I’m Running The Sheffield Half-Marathon Tomorrow!

Sixteen years ago I ran the Sheffield half-marathon. I was twenty-five years old, fairly new to running and still a bit of a boozer. I ran the race in two hours and twelve minutes, which I was pretty pleased with considering that only a year before I couldn’t even run a mile.

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Tomorrow, I am running the same race for a second time. I’m now forty-one years old but haven’t touched alcohol for six years and feel the fittest I’ve ever felt. Despite this, I was a bit worried that I might not stick at the training so I set up a Just Giving page to raise money for the Pink Ribbon Foundation, and I am so pleased that I did. Loads of people have sponsored me and their support has really pushed me when I’ve felt like giving up.

There are similarities in training for a race and quitting drinking, the most obvious to me is that by making yourself accountable you improve your chances massively at success. There’s also the fact that you’ve set yourself a challenge and, if you are anything like me, it’s way too disappointing to sack it off midway and just give up. Wasting all that effort, going through the initial pain for nothing, feeling such disappointment in yourself for not making it to the finishing line…all of those things act as motivating forces when times are tough and you’re tempted to throw the towel in.

Setting yourself a challenge like becoming alcohol-free or running a long way is also an effective means of proving to yourself that you can do whatever you put your mind to. Who says you’ll never manage to get sober? Who says you’re not fit enough to run thirteen miles? You can do whatever you want to if you put your mind to it, and achieving those goals is all the reinforcement of this message you’ll ever need.

Today I’m relaxing and eating lots of carbs, drinking loads of water, and getting myself ready for a pretty tough run tomorrow. In the morning, I’ll be thinking of all you amazing Soberistas who have supported me by donating money to the Pink Ribbon Foundation and using those happy thoughts to help power my legs up those Sheffield hills! Big thanks to all of you, Lucy xx

PS. A supporter of mine and of Soberistas has also been doing his bit for another charity by writing some brilliant books with his 9-year-old son – all proceeds of which go to the National Autistic Society. You can buy the books here.

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Sometimes It’s The Little Things…

After an extraordinarily stressful couple of days, I just went for a run. I passed a bench, erected by someone in remembrance of a loved one. The wording on the bench said the person’s name, and the years of their life (just 54 years) and then, “Stop. Feel the sun”.

I stopped, I felt what it is to be alive. I stared at the inscription. I breathed. I ran.

About a mile further on in the woods, I took a break from running to wait for my dog who had paused to sniff around in the bushes. After a while, she looked up and noticed how far ahead I was, and set off at a fair old pace to catch me up. The air was cold, my breath hung in it briefly when I exhaled. I bent over, putting my hands on my knees and waiting for my dog to catch me up, her tail wagging, tongue hanging out of her mouth.

And it was the most alive I’ve felt in a long time.

Sometimes it’s the little things…

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Happy Birthday Soberistas x

Soberistas.com is three years old. Today, thousands of people belong to this online community, which started out on November 26th 2012 as just a couple of hundred members posting blogs and comments and nervously wondering what would happen next…

Soberistas has been a major part of my own story of recovering from an alcohol dependency that eventually put me in hospital. When I set the site up, I genuinely had no idea that so many people felt exactly how I did – people from all walks of life; men and women, from England, America, Canada, Australia and so many other countries in between.

Gradually, this community has increased in size and strength, and over the last three years we have come to represent a viable resource for those drinkers who want to become alcohol-free but who need a bit of friendly support in getting there.

The things that helped me personally become happy, and therefore to stay happily off the booze, are detailed below, because I wanted to share them again for the benefit of anyone who is in that desperately dark place that I once was, back in the spring of 2011. But before I go on to explain what has helped me get and remain sober, I think it’s important to state why it’s worth putting yourself through the challenge of stopping drinking. What are the benefits of becoming alcohol-free?

Well, here’s what I’ve gained in the last four and a half years:

  • My self-esteem
  • A love of life
  • An appreciation for EVERYTHING I have, and for all the people I am lucky enough to have in my life
  • Confidence
  • A job that I love
  • Lifelong friends
  • New experiences, travelling and taking up different and challenging opportunities
  • Clarity
  • Thousands of mornings, clear-headed and hangover-free
  • Quality time with my children, free from the guilt-ridden anxieties over my drinking that plagued me so much in the past
  • Becoming a published author
  • A life free from a daily dread of developing liver cirrhosis or cancer caused by my alcohol consumption and smoking habit
  • Finally knowing my own mind and what makes me happy – and what makes me tick

The stuff I did to help me become firmly established as a Soberista all stem from the first, extremely important (and perhaps obvious) starting point: I didn’t touch alcohol at all once I decided to quit. No cheeky little glasses of wine because it was my birthday, no sneaky halves of lager when nobody was looking. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

This was vital to my long-term sobriety because it enabled me to develop a completely clear head, free from all the negativity and confusion that arose from the excessive alcohol I once consumed.

I got fit and found other things to do with my time. This prevented me from getting bored, it gave me the mental lift and escapism (especially running) that I had previously attempted to obtain through alcohol, and it boosted my self-esteem, which in turn helped me to realise that I did actually deserve a life that wasn’t coloured by the terrible consequences of my drinking.

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I discovered gratitude. I started to think positively about my life, and focused on the good bits instead of the crap parts. I recognised that actually, I was very lucky, and had a lot that was worth living for.

I spent time in the countryside and indulged myself in nature. This helped me to put my problems in perspective and reminded me that we are so small in the grand scheme of things, our lives are so fleeting, and that ultimately, we should be grabbing onto life with both hands and living it to the absolute max – rather than wasting it in a drunken haze, routinely floored by self-hatred and shame.

I reached out to people and opened up. I admitted to people that I had a drink problem. Again, sounds simple, but I stopped pretending that it was normal to pass out and blackout and embarrass myself terribly.

I repeatedly told myself that This Too Shall Pass. When the going got tough, I stuck it out. I persevered. I never gave in. I believed in better. And eventually, things got better. Much better.

I meditated and practised mindfulness. I made a concerted effort to live in the here and now. To focus on today, instead of worrying ceaselessly about shit that hadn’t happened yet, or shit that had happened and of which I could do nothing to change.

And so, here I am. Sober, happy; a happy Soberista. Thank you to all those inspiring people out there who helped me find this life free from alcohol. And to anyone who wants to be a Soberista but who hasn’t got there yet – if I can do it then so can you. This sober life is a vast improvement on a drinking life, for anyone who can’t moderate his or her alcohol intake. Good luck. xx

What Lies Beyond?

What lies beyond that obstacle, the one that prevents us from making real and lasting changes? The obstacle that takes residence in our hearts and in the pit of our stomachs, the one that governs our actions and holds us back in a place that, while familiar, is not necessarily where we want to be. The fear that stops us growing and moving forward in our lives can be almost tangible; I am aware of it festering in my whole being at times, and it can be an almighty challenge to ignore it, refuse to bow down to its demands and ultimately, to overcome it.

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I’ve been frightened of so many things throughout my life but my biggest fears have arisen when I’ve been contemplating quitting bad habits – alcohol and certain boyfriends, primarily. I have often been virtually paralysed by the dread of what lies beyond that which I know, the thing that may have been causing me so much pain, but the thing that I am familiar with. Better the devil you know. The comfort of not changing can be so enticing that we are frequently rendered incapable of taking a leap into the unknown and embarking upon a new way.

This is how I look at things now, largely aided by my successful mission in stopping drinking (I always say to myself, if you could do that, you can do anything!). I ask myself first, what will happen if you do not see this person/eat that bar of chocolate/any other behaviour that I am trying to not engage in? Will the world end? Will I crumble? Will anything around me change in any way at all? Will I be in danger? Will my children be badly affected? Will there be any catastrophic consequences as a result of me not doing this thing? The answer to all of these questions is, obviously, No. Nothing will happen. I will sit with an uncomfortable feeling for a few minutes, yes, but that’s it. The sky will not cave in. I will not spontaneously combust.

These emotions, the slightly edgy, raw feelings that come from just sitting with a craving, will reoccur, several times, maybe for a few months, intermittently springing up out of nowhere and making us feel unpleasant for a matter of minutes. But that’s it. That’s all that will happen.

In the midst of those unpleasant feelings, I now try to find the space to sit down in a quiet room, breathe deeply, focus on whatever the behaviour is that I am trying to stop, and to bring back a sense of calm and order to my headspace. Or I go for a run in the woods and listen to music. I have learnt not to allow the spiral of discontent and negativity to erupt within me and send me into a whirlwind of bad thinking. It never helps. It never did.

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Eventually, with a little bit of patience and time, bad habits and unhealthy behaviours can be relinquished to the past. Without hardly realising it, you can find yourself in the place that you were so frightened of initially, the place where the unhealthy relationship, the drinking, the overeating, no longer lives. And when you get there, you’ll wonder why on earth you were so terrified of making the shift.

Letting Go of the Fight

I’ve decided that from now on, I’m going to put my body first, to prioritise it over my mind. I realised recently that I’ve never done this, not consistently. Everything I have ever desired I’ve generally succumbed to, and over the years I’ve not taken especially good care over my body.

Me graduating, amidst an ocean of booze.

Me on my graduation day in 2010 – the beginning of a massive drinking session.

The light bulb moment happened the other morning when it dawned on me that I’m not (oh God!) 38 years old, but am actually ONLY 38 years old! Wow, I’ve still got a lot of living to do and I’m not about to receive my bus pass any day soon. With this happy moment of clarity came the recognition that it is not yet too late to get fit, really fit; to push myself to see just how far I can go in the realm of physical fitness and optimum health.

In the last few days I’ve been aware of the flicking of a switch – I feel completely in control of my life; of what I eat, of achieving my goals, and of staying positive and focused. Everything seems to have fallen into place after years of trying (and failing) to really tone up, to really get fit and to reach the weight I have really wanted to be (but have nevertheless always remained just a few pounds above).

How did this happen?

First off, I read this article on MindBodyGreen – http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-14554/why-trying-to-burn-calories-is-a-waste-of-your-time.html

This made so much sense to me. How many times have I been running with the mind-set that it will get rid of the calories obtained via a bar of chocolate I ate earlier? How long have I held the belief that I can eat whatever I want because I run four times a week? And how many times have I been really cross that, no matter how much I run, I never seem to be able to get rid of those last few pounds? The MBG article really got me thinking – the food I’m going to eat from now on will be fuel; tasty fuel, but fuel nonetheless.

I've always loved my running, even when I equally loved the booze, fags and sugar

I’ve always loved my running, even when I equally loved the booze, fags and sugar

Then came the grasping of a very important concept (which incidentally I managed to get my head around eventually with alcohol but which has taken a little while longer re food); junk food, chocolate, white bread and other products which serve no nutritional purpose at all and contain high amounts of sugar (very addictive), never grant us the outcome we are hoping for when we select them for a meal or snack. They are emotional foods, and we crave them because we are striving to feel a certain way. Except these foods never deliver – that feeling we lust after is a delusion. Chocolate doesn’t make us feel luxurious and satisfied; it makes us want more and more, and then we feel a bit sick and gluttonous, wishing we hadn’t eaten any of it. Alcohol (at least, for all those of us who are devoid of the infamous off-switch) is exactly the same. The sexy, carefree and exciting social occasions I was seeking when I took a sip from the first glass of the night, very rarely materialised. All I usually got was the transformation from me to a wine-crazed idiot, followed by regrettable decisions and an almighty hangover the morning after.

Another massive realisation; all those good foods we are told we should eat, we can’t really fit them in ON TOP of all the crap. It’s not alright to munch through a pizza and garlic bread for dinner simply because we attempt to mitigate the situation by eating a handful of grapes afterwards. The thick-cut white bread cheese sandwich is not made less fattening because we have an avocado mid-afternoon. That just means we are eating MORE! We need to eat the healthy stuff INSTEAD of the rubbish.

Finally, and the most important, ‘OK, I get it’, moment that I have experienced in the last few days; if we perceive our changed behaviour as being positive, then it becomes EASY to maintain. I have spent decades fighting the booze, wrestling the bad foods, attempting to moderate this and that, squeezing in a bit of the good stuff to outweigh the bad, believing that ultimately, I can gain control over these addictive substances; that somehow I will emerge as the winner even though I am STILL smoking, drinking and eating a load of junk.

Here’s how I see it now – I have let go of the fight. I’ve put down my gloves and I’m not entering into the ring with addictive substances anymore. I get it; they are not controllable.

Alongside this understanding has come blessed relief – the same sense of freedom that I gained out of choosing to completely bypass alcohol has arisen out of this new decision to favour my body over my mind in terms of exercise and food. I think I did need some guidance, and I’ve found a degree of it in a brilliant running book (Runner’s World Guide to Road Racing by Katie McDonald Neitz) which includes information on the right foods to eat, and exercises to do with weights and a stability ball. I’ve also begun attending regular classes at the gym (something I have frequently avoided because ‘I haven’t got time’).

Me now, minus the internal struggles

Me now, minus the internal struggles

I know why I used to seek comfort in things that were bad for me, and it’s taken virtually my entire adult life to work it all out, but it feels amazing to know that I have finally gained a sense of control. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything, just that now I can stop fretting about how naughty I’ve been for eating a piece of cake. For me this is definitely an all or nothing game – with everything that is addictive. But it’s also about being able to perceive my new lifestyle choices as positive, as opposed to them equating to the denial of treats.

What I have realised (finally) is that eating well, exercising regularly, and not drinking or taking other drugs, is NOT about being some image-obsessed gym nut with an urge to transform herself into the body beautiful – it is about letting go of the fight. Plain and simple. Attempting to control addictive substances, whether alcohol, nicotine, cocaine or sugar is just crazy – it isn’t doable. At best we can impose a strict code of conduct which we then strive to abide by (only drink at the weekends, never more than one bottle at a time, only smoke when we go out, no cakes unless it’s a special occasion), but all this does is take up valuable and irreplaceable time, overthinking and worrying about whether we can live up to our own exacting standards (then beating ourselves up when we fail).

In letting it go, walking away, refusing to take part in this game, we are granted with our own freedom. Why fight against ourselves? Our bodies are designed to work brilliantly if only we steer away from the crap that messes us up. After 38 years on this earth, I do now get it. Everything that makes us feel bad, regretful, unhappy and guilty should be avoided completely. And the stuff that makes us feel the opposite, we should partake in – in abundance.

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

 

Desperately Seeking A Natural High

When I drank alcohol I did so because I perceived booze to be an effective way to lift me out of my current situation. That may sound simplistic but essentially it’s the only reason why anyone would drink alcohol – it’s a mind-altering substance, ergo, people drink it in order to alter their minds. (If that wasn’t true then people would only drink alcohol-free drinks thus avoiding the potential negative health consequences of alcoholic beverages.)

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to escape reality. We do it all the time via a variety of alternative means; watching films, reading books, engaging in sports, and through consuming alcohol and ingesting other drugs. Much of the human experience revolves around plodding through somewhat mundane obligations while looking forward to enjoying whatever light relief we choose to engage in during our spare time.

My problem (and that of countless others) with choosing alcohol as a method of escape arose out of the fact that drinking brought about a miserable parallel reality, as opposed to the brighter, happier, more fun life that I imagined it would give me. Ever the hedonist, I perpetually opted for instant gratification over long-term happiness. Alcohol artificially made me happy for a short period of time, but then took vast amounts from me and my well-being as payment. The ratio of happiness to misery was woefully imbalanced.

As a drinker I failed to see that almost my entire existence was spent under the cloud of booze, one way or another; either I was drunk, hungover, or excited about drinking again. The sum of all this alcohol-related thinking amounted to an inability to perceive the world clearly. Crucially I failed to grasp that my whole personality would be different without alcohol thus the crutch that I so heartily believed in would no longer be required as a way of making it through life.

Without alcohol in my world I, and all those other people who have kicked the stuff out of their lives, am without an instant escape route from life. However, with all the ponderings and emotions and hopes and fears that we all experience on a daily basis, it’s natural to crave a break from ‘the norm’ from time to time. If you choose to quit drinking alcohol then I believe you have to find something which serves that same purpose (i.e. escapism), only without the negative consequences that crop up when (like me) you are bereft of a functioning off-switch.

I consider this to be a simple case of arming yourself with the right ammo to win the sober fight long term. You just need to work out what it is that lifts you out of your reality for those occasions when you feel the need to take a break. Even if the act itself only takes a couple of minutes, if the effect is powerful enough then it can be sufficient to alter your state of mind for a few days, if not weeks.

The best films in my opinion are the ones that make you feel differently about yourself and the world. You know the ones that make you feel like impersonating the life of the protagonist for a while (that is, until you remember that that was Hollywood and this is your regular existence and when you act in that way all your friends think you’re just plain weird so you resume the old you, pronto)? Those kinds of films are excellent for temporarily altering your state of mind. Carlito’s Way has this effect on me, as does Thelma and Louise.

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Some novels can do the same – they fire you up and create an inner determination to be different to the way you’ve always been.

But for me, the best, most effective methods of elevating myself from everyday life come in the guise of fast and exhilarating sports; skiing, skydiving, zip-wires, running in the rain. These are the things that help the most. Their impact on my state of mind lasts far longer than the time it takes to scrub the mud off my legs in the shower afterwards.

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I don’t always find the time to do these things, especially after having my second baby. It was so much easier to pick up a bottle of wine and throw it into the supermarket trolley, but that attempt to achieve a quick respite from life pretty much always resulted in tears.

After any of the above activities, I have never ended up with anything other than a big, fat buzz and a smile on my face.

Conquering a Mountain

Three years ago I wouldn’t have thought I was capable of running up a mountain that rises more than 2000 feet above sea level. Then again neither would I have considered it possible that I might one day not only stop drinking alcohol but also feel great about making such a decision.

This morning at 6 am I was eating a bowl of muesli by way of sustenance to get me up the mountain outside our holiday cottage. By 7 am, we were jogging through a field of cows with the sun casting a beautiful rose-tinted early morning glow all across the valley and rugged peaks laid out before us.

As we jogged upwards through the bracken and occasional sheep, the white houses in the valley bottom growing smaller with every step, I thought about how running up a mountain is similar in many ways to the process of becoming alcohol-free.

There’s the hard slog at the foot of the ascent when your legs are growing accustomed to the challenge and the summit is nowhere to be seen – just arduous sidestepping through muddy fields, trying to avoid cow pats and rocks whilst feeling somewhat apprehensive about what lies ahead.

As you get into your stride, the terrain gradually transforms from farmers’ fields to rugged mountainside with bracken and boulders all around, and the steep incline becomes more real – you suddenly comprehend the task before you, acknowledging that this climb is going to take every last ounce of strength you can muster. It’s tough going; head down, eyes trained to the ground, focus, focus, focus.

Occasionally you stop and turn around to catch a glimpse of how far you’ve come and even though the view isn’t yet at its optimum you know what’s coming – the hint of what awaits you at the summit is enough to keep bolstering your efforts and drive your feet further forwards. So on you go, beginning to feel the sensation of achievement.

At the top you get your reward; lying all around is the most fantastic spectacle, you can see for miles. You’ve never known such clarity, the skies are bright blue, the sea is just visible in the far distance and the world has regained some perspective – the little things you worried about are no longer an issue and the stuff that really matters is suddenly obvious.

Lucy Harter Fell

At the top of a mountain, life makes sense.

Summer Running

I did not feel like running much earlier on today – 28 degree heat, a long day working and a desire to throw myself in front of the TV with a plate of biscuits were just some of the obstacles that stood between me and my fitness, but I forged on and did it anyway.

I remembered this quote from Muhammad Ali, “I hated every minute of training but I said ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now & live the rest of your life as a champion’” which is somewhat reassuring I find; if he hated training and yet achieved what he did, then there exists living proof that mind over matter works. I might not be aiming for world class athleticism but I am still striving to be the best me that I can be.

There is a big and gorgeous park at the bottom of the road on which I live and when the weather is good, hundreds of people decamp onto its vast expanse of grass, set up disposable barbecues, crack open a few beers and act as if they are on holiday. It has a nice vibe and the drinking never spills out of control – at least not whilst people are in the park, perhaps later on when they make their way into town somewhat the worse for wear (as I used to do, once upon a time).

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I was listening to a varied selection on my iPod from The Beatles, to MGMT, to Morrissey, to the Happy Mondays (as you can tell, my music tastes are bang up to date) and dragging the dog along beside me, her tongue scraping the floor as she desperately attempted to enjoy this run, something she’d been looking forward to all day but was now finding a little uncomfortable and way too hot.

I ran into the the park, just as ‘Kids’ by MGMT came on my iPod and the sun was burning down on all these people enjoying life and being with each other, and the dog was doing her very best to keep up with me as she panted away like a steam train, and my speed picked up and I was truly in the moment, arms working hard, total rhythm going on…and I filled up with tears that sprang out of nowhere. They stemmed from happiness, and from the amazing world that we live in, and from how grateful I am that I finally, somehow, worked it out that you don’t get this feeling, ever, when you drink alcohol.

It was joyous, and I felt totally alive.

Open Letter to Anyone Thinking of Giving up Booze this January

I’m 37 years old and have struggled with depression, anxiety and the odd panic attack throughout the last twenty years of my life. My nerves frequently got the better of me, and my obvious lack of confidence in work and social situations held me back and prevented me from fulfilling my potential for many years. If you had asked me to describe my personality a couple of years ago, I would have responded with a jumbled, insecure answer; unsure of who I really was, full of pretence as to the person I wanted to be, knowing that inside I didn’t particularly like myself but not fully realising how to change. All of that stopped when I quit drinking alcohol in April 2011.

The dawn of a new you?

The dawn of a new you?

If you have a sneaky suspicion that alcohol is controlling you a little more than you feel comfortable with then read on – this may be the first step you have subconsciously wanted to take for a long time.

If you binge drink and subsequently get drunk a lot you will, whoever you are, occasionally make an idiot of yourself. You will say stupid things, have unnecessary arguments, fall over, lose your phone or handbag, text someone who you really shouldn’t, make sexual advances towards a person who is, how shall I put this..? Not quite at your usual standard. You may even put your safety at risk, walking home late at night alone, slightly wobbly, looking like an easy target for an attacker, or drink so much that you are sick after you have fallen asleep. Every time that you wake up the morning after a session where one or several of the above have occurred, your self esteem will take a bit of a battering. Multiply those beatings by each weekend/night/day that you binge drink and you will appreciate that your self respect and esteem are being severely and negatively affected by alcohol.

Alcohol depresses the central nervous system. Physiologically, that anxiety and nervy disposition that you, as a regular binge drinker, have probably noticed is increasing with age, is down to booze. When I drank, I had frequent panic attacks, the last one being so severe that I thought I was dying. I had to walk out of the packed cinema in which I was trying to watch The King’s Speech, because I was fighting to breathe. It was hours later until I regained my normal composure, and days until I fully recovered from the fright and trauma that I suffered as a result of thinking that I was on my way to meeting my maker. The reason behind this anxiety attack was that I had drunk too much beer the night before.

For years I pinballed between unsuitable relationships; one boyfriend would have the physical attributes I was looking for, but not the mental compatibility. I would dump the first one and jump straight in to another union with someone who had the brains and emotional energy I was after, but who, after time, I had no physical connection with whatsoever. I couldn’t be alone. My depression and low self esteem meant that I constantly needed the reassurance of being in a relationship just to feel wanted and loved. I was incapable of loving myself. Alcohol kept me from being in a happy and balanced relationship with a person who loves me as much as I love them.

Drinking put me in a perpetual state of either a) being drunk or b) being hungover. Neither of these conditions is conducive to a productive, fulfilling life. My career, financial wellbeing and physical fitness were all below par (by a long way) when I drank. I am not a lazy person but I never achieved much during the years in which I got drunk. Since giving up drinking, my achievements just keep on growing each week – in turn this boosts my self esteem and belief in what I am capable of. And so I keep on achieving and aiming higher.

Without drink in my life, my self esteem has been restored; my anxiety and narcissistic tendencies have vanished, and guess what? I like myself! And the natural conclusion to that, of course, is that other people like me more too. I have finally found a man who I think is perfect (for me, at least), and we have a wonderful family life which I value above anything else. I am running regularly and have a 10k race (my second in three months) coming up at the end of February. My relationship with my eldest daughter (at that tricky teenage stage) is great, and we are very close. I have bags of energy, and squeeze masses in to each and every day. I never stay in bed, idling away those precious hours that I could be spending on accomplishing something worthwhile. My skin and general appearance have improved, my eyes are bright and I don’t have to fight to keep a beer belly at bay. I am happy. The happiest I have ever been in my life, and this is down to one simple factor – I gave up booze.