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.

dreamstime_m_3072695

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.

Sugar Junkie Makes It Through The Weekend! (Here are the 3 things that helped me beat my cravings)

Writing as a MASSIVE chocolate addict/sugar junkie, I am delighted to announce that I’ve made it through the weekend without any sweet stuff whatsoever. I know not everyone who follows my blog will care whether I’m eating sugary food or not (this is a blog about sobriety, after all) but I am noticing some definite parallels with quitting alcohol and sugar, so bear with me – it might help you deal with addiction, regardless of what the object of your addiction is.

dreamstime_m_17794257

I blogged about my desire to cut out sugar because of a suspicion I had that making myself accountable would work wonders as a means of motivation when temptation struck. And, I have to say; this was the single most effective tool over the course of the last three days in me staying sugar-free. There were a couple of wobbly moments (buying my daughter and sister a piece of marshmallow brownie each, and Sunday evening after dinner which, I realised, is a major trigger point for me in terms of gorging on biscuits) when I very nearly caved in, but because I’d blogged about my month off the sugar, I couldn’t do it. I would have felt terrible for going back on my word so soon after announcing publicly that this is what I was planning on doing until November 8th. I even had a friend suggest to me that it would be fine to have a few chocolate biscuits and nobody would know (I know! Naughty, naughty) but I still stuck to my promise – because even if nobody else would have found out, I’d have known, and I couldn’t be duplicitous in that way.

Second big help: being prepared. On Friday I bought loads of fruit and vegetables with which to make delicious smoothies, and also nuts and medjool dates to snack on when I felt peckish. Because there was always something close to hand that did not include sugar (I know fruit contains fructose but I’m not giving that up – just the refined stuff) I never felt as if I was denying myself. I didn’t go hungry or put myself in a position where the cravings would become too much to handle.

Thirdly, I adopted a mantra, which I repeated in my head every time I felt the sweet tooth sensation creeping up on me: ‘You will feel worse afterwards, if you give in and eat this biscuit/cake/sweet, than you do now’. Somehow, this simplistic message worked. I was able to see the pointlessness of giving into my sugar addiction – all I would be doing is perpetuating the habit, providing relief for a craving that would eventually disappear altogether if I ignored it for a sufficient length of time.

Today I don’t feel remarkably different to how I did on Friday, as I am still suffering from a horrible cold. I don’t think I’ve lost any weight either (it has only been three days!). But I do feel light and free mentally, as that regret over losing control of my food intake is noticeably absent. I feel as though I’m making progress. It’s nice to be back in the driving seat of my body, as opposed to letting a sugar addiction take hold.

To summarise, the three biggies that have helped me to achieve the HUGE goal of not eating refined sugar this weekend are as follows: accountability (blogging in my case, but telling people verbally would work just as well), preparation, and a mantra that I repeated in my head every time a craving hit. If you are joining me in this sugar-free challenge, please let me know what is working for you and how you are feeling. Thanks, Lucy x

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.

375054853_e59b8191cb_z

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.

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.

bed

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.

Sliding Doors

Do you ever wonder where your life may have taken you, had you made different decisions? For me, a large element of learning to let go of my past mistakes has been the understanding and acceptance of who I am today, and how all the choices I have made on my journey to this point have amalgamated to create who I have become.

I have had relationships which would, I’m sure, have taken me to very different places had I remained in them; the boyfriend who I moved to London to live with in my early twenties was an ardent socialite, a lover of debauchery, and not someone who I could imagine I would ever have become sober whilst involved with. My ex-husband, the workaholic, who I erroneously believed to be the love of my life prior to him walking out and leaving me with a broken leg, crutches, our four-year-old daughter and a mad puppy on Valentine’s Day 2003, would only have stunted my emotional and personal development had we remained married, and I am eternally grateful that he left me as he did.

The years that followed his leaving were admittedly awful, the wine drunk far too vast in quantity, but the ensuing depression and dark days were, I believe, all vital ingredients in building my emotional strength and character. If he had stayed, I am certain that I would never have grown as a person, would never have fought and beaten my demons, and ultimately, never have drunk so much that I then considered it absolutely essential that I conquer my alcohol dependency.

sun-through-storm

In the years that followed my divorce, I had relationships with a few men, all of whom were lovely in their own way but none of whom would have helped me find the road to sobriety, self-discovery and finally, learning to like myself. They were all heavy drinkers, and despite their collective disapproval of the multifarious displays of my terrible drunken behaviour, none were brave enough to take on the dragon that was Lucy’s beloved bottle of wine. Had I stayed with any one of those partners, I probably would have drunk myself into an early grave.

In the midst of all that pin-balling from one bad relationship to another, the mornings of self-hatred that evolved into afternoons in the pub and evenings of comatose drunkenness, arguments and hour upon hour of wasted life, the smallest desire to escape my situation began to gain momentum. So insignificant that I didn’t even know it was there for a long time, the seed that grew into a very real knowledge that I must stop drinking took years to establish itself. The boyfriends who were a mistake, the under-achieving at work due to constant hangovers, the inability to move forward in my life and the associated frustrations that arose as a result, gradually amassed to provide the food and water required to nurture my growing awareness.

And one day, there it was – it turns out that all those bad choices were not so bad after all, because in the small hours of a Thursday morning almost two years ago, I woke up and realised that the seed had become a tree. All of a sudden, I recognised how I should be spending my life, and I began to live it. If none of my bad times had happened, if the years of pain and grimness had been erased and left me with nothing but an easy ride, I wouldn’t be here, doing this. No contentment, no new baby, no self-esteem, no Soberistas, no gratitude for my life.

There will always be sunshine after the rain.

Sunday mornings are great when you don’t drink

Reasons why it’s great not drinking 

1. I got up at 6.30am (baby duties) and felt great, even after just 7 hours sleep.
 
2. I gave baby her bottle and then went for a 10K run with the dog. There was  nobody around except us, and we covered three parks, all bathed in beautiful early morning sun.
 
3. I have no regrets from last night, no arguments to undo, no bad behaviour to apologise for.
 
4. No hangover.
 
5. I don’t crave a massive plateful of greasy carbs for breakfast, thus screwing up my healthy eating plan.
 
6. I am not worried about all the money I spent last night, because I didn’t spend a penny.
 
7. My family is all happy and well looked after.
 
8. Even after getting up so early, I look better and younger than I have in years.
 
9. I am happy.
 
10. I like myself.