You Are Worth It

It’s my older daughter’s 18th birthday tomorrow. This is proving to be a strange thing to wrap my head around, as I’m forty-one but still feel about thirty and way too young in my mind to be the mother of a proper adult. My daughter also pointed out last night that if she were to have a baby at the same age I had her (twenty-three), I’d be a grandma in five years. Gulp. Gulp. Gulp.

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Apart from the fact that when one’s child reaches adulthood it marks a stark reminder of one’s own advancing years (with the ever-present draw of mortality lingering not so far in the distance) this is an occasion that makes me really happy. I’m so proud of my daughter who has grown up to be a well-rounded, beautiful girl, and who, despite having faced challenges along the way, has not followed in her mother’s footsteps and sought solace in mind-altering substances.

If I were to give her one gift on her birthday that she could carry with her throughout the coming decades, it would be sustained self-esteem, to continue to believe in herself and her worth as a human being. Having reduced or zero self-esteem was, for me, the catalyst for so many of the mistakes I made in my life. Being devoid of self-esteem leads to a domino effect of negativity, often with the obvious self-medication of alcohol or other drugs being employed to numb the associated misery.

Having no self-esteem can result in: not chasing the job you really want because you don’t think you’ve got a cat in hell’s chance of getting it; consistently pressing self-destruct in relationships because you’re scared that your partner can’t really love you and will, therefore, ultimately leave you (best to get in first); fail to form close bonds with people generally due to fear of being disliked and rejected; physical self-harm; abusing alcohol and/or illegal drugs; side-stepping further education because what’s the point when you’re stupid and will only fail anyway in everything you try to achieve; being selective and closed in your outlook, never daring to explore beyond your comfort zone; not looking after your health because you don’t think you’re worth it; sleeping with people who you don’t particularly like but who, for just a few moments, can make you feel loved; aiming low always, because it’s safer than having to face failure.

The scary thing about having low self-esteem is that when in the midst of being that way, you often aren’t really aware of it. You don’t realise that the stupid things you keep doing, the repeated cycles of negativity from which you can’t seem to escape, are occurring because you don’t like yourself and don’t think you have the right to be fulfilled and content.

Fully accepting that you are an equal human being, who truly deserves to be as happy as any of the other seven billion people on the planet, is not an easy concept to grasp for many people. It took me years to work out the fact that I was just human, not inherently bad, not flawed to my core and destined to a life of unhappiness because I wasn’t good enough to have anything better. The bad relationships I accepted, the rubbish jobs I worked, the endless alcohol I necked, the days spent starving myself, the suicidal moments of utter despair…those things formed the backbone of my life for a very long time.

Quitting alcohol will not magically make all of those things disappear, but what it did for me was provide me with breathing space to live a little, gain some clarity, not make any giant whacking mistakes and to learn a bit about the person I really am. And with all those small steps came a slow and steady increase in my self-esteem, which in turn led to me taking on bigger and better things, allowing myself to want and seek out relationships with people who I really loved instead of just anyone who was nice to me.

Finding self-esteem has meant that I am now able to be a positive role model for my two daughters, to show them how women can live and be happy and aim high and like the person they are, instead of constantly berating themselves and endlessly punishing their bodies for not being like Cindy Crawford’s; rather than accepting the bare minimum and a life of self-destruction; to grab all the opportunities that are there around us all, each and every day, there for the taking just so long as we have the courage and self-belief to do so.

It just takes a leap of faith and a bit of courage, together with the knowledge that small steps do eventually lead to big things.

(Happy birthday to Isobel xx)

What did I think I’d get from being sober?

When I drank:

During the years when booze was a constant in my life, I very rarely considered not consuming it. Yes, it was always at the root of all the disasters that kept on springing up, hitting me repeatedly, trying to drive the message home – “Coming back for more…? OK, here’s another drunken, messed up relationship with someone who does nothing for you; here’s an entire weekend spent lying in bed crying, not daring to face the world; take this massive blast of shame, can you believe you REALLY did that??” And yes, I was fully aware of all the health harms I was subjecting myself to, but really, I didn’t care all that much. I wasn’t in a place where I held myself in especially high esteem and so it was easy to keep on knocking back the wine. Plus, in the name of denial, I think I had a fairly strong hold on the notion that I was somehow not like everyone else, that my liver would be able to withstand the regular battering, and maybe, just maybe, I’d be able to outrun the immense self-abuse and live well into my eighties.

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When I first quit:

I stopped drinking because I was scared to death that if I picked up one more glass of the stuff, it could kill me. I wasn’t being melodramatic – as soon as I had managed to gain some clarity on the situation I found it utterly remarkable that I hadn’t lost my life in and amongst all of my boozing adventures. The nights I had walked home in the early hours – staggered would be more apt – in ill-boding areas of town and as vulnerable as they come, like a baby bird fallen from the nest; the many, many dramatic falls down staircases and steep driveways, on the ice and in the middle of roads; countless nights in seedy pubs with seedy people who were capable of dangerous things.

So when I first quit, it was with the hope that in doing so I would save my life. I didn’t expect a lot else, other than gritting my teeth, gazing lustfully towards drinkers who appeared so happy and carefree with their alcoholic beverages to hand, and I suppose a feeling of ‘doing the right thing’ – like I was being a good girl now that I was all grown-up and dealing with my little problem.

Beneath all of that, however, I was dreading this new life I’d committed myself to. It stretched out before me like an endless parched landscape of drabness. I expected at that point to be left wanting for the rest of my days.

Now, five years on:

I’m really quite shocked at all of the goodness that’s emerged from the single act of stopping drinking. I never imagined any of it, couldn’t have seen it coming. I frequently sit back to take stock and ask myself, “Really? Is this my life? When did it change so massively?” It’s as though aliens whipped me away one night, did a major overhaul with what I was and then dumped me back down, all new and fixed.

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The things that have happened are direct consequences of me no longer drinking – mostly they’ve arisen because I got my confidence and self-esteem back, which led me to making better choices. I found the nerve to say no sometimes, without being terrified that the person I was saying it to would hate me for it. I challenged myself with new experiences, things that resulted in me meeting new people and making friends, because instead of only ever wanting to drink, and drink and drink, I needed – and chose – to seek out more from life. I found the courage required to take risks, but calculated ones that didn’t wind up in disaster as they always had in the past. I began to believe that people might actually like me, and so I stopped being so defensive and paranoid, and I opened up to the world in return. I got to know who I am deep down and what I need in order to be happy, and then I had the self-belief to go out and get it.

I never foresaw any of this when I decided to stop drinking, because all I thought I was doing in making that choice was reducing the risk of dying before my time. It was a knee-jerk reaction, born entirely out of fear and one that I felt was going to be a hardship and something that would drag me down and make me miserable forever.

How wrong I was, how unbelievably naïve – and how grateful I am that I did it anyway.

Does The Body Rule The Mind, Or Does The Mind Rule The Body?

I’ve been thinking about writing this blog for a while. I wanted to explore the issue of how the mind and body are connected, or rather, as for many people, how they are disconnected. If the mind is the sum total of our emotions, memories, ideas, thoughts, values, beliefs and opinions, the component parts that make up our personalities, then for most people this is what makes us ‘Us’. It is our mind that defines the person we are, and when we die, even though the body remains, we consider the person to have departed.

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We often take our bodies for granted, expecting them to cope with the neglect and strains we put them through: too much food, not enough exercise, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, the ingestion of numerous other drugs, insufficient water, too much stress…the list goes on.

Personally, I embarked upon a punishing relationship with my own body during my mid-teens. Partly down to me being a bit of a perfectionist, partly as a result of the external pressures from the media on women to look a particular way (i.e. thin) in order to be attractive, I set myself very strict boundaries in terms of what I could and could not eat. Simultaneously, I started drinking rather a lot of alcohol. So, it’s fair to say that I didn’t exactly treat my body kindly. In fact, I hurled abuse at it with a fairly consistent intensity until I reached my mid-thirties.

A couple of years ago I noticed a hip flask on sale in the shop, Urban Outfitters, emblazoned with the slogan ‘Fuck My Liver’. And sentiments not dissimilar to this are routinely posted on Facebook and Twitter each weekend as vast numbers of drinkers publicly declare their intentions to get smashed.

But I wonder where this separation of the mind and the body originates, why so many people wind up regarding their physical and mental selves in such a dislocated manner? I know that I often considered my body almost with contempt; ‘You will take this!’ it seemed as though I was saying. Keep on abusing, keep on punishing, keep on expecting to get away with it…

But ever since I stopped drinking, my relationship with my body has totally changed. Now, I really value it. I would even go as far as saying that I love my body, in that it serves me and enables me to do all the things I love in life. It allows me to run, fast and for a long time, up into the hills where the skies are big and the air is clear and fresh. It carries me wherever I want to go with my children, to enjoy playing with the little one in the park, or going for a coffee with my eldest. And the more I value it, the better I want to treat it.

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And, what I have realised, is that when we treat our bodies right, we feel positive and content in our minds. There is a state of balance that we achieve when we act how nature wants us to act. When we don’t poison our bodies with alcohol, and when we get sufficient sleep, and when we eat nutritional food and drink enough water, we feel good. We function correctly. Our whole selves, mental and physical.

It goes without saying that the opposite is true when we abuse our bodies by not eating properly or drinking too much. We feel jittery and depressed, lethargic and filled with self-loathing.

I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere along the journey of living without alcohol, I started to love my body and respect it. Like we all should. And I have never felt happier and more balanced mentally as a result.

Believing In Yourself As A Person Who Doesn’t Drink

As the sober months have turned into sober years, I’ve become noticeably more comfortable with not drinking. In the early days I did feel self-conscious; I worried that people would feel sorry for me, or simply not want to hang out with me anymore because I was boring. One or two acquaintances attempted to express their heartfelt best wishes and asked (with head cocked to one side in a concerned fashion) ‘How are you feeling now?’ with their hand sympathetically touching my arm.

I must say that more than anything this attitude confused me. We live in a society in which drunkenness is rampant, one in which people (and definitely the ones who asked me how I was feeling), who are clearly alcohol dependent, will drink far more than is good for them on a nightly basis, and yet STILL find it necessary to feel sorry for those who quit drinking the stuff. My response, incidentally, to those professing their sympathies towards me over the fact that I’d quit drinking, was to look befuddled and say ‘I’m absolutely fine thanks – why?’

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What sobriety has taught me is that letting go of old ways does not mean having to alter completely the person you are. One of the most terrifying things I have ever done in life is teeter on the brink of becoming a non-drinker, as I contemplated a world I believed would never be fun again, a place in which I could never let my hair down and an existence which, quite simply, looked bleak right up to the horizon.

But my alcohol-free life has turned out to be nothing like this, not boring at all. It’s just that all the things I failed to notice when I drank (because I was either too hungover or preoccupied with planning my next drink, or simply because I was drunk) now leap out at me. The world switched to Technicolor when I put down the bottle, meaning that all the things I imagined to be mundane when I drank have since become beautiful, vivid, notable and fascinating.

People still often ask me, ‘But don’t you miss drinking?’ And my answer is always this: ‘Alcohol to me isn’t like it is to you. You can enjoy a couple of drinks and happily stop, go home and get to bed. I can’t do that. For me, a couple of drinks always meant a session, lots of drinks, so much booze that I would be sick, or suffer a blackout or fall unconscious. Alcohol made me hate myself, and it made me want to hide away in my bedroom, unnoticed by the world.

But without alcohol I can relax, and feel happy, well balanced and valid. Without alcohol, I can be myself. And so no, I don’t miss drinking at all.’

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.

Self-Esteem: A Restoration Project

It ate away at my insides like a worm, burrowing around my soul, destroying my belief in myself. It made me afraid to leave the house. It prevented me from looking people in the eye when I spoke to them. It stamped on my ability to move my life forward, to better myself, to grow, to change. It caused pain when I looked in the mirror. It propelled me into making bad decisions and put me in situations that made me hate myself more. It made me ache inside and cry and cut myself. It made me starve myself and put my fingers down my throat. It made me poison myself with toxic substances that blotted out my emotions. It made me believe that everyone else was better than me. It held off pride for my achievements, handing over the credit to forces external to me. It made me bitter. It made me cry myself to sleep. It made me want to die.

I had no idea how to restore my broken self-esteem. I was so shattered, so lost that I didn’t even acknowledge my life was the way it was because of low self-esteem. I believed everything was down to free will, that I was choosing my mistakes. I thought that I was in control of my path of self-destruction, actively making it all go wrong.

But somewhere, beneath all the darkness, was the voice of who I once was as a child. That person never wanted to hurt herself. She had courage and self-belief. She had dreams and she was damn well going to get out there and grab them, turning them into reality. When I stopped drinking, that little person was allowed to breathe again, and she came to the fore. Over time, she stopped allowing other people to hurt her. Pride came back, as did dignity. She started looking in the mirror again and liking what was reflected back. She acquired the strength to allow only positive influences into her world. The dead wood was cleared out. A fresh breeze blasted through the cobwebs of her life and she stopped being afraid of all that she was.

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The metamorphosis from a young girl with gumption to a shell of a teenager, who hated herself so much that she often went days without food, is one that happened gradually, like dusk creeping up and casting shadows one by one. Just as joy had been standard as a child, so bleakness and an emotional black hole became the way things were as an adult.

Saying goodbye to alcohol meant turning my back on all that was wrong with my world. The poison that I subjected my body and mind to every day for twenty years held such a grip on me that I had failed to realise how it controlled my every move.

Self-esteem does not get lost forever. You can grab hold of its threads and, if you hang on tightly enough to weave them back together, you will find that everything you thought had disappeared will return, tenfold. Your perspective changes when you start to like yourself. And as it does, so will your life.

How I Discovered Happiness

I’m 38 years old and struggled with depression, anxiety and the odd panic attack for twenty years of my life, prior to April 2011. 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 few 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 three years ago.

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 self-esteem are severely and negatively affected by alcohol.

Alcohol depresses the central nervous system. Physiologically, that anxiety and nervy disposition that you, as 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.

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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 am the fittest I have ever been. My relationship with my eldest daughter (at that tricky teenage stage) is great, and we are very close. I have bags of energy (essential for looking after my toddler properly), and squeeze masses into 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 fact – I gave up booze.

Alcohol and its Effect on Mental Health

When sinking into the quicksand that is depression and low (or no) self-esteem, it is virtually impossible to recognise that a problem is afoot. Our barometer of wellness lies, after all, in our minds – when mental illness infiltrates our thought processes and directs our decision-making, how on earth are we to know that all is not well upstairs?

 My family, who love me and have always been there for me at the drop of a hat, despaired of me in the not-too-distant past. I can hardly blame them, for, under the strain of a divorce and the associated financial pressures, plus the struggles arising out of being a single parent, I cracked and broke into a thousand shattered pieces of my former self. I leapt from one bad situation to another, listening to the advice of no one, lurching impetuously as I desperately attempted to claw some happiness back from somewhere that always turned out to be the wrong place; an unsuitable relationship, a sudden house move or change of job, and always, always, the constant stream of wine running in the background.

 Whenever anyone close to me raised the issue of my state of mind, they would usually be met with a barrage of denial and a rage of angry retorts as I persistently sought to deflect the negative attention. Just as had been the case when I was a child being reprimanded for misbehaviour, I simply would not be told. I honestly had no idea that I was suffering from so many mental health issues, and firmly believed that it was just the way I was.

 As the alcohol misuse increased, so did the consequential mood swings, panic attacks and mental blackness. And amidst it all I didn’t realise, nor even consider, that perhaps, just maybe, it might be the booze that was behind my chronic unhappiness and up-and-down emotional state.

Of course it isn’t always the case that alcohol is the root cause of mental health issues – far from it. But where it does play a part, it can be so enormously powerful in its negative effects on a person’s mind. The effect it wields on the central nervous system sparking off jittery and fluctuating moods, the drunken actions it brings about, which are often far-reaching and frequently so out-of-character that they leave the drinker paralysed with shame and guilt the morning after, and the practical impact it leaves behind owing to the constant drain on finances, health and appearance, all combine to worsen the situation considerably. Excessive and regular alcohol consumption invites catastrophic mental health issues, and then conceals them from the drinker in a hazy fog of hangovers and drunkenness leaving the people around them to stand by helplessly as they witness their loved one’s downfall.

Only with sober hindsight does it become clear that the persona someone might once have regarded as being true is actually nothing like their real self at all, but a construct of too much booze and the regrettable actions, depression and low self-confidence that represent the cost of heavy drinking.

When that moment of clarity finally comes, the relief is indescribable.

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Message for Clara

I was planning on writing a blog today about why we should all learn to be a little kinder to ourselves, a thought that came to mind as I was getting dressed this morning in front of the mirror. Perusing my reflection, my gaze automatically fell on my caesarean scar, my (getting smaller but still there) love handles on my hips, my knobbly knees which I have always hated and my non-six pack stomach.

I acknowledge that I am no Elle Macpherson but then who is (apart from Elle herself of course)? But I’m ok considering I have had two children, the last one being only fourteen months ago, I am thirty seven years old (not ancient but certainly no spring chicken anymore), very busy, exceptionally sleep-deprived and recently recovered from a long-standing dependence on alcohol.

And yet it is so entrenched in my conscience to seek out the negatives in myself and ignore the good bits, that when analyzing my physical appearance I am, it would seem, incapable of giving myself a break. I simply do not notice the good bits – are there any?

When I logged onto Soberistas.com at lunchtime I read a comment from someone who is desperately trying to get out of the vicious cycle of binge-drinking and the associated self-hatred. There it was again – someone who sounds, for all intents and purposes, to be an attractive and pleasant person and yet hates herself inside and frequently attempts to rub out the awfulness with too much wine.

‘I so want what you have got Lucy….how did you do it? I’ve tried AA but not much luck. I know I need to want it myself and make the first steps but I struggle getting through a day :-(….I’m a 38 year old single mum and my mum and dad said yesterday how pretty I am and I’ve got an ok figure but why do I hate myself inside? Want to get out of this black hole and enjoy life again…..any advice PLEASE xx’

This blog post then has become my answer to Clara who left the above comment for me on Soberistas.com this morning.

Liking yourself, and eventually learning to love yourself, takes a lot of work. I think our culture is partly to blame as we, as a society, have a habit of disapproving of those who ‘fancy themselves’ a bit too much, whilst the adverts and media imagery which are blasted at our every sense in almost all walks of life depict only one ideal of perfection. It can feel like an uphill struggle to fend off the attack of ‘what we should be.’

Over the last couple of years I have transformed from a very insecure, emotionally unstable and mentally fragile person into someone who is pretty confident and likes herself, not thoroughly but enough. I still (as referred to above) despise my knees and that caesarean scar is taking some getting used to, but I know deep down that I am ok and I try my best to be the best that I can be – which is all any of us can do.

I am in absolutely no doubt that excessively consuming alcohol destroys a person’s self-confidence and self-esteem. Drinking a lot and feeling good about the person you are just do not go together, and so the only way to escape the trap of self-destruction and self-hatred is to cut out alcohol altogether. It is the alcohol that is at the root cause of how you feel.

Lucky is a funny word to use for coming close to death as a result of booze, but in some ways I do perceive my rock-bottom moment of waking up in hospital as a stroke of luck – it scared me sufficiently to ensure that I never wanted alcohol to pass my lips again as long as I live. However, for those who drink dangerous amounts but have not experienced a frightening wake-up call as I did, stopping drinking (and staying stopped) requires something akin to adopting blind faith in what people who you probably don’t even know, are telling you to be true, and doing so in a climate in which alcohol is prevalent and widely revered.

For you, the person who wrote the comment above, and for anyone else who is in a similar situation, my advice would be to put all your faith in the notion that life becomes easier in every way when you don’t drink; the rough patches will still crop up but your ability to cope with them will be so much stronger, and most importantly you will begin to piece together your self-belief once again, something which is impossible to do when you are drinking heavily on a regular basis.

Give yourself a break; recognise that the best route out of the black hole you have sunk deep inside of is to not drink alcohol TODAY. Believe it, focus on it, make not drinking your absolute priority. And remember that with each passing sober day, you are repairing yourself from the inside out and learning the essential art of liking yourself. And once you like yourself, you will be armed with all the ammunition you’ll ever need to remain sober and happy long-term.

It may feel like an insurmountable climb that lies ahead but, as Abraham Lincoln wisely said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” Just get today out of the way, and tomorrow will be easier.

Good luck x

Freedom to Fly

For me, regularly drinking alcohol generated terrible feelings of being worthless and inferior to everyone else I ever came into contact with. In addition, this destructive assault on my self-belief always came to the fore simultaneously with a hefty dose of what can only be described as Negative Mental Attitude.

It was the world’s fault that I did not achieve what I wanted in life, that my marriage had ended in its infancy, that I hated my job, that I was struggling financially – there was always someone else to blame and never me.

One of the greatest gifts of sobriety is the joyful return to living in the Real World. Occasionally there are difficult patches which must be navigated through and not drinking certainly does not make life a guaranteed bed of roses; what living alcohol-free does provide, however, is a reality check and a realisation that whilst things may not always be quite how you would choose you are equipped with all the tools required to make the best of your hand.

Instead of enduring a crippling dose of internal criticism whenever I meet a person who I deem to be superior in some respect to me, I now recognise their plus points as nice qualities which I admire rather than an emotional hand grenade to hurl at my fragile sense of self; so if someone is very pretty I consider them as, well, being pretty; as in ‘She’s pretty – wow, what gorgeous hair/eyes/cheekbones.’ This is infinitely healthier than the old alternative of ‘Oh my God, she is so beautiful. Look at me in comparison; I am fat, ugly, with horrible hair, awful clothes and generally hideous. I must run home at once and hide away until I forget that I ever had the misfortune to stand near this stunning creature.’

Nowadays I recognise that whilst I have my plus points and am neither hideously ugly nor out-of-this-world beautiful, I am just fine the way I am. If I meet people who are prettier/cleverer/wittier/more interesting than I am then it’s a pleasure being in their company and enjoying their special qualities. I have come to understand that there will always be someone who is doing something or looking better than I will ever be able to, and people who have amazing physiques that I will probably never attain, and people who are fortunate enough to have long, flowing, glossy tresses which I know I will never be able to grow.

Butterfly-033But that’s ok, because they will never have what I have either.

Not drinking stops the endless cycle of self-loathing and negativity caused by depression and alcohol-induced shame. Living alcohol-free allows you to come forth like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon and to subsequently realise all your qualities that have previously been smothered by alcohol for so long.

Give yourself a chance; stop drinking and spread your wings.