Happy You, Happy 2017

The thing that really used to drag me down at Christmas was the picture perfect, stereotypical image of what this time of year was all about. It was the beautiful house sitting in a snow-filled garden, sparkling with fairy lights, so inviting. It was the magical relationship, the big, warm family, the presents, the parties, the not feeling different and on the edge of what everyone else apparently had and took for granted. It was acceptance, and being loved – feeling loved and immersed in a busy, fulfilled life.

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And because for many Christmases I didn’t feel any of the above, I would drink myself stupid. From mid-December to January 1st all bets would be off as I anaesthetised myself from the tornado of emotional hurt that I could never stand to feel.

When I consider what has changed now, what it is in my life, or about me, that prevents me from seeking mental obliteration in order to just make it through the festive season, I think it’s this; I am simply OK with my lot. I don’t mind that I don’t fit that ideal we are sold by the tidal wave of consumerism all year round but especially during the run up to Christmas. I don’t mind that I might not have a family that slots neatly into the 2.4 children, husband and wife model. I don’t mind that a few years ago I drank rather a lot and had my share of problems. I don’t mind that my house is not a series of showrooms complete with matching dinner sets and stylish soft furnishings.

I am me. And that’s fine.

Letting go of the desire to be what other people might expect or want me to be has been a major part of allowing myself to finally be happy. That desire is what used to send me half mad and heading to the bottle for a reliable escape from the inevitable pressures. I remember on countless New Year’s Eves feeling inadequate because I wasn’t living the high life, attending incredible parties, looking perfect and able to control my alcohol consumption. And because I couldn’t achieve those self-imposed, ridiculous standards, I would drink. And drink. And drink. And then hate myself some more.

As New Year’s Eve looms large, I’m sure there are people everywhere crucifying themselves for not ‘having it all’. And to those people, I would say this; you do have it all. You have your life, and a whole new year ahead of you with no mistakes yet in it; a blank slate ripe for the taking, a fresh sheet of paper on which to create the life you want, one that fits you and not the rest of the world.

If you want to stay at home on December 31st because you don’t really like parties and socialising in large groups, that’s fine – stay in, watch a film, have a bath, have an early night. If you are feeling sad for whatever reason and can’t face plastering a smile on your face, just be sad. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling. If you’ve only recently stopped drinking and can’t bear the thought of watching everyone, everywhere, getting hammered on alcohol then avoid it all. Do something different, choose to indulge yourself in whatever it is that makes you happy. Buck the trend.

Because in the end, the thing that will make you like yourself the most, is giving yourself permission to be you; to stop chipping away at the essence of whom you are, striving to meet the expectations of others instead of just being; to accept that you have your quirks and perfect imperfections but to love these and know you’re special, exactly how you are.

Christmas and New Year’s Eve can be unforgiving times, but reclaiming yourself, accepting who you are, can amount to the best present you’ll ever receive – living life in a way that’s absolutely true to the person you are inside. Focus on that, and see if 2017 turns out to be YOUR year. I bet it does.

Happy New Year, Lucy xx

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One Tequila, Two Tequila, Three Tequila, Floor…

Flicking through a magazine the other day, I came across a feature entitled, ‘10 Ways to Disguise a Hangover’. The subtitle read as follows; ‘One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor…from hiccup to beauty queen get-up the morning after the night before’. The content consisted of a number of beauty products, ranging from Christian Dior Capture Totale Le Serum Yeux (£77 if you’re interested), Kerastase Chronologiste Perfume Oil (£39), Foreo IRIS Illuminating Eye Massager (£99) and Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Compact (at a rather more affordable £20) – a grand total of £235 for a bunch of lotions and potions that will allegedly diminish the physical side effects of over drinking.

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Hmm. A few things struck me about this article (irresponsible, lazy journalism, predictable to name a few), but the overriding thought I had after glancing through it was this; we are routinely fed one great big fu**er of a lie when it comes to drinking, and specifically, when it comes to excessive drinking.

Alcohol is a toxin. And if you are downing so much of the stuff that you’re hitting the deck (as per the subtitle of the aforementioned article) then you’re really damaging yourself. And yet, we (as a society) seem to have this attitude towards booze that is so hypocritical, ethereal and hard to pin down. It’s not OK to be a drunk – you know that, right? Drunks are bad. But! It’s really fine to drink lots of tequila at a New Year’s Eve gig, fall over, and suffer an almighty hangover the following day…just so long as you disguise the fact with a load of high end products. Confusing, no? Just where is the line drawn?

If I saw a grown adult at a party (NYE or not) drink so much that she fell to the ground, I would find that pretty upsetting. It would remind me of myself a few years ago, when I would drink to excess because I didn’t like myself much and had no confidence in social situations. I would conclude that this person was either a) out of control when it came to drinking and had a dependency upon booze, or b) really depressed about something and was deliberately getting hammered because she wanted to block it all out. Either way, I wouldn’t be laughing.

Then again, if everyone stuck to the recommended guidelines and consumed just one or two drinks at any one sitting, there would be no cause for an article such as this to be written, one that’s basically flogging a load of expensive beauty products and fills a couple of pages of a magazine.

The images on the pages depict sexy, slim and glamorous women, sipping Prosecco in their beautiful designer clothes. They don’t portray a person that represents me as a drinker, staggering about in a pub, scanning the room for half-finished drinks that people have left, slightly overweight due to all those booze calories, flushed skin and eyes that reveal a haunted, unhappy soul hiding beneath the veneer of false, alcohol-induced confidence. No, the women in the magazine are in control, and confident, and stylish. So where, then, are the ones who are collapsing after too much tequila, who might be in need of all those lovely magic potions the next day?

These sorts of articles are, to employ the use of a technical word, crap. They sell a lifestyle that doesn’t exist. They make us think we can be something that is a fantasy – the heavy drinker who cares not; who does not invite the criticism or judgment from those around her; who doesn’t let loved ones down repeatedly because of her alcohol dependency; who doesn’t look like shit because she drinks too much and her poor liver is crying out for a rest.

Approach these features with caution – and, as we venture forwards into a new year, remember that most of the cultural messages regarding alcohol that we’re subjected to are motivated by money, one way or another.

New Year’s Eve – When You’re Alcohol-Free

It’s New Year’s Eve, a night which celebrates the beginning of a virgin twelve months in which we hope to achieve our goals and live out a few of the dreams which fell by the wayside some time during the present year. It is also a night which, for a significant majority of the adult population of the western world, is all about ALCOHOL. So what do you do if you don’t drink? Can New Year’s Eve be an enjoyable occasion when you are stone cold sober and surrounded by drunken revellers?

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Here are a few pointers for enjoying the last ‘event’ night of the festive season, alcohol-free;

  1. Think VERY hard about who you wish to spend this evening with. When you aren’t numbed by the anaesthetizing qualities of booze, you will notice the less appealing aspects of those whose company you are keeping a whole lot more than if you were out of your tree. It would also be a good idea to avoid those friends whose idea of a good night is to drink until they pass out. Choose the invitations you accept wisely.
  2. Make an effort with your appearance. When alcohol ceases to be the main focus of a night out, it’s helpful to zone in on other ‘features’ of your evening to ensure you don’t miss out on the excitement of a big night. Going all out on a fantastic outfit, new hairdo and luxurious pre-party facial will all contribute to your inner feeling of wonderfulness – helped along by your glowing, alcohol-free complexion of course!
  3. Take a few moments before you leave for your party destination to remind yourself why you are CHOOSING not to drink tonight. What happened last time you drank? Did you embarrass yourself, have a drunken row or act in a way which filled you with regret and self-loathing the next morning? Chances are if you decide to drink tonight, you won’t be able to moderate – just as you have never been able to in the past. You chose an AF life because it works for you, so hang on to that thought and feel GOOD about being a Soberista.
  4. Plan an activity that brings you happiness and contentment for the morning of January 1st 2014. While you don’t want to be wishing your New Year’s Eve party night away, it’s good to have a treat planned for the next day, and one that you know will be all the more enjoyable hangover-free. There’s a certain amount of smugness to be had from running in the countryside on the first day of a new year (or doing whatever it is that you enjoy), secure in the knowledge that most people will be lying in bed feeling like shit.
  5. Be mindful of what New Year’s Eve is all about, and don’t get caught up with the notion that alcohol is at the core of all the celebrations. Contemplate the year you have just lived and congratulate yourself on all you have achieved – then look ahead and consider how the next twelve months could be even better. Be grateful for everything you have and spend time with the people you really love, enjoying good food and quality time together.
  6. If all of the above fails to help you see in the New Year with a bang, then go home, put your favourite pyjamas on and log on to Soberistas.com for some support – there’s nothing like a good moan to people who understand to make you feel a whole lot better!

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.