me feel happier when they aren’t chomped down to a couple of millimetres in length, the cuticles are tidy rather than being scraggy and torn, and I haven’t got my fingers clamped between my teeth for most of the day like some demented nervous nelly.

So, I have just ordered some stuff from Amazon that is supposed to strengthen weak nails and encourage their growth, and I am embarking on a more structured attempt to lose those last few pounds. If I am miserable as sin then these external factors won’t make a jot of difference to my emotional wellbeing, I know that; but if I am happy as well, then having nice nails and being slimmer can only serve as the icing on the cake, surely…

How to go about the weight loss then? I need to step up my running – the cold weather and snow have knocked my running regime off a little in recent weeks and I seem to have lost my determination and motivation a little. BUT I have a 10K race coming up in a couple of weeks and I really need to increase my mileage. I’ve placed an embargo on cakes, biscuits, white bread and basically anything rubbish and fattening for the foreseeable future, and I am kick-starting my weight loss effort by eating mostly fruit and veg over the coming weekend. I also need to drink a LOT more water (again, this is down to the cold; in the summer I drink gallons of the stuff but in winter I crave tea and coffee. My plan to combat this is to drink hot water with a slice of lemon in it).

glass of water

This weekend, then, is suddenly looking very virtuous – no cakes, lots of exercise, and meals consisting mainly of fruit and vegetables. Also, a spot of meditation that doesn’t take place on the kitchen floor with the washing machine providing the background noise, no mobile phone or laptop in the bedroom at night, plenty of reading instead and no nail biting.

Let’s see if any of that makes a difference to how I look and feel…

Happy New Year!

I am not the party animal that I was in my youth. Long gone are the days when I would buy a ticket in October for an all-nighter New Year’s bash, costing around £50, only to get completely out of it by about 11pm, thus never being able to recall whether or not I had actually enjoyed the night or not. I remember a few New Year’s house parties which started out as brilliant occasions, full of friends, fun and lots of alcohol, but all ended in some disaster or other (one springs to mind immediately, when me and a friend shaved off a male guest’s fairly long hair at about 3 am (with his consent, I add), only to show his new look off to his wife who proceeded to have a fit of the histrionics, accusing us of making her husband look as though he were in receipt of chemotherapy. The whole party then joined in the slanging match for a good couple of hours, before everyone staggered home in the early morning light to sleep it off. The husband wore a hat constantly for the next couple of months). wine

The first New Year’s Eve do that I went to as a drinker, aged somewhere in my mid-teens, I became the ‘girl who cries at parties.’ I have absolutely no idea as to what I was crying about, but do remember heaving over the toilet bowl for a while before finding some kind bloke who put his arm round me and attempted to force strong, black coffee down my throat. I remember nothing else. After sleeping it off, I awoke in the morning to find that I had inadvertently become the talk of the party, a strange girl (I had been invited by the two sisters who hosted the bash, but knew no one else there) who had spent hours on end gasping and dripping snot all over the shoulder of their mate who had kind of missed the party because of me. Apparently prior to that, I had also thrown a beer over some other bloke’s head who tried to snog me under the mistletoe, but whose advances were not, it would seem, particularly sought after.

It will probably come as no surprise to you then, when I tell you that I haven’t bought a hot ticket for a posh do somewhere in town tomorrow night, but am instead staying at home with my girls. This is not because I no longer wish to socialise now that I no longer drink alcohol, but because from experience I know that most people (read, people who drink) view NY Eve as an occasion which warrants getting lashed, and I do hate being around people who are hammered.

So, in continuation of our little routine that we followed last year, my eldest daughter (almost 14 and therefore this could potentially be the last New Year’s Eve that she wishes to spend with her old Mum) and me will be baking Nigella Lawson’s chocolate orange cake, which is heaven on a plate, and intended to serve about ten but easily polished off by two greedy girls enjoying their own private NY party. As that culinary delight bakes in the oven, we will get stuck into a load of beauty treatments; manicures, pedicures, facials and cucumber slices on our eyes and laugh at some really awful celeb magazines. And then, cake semi-cooled but warm enough to still feature its pièce de résistance, the molten, gooey, utterly delectable chocolate orange centre, we will stick Jools Holland’s Hootenanny on the TV and stuff our faces – marvelous.

This little party of ours also has the advantage of allowing for a meaningful New Year’s Day, rather than one spent, as I have done frequently in the past, with the mother of all hangovers, periodically throwing up and lying in a darkened room wishing that the train would stop running over my brain. I love the sentiment of the first day of a new year, a whole fresh 365 days, plain and untainted, free to do with whatever you choose, and so I value being with it sufficiently to enjoy it.

Whatever you do, I hope you have a great night, and a fantastic 2013.

All or nothing

I am a Libran, although have never held much faith in astrology as I am one of the least balanced people I know. I do not do moderation; everything is full throttle, all or nothing, Spartan or full blown luxury, pouring with rain or dry as a desert.

In some respects, that has helped me stay sober, but it also helped lead me to the place where I ended up, prior to quitting drinking; at least a bottle of wine a night, and virtually every social occasion ending up with me drunk and passing out. I remember going skiing with a friend a few years ago, and getting up at 7 am each day to spend eight hours on the slopes, before getting stuck into the après ski at 7 pm and boozing until 2 or 3 am. We maintained that pace of life for the entire week; healthy, fit and active in the daylight hours, completely out of it and chain smoking for most of the night. That was a microcosm of how I used to live.bright_sunrise_breakwater_beach

Being a person who has routinely entered into everything in a full-blown, give-it-all-I’ve-got kind of way, or who hasn’t bothered entering into it at all, has made this whole sober living business reasonably simple for me. Over Christmas, there was never a point where I thought I could just have one glass of Champagne, because I knew that it wouldn’t have ended there; one glass for me would inevitably have led to the entire bottle, my brain whirring away at a hundred miles an hour as it attempted to plan how I could manage to get hammered without anyone noticing. Foolish thoughts, the thoughts of an addict, but very real and most definitely guaranteed to take place as soon as a few drops made their way into my bloodstream.

And so, in that respect it’s easy; it’s a case of have a glass, drink the bottle, fall over, pass out, hate yourself, argue with someone/everyone, say stupid things, act like an idiot. Or, alternatively, drink something with no alcohol in it and do none of that stuff – a clean, straightforward, simple decision and one that I always take these days.

In other ways, it isn’t easy at all – there are occasions when those around you are getting drunk and letting their hair down and you feel as though you are a little too straight-laced, too conscious. There are times when it seems as though it is the correct way to behave; having a drink and acting all tipsy – Christmas and weddings being the two that instantly spring to mind – and being a non-drinker has the effect of making one stick out like a sore thumb, sobriety becoming a defining characteristic that you would rather people didn’t notice about you. But then it once again boils down to the above choice, and I am left with no choices at all – being the sober and straight one is infinitely more appealing than being the passed out inebriated one.

When I drank, my life tended to undulate in an entertaining (lively and slightly wild, not usually in a positive way) and often destructive pattern of highs and lows, peaks and troughs; swinging wildly from this situation to that, always some drama to contend with and some fallout to tidy away. Living without alcohol means that there is none of that – life is simple and rhythmic and controlled. And I prefer it that way. It also occurs to me that I could harness that very un-Libran quality of mine and use it to achieve some pretty impressive personal goals; if I throw myself into (for instance) running, with the same level of gusto that I once applied to drinking alcohol, then I could become better than I ever imagined that I could be, at that and boundless other ventures.

Food for thought for 2013…