The Rest Is History

Sometimes things just come together. Like a perfect storm. Like it was meant to happen.

This is exactly what happened when I started Soberistas.com – I had stopped drinking, I had acknowledged I COULD NOT drink in moderation and I needed help. And nothing out there in terms of support for people with alcohol dependency issues appealed to me in any way, shape or form. So I set up Soberistas – in partnership with Sean, my business partner and tech man (I’m not techy), during my maternity leave in 2012. We both worked two jobs for a long time, and established Soberistas on a next-to-nothing budget. We had no money to spend on marketing or advertising, but somehow built a community of 20,000 in a year.

A few days ago, another ‘perfect storm’ came to fruition after many months of planning. I’d wanted to set up an online store for a while; somewhere selling clothes that challenged the misconception that sobriety is miserable and sad. Then, in late summer I met a bloke who had set up a social enterprise in Sheffield called Printed By us – the people working there have all overcome major life challenges such as homelessness and addiction and are now retrained in printing. So the two came together to make www.therestishistory.co, my new site. The clothes, mugs and water bottles are all printed by Printed By us, so they look fab and are making a positive social impact at the same time.

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I truly believe that we are in the early stages of a sober revolution, it’s not considered weird anymore to live alcohol-free. Examples: 3.1 million Brits have signed up for Dry January this month; the AF drinks market is booming; I’ve just spent the afternoon in London filming a segment for the ITV show Lorraine – and it’s not about ‘alcoholics’ and the misery of being a boozehound. It’s a really happy, positive piece about the joy of sobriety. Good for you ITV and Lorraine for catching this wave! (The programme will be aired on January 18th.)

The Rest Is History is making clothes for people like me who are proud of their booze-free lives. This is something I firmly believe in; wear your (sober) heart on your sleeve and make no apologies for living this life. You’ll find hoodies and T-shirts to help you feel good about your choice to live AF, and to make you feel good about supporting alcohol and drug misuse charities at the same time (10% of our profits go to such charities). Plus, you’ll find blogs like this one – I will no longer be writing on WordPress but will be posting regular blogs on The Rest Is History – sign up to our newsletter on the homepage and make sure you don’t miss them…

http://www.therestishistory.co

Bye for now…and thanks from the bottom of my heart for all your support. Lucy xx

The Rest is History For Healthy Souls top-12-1

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Addiction Geographical

I’ve been aware of the concept of an Addiction Geographical for several years, the act of moving location in an attempt to try and erase a history of substance abuse. When I first became a single parent and embarked unknowingly into the ‘dark days’ of 2003-2011, I began to dream of moving to Cornwall, France, Spain, Italy, New York City.

I hated where I lived, an old industrial part of Sheffield comprising of rows and rows of terraced houses, back-to-back with shared gardens, no privacy, no open spaces and no big skies. Living there, I found it easy to remain glued to my drinking habit. That place seemed to bring about in me a self-fulfilling prophecy of gloom, reflected in the dark brickwork and blackened alleyways that ran in-between the houses like rat runs. I often imagined myself with a house by the sea, gazing out onto the rolling ocean each morning and being imbued with the abundant salty air and sense of freedom that belongs to the coast.

I never did move away from Sheffield, largely because of my daughter whose dad lived here as well as all her friends. But I wished with my whole heart that I could have left, and I bemoaned my home city to anyone who would listen, unable to find any positives to it.

Winding forward several years and here I am, four and a half years alcohol-free, and fully recovered from my addiction issues of the past. Yesterday I looked out of my bedroom window and noted the vast green swathes of woodland (Sheffield is the only UK city with a National Park within its boundaries and it’s rumoured that there are four mature trees to every person living here), the peacefulness of where I now live and the easy access to the Peak District, and I thought what a beautiful city this is to live in. The desire to escape where I’ve lived all my life (minus a year in London aged twenty-one) has left me completely.

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This made me think: I wasn’t motivated by Sheffield being such an awful place when I was filled with that deep longing to relocate – I was motivated instead by wanting to vacate myself, my own skin, to become a new person, one whose past was not marred by all those mistakes and regrets and shameful episodes arising from alcohol misuse. I deluded myself into believing that I could achieve an instant recovery from my demons if only I moved to a new place where nobody knew me, where I could start again. It’s been hard at times, toughing it out here, being reminded of my drinking past on so many occasions (There’s the pub where I puked my guts up in the toilets, There’s the pavement where I collapsed drunk out of my mind, There’s the house where I pondered suicide and cried rivers). But I’m glad I stayed. It’s been character building. It’s made me stronger. It’s taught me to face up to my mistakes rather than running away. And it’s made me recognise that there is always good to be found in everything – you just need to feel good about yourself in order to discover it.

‘Abstinence Is Bad For You’ -Thoughts On Irresponsible Health Claims

When I woke up this morning I saw that someone had posted an article on the Soberistas Facebook page which was all about a body of medical ‘evidence’ pointing towards abstinence being bad for a person’s health. Hmm, helpful I thought. And promptly deleted it. I’m all for free speech and it’s nice that someone had thought of Soberistas and wanted to contribute a little something to our Facebook page, but these types of articles are just not helpful to those of us who cannot moderate.

As a drinker, if you had shown me literature of this nature I would have seen it as a green light to continue necking wine as though it was water and I had been lying stranded in a desert for days on end. I must not stop drinking – there it is in black and white! I am far healthier if I down booze than not, no matter what sort of scrapes I find myself in as a result, and no matter how much damage I wield upon my poor, alcohol-soaked body!

It is possible to produce findings that support any theory if one restricts their study to a small enough group (for instance, the ninety-year-old man who has smoked fifty fags a day since he was twelve). But there is a wealth of evidence that demonstrates that alcohol consumption which exceeds government guidelines (14 units for a woman and 21 units for a man) is highly detrimental to a person’s health, and is a causal factor in over 200 different conditions and diseases (see WHO Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2014).

Well then, let’s just restrict our drinking to recommended limits and maintain a strict ‘three days off the booze’ policy each week, one could argue.

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OK, let’s get real for a moment. Firstly, how many people do you know who drink alcohol and who consistently stick to government guidelines? I can think of a couple. Secondly, there are many, many individuals who have no off switch. Despite the best of intentions, these people (me included) do not have the capability to stop at one or two glasses but, once started, go on to drink way more than ‘safe’ amounts and subsequently end up in any number of dangerous situations. Alcohol for me (and others in the same boat) is poison – plain and simple. It is a devilish substance that perpetually leads us to a place of shame, embarrassment, debilitating hangovers, irresponsible parenting, thoughtlessness, selfishness, carelessness, and low self-esteem. It is a drug which, when consumed in excess, sometimes results in unintended sexual encounters, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, depression, altered personalities, domestic violence and occasionally, suicide. Alcohol, for those of us who cannot control the amount we consume once we start drinking, is the stuff of nightmares – for us, and all of the people in our lives.

For anyone with an off switch nicely intact, these consequences to boozing are more than likely challenging to comprehend. Some of these people may find it amusing to post articles about abstinence being bad for one’s health on the Soberistas Facebook page (and other online, open forums which have been established for the use of people who struggle with alcohol dependencies and not for those who have no problem in moderating). Should such contributors ever find themselves crossing the invisible line into alcohol addiction or should they become closely entangled with someone else who has a problematic relationship with booze, they probably would not find things quite so amusing or trivial. Until then, I am happy to delete their postings should I consider them unhelpful to those of us who are bravely managing a dependency upon alcohol – that substance which is so prevalent, so unregulated, and so bloody damaging to so many people.

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.

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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.

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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

Thirty-something

It was my birthday a couple of days ago; thirty-nine, the final one of my thirties. The decade began with a party at my old house; a little terraced two up, two down, that I bought upon the end of my short-lived marriage. My thirtieth birthday bash was a fancy dress do, the theme being ‘1970s debauchery’. At the start of the evening there was a power cut and my then six-year-old daughter shone a torch on my face in a blackened bedroom as I applied my make-up and set in place a sleek, bright pink wig. An hour later, fairy lights twinkled in celebration of the electricity supply returning, the music grew louder and the booze began to flow. By midnight I was lying in my bed, a bucket strategically positioned adjacent to my head to capture a seemingly never-ending stream of vomit as my guests continued to party hard downstairs without me.

Birthdays that followed have disappeared amongst the broken memory bank of my drinking days. When I look back on the first half of my thirties, I see a fractured person struggling to keep afloat in a world she didn’t understand, seeking comfort in things that could only ever bring about further damage. I see a woman who had no sense of direction beyond the shortest route to the local pub. I see someone who dragged around a heavy burden of secrecy and shame, who thought she was the only one to fall in between the two polar opposites of ‘responsible drinker’ and ‘alcoholic’.

I see a person emotionally frozen in her teens, whose self-awareness was non-existent, and who could not enter into a social situation without an unbending desire to drink and get drunk entering into her consciousness.

Of all the hopes and dreams I played around with in my early thirties, the one thing I never considered was that I might become a non-drinker. My goals were set far beyond what I was ever going to realistically achieve; I spent too much time existing in a fantasy world with my head buried deep in the sand, wildly in denial about the fact that I was, in fact, addicted to alcohol. The decade that began with an extravagant excuse for a monumental piss up, slipped and slurred its way along in a fog of drunkenness and hangovers, and all the while I was enveloped in a very real belief that I was enjoying myself.

Underneath the façade, however, I knew that all was not well. There were countless moments of blackness, when I was drowning in suicidal thoughts and feelings of wanting to depart from the person I had grown into. I hated residing in my own skin, couldn’t bear the knowledge that I really and truly wanted to be someone else.

Midway through my thirties was the pivotal point in my life when I accepted that I could not, and most likely would never be able to, moderate my alcohol consumption. Realisation of this fact has altered the course of my life forever, turning me into a completely different person to the one I was.

It’s meant that I can have a beautiful relationship with both of my daughters, and has allowed me to explore who I am and where I want to end up in life. Recognising how damaging my dependency upon alcohol was has meant that I have finally worked through issues that had been bottled up for years, bringing emotions to the surface that had never previously been felt.

Understanding and fully taking on board that I cannot drink alcohol and be safe has, ultimately, saved my life.

My thirty-ninth birthday then was a very different affair to my thirtieth. With none of the wild raucous partying of my younger years (not that this is no longer an option because I don’t drink, but it simply wasn’t what I wanted this time around), I found happiness and quiet celebration in the notion that I am now in control of my world. I am a regular person nowadays, with normal emotions and the ability to perceive life accurately and respond to events appropriately. The people in my life are there of my choosing, and I hope they all know how deeply I love them and how indebted I am to them for standing by me during my booze-filled days. They must have seen a glimmer of what lay beneath the mess and destruction left in the wake of all the wine I was drinking, and hung around in the hope that I might one day see it too.

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So now I am at the very start of the final year of my thirties, a time I will never be able to revisit. I intend to fill it full of very happy memories, ones that I can hang on to and smile when I recall them. And always to remember how, despite the first half of the decade representing nothing more than wasted money and an over-worked liver, the second, alcohol-free half has brought me nothing but happiness.

Emotional Intelligence & The Importance of Self-Love

We have layers of emotions, and the deeper they run the more challenging they are to catch hold of. This isn’t scientific – it’s just my experience. I thwarted my emotional growth by drinking alcohol too frequently and in too large a quantity thus by the time I reached my early thirties I wasn’t so different mentally to how I was at age fifteen. Not that I was aware of the extent to which my emotional maturity was stunted when I quit drinking aged thirty-five. However, I’ve learnt a few things in the last three years; I have grown and developed my self-awareness, and I now consider myself to be reasonably emotionally intelligent, or at the very least, my emotional maturity is now in line with my age.

I believe we have the immediate response, an instant reaction to an event or situation, and the one that we can draw on should we possess the ability to stand back and think things through a little. The deeper we dig into our emotional reserves, the happier and more content the person we will become. At least, this is how it works for me. The less obvious feelings are sometimes fleeting and I have to really focus on pinning them down, analysing and then utilising them. The surface response might be anger or jealousy and my subsequent actions would be influenced by these immature and ill-thought out emotions, should I choose to tune into them. But if I can step back and search within myself for the more complex, compassionate and difficult-to-reach understanding of the situation, it will almost always result in a happier outcome for everyone involved.

I was utterly unaware of this when I drank alcohol. I didn’t know I had those inner reserves, the ‘better’ person inside who was able to rebuff more negative reactions and replace them with kindness, self-sacrifice and understanding. I didn’t know anyone had that, and assumed we were all the sum total of our instantaneous, knee-jerk reactions.

It takes effort to find more humanitarian solutions to problems. But like the Dalai Lama said, ”I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction. Yet true happiness comes from a sense of peace and contentment, which in turn must be achieved through the cultivation of altruism, of love and compassion, and elimination of ignorance, selfishness, and greed.” Often these more commendable qualities do not present themselves immediately. Conversely, it takes effort to draw upon them and, in turn, to demonstrate a more compassionate, less selfish attitude towards the people around us.

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Having the ability to do that means possessing emotional intelligence – not reacting like children do, stamping feet and throwing tantrums, but thinking things through. Not acting in the way that we might initially feel inclined to, but searching within ourselves for the kinder, more mature and more compassionate response.

All of this, of course, applies equally to the way we treat ourselves. We can only change our outward behaviour if we alter the way that we handle internally the situations life throws at us – dealing with things in the same way as we always have will simply provide us with identical results. But drawing on our inner emotional strength, believing that we have the power to change, and to think and act differently to how we have routinely thought and acted in the past, takes huge amounts of courage. It also requires a monumental leap of faith.

It’s worth remembering that compassion begins with each one of us, personally. When we are able to master self-love, we will then naturally begin to exercise a more compassionate response to the people around us. Often, if we have misused mind-altering substances like alcohol for any length of time, the process of learning to love ourselves begins with recognising that we too deserve to feel like real human beings. Saying no to a craving and realising that by doing so we are demonstrating compassion towards ourselves, is the very first step in getting there.

It Might Just Be Better On The Other Side…

Soberistas is all about hope and optimism. I’m a bloody-minded bugger at the best of times and when I finally accepted that alcohol and me were never going to amount to a marriage made in heaven, I was damned if I was going to let the stuff beat me any more than it already had.

I was probably a little naïve in the early days of not drinking, not fully aware of how difficult the ride can be when navigating one’s way through the emotional storms and social awkwardness of a new, booze-free life. But still, even as the gravity of early sobriety began to dawn on me, I remained stoically fixed on my original goal; to live happily without alcohol swallowing me up once again.

Just now I was reading on the internet about Robin Williams, and became overwhelmed with sadness as to just quite how a person with so much energy and hilarity and humour can be quietly dying on the inside; how complex we, as human beings are when, with rivers of grief and sorrow reaching every last corner of our insides, we still possess the ability to smile and carry on regardless.

I began to think of the accumulative pain that all the people with whom I’ve come into contact since the inception of Soberistas, have suffered at the hands of alcohol. How many of us have plastered on a smile, faced up to the world after yet another shame-filled and agonising encounter with our common enemy, pretended everything is OK? How many times have we all woken up and thought, I can’t carry on with this any more, the fight is too hard? How many have fallen by the wayside, and continue to do so every day because they are too far down the road of alcohol dependency?

As time has gone on, I’ve been lucky enough to have won my fight with booze, and the associated depression and self-hatred that accompanied my drinking for almost a quarter of a century. But I know I am lucky, and I am immensely grateful that I’ve managed to discover a completely new Me with whom I am happy  – a Me whose shoes fit perfectly, as if they were waiting all along for me to wear them.

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When it’s so very tough to admit to having a problem with alcohol in the first place, the road to recovery can be almost impossible for some people to embark on. But if, with a glimmer of hope and a lot of support along the way, a person can hang on to the notion that life might be better on the other side, there is the possibility of finding happiness. It is possible to start again in life, at any age, and put your old mistakes behind you. The false smiles can become a thing of the past, and happiness can be felt, honestly and truly.

As for Robin Williams and the countless millions who have similarly suffered at the hands of booze and their own personal demons, I hope we can all remember them in order to remind ourselves just how dangerously easy it can be to hide behind a façade, and to work together to try to help anyone who is drowning in the quagmire of depression and substance misuse. Hopefully, in that way, there will be much more optimism and far less destruction of the human spirit.

This is Not A Scientific Experiment

A couple of weeks ago, I changed the passcode on my iPhone. For most of that same day I repeatedly hit the old numbers when attempting to access my phone. By evening, I was getting the code correct about two out of every three attempts. By the second day, I had it nailed and was no longer pressing the old numbers. Randomly, a few days later, my brain shifted back to operate upon its memory of the old passcode – I suddenly remembered I’d changed it and deleted my first, incorrect, effort. Now, I never think of the old numbers and have to really concentrate to remember what they were.

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This little exercise in rewiring the mind made me think about quitting drinking. I had been using the original passcode on my iPhone for just a few months but it still took a while for my brain to adopt the new numbers sufficiently until it was able to act on autopilot. But with regards to drinking, I started that little habit when I was thirteen years old and continued apace until I hit my mid-thirties. That’s twenty-two years of regular and frequent consumption of an addictive substance – and not surprisingly it took a damn sight longer than a few days to put things right.

Over the last three and a half years, I have rewired my thinking patterns completely. How so? I’ve managed this by avoiding alcohol at every turn. In the first year, it was tough. My brain automatically leapt to thoughts of crisp, cold glasses of pinot grigio whenever I felt depressed, stressed, angry or bored. Socialising without alcohol took at least eighteen months to become accustomed to. Reaching the weekend and not experiencing the overwhelming desire to get rip-roaring drunk; that little tradition took a very long time to bypass.

But eventually, and without any fanfare or celebration, I began to recognise how much I’ve changed and how far I’ve come since my last alcoholic drink in April 2011. The immediate reaction of craving booze in numerous situations ceased to occur. Alternative coping strategies opened themselves up to me, and started to become my new norm.

How adaptable our brains are, if we only give them the opportunity to grow used to a new way of living. How reassuring to know that it is possible to be free from the once-tireless chatter of the booze demons, as long as we are able to take a leap of faith and trust that things can, and will, be different.

I am a big believer in total abstinence for those, like me, who cannot moderate their alcohol consumption. By practising abstinence, the brain’s neurological pathways are able to form a whole new set of habits, and over time, these will take root until they are engrained, becoming a part of who we are.

It’s worth reminding yourself that forming new habits will take a little time in order to ensure you don’t throw the towel in when miracles don’t appear instantly – it’s an internal battle worth fighting, though, and one day you’ll wake up and realise things are very, very different.

The Elusive Off Switch

Why Don’t I Have an Off Switch?

I used to ask myself this question a lot as a drinker. I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that other people could manage to enjoy a few drinks, even becoming quite obviously drunk, but then always and reliably be able to count on themselves to call it a night at the appropriate time.

Not me. At two, three, even four o’clock in the morning and with all manner of challenges facing me the following day from the everyday demands of being a mother, to postgraduate level degree examinations, to job interviews, to packing and setting off on holidays, I would regularly be scouring the cupboards in the hope of discovering a long-forgotten bottle. I once happened upon a beer delivery service when a flier dropped through my letterbox; the answer to my prayers, here was a bloke who drove about during the night dropping off an array of alcoholic beverages and packets of cigarettes to all those (like me) who were after ‘just one more’ in exchange for a slightly inflated charge and a drunken display of gratitude.

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For many years I struggled with the knowledge that, on occasion, I went way too far with regards to my alcohol consumption. Regrettable ‘romantic’ encounters, throwing up and destroying yet another carpet, dramatic tumbles ensuing in large, unsightly bruises oddly located around my body – whenever these things happened, I knew I had no off switch. And yet, because such terrible instances did not arise out of every single drinking episode, I was able to reassure myself that when they did, they were one-offs, oddities, freak incidents that could happen to anyone who enjoyed alcohol.

My booze-related accidents were something I accepted as part and parcel of a drinking lifestyle. And in between times, when I did display something akin to an off switch and managed to get myself to bed prior to anything horrific taking place, I comforted myself with the belief that I was, after all, the same as everyone else; I was able to act responsibly, at least some of the time.

For me, drinking was, essentially, a game of Russian roulette. Whenever I picked up the first drink of the evening, I was entirely unaware of how things would pan out. I did not know whether this would be a night when I’d have a few drinks but would then remember that I needed to down some water and go to sleep, because otherwise tomorrow would be hell on earth. I did not know if I would throw caution to the wind and find myself ringing the beer delivery man at two in the morning, holed up in some stranger’s house, smoking and drinking until dawn broke.

I desperately wanted to know why I didn’t have a reliable off switch, but for twenty years I could not simply accept the fact that I didn’t. On my final night of drinking, my off switch finally gave up the ghost. This facility that many people have and which enables them to ‘drink responsibly’ fizzed and popped and eventually blew up altogether. I was like a dog with no concept of having its appetite satisfied – the more booze I could lay my hands on, the more I poured down my neck. And on and on I went, until finally, with the expiration of that little switch, I fell unconscious and wound up in hospital.

I am glad that my little faulty off switch ultimately died for ever. It made everything so straightforward, so black and white. After I quit drinking, I stopped asking myself why I did not have the ability to stop drinking at the optimum point in the night, and instead, threw myself into being a person who just doesn’t drink alcohol. I no longer have to worry whether my off switch will be functioning when I go out socially, and there are no more awful ripples of disaster to have to cope with because it failed to work properly. It’s existence, broken or not, is simply of no concern to me anymore. And that’s the way I like it.

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