Monthly Archives: August 2014

Addiction to Recovery

The quote I used in the post about Living Sober (here) by Russell Brand was taken from this programme.

This is a fascinating documentary that was filmed back in 2012.  It does focus on drug more than alcohol addiction and features the well-known rehab centre, Focus 12, which is very close to where I live and where he got clean and sober in 2002.  So it was surreal seeing the town that I have worked in for many years and a building that I have driven past countless times on the screen!

He is so good at challenging perceived wisdom and current drug policy within this country which is as out of whack as the alcohol policy is to be honest.  Here in the UK methadone is the gold standard treatment for heroin addiction not rehab and abstinence based programmes.  Cynically, probably because it’s easier and cheaper.

They visit prisoners and talk to those on the abstinence and rehab programme run by the Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners trust (RAPt) which has a 50% success rate of abstinence on release from prison.  80% of the prison population have a substance misuse issue so the potential to improve personal outcomes and reduce crime are huge.    The show also visits Brighton, the drugs death capital of the UK, where 80% of the crime is acquisitive – so things are stolen to fund a substance addiction.   Here they use the Crime Reduction Initiative (CRI) to treat addicted criminals rather than sending them to prison.  This is also another place that I used to live and work – hmm there’s a bit of a theme developing here 😉

Only 10% of the population with addiction are able to access rehab in this country and there are 10% of the population with a substance abuse issue.   So population of 63 million, minus 10 million children, means 530,000 have an addiction issue that require rehab and only 53,000 can access it.   So only 0.1%.  Shocking.

He talks eloquently about the need to escape ‘A life defined by acquiring and using drugs’.  That sums up how it feels to give up alcohol, even if my drug was legal and freely available at every corner shop and village store.  Oh and peddled in the media as something that everyone is doing and would only add to the quality of my life.  Which is what makes it so much more dangerous and drives my frustration at our lead public health agencies apparent lack of interest and inaction on the matter.

Russell believes in those with an addiction being shown ‘pragmatism, altruism and compassion in all areas of the condition’.  He discusses with a person considering rehab, the impact of reducing their methadone script and that they would experience an escalation in their feelings.  He acknowledges that there is a direct relationship between taking drugs and not feeling emotions and not taking drugs and feeling emotions and this drive is why so many of us use substances.   He espouses that this makes love and compassion the only appropriate response to addiction.

If only Russell could talk to Public Health England and them listen.  We would have a whole different world and a whole different conversation and future ahead of us in this country when looking at the issue of addiction.  I can’t wait for A Royal Hangover to premier!

1 month to go!!

PS If you have found my blog helpful and would like to say thank you my sponsorship page is still open at  http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/ahangoverfreelife and will be until my one year hangover free birthday on the 21st September.  All monies raised is going directly to  Alcohol Concern, the leading UK national charity working on alcohol issues. Their goal is to improve people’s lives through reducing the harm caused by alcohol. They have an ambitious long-term aim to change the drinking culture in this country.:)

Thinking vs feeling

So I’ve been having a bit of a wobble again and it wasn’t anticipated so that always shakes me up more than usual.  It might just be PAWS again and I’m going to start keeping a record, as Prim suggested, but it might be something else and I need to learn from it to be better prepared next time.

When we’re coming up to big sober first events, such as birthday’s, parties and holidays we can anticipate, plan and prepare.  I even wrote a series of posts on relapse and failed to take my own advice in this instance!

What triggered my monumental wobble?  A job interview.  Why?  Because one of the reasons I drank was anxiety and managing it (I know I know, it makes it worse, rebound anxiety and all).  The job interview itself went well but it is the peaks in anxiety both before the interview – what if I say the wrong thing?  and afterwards – what if I said the wrong thing?  that feed my anxiety and this awakens the inner critic.  This quickly spiralled into vanishing self-compassion and positive feelings of self care towards myself and in a desire to drown out the negative chatter I wanted to reach for a drink to make it stop, albeit temporarily.

Perceived wisdom has it that you shouldn’t change anything major in the first year of recovery, and preferably even in the second year, as this can destabilise your fledgling sobriety.  Oh how right that wisdom is and how I should have listened rather than thinking that I was (a) different or (b) stronger than that.  The wisdom is there for a reason and it should be listened to and respected.

Why? Because although you can think about this stuff rationally, in terms of it’s a job interview and I have the skills and competence to deal with this and successfully secure the position, it will not necessarily help you in managing how you feel about the job interview process and putting yourself in situations that trigger your own insecurities in terms of anxiety and stress.

Lesson learned for next time which happens to be today as I have the second round of the interview process this afternoon.  Let’s hope I handle it better than last time! 😉

32 days to go

Addiction and Recovery Movies

Thanks to LadyHaggisMcBaggis for triggering this idea! 🙂

So if you’ve read lots of sober blogs and read lots of addiction and recovery books you might be looking for a way to support your recovery in a more visual way.  As you would suspect there are many films out there to cater for your needs.  I’m going to focus on films about alcohol addiction and recovery predominantly but equally there are many films about drug addiction and recovery too.

There are so many I’m going to order them chronologically from newest first then you can chose according to age and generational appeal.

A Royal Hangover (2014) the UK documentary feature film has now been released and is available on iTunes here.  It will be available on Amazon on Demand and Google Play in the future and I will update links as it becomes available.  If you would like to read my review you can do so here.  This is a MUST SEE film.

The Anonymous People (2014) launched earlier this year and a must see documentary film in my opinion

Home Run (2013) Story of pro-baseball player who enters recovery following alcohol addiction

Blue Jasmine (2013) – although not about addiction per se her Stoly vodka is never far from her side in this Woody Allen Oscar winning film

Lipstick and Liquor (2012) which I covered in an earlier post and watched earlier this year.  Includes the founder of Sober is Sexy.

Smashed (2012) starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul.  A young teachers battle with addiction.

Flight (2012) with Denzel Washington where he plays a pilot who is an alcoholic

Young Adult (2011) starring Charlize Theron where booze plays a large part in her life’s woes

Everything Must Go (2010) Will Ferrell comedy drama about an alcoholic and based on the Raymond Carver short story ‘Why Don’t You Dance?’

Crazy Heart (2009) I saw this recently and really enjoyed it.  Gotta love me a bit of Jeff Bridges (the Dude) and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Factotum (2005) Tom Hanks as an alcoholic and writer.

28 days (2000) watched this recently and this is what started the post idea.  Really enjoyed and had a good old howl.

Smoke Signals (1998) Victor and Thomas are brought together through Victor’s father, Arnold.   Arnold rescued Thomas as an infant from a house fire that killed his parents. Because of this, Thomas considers him a hero. On the other hand, Victor, who endures Arnold’s alcoholism, domestic violence and eventual child abandonment, regards his father with both deep love and bitter resentment.

Drunks (1995) Film that portrays an AA meeting and follows the troubled time of one member who leaves and relapses.  Stellar cast including Faye Dunaway, Dianne Wiest and Calista Flockhart.

Leaving Las Vegas (1995) This film is etched on my brain following seeing it.  Nicholas Cage is just superb as the suicidal alcoholic.  It won him an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his performance.

When A Man Loves a Woman (1994).  I watched this one at the time and is one of the most well known for me.  Probably as it starred Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia who I love.

My Name is Bill W (1989)  It received a huge number of nominations for Emmy’s and Golden Globes and James Wood won the Outstanding Actor award at the Emmy’s.

Clean and Sober (1988) Michael Keaton as a cocaine addicted alcoholic who goes into rehab

Barfly (1987) Again I watched this at the time as I loved Mickey Rourke back in the day.

Shattered Spirits (1986) Martin Sheen as an alcoholic father and the impact on his family

Under the Volcano (1984) Written by Malcolm Lowry and believed to be autobiographical.  The film tells the story of Geoffrey Firmin, an alcoholic former British Consul in the small Mexican town of Quauhnahuac (recognizably Cuernavaca) on the Day of the Dead in 1938.

Tender Mercies (1983) Robert Duvall stars as a a recovering alcoholic country music singer who seeks to turn his life around through his relationship with a young widow and her son

The Rose (1979) Bette Midler playing Rose an insecure alcoholic and former drug user who seems to crave approval in her life and who is a famous rock’n’roll diva.

The Cracker Factory (1977) Natalie Wood plays alcoholic housewife Cassie Barrett is institutionalized in a psychiatric ward after experiencing a nervous breakdown in the supermarket. We learn this is the latest in a series of hospitalizations from which Cassie emerges supposedly in control of her life but actually still teetering on the edge. During this latest stay, she develops a romantic crush on psychiatrist Edwin Alexander and a close relationship with night supervisor Tinkerbell, both of whom help her take steps toward facing her inner demons and learning to live with sobriety

Days of Wine and Roses (1962) Again received huge number of nominations for Oscar’s, Golden Globes and BAFTA’s at the time.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman.  What’s not to like and remember watching this many many years ago.

I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955) Susan Haywood received an Oscar nomination for her role as Lillian Roth, a Broadway star who rebels against the pressure of her domineering mother and reacts to the death of her fiancé by becoming an alcoholic

The Lost Weekend (1945) Another film to receive and win many Oscars (nominated for 7, won 4)

Just a word of warning that some of these films may be quite triggery depending on where you are in your recovery journey so take care and proceed with caution.  Maybe start with one’s about recovery first and leave the still drinking dramas till the end when you are feeling stronger?  Just a suggestion 🙂

33 days to go

And here’s one I made earlier …..

So we’re back a day earlier than planned and I can’t keep away!  Both HOF Jnr’s got sick, with my daughter starting at 5am on Sunday morning.  We thought she’d overdosed on chocolate the night before, while watching Bugsy Malone, but then my son was sick at 3pm Sunday afternoon.  Festivals, camper-vans and vomiting children are not a good mix and so we headed home to give them a bath and the luxury of their own beds.

We had a fabulous time and I would really recommend this festival to anyone who is looking for something to do with their kids in the summer holidays in the UK.  It’s held in the grounds of a beautiful stately home in Cheshire and there is live music, art, games, circus, team games, open air cinema, campfire stories and songs and much much more.  We made fairy headdresses, we made a paper lantern for the lantern parade.  If you think I’m joking here it is!

lantern photo

We made paper boats and wrote letters, met the Gruffalo in the Spellbound Forest, danced and sang and chanted and watched great films under the stars.  And we didn’t drink.

I think it was Catlady who suggested that I share the things that I do now that I don’t drink and believe me this time last year you would not have got me near this event.  It would have got in the way of me getting my holiday party on with drink and I wouldn’t have had the patience or been interested in doing such things.  Everything revolved around booze but I just didn’t see it that way then.  I couldn’t see how much control it had over my life.

Yes there were bars at the event, small discreet ones, and yes there were people drinking booze – but the bars were outnumbered by smoothie, coffee, tea and milkshake stands.  There was one moment of missing and craving at about 4pm on Saturday while we were listening to a live band.  Lots of people around me were drinking and I felt left out.  My kids had been trying and I wanted to zone out.  I was having a moment of euphoric recall for all those festivals past where I would have been sinking a cold one.  But it passed and I had a piece of chocolate instead.  It used to be the main attraction and focus of activity and now it was neither.   For the second time this year my kid got sick in the night and I could deal with it because I wasn’t pissed or hungover.

I guess this post is about how differently I do things now and how that is a good thing.  It is about how I thought I would never be able to holiday without a drink in my hand, and certainly consider a festival as sober territory, and that I wouldn’t be able to have fun if I didn’t drink and that doing kids stuff was boring.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.

If you are reading this and drinking and wishing your life could be different – it so absolutely can be if you put down the drink.  I didn’t think it was possible either and I was wrong – so wrong.  The more time passes the less afraid of doing anything I become.  If booze had become as central to your life as it was in mine and you walk away from it – man sometimes I feel f**king invincible.  And I miss it less with each day as another sober first gets bested 😉

37 – 36 – 35 – 34 days to go

Sober festival fun – here I come!

So it is time for our second mini holiday of the summer and we tried to book something that wouldn’t test our sober newness too much.  Like the last one it will also be a cyber holiday as I enjoyed the break and being able to focus on my family and be present for them without distraction.

We’re off to a family festival called ‘Just So’ and if you’re interested in finding out more you can do so here.  They offer to:

Take your family on a journey of the imagination.

A magical weekend of creative adventures.

and here’s a short 4 min clip of the kind of stuff we’ll be up to in case you decide you’d like to go next year 🙂

 

 

So there will be Pirate School for my son and Fairy School for my daughter.  There will be a proper midnight feast and we’ll be watching Grease on a big screen under the stars.  Me and Mr HOF are going to play silly buggers for the week-end without any booze on board and see how much fun we can have 🙂

I’ll be back posting and answering comments on Tuesday 19th August  so see you then.  I’m off to make a paper lantern 😉

38 days to go

Boozy holiday Brits

So we’re well into August now and this is probably the most popular holiday month of the year in this country due to the school summer holidays and the August Bank Holiday week-end.  This piece appeared in the Daily Mail recently following an Alcohol Concern study.

I appreciate that this is hardly news as we know that our holiday antics have given us a bad name for many many years, seeing as we’re already lucky enough to be perceived as boozy holiday Brits and a nation of ‘lager louts’ 🙁

Half of British holidaymakers drink alcohol every day on summer breaks – and one in three of us admit to boozing in the departure lounge.

A survey revealed yesterday how Brits hit the bottle as soon as we set off on holidays abroad.

Alcohol abuse campaigners warned that ‘any ideas about sensible drinking get left at home when we go on holiday.’

The research showed that more than 30 per cent down at least four alcoholic drinks each day.

But it also revealed how 19 per cent of holidaymakers admitted having a ‘regrettable experience’ as a result of being under the influence of alcohol.

Nearly a quarter said their holiday abroad had been spoiled by someone else’s drinking leading to loud or aggressive behaviour.’

The survey of more than 500 adults was carried out by the Alcohol Concern in Wales – with over a third said that they started drinking before they had even arrived at their accommodation.

It found that half said they drank alcohol ‘every day’ during their last holiday – with a further 29 per cent drinking on ‘most days’.

‘These findings show that, when it comes to holidaying abroad, most of us drink more alcohol than we normally do back home,’ said the spokesman.   Yet, far from improving the holiday experience, excess alcohol can often cause disruption and misery, resulting in arguments and ill-health, as well as valuable leisure time wasted nursing a hangover.

‘Drinking too much alcohol will do us no favours, and that holds true whether we are at home or away on our holidays.’

The survey showed 92 per cent drank alcohol on their last holiday abroad, 75 per cent said they drank more on holiday abroad than they would normally at home.

The main reasons to drink on holiday were to relax and have fun – yet only 26 per cent agreed that holidays would be less enjoyable without alcohol.

Fifteen per cent drank more because the drinks were part of an all-inclusive deal.

And 34 per cent said that their drinking started before they arrived at their holiday accommodation – with 16 per cent began drinking at the departure terminal.

We need to change our relationship with alcohol, and whilst, as individuals, we can take steps to moderate our drinking by keeping within recommended guidelines, the lead needs to come from Government.

‘We often knock back even more when we holiday abroad, where it seems we have decided that the “normal rules” around drinking don’t apply.’

I’m off on my second mini holiday of the summer and I am pleased to say that no time will be wasted with a hangover unlike pretty much every holiday I’ve ever had before! 🙂

39 days to go

Health warnings on alcohol bottles should be compulsory

Halle-bloody-lujah!!  An article that is music to my ears but I must reign in my enthusiasm to wait to see if the words are followed by actions.  Too often this govt say all the right things and then it gets kicked into the long grass at a later date once, what I can only imagine as happening is, the industry leans on them to withdraw or water down the measures.

Recommendation for changing labels part of series of measures by cross-party group to tackle ‘epidemic’ of alcohol abuse

Health warnings should be compulsory on bottles of wine, beer and spirits to raise awareness of the dangers of drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and the growing problem of liver disease, a group of MPs has said.

The recommendation is part of a series of measures put forward by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Misuse to tackle what it says is an epidemic of alcohol abuse in Britain.

Conservative MP Tracey Crouch, the chair of the group, said people should be as aware of the dangers posed by excessive drinking as they are of the risks associated with smoking. “The facts and figures of the scale of alcohol misuse in the UK speak for themselves: 1.2 million people a year are admitted to hospital due to alcohol; liver disease in those under 30 has more than doubled over the past 10 years; and the cost of alcohol to the economy totals £21bn. Getting political parties to seriously commit to these 10 measures will be a massive step in tackling the huge public health issue that alcohol is.”

The report, which also recommends a minimum unit price on alcohol, states that although health warnings are prominent on tobacco products, alcohol packaging only outlines alcohol content. “In order to inform consumers about balanced risk, every alcohol label should include an evidence-based health warning as well as describing the product’s nutritional calorific and alcohol content,” it states.

Labour peer Clive Brooke, vice-chairman of the group, said that after smoking “alcohol is the second biggest preventable killer” in Britain and it was time politicians stood up to the powerful drinks industry.

“Not only does it cost lives but it burdens the NHS and the criminal and justice systems and others with ever increasing costs. All the political parties know that but they run for cover when they are confronted by the drinks industry and its immensely powerful lobby. These proposals give them another chance to consider whether they really have the guts to take a different line for the country’s wellbeing in the future.”

40 days to go

Edited to add:  I awoke to the news of Robin Williams death.  I have no words to express how profoundly sad this makes me feel.  Russell Brand wrote a beautiful eulogy about him here. Carpe diem. RIP Robin.

Alcohol health campaigns

nhs alcohol breast cancer campaign 2009

These are 2 Department of Health led campaigns that have been used in recent years to tackle the issue of drinking and alcohol consumption and the Change4Life campaign on the right is still running now (click on to enlarge).

Now I like the Change4Life campaign as it looks at all different elements of healthy living – healthy eating, exercise and alcohol consumption.  However it reminds me of the old Tony Hart character Morph who – well I associate as something friendly and funny and not really a particularly hard hitting health education approach.

The 2009 Health Effects NHS poster on the left is much more clear about both the risks of drinking and the visual imagery used to convey the message.  Why did these ad campaign’s stop?  I’ve tried to look for a reason why these would have been pulled.  Labour was in power in 2009 and then the Coalition came into power in 2010.  Was it related to change of political party and the influence of the drinks industry on the new Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition?  It is the best guess that I have and the move of alcohol as a Governmental issue from NHS to Home Office would support this view.

Which campaign would make you think twice about drinking?  The one on the left or the one of the right?  Let’s do our own mini straw-poll in the comments section 🙂

41 days to go

PAWS still has claws out

A well recognised phenomenon when giving up the booze is Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) and I wrote about it initially here.

At coming up 11 months not every day is rainbows and unicorns and pink clouds and I decided to revisit the subject to check if it was me who was just being funky or if there was something else afoot (excuse the pun!).

Turns out PAWS can last 2 years which I find ever so slightly depressing if I’m honest.  One of the good people at BFB on Yahoo shared a link to an article on Addictions and Recovery.org. and this is what it says:

Post-acute withdrawal occurs because your brain chemistry is gradually returning to normal. As your brain improves the levels of your brain chemicals fluctuate as they approach the new equilibrium causing post-acute withdrawal symptoms.

Post-acute withdrawal feels like a rollercoaster of symptoms. In the beginning, your symptoms will change minute to minute and hour to hour. Later as you recover further they will disappear for a few weeks or months only to return again. As you continue to recover the good stretches will get longer and longer. But the bad periods of post-acute withdrawal can be just as intense and last just as long.

Each post-acute withdrawal episode usually last for a few days. Once you’ve been in recovery for a while, you will find that each post-acute withdrawal episode usually lasts for a few days. There is no obvious trigger for most episodes. You will wake up one day feeling irritable and have low energy. If you hang on for just a few days, it will lift just as quickly as it started. After a while you’ll develop confidence that you can get through post-acute withdrawal, because you’ll know that each episode is time limited.

Post-acute withdrawal usually lasts for 2 years. This is one of the most important things you need to remember. If you’re up for the challenge you can get though this. But if you think that post-acute withdrawal will only last for a few months, then you’ll get caught off guard, and when you’re disappointed you’re more likely to relapse.

So having read this I’ve been wondering if the periods of funkiness I’ve been experiencing have just been PAWS after all and revisiting this has made me go easier on myself as it is just my brain still trying to equalise out.  The article goes on to say don’t resent them but remember, even after one year, you are still only half way there’. The piece goes on to offer some hints and tips to help, and to summarise they are:

  1. Be patient
  2. Go with the flow
  3. Practice self-care
  4. Remember they can be a trigger for relapse, so proceed with caution
  5. Being able to relax will help  you through

So big deep breath in and out I have to just keep trucking on and be mindful that this will be part of the process for the foreseeable future even when all those firsts are done.

42 days to go