Category Archives: Sober jukebox

Friday Sober Jukebox: loud music and getting out of my head (h/t Fat Boy Slim!)

So I was thinking about the fact that I run the Friday sober jukebox and why music (turned up ear bleed loud) continues to be so important to me as a way of getting out of my head.  This also then tied in with some wisdom from Focus12 and another sober bloggers writing about impulsivity I read recently (thanks Rachel for sharing the links!).

I was driving along for work and had the stereo turned up really loud belting out a tune when I remembered some of the rules that Focus12 had for their clients during treatment.

There were a list of activities and substances they were not allowed to have or engage in while resident and working on their fledgling sobriety.  These included:

  • Speakers for playing loud music
  • Henna or ink tattoos
  • Piercings
  • Red Bull or similar energy drinks
  • Permission needed to go to the cinema
  • Permission to go the gym more than a couple of times a week
  • Too much non-food shopping was challenged
  • They were encouraged not to spend too much time watching television
  • No laptops, tablets, gaming systems or e-readers
  • Restricted use of mobile phones

This is because these are all ways of changing the way we feel or allowing ourselves to escape in some way.  The counselling team felt with music systems and mobile phones if you were distracting yourself too much or becoming too involved with the ‘outside world’ that it would be to the detriment of the programme of treatment.  And I have to agree because the reason I love loud music is for that very reason – it assaults my ears and takes me somewhere else, either deep in memories or thoughts away from the here and now.  It gets me out of my head!

As Rachel writes for Sober Nation, “How about tattoos? Getting ink can be impulsive – but I absolutely love it, and oh the tattoo high fills in all kinds of voids.”  So not just me with my music then?

She goes on to say, “Anything done in excess has the potential to be an issue. The purpose of all this is to get you to think about the impulsive behavior and how it relates to alcoholism or addiction, and to let you know you’re not alone. It’s not weak to have cravings for some adventure you’re lacking in the present, in fact, it’s completely normal for those in recovery.”

Wanderlust? Adventure you say?  Again ringing bells for me too!

She ends her piece with this really good question:

What’s filling that void, the itch you can’t scratch? Is it healthy?

I would argue that if you aren’t doing it to excess and it gives you joy and it isn’t booze – all power to you, go get out of your head! 😉

A retrospective on 2016 (Friday sober jukebox: some riot)

So as I have pared down my blog activity and news sources the one I repeatedly return to is Alcohol Policy UK.  They wrote an excellent retrospective piece about 2016 which you can read here:

 

Alcohol policy in 2016 & what’s in store for 2017?

But what really struck me about this blog were the images featured at the end entitled: Selected alcohol slides from the ‘most interesting things about drugs and alcohol in 2016’ from Andrew Brown:

The top image was the first which highlighted how over half (54%) of strong ciders sold in the off-trade in England and Wales in 2015 were sold at below 20p a unit  <pauses to let that sink in for a minute>  so for less than the cost of a pint of milk! 🙁

Below I share the other three because visual images can be so much more impactful than words.  They all tell a compelling story which as yet is not being addressed by our govt sufficiently to change the trajectory of the graphs.

Association between the experience of physical and sexual abuse in the lives of women and dependence to drugs and alcohol …..

 

 

The number of offences committed pre and post treatment for alcohol use disorders ……

 

 

 

Graphic confirmation that those with the most problems with alcohol are more likely to use the NHS …..

 

 

 

I’ll finish with a haunting performance from Elbow and the BBC Concert Orchestra of Guy Garvey’s ode to a friend lost to alcohol addiction  – some riot.

The impact of alcohol is all too plain to see and hear to those who have eyes and ears.  Shame our govt is looking the other way with its collective fingers in its ears (except perhaps Liam Byrne) …..

PS Yesterday was day 1250!

Improve services to address addiction related unemployment (this is not a love song)

So maybe not the sexiest post-Valentine subject matter but important none the less – and an excuse to feature a Banksy which is always a bonus! 😉  This was a report on service provision to address addiction related unemployment featured by Alcohol Policy UK in December.

Over to Alcohol Policy UK:

Dame Carol Black’s review into the effects on employment outcomes of drug or alcohol addiction and obesity has been released by the Department for Work and Pensions.

The review sets out a series of recommendations to improve options and support for those with drug and alcohol dependence, and does not endorse restricting benefits as was speculated in 2015.

Whilst the scope of the report covers also the role of obesity on employment outcomes, it states the issue is ‘different’ to substance addiction and ‘is treated seperately’. Specifically on alcohol, the report states:

‘Alcohol misuse may also be a cause or a consequence of unemployment. It is certainly a predictor both of unemployment and of future job loss, but evidence also suggests that increased alcohol consumption may follow job loss. Unlike dependence on heroin and crack cocaine, alcohol dependence is not strongly associated with lower socioeconomic status although the resultant health harms are. Nevertheless, the employment rate for those who develop problematic dependence is less than half that of the rest of the population’.

Overall the review describes the importance of employment in supporting addiction ‘recovery’, but neither drug and alcohol or job support services are sufficiently meeting the needs of service users. As such it recommends ‘practical interventions, including changes in services, practices, behaviour and attitudes.’

Three main areas where action is needed in relation to drugs, alcohol and employment are identified:

  • Addiction treatment does not, in itself, ensure employment, though it brings other social gains. Work has not hitherto been an integral part of treatment, and it needs to be if progress is to be made.
  • The benefits system, which has a central role in helping people enter or return to work, requires significant change. The system is hampered by a severe lack of information on health conditions, poor incentives for staff to tackle difficult or long-term cases, and a patchy offer of support for those who are reached.
  • Employers are the gatekeepers to employment and, without their co-operation employment for our cohorts is impossible. Employers are understandably reluctant to hire people with addiction and/or criminal records. They have told us that they need Government, quite simply, to de-risk these recruitment decisions for them.

Specific challenges are also identified, including ‘fractured commissioning responsibilities and lines of accountability’ that undermine efforts to develop co-ordinated responses. Whilst recognising low waiting times for alcohol treatment, stakeholders reported that alcohol services were ‘still inadequate to meet need in a number of areas’. The Government’s 2010 Drug Strategy, which listed a series of recovery-focused aims, ‘has yet to be realised’, in part owing to the ‘failure of the benefits systems to identify addiction (and indeed other relevant health conditions)’.

A series of recommendations include ‘the introduction of an expanded recovery measure that includes work and meaningful activity (including volunteering)’ as part of the outcomes monitoring for drug and alcohol treatment. It also proposes to trial discussions with a healthcare professional for welfare claimants to discuss ‘the impact of their health condition on their ability to work’. Initiatives to support employers in actively recruiting those in recovery will need to ‘de-risk’ companies from doing so, as explored in an FT blog.

David Best, Professor of Criminology, commented:

“How to read policy reviews? It correctly identifies a gap in supporting the employment needs of alcohol and drug users in employment, and also identifies two key issues – DBS checks and the ‘benefit trap’. The Black Review correctly identifies gaps in provision and joined up working and makes some interesting suggestions around including employment and volunteering in outcome measurement; suggests the use of peer mentors; and has some interesting ideas about collocating workers. But it all feels a bit tame and safe. There is no real drivers for the inter-agency working and pathway modelling that would be required of each workforce and the idea of partnership seems optimistic. There is also little adequate differentiation of the needs of problem drinkers who will typically have a different work history from problem drug users. Individual examples of good practice and innovation are all very well but what is lacking in the review is suggested mechanisms for making these more than beacons of hope in the darkness. So the review is encouraging in as far as it goes… but that is not very far”

A Collective Voice post said the report was a ‘real opportunity for the alcohol and drug treatment sector which we must seize’. According to LocalGov, the Local Government Association (LGA) welcomed the report but warned it was not ‘radical’ enough. See also reports in the Telegraph and Guardian.

Earlier this year the BMA released an updated briefing for medical and other professionals on addressing alcohol and drug use in the workplace, including guidance on supporting or recruiting employees with histories of substance misuse.

Agree with all of the above and know that Focus12 is supportive of these recommendations both in theory and in practice – says she who was a volunteer for them to help my own recovery 🙂

It feels only right to follow this blog up with this sober jukebox tune 😉

Friday Sober Jukebox: Right Here Right Now

So I’ve been reflecting a great deal in the last few weeks.  It’s been triggered by changes in events, seeing T2 Trainspotting and a trip to my old spiritual home Brighton.  I’ve been struggling to stay in the present – right here and now and so I’m getting it down on paper.  Just like Spud in T2 to me writing is a vital addiction recovery tool.

This image is of a friend of ours who is no longer with us.  We met Mark as I worked with his partner in medical sales and marketing while living in the city.  He was a great guy who was heavily involved in the music and art scene in Brighton and we last saw him at a 40th bday party for a mutual friend of ours back in 2007.  This graffiti art was sprayed in the North Laine to commemorate Mark who took his own life in 2013.  He had long struggled with depression and it finally won in March of that year – he had not long celebrated his 51st birthday.  This was the first time we’d been back and seen this fitting memorial and it really hit me hard.

What triggered the trip to Brighton was that our plan to emigrate to Australia hasn’t been going as well as we hoped.  Although I have a valued skill which has been welcomed my age is counting against me in the visa process and our family out there have had happy family news here and may be returning later this year.  If that happens our Australia plan may well be sadly no longer viable.  So we were thinking about where else we might like to live – and we’ve missed Brighton since we left and hence the visit.

This scene from T2 and what Renton said has really stayed with me, particularly his last words about getting away.

I interpreted that as him getting away from Edinburgh but actually I think he also may have meant getting away from himself.  And that has got me really thinking about whether, in AA wisdom, I am trying to do a ‘geographic’.

Let me explain.  Stopping drinking was hugely motivated by giving my kids a better childhood, and therefore future, than I had.  I assumed that this meant giving myself the headspace to make better decisions for them including about where we work and live.  But actually when I think about it really deeply where we are has nothing to do with that.

My childhood was less than ideal because I had a father whose primary concern was alcohol and a mother who was at best emotionally unavailable (because of her own self pre-occupation) and at worst emotionally hostile.  Having more emotionally stable, present and available parents would have ensured a better future for me rather than where we lived as children.

Drinking kept me in that same emotionally unavailable place.  Us not drinking has already improved my kids future in terms of how it compares to both my parents way of relating to me in my childhood.  Plus I recently realised that all the professional development I’ve been doing for the last 12 years wasn’t about career advancement but about re-parenting myself so that I could parent my children better.  Psychology degree, health visitor training, school nurse post, child and adolescent psychotherapeutic counselling training – notice a trend?  Maybe that valuable training, experience and getting sober is how I’ve already improved their future?

So does it matter whether we are in Australia or Brighton or where we are currently?  Wherever I go there I am.  So although Renton suggests he was trying to escape the geography of where he was – I think it was more than that and I wonder if that is true of me too?

Reading Pete Walker he says

No “positive” feeling can be induced to persist as a permanent experience, no matter what Rational-Emotive Therapy tells us. As disappointing as this may be, as much as we might like to deny it, as much of a cause of ongoing life frustration for each of us as it is, and as much as we were raised and continue to be reinforced for trying to control and pick our feelings, they are still by definition of the human condition, largely outside the province of our wills.  

I think I am guilty of that here too.  Whereas I am no longer ricocheting off of verges drunk I’ve been cognitively bouncing between the potential sober happy future of Australia and the memory of a happy and booze soaked past in Brighton – and yes memories came back of me taking a break from drinking even when we lived here (I remember achieving one stint of 18 days AF).  I’ve been chasing fantasy chocolate unicorns rather than living in the present – right here, right now.  The week-end in Brighton has allowed me to accept this – not in resignation or defeat but as a sign of growth.  And anyway who needs to live in Brighton when you can have your every fantasy chocolate creation now delivered wherever you live in the UK? 😉

And that segways nicely with this tune that spun round (and video shot as though I was running along the beach) that Sunday morning  as I was making this important realisation.

In memory of Mark – much loved and missed in the present.

Edited to add: Hot dang – Mark Manson wrote a post about a very similar thing on the very same day! https://markmanson.net/disease-of-more

 

Friday Sober Jukebox – Ghosts in the Machine

ghosts-in-the-machineSo this feels like a timeless sober jukebox tune for a timeless post.  I’m actually writing this at the end of October 2016 because I have been struggling with some recurring demons – my ghosts in the machine as it were.

Coming from the family experience that I do I struggle with fear and anxiety pretty regularly and it settles for long periods of time and then flairs up again.  Invariably I think that I have more power than I do and that everything is my fault, everything will fall apart and it will all be my fault.  I listened to a Yoga Church podcast last night called ‘Step Out of Your Past and Into Your Now’ that got me thinking about this again as I struggle to get on top of another bout of raging anxiety and fear.

shadow-dancerMeadow and Laura McKowen were talking about the words that define their past and for me those two words, fear and anxiety, express it pretty succinctly.  They discussed coming up with an image that portrayed this and pretty similarly to Laura the one I landed on was shadow dancer.  I spent my entire life dancing to the tune of others to dodge the shadows of fear and anxiety – either my own or those of others around me.  No wonder I ended up in the bottom of a bottle!

This image and these words must then be honoured and let go in a ritual of some kind of your making.  To me it felt like I had to sit with them and not dance myself away from them and my shadow side.  To be honest the trigger events have prompted a great deal of soul searching and somatic discomfort so I feel like this has been part of the process and hence why it is time to move on from being stuck in these feelings.

explorerHaving created the image and words that defined the past the task was then to create ones to replace these for the future.  My brain was pretty fried by this point (or I was simply disassociating under the stress of it!) but with the help of MrHOF we came up with calm and fearless as the words and the image was explorer.

This image seemed fitting in terms of my internal exploring of more positive feelings and our external plans for travel as a family too 😉

This is an ongoing process and I continue to have waves of emotional upheaval but like the waves of craving to drink they come less often and are less intense and I see them build to crescendo and break now so I’m making progress.  I recommend you give it a try what with the heralding of a new year not that long ago.

And now to one of my favourite albums 🙂

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 …..

 

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?

Friday Sober Jukebox – Escape Velocity

escape velocitySo here we are again now heading into year 4 🙂

There are many things I still haven’t covered on this blog so until I run out of new things to share and say a post will keep appearing,  probably on a weekly or two weekly basis, depending on what’s going on.  Plus I know myself well enough now to know I won’t be able to keep my big mouth shut about any major news story that breaks in the alcohol and public health worlds!

So today is about psychological escape velocity (the minimum speed needed for an object to escape from the gravitational attraction of a massive body).  I had a headf*ck experience recently where I was given the opportunity to see photo’s of a house I lived in when I was a girl.  What was really spooky and serendipitous about this was it was via a nursing colleague who had lived in this house about 20 years after me, had taken photo’s and had recently been sorting through them and happened to have them with her in the office then and there that lunchtime!  Weird right?

What she didn’t know was that I have really distressing and traumatic memories of this house and time and have spent a good amount of time in therapy talking about it so seeing those images triggered an avalanche of memories.  What was so reassuring was that although the memories had only been experienced in the last 5 years (which fuelled a massive amount of drinking back then) my recall of that house was EXACTLY right.  Every detail that I had summoned from 40 years ago and discussed was spot on – so if my memory of the place was right so was my recall of the events.  This was a major revelation because at the time when I tried to tell someone I hadn’t been believed and I had therefore doubted my own experience and had questioned whether it was all just in my head – that my nightmare’s were just that horrors in my head not real life.  Although seeing the photo’s caused intense psychic tremors I was okay and I was able to regulate my emotions and handle the triggered distress.  This felt like massive progress to me and as if I had enough emotional and boundary depth to not be pulled back into the psychological pain of that time.  These events no longer defined me – I had reached my psychological escape velocity 🙂

When I told MrHOF he said this was not just the end of a chapter but the end of a volume in my life and he felt it was no co-incidence and a sign from the universe (because I believe in such stuff) that that experience and how I managed it marked closure both emotionally and mentally for me and that I wasn’t doing a geographical by planning our move to Australia.

That same day I was contacted by Regina Walker at The Fix who is a psychotherapist.  I was reading her writing archives when I came across an article about Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) a technique used in the UK mainly to treat those with borderline personality disorder.  Thanks to my research assistant experience with a Clinical Psychologist who worked with this client group it was something I knew about, knew it was a successful and valuable therapeutic approach and learned from this discovered article that it is being used and applied in addiction!

Here are the key excepts that link my experience recounted above and this technique (the whole article is well worth your time in reading):

The goal of DBT is to acquire skills to deal with the mental anguish the sufferer experiences and create a life worth living. The tools offered in DBT are meant to aid in the achievement of these goals.

DBT, for people struggling with substance abuse problems, is a way to achieve self-acceptance while simultaneously accepting the need for change. There are four basic aspects to DBT: mindfulness, interpersonal relations, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance.

The emotion regulation aspect of DBT teaches how to identify, regulate and experience emotions without becoming overwhelmed and acting on impulse. The skills aim to reduce vulnerability and increase positive experiences.

The fourth area of DBT is distress tolerance. This area is focused on the development of skills to cope with crises when emotions become overwhelming and the individual is unable to immediately solve the problem (a death, sickness, loss of job, etc.) but needs to persevere and live through the crisis without making it worse by impulsive actions (for example, getting high or drunk).

Dr. Linehan acknowledged that the self-harming behavior she saw in suffering patients made sense and had a purpose.  But she also recognised that this had to change and that the person had to accept themselves.

She referred to this as “Radical Acceptance”—acceptance of life as it is, not as it is supposed to be; and the need to change, despite that reality and because of it. These seem to be opposites: on the one hand, you have to take life as it is; on the other hand, that change is essential for survival. But for real change to happen, both self-acceptance, and acceptance of the need for change have to come together. This blending of two seemingly opposite views is called a dialectic—and it’s the vision behind the name of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.

So after 3 years of living life sober, and ‘in the raw’ as Mrs D would say, I have both accepted myself and what happened to me as a child and shown myself self-compassion.  I have taken life as it is but recognised that change was essential for my survival.   My psychological escape velocity from my past, and as part of that alcohol, has reached a critical juncture 🙂

In the past those photo’s would have rocked my world in a very negative way and triggered the most almighty bender.  Now I just feel peaceful and content that I can trust myself to take care of myself as I tried to as a young girl.

Friday Sober Jukebox – Cups (Guest 3 years soberversary blog from MrHOF)

substitutionIt’s over a week ago that Mrs HOFL told me today I would notch up 3 years of no drinking and in something of a state of shock and awe I offered to write a guest blog. Unfortunately it completely slipped my mind again and I find myself now hastily tapping some words out. I suppose that I should consider it a good thing that I don’t count the days, or even the years, so that I’m blissfully unaware of such a thing, whatever it is. It’s a state of mind, perhaps? After all, it’s just a number and I was reading in New Scientist the other day that time doesn’t really exist anyway.


Time certainly seems to have disappeared into some kind of black hole this past week. I must admit to struggling with some of the thoughts that I have had, whether I was conscious of what time it was or what I was supposed to be doing. I thought that somehow life would be easier if I gave up drinking. I was sure that somehow I would be better fortified without fortification. What delirious delusion that consciousness would help!


So here I am trying to write a Friday Sober Jukebox blog, when previously I had imagined that music and alcohol were so passionately entwined, often on a Friday night, nay ALWAYS on a Friday night. Booze was often an integral part of my listening experience and an integral part of my own music-making process. The lyrics always seemed to flow better with the wine, in more ways than I care to list here. In fact, it pains me to confess that my own songwriting output has distinctly tailed off in the past thousand-odd days.


Mrs HOFL is now suggesting that we adjust our diets to the extent that we give up some previously integral ingredients – meat, dairy, fish, to name but three. I should make it clear that I am not averse to this idea and am keen to experiment, but the thing is, what do we replace these things with. I have given up meat before and so I know how difficult this can be. Substituting food often means just that – vege-burgers and bizarre baconesque confections spring to mind. Things to delude us that we aren’t missing out. Where is the ‘meat’ in the sandwich? What do you put in instead?


An hour ago I went for a walk. I needed to just get out and think of what to write in this post. It was then that I realised what I had to write about. If we don’t ‘use’ something, we probably need to ‘use’ something else. In lieu of hard drink we need something and lime and soda probably isn’t going to cut it. A walk seems to work for me. There are a few things that work for me, I suppose, but they’re not always obvious.  I’ve come to realise that they are quite necessary though, in order to be happy, whatever that is.


My selection on the jukebox tonight is Cups by Underworld. An old drinking buddy used to use the old term ‘in his cups’ to describe someone who was drinking. I don’t know if this is what Underworld had in mind when they wrote it, in fact I would be surprised if anyone, even Underworld knows what the lyrics mean, but I had an Underworld track in my head when I got home from work today and it may be a tenuous link but it’s Friday night, so there….

Unsurprisingly this is a tune I love to – just like the man himself who chose it tonight 😉 Similar and together in our choices in this journey we call life ….