Category Archives: Spiritual

Sober Inspiration: Stepping away from Self-Improvement

So I seem to be getting the same message from different sources and in different mediums.  I’m guessing I need to take note!  This also mirrors a conversation I had with Prim about how I’d overdone it somewhat in the self-help reading and had emotionally overwhelmed myself in the process 🙁  So in a direct snapback to that I then read the book Stand Firm: Resisting the Self-Improvement Craze (see image) and then serendipitously listen to a podcast interview with Danielle LaPorte where in discussing her new book White Hot Truth – she hits upon similar themes 🙂

His book’s premise is this:

The pace of modern life is accelerating. To keep up, we must keep on moving and adapting – constantly striving for greater happiness and success. Or so we are told. But the demands of life in the fast lane come at a price: stress, fatigue and depression are at an all-time high, while our social interactions have become increasingly self-serving and opportunistic.
 
How can we resist today’s obsession with introspection and self-improvement? In this witty and bestselling book, Danish philosopher and psychologist Svend Brinkmann argues that we must not be afraid to reject the self-help mantra and ‘stand firm’. The secret to a happier life lies not in finding your inner self but in coming to terms with yourself in order to coexist peacefully with others. By encouraging us to stand firm and get a foothold in life, this vibrant anti-self-help guide offers a compelling alternative to life coaching, positive thinking and the need always to say ‘yes!’

It introduces 7 steps:

  1. Cut out the navel gazing
  2. Focus on the negative in your life
  3. Put on your No hat
  4. Suppress your feelings
  5. Sack your coach
  6. Read a novel – not a self-help book or biography
  7. Dwell on the past

He espouses the Hellenic tradition of Stoicism:

Stoicism is predominantly a philosophy of personal ethics which is informed by its system of logic and its views on the natural world. According to its teachings, as social beings, the path to happiness for humans is found in accepting that which we have been given in life, by not allowing ourselves to be controlled by our desire for pleasure or our fear of pain, by using our minds to understand the world around us and to do our part in nature’s plan, and by working together and treating others in a fair and just manner.

“Will-power is like muscle strength, the Stoics believed: the more we exercise it, the better and stronger it becomes.  No matter how silly such innocent examples might sound, it isn’t so stupid to practice turning down a dessert, a glass of wine or a lift in a car.  Self-control is one of the absolutely key virtues for the Stoics, albeit one that encounters a degree of adversity in our accelerating culture, with its penchant for ‘living in the moment’ and its exhortations to ‘Just Do It!’ as the ad says”.

He goes on to say: “As an ‘anti self-help philosophy’ I definitely think it’s useful, partly because it emphasises self-control, a sense of duty, integrity, dignity, peace of mind and a willingness to come to terms with (rather than find) yourself.”

Quite.  Practical pragmatism if you will.

And Danielle is riding the same vibe too it would seem as a reflection of the backlash against the self-improvement movement.  Her book asks:

Has your self-help become self-criticism?

White Hot Truth is a wise and often (hilariously) relatable exploration of the conflicts between spiritual aspiration and our compulsion to improve, from Oprah SuperSoul 100 member, Danielle LaPorte.

Danielle cheerleads seekers to fully own their wisdom by having a good laugh (and maybe a good cry) at all the ways we’ve been trying to improve on our self-improvement.

I’ve enjoyed reading and listening to these and hope you do to 🙂

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)

 

Self-actualization & 2 years alcohol free

self-actualisation
In pursuit of self-actualization – that is my journey now

Patrick at Spiritual River (thank you Prim!) shared these excellent insights into recovery:

  • Recovery is about personal growth.
  • Reaching out to help others,  gratitude and exercise are KEY.
  • The moment right before a relapse, gratitude is no longer present. If it was, it would have prevented the relapse all by itself. Be grateful, every single day, for anything and everything.
  • There are a whole bunch of people who stay sober through exercise alone.
  • Personal growth, pursuing greater health, and helping others.
  • Most alcoholics can benefit greatly from simply learning how to identify an emotion or feeling and simply learning to accept it for what it is rather than to try and fight it or medicate.
  • Experimentation is key. Be ready to learn about yourself and how recovery works best for you.
  • This is addiction. It is the constant pursuit of that perfect high, and stubbornly hanging on to the memory of it, while turning up your nose at normal ways of having fun.
  • Bottom line is this: you get clean and sober, and stick it out for a while, and normal “life” starts getting fun again. Believe it or not, life gets good again. And fun again. But it takes time, and part of this is the learning process, and allowing room for experimentation in our lives.
  • I say you have to keep pushing yourself to create an awesome life for yourself, one in which you help others with your personal strengths.
  • Everybody wins when you push yourself to reach out to others in a way that is unique to you. This is a huge part of finding your path in recovery.
  • Take your purpose in recovery and turn it into a vision for the future. What does that mean? It means that you can have an awesome life in recovery if you figure out what you are good at in terms of helping others, and then start doing it in a really big way. This is the big prize in recovery. This is how you become the person you were meant to be.

The statements that are bolded continue to be my biggest struggle and focus.  The desire to medicate difficult emotions remains high as is the fight not to acknowledge the less desirable parts of myself.  In psychology terms I have engaged in splitting and projection for so long that it’s taking a long time to re-integrate those lost and shunned parts of me and to recognise that we are both good and bad, dark and light and that’s ok.

Marc and Angel Hack Life (thank you Prim again!) shared these:

  • Not everything is meant to stay. – Change can be terrifying, yet all positive growth and healing requires change.  Sometimes you have to find the good in goodbye.  Because the past is a place of reference, not a place of residence.  Be strong when everything seems to be going wrong, keep taking small steps, and eventually you will find what you’re looking for.  Learn to trust the journey, even when you do not understand it.
  • The work is worth it. – Lose the expectation that everything in life should be easy.  It rarely is.  In fact, there are no shortcuts to any place worth going.  Enjoy the challenge of your achievements.  See the value in your efforts and be patient with yourself.  And realize that patience is not about waiting; it’s the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard on your dreams.  It’s knowing deep down that the work is well worth it in the end.

And this line resonated for me too: I’m predisposed to be able to function and thrive on adventure, not alcohol.  This is the final sentence on an awesome 2 year sober celebratory post written by Blake which I really recommend you go read here.  Huge congrats Blake for last Wednesday 🙂

These are the words that guide me as I move into year 3 sober.  Prim shared an excellent guide to recovery that year one was physical, year two was emotional and year three was spiritual.  I’m still wading through the emotional stuff so we’ll see how I go with the spiritual! 😉

So I don’t drink, smoke, do drugs, eat sugar (I wish – still working on that one!!) – so how do I celebrate this milestone achievement?  The way I used to celebrate when I was in my early twenties DANCE!! 😀  I appreciate that this is a raver tune but close your eyes, turn it up loud and dance with me?

In the words of Lindsay Kolb

“Live like there’s no tomorrow,
Love like you’ve never been hurt, and
Dance like no one is watching.”

If you’re scared of stopping drinking as this song says ‘I’m just scared you know everybody is’ and so was I but there is nothing to fear but fear itself.  What have you got to lose? It’s time to start a new life and if chillum is more your thing then here’s this  😉

Worrying is using your imagination to create something you don’t want

So a while back feeling mentioned ‘The Law of Attraction’.  This was a concept I don’t remember hearing about before so off I went to the local library to see what I could find.  The heading of this post about worrying comes from Abraham Hicks and you can subscribe to a Daily Quote from them here.

Thatwhichisholdingyoudown

And you know how one book leads you to another?  Well having read two books about it I then heard about ‘The Untethered Soul’ and boy oh boy was this an eye-opener.  This book really blew my mind!!

If you are working on meditation and changing your inner landscape then this book is for you and you can find further details at http://www.untetheredsoul.com/

And of course he’s been on Oprah! 😉

Author Michael Singer says spiritual growth can begin by silencing the negative thoughts in our minds. Watch as Michael shares a spiritual solution to use to regain inner peace when thoughts become distracting.

I am working really hard to practice what he suggests and much of it chimes hugely with Andy over at Headspace and what he advocates 🙂
The longer time goes on and the further into my recovery journey I go I realise that putting down the drink was just the tip of the iceberg of the path I was on and it is ALL good.  Over Easter I had a difficult family experience and although I recognised the anticipatory anxiety and the post event emotional hangover at no point did the thought of picking up a drink even cross my mind.  I was desperate to meditate instead!! 😀
Anyone else read this book and care to chime in?

 

Shadow comforts and feeding our spirits

So continuing on from yesterday’s post talking about Brene Brown‘s awesome book Daring Greatly we now turn to how we take care of ourselves when we realise we are numbing whether with booze or any other substance or behaviour.

JenLoudenBefriendingMonsters390px

Brene cites Jennifer Louden who has named our numbing devices ‘shadow comforts’.  In her book, The Life Organizer, Louden writes “Shadow comforts can take any form.  It’s not what you do; it’s why you do it that makes the difference.”  Brene argues that when we’re struggling with anxiety, disconnection, vulnerability, feeling alone and  helpless, the substances and behaviours – be it booze or food or work or endless hours online, feel like comfort but the reality is they cast long shadows over our lives.

She extends the invitation to think about the intention behind our choices and this really resonates with me and the work I’ve been doing during meditation on Headspace.  Andy asks us to reflect and focus on our intentions before each daily meditation and as I’ve been doing this for over 6 months now it is becoming part of my daily awareness.

Brene continues:

“There aren’t any checklists or norms to help you identify shadow comforts or other destructive numbing behaviour.  This requires self-examination and reflection.  But ultimately these are questions that transcend what we know and how we feel – they’re about our spirit.  Are my choices comforting and nourishing my spirit, or are they temporary reprieves from vulnerability and difficult emotions ultimately diminishing my spirit?  Are my choices leading to my Wholeheartedness, or do they leave me feeling empty and searching?

And that’s where I am.  I don’t drink anymore and the recent exercise in sugar free has been instructive.  Anything we do can be used to nourish or deplete we just need to be aware of the underlying driver.

I don’t struggle with the shame of drinking now but I do still struggle with the shame of hiding the fact that I’m in recovery.  I’m proud that I stopped but our culture stigmatises those who are daring greatly in recovery.  This is the next change that is needed and I have my intentions firmly focused on that 😉

It’s the real thing …… & Friday sober jukebox

So it was with sadness that I watched the last episode of Mad Men and it was as exceptional as the rest of the series.  If you haven’t watched it yet I suggest you skip this post as I don’t want this to be a spoiler for you!

I’ve love this series from beginning to end.  I came to it late but devoured it – the story lines, the characters, the sets, the cinematography.  Paul over at the Alcoholics Guide to Alcoholism wrote a great post about it here and I’ve written about it in the past too here.

The weird thing is that over it’s 8 year series span I have experience the biggest changes to my drinking from the downward spiral in 2008 to the battling to moderate between 2009 and 2012 and then finally quitting in 2013.

What’s really shocking is that when I watched the original show from which Paul has taken this clip and shared it in his post I was still actively drinking and the fact that Don was totally hammered giving that presentation at the time didn’t even register on my radar or give me a flicker of concern.  I was so in denial about my own drinking that I couldn’t see a problem with his.  Fast forward to now and I’m horrified by that clip and my failure to acknowledge both his and my own issues with alcohol abuse.

But the last episode gave me hope.  Why?  Because up until almost the very end Don is still drowning himself in booze.  Until he goes to a retreat and appears to experience a nervous breakdown spiritual awakening.  He is introduced to meditation and group therapy and in the final scene is seen meditating on a clifftop overlooking the sea and smiling as he ‘oms’.

And the show ends with the iconic 1971 ‘It’s the real thing’ coke ad shown above.  An ad for a soft drink.  Was this Matthew Weiner the shows creator telling us that booze isn’t the answer for Don or the rest of us?  Is the girl at the beginning of the ad the receptionist at the retreat where Don was staying?  Was this Don’s genius ad creation?  Did how the show finished prompt Jon Hamm to get help in real life?  Who knows but this is how I chose to interpret it because this mirrors my experience.  Replacing the numbing of emotions through drowning in booze with the peace and acceptance of where and who we are.  This is how Don looked at the end of the show and how I feel now 🙂

And so for today’s Friday sober jukebox – only one song seems to fit the bill 😉

Serendipity

serendipity-works

It’s been a while since we’ve had a Shots of Awe moment and I love Jason Silva and his musings.

My giving up drinking was a moment of serendipity.  I had gone to see my counsellor and in all the time I’d been seeing her we’d never discussed my drinking.  Was I hiding it from her?  Maybe.  Was I in denial and so didn’t want to raise it?  Maybe.  At the end of this session, our last session together as it turned out the subject of drinking came up.  Talk about a therapeutic ‘door knob revelation’!

She mentioned that she’d stopped drinking, had used the Allen Carr book and how much better she was feeling for it.  Hmm says me, this is something I need to look at too.  So I downloaded the book that day.

That evening one of my closest friends came to stay.  We have been through a great deal us two since meeting on an Open University psychology degree residential school, including training and running the London Marathon together.  Big things happened when our worlds collide and this was no different.  I decided that night that I was going to stop drinking and we raised a glass of red to it.  There wasn’t much forethought or planning, just that I would read the Allen Carr book over the next week and then have my last drink the next week-end at the end of it as he recommended.

And that was it.  The die was cast, the dice was rolled and here I am 🙂  If you’re reading this blog for the first time maybe this is your moment of serendipity?  Maybe our paths have crossed today for a reason.  Maybe if you’re looking for answers you just found it?  Best thing I ever did.

serendipity

So thank you Jane and Nicky for that serendipitous day 🙂 xx

PS Burning Man is on my bucket list of lifetime things to do.  If you have a desire to go to Burning Man too and want to come have a sober adventure with me then let me know 😉

 

Veronica Valli and I (8) discuss Step 3

So Veronica and I got together on Skype to continue our discussions about the 12 steps today discussing Step 3.

As a reminder Step 3 reads: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives to the care of God as we understood him.

This is an in-depth discussion on what Step 3 actually means and how to apply it to your life. It’s an easy and straight-forward step that is immediately followed by the Step 4 inventory which I’ll post up in two weeks.

As you hear in the discussion I get caught up in the semantics of GOD but she says that this can mean Group of Drunks or Good Orderly Direction – both of which are true of where I came from and what I am now trying to achieve.

We’ll be back in two weeks to discuss Step 4 🙂

Veronica Valli is an Addictions Therapist and the author of Why you drink and How to stop:http://www.amazon.com/Why-You-Drink-H…

2013 How to Stop Cover 960x1280

Recovery 2.0 4th Annual Conference

Whether It’s Your First Day Sober, You’ve Been in Recovery For Years, You Have a Loved One Who Has Struggled With Addiction, Or You Work in the Field of Recovery, Find Inspiration and Support at the 4th Annual Recovery 2.0 Conference!

#MoveBeyond Addiction

ONLINE CONFERENCE

February 6-12, 2015

Recovery 2.0 is a global movement and community of people who embrace a holistic approach to recovery from all addiction including such elements as: Yoga, Meditation, 12 Steps, Healthy relationships with people, food, money and the identification of one’s purpose and mission in life.

We produce two FREE online conferences each year, which showcase the voices of top professionals and thought-leaders to deliver cutting-edge scientific, spiritual, and practical approaches to treating and overcoming addictions of all kinds.

February 2015 marks the fourth Recovery 2.0: Beyond Addiction conference. Recovery 2.0 conferences are always free-to-attend, with purchase options for those who desire future access to this wisdom via recordings and transcripts.

The entire conference is hosted by the lovely Tommy Rosen 😉

Tommy Rosen is a yoga teacher and addiction recovery expert who has spent the last two decades immersed in yoga, recovery and wellness. Tommy is the founder and host of the Recovery 2.0: Beyond Addiction Online Conference series. His goal is to present inspirational, entertaining, educational and powerful discussions with people whose experience and work in the world is of benefit to those who are seeking to overcome addiction and thrive in recovery.

If you want to sign up go here: http://recovery2point0.com/

I won’t be posting over the next few days partly as I’m away and partly because I want you to spend your time listening to the speakers at this conference rather than reading me 😉  I’ve signed up and am particularly excited to see Gabor Mate speak (again), Gabrielle Bernstein and Nick Ortner and to learn from some of those I don’t yet know.

12 sober treat Days of Christmas – Day 12

Twelve Drummers Drumming.  Well my daughter has a drum kit and I used to hate it when I was hungover – now not so much 😉

For me I’m drumming up cash and fellow sober treat hedonists for this the final treat of this series.  It’s a biggie and I’m hoping to enlist the company of some of my sober friends to accompany me!

A chocolate, yoga and meditation week-end retreat in May!!

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There is no reason to ever ‘give-up’ chocolate, but make sure you eat the right kind though!!

This weekend is an education into raw chocolate, yoga and meditation. You will learn how to make Inner Guidance’s infamous Raw Chocolate Fudge, Raw Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Chip Banana Ice Cream and of course a range of Raw Chocolates.
Enjoy our Five Star service and accommodation, all set in our stunning location just outside Lavenham in Suffolk.

Oh my goodness, that sounds lush!!  It’s not cheap but it is an awesome sober treat that hits sweet, inspiring, supporting, pampering, nourishing and surprising all at once! Who’s with me 😉

What other sober treat ideas are there for twelve drummers drumming?  A drumming class?

Merry Christmas all my lovely sober peeps and if you’re thinking about stopping drinking maybe this retreat in May is something to aim for and you’d be welcome to join us 🙂

PS Prim recently shared a Swedish alcohol awareness advert in the comments section and it got some good responses so I thought I’d share two here now.   The first is the Swedish campaign for Christmas and New Year (which shows lots of drinking so could be triggery) and the second is a feature advert on the new alcohol free nightclub in Sweden called Sober.  There’s a killer line in the second one ‘Flirting with guys or girls, be a king on the dance-floor or make lots of jokes when you are drunk. Any amateur can do that, but when you do it sober, that’s when you are cool for real!‘  LOVE this 😉