Trust Your Gut Instinct And Know That You Matter

When you don’t value yourself, you are incapable of living a fulfilled life. Nothing devalued me more than constantly drinking alcohol. It made me want to hide from the world; prevented me from seeing myself on a par with other people. Everyone was better than me – prettier, cleverer, cooler, more clued up about life. I felt like a little girl and a big part of me was desperate to be scooped up and looked after. Alcohol became a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy for me – the more of it that I drank the more I reinforced the idea that I was worthless, and the more worthless I felt, the more I drank. It was an incredibly dark and difficult place from which to escape.

I picked up some really bad habits during the twenty years that I drank heavily. I genuinely believed that I didn’t deserve good things and so I always aimed fairly low in terms of attaining happiness. This was reflected across the whole spectrum of my life, from work, to relationships, to how easy I found it to waste vast chunks of time, drunk.

Since I quit drinking a few years ago, my self-esteem has been steadily restored and things are so much better than they were. Everything has improved – I can’t stress that enough, my life has just done a 360-degree turn and altered completely. But, occasionally I catch myself falling back into those unhealthy behaviours that so defined me as a drinker. I know that I still have a leaning towards not valuing myself highly enough. If someone isn’t treating me how they should, I can dream up a ton of excuses for their actions. I can easily lose my grip on the person I’ve become, and the old Lucy, the one who took all kinds of shit from people, creeps up on me, catching me unawares.

This happened recently. I had to recalibrate, take that leap of faith – again – and let go of something that was damaging to me, even though so much of me wanted to hang on to it. There was only me who could do this (although friends and family have been trying to convince me of the same for a while) and I’m so pleased that I have the self-belief nowadays to do it. I have a strong gut instinct about things now that I don’t drink, and I trust it. It’s a reliable sixth sense – yes, I get blown off course once in a while, but now I have the capacity to reroute, as opposed to sliding perilously all the way to the bottom of the metaphorical slope – as happened in the old days, every time.

Me now - finally capable of making good decisions - with my youngest daughter.

Me now – finally capable of making good decisions – with my youngest daughter.

Instinct is such a vital component of human existence. We know that other animals have it but we so often overlook our own ability to recognise what is good or bad for us. Alcohol really messed with my intuition and that was such a dangerous side effect of drinking. It meant that I was propelled into making wrong choices time and time again, permanently devoid of the clarity to see what I was doing to myself. I perceive instinct now as a brilliant gift – one that drinking robbed me of.

If you are considering the benefits of quitting booze, consider this: too much alcohol disrupts the natural order of who we are as human beings. That has a knock-on effect on all areas of life. The terrible decisions we make as a result damage us further. Alcohol then becomes more appealing to erase the associated pain. And on and on the wheel turns…remove the booze and the rest takes care of itself.

Advertisements

There’s No Such Thing As Superhuman

I’m sure I’ve written about this topic before. In fact, I know I have, several times. But I’m going to write about it again, and it goes along these lines: You Are Stronger Than You Think.

I was a tough kid. Nothing fazed me. I was the leader in my gang and the one who defied convention and rules without a second thought. But as I grew older and progressed from my teens to my twenties, I developed serious self-doubt and consequently spent many years trapped in a cycle of alcohol-induced Dutch courage followed swiftly by deep regret and the desire to crawl under a rock. Low self-esteem artificially, and temporarily, corrected by the fake crutch of a bottle of Pinot.

And then I quit drinking. This was the first of several hurdles in my sober life that I initially suspected I would not be able to manage successfully. How could I, the woman whose kitchen was rarely seen without a bottle or two of wine casually positioned on the side as if they’d been bought almost as an after thought, for whom a night out was not complete without drinking to the point of blacking out, possibly switch to a life that was completely alcohol-free? But I did it. It took many months of experiencing emotional pain and excruciating shyness and fear over exposing myself as a ‘problem drinker’, and what felt like an eternity of wanting to run away from myself, but in the end, I did it. And it made me feel proud.

When I returned to university aged thirty-four to study law, I was so crippled by my lack of self-confidence that I found it close to impossible to stand before my twenty classmates to deliver presentations. I clearly remember sweating and clasping my clammy hands together nervously before shuffling to the front of the room for ‘my turn’. Since I launched Soberistas just two and a half years ago, I have spoken to hundreds of people at conferences and been on live TV several times, talking in front of millions. In the beginning I was scared. The sweaty palms and fast-beating heart lassoed my self-belief and almost got the better of me. But over time, I’ve managed to rein in the irrational fear and these days my pulse barely quickens.

Recently I went away abroad for a couple of days, unintentionally by myself. This was originally meant to be a break for a friend and me, but the friend was unable, at the eleventh hour, to come along. So I decided to go it alone. I’ve learnt the value in jumping headfirst into a situation that might terrify you if you were to consider it for long enough. I didn’t ponder my predicament as a result, and only really wondered if it was going to be OK as I buckled my seatbelt on the aeroplane.

Mallorca sea

I ate on my own, hiked on my own, slept on my own, barely spoke to another human being for three days, explored on my own, worked out my travel arrangements all by myself (not easy when I was staying in a remote place in the middle of the mountains and I don’t speak the language), and sat with my feet dangling in the Mediterranean Sea on my own.

And it was fine. In fact, it was better than fine. It was brilliant: an opportunity to prove to myself what I am capable of. A chance to spend some time with me, and to filter out all the external influences that we are bombarded with every day, and which make it so difficult to just exist. A time free from worrying much at all, apart from over things like, ‘Where does this path lead?’ and ‘Have I brought enough water on this hike?’ and ‘How shall I spend the next few hours?’

Bliss.

I wouldn’t have taken that trip a few years ago. I’d have been petrified by the very thought of it, stricken with irrational fears over what might happen and all the things that could, and no doubt would, go wrong. I’d have bottled it and stayed at home drinking instead, a frightened woman with no idea of her own strength.

The thing is, is that human beings are inordinately good at adaptation. It’s what we do best – throw us into any new situation and once the early discomfort has been dealt with we get on beautifully with the revised status quo. Nothing is as scary as our wild imaginations would have us believe – including living without booze. It’s the anticipation that fixes our feet in wet concrete, rendering us too terrified to venture into unchartered waters. But if we can leap over the vacuum of not knowing, springboard ourselves with a blind and total faith that everything will work out fine, then, inevitably, it does. And we grow stronger for facing our fears.

When we push ourselves, we galvanise our sense of exactly how much we are capable of. If we don’t try, we’ll never know.

To conclude, if I ever do feel the fear, I remind myself that there is no such thing as superhuman – we are all one and the same. If one person can do something, then I damn well can as well. This philosophy is a good one to adopt if you ever find yourself struggling to taste the unknown…

Why You Shouldn’t Fear Taking the Alcohol-free Leap

An alcoholic drink represents all manner of things to those who succumb to its perceived charms – it’s the social lubricant, especially attractive to the shy drinker. It’s the sexual provocateur, enticing and tempting to anyone looking for a little Dutch courage in the bedroom. It’s the emotional anaesthetic, perfect for blotting out the less desirable aspects of our lives.

But when alcohol begins to lose its magical properties and undergoes a gradual metamorphosis into a foul, domineering, mind-twisting liquid, one which causes the drinker to regard it with equal measures of love and hatred, then it’s time to consider a life free from its influence. However, this is not straightforward, largely because as we stand on the brink of the unknown, we often become paralysed with fear. Human beings don’t like change; we frequently become accustomed to our personal habits and ways, and a step into virgin territory constitutes a massive no-no for many people, in a myriad of different situations and for a variety of reasons.

Letting go of a reliance on alcohol evokes terror in the most apparently outgoing and self-confident types. The concept of existing as a free entity, minus the liquid crutch which supports the drinker at every turn from teenage escapades to wedding days to each and every Christmas, is nothing short of bizarre to the intrepid explorer about to embark upon the road to sobriety.

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

But the reality of facing life’s challenges without regularly reaching for a can of cold beer or twisting the cork from an expensive bottle of red, can be a pleasant surprise. The difficulties that inevitably crop up as we negotiate the twists and turns of our individual worlds appear to be nowhere near the insurmountable obstacles they did when hangovers and alcohol-induced depression and anxiety were thrown into the mix. Funnily enough, the drink, which many consider is helping them to cope, usually turns out to be the very substance that’s capping their ability to deal with things rationally in the first place.

The false confidence we believe to be intrinsically ours when out socialising often serves as an unflattering mask, and when it falls away in the morning we are left with nothing more than a series of half-memories and a niggling worry that, in the boozy heat of the moment, we acted or spoke in a way which now fills us with remorse and shame.

Whether we choose to drink alcohol or to abstain, life will remain the same; convoluted, at times tricky to navigate, and an emotional roller-coaster. We will be subjected to the same occasions of sadness, exuberance, anger, reluctance and disappointment, no matter if we turn to the bottle or turn the other cheek.

What are revolutionary are the concepts of self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and a rational mind. These qualities will be allowed to slowly emerge once the alcohol has been laid to rest, thus the stresses and challenges that seemed so frightening to a person at the very start of their sober journey are eminently more manageable than he or she could ever have imagined when regularly drinking.

Accepting this fact demands a huge leap of faith, but it’s one which is absolutely worth taking.

In Her Shoes

It has been an enormous relief to discover how I truly want to live my life. When I drank regularly and heavily I experienced such a strong sense of being unanchored, as if my true personality had become adrift and was floating fruitlessly, aimlessly, amidst a life that wasn’t really mine.

I always imagined that I was a party girl and when out with friends socialising I filled the shoes of the token loudmouth, the hedonist, the one throwing pints or large glasses of Pinot Grigio back whilst smoking heavily and chatting confidently to strangers. I pursued the rock n roll lifestyle and took pride in my wayward streak.

And yet always in the back of my mind was an idea that I hadn’t found ‘it’ yet, I still hadn’t worked life out.

Now that I look back I can see that much of the depression that was once so inherent, together with my longstanding inability to like myself, came about because I was living like a chameleon with no sense of the person who I actually was. Even worse, I didn’t even realise that I was lacking this essential quality, now so glaringly obvious with a sober perspective.

When I look back on it all, it sometimes feels as though I have walked the paths of two people during my lifetime – one who was a cuckoo, albeit a thoroughly unknowing one, and the other the true me who only bobbed up to the surface following my decision to live alcohol-free. Maybe it is similar for those who have shed stones of body weight following years of being morbidly obese; the stretch marks and the memories of being perpetually under pressure to act the part of the ‘bubbly’ one the only things remaining of a discarded life once the fatness has disappeared.

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

I’m not shy but I am fairly quiet, especially in front of those who I don’t know very well. I much prefer the company of my family and small group of close friends to being out and about with people who are unfamiliar to me. I hate smoking and I love keeping fit. I enjoy cooking healthy food. I am something of a workaholic, and I’m definitely a perfectionist. I rarely feel stressed. I love listening to loud music especially when running or driving, I can’t get enough of reading or writing, and I enjoy being outdoors in the countryside or in a park. I don’t mind my appearance but I’m not precious about it at all. My happiest moments are those spent with my children and my partner.

None of the above sounds like the old me, although whilst I would never want to be that person I once was again, I am not full of bitterness or animosity towards the memory of her; I simply have an understanding that who I was as a drinker only ever existed because of alcohol. If I had never drunk as I used to, the imaginary woman I used to see in the mirror would never have lived.

Most importantly, I’m convinced I wouldn’t feel the gratitude for life that I feel every single day, had I never walked in somebody else’s shoes. It was a long time coming but I got here in the end.