We can be heroes – just for one day
To this ………
Good tunes for a long haul flight I reckon 😉 Flying on Australia Day too – how apt!
We can be heroes – just for one day
To this ………
Good tunes for a long haul flight I reckon 😉 Flying on Australia Day too – how apt!
Happy New Year sober peeps – I’ll tell you more tomorrow 😉
Don’t think she’s sober but I love the quote! Merry Xmas from all the HOF clan! 🙂
If you’re needing some advice to get you through today then Hannah Bett’s wise words will be the perfect (non-alcoholic) tonic 😉
And if you are a child or young person reading this who are struggling with parental drinking concerns then check out the support at Nacoa including their #AdventCare messages. They are there today and every day over Xmas & New Year between 12 – 6 pm if you need to speak to someone: Free Helpline: 0800 3583456 & firstname.lastname@example.org
Wish you were here ……
As I celebrate 4 years clean and sober it has prompted renewed reflection. So much has happened between this time last year and now. Much of it has not been as positive as we would have hoped but then sh*t happens whether you are sober or drinking. Some of it has been stressful, emotionally overwhelming, and felt downright difficult and unfair but again such is life. One thing is true through all of this though – at no point has the thought of drinking crossed my mind as a good idea.
So when I wrote last years 3 year soberversary post I hoped that we would now be living in Australia and that isn’t so. Our plans took a turn for the worse at the end of June when the Australian govt announced that they were reducing the age cap on the permanent residency skilled migrant visa from 50 to 45 effective 1st July. As I’m 48 that was pretty much the end of the road to our emigration plans. We may get the opportunity to go over on a temporary work visa for 4 years but it’s highly likely we’d have to return after that. The odds aren’t looking good so we’ve accepted as a family this is most likely the end of the living there dream but we can still go back on holidays to visit our family whenever we wish.
I hoped that I would have been able to successfully publish my Cambridge research and that isn’t so either. It is however my writing and so I can publish it here if I so wish, and I do. So here is my research paper written last year for the University of Cambridge Postgraduate Diploma in Education Studies (Counselling). This isn’t a true academic piece of writing because it is written in the first person rather than the third. It uses much of my lived experience (phenomenological approach) so is a mix of qualitative and quantitative research. That is partly why it isn’t suitable for academic publishing without a great deal of rewriting. What I would ask is that you are respectful to the personal content contained within it.
If I had to write a time-frame of what this journey has been like to date I would say this:
This is only my experience of sobriety though and we are all very different in how we experience both drinking and recovery. Melody Beattie in her book: Beyond Codependency describes the stages of recovery as expressed by Timmen Cermak as: survival/denial -> reidentification -> core issues -> reintegration -> genesis (which beautifully mirrors my years 1-4 so far!). She goes on to say: “This is the recovery process. It’s a fluid process, with carryovers and crossovers at different stages. There isn’t a fixed time frame for moving through these stages ….. Recovery is a healing and a spiritual process. We travel from self-neglect into self-responsibility, self care and self love. I’ve learned that self-care isn’t narcissistic or indulgent. Self care is the one thing I can do that most helps me and others too.”
And of the genesis stage which is where I now consider myself:
This isn’t the end. It’s a new beginning. We’re no longer carrying around our “imprisoned” selves. Nor are we indulging in all our whims and desires. Discipline has found its place in our lives too. Like butterflies broken loose from a cocoon, our selves are “flying free” … We’ve found a new way of life – one that works.
I would not have changed any of it and remain certain that my decision to stop was one of the best of my lifetime so far. My life would have been poorer were it not for the friendships and connections I have made out here on the inter-webs because of that single decision to put down my last drink on the 20th September 2013.
Although drink holds no appeal right now I am under no illusion that like Smaug in Lord of the Rings my addiction is like a sleeping dragon that one drink could awaken. Because as Tolkien wrote Smaug is “a most specially greedy, strong and wicked wyrm”. I remain alert and resolute heartened by the knowledge that as I head on towards 5 years sober this time next year, the risk of relapse drops to around 15%.
And to end this post? The only way I know how to celebrate – with a tune! Orbital ‘Straight Sun’ and some fantastic timeframe video of the UK 🙂
So it’s been a while since I’ve had a moment of clarity in my sobriety so it feels like one was way overdue and then it arrived. Not with a bang but as Laura McKowen said recently to Nicole Antoinette in a podcast, it was a ‘soft click’. I’ve been doing the hustle again – the hustle for worthiness.
The soft click moment came lying in the bath having listened to 3 podcasts in quick succession; Meadow DeVor with Nicole Antoinette, the Laura McKowen one and then Dan Siegel talking about The Wheel of Awareness which I’ve talked about here. It’s like they all coalesced in my brain and then I have a realisation.
So Dan talked about our Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) score which I also talk about in my attachment, alexithymia & addiction research paper I wrote and I will share soon here, plus Veronica Valli linked to an excellent article about it recently here too. Mine is 8/10 which meant I was environmentally and genetically primed for addiction. And Meadow talked about the hustle for worthiness as it relates to professional remuneration, overworking, underearning and overspending – an addiction of another kind in all but substance.
And when I looked back and reflected on different memories it all became clear. Some clues? Memories of hearing my parents arguing when I was teenager at being unable to afford the cost of my school fees (I was educated at private boarding school of my mother’s choosing not mine) and how it was wasted on me because he thought I wasn’t intelligent enough – and me thinking ‘I’ll prove you wrong’; having to tenaciously pursuit contacts I’d established to secure an assistant research psychologist post; badgering a manager for a reference to apply to the University of Cambridge and the joy at finding out I’d been accepted; writing the blog and then the tears at people signing up for the London workshops; and most recently approaching agencies as I try to secure a job (and accompanying visa) in Australia. The soft click of awareness that I was feeling way too comfortable with all of this and how it all felt very familiar – the clenched jaw, breathe holding and giddy rush of the chase. Good things come to those who hustle right?
And now I have the awareness I have to decide what to do with it and that I haven’t quite figured out yet. So a musical interlude in the meantime with Pan’s People no less! 😉
PS Tomorrow is the UK’s 9th Recovery Walk if you would like to join them here are all the details:
So here I am once again reeling from insight after insight triggered happily by reading another Pete Walker book! Finding that I’m free – or continuing to work myself free from old constraining ways of thinking around my shame from drinking and other perceived weaknesses which is often represented by the voice of our inner critic. It’s just too good not to share and once again I strongly advise you to go read the whole book! 🙂
14 Common Inner Critic Attacks (He kindly provides a therapeutic thought-correction response with each attack/programme) and these are a great addition to my posts looking at Drinking Thinking errors.
1 – 9 are what Pete Walker describes as ‘perfectionism attacks, fueled by toxic shame, create chronic self-hate and self-flagellation’ and 10-14 ‘endangerment attacks, fueled by fear, create chronic hyper vigilance and anxiety‘.
Aren’t these just the best?! What a freeing list to read 🙂
And if you’d like to work on easing your inner critic voice here is a meditation from Melli over at MrsMindfulness
So it feels like all the reading I’ve done of late has been heading to this point. I recently received an email from Mind the Brain about Complex PTSD, STAIR and social ecology that you can read here.
STAIR is the acronym for Skills Training in Affective and Interpersonal Regulation. It’s a training programme that has been developed in the US by psychologist Dr. Marylene Cloitre. Here’s how the programme is described on the US Department of Veteran Affairs website:
STAIR is an evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for individuals suffering from PTSD, including chronic and complicated forms as well as for individuals with PTSD and co-occurring disorders.
Complex PTSD results from repetitive, prolonged trauma involving harm or abandonment by a caregiver or other interpersonal relationships with an uneven power dynamic .
“Anger directed against the self or others is always a central problem in the lives of people who have been violated and this is itself a repetitive re-enactment of real events from the past. Compulsive repetition of the trauma usually is an unconscious process that, although it may provide a temporary sense of mastery or even pleasure, ultimately perpetuates chronic feelings of helplessness and a subjective sense of being bad and out of control. Gaining control over one’s current life, rather than repeating trauma in action, mood, or somatic states, is the goal of healing” (Bessel A. van der Kolk)
Using STAIR will allow you to teach your patients skills in:
This online STAIR training consists of 8 modules covering several core treatment components. STAIR can be provided as a standalone therapy or as a complement to trauma-focused therapies.
Goals and Objectives
What I found so striking about this is it mirrors the process I’ve been going through as part of my emotional recovery and particularly in my recent discover of the brilliant book The Tao of Fully Feeling by Pete Walker.
Here’s more detail on Session Two: Emotional Awareness:
And Session Three: Emotional Regulation:
Link to full course content pdf here.
Maybe it’s just my experience and I am generalising wildly but I think many of us boozers struggle with emotions which is part of the reason why we drank how we drank.
There are well researched links between substance misuse and trauma (74% sexual abuse, 52% physical abuse & 72% emotional abuse in this research) and sources estimate that 25 – 75 percent of people who survive abuse and/or violent trauma develop issues related to alcohol abuse.
All of these skills seem so applicable to a life lived well in sobriety as we learn to deal with all those pesky emotions and renegotiate relationships and learn about boundaries and agency without our crutch. I’m sharing these resources here in case you would like to research further because to me they feel like a stairway to (emotional) heaven 😉
Edited to add: 03/08/17
Just watched this brilliant video with Tara Brach talking about healing trauma which feels incredibly pertinent to this post so am sharing here:
So this is something I’ve been reading about in Pete Walker’s Tao of Fully Feeling. The best description I read was from a blog by Graffiti Girl 2013 and she encapsulates beautifully what repetition compulsion is:
“Repetition compulsion is the repetition of a traumatic event and an attempt at mastery of one’s feelings and experience, in the sense that she unconsciously want to go through the same situation but that it not result negatively as it did in the past. Some people make the same mistakes over and over. The individual unconsciously arranges for variations of an original theme which he has not learned either to overcome or to live with.”
This is what Psych Central had to say about repetition compulsion:
Humans seek comfort in the familiar. Freud called this repetition compulsion, which he famously defined as “the desire to return to an earlier state of things.”
This takes form in simple tasks. Perhaps you watch your favorite movie over and over, or choose the same entrée at your favorite restaurant. More harmful behaviors include repeatedly dating people who might emotionally or physically abuse you, or using drugs (including alcohol) when overcome with negative thoughts. Freud was more interested in the harmful behaviors that people kept revisiting, and believed that it was directly linked to what he termed “the death drive,” or the desire to no longer exist.
But there may be a different reason.
It could be that many of us develop patterns over the years, whether positive or negative, that become ingrained. We each create a subjective world for ourselves and discover what works for us. In times of stress, worry, anger, or another emotional high, we repeat what is familiar and what feels safe. This creates rumination of thoughts as well as negative patterns in reactions and behaviors.
As an example, someone who struggles with insecurities and jealousy will find that when his significant other does not return a call or text immediately, his mind begins to wander to negative and faulty thoughts. The thoughts begin to accumulate and emotionally overwhelm the person, which leads to false accusations and unintentional harm to the relationship.
In spite of not wanting to react this way, the person has created a pattern over years that then becomes familiar to him. To react differently, although more positively, would feel foreign. When someone has done something the same way for years, he or she will continue to do so, even if it causes harm for both herself and others.
This idea also resonates with the concept known as the law of the instrument. Maslow’s hammer (or gavel), or a golden hammer is an over-reliance on a familiar tool; as Abraham Maslow said in 1966, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”
People also revert to earlier states if the behavior is in any way rewarding, or if it confirms negative self-beliefs. For someone who inflicts self-harm in a time of emotional distress, it is a behavior that momentarily relieves the pain even if later on the individual feels shame over it. In the example of a person who continuously enters abusive relationships, we might find that he or she is highly insecure and does not believe that he or she is worthy of being cared for.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) can provide effective treatment routes for reshaping thought patterns that lead to maladaptive behaviors. These types of therapeutic approaches focus on bringing awareness to cognitive distortions, irrational beliefs, and negative thought tracks.
By working on different techniques, one can learn how to recognize when thoughts or actions are more harmful than beneficial, and how to stop them from occurring. The brain’s cognitive processes will be rewired and retrained to develop new patterns that are productive, rational, and positive, which ultimately leads to more adaptive behaviors and choices.
It takes years for people to develop maladaptive patterns, habits, and repetitive choices, and it may also take years to reshape them into something that becomes worth revisiting.
Dryden, W. (Ed.). (2012). Cognitive Behaviour Therapies. SAGE Publications Limited.
Inderbitzin, L. B., & Levy, S. T. (1998). Repetition compulsion revisited: implications for technique. The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 67(1), 32.
I was struck by this psychological theory because it is something I’ve come to learn about only recently and it reverberates through my life in many ways, including my past use of alcohol to psychologically hammer my emotional discomfort.
I recently spent a couple of months working at Focus12 in a nursing consultancy capacity and the Consultant Psychiatrist I was working with there was an eminent and learned fellow. His parting words to me that summarised his work and life wisdom was:
Sit still and do nothing.
I think much of my repetition compulsion would do well to heed this sage advice! How about you?
This tune so sums up how this feels for me:
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:
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! 😉
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:
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.
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!