Monthly Archives: October 2016

Friday Sober Jukebox – Rusty Shackle

rusty-shackleSo Rusty Shackle is the name of a folk roots and roll or Welsh hip folk (as they call themselves) band who we heard about a few years ago when we went to the Just So Festival.

We were less than a year into sobriety and we were trying a family festival out to see how we got on doing the things we used to love to do minus the substances we used to love doing them with.  As the event had a heavy emphasis on children and families there was minimal booze presence and we had a blast.  This music reminds me so much of that time.

Recently MrHOF had been on a trip and when the CD turned on this was the tune that was playing and so many good memories came flooding back.  We played it to death back at that time so had moved it to the back of the glove compartment box and then duly forgotten about it!  The track I’m going to share is called ‘The Bones’ and there is something about the lyrics that just fits this place:

“I can never decide if I’m Jekyll or Hyde when I lose myself in shame”

“There’s a couple of voices in my head wrestling for control”

Maybe it’s time for you to throw off the rusty shackles of booze?  Maybe without it you will experience less shame and the voices will stop fighting in your head?  Who knows but you will only know if you shake the bones.  Shaking the Bones is a stress-relieving exercise with an emphasis on physically shaking the body while emotionally letting go of problems and stress 😉

Plus my kids LOVE this song from the CD in particular and we all sang along at the top of our voices all of that summer in 2013 (hence why it was temporarily lost relegated).  Happy Days.

Enjoy 🙂

PS It was 3 years ago today that I set up this blog!  Here’s my very first blog post …..

 

Here’s how I’ll be celebrating my birthday :)

vegan-birthday-cakeSo it’s that day again 🙂  Another year older and another year hopefully wiser 😉

This is the kind of cake I’ll be celebrating with this year – vegan!  As we’ve gone further into recovery we’ve been looking at our diet and MrHOF hinted at it in his post recently.  I’ve been eating increasing amounts of chocolate by way of treating myself and in the guise of self-care.  Dare I say habitually even, almost like I used to justify drinking every day to myself (cross addiction anyone?) and my weight has been creeping up.  Plus I know that my diet has needed looking at for a while but I have been procrastinating waiting until I was really solidly grounded in my sobriety before I started changing big things again.  I watched a few films Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, and its follow-on Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead 2, Forks over Knives and Vegucated in the last month and this has kick started my endeavours.

We’re not planning on going totally vegan but are reducing our intake of processed food, meat and dairy so that includes chocolate.  We started the transition about 5 weeks ago and I’m feeling great!  I’ve already dropped 6lbs and am not really missing it to be honest as Davina’s power balls have come to the rescue like they did when I went sugar free for Lent in 2015.

I’ll also be watching this again.  My favourite things all combined – Tara Brach talking about attachments and addiction.  Thank you to my gratitude buddy Beccy, who is the most amazing friend/godmother/ textile artist/nurse, for emailing this to me <3

The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Working with Attachments and Addictions

In Buddhist cosmology the torment of intense desire that can never really be satisfied is depicted as the realm of Hungry Ghosts. This talk explores the attachments and addictions that so many of us struggle with, and the teachings and practices that can liberate us.

A gift to you from me 🙂

Friday Sober Inspiration: Abundance

abundance-scaleSo this image is taken from the book Money Love by Meadow Devor who was interviewed by Tommy Rosen as part of his Recovery 2.0 online conference in September.  She was talking to him about financial sobriety and some of the things she said had my mouth fall open in recognition.  So I thought I would share a few key points from what she shared about abundance, compassionately observing and noting our thinking and moving on from the ‘please like me discount’.

Although her book focuses on money so much of what she said is applicable to so many other areas of life too, including booze.  Interestingly Meadow is also in recovery from alcohol.  So without giving away too much – these were my key take-away points from her wisdom.

When you engage in a behaviour whether it is spending, eating, drinking, internet surfing, etc ask yourself:

  1. What are you feeling?
  2. What are you trying to achieve/avoid? Why are you doing this?
  3. Can you afford it? In terms of money, time or emotions

And to weigh up the value vs the cost (again talking about financial, time or emotional).

She also talks a great deal about how we act from either scarcity or abundance as represented by the scale illustrated at the top of the post.  I definitely grew up with a scarcity mentality and mindset and have been doing some serious work around reframing how I view the world in a more abundant way.  Part of that work was leaving behind my own ‘please like me discount’ which, because of my own issues with co-dependency, was a big thing that I knew I did but had never before heard it put so succinctly into words!  I have a post it note above my desk that reminds me:

You do enough

You have enough

You are enough

You can listen to her being interviewed by Laura McKowen & Holly Whitaker on the Home podcast here:

If you are struggling with feelings of worry, frustration or lack how about trying this abundance meditation to see if you can start to shift your way of thinking too?  I can promise you if you begin to practise gratitude, and try to engage with the world from a place of empowerment and abundance soon the ‘fake it till you make it’ approach will shift becoming not just a desired hope but your reality.  Why not give it a try?

PS As if our cup wasn’t overflowing enough with abundance today this news broke this afternoon too! Go Scotland!! 🙂

Plans to set a minimum price for alcohol in Scotland have today (21 October 2016) been backed by the Scottish courts.

“We are satisfied that the Scottish courts have concluded that MUP is legal, as we have argued for many years, and we now call for it to be implemented without delay.” (Herald Scotland)

 

Friday Sober Jukebox – Exercise and Alcohol (Dr Feelgood)

exercise-and-alcoholThis post feels pretty autobiographical as this is exactly what I used to do.  Running on a Sunday morning with a cracking hangover was my penance for the night before excesses (and the rest of the week if I’m honest).  And now research has been done about that very thing and was covered in The Independent last month!

Regular exercise could mitigate some of the harmful effects of drinking alcohol, new research has suggested. 

However, scientists also stressed that consuming alcohol remains a potentially risky activity and suggested the study indicated the great health benefits of exercise. 

The research, for which scientists from University College London and the University of Sydney analysed the behaviour of over-forties, is described as the first of its kind. 

The habits of the subjects were compared with national health surveys from England and Scotland dating back to 1994.

Results showed those who performed regular physical activity and drank between recommended and harmful levels had a reduced risk of death from all causes associated with alcohol.

In some cases, the exercise even appeared to cancel out the risk completely. Those who only drank occasionally were also at lower risk.

With the minimum recommended amount of exercise just 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week, the exercises could be activities as light as gardening, brisk walking and golf. 

However, the study did not take into account drinking habits or other dietary factors which can also influence health. 

The study said: “Our results provide an additional argument for the role of (physical activity) as a means to promote the health of the population even in the presence of other less healthy behaviours.

“The public health relevance of our results is further emphasised by the recently updated alcohol consumption guidelines review by the UK chief medical officer that found that cancer mortality risk starts from a relatively low level of alcohol consumption.”

The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, said a quarter of respondents met the higher weekly target for exercise, while just over 60 per cent did not meet the minimum recommended amount.

Just under 15 per cent did not drink at all, while 13 per cent drank more than the daily recommended maximum – when it was classified as more than 35 units per week for women and 49 units for men.

Head of health information at the World Cancer Research Fund, Sarah Toule, said: “We would not recommend that anyone sees these findings as a ‘get out of jail free card’, as alcohol does increase the risk of many different health conditions, including cancer.

“Doing more physical activity can have great health benefits and our own evidence shows that, if everyone in the UK was regularly active, about 12,000 cancer cases could be prevented every year. However, by not drinking alcohol, 24,000 cancer cases could be avoided.”

Also picked up by Reuters:

Getting regular moderate or vigorous exercise may offset some of the potentially lethal health effects of regular alcohol consumption, a new study suggests.

So exercise may help but it won’t resolve the health issues created.  However much we’d like to ‘feel good’ alcohol and post imbibing exercise isn’t the answer (and yes the link to the tune is tenuous!) 😉

PS I went to see ‘The Girl on The Train’ at the cinema last week having read the book written by Paula Hawkins when it came out last year.  OMG it was absolutely brilliant!!  Sometimes having read a book the film adaptation can be so disappointing but this one was superb (apart from the fact that the film setting was moved to the US).

Without wishing to provide any spoilers I was really heartened to see that it didn’t try to play down or minimise how important Rachel’s alcoholism and black outs were to the story.    As The Guardian review says: “Most importantly, in the shape of the mercurial Emily Blunt, The Girl on the Train has a believably derailed heroine whose hollow eyes, crusty lips and stumbling gait convey Leaving Las Vegas levels of addiction while still retaining an air of mystery and intrigue.”  and as one of the comments on the review said: Her drunken lurching in and out of reality as she desperately tried to work out what she had/hadn’t seen or done were heart breakingly realistic. As someone who has an alcoholic in the family it really hit home.

Here’s the trailer 🙂

Friday Sober Jukebox – Problem Drinker? (Blame It)

am-i-a-functioning-alcoholicThis was a featured article in Vice at the end of August titled ‘I Have a Drink Almost Every Day – Am I a Problem Drinker?’  Over to Michael Segalov:

It’s funny that we all “have a relationship” with alcohol. It’s maybe the only thing we consume that – in Britain, at least – we feel the need to directly relate to the rest of our lives. I’ve never heard anyone open up about their toxic relationship with gorgonzola, or how they’re working on their relationship with Coke Zero. But alcohol? From heavy drinkers to teetotallers, we all have a personal bond.

Like pretty much everyone else, I have a relationship with alcohol. In fact, like pretty much everyone else, nearly every significant moment in my life revolves around drink. As an eight-day-old Jewish baby I was given the snip, put to sleep with a little drop of wine. My first proper kiss, at Reading of 2009, was fuelled by a blend of vodka and Tesco Value cola. My 18th birthday was just an excuse to get pissed. Freshers week: gin, Jägerbombs and Kronenberg. Celebrations, commiserations, falling in love and gut-wrenching heartbreaks have always seen me – and my contemporaries, elders and ancestors – reaching for a glass.

So when statistics surfaced earlier this month that suggested young people in Britain are drinking less than ever before, I started thinking about my drinking. As I wandered home from the pub one night, a few glasses of wine down, I asked myself: is my relationship with alcohol really OK? I’d always thought that everyone my age was drinking a little bit too much, but that, y’know, it was kind of OK because we’re the first generation to be worse off than our parents; we’re stuck with a lifetime of debt; we’ll never be able to buy a home, etc, ad infinitum. But turns out that’s just not the case.

My housemates reassured me that of course I was healthy. I work 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. I don’t drink alone, rarely in the daytime, no blacking out after nights at the pub. But, at the same time, it dawned on me pretty quickly that my lifestyle involves drinking most nights of the week. I rarely drink to the point where things get too wobbly, which, until now, I’d told myself, meant things were nowhere near out of hand.

But I wanted to be certain, so I decided to keep track of my drinking habits for a week. Monday night I was heading down to an event in central London. After the job? Well, everyone headed to the pub. Tuesday was a Turkish dinner with a glass or three of wine, Wednesday work drinks, Thursday my housemate passed me a beer on the sofa. I was never drinking huge amounts, but there was a bottle there every night of the working week. On Friday evening I was off to Wilderness Festival, and I had a few gins when we got there. By Saturday lunchtime I was heading down to Brighton Pride. I tried to keep a tally of units, but to be honest I couldn’t easily keep count. I imagine that’s probably not a great thing.

I decided to get in touch with James Nicholls, Director of Research and Policy Development at Alcohol Research UK. Before I started panicking about whether or not there were any issues with my relationship with booze, I wanted to work out if the amount I consume is a problem for my health. If not, then why worry?

“The revised government guidelines are 14 units of alcohol a week for both men and women,” said James over the phone. “The guidelines set out how much you should drink to keep your risk of dying of an alcohol-related condition below 1 percent.”

It didn’t take me long to realise, after checking what 14 units represents, that I – and most of my friends – could get through that in an afternoon. Six standard glasses of wine? Six pints of beer? Over the course of an entire week, that seems like nothing. But maybe it’s not; only 25 percent of the UK population drinks more than the recommended weekly limit.

Yet, this didn’t worry me too much. Sure, at 23 I’m drinking way over the recommended limit week-on-week, but that’s a risk for my body that, for now, I’m willing to take. We make decisions every day that see us risk our bodies to some degree, for pleasure, for comfort or for a thrill. As far as I could see, what was vital was that drinking remained a choice and not a necessity, and when it came to my own drinking, I still wasn’t 100 percent sure where I fell.

Dr Sally Marlow is a Fellow at King’s College London, with an expertise in addiction and the stigma that surrounds it. “There’s no single trait or gene, no single answer that says whether you’re addicted,” she explained from her home. According to Sally, the kind of thing you see in the Daily Mail when it comes to alcohol addiction is a “crock of shite”. Instead, she assured me that alcoholism spawns from a “complex interplay between your genetic makeup and the things that happen to you in your life”.

In short: there was no easy answer to the question, “Do I have a problem with drink?”

What Sally also made clear is that you can’t judge a drink problem solely on the amount of alcohol you consume. “A heavy drinker can build up a tolerance where you need more and more to get the same effect,” she said, pointing to smoking or heroin addiction as similar examples; you might start off slowly, but soon increasing your intake to feel the same effect.

“It’s the same with alcohol, but it’s slower: over a couple of years you might need more and more to be relaxed, to be a party animal, to be self-confident,” she said. “People who can knock back a couple of bottles of wine might only get the effect of a few glasses.”

So it’s not in the quantity alone that points to a problem. Instead, Sally pointed me towards the types of behaviours that might signal alcoholism: can’t get to work due to hangovers; arguing with your friends, family or partner because of the drink; getting busted for drink driving; drunken accidents or getting into fights; feelings of shame and guilt; or blackouts where you continue to function but you don’t recall what was going on. Sally says these are all red flags – behavioural signs that you might have a problem.

Speaking to Sally, it was clear that what she described is not the way I – or many of my peers – drink. However, it’s also clear that casual drinking can easily mutate into problem drinking.

I got in contact with an Alcoholics Anonymous member named Jack. Now aged 30, Jack has been sober since the age of 21, when he realised something just wasn’t right. “From the outside everything was perfect: I had a good job, a long-term relationship, a nice flat,” he said, “but I looked in the mirror every day and I hated what I saw.”

For Jack, drinking was a way of escaping. “I feel happy? Have a drink. Feel like shit? Have a drink. When I was without alcohol I was irritable, snappy, an arsehole – I was worse sober than when I was drunk.”

I asked Jack what it was that made him realise he had a problem. Turned out it was a work lunch with his office when things, as he put it, got seriously fucking bad. “I nearly lost my job, I lost clients, I lost the company a lot of business. I embarrassed myself,” he said. “Let’s just say: when you’re trying to get a contract with a client, it’s best not to offer to sleep with them when their wife is also there.”

When Jack was drinking he didn’t know whether or not he was going to carry on long into the night. “I might go out for a drink or two, and sometimes I would [only have a couple], but other times I’d wake up the next day and not know where I was.”

British drinking culture can make it difficult to spot an alcohol problem. On the surface, my consumption – and that of most people I spoke to while writing this article – should probably be setting off some alarm bells. But really, it’s just become normal for many of us to drink like this day-to-day.

I can’t help but think about a close friend of mine, a journalist, who did Dry January earlier this year. Yes, he managed nearly 31 days sober, but he moaned about it every night of the week. Does this mean he has a problem? If it does, it also means basically everyone who did Dry January also does.

The line between healthy and dangerous is alarmingly murky, but trying a period of sobriety and seeing how you’re left feeling seems to be a pretty solid way to test the water. Either way I’ll now be keeping much closer tabs not just on how much I’m drinking, but why.

Plus feeling shared this yesterday which seemed extremely apt!

And to finish off the post a tune: Jamie Foxx Blame It on The Alcohol …..

Edited to add: Sat am – if this is you why not try this?

Sober for October Starts Here :)

Go sober for OctoberThat time of year starts here again when we ask you to think of your liver and go Sober for October 🙂  I will be 😉

I read this in The Independent and rather liked so I thought I’d share here:

What one man learned from a decade of drink-free dating

As the nights draw in and garden parties and festivals become a distant memory, you may be considering cutting down on your drinking. But it can be easier said than done – especially for those on the dating scene.  

But meeting someone you fancy is entirely possible, and in many ways better, if you skip the booze, says Eden Blackman, a dating expert and founder of ‘Would Like to Meet’, who is backing cancer charity Macmillan’s Go Sober for October campaign.

And he would know. After he realised it was taking longer and longer to recover after a night out, he challenged himself and succeeded in not drinking for 10 years. That’s a decade of sober dating. 

Here’s what Blackman learned by dating without drink. 

You’ll actually remember what your date said 

It sounds obvious, but being able to recall what your date has said scores major points. “When I stopped drinking I was remembering more, I wasn’t asking embarrassing questions about where they live and if they have brothers and sisters,” says Blackman. And that’s crucial to winning a second or third date. 

Embarrassing texts become less likely

“We’ve all sent that drunken text,” says Blackman. “If it isn’t something you’d say in person then don’t say it via text,” he warns. If you think you missed the chance to say something when you met, just save it for next time.

Your date will feel appreciated 

Drinking can make you distracted says Blackman. “When I stopped drinking I was a lot more on point, a lot more conscious and a lot more attentive to what my date was saying. If you’re constantly looking behind your date, they’ll be wondering if you are more interested in them or Sky Sports.” Blackman’s dates noticed that he was more interested and attentive towards them. 

Drinking doesn’t make you interesting 

“The first couple of dates were a bit daunting,” admits Blackman, but he soon realised alcohol was just a social crutch. “You don’t need to have a drink. You realise you’re a good person and you can find confidence without it. It’s rewarding and you find out exactly what kind of person you are.”

You find out what your date is really like

If your date is put off by the fact you’re not drinking then alarm bells should ring. “Never apologise or say ‘sorry I’m not drinking’ because it suggests you feel bad.” Stopping drinking – whether or not it’s to raise money – is something to be proud of. The sort of person you will want to date will be interested in finding out more, and your sober-stint will be a conversation starter.

Find out more about Macmillan Cancer Support’s Go Sober for October campaign.