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.  Erik Erikson argued that “shame is blame turned against the self” and Pete Walker writes that “shame is the death of self-acceptance and self-worth.”  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.  You can watch her TED talk on vulnerability here and her follow up TED talk on ‘Listening to Shame’ here.

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 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 self-compassion break  🙂

Overindulgence Disposal Unit

Guest Blog Post: Veronica Valli, Chip Somers & the Soberful programme

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s blog post comes from my friend Veronica Valli.  Veronica and I have worked together in the past where we discussed AA and the 12 steps and recorded our interveiws which you can revisit here.

V and I also have a shared connection in that she worked for Focus12 as did I!  Sadly by the time I joined the organisation both V and the legendary Chip Somers were no longer there but I have heard a great deal about him and know that he is a local hero in the rehab and recovery community.  So it is my great pleasure to feature this guest blog post and share their work with you here.  Over to V:

For a long time, I have been thinking about developing a program where I can mentor anyone who has an alcohol use disorder. Putting my 16 years experience of working with addiction and my own experience of recovery into an affordable and accessible format.

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make in sobriety is believing that drinking is the problem when it is a symptom of the problem.

Our real problem is how we think and how we feel. We have to develop new and better ways to deal with our feelings and emotions. Because when we feel differently, we act differently. Alcohol loses its power over us.

The Soberful program is made up of the five essential components that you need to implement to not just successfully stay sober but to be happy, fulfilled and free also. Because who wants to be sober and miserable?

The five components are;

  • Movement
  • Balance
  • Connection
  • Process
  • Growth

These are the tools I have been using for over 17 years to stay sober and to live a life beyond anything I could have dreamed of. In my 6-week program, I teach you how to implement these components in your life. In the process section, we go deep to look at relationships, peer groups and dealing with fear. In the first week, I teach you an easy and effective tool that will help you relieve stress and eliminate cravings.

I am also deeply honored that Chip Somers has come on board as one of the instructors of the Soberful program. Chip is the first person Russell Brand thanks in his book ‘Recovery.’

In the video below I welcome Chip to the Soberful community and ask him how he went from being a ‘right social liability’ to the man he is today.

If you are interested in learning about Soberful living and the five pillars of successful sobriety, then please sign up for my Masterclass here. I will pack in a lot of information that you can apply to living a successful sober life.

You can also join my FREE Facebook group where I provide mentorship and support to anyone wishing to overcome an alcohol problem.

I never had the pleasure of hearing Chip speak about recovery and this video is well worth your time!

Here’s the link to the Masterclass again:

http://veronicavalli.com/the-5-secrets-to-successful-sobriety-and-the-3-mistakes-to-avoid

Bach Flower Essences for Breaking Addiction

This recommendation for a Bach Flower remedy for breaking addiction was shared with me by Feeling a good while ago and it has taken me this long to follow it up!

Flower essences provide strong support to help you break addictions. Whether your addiction is to food, sugar, sex, drugs, tobacco or alcohol there are many Bach flower essences to help you end your addiction. This special combination of flower essences will support you on deep emotional and psychological levels to put an end to addition.

Treating addiction with flower essences is easy because it takes aim at the emotional and psychological roots of addiction. Flower essences give you added emotional and psychological support that herbs and supplements don’t provide. This is important because of the strong emotional component addictions have.

http://www.essencealchemy.com/2012/09/19/bach-flower-essences-for-breaking-addictions/ please note this formula is preserved with apple cider vinegar

You can pick it up on Ebay for delivery from Australia if you are in the UK

What is in the Bach Flower Essence for Addiction Formula?

Agrimony: this flower essence is for emotional honesty; it treats the painful emotions that are often the root  of addiction.

Cherry Plum: is for when you feel you are at a breaking point, experiencing great suffering and are about to lose control. You may also find you’re trying desperately to control feelings. Cherry plum is a light-filled essence that promotes growth and calmness while dealing with inner turmoil.

Chestnut Bud: this flower essence is for learning from mistakes. Addiction is a repeated pattern, this essence helps to break the pattern by strengthening the mind to make a new choice.

Crab Apple: this flower essence is for Obsessive/Compulsive behavior and the feelings of shame and/or uncleanliness that can accompany addiction.

Honeysuckle: this flower essence supports living in the present. It supports us to leave the past behind and focus our emotional energy in the present. This flower essence gets you out of addictive patterning that is tied to the past. It helps you to accept life as it is.

Pine: this flower essence frees you from guilt and shame that can accompany addiction.

Rock Rose: this flower essence is for intense feelings that accompany the end of an addiction. This essence helps one to stay centered and remain grounded and deal with challenging circumstances.

Sweet Chestnut: this flower essence supports positive hopeful feelings when we feel we are stuck in the dark. Sweet chestnut offers spiritual support in times of struggle.

Walnut: this flower essence is a spell breaker, helping to ‘break the spell of the past.’ Addictive behavior can linger in the the mind and walnut frees the psyche from past limiting influences. This helps you to make a healthy transition and give you the courage to follow your own path in life.

These Bach flower essences for addiction provide support while you are trying to quit and end the cycle of addiction. This formula should be used 4 times a day or more often if  needed.

Thank you Feeling 🙂  Plus just a word of warning that all other Bach Flower Herb remedies are dissolved in a grape alcohol solution!

Acudetox

This information on Acudetox was sent to me by my friend Daisy a good while ago – thank you Daisy!

AcuDetox is also known as: acupuncture detoxification, auriculoacupuncture, auriculotherapy, ear acupuncture, and five-point ear acupuncture.

The needles we use are fine gauge, disposable, sterilized, and stainless steel. If you are afraid they might cause you pain, don’t worry—you’ll barely feel a quick prick as each needle enters your skin.

Each of the five points in the ear corresponds to a specific point in the body. One affects the parasympathetic nervous system and the others affect the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. By activating these points through acupuncture, your body will become more relaxed, while also becoming more effective at cleansing your system of any toxins.

The benefits of AcuDetox are numerous. Studies have shown that it can relieve withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, ease stress and anxiety, improve sleep, lessen depression, and alleviate aches and pains. For more information about studies that have been conducted on the use of AcuDetox in the treatment of addictions, read “Evidence for the NADA Protocol: Summary of Research” by the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association.

The above information is taken from a US treatment centre web page but it is available here in Scotland too.

Drugs, Alcohol and Psychotherapies Ltd (DAPL) provides a complimentary service in which Auricular Acupuncture is offered to interested DAPL clients. This complementary therapy is specifically geared towards any form of addiction.

All our acudetox workers have completed training as practitioners through SMART UK and hold their accreditation certificate and membership.

Have had acupuncture myself for back pain but not for treating addiction so although I can’t recommend this treatment approach personally I can speak of the benefit of acupuncture more generally.  Have any of you tried this?  What was it like?

Oz Dream 2018 comes true!

This weekly dose of daring from Brene Brown sums up perfectly how I’ve been feeling for the last 6 weeks since we found out I’d secured a job that has helped us fulfill our dream of moving to Australia.

So our hope was fading that I’d be able to find a professional position with employer sponsored visa and the week-end after my birthday I decided to give it one more push of responding to jobs advertised and approaching agencies with my resume.  Little did I know that this final act would turn everything around.

Having emailed them on the Saturday I got a phone call from Brisbane on the Monday morning.  And then 3 weeks later a phone call came on a Friday morning saying that the job they had put me forward for, although not the one for me, had put my CV in front of someone who knew someone who was looking for a nurse with skills and experience just like mine.  So much so that they wanted to interview me the following Monday morning!  And they were so keen they offered me the job on the phone then and there – twice!!  And of course I said yes because this was the job:

Clinical Nurse (Consultation Liaison) Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Service
Queensland Health (Organisation site)
North West Hospital and Health Service, MOUNT ISA

The Clinical Nurse (Consultation Liaison) Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Service position provides a range of alcohol, tobacco and other drug assessment, screening, early and brief intervention, treatment and intervention services that address the health needs of clients with substance use issues.

The North West Hospital and Health Service covers an area of over 300,000 square kilometres and services the rural and remote communities within North Western Queensland and the Gulf of Carpentaria. The Health Service includes the City of Mount Isa and the towns and areas of Burketown, Camooweal, Cloncurry, Dajarra, Doomadgee, Julia Creek, Karumba, Normanton and Mornington Island.

So my dream job in my dream country – the universe had my back all along 😉  This blog and all the resources I’ve developed were an important factor in my being successfully employed which just thrills me and fills me with pride.  Everything I’ve been doing since I got sober has played a part and led to this moment and opportunity.  As Belle said to me:

if you’re sober, then shit happens. and you’re living proof of that 🙂

It’s in the same state as my family who are a 3 hour journey away by plane and car.   It’s a 4 year work visa but we’re hoping we can turn that into longer so that my children can finish their secondary education in Australia but we’ll see.  Right now we don’t know and that’s okay.

Huge thanks goes to Tyler Dewar at HealthX who has been superb in sorting things out and supporting the process despite the time difference between here and there!

And where would I be without all of you?  This blog, and by extension my sobriety, may have stumbled and ceased without your ongoing support, love and compassion and for that I am eternally grateful.  I don’t know what the future holds or how the blog will proceed but I’d like it to continue to share my ongoing journey.  I have enough blog posts scheduled to see us through until April and by then I’ll have had 3 months to settle in and learn how my new employer and this alcohol addiction and recovery blog will work in documenting both my professional life and my ongoing personal story of recovery.

We fly out in the next weeks in preparation for me starting my new job so bear with me over the next few months as there may be delays in my responding to requests and replying to comments while we find out feet in Oz.  I never thought I would be typing those words and that this dream would become a reality.  In the words of Faithless & Dido: ‘It’s been a long time coming but it’s well worth waiting and I raise my hands and ask for nothing more‘ *cue happy tears*

So my word of the year for 2018 is fulfilment which follows on from abundance in 2015, clarity in 2016 and liberation/freedom in 2017.  All have been incredibly prescient!

If you’d like to follow me in Oz I’ve set up a new Instragram account specifically for it which goes live today!

https://www.instagram.com/ahangoverfreelifeinoz/

Guest Blog Post from Alcohol Concern and Dry January

It’s almost that time of year again!  Today I’m honoured to feature a guest blog post written for the blog by Alcohol Concern to promote their soon to be active Dry January campaign which kicks off in a few days!

Over to Alcohol Concern:

Dry January feels like it’s been around forever, doesn’t it? It’s as ubiquitous to January as New Year’s resolutions and the post-Christmas belly. But how much do you know about it?

Dry January is an annual behaviour change campaign, which encourages people to give up alcohol for the month of January. A YouGov poll commissioned by charity Alcohol Concern has revealed that an estimated 3.1 million people[1] in the UK are already planning to do Dry January in 2018. They will ditch the booze for one month to feel healthier, save money and re-set their relationship with alcohol.  

The campaign is run by national charity Alcohol Concern, which merged with Alcohol Research UK in April to become an even stronger advocate for a world in which alcohol causes no harm.  

In 2012 a woman named Emily Robinson joined Alcohol Concern. She had decided to give up alcohol for January, and absolutely everyone wanted to talk to her about it. She was having lots of conversations about alcohol and the benefits of taking a break from drinking – just the kinds of conversations Alcohol Concern wants to have on a wider scale. The national Dry January campaign was born.

Dry January has gone from zero to over five million participants in five years. This is its sixth year running, and we’re expecting the biggest year yet. Dry January now looks suspiciously like a movement – a movement of people who want to be in charge of when, what and how much they drink. Someone you know will be doing it. Probably more than one. Maybe your whole family. Maybe your whole office. Probably not the whole country but hey – we can dream.

Dry January is  quite different to Sober for October (run by Macmillan Cancer Support) or the Dryathlon (run by Cancer Research UK), because it’s about YOU. It’s not about raising money for charity (though if you want to, you can do that through Dry January). It’s not about giving something up.

Cutting alcohol out for a month can result in some amazing benefits to health – alcohol puts strain on the body, can disrupt sleep, have a negative impact on skin, and cause weight gain. Going dry for a month can work wonders for people financially, as the average person in the UK spends £50,000 on booze over their lifetime. Additionally, Dry January allows people to develop a new relationship with alcohol and learn the skills needed to say no when they don’t fancy a drink. Two-thirds of people who attempt Dry January make it through the month without drinking, while 72% maintain lower levels of harmful drinking than before Dry January six months later. [2]

Public Health England has endorsed Dry January, saying “Dry January is based on sound behavioural principles and our previous evaluation of the campaign shows that for some people it can help them re-set their drinking patterns for weeks or even months after completing the challenge.”

People can sign up for Dry January at dryjanuary.org.uk, or by downloading the Dry January & Beyond app via the App Store or Google Play. People who sign up to Dry January are more likely to make it through to the end of the month without drinking. They get access to support, tips and tricks, prize draws, and the app, with features including a unit calculator, calorie counter and money-saved tracker. Dry January is for anyone and everyone. Even if you already don’t drink, signing up and sharing the campaign can encourage others to do the same.

To sum up, here’s a quote from blogger Jenna Haldene, who reckons you should give Dry January a go.

“I didn’t think I felt bad at the time. I assumed that it was normal to feel tired and slightly sluggish, and that it was just a side effect of getting older. It wasn’t until I gave my body a much-needed break from alcohol that I realised how much potential I had to feel amazing.”

Sign up for Dry January now.

Read Jenna’s whole blog about cutting out booze here.

If you drink very heavily or experience physical withdrawal symptoms when not drinking alcohol, then Dry January is probably not for you. Instead, you should seek support from your GP or alcohol services; find out what’s available in your area here. Unsure if this applies to you? Try our alcohol audit.  

[1] The poll found that 6% of UK adults are planning to do Dry January. Figure of 3.1 million UK adults planning to do Dry January: total population aged 18+ in the UK 51,767,543 (ONS, Population Estimates for UK: mid-2016, table MYE2); 51,767,543 x .06 = 3,106,053.  

[2] Evaluation by University of Sussex, School of Psychology 2014

Drugsland

So although this blog is primarily about alcohol addiction, substance abuse and misuse isn’t that neat and tidy and many of us have/had multiple addictions to many substances and behaviours.  I recently watched the BBC series Drugsland which I was really impressed with and learnt a great deal hence wanted to share here for those of you who may also be interested.

The image on this blog post comes from an organisation called The Loop:

The Loop is a not for profit Community Interest Company established in 2013 which provides drug safety testing, welfare and harm reduction services at nightclubs, festivals and other leisure events.

We also provide staff training on drugs awareness, in-house welfare service delivery, the prevention of drug related harm at events, and the delivery of ethical ‘front of house’ drug safety testing services.

This part of their service really struck me as vital:

To provide an opportunity to engage with hidden and hard to reach user populations who are predominantly not in touch with drugs services and who are unlikely to get the opportunity to have any other advice or brief interventions

Such a brilliant organisation and much needed service.

Here is the link to the episode of Drugsland which features Prof David Nutt and Dr Ben Sessa talking about the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act which at over 45 years old still governs the legal, and therefore criminal processes, here in the UK.  There is also an interesting discussion about how alcohol and tobacco should be made illegal if there are no changes to current drugs laws!

Drugsland: The Fix

And this one is also well worth a watch:

Drugsland: Dying to Get Clean

To be honest all four episodes are excellent although at times I found them hard to watch.  I agree with all that David Nutt and Dr Sessa say and believe it is time to review and revise the policy around drugs including decriminalisation so that drug testing and harm reduction services could be more widely expanded to support public health and safety.  I would have happily used the services of The Loop if they had been available in my past and would encourage anyone to use them if they are present at an event you are attending.  New Years Eve used to be a big night out back in the day so sharing this felt timely as we approach just that night.

If you’re concerned about your drug taking and need advice and support the Drugsland website also provide an excellent list of resources:

Information and Support

 

Xmas Sober Jukebox (Wish you were here)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t think she’s sober but I love the quote! Merry Xmas from all the HOF clan! 🙂

If you’re needing some advice to get you through today then Hannah Bett’s wise words will be the perfect (non-alcoholic) tonic 😉

A teetotaller’s guide to drinking less alcohol this Christmas (and why dry Yule is best)

And if you are a child or young person reading this who are struggling with parental drinking concerns then check out the support at Nacoa including their #AdventCare messages.  They are there today and every day over Xmas & New Year between 12 – 6 pm if you need to speak to someone: Free Helpline: 0800 3583456 & helpline@nacoa.org.uk

David Bowie RIP – sober hero since the late 70’s when he was given custody of his son

Wish you were here ……