Last month I had some research published that I wrote titled ‘Alcohol and sexual health in young people: the role of PSHE’ as part of a course entitled ‘Issues in Contraceptive and Reproductive Sexual Health’ that I studied at university. This course was part of my ongoing professional development related to my job role.
Seeing as I was seven month’s sober when I started the course unsurprisingly my curiousity was drawn to the issue of how alcohol affects sexual health in young people. In particular it was piqued by a doubling back on some evidence based research that was commissioned for the Govt by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) looking at the subject in relation to personal, social and health and economic education (PSHE) in schools. Dog with a bone or what? 😀
It was published in the Community Practitioner, a specialist journal for community nursing staff such as District Nurses, Health Visitors and School Nurses. Without further ado here is the pdf so you can read it in its entirety and see my name with all it’s letters after it 😉
For those of you who like a summary only here were my key points:
• It is important that the NICE PSHE guidelines are updated and implemented
• The NICE guidelines have the potential to improve sexually transmitted infection and teenage pregnancy rates, which remain a high priority for government, and address the issue of alcohol, which is an increasing priority in young people
• Implementation of a more holistic approach to PSHE is needed through teaching sexual health and alcohol education together
• Young people want to understand the influence of alcohol on sexual behaviours and where to get confidential support to manage their emotions if they make a bad decision as a result of drinking
I’m interested to hear your thoughts? 🙂
So a whole year has passed alcohol free from start to finish. Wow 🙂
For some reason the Ian Dury and the Blockheads tune popped in to my head!
It seems fitting to end the year by counting my blessings and expressing gratitude for all that I have in my life and all the improvements I have noticed since taking that one simple, yet incredibly hard at times, step of putting down the drink. As we count down to the strike of midnight tonight here are the 12 ways my life has been totally transformed:
- Better Sleep. Man oh man I love my sleep and when I drank it was my biggest battle. I would sleep but not feel rested. Now I sleep like a baby and wake feeling refreshed and re-invigorated. This is the single biggest change that makes everything else seem doable and more manageable. Oh yeah and the best sex life I have ever had 😉
- Money Saved. Me and Mr HOF have saved over £6,000 since we stopped!! What could you do with that additional stash of cash?
- Weight Loss. I’ve lost over 12lbs despite treating myself regularly with chocolate, sweets and cakes. No other changes needed, just no booze.
- No hangovers. YEEHAW!! Hated them, love life without them. Nuff said 😉
- Improved skin and hair. Yes!! Nails are incredibly long and strong. Hair only needs washing once every 3 days now (used to be daily) and it feels like when I was pregnant and it was all thick and lush. Wowzers, added benefits I didn’t even expect!
- Lower stress levels. Completely. This is the calmest and happiest this household has ever been and each day it gets better as my patience, listening and communicating skills improve. I was a hag with a hangover and not enough decent sleep!
- Lower blood pressure. Less stress = lower blood pressure. No alcohol = lower blood pressure. My ticker is loving it 🙂
- More energy. Running 3 times a week – 5k each time and run times just keep getting better as my energy and fitness level improves.
- Feeling healthier. Very little illness in the HOF household this year and I do GENUINELY feel better. Who knew that not poisoning myself on a daily basis would boost my immune system so radically?
- Feeling my feelings and it not being a bad thing! Life has it’s ups and downs and now I experience them without feeling like I am going to drown in my own emotions. Emotionally I am far more balanced and can actually tell you what feeling I am experiencing rather than just numbing the sh*t out of everything good or bad …..
- Achieving more. In the time since I’ve stopped I’ve changed jobs, started a Masters, created my e-book and online course, and met so many lovely sober people in real life.
- I like myself more. No more crippling guilt and shame because of my drinking antics and through the love and understanding I have experienced here within the sober online community. Thank you to each and every one of you. Here’s wishing you the Happiest of New Year’s and I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings!
So here I am – it is now a full year of me sober blogging. Another milestone! When I started on this journey I said I would blog for 30 days because I wanted to prove to myself that I could be creative as well as live alcohol free. 365 days later the blog is still going strong (minus a few days holidays here and there) and I have made so many new friends because of it. It really is a double gift this getting sober lark as I’ve found my alcohol free identity and my sober blogging voice.
I’ve said from here that I would drop my blogging frequency to every other day as I am now on year two of sober living and I hope to stick to that. I read so many things that I want to share here that I don’t think I’ll struggle to find enough to post – it’s that there will be too much and I’ll want to blog more frequently!! Only time will tell and if that is the case then I see that as good news as that will mean that booze is in the media and research spotlight so often that I’ll feel compelled to cover it 🙂
Thank you to all of you who follow, read and comment on my blog. It would be nothing without you xx
PS Hangover Free? Absolutely. I loved hangovers almost as much as I love this song NOT! 😉
It’s my birthday today 🙂 It’s not polite to ask a lady her age so I’ll save you the trouble and share that I am 46 today. Holy smokes I’m getting on a bit! 😉
It’s also my second birthday sober which I suspect will be a great deal easier than the last as I was only 6 weeks sober then. Wolfie was still loud and shrill in my ear on that day.
So to continue my systemic desensitization I did something that made me laugh and if anyone else had seen me would have thought I was mad! I recently went to a large supermarket to pick up a few bits and pieces and I’ve kind of avoided the huge looming alcohol aisles for obvious reasons.
But this time time I thought ‘f**k it’ and strolled down one saying out loud to myself as I went ‘I don’t need you anymore, you hold no power over me and I am better off without you’. Fortunately there was no one else in the aisle other wise I’d have been getting some pretty weird looks. And you know what? It felt GOOD 🙂
It is so bloody normalised to drink in this country that I LIKE being different now. I like not being beholden to spending more than I even want to calculate on booze. I like not feeling like sh*t every Saturday and Sunday morning (or any other morning come to that). I like that I don’t reek like a brewery with booze oozing out of every pore for vast swathes of time. I don’t miss the bad skin, bad guts, bad mood, morning fears about what I may have said or done to someone real or virtual under the influence, the stupid things I might have bought on the internet, the lost time that I will never get back. I like everything that being alcohol free has given me and miss nothing about my booze soaked past now.
400 days sober today!!
PS A little birthday gift from me to you. One of my favourite tunes and the video happens to commemorate one of my all time favourite heroes too, the late great Bill Hicks. In the words of The The “if you can’t change the world, change yourself” 😉
And as it’s my second sober birthday two treats! This is a running video that has recently gone viral and happens to be the park where I ran over the summer raising money for Alcohol Concern. Pounding the tarmac through the seasons, a band of runners are brazenly challenged with intimate questions as they pace their routes. Liberated from responsibilities, their guards drop dramatically, releasing funny and brutally frank confessions, and weaving a powerful narrative behind the anonymous masses. For all my sober running buddies – enjoy and if you’ve never run I’d recommend it 🙂
So here are my picks to the prompt: Tell me about a moment when you were happy, so happy you could hardly see straight. You couldn’t have been happier if you’d won the Lottery. Go ahead and visit one another, make friends. Enjoy.————————
It happened after yoga one night. The April air was crisp as we hadn’t fully settled into spring. My family waited for me at home, dinner on the table. My eyes filled with tears of contentment. I had come through years of debilitating anxiety and was fortunate to be alive.
Tough choice: Is it the day I completed a 10,000-mile bicycle ride and met Peggy; or the night California voters approved an effort I had initiated to reduce tobacco use? One led to happiness; the other has saved an estimated one million lives. I’ll go with love.
Wandering Through Time and Place
One year sober last month, I got to meet eight other ladies who had become friends via the sober blogs and communities. Sunshine, tea and cake, good conversation with great people who made me feel heard and understood. I didn’t feel like a freak anymore.
A Hangover Free Life
It was my husband’s birthday. We were hoping and praying for a celebration. We waited in the surgeon’s office for my pathology report on the breast cancer. I scanned the mumbo jumbo of the lab summary for any sign of good news.
Relief and profound gratitude. Healing had begun.
Snowdrops for Faith
I awoke to a machete death just outside the Nicaraguan church. It rattled me. Where was God? Under a lone tree someone sang and then another.
I had come cynical and empty. But with the gift of song came a rush of assurance. God was here.
“What a big penis!” We were stunned. Our practitioners had all guessed a girl. But it was his heartbeat, strong on the screen. Our boy actually drew a smile as we watched. I had longed to give my husband a son. I was wild with joy.
A Holistic Journey
Happiness is climbing a tree, catching a firefly, setting him free.
Happiness is playing the drum in your own school band.
And happiness is walking hand in hand.
Happiness is being alone every now and then.
For happiness is anyone and anything at all
That’s loved by you.
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
I recently wrote a guest post for Florida Beach Rehab on the Short and Long Term Damage of Alcohol Abuse which was posted up today and you can find here:
It’s a more detailed (hopefully non-medical jargon) explanation of what happens to the body and mind if you misuse alcohol either for a short period of time, say a binge, or over a longer period of time where the damage is more cumulative.
Thanks to them for giving me the opportunity to speak in more detail about this and share my experience with them and you further 🙂
Recently the children went to stay with their grandparents overnight and we had not asked for this gift. It was simply offered – lovely 🙂
So what do you do when you have no kids, no planned reason for them to be away and a whole evening to yourselves? It takes no guesses to figure out that in the past this was a genuine reason to cut loose and get trashed – just because we could with no repercussions or responsibilities until 5pm the next day. But we don’t do that anymore right?
Initially I found myself feeling sad and wistful for what might have been but that was quickly replaced with the thought of ‘there are so many things I want to do tomorrow and if I had a hangover none of it would get done’ and a feeling of relief. I could keep my plans intact and not sabotage myself.
So we headed into our nearest city and looked for things to do that don’t involve drinking. We found a cool Mexican restaurant where I had a ‘Big Ass Burrito’ accompanied by Agua de Horchata, a traditional Mexican drink made with rice milk, vanilla and cinnamon.
Then we wandered into the chocolate shop, Chocolat Chocolat and picked up 100g of the finest salted caramel milk chocolate to have when we got home as a sober treat.
We also found this weird tea shop called ‘Ooshi The Bubble Tea World’. Never heard of it, never tried it so in we go. From their site which you can visit here:
“Created in the tea shops of Taiwan during the 1980’s, Bubble Tea has become one of the most popular drinks around today. Also known as Pearl Milk Tea or Boba Milk Tea it comes in a wide range of flavours that blend tea with either fruit or milk. With the addition of ice, fruit syrups and tapoica pearls hundreds of tastes combinations can be created to delight the taste buds! The ‘bubble’ in Bubble Tea comes from the gorgeous bubbly froth you get by shaking up the drink just before you have it!”
I had a jasmine green tea with apple flavour ooballs. Sounds odd but actually tasted rather delicious.
So we had a great time, drove home, early to bed and up with a clear head to accomplish everything on my to do list before the terrors returned home. Perfect 😉
What would your perfect sober night out include?
Now this isn’t some philosophical question, more of a visual representation question. I’ve been thinking about changing my blog a bit and was trying to think of what ‘a hangover free life’ looks like visually.
I suspect for all of us this will look different but for me this is what I see in the daytime:
And this is what I see come evening time:
Why? Well we honeymooned in the Maldives and at the time I described it as being what I imagined heaven on earth would be like. Just looking at these picture makes me happy, optimistic and inspired, plus candles and bubbles in a bath are part of my sober treats already 😉
All those pennies and pounds I’ve been saving need to be put to good use for a BIG sober treat in the future. When I was training to run the London Marathon I used a similar image on the wall next to my running machine to keep me motivated and it’s no different now.
Plus I have this dream of one day in the future running sober celebratory retreats where all us cool sober people hang out, catch some rays and generally live the good life for a week or so to remind us why we started on this journey and to reward our hard work and continued growth.
If you had to visualise what it means to you what would it look like? Could you email me with an image that most represents the goal of sobriety for you and I’ll post them all up and we can have a poll to decide which one goes on the top of my blog (or maybe more than one image who knows!) Send them in over the next two weeks and I’ll share them all after that 🙂
Can’t wait x
Edited to add: 22/04/14 Was so excited to be able to change the header on my blog after the site being down all Easter week-end that I couldn’t hold off putting a new image up temporarily. I will share all the other images you suggested on 2nd May as promised and we’ll change it again then 🙂 xx
On May 10th I will be running the Nike ‘We Own The Night’ London 10K run. I have teamed up with Alcohol Concern to raise funds for this important charity here in the UK and you can visit their website here.
Alcohol Concern is the leading 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.
Lace up. Zip up. Light up the night. Join me for Nike’s #WeOwnTheNight 10k run: www.nike.com/weownthenight is where you need to go if you’d like to join me – running rather than drinking my time away on a Saturday night! Please let me know if you do sign up so that I can look out for you at the event and say hello 🙂
If reading my blog has helped you and you would like to donate some of the money you’ve saved through not boozing, then please help Alcohol Concern via my Virgin Money Giving page. You can donate anonymously by unticking the box ‘I’d like my name to be shown with my message’ on the donation page.
Please visit http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/ahangoverfreelife where you can sponsor me online.
Thanks in advance for your support and maybe I’ll see you running on the night!
PS Until my 1 year sober-versary date I’ll have a ‘sponsor me here’ tab on the menu bar should you come looking for this post again! If you find this post after I’ve run the 10K event and would still like to thank me for the blog then please donate to Alcohol Concern via the sponsorship link above.
I can’t believe I’m here. I never thought I could not drink for 6 months and feel so well. The moments of missing booze are now fleeting and pass without angst. This song and video expresses how I feel completely. I used to think that I could only reach this place of nirvana after a skinful and now it is how I feel most of the time. No need to spoil it with booze. This is now my default setting not my only achieved after a bottle of wine state.
It’s not been an easy journey and the early days were tough but once you get through the gritty bits the potential for joy is endless. This is why I started this journey and I am so glad that I did.
Edited to add: this is hilarious, but I emailed Belle and she told me that it was my day 180 yesterday!! When I drank I always peaked a day too early (you know got over-excited and overdid it the night before insert celebration so felt god-awful on the actual night) and now I’m sober I peak a day late!? 😀