Monthly Archives: September 2014

The permission slip you’ve been waiting for

OK so today is the start of year 2 of being sober and what will it bring I wonder?  I’m going to keep blogging on a daily basis until I reach day 402.  Why this number?  Because I started this blog on day 37 of my journey and so I want to do a full year of daily posts.  Then I’ll give your eye balls a rest and drop the frequency to every other day.  Year 1: daily Year 2: every two days 😉

I saw this and thought I would share it here because I liked it and I think what Danielle LaPorte shares is true (or I agree with it anyway!).  Hell if I can successfully give up drinking so can you and maybe this video will give you a shot of inspiration 🙂

You want permission to stop drinking? Here it is!  You can do this 🙂

PS Thank you all so much for your well wishes yesterday – it meant the world to me  <3

Booze free for one whole year

If I need a way to express myself and words are difficult then music does it best for me and this video says it all.  It is a heady combination of my fav’s – Daft Punk (French dance music superstars in my world), the lovely Pharrell Williams and then two of the greats, Nile Rodgers and Stevie Wonder.  Musical heaven! 🙂

And the songs title and lyrics just says it all –

GET LUCKY

Like the legend of the phoenix
All ends with beginnings
What keeps the planet spinning (uh)
The force of love beginning

(Look)

We’ve come too far to give up who we are
So let’s raise the bar and our cups to the stars

She’s up all night ’til the sun
I’m up all night to get some
She’s up all night for good fun
I’m up all night to get lucky

We’re up all night ’til the sun
We’re up all night to get some
We’re up all night for good fun
We’re up all night to get lucky

We’re up all night to get lucky
We’re up all night to get lucky
We’re up all night to get lucky
We’re up all night to get lucky

The present has no ribbon
Your gift keeps on giving,
What is this I’m feeling?
If you wanna leave I’m ready (ah)

I feel so lucky about my life now that booze isn’t part of it.  I am learning to love myself in a way that just wasn’t possible when I was poisoning myself and my thoughts about myself on a daily basis.  You do not need to drink to have fun and  you can have so much more fun when you don’t drink as you get to re-frame fun in a ‘booze need not apply’ way.

I have come along way and I have no intention of giving up what I have now.  This gift really does have no ribbon because it does truly keep on giving.

I have met the most amazing bunch of people both in the virtual and real world because of me taking that first solitary step of putting down the drink.  I wouldn’t be here without you all and so I count myself as ‘getting lucky’ to have you in my life 😉

The icing on my sober birthday cake was that I was interviewed by Veronica Valli as part of her Recovery Rocks series and you can read the interview here: http://veronicavalli.com/2014/09/recovery-rocks-louise-rowlinson/

Thank you and in the words of Bill Nighy 😀

‘I used to drink, and it was terrible.

Now I don’t drink, and it’s absolutely bloody marvellous’

Praise You

This song is actually MrHOF and I’s ‘our song’.  We were Brightonians for a while as you know and also ravers in a former life so it was only natural that Brighton’s dance music home boy Fat Boy Slim would be a huge influence on us.

I’m sharing it here today to praise YOU.  Everyone who takes the time to read and comment on my daily ramblings.  Everyone who has the courage to swim against the tide of booze and dance to a different tune.  That takes courage and strength of character in my book.  When I stopped drinking I felt like a bit of a weirdo in our booze soaked world and this video expresses that so well.  I was the person dancing awkwardly to the left of the video 😉  But the rest of the drinking world may think us sober people are a little odd but you know what?  You are MY bunch of sober weirdos and I love you all, in particular the lovely sober ladies who met me in London for tea and cake.  You know who you are! 🙂

1 day to go!

 

Jagermeister TV ad banned for linking alcohol with tough daring behaviour

Thanks to Alcohol Policy UK for their continued highlighting of news stories, media and policy in their newsletters.

The ASA recently ruled to ban a TV advert for Jagermeister  for linking alcohol with tough, daring behaviour (surfing in icy waters) with the following comments:

The Youth Alcohol Advertising Council challenged whether the ad was irresponsible, because it:

1. linked alcohol with tough, daring behaviour;

2. encouraged irresponsible and immoderate drinking; and

3. implied that alcohol was key to the social success of the occasion.

You can see the full ASA adjudication here

This is important because other research published in Alcohol: Clinical and Experimental Research found that underage drinkers are three times more likely to drink alcohol brands that advertise on television programs they watch compared to other alcohol brands, providing, the researchers claim, new and compelling evidence of a strong association between alcohol advertising and youth drinking behaviour.

2 days to go

 

168 units of alcohol: just an average week on a cruise ship

I read this in The Telegraph and if it is true then it is truly shocking.

An average cruise passenger consumes 42 bottles of beer, 16 cocktails, seven bottles of wine, 16 shots of whisky and two glasses of champagne on a single voyage, new research has claimed

A poll of almost 3,000 Britons, carried out by the website Bonvoyage.co.uk, uncovered the staggering statistics, which suggest that a cruise passenger’s weekly alcohol consumption – during a one-week sailing is eight times the recommended allowance for men (21 units), and 12 times in excess of the recommended consumption levels for women (14 units).

Mediterranean cruises were found to be the booziest, while men and women were evenly matched when it came to the total amount drunk.

“A cruise is one of the most relaxing holidays out there and it is evident from our research that passengers are certainly relaxing with a few alcoholic beverages,” said a spokesman for Bonvage.co.uk.

I am actually speechless and have to question the robustness of the research as it doesn’t sound possible!  Plus I’ve never been on a cruise so don’t have any personal experience.  Have you been on a cruise and does this reflect your experience?

3 days to go

Discussion about alcohol and addiction with Veronica Valli (1)

So last week Veronica Valli and I got together on Skype to discuss alcohol and addiction and we recorded our conversation to share with you 🙂

In this little nugget we discuss:

If you think you have an alcohol problem what are the things that will be going through your mind?

Is there a line that you cross in terms of alcoholism? (psychological vs physical dependence)

We discuss recovery meetings and barriers we might feel that deter us from accessing them

We plan on doing more of these and would love to involve you in the conversation too! 🙂

We’d love to hear from you either with comments or feedback on this discussion or questions for the future.  If you have any questions you would like to ask Veronica, as an addictions specialist, or me as a nurse with alcoholic liver disease and public health experience, then put them in the comments below or email Veronica or myself.

4 days to go

8000 strong visible recovery

UK Recovery Walk 2014

Only one word can describe this week-end for me:  mind-blowing

This is the UK Recovery Movement at the Castlefield Bowl in Manchester following the UK Recovery Walk.  There were so many people and it was packed with smiling happy clean and sober people.  So many shared their experience, hope and joy from their recovery.  From a 19 year old who was 5 months sober, to a lady who’d been sober for 28 years, to two mothers in recovery who had both lost son’s in the last two weeks – one to recreational drugs.  So much love and laughter, tears and sadness.  Everyone involved was in recovery whether they were marching or playing music on the stage.  One of the band’s singers shared how he had been in cardiac failure following 3 stints in rehab in one year and how now he had been sober for 2 years and what a gift it was to be playing in this band at this event.

The recovery advocacy movement is relatively new in the UK and I was lucky enough to meet it’s CEO, Annemarie Ward who has been in long term recovery for 16 years.  I love their message of hope and joy and completely embrace their approach of visible recovery.  If people can see you living happily in recovery then this is a motivator for others.  And this is what we do out here on the sober blogs.  You may not be able to see my face but you hear my voice, stories and experience.  Research into people in long-term recovery show that they have higher levels of well-being than the general populace and recovery can bring new purpose and meaning to lives.  Again this reflects how I feel.

They have just launched their ‘Advocacy Toolkit’ which you can access on their website here: http://www.ukrecoverywalk.org/advocacy-toolkit-england/.   I have become a member of this charity and would encourage you to do the same if you are a UK resident.  They are working hard to change the face of recovery and addiction in this country and they have a way of presenting the recovery message which really resonates with me too, so for me I would say:

‘I’m Lou, and I am in long term recovery, which means that I have not drank alcohol for more than 12 months (next week!).  I am committed to recovery because it has given me and my family new purpose and hope for the future, while helping me gain stability in my life.  I am now speaking out because long-term recovery has helped me change my life for the better, and I want to make it possible for others to do the same’

5 days to go

PS Veronica Valli and I have now sorted out the technical quality issues of talking to each other across the Atlantic and will be starting a Skype interview series in the next two weeks.  One of the first topic of conversations will be The Advocacy in Action conference, Manchester’s dry bar ‘The Umbrella Cafe’ and this walk that I attended this week-end where I can convey in a much more engaging way just how big a deal this week-end was!! 😉

Edited to add:  a video has now been uploaded to Youtube of the UK Recovery Walk which I’ve added in above.

 

Guest post: Mr HOF on 1 year sober

I thought I’d ask my other half if he would kindly share some thoughts on his view of the journey from his perspective on this day – his one year sober birthday!

Mrs Hangover-Free has asked me to write a few words on the first anniversary of giving up drinking. It may irk her somewhat that I am about a week ahead of her on our abstinence journey but if it does, she doesn’t show it and generally she wears her heart on her sleeve. I like to think of myself as the swarthy native hacking down the undergrowth of the jungle at the forefront of her expedition into hitherto uncharted territory. But more of my bizarre delusions later.

One aspect of my own experience of dry sobriety has been a gradually dawning realisation that I have been playing this game of life all wrong. Well, not completely wrong but let’s say I have been missing some major tricks. I can’t help thinking of the best episode of the sci-fi comedy series Red Dwarf. In Back to Reality the crew of the spaceship were attacked by a giant ‘suicide squid’, seemingly resulting in a crash and a massive ‘game over’, whereupon they ‘realised’ that they had been playing a total immersion game called Red Dwarf. As the characters were unplugged from the apparatus they were told by the game engineers that not only had they scored very poorly but they had missed out on all the best parts of the game. All this turned out to be a massive hallucination but it looks like I am finally here in my own reality (whatever that means) and here to stay.

So what are the things that I have missed out on? This is a difficult question to answer as it involves a considerable amount of speculation. I can’t help imagining what my life might have been like if I hadn’t spent so much of it imbibing alcohol. For most of my life it has been a constant ‘companion’ of sorts. I acknowledge that there have been many experiences which I may not have had if I had not been under the influence and not all of them cause me acute embarrassment when (and if) I recall them, but sometimes the embarrassment and regret I feel about not doing things is much worse. For example, I could have spent more time playing music. This is something that I have focused on recently as an alternative to drinking, which also provides some kind of escapism, I might add. I finally immersed myself in a focussed, concerted effort to learn more about playing guitar. This has meant learning stuff that I previously found really boring like scales and theory. Previously I might have given up and had a drink instead but my rapid improvement has not only been a revelation but also one of the best presents I could ever have given myself. In fact, I can’t help thinking how much better it would have been if I had done it years ago. Who knows where it could have led. Of course this is a dangerous game to play. Nowadays I have a different set of values to when I was younger. But I do still love playing guitar. Maybe even more so.

As a musician, I’ve written quite a few songs and many of them whilst under the influence, well the lyrics at least. I struggled to come up with ideas to write about so I would often sit up late with pen in one hand and glass of rouge in the other, telling myself I couldn’t go to bed until I had finished the song (or the bottle). When I first gave up drinking I struggled with the words but now I seem to have more ideas than I could possibly write about. It is as if some kind of veil has been lifted and I have become more exposed to and in touch with life.

The first song I had written in ages was inspired by Mrs HOF mentioning that I had reached a significant milestone in my abstinence. When I told her that I had written 300 Days in the Desert she said that it sounded very negative. Yes it is, but within the lyrics I have included some very positive metaphors; 300 days in the desert under a cloudless sky / The Sun’s burning brighter as my blindness has gone. Both are references to my depression lifting and my outlook improving. While my immediate view might be one of a journey of endurance the overall impression I have is that though my destination might be unknown, the feelings I have inside are more within my control, like a personal inner journey that I am making on my own terms, though I really must give credit to Mrs HOF for her part in this journey. Were it not for her I may well have given in at some point. I can think of at least one occasion when it would have been easy to surrender to temptation and/or peer pressure. She has been an inspiration in so many ways, providing encouragement, support and irresistible incentivisation.

Whilst drinking it was easier to delude myself that I had all the things that I wanted and needed and that I was within a gasp of becoming the person that I thought I always should be. Around midnight, I’d feel like I could take on the world, maybe even be a great musician or songwriter, but come the morning though the feeling still lingered like a dream there was a usually a humdinger of a hangover to take the edge off of the reality which was that nothing had changed. And so it went on like a pernicious circle.

Now it seems like I can’t hide from myself. Gradually, I’m coming to terms with who I am. I’m learning more about the person I’ve become, maybe always have been, truth be told, and getting a grip on how best to deal with him. Who knows? I might even get to like him! Perhaps it’s possible to mould him into someone who might be able to live with himself more comfortably and actually take on the role of playing himself?

Now that my year is up and I look back, one of my thoughts is how quickly it has gone. Some people say if you give up drinking and smoking you won’t live any longer – it just feels like it. I have to disagree. In my song I sing “the further I go, the further I know I have to go”, which is kind of illogical, but it makes perfect sense to me – I know that the longer I continue to abstain from putting poisons into my body, the better my chances are of living longer and what’s so bad about life going slowly anyway? It goes too quickly, with not enough time to cram in all that I want to do – I want to learn to play the piano next and who knows what after that?

A few people have asked if I would go back to drinking upon reaching the magical mark of a year. Would I launch myself into a celebratory binge-drinking session? Somehow I don’t think so. If I am honest with myself, I probably told them I was having a year off because it was easier that way. If I had said I was giving up for the rest of my life that would have sounded like madness to them as well as being a daunting task for me. Right now, it feels like it would be madness to go back to drinking. And the rest of Mr Hangover-Free’s life doesn’t seem so daunting after all.

1 year for MrHOF!!

6 days for me to go 😉

Abstinence violation effect

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while and thought it was about time I wrote a blog about it.  With just a week to go until I hit one year sober I’ve been thinking about what would be the impact of having a drink.  Now don’t get me wrong I am not thinking about having a drink I’m just interested in the whole counting days thing and how it differs to when I gave up smoking.

When I gave up smoking if I lapsed I would think of it as a slip and get back to not smoking.  I didn’t consider it going back to day 1 – I saw my quit attempt and stop date intact with a small blip.  But in the world of giving up booze it is very different and I don’t know where that comes from.  If anyone can share what the source is of this much more ‘all or nothing’ view I’d love to know.  This difference in view between a lapse and relapse has consequences for how we see ourselves and our actions about further drinking moving forward.  If I lapsed and had a drink now it would feel like the whole year had been wasted as I would have to go back to day 1 and that would probably lead to me thinking “well  I’ll keep drinking then”.

It is recognised and called the ‘abstinence violation effect’ (AVE) which is defined as “what happens when a person attempting to abstain from alcohol use ingests alcohol and then endures conflict and guilt by making an internal attribution to explain why he or she drank, thereby making him or her more likely to continue drinking in order to cope with the self-blame and guilt”

The problem with this way of thinking is that a lapse has the potential to become a relapse and then a collapse.  That moment of yielding fully to addiction is what Alan Marlatt, director of the Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington, describes as “a form of black-and-white thinking,” says Marlatt. “You blame [your failure] on internal factors that you consider beyond your control.”

Those factors, such as a belief that addiction is a disease that robs you of free will are what derail thousands of quitters and abstainers. You could also call it the “f___ it” effect, the idea that once you cheat, you’ve blown it, so you might as well binge. In traditional 12-step programs for addiction, that line of thinking is encapsulated in the slogan “A drink equals a drunk.” But understanding and overcoming AVE, says Marlatt, is crucial to conquering a problem behavior or dependency in the long term. You have to know what to do when you fall off the wagon to learn how to stay on it.

And this is where my ponderings and Marlatt’s article in Time magazine come together:

While studying cigarette smokers who were trying to quit in the 1970s, Marlatt discovered that people who considered the act of smoking a single cigarette after their quit date to be a complete defeat and evidence of an innate and permanent lack of willpower were much more likely to let a momentary lapse become a full-blown relapse.

Most people who try to change problem behaviors will slip at least once. Whether that slip provokes a return to full-blown addiction depends in large part on how the person regards the misstep. “People with a strong abstinence-violation effect relapse much more quickly,” says Marlatt. A single slip solidifies their sense that they are a failure and cannot quit, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So I guess the question becomes is counting days helpful?  If I was to consider a one off return to drinking as a slip rather than a relapse would it help me get back in the saddle quicker after the event?  This will remain a hypothetical question of course but do we need to change our perspective on counting days and moments of lapse?

7 days to go

PS If you’d like to say thank you for the blog by making a donation to Alcohol Concern you still can!  Go here 🙂

 

Flooding the booze away

Thanks to Prim for the idea for this post 🙂

Since I’ve stopped drinking I’ve been addressing many issues in CBT that have felt at times intractable as they have been my way of thinking for so long that they felt as hardwired as drinking did back in the day.

What I’ve been experiencing is systematic desensitization, a milder less traumatic version of a type of behaviour therapy called flooding.

The process of systematic desensitization occurs in three steps. The first step of systematic desensitization is the identification of an anxiety inducing stimulus hierarchy. The second step is the learning of relaxation or coping techniques. Once the individual has been taught these skills, he or she must use them in the third step to react towards and overcome situations in the established hierarchy of fears. The goal of this process is for the individual to learn how to cope with, and overcome the fear in each step of the hierarchy.

It is a form of counter conditioning, a type of Pavlovian therapy developed by South African psychiatrist, Joseph Wolpe. In the 1950s, Wolpe discovered that the cats of Wits University could overcome their fears through gradual and systematic exposure (thanks Wiki!)

So in the post I wrote about ‘the 15 minute rule‘ I talked about my almost Pavlovian drinking: certain time on the clock = wine o’clock.  So Pavlov’s dogs have been treated by Wolpe’s cats! 😉

When we give up booze many of us withdraw from social situations that involve drinking as this becomes an anxiety inducing stimulus (step one above).  Then we learn self-care strategies to replace the drinking with, similar to the second step described above as ‘learning of relaxation or coping techniques’.  This enables us to then return to the previously anxiety inducing stimulus with the fear of the situation removed because we have completed step three and can then use these skills to react towards and overcome our fear of those scenarios.

But once we’ve conquered drinking many other scenario’s that were fear inducing present themselves and our former way of coping with them has now been resolved/removed.  So then we have to apply the same processes to all the new anxiety inducing stimuli whether it’s job interviews for me or paperwork and desk sorting for Prim!

This feels like one of those really big aha moments for me in the continual journey to a life lived straight-edged.  If I can remember this in times of fear and stress it should offer some respite from the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee who pipe up at these times and that I’m edging ever closer to firing from the inside of my head! 🙂

8 days to go