Drinking guilt and its big brother shame

When I used to drink the drinking threw in a free gift of a helping of guilt and shame on the side – how kind!  Guilt is the emotion that we feel when we have behaved in a way that we perceive to be hurtful to others or as a moral lapse.  Guilt serves a purpose when we recognise, acknowledge and rectify the behaviour, such as apologising if necessary.  The thing is, when I was drinking, sometimes I didn’t remember the behaviour so what I got left with was guilt’s big brother, shame.

Shame is the emotion that we feel when ‘we’ as a person are at fault, not our behaviour.  It is the way we feel if we have fallen short of our own internalised ideals or if there is a public disclosure of a perceived weakness or defect. For me shame was the fast track path to self-loathing, failing self-esteem and crushed self-confidence and it was hard not to feel shame as I felt like I couldn’t control my drinking and therefore my behaviour.  If I couldn’t manage this there was something wrong with ‘me’ right?

But if you drink alcohol, which is addictive and designed to make you thirsty (so you drink more) and acts as a disinhibitor (encouraging behaviour that you would not normally engage in) then how is that a weakness or defect in yourself?  Now I’m not handing total responsibility for my actions over to the booze monster as the choice to pick up the first drink was always mine.  What I didn’t fully choose was the addiction created by the substance to go on drinking to the point of total black out, guilt making antics and no memories to attach the guilt to therefore leaving me with an overwhelming sense of shame.  And then I would drink to forget the shame compounding the problem. Shame, drink, shame, lather, rinse, repeat.

The leading expert and queen of shame research is Brene Brown who I love.  Her PhD was studying vulnerability.

What her research found was that shame is highly highly correlated with addiction.  Shame is the voice in my head telling me that I’m ‘never good enough’ and I can’t do life sober.  Shame is that same internal critic saying ‘who do you think you are’ to blog about my sober journey thinking people would be interested in what I have to say.

This is the most toxic of emotions and now I don’t drink I don’t really experience it like I used to anymore.  I know that I can do life sober and have done it for over five months. I know that people are interested in what I have to say because they take the time to read my blog and comment.  My internal voice of shame has gone quiet and this gift is perhaps bigger than the gift of no hangover.  The no hangover is the physical gift of not drinking but the diminished feeling of shame is the psychological gift of sobriety.  And the two go hand in hand for me as part of the hangover distress was the angst caused by the shame.  In the words of Brene, for shame to survive it needs secrecy, silence and judgement (of self or of others).  Choosing not to drink and this blog is the answer to resolving my shame and I would chose this option hands down every day over drinking now 🙂

PS If you’ve not seen the original Brene Brown TED talk on vulnerability, you can find it here

PPS My other most popular blog post is my Goodbye Letter to Alcohol which you can read here

Edited to add: I found this brilliant card that summed up how this drinking shame and guilt felt for me so if this is how you feel too then can I recommend this hangover cure  🙂

Overindulgence Disposal Unit

Quick apology (and small celebratory dance!)

sorrySo the site went down at around 7.20 am yesterday morning and I’ve been working frantically behind the scenes to get it back up!  If you came here in the last 32 hours looking for me a heartfelt apology for not being here 🙁

Without getting too technical I had a 500 internal server error caused by a routine plug-in update that basically took the site down and the kind folks at WordPress couldn’t help because it was a host server issue! Last night I was frantically engaged in an exceptionally steep learning curve and digging around in my server files trying to figure out where the fatal error had occurred.  I was just beginning to resign myself to the fact that all that I had created here might be lost forever when at 4.30 pm today I cracked it 🙂

celebratory-dance

Cue small celebratory dance but not just about that!  I also found out today that I passed my University of Cambridge Postgraduate Diploma in Educational Studies with really great feedback about my assignment.  So now I start the research publishing quest to try and get it approved and submitted before we head off to Australia!  I won’t share it here yet – you’ll have to wait 😉

As for a celebratory sober treat?  A soupcon of chocolate today but I’ll be getting myself something bigger tomorrow 😀

Friday Sober Jukebox – Escape Velocity

escape velocitySo here we are again now heading into year 4 🙂

There are many things I still haven’t covered on this blog so until I run out of new things to share and say a post will keep appearing,  probably on a weekly or two weekly basis, depending on what’s going on.  Plus I know myself well enough now to know I won’t be able to keep my big mouth shut about any major news story that breaks in the alcohol and public health worlds!

So today is about psychological escape velocity (the minimum speed needed for an object to escape from the gravitational attraction of a massive body).  I had a headf*ck experience recently where I was given the opportunity to see photo’s of a house I lived in when I was a girl.  What was really spooky and serendipitous about this was it was via a nursing colleague who had lived in this house about 20 years after me, had taken photo’s and had recently been sorting through them and happened to have them with her in the office then and there that lunchtime!  Weird right?

What she didn’t know was that I have really distressing and traumatic memories of this house and time and have spent a good amount of time in therapy talking about it so seeing those images triggered an avalanche of memories.  What was so reassuring was that although the memories had only been experienced in the last 5 years (which fuelled a massive amount of drinking back then) my recall of that house was EXACTLY right.  Every detail that I had summoned from 40 years ago and discussed was spot on – so if my memory of the place was right so was my recall of the events.  This was a major revelation because at the time when I tried to tell someone I hadn’t been believed and I had therefore doubted my own experience and had questioned whether it was all just in my head – that my nightmare’s were just that horrors in my head not real life.  Although seeing the photo’s caused intense psychic tremors I was okay and I was able to regulate my emotions and handle the triggered distress.  This felt like massive progress to me and as if I had enough emotional and boundary depth to not be pulled back into the psychological pain of that time.  These events no longer defined me – I had reached my psychological escape velocity 🙂

When I told MrHOF he said this was not just the end of a chapter but the end of a volume in my life and he felt it was no co-incidence and a sign from the universe (because I believe in such stuff) that that experience and how I managed it marked closure both emotionally and mentally for me and that I wasn’t doing a geographical by planning our move to Australia.

That same day I was contacted by Regina Walker at The Fix who is a psychotherapist.  I was reading her writing archives when I came across an article about Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) a technique used in the UK mainly to treat those with borderline personality disorder.  Thanks to my research assistant experience with a Clinical Psychologist who worked with this client group it was something I knew about, knew it was a successful and valuable therapeutic approach and learned from this discovered article that it is being used and applied in addiction!

Here are the key excepts that link my experience recounted above and this technique (the whole article is well worth your time in reading):

The goal of DBT is to acquire skills to deal with the mental anguish the sufferer experiences and create a life worth living. The tools offered in DBT are meant to aid in the achievement of these goals.

DBT, for people struggling with substance abuse problems, is a way to achieve self-acceptance while simultaneously accepting the need for change. There are four basic aspects to DBT: mindfulness, interpersonal relations, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance.

The emotion regulation aspect of DBT teaches how to identify, regulate and experience emotions without becoming overwhelmed and acting on impulse. The skills aim to reduce vulnerability and increase positive experiences.

The fourth area of DBT is distress tolerance. This area is focused on the development of skills to cope with crises when emotions become overwhelming and the individual is unable to immediately solve the problem (a death, sickness, loss of job, etc.) but needs to persevere and live through the crisis without making it worse by impulsive actions (for example, getting high or drunk).

Dr. Linehan acknowledged that the self-harming behavior she saw in suffering patients made sense and had a purpose.  But she also recognised that this had to change and that the person had to accept themselves.

She referred to this as “Radical Acceptance”—acceptance of life as it is, not as it is supposed to be; and the need to change, despite that reality and because of it. These seem to be opposites: on the one hand, you have to take life as it is; on the other hand, that change is essential for survival. But for real change to happen, both self-acceptance, and acceptance of the need for change have to come together. This blending of two seemingly opposite views is called a dialectic—and it’s the vision behind the name of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.

So after 3 years of living life sober, and ‘in the raw’ as Mrs D would say, I have both accepted myself and what happened to me as a child and shown myself self-compassion.  I have taken life as it is but recognised that change was essential for my survival.   My psychological escape velocity from my past, and as part of that alcohol, has reached a critical juncture 🙂

In the past those photo’s would have rocked my world in a very negative way and triggered the most almighty bender.  Now I just feel peaceful and content that I can trust myself to take care of myself as I tried to as a young girl.

I Did It For Me and Everyone Around Me (Guest blog from Andy at 8 years sober)

gratitudeOne of the things I most love about having this blog is that many people contact me and wish to share their story here.  It seems so fitting that I was contacted by Andy in the last week who wanted to share his story at 8 years sober with everyone here and when I’ve just celebrated 3 years that felt really serendipitous 🙂

Over to Andy:

I Did It For Me and Everyone Around Me

“For a star to be  born,

There is one thing that must happen: a gaseous nebula must collapse.

So collapse.

Crumble.

This is not your destruction.

This is your birth.”

-n.t.

Hi, my name is Andy and I have been sober for 8 years. Eight years. Wow. As I write these words I feel a kind of euphoria. I feel like climbing the world’s highest mountain and screaming them out for all the universe to hear. I did it. I can’t believe I did it. But it’s been no walk in the park to get here. I collapsed, I crumbled, and I’m finally here.

Paradise Lost

My family and I were living in SoCal. After having fled from the internal conflict as well as the infamous drug cartel activity that plagued Colombia in the ‘80s. I was a happy kid and had a great childhood. My life was everything I ever dreamed of until the night that I first tasted Aguardiente.

Aguardiente is an immensely popular form of alcohol in Colombia. It’s strong and has the flavour of anise. My family was having a party at home, and if you know anything about Latin culture it’s that we love to party.The adults always seemed to have such a good time while drinking Aguardiente. They would dance, laugh and be merry. I was a preteen and I wanted to feel whatever it was that the adults felt. That night, I snuck some of it while all the adults were busy dancing. Then I snuck a little more, and a little more after that. Soon enough I was drunk.

I wish I could tell you that it went horribly and I steered clear of the stuff until much later in life. But the truth is that I enjoyed the feeling of being carefree and letting go. I enjoyed it so much that I thought I was just a cooler person when drunk. With that mentality I became hooked to marijuana when I was 14 years old, which was then followed by meth at 19. 

Steel Bars with a Silver Lining

I was sentenced to two years in prison for drug related charges when I was 22 and I still didn’t think I had a problem. I even joined AA meetings while in prison, but it was purely to spend an hour or so outside of my tiny, cold cell. During the first dozen meetings I would just sit there. I wouldn’t introduce myself, and I sure as hell wouldn’t share anything. It all seemed so worthless to me. I felt like everyone else had a problem whereas I was just so much better and in control of myself.

The only people that ever visited me during my time there were my parents. Those visits were both the highlights and lowlights of those two years. On the one hand it was good to get to see the people that actually cared about me, the people that raised me, but on the other hand I saw their disappointment. Pretty much every visit was tainted with the faint shadow of disappointment. They tried to hide it, but it was there.

What was worse was my mother’s guilt. During one of their first visits she started sobbing and listing all the things she thought she could have done to stop this from happening. But I couldn’t deal with that. I didn’t even properly comfort her. There was this coldness that rushed over me, a hardness, I just wanted her to stop talking. It was her problem, not mine. I had enough to deal with.

It wasn’t until an NA meeting much further into my sentencing that I was able to understand my mother’s guilt. An older man stood up to share his story and I felt as if I experienced a paradigm shift. His story was one of lost love. The woman he loved had always been there for him. She always supported him, covered for him, loved him. But then she started blaming herself for the fact that he wasn’t getting better until finally, after so many years, she realized that none of it was her fault and just left.

The only woman I ever loved was my mother. She had always been my rock. I couldn’t keep the thought of losing her, once and for all, out of my mind. Being locked up, the physical consequences and the emotional consequences made me realize that I needed to change.

Sublimation

That’s when I decided to recover. I dropped the alcohol and the drugs, and became completely focused on work. I found a job that I was actually really good at. The job was to sell discount perfumes and colognes. I got so good at it that people respected me for it, I got my own little office with a desk and everything. I was even in charge of training new salespeople. I got so wrapped up in my job that I became a workaholic. Little did I know that I wasn’t recovering at all. I now know that I was simply sublimating. I was still an addict, and my work was my new high. It was just a more socially acceptable high. And of course I relapsed. I relapsed hard.

I still remember the feeling. This time I knew something was terribly wrong. I could see how much I thought I needed something to make me feel better. I would lash out and felt like my insides were screaming at me. The moment I drank or smoked or whatever, I felt a sense of relief. But the relief was accompanied by a crushing guilt and I couldn’t take it. I begged my parents for help. I’m fairly certain that I would have died if they hadn’t admitted me into a rehabilitation center in Boise. They helped me work through the guilt, the shame, the anger, everything. They encouraged me to write letters to the people I love and bare my heart and soul. It’s because of those letters that I can proudly say that my mother is now my best friend. That place damn near saved my life.

New and Improved

My life truly took a turn for the better when I met my incredible sponsor at a local AA meeting. He gave me an ultimatum. Either go through the process of passing a college course, or find another sponsor. I gave in and enrolled in a computer course. I’ve always been pretty handy with the internet and computers so I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. It was one of the best decisions I ever made, I was in love. Soon enough, I was swimming in textbooks about digital marketing, HTML, coding, online everything. I finally found my passion.

Here I am now, and I’ve been completely clean for 8 years. In those 8 years I moved back to Colombia and co-created a website development agency right in the very city I was born. I’ve surrounded myself with good people, hard-working go-getters with good heads on their shoulders. And I know that in order to get to where I am today, I had to go through everything. I had to collapse, I had to crumble and become a whole new me. I still go to meetings, to always be mindful and always stay on the right track. My parents visit me whenever they can and one day I will get my Mom and Dad a place of their own here so they can back home.

No I in Recovery

Addiction is a selfish thing. Even though I’ve found addicts to be generally good people, our addiction makes us selfish without us even realizing it. I believe the true anchor to my recovery is the realization that it is not all about me. Of course it is somewhat about me. But it is also about the people around me and the people I love.

I have to stay sober for me, my job, my mom, and everyone else. Addiction is not a spectator sport, and I know that now, so I am grateful for every single person in my life and every opportunity that comes my way.

Hi, I’m Andy. I have been sober for 8 years and I will never let addiction hurt me or the people I love, ever again.   

Thank you to Andy and also thank you to every one of you who reached out to me via the comments or email yesterday.  It makes my heart swell even more with gratitude and love for this most wonderful sober community <3

3 years and what next?

the fortune tellerThis is the drinks coaster that sits on my desk beside my laptop where I write this blog.  I bought it when I was District Nursing on our return from France so probably in 2009/2010.  Edward Monkton’s quirky works always make me chuckle and cider was one of my drinks of choice so that is undoubtedly why I chose this.  I am also really struck by how prescient it was too – my subconscious was trying to tell me something which took  me another few years to finally ‘hear’.  3 years ago today was my last hangover – the last time I woke up feeling like shit, both physically and psychologically.  I had planned 6 days before to stop drinking once I had finished reading Allen Carr and had one final week-end blow-out.  I went out not with a bang but a whimper drinking not for enjoyment but in grim determination thinking what next?

Back at the beginning of the summer the lovely Prim asked me whether I would write a list of all my achievements since quitting both external and internal for the blog, her or myself to mark the occasion of reaching 3 years and I said I would let it percolate in Australia and write it on my return.  So here it is 🙂

The external stuff is easy to list and quantify:

  • I started this blog which has been awarded 2 top recovery blog listings at the end of 2015 (After Party Magazine & Ocean Recovery) and 2 in 2016 (The Fix & Port of Call)
  • I had a piece published in The Guardian about alcohol and public health
  • I left my job as a school nurse and set up my own business
  • I had 20 sessions of CBT
  • I started a post graduate qualification at the University of Cambridge (which included being in weekly therapy)
  • I wrote and self-published an e-book on Amazon
  • I created, designed and published an online course with Udemy
  • I had academic research about alcohol and PSHE published in the Community Practictioner
  • I started volunteering at  Focus 12, a local drug and alcohol treatment centre
  • I created, designed and ran How to Quit Workshops with Club Soda in London
  • We saved up all the booze money we would have spent and as a family went to Australia for a month  (£10,000!!)
  • I lost 12 lbs in weight
  • I didn’t drink no matter what happened or how I felt

I got very busy doing lots of things to prove that I was okay, I was good enough …

And as time passed, my self esteem recovered from not making a tit of myself under the influence of alcohol, my self-worth climbed as I was accepted and welcomed unconditionally out here in the sober blogging world and new friendships were made, lunches and week-ends away with sober friends had, and as I worked on my psychological core strength through CBT and therapy I began to change emotionally.  It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway, that I wouldn’t be here without each and every one of YOU so a massive THANK YOU for your love and support!!

My final 8000 word assignment this year for Cambridge was about the link between insecure attachment, alexithymia and addiction in adolescence.  I was basically doing a literature review on myself looking for answers.  And what I found is that research has shown that an approach called Adolescent Mentalization Based Integrative Therapy (AMBIT) is working.  Where an adolescent experiences a healthy, secure attachment with a counsellor or team that allows the role-modelling of positive, supportive relationships and the repair of attachment traumas they heal and their sense of self-worth begins to recover.  This relational repair with self and within the self allows reconnection with the felt senses and allows the development of understanding and recognition around somatics felt in the body and their connections to feelings experienced.  Plus the therapeutic role-modelling allows the learning of words to express them cognitively, so they basically recover from alexithymia.

And guess what? When those things happen rather than attach to a substance or behavioural addiction the link to it is weakened or broken.  And that is exactly what has happened out here for me in the last three years.  Because I had drank for so long I was stuck emotionally at an adolescent level and all the work I have done has allowed me to move beyond addiction and mature emotionally into a more adult way of thinking, feeling and being.  And critically it has allowed my self-worth to flourish and to feel that I am good enough.  Several people have suggested I seek to publish my academic literature review as it is an under-researched area and if I’m successful I’ll share a link here so you can read it 🙂

And in doing that work it has had a knock on effect on my ways of relating.  As the adult child of an alcoholic I used to be a chronic people pleaser with very porous boundaries.  Everybody’s needs were more important than my own so I put myself last all the time and poured wine down my neck.  But now with the help of therapeutic support and lots of appropriate self care my boundaries are strong so that I know where I end and another starts so I don’t feel compelled to fix things.  It is their stuff and they’ll figure it out.  The rescuer in me has retired!  This means the way I relate to everyone has changed but most importantly it has strengthened my relationships with MrHOF and the children.

And a strange thing happened.  The more I felt okay in myself the more those external things ceased to matter until I have reached the place where now, in the words of my therapist Anna, I have learned to stop trying so hard.

So what next?

Well since March we’ve been busy exploring the option of moving to Australia more permanently and I applied for my Australian Nursing Board registration.  It has been successfully granted and so I’m looking for a nursing job hopefully in the Bundaberg area (yes home to Australia’s famous rum – how ironic is that!!).  I don’t need to continue on the  Masters at Cambridge to prove that I am good enough.  I know that I am.

I don’t need to keep producing sober resources to prove that I am good enough.  I know that I am.  So I’m going to stop writing the blog so frequently.  Here are the links to my news sources (DrugWise Daily and Alcohol News) so you can find them and follow them yourselves if you so wish and everything I have written will be left here as a resource.   I’m going to pin the ‘Drinking Guilt and its Big Brother Shame‘ post as the landing page as it remains the most popular blog post by far.  I have removed the HelloBar email subscriber bar and password protection from my e-book so you can access it freely from the front page of the blog.  I will leave the Udemy course running as it is self-directed and the e-book will remain listed on Amazon.  If you would like 1:1 support from me about your drinking just drop me an email at ahangoverfreelife@gmail.com.  I’ll still swing by regularly and post a Friday Sober Jukebox to let you know how I am but mainly I’m planning on spending time with MrHOF and my kids playing outside in the sunshine and exploring the world Hangover Free 🙂

This is what happens when you take a chance ………

PS Don’t worry the sober advent calendar will still be here to help you rock your alcohol free warrior moves through the booze fest that is December 😉

Am I getting cold feet?

cold-feetSo I’m sneaking in an extra post on the eve of my 3rd year soberversary.  This time 3 years ago I was having my last drinking session.  I’ve been reminded and reminiscent of the not so recent past what with the return of an old TV series that I watched back in my drinking days glass in hand – Cold Feet.  What’s interesting to me about this programme is that I have grown up with this show – it was like the UK equivalent to Friends and the characters were the same age in the show as I was in real life so it felt very current to me.  The same applies now as they are approaching 50 as am I.

My two favourite characters were Karen and Pete who interestingly both have troubled relationships with alcohol.  John Thomson who plays Pete has been in recovery for many years and was actively in his addiction when the last series was filmed 13 years ago and you can see him here talking about it recently:

Karen’s character (played by Hermione Norris) develops alcoholism during Series 4 and there are some key scene’s where she discusses her drinking with fellow colleague, who becomes lover, Mark:

I so identified with Karen’s character and on rewatching these scenes I thought these discussions felt very real and honest.  The irony is that when these were airing in 2002-2003 I had no idea that I would become far more like Karen than I could ever imagine at the time!!  I’ve been watching her closely in the new series and she’s still abstinent which means her character has now been in recovery for 13-14 years, much like her then dishy co-star Mark played by Sean Pertwee 😉

There’s something really heartening about this for me.  It feels really great that I am watching the show and know that Karen and I do now share that similarity, that we both are living happily in recovery and that it isn’t just in the show because the actors involved have also shared their struggles with booze and are long term role models of recovery too 🙂

No cold feet here about the decision I made 3 years ago, not one bit!

 

Even moderate drinkers are at greater risk of cancer – New Zealand study

breast cancer riskThis was featured in the Daily Mail in July looking at a 2012 cancer study from New Zealand where the findings showed that even moderate drinkers alcohol consumption affected risk rate.

It is known that drinking excess alcohol can increase a person’s risk of various cancers.

But now, a new study has revealed even moderate drinkers should be concerned.

Indulging in less than two alcoholic beverages a day, puts drinkers at heightened risk of breast and bowel cancer – two of the most deadly forms of the disease.

Furthermore, experts at the University of Otago, said alcohol is also linked to cancer of the mouth, pharynx, oesophagus, larynx and liver.

Researchers found alcohol was responsible for 236 cancer deaths in people aged younger than 80 in New Zealand in 2012.

Lead author, professor Jennie Connor at Otago Medical School, said the findings relating to breast cancer were particularly sobering.

‘About 60 per cent of all alcohol-attributable cancer deaths in New Zealand women are from breast cancer,’ she said.

‘We estimated 71 breast cancer deaths in 2007 and 65 in 2012 were due to drinking, and about a third of these were associated with drinking less than two drinks a day on average.

‘Although risk of cancer is much higher in heavy drinkers there are fewer of them, and many alcohol-related breast cancers occur in women who are drinking at levels that are currently considered acceptable.’ 

The study, a collaboration with the Global Burden of Disease Alcohol Group, and published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review, builds on previous research that identified 30 per cent of all alcohol-attributable deaths in New Zealand to be be linked to cancer, more than all other chronic diseases combined.

It uses evidence that alcohol causes some types of cancer after combining dozens of large studies conducted internationally over several decades.

The cancers that are known to be causally related to alcohol include two of the most common causes of cancer death in New Zealand, breast and bowel cancer, but also cancer of the mouth, pharynx, oesophagus, larynx and liver. 

This New Zealand study estimated mortality for 2007 and 2012. 

Professor Connor added: ‘There was little difference between men and women in the number of cancer deaths due to alcohol, even though men drink much more heavily than women, because breast cancer deaths balanced higher numbers of deaths in men from other cancer types.

‘These premature deaths from cancer resulted in an average 10.4 years of life lost per person affected, with more loss of life among Māori than non-Māori, and for breast cancer compared with other cancers.’

Professor Connor said while these alcohol-attributable cancer deaths only account for 4.2 per cent of all cancer deaths in people under the age of 80, what makes them ‘so significant is that we know how to avoid them’.  

‘Individual decisions to reduce alcohol consumption will reduce risk in those people,’ she said. 

‘But reduction in alcohol consumption across the population will bring down the incidence of these cancers much more substantially, and provide many other health benefits as well.

‘Our findings strongly support the use of population-level strategies to reduce consumption because, apart from the heaviest drinkers, people likely to develop cancer from their exposure to alcohol cannot be identified, and there is no level of drinking under which an increased risk of cancer can be avoided.

‘We hope that better understanding of the relationship of alcohol with cancer will help drinkers accept that the current unrestrained patterns of drinking need to change.’

Further coverage:

Alcohol is a direct cause of seven forms of cancer, finds study
Alcohol ‘a direct cause of seven types of cancer’

“Even one glass of wine a day raises the risk of cancer: Alarming study reveals booze is linked to at least seven forms of the disease,” reports the Mail Online. The news comes from a review that aimed to summarise data from a range of previous studies to evaluate the strength of evidence that alcohol causes cance. The study was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Addiction. It is available on an open-access basis and is free to read online | NHS Choices: Behind the Headlines, UK

Not new research but it re-enforces for me the value of the new UK drinking recommendations and the message that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption where our health is concerned.

Friday Sober Jukebox – Cups (Guest 3 years soberversary blog from MrHOF)

substitutionIt’s over a week ago that Mrs HOFL told me today I would notch up 3 years of no drinking and in something of a state of shock and awe I offered to write a guest blog. Unfortunately it completely slipped my mind again and I find myself now hastily tapping some words out. I suppose that I should consider it a good thing that I don’t count the days, or even the years, so that I’m blissfully unaware of such a thing, whatever it is. It’s a state of mind, perhaps? After all, it’s just a number and I was reading in New Scientist the other day that time doesn’t really exist anyway.


Time certainly seems to have disappeared into some kind of black hole this past week. I must admit to struggling with some of the thoughts that I have had, whether I was conscious of what time it was or what I was supposed to be doing. I thought that somehow life would be easier if I gave up drinking. I was sure that somehow I would be better fortified without fortification. What delirious delusion that consciousness would help!


So here I am trying to write a Friday Sober Jukebox blog, when previously I had imagined that music and alcohol were so passionately entwined, often on a Friday night, nay ALWAYS on a Friday night. Booze was often an integral part of my listening experience and an integral part of my own music-making process. The lyrics always seemed to flow better with the wine, in more ways than I care to list here. In fact, it pains me to confess that my own songwriting output has distinctly tailed off in the past thousand-odd days.


Mrs HOFL is now suggesting that we adjust our diets to the extent that we give up some previously integral ingredients – meat, dairy, fish, to name but three. I should make it clear that I am not averse to this idea and am keen to experiment, but the thing is, what do we replace these things with. I have given up meat before and so I know how difficult this can be. Substituting food often means just that – vege-burgers and bizarre baconesque confections spring to mind. Things to delude us that we aren’t missing out. Where is the ‘meat’ in the sandwich? What do you put in instead?


An hour ago I went for a walk. I needed to just get out and think of what to write in this post. It was then that I realised what I had to write about. If we don’t ‘use’ something, we probably need to ‘use’ something else. In lieu of hard drink we need something and lime and soda probably isn’t going to cut it. A walk seems to work for me. There are a few things that work for me, I suppose, but they’re not always obvious.  I’ve come to realise that they are quite necessary though, in order to be happy, whatever that is.


My selection on the jukebox tonight is Cups by Underworld. An old drinking buddy used to use the old term ‘in his cups’ to describe someone who was drinking. I don’t know if this is what Underworld had in mind when they wrote it, in fact I would be surprised if anyone, even Underworld knows what the lyrics mean, but I had an Underworld track in my head when I got home from work today and it may be a tenuous link but it’s Friday night, so there….

Unsurprisingly this is a tune I love to – just like the man himself who chose it tonight 😉 Similar and together in our choices in this journey we call life ….

Youthful Abandon

youthful abandonAnother excellent report from the Institute of Alcohol Studies this time looking at why young people are drinking less with the apt title of ‘Youthful abandon’.

Underage drinking has fallen in recent years.  We do not fully understand why.  Yet if we are to maintain this
welcome progress and to take effective action to
support further reductions, it would be useful to
understand its underlying causes.  This report sifts the evidence on the topic to summarise what we do know,
and to scope out promising areas for future research.
It is split into three sections.  The first section draws on national statistics to provide an overview of the key numbers behind the trend.
The second section surveys the academic literature and popular press and collates the full range of explanations that have been offered as to why young people are drinking less.  Rather than just presenting these theories uncritically, we make a preliminary assessment of their plausibility based on the available information.  These are relatively quick judgements, based on limited evidence.
Therefore, even where we are sceptical of  a particular theory, this should not be read as a complete rejection, but merely a remark on the lack of existing support (as we see it) for the hypothesis.
The third section then highlights a number of unresolved questions that we think would be fruitful for further research in order to be more confident in our assessment of the trend.

Their theories centre around these key themes:

  1. Better Legal Enforcement
  2. Rise of New Technology
  3. Changing Social Norms
  4. Happier and more conscientious children
  5. Better parenting
  6. Demographic Shifts
  7. Lower affordability and economic confidence

To read the full report go here (pdf format)

The report was picked up the national press and covered in this article:

Better parenting has led to decline in underage drinking, report finds

Charity says improved family relationships may be one of main reasons fewer young people are trying alcohol | Guardian, UK

Plus this came out the same day:

Everyone’s *not* doing it message offers hope for prevention

Normative education (contrasting how common people think substance use is among their peers with the reality) retains some of its shine, but what seemed the great hope for school- and college-based prevention has become contested territory; part of the problem is that youngsters who drink heavily or use drugs often *do* have friends who do the same | Drug and Alcohol Findings, UK

 

SURE: Substance Use Recovery Evaluator

KCLThe Substance Use Recovery Evaluator (SURE) is a psychometrically valid, quick and easy-to-complete outcome measure of recovery from drug and alcohol dependence. It has been developed with unprecedented input from people in recovery by Kings College London.

Here’s what it says about SURE on their website:

It can be used alongside, or instead of, existing outcome tools.

  • ‘SURE’ measures recovery from drug and alcohol dependence
  • ‘SURE’ is completed by people in recovery (not by clinicians, researchers or others)
  • ‘SURE’ has good face and content validity, acceptability and usability for people in recovery
  • SURE’ comprises 21 items (5 factors) and is psychometrically valid, quick and easy-to-complete
  • ‘SURE’ can be used by individuals in private or in a therapeutic context

How to score SURE

Scoring of SURE is simple. There are 21 questions and each question scores 1, 2 or 3. This means it is possible to score between 21 and 63.

For questions numbered 1-3

  • Never = 3
  • On 1 or 2 days = 3
  • On 3 or 4 days = 2
  • On 5 or 6 days = 1
  • Every day = 1

For questions numbered 4-21

  • All of the time = 3
  • Most of the time = 3
  • A fair amount of the time = 2
  • A little of the time = 1
  • None of the time = 1

Section C is not scored, but allows people to think through their own priorities in recover

Copyright

They state that “if you wish to obtain a commercial copyright licence for this measure, then please contact King’s College London’s IP& Licensing Team: licensing@kcl.ac.uk.” 

Copyright © 2016 King’s College London

Looks really good!  Thank you Kings College London 🙂

Edited to add: Thanks to feeling for the reminder to put a shout out for Tommy Rosen’s 7th Recovery 2.0 Online Conference which is free and begins tomorrow at 6am Pacific Time!  I’m all signed up – are you?

Here’s the link to feeling’s blog which shares Tommy’s link 🙂

Toot Toot: I’m in The Fix! :)

sobrietycomp2So just tooting the horn for this list of awesome sober bloggers – which just happens to include myself 😉  The list was compiled by Regina Walker psychotherapist and writer for The Fix.

You can read the full article which is entitled: My Top 12 Recovery Blogs here but I’m going to list the names and links here so you can go check them out.

Over to Regina:

The number of “sober” or “recovery” blogs increases every day. The anonymity—and shame—that once shrouded people affected by substance abuse is slowly slipping away. Some blog posts read like journal entries—a diary on the web, in a sense.

I have read many recovery blogs. I am often very moved by the genuineness and honesty that, perhaps, the faceless Internet allows. These writers are sharing some of their deepest secrets and most shamed-filled experiences with, well, everyone. Often the sites almost sound like intimate conversations the writer is having with themselves or a loved one and I, the reader, am eavesdropping.

I compiled a list of 12 of my favorite recovery blogs and had the opportunity to talk with the bloggers, yet this list can never be all-inclusive. I have read posts on many blogs that have stayed with me, written by people who I will never meet, and who have no idea they have touched me so deeply. 

Below (in no particular order) are my 12 favorite recovery blogs.

1. Transformation is Real

2. The Recovery Revolution

3. The Miracle of the Mundane

4. Liv’s Recovery Kitchen

5. The Unruffled

6. The Sobriety Collective

7. Buzzkill Pod

8. Tired of Thinking About Drinking

9. Sober Unicorn

10. The Sober Señorita

11. Walking in Sober Boots

12. Me 🙂

One of the more common themes amongst these bloggers is the importance of the cyber recovery community. For a number of them, it is their primary sober support. And that is true not only for the many bloggers themselves, but for their countless readers and followers. The support, assistance, and connection provides a healing experience for so many, which may explain why sober blogs and sites are gaining such great popularity. You can be anonymous, do recovery your own way, gain support, and make friends—all from the safety of your computer screen.

Blogger Christina Ferri said, “Shortly after I started my blog, the networking and online recovery tribe became, almost overnight, my rock to stand on. I felt stronger than ever. People I’ve never met or heard of began reaching out to me, sharing more resources, sharing their stories and including me in collaborations to further our outreach in recovery. I’ve made true friends and have unlimited resources to assist me and strengthen me every day.” 

This list includes several people I consider both mentors and friends, such as the lovely Belle and Paul, and those I have had the pleasure to *meet* via social media and private groups such as Sondra, Laura and Chris.  Regina  is so right that the community out here is invaluable and I continue to be grateful that you, and I, are here 🙂

Edited to add: And on the 7th September 2016 I was also listed in Port of Call’s 20 best addiction recovery blogs